What Makes a Terrorist? – The New York Review of Books

Lorenzo Meloni/Magnum Photos A suspected member of ISIS being taken into custody, Hamam al-Alil, Iraq, March 2017

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in and around Barcelona, clichs about radicalization are again making the rounds. For some, the twelve young members of the cell behind the Barcelona attacks, all men, were brainwashed; for others the blame falls on the town of Ripoll for becoming a terrorist breeding ground; for others yet its Islam as a whole that must be held accountable. For those who study radicalization and terrorism, all of these explanations fall short.

The greatest difficulty for our ability to understand and respond to terrorism and radicalization is linear thinking. Arguing that radicalization is caused by poverty because most modern jihadists come from marginalized neighborhoods is the same flawed logic as arguing that radicalization is caused by Islam because jihadists are all Muslims. Even combining Islam and marginalization as risk factors doesnt get us far, as only a fraction of a percentage of marginalized Muslims join jihadist groups. One can add many more factors and still end up with the same dilemma. Trying to find a root cause of radicalization is doomed from the start because it assumes a single, linear chain of causation.

Instead, it is better to think of radicalization as a phenomenon in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Multiple factors interact in complex ways that cause radicalization to emerge in individual people and groups. As with other complex systems, such as ecosystems, removing one factor does not cause the system to collapse but instead to evolve in ways that may be positive or negative. In the jihadist movement there have been many small tipping points, including the USSR invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, and the Syrian civil war of 2011each of which mobilized a new generation of fighters.

Profiles of jihadists have evolved over the years. Generally, revolutionary movements attract different kinds of recruits at different stages in their development. Many of the founders and leaders of the modern jihadist movement were educated members of the upper-middle or upper classes. Even many early foot soldiers were of above-average socio-economic status. Research on recruits to jihadist groups using data from the 1970s to 2010 found that members of these groups were six times more likely than the general population to have a bachelors degree. In the Middle East, engineering schools are often the most competitive programs and only take the best and brightest students; jihadists were seventeen times more likely to have an engineering degree.

New recruits to al-Qaeda spent months or even years at training camps, where they were vetted by leadership for their mental stability and ideological purity. This vetting even applied to relationships among leaders. When the billionaire Osama bin Laden started to expand his network, he was selective about the social caliber of people he chose to ally himself with. In 1999, when he met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of what would become ISIS, he was suspicious of him not only for his extremist beliefs in apostatizing moderate Muslims, but also because of Zarqawis criminal past.

But criminal pasts would eventually become a standout feature of European jihadists venturing toward Syria and Iraq. According to one study of a small database of European jihadists, 57 percent of eventual Syria-bound jihadists had a petty or violent criminal past. Studies of Syria-bound foreign fighters from Norway and Germany found that they were overwhelmingly from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Many recent European radicalization hotspots are neighborhoods known for their high rates of unemployment and crime. ISIS propaganda geared toward Europeans alluded to these criminal pasts by offering jihad as a form of redemption, claiming that sometimes people with the worst pasts have the brightest futures.

The evidence that early al-Qaeda members were more educated, psychologically stable, and ideologically grounded is consistent with a group in the early period of a movements development, consisting of self-organizing networks operating clandestinely. Nascent decentralized groups rely on a reputation for success as the prime attractor for new adherents. Failing at an attack would be embarrassing and costly, and therefore only the best and brightest should be entrusted with such a duty.

On the other hand, ISIS operated like a traditional military in carrying on a local insurgency. It held and governed land in a way that al-Qaeda never did, and this loosened its stringency regarding recruits. The group sucked up fighters from areas under its control with promises of money and power, and appealed to the downtrodden of the Muslim diaspora to join their cause. Ideological purity, education, and law-abiding pasts took a back seat to the need for soldiers. If al-Qaeda, with its careful vetting and training, was the special forces of the jihadist movement, then ISIS was the infantry.

But as ISISs goals continued to evolve so too did their recruits. Few women from Europe ventured to Syria in the early days of the conflict, but by 2014 one in seven European foreign fighters were women, and by 2016 that number had jumped to one in three. Women didnt become more vulnerable to radicalization over that periodinstead, they were targeted for radicalization. Until 2014, ISISs local insurgency demanded mostly young men of fighting capacity and thus had little need for women. In June 2014, ISIS declared its so-called Caliphate and shifted its focus to state-building. In order to legitimize that state, the immigration of women, children, and families was explicitly sought after. Once the women arrived they began recruiting female friends, family members, and strangers over the Internet to pull in more lionesses, as they were often called, leading to the jump seen in 2016.

Since ISISs caliphate began collapsing in early 2016, they have been further expanding the use of other types of recruits. Women have planned to carry out attacks, new converts to Islam with no previous radical ties (known as clean men) have been alleged to be go-betweens connecting aspiring attackers with ISIS core members, lone actors (who have a greater instance of mental illness than group actors) have been inspired or directed to attack, people both younger and older than the norm have been recruited. The organization is exploiting all the resources at its disposal to maintain its strength in the eyes of its supporters.

These changes in patterns of recruitment show that profiles of recruits reveal more about changes in conflict dynamics than about the psychological vulnerabilities of certain demographics. Disaffected youth or marginalized communities may have been convenient targets for recruitment in recent circumstances, but long-term strategies for the prevention of radicalization must look beyond these current dynamics.

In addition, well-meaning policies that can be perceived as profiling run the risk of alienating the communities involved, as has been seen with the UKs Prevent strategy. But even when we focus on a narrow range of times and locations it is hard to detect a pattern. The core members of the Paris-Brussels terrorist network were mostly petty criminals from a marginalized neighborhood in Brussels. The Barcelona attackers were well-integrated youth from a culturally cohesive rural town. What they do have in common is that they were both groups of siblings and childhood friends.

As the structures of terrorist organizations evolve so too do their recruitment methods. In failed states, such as Syria, groups take on a hierarchical command-cadre structure, which resembles a formal military and allows the group to operate openly while providing security and governance in the area it controls. For some inhabitants of such areas, joining them may be more a matter of practicality than of conviction. In developed nations, such as in Europe, terrorist groups must operate clandestinely and thus take on a network structure. Networks are self-organizing, though they often contain charismatic leaders who pull together disparate individuals and small groups of friends.

Prior to the US invasion in 2001, al-Qaeda had begun to achieve a small-scale command-cadre structure in Afghanistan. It had a limited leadership structure and many hundreds of graduates from its training camps. The al-Qaeda leadership were hosted in Afghanistan by the Taliban and so they operated more like a venture capital firm, to which members of its various international networks would come to seek training, funds, and contacts.

European recruits of al-Qaeda in the 1990s and 2000s were often small groups of friends who would co-radicalize each other and then seek out opportunities to train in foreign camps. In a 2009 multi-nation study, researchers found that 75 percent of al-Qaeda members were recruited by a friend, 20 percent by a family member, and only 5 percent by a stranger. This recruitment pattern is what would be expected for a funding, plotting, and training structure like al-Qaeda that was waging a global jihad.

By contrast, the jihadist groups in Syria were waging a local insurgency and were setting up multiple command-cadre structures. In addition, by this time a series of prolific recruiters had gained a foothold in Europe. The hierarchical structures in Syria were able to work in tandem with their networks in Europe to create a mix of top-down and horizontal recruitment. For example, by 2015, nearly one in three Belgian foreign fighters in Syria were recruited by just two people: Khalid Zerkani and Fouad Belkacem. Some of those recruits then recruited their friends, which led to a social domino effect of radicalization.

Much radicalization is this phenomenon of friends recruiting friends. Preliminary findings on Western ISIS fighters indicate that very few recruits were self-radicalized; for the vast majority, radicalization was facilitated through social interaction. The Internet can facilitate this, but the existence of very specific geographical hotspots that produce the bulk of jihadists indicates that, when it comes to recruitment, offline factors are more important than the Internet. The picture emerging of the Barcelona attackers is more typical of radicalization in Europe. A charismatic leader, in the form of a radical imam, began to groom at least four sets of brothers and close friends, who then further co-radicalized one another.

Anybody can be exposed to new moral beliefs but when those beliefs become part of the day-to-day conversations of your friends, they have a greater chance of being acted upon. A common belief about those who join violent groups is that they are looking for brotherhood or sisterhood, and those groups certainly do offer that. But often it is in fact a pre-existing sense of belonging that is the risk factor. When radical ideas get introduced into tight-knit networks of friends, these groups act as echo chambers that reinforce those beliefs. The beliefs then act as a social glue that brings the friends closer to one another as a group, and distances the group as a whole from the rest of society.

As this process continues, the values become sacred and the identities of the individuals become fused with the group. Indeed, field studies by Artis Internationala consortium of researchers and practitioners studying violent conflict, of which I am a partof residents in two radicalization hotspots in Morocco show that it is the combination of holding a sacred value and being closely connected with your group of friends that motivates people to fight and die for their values. Strong identification with close comrades was a principal determinant of willingness to sacrifice oneself, a University of Oxford study found, among Libyan revolutionaries fighting the Qaddafi regime in 2011. My own studies on jihadist-group sympathizers in Paris and Barcelona show that, contrary to what many people believe, identification with Islam or the Muslim ummah (worldwide Muslim community) does not strongly predict willingness to fight and die for jihadist ideals. Instead, transcendent beliefs shared with close friends increased willingness to commit violence.

Most prevention policies aim to stop radicalization for every single person. This is a tall order and unlikely to succeed. A more evidence-based approach would be to try to mitigate group radicalization. Values and beliefs are socially embedded. Once the social setting changes, the beliefs may lose their grounding. For this reason, friends are not only crucial for the radicalization process but can be important in the prevention and de-radicalization process as well. Prevention, de-radicalization, and reintegration programs in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Sri Lanka have all used moderate friends and family members to pull a person away from violent extremism.

The existence of hotspots of radicalization can perhaps best be understood using epidemiology. When tracing back the origins of local European networks we often find a patient zero who is the first person to bring radical ideas into a community. This could be a recruiter, a radical imam as in the case of Barcelona, or any other person with the propensity and skills to spread extremist ideas. The rate of propagation of these ideas may partly be attributable to the sheer number of vulnerable individuals in those areas, though, again, its often friends and family members who act as catalysts between the ideas and new adherents. The rate of propagation may also be due to the bystander effect, whereby non-radical individuals do not report suspicious behaviors. This effect can be enhanced by rampant social disorganization in certain neighborhoods. If areas are already heavily afflicted by petty or organized crime, drug-dealing, or vandalism, then residents habituate to a level of nefarious behavior in their midst. This can be seen as a weakening of the community immune system, which in more organized areas would detect and expel the intruding ideas at an early stage.

Reducing social disorganization in certain communities may help increase their resistance to extremism. But bombarding radicalization hotspots with counter-radicalization programswhich often involves getting teachers, social workers, or community leaders to report on those they overseecan make residents of those areas feel suspect, which may do more harm than good. Economic development may not be effective either. Southern European countries, such as Spain and Italy, have worse economic integration of their immigrant populations than do northern European countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany, or the UK. Yet the northern European countries have higher per capita radicalization rates than the southern countries. Economic development of certain communities should be welcomed but it may not be the most effective strategy for preventing young men like the well-integrated Barcelona attackers from radicalizing.

Working directly with the non-radical friends and family members of those on terrorist watch lists avoids the pitfalls of other approaches. In most cases, non-radical friends and family have no idea their loved ones are on watch lists, and if they do, dont know how to intervene. Programs that help facilitate this interaction could be successful.

Radicalization is a complex system that cannot be reduced to its individual factors. International conflicts, social networks, community, ideology, and individual vulnerabilities all combine to let radicalization emerge. Some of these factors may be more volatile, such as individual personalities, while others are more stable, such as social networks. But only a holistic view of this phenomenon can provide the understanding needed for designing policies to counter the pull of extremist groups.

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What Makes a Terrorist? – The New York Review of Books

UNZA vice-chancellor lays down marker – Zambia Daily Mail

STEVEN MVULA, Lusaka UNIVERSITY of Zambia (UNZA) vice-chancellor Luke Mumba has urged students to save the institution of higher education from collapse by paying tuition and other fees.

And Professor Mumba says defaulting students will be allowed to sit for examinations but results will be withheld until they pay all the money they are owing the institution. Prof Mumba phoned Radio Phoenix on Tuesday during a programme dubbed Let The People Talk and corrected the perception that UNZA wanted to bar 8,000 students from writing examinations due to non-payment of fees. UNZA is bankrupt and it will collapse if students dont pay their obligations. We are not wholly funded by Government. Even the exams have a cost. There can be no exam without funding. We need money for stationery, to pay external examiners and support staff. We feel the heat as managers of this institution, he said. He said it is not the responsibility of UNZA to provide for the vulnerable because its mandate is to provide education and research. UNZA has 27,000 students and 19,000 have no problem at all. It is only 8,000 who have not paid and management will allow 4,900 students to write examinations but will withhold their results. The rest of the 8,000 are not on our data base, Prof Mumba said. Prof Mumba said returning students in their final years who will not clear will not graduate while returning students will not register without results. The collapse of a nation does not require use of atomic bombs. It only requires lowering the quality of education and the quality of graduates. UNZA must, therefore, live on. UNZA must continue to be the beacon and catalyst for socio-economic development, growth and knowledge generation, he said in a statement on Monday. Prof Mumba said for the university to avoid the perennial problem of admitting students who cannot pay fees for various reasons, this years admissions for first years are all provisional.

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UNZA vice-chancellor lays down marker – Zambia Daily Mail

Collapse of UT and Capital banks A case of a collective national failure (Article) – Citifmonline

As an entrepreneur who appreciates the challenges to surmount in order to build flourishing businesses with positive ramifications for society, the collapse of UT and Capital Banks can only be seen as a reflection of our respective individual negative traits, deficient national character and the weak state institutions coupled with our ineffective educational system. The collapse of these banks obviously brings to fore critical issues that, as a nation we must be bold, truthful and openly discuss them.

Though, it did not surprise industry watchers, their demise evoke feelings of sadness and job insecurity while raising questions about the ability of Ghanaians to really manage our institutions.

It is sad because the collapse of these two indigenous banks has become a set back to the effort of promoting indigenous Ghanaians to take control of our economy by building strong local institutions. One would have expected to hear of progress being made by local banks rather than the demise of local banks.

It is also sad because of the job losses inherent in the demise especially in the light of the complexities of the labour market, the unavailability of jobs and the potential to increase unemployment levels even though we dont know our unemployment rates.

In spite of these sentiments, economic mismanagement, the failure of the central bank to assume its leadership role in our economic development, the proliferations of award schemes and our negative attitude as Ghanaians are all responsible for the current happenings. Invariably, these factors have combined to determine the kind of socio-economic environment that we currently find ourselves as a nation.

Economic Mismanagement

A critical look at economic development trends across the globe usually starts with emphasis on the agriculture sector, moves to manufacturing and lastly to the services sector. This development trend promotes the real sectors of an economy through the linkages between agriculture which provides the basic raw material for manufacturing and industrialization and the services sectors. The real sector of an economy will thus have the potential to create the numerous jobs for the people, provide commodities for the daily lives of the people, provide raw materials for the manufacturing firms, wealth for the people, a strong currency for the nation and eventually help extricate indigenes from poverty.

However, our country has adopted by default a reverse development model by placing emphasis on the services sector with no linkages to both the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. As a result, the business of selling and buying money has been very dominant in our economy. This is called the financecialisation of our economy. Everybody in Ghana now is either selling or buying money as a form of business. This explains why there are numerous people doing money lending, micro financing, savings and loans or commercial banking. While every money lender intends to be a micro finance, micro finance firms want to be savings and loans, saving and loans are looking at being commercial banks. These conversions are done without building enough capital base and a more robust corporate governance structures. Sadly, these finance houses are only funding the importation of rice, cooking oils and other consumables at the detriment of the most productive sectors of our economy such as agric and manufacturing.

A diversified economy on the other hand provides options for the people to do agriculture as a business, helps manufacturing to thrive and presents opportunity for banks to finance the productive sectors.

However, our political leaders have only paid mere lip services to our development. Over the years, Ghana has had several different development plans that have all sought to give us prosperity. All these plans have embraced the concepts of structural transformation, industrialization, investment, quality education and human capital development and the modernization of agriculture. The 7 year development of 1963-1970, Economic Recovery Program of 1984-1990, Structural Adjustment Program, Vision 2020 and the Better Ghana Agenda are just a few of the development plans. Yet, we are still engulfed in poverty.

Clearly, incompetence in managing our economy, lack of vision and direction by political leaders, weak state institutions, deep rooted and institutionalized bribery and corruption, ineffective educational system that produces timorous workforce with its resultant mismatch with industry have all teamed up to cause the collapse of these two banks.

Role of the Central Bank

The central bank of Ghana has been unable to assume its leadership role and importance as far as Ghanas economic development is concerned. They have not been proactive in their policy and supervisory functions in the financial sector in particular and the economy in general. The primary role of the central bank to implement policies that provide consistent growth and employment and the stability of the financial system has been ineffective over the years. Perhaps, the central bank is only noted for organizing monetary policy committee meetings. One even wonders if they have an idea as to the total number of money lenders and microfinance firms operating in the country. Weak corporate governance, Incompetent management and board, weak supervision, lack of integrity, corruption within the banking sector, unchecked prevailing high interest rate regime and the springing up of commercial banks are all to be blamed. It is hence not surprising that directors of a bank will borrow money without paying, whiles staff of some banks also operate micro finance within their respective branches. We all can imagine the insecurity and frustrations that would have been unleashed to the nation if depositors had lost their funds in the UT/Capital bank saga. And so, to the extent that the Central Bank was able to salvage depositors funds and restore confidence among depositors, they need to be commended.

Attitude of Ghanaians

Our negative individual attitudes as Ghanaians are also to be blamed. Individual corruptible practices in our institutions, employment based on favoritism, managerial incompetence, untruthfulness, vindictiveness, victimization, dirty corporate politicking, stealing of funds with collaborators in the business world, lack of leadership, amorous relationship between bosses and their subordinates have all been accepted as part of our normal lives, and have permeated into our corporate fabric. Doing the right things in Ghana makes one either a bad person, very difficult, arrogant or controversial. You dare not report a colleague or superior who is either corrupt or does something wrong. Whilst some banks promote staff not on merit but on the whims or affection of a superior person, some business heads also take money from clients before credit applications are processed. It is therefore not surprising that staff members through their actions and inactions have contributed to the demise of these banks. Sadly, the intellectuals in this country have through our incompetence and corruption proven education to be a useless venture. Instead of being managing directors, we are gradually becoming damaging directors.

Numerous Award Schemes

Numerous awards programes have been institutionalized in our country recently. There is an award scheme for almost everything in our country today. The basis upon which individuals and institutions have won various awards are in some cases questionable especially when every discerning Ghanaian is aware of the monetization of these awards. Besides, we are unable to assess the impact that these awards have had on our economy and society. In the light of their imminent collapse, these two banks in the past three years have won various awards in the banking sector. How did they win these awards? Awards schemes are essentially to reward excellence and to generate a more meaningful and a broader impact on companies and society. However, awards have been used as a money making venture and as such, mediocrity has taken over in most of the awards.

Clearly, the factors above present a feeling of great disappointment and failure whenever one critically looks at our national life. It looks as if we have been condemned to perpetual conditions of poverty, underdevelopment and retrogression exemplified by lack of vision and leadership, economic mismanagement, incompetent corporate leaders, ineffective and weak state institutions, negative attitude of the people, institutionalized bribery and corruption and lack of integrity. Indeed, one can only conclude that the collapse of these two banks is a collective national failure rather than an individual institutional lapse.

By: Kelvin Kwaku Yeboah

The writer is a former Banker and Entrepreneur.

Email: ykelvin19@yahoo.com

Excerpt from:

Collapse of UT and Capital banks A case of a collective national failure (Article) – Citifmonline

Centre claims to have completed safety audit of 1.6 lakh bridges; to work on 147 dilapidated structures – Firstpost

New Delhi: The road ministry has completed safety audit of 1.6 lakh bridges in the country and found 147 structures in dilapidated condition.

The ministry launched the Integrated Bridge Management System (IBMS) to create data of all bridges and culverts in the country as part of steps to avert mishaps. “IBMS has completed the first phase of inventory and inspection of all types of bridges, which comes to 1,60,186. Of these, 147 bridges were found to be dilapidated and calls for immediate attention,” Gadkari, the Union road transport and highways minister, said.

File image of Nitin Gadkari. PTI

He said 23 such structures were found to be of over 100 years of age. Gadkari said new technologies for monitoring of bridges in real time like nano, laser and sensor were being introduced, while radars, infra ray drones, etc. will be used for their inspection. The IBMS was launched late last year at an estimated cost of Rs 300 crore.

Before IBMS there was no system to map the bridges, many of which were constructed during the British era and were on the verge of collapse. “As of date, IBMS has a database of about 1.6 lakh structures, including 1.2 lakh culverts, and are being categorised under different categories. The system, which is an initiative under ‘Make in India’ drive, will have the minutest details to address all safety and security concerns,” he said, after having chaired a meeting of IBMS on 30 June.

The three-year project is being implemented in 18 packages. The system has data like national identity number, longitude and latitude details, classifications and socio-economic details of the area, among others. The need for this system was triggered as the country did not have any such data, while companies like BHEL had to shell out as high as Rs 50 lakh fee to get the data, whether the bridge was compatible for its machines or not for crossing it.

In addition to the structural rating, the bridges are also being assigned socio-economic bridge rating number, which will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area.

During inventory creation each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or national identity number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on an national orstate highway, or is a district road.

The minister said that the system is such that precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, it is assigned a bridge location number. Thereafter, engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way etc are collected and are used to assign a bridge classification number to the structure. These are then used to do a structural rating on a scale of 0 to 9, and each bridge is given a structural rating number.

The rating is done for each component of the structure like integral and non-integral deck, superstructure, substructure, bank and channel, structural evaluation, deck geometry, vertical clearance, waterway efficiency, etc.

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Centre claims to have completed safety audit of 1.6 lakh bridges; to work on 147 dilapidated structures – Firstpost

Govt completes inspection 1.6 lakh bridges, plans new tech – Zee News

New Delhi: The road ministry has completed safety audit of 1.6 lakh bridges in the country and found 147 structures in dilapidated condition.

The ministry last year launched the Integrated Bridge Management System (IBMS) to create data of all bridges and culverts in the country as part of steps to avert mishaps.

“IBMS has completed the first phase of inventory and inspection of all types of bridges, which comes to 1,60,186. of these 147 bridges were found to be dilapidated and calls for immediate attention,” Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari told PTI.

He said 23 such structures were found of over 100 years of age.

Gadkari said new technologies for monitoring of bridges in real time like nano, laser and sensor were being introduced, while radars, infra ray drones etc will be used for their inspection.

The IBMS was launched late last year at an estimated costof Rs 300 crore.

Before IBMS there was no system to map the bridges, manyof which were constructed during British era and were on the verge of collapse.

“As on date IBMS has a database of about 1.6 lakh structures, including 1.2 lakh culverts, and are being categories under different categories. The system which is an initiative under ‘Make in India’ drive and will have the minutest details to address all safety and security concerns,” the Minister said who chaired a meeting of IBMS on June 30.

The three-year project is being implemented in 18 packages.

The system has data like national identity number, longitude and latitude details, classifications and socio economic details of the area, among others.

The need for this system was triggered as the country didnot have any such data, while companies like BHEL had to shell out as high as Rs 50 lakh fee to get the data whether the bridge was compatible for its machines or not for crossing it.

In addition to the structural rating, the bridges are also being assigned socio-economic bridge rating number, which will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area.

During inventory creation each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or national identity number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on an National Highway, state Highway or is a district road.

The minister said that the system is such that precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, it is assigned a bridge location number.

Thereafter, engineering characteristics like the design,materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way etc are collected and are used to assign a bridge classification number to the structure.

These are then used to do a structural rating on a scaleof 0 to 9, and each bridge is given a structural rating number.

The rating is done for each component of the structure like integral and non-integral deck, superstructure, substructure, bank and channel, structural evaluation, deck geometry, vertical clearance, waterway efficiency etc.

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Govt completes inspection 1.6 lakh bridges, plans new tech – Zee News

Nkomo could have saved Zim: Zapu – NewsDay

THE Dumiso Dabengwa-led Zapu has claimed Zimbabwe would not be facing the grinding socio-economic crisis had the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo lived longer, arguing he had a growth and rebuilding agenda for the country.

By NQOBANI NDLOVU

The late Dr Joshua Nkomo

In a statement to commemorate the late Father Zimbabwe, Zapu spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa said Nkomo would have stepped down way back, and urged President Robert Mugabe to hand over the baton to his juniors.

Nkomo and definitely Zapu, had no intention of hanging onto power at the expense of the people of Zimbabwe, as we witness under Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Theirs was a rebuilding and growth agenda for a country, which, ironically after 37 years of majority rule, does not know a nation since falling into the hands of Zanu PF, whose only agenda was gaining and retaining political power, he said.

Mugabe has not indicated when he will step down and the ruling party has nominated him to be the partys presidential candidate for the 2018 general elections. He will be 94, and will be the worlds oldest presidential candidate.

Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo was unreachable for comment. The ruling Zanu PF has on several occasions blamed sanctions for the countrys economic woes.

Maphosa argued Zimbabwe would be better off had the late Father Zimbabwe lived longer, saying Nkomo was, for example, not going to tolerate corruption that is blamed for the collapse of several State-owned entities.

Had he lived a little longer, Zimbabwe would not be in this mess for we are cocksure he was never going to allow Mugabe, whom he mentored, to become the demi-god he is today. He would not have allowed the cluelessness about economic management and lack of accountability to continue unabated as it has happened since the time of death to this day.

Economic mismanagement and maladministration, refusal to account, corruption, tribalism and nepotism shot through the roof as patronage took root of our governmental affairs soon after Nkomo departed, a development he would have never allowed in a country he fought for all his life, he said.

The late Vice-President, who was born on June 7, 1917, died on July 1, 1999 at the age of 82, and would have turned 100 this year.

The Joshua Nkomo Cultural Movement, a trust established to promote and advance Nkomos legacy, last month held low-key centenary celebrations in Kezi, Matabeleland South, to celebrate the late VPs life.

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Nkomo could have saved Zim: Zapu – NewsDay

Is this the end of Daesh? – Arab News

The world breathed a collective, but tentative sigh of relief this week as news from Iraq and Syria indicated that the terrorist group Daesh could be near collapse.

This most despicable of terrorist groups has been on the retreat in Mosul its biggest prize in Iraq as the Iraqi government continued a weeks-long offensive against it.

Daeshs supposed capital in Syria, Raqqa, has also been encircled by various forces.

This development should not come as a surprise to anyone. Daesh has brought nothing but death, destruction and misery to the peoples of Iraq and Syria. And while we should all rejoice in what seems like the inevitable defeat of Daesh as a physical entity, we must recognize that humanity will continue to grapple with the groups mindset and its many different manifestations for some time to come.

It is incumbent on all nations currently seeking to defeat Daesh militarily to redouble their efforts to address the root causes that led to the rise of the terror group and which account for radicalization.

Just as importantly, nations and peace-loving people around the world must do their part to counter narratives that seek to foment fear, hatred and division whether they are propagated by Muslims, Christians, Jews or any other group. The future peace and prosperity of mankind depends on exposing extremists of every strand.

Scholars studying the root causes of terrorism have long reached a consensus that radicalization is a complex and often lengthy process that entails a confluence of factors.

Contrary to casual observers who believe that ideology alone explains radicalization, multiple studies suggest that ideology is only one factor and often a small one on the road to radicalization. Political, ethnic and socio-economic factors all play a role.

That means that the international community must come to terms with some of the underlying causes that make youths susceptible to recruitment by terrorist organizations.

Political marginalization, impediments to social integration and economic deprivation are vexing issues that nations have to address to ensure that their youths do not become easy prey for terrorists.

We must recognize that humanity will continue to grapple with the terror groups mindset and its many different manifestations for some time to come.

Fahad Nazer

At the same time, the international community must also find solutions to a number of civil wars that have been raging for years and which have become a destination for militant foreign fighters from around the world, especially Syria.

I have repeatedly argued that while Daesh might have its roots in the war in Iraq, it is the brutality of the Assad regime in Syria that enabled it to grow like a malignant tumor and to become the destination of foreign fighters from all around the world.

Just as importantly, nations must be weary of voices that seek to spread hatred, fear and division. These forces are at play in the Islamic world, in the West and elsewhere. These voices of division help sustain the Daesh mindset, which views any person who does not adhere to its dark worldview as a mortal enemy that must be destroyed.

This mindset is not endemic to the Islamic world, as some maintain. Those who maintain that the Islamic world is under siege by the West and must be defended abet Daesh directly by lending credence to its false narrative. Those who argue that the West is under attack by Muslims likewise help Daesh by making Muslims in the West feel alienated and more susceptible to recruitment.

In recent weeks, this incitement in the West has also led to numerous deadly attacks against Muslims in Britain, Canada and the US.

Any reasonable person with a rudimentary understanding of history must acknowledge that terrorism and violence are not endemic to a particular religion, ethnicity or nationality. Those who believe otherwise are part of the problem, not the solution.

What the world is facing today is not a clash of civilizations but a clash of narratives. It is between two diametrically opposed views. One stresses what civilizations, nations and human beings have in common.

The other stresses our differences. Fortunately, the voices calling for peaceful coexistence, cooperation and even integration vastly outnumber those who view conflict, war, competition and disintegration as inevitable.

Daesh as a physical entity was bound to perish because its cult of death and destruction offered people no hope. Those adhering to its hateful mindset likewise have nothing to offer but fear. Time will prove that they too, were on the wrong side of history.

Fahad Nazer is an international affairs fellow with the National Council on US-Arab Relations. He is also a consultant to the Saudi embassy in Washington, but does not represent it or speak on its behalf. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, CNN, The Hill and Newsweek, among others.

See the original post:

Is this the end of Daesh? – Arab News

Empowering Women in Developing Economies – HuffPost

Co-authored by Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassadorof the Republic of Rwanda to the United States of America.

Economic opportunity is vital to strengthening peace and stability, especially in fragile states and post conflict societies.Developing sustainable employment entails a strong partnership between the private and public sectors, as well as multilateral organizations. Kate Space & Companys social enterprise investment in Rwandawhich enables women to be part of its supply chainis an innovative example of that partnership.

Rwanda suffered one of the worst genocides in history in 1994. The Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda claimed more than one million lives and left in its wake a near total collapse of political and socio-economic institutions. The leadership of Rwanda and its people embarked on an arduous journey to mend the fabric of their society, and out of the ashes of destruction rose a new and prosperous nation.

Today, Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. There are several reasons for Rwandas economic and social progress. A growing body of research demonstrates that womens economic participation is essential for economic progressand for post conflict reconstruction and recovery. Women entrepreneurs drive GDP and create jobs, and the way women spend their income has a multiplier effect, as they invest it in education, nutrition, and other needs; this in turn improves the well-being of families and grows the standard of living. Rwandas leadership in gender equality has fostered a positive environment for womens political participation and entrepreneurship. Women comprise over 60% of the Parliamentthe highest in the world. Inheritance and land rights have been advanced, and there have been significant improvements on a range of indicators from education and literacy to health care.

We have observed the impact that the private sector can have on womens economic empowerment in Masoro, a village of twenty thousand people roughly twelve kilometers away from Rwandas capital, Kigali. Like many rural communities, Masoro suffered from higher unemployment and lower earnings than the national average. On the positive, local artisans were skilled in embroidery and sewing.

Officials from Kate Spade & Company decided to make a social enterprise investment in this small community to test if this investment could produce economic and social returns. The company recruited 150 of the villages most talented and committed female artisans in 2013, and helped them set up their own worker-owned, for-profit social enterprise: Abahizi Dushyigikirane, Ltd. or ADC. Kate Spade & Company has worked to build the capacity of the workers and has been using them as a supplier for its related brands. In that way, the women and their families can prosper and Kate Spade & Company can have a dependable supplier.

According to a recently released study by Georgetowns McDonough School of Business, in partnership with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security, Kate Spade & Companys initiative has already contributed to the empowerment of the women in Masoro. They are flourishing economically and socially. The women have improved their spending on necessities and are investing in the future. They are earning a decent and steady wage and receiving opportunities for training and development from ADC. The average woman working on the initiative has also reported higher levels of decision-making within her family related to personal finances.

This is evidenced by Appolinaire, a team leader in ADCs beading department. Appolinaire first applied to be a temporary worker at ADC in order to supplement her households income. To her surprise, she positively adjusted to the position right away, and especially enjoyed the camaraderie with other women. ADC offered Appolinaire an opportunity to take the sewing test required for a permanent position, which she passed.

With her new income from the factory, Appolinaire and her husband have been able to invest in a new kitchen, and they are gradually replacing their mud brick walls and dirt floor with bricks. Appolinarie says her voice is heard on all of the important household decisions. She no longer tends the land or cares for the cows. As she progressed at ADC and her salary increased, a young man was hired to do those chores. Clearly, she is becoming economically empowered.

On the business investment, the Georgetown study found that Kate Spade & Company has created a financially viable business model in Rwanda. The Masoro supplier will become more competitive as production increases. The increases are set to occur over the course of 2017 with the acquisition of another client. Kate Spade & Company is actively assisting in the search for a second client and potential investors to support their growth trajectory.

This innovative social enterprise investment offers a model approach for creating economic opportunity that is sustainable in marginalized communities. Other companies can also contribute to their bottom line and help to transform fragile and war-torn societies. Its a win-win approach: one that is good for business and good for society.

The Morning Email

Wake up to the day’s most important news.

View original post here:

Empowering Women in Developing Economies – HuffPost

There is a strong economic case to preserve future of traditional fishing – Alfred Sant – Malta Independent Online

Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant told the European Parliament that there is a strong economic case, and not just a social and a cultural one, to preserve and enhance future traditional fishing in the same way that this is being done for fish stocks. Explaining his vote in favour of the report “Status of fish stocks and socio-economic situation of the fishing sector in the Mediterranean” at the European Parliament, the Maltese MEP said we can no longer ignore the fact that institutionally and economically, the position of traditional fishermen was not sufficiently taken into account when conservation policies were being drafted. In part this happened because the legitimate interests of these fishermen were not adequately represented and assessed, in the face of a fast growing and politically effective modern industrial sector.

This has got to be corrected. Fortunately, there is a growing awareness among traditional fishermen even in the remoter areas that they need to mobilise more effectively. For even now, there are some who consider traditional fishing as an economically non-viable activity which must be tolerated till it dies out on its own.

I voted for this resolution because it makes a serious effort to consider traditional and artisanal fishing as an integral part of the fisheries sector in the Mediterranean, giving members of this community the prominence they deserve, while relating it in a realistic way to the effective management of fish stocks. remarked the Maltese MEP.

The Report dealt with the dramatic decline ofMediterranean fish stocks – more than 90% of those assessed are overexploited, with some on the verge of collapse. It stresses the need to improve stock assessment (data collection, availability and analysis; suggesting a common database) as well as control and surveillance, and to strengthen cooperation among Mediterranean countries (EU and non-EU), particularly in view of tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The Report refers to preferential treatment for small and artisanal fisheries as well as the need for a guarantee for a basic income for fishermen during “biological rest periods”. The report also refers specifically to talks on the problem of poor data as regards to fishing and the need to further involve fishermen in the decision-making process. It also deals with the third country factor and the impact that fishermen from non-EU countries have on fishing in the Mediterranean.

The Resolution was approved with 558 votes in favour, 43 against, and 35 abstentions.

See the original post:

There is a strong economic case to preserve future of traditional fishing – Alfred Sant – Malta Independent Online

Reserve Bank battle points to dangerous levels of intolerance – Mail & Guardian

Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago. The role of South Africas central bank is at the centre of a heated debate. (Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters)

What kind of financial system is sure to collapse if the central bank cares about peoples well-being?

The recommendation by the public protector that the Reserve Banks mandate change, says much about Busisiwe Mkhwebane, none of it flattering. It says just as much about mainstream economic debate – and none of that is flattering either.

Mkhwebane recommended that the central banks constitutional mandate, which makes protecting the currency its primary goal, be changed to one which requires it to promote balanced and sustainable economic growth while ensuring that the socio-economic well-being of the citizens are protected. She also said the constitution should require the bank to achieve meaningful socio-economic transformation.

This triggered a wave of protests, as well as an announcement from the South African Reserve Bank that it would take the matter to court. The Reserve Bank had no option. The constitutional court has ruled that the Public Protectors findings are binding unless they are challenged in court. Her recommendation wildly exceeded what she is allowed to do by the constitution or democratic good sense – and the Reserve Bank could not allow it to stand.

Democratic constitutions are changed by large majorities of the people or their elected representatives not by individuals. By making a binding recommendation that the constitution be changed, Mkhwebane signalled that she either doesnt understand or does not care for democracy.

Her report is also very useful to a faction of the governing party which wants to deflect charges of state capture by claiming that white monopoly capital already controls the state. There are real questions about the fitness for office of a Public Protector whose report seems more interested in protecting connected politicians and business people than with taking the peoples will seriously.

But the reaction did not stop at insisting that Mkhwebane has no business telling the people what the constitution should say. Much of it objected not only to her saying what the Reserve Banks mandate should be, but to anyone at all doing that.

The prize for the wildest reaction went to the commentator who declared that Mkhwebanes ideas on the Banks mandate were inspired by someone who denied that the Nazi genocide happened. Others stopped short of tarring constitutional change with the same brush as mass murder but were united in claiming that to suggest that the Reserve Banks mandate be broadened is economically illiterate and deeply damaging.

Absa, who was the subject of a separate finding by the public protector on the issue of a controversial bailout, asked a court to rule that her proposed change posed a serious risk to the financial system. For its part the rating agency Standard & Poors, happy as ever to police the boundaries of economic correctness, warned that any interference with the Reserve Banks independence could trigger new downgrades.

To insist that anyone who proposes changing the Reserve Banks mandate is economically damaging and stupid is as contemptuous of democracy and dangerous to the economy as Mkhwebanes excess. It is undemocratic because it seeks to close down policy debate by declaring that only one view of the Reserve Banks mandate can ensure a healthy economy. It is dangerous because it blocks the search for economic remedies by seeking to bully even those who propose only mild changes to what the country now has.

The idea that the Reserve Bank should have a broader mandate is neither radical nor dangerous. The most famous central bank, the US Federal Reserve, has a broader mandate. Its dual mandate requires it to seek maximum employment as well as price stability.

The Australian equivalents mandate includes maintenance of full employment and economic prosperity and welfare of the people. The European Central Bank, famed for its love of austerity, has a mandate to seek sustainable growth.

And the the Bank of Englands website says that, subject to its goal of price stability, it aims to support the governments economic objectives.

In South Africa, not only has the view that the central banks mandate is too restrictive been repeated periodically but it may well have been implemented for a while. In 2010, then finance minister Pravin Gordhan wrote to then Reserve Bank governor, Gill Marcus, proposing a mandate which included growth and employment. Marcus reacted positively, which suggests that the bank acted on Gordhans letter. The financial system survived.

The US, European and Australian financial systems have also not collapsed. Their mandates have not triggered a downgrade and no one has accused these societies of economic illiteracy.

So either double standards are being applied or we are being told that restrictive central bank mandates are essential only if countries are in particular parts of the world (such as Africa) and governed by particular types of people (Africans).

And why does a change in the Banks mandate undermine its independence? A central bank loses its independence if politicians (or anyone else) can tell it what to do, not if its mandate changes.

For all its flaws, the Public Protectors proposal would retain the Reserve Banks independence, leaving it to the bank to decide what promotes the well-being of the people or transformation.

None of this means that the Reserve Banks mandate must change. Or that central bank independence must go. But it does mean that no one should be discouraged from debating the issue, as people routinely do in other democracies and market economies. What, besides that prejudice which we prettify by the term Afropessimism, explains the insistence that we may not debate what is freely discussed in most other places?

Closing down debate in this way is common in South Africa. It also lies behind complaints of policy uncertainty which does not mean, as it does elsewhere, that government keeps changing its mind and sending mixed messages the macro-economic framework has been stable for more than two decades. It means, rather, that some people who some others may take seriously raise policy ideas the economic mainstream does not like.

This demand that people can say anything they like about economic policy as long as the mainstream likes it too offers a misleading view of the economy. It says that there is nothing wrong with it except political interference and that it will flourish if politicians simply leave alone what is done now.

The contrary evidence is offered by mainstream organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the South African Reserve Bank itself which have shown that the current economic rut is a product of problems in the private economy as well as what government does.

This means that the economy must change. This, in turn, requires new ideas. They will not emerge unless everything is up for debate and ideas are not silenced because they trigger the fears and prejudices of a few.

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

More:

Reserve Bank battle points to dangerous levels of intolerance – Mail & Guardian

South Africa’s central bank row points to dangerous levels of intolerance – eNCA

File: The recommendation by South Africas Public Protector that the Reserve Banks mandate change, says much about Busisiwe Mkhwebane, none of it flattering.

Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg

What kind of financial system is sure to collapse if the central bank cares about peoples well-being?

The recommendation by South Africas Public Protector that the Reserve Banks mandate change, says much about Busisiwe Mkhwebane, none of it flattering. It says just as much about mainstream economic debate — and none of that is flattering either.

Mkhwebane recommended that the central banks constitutional mandate, which makes protecting the currency its primary goal, be changed to one which requires it to promote balanced and sustainable economic growth while ensuring that the socio-economic well-being of the citizens are protected. She also said the constitution should require the bank to achieve meaningful socio-economic transformation.

This triggered a wave of protests, as well as an announcement from the South African Reserve Bank that it would take the matter to court. The Reserve Bank had no option. The constitutional court has ruled that the Public Protectors findings are binding unless they are challenged in court. Her recommendation wildly exceeded what she is allowed to do by the constitution or democratic good sense – and the Reserve Bank could not allow it to stand.

Democratic constitutions are changed by large majorities of the people or their elected representatives not by individuals. By making a binding recommendation that the constitution be changed, Mkhwebane signalled that she either doesnt understand or does not care for democracy.

Her report is also very useful to a faction of the governing party which wants to deflect charges of state capture by claiming that white monopoly capital already controls the state. There are real questions about the fitness for office of a Public Protector whose report seems more interested in protecting connected politicians and business people than with taking the peoples will seriously.

But the reaction did not stop at insisting that Mkhwebane has no business telling the people what the constitution should say. Much of it objected not only to her saying what the Reserve Banks mandate should be, but to anyone at all doing that.

An important debate

The prize for the wildest reaction went to the commentator who declared that Mkhwebanes ideas on the Banks mandate were inspired by someone who denied that the Nazi genocide happened. Others stopped short of tarring constitutional change with the same brush as mass murder but were united in claiming that to suggest that the Reserve Banks mandate be broadened is economically illiterate and deeply damaging.

Absa, who was the subject of a separate finding by the public protector on the issue of a controversial bailout, asked a court to rule that her proposed change posed a serious risk to the financial system. For its part the rating agency Standard & Poors, happy as ever to police the boundaries of economic correctness, warned that any interference with the Reserve Banks independence could trigger new downgrades.

To insist that anyone who proposes changing the Reserve Banks mandate is economically damaging and stupid is as contemptuous of democracy and dangerous to the economy as Mkhwebanes excess. It is undemocratic because it seeks to close down policy debate by declaring that only one view of the Reserve Banks mandate can ensure a healthy economy. It is dangerous because it blocks the search for economic remedies by seeking to bully even those who propose only mild changes to what the country now has.

The idea that the Reserve Bank should have a broader mandate is neither radical nor dangerous. The most famous central bank, the US Federal Reserve, has a broader mandate. Its dual mandate requires it to seek maximum employment as well as price stability.

The Australian equivalents mandate includes maintenance of full employment and economic prosperity and welfare of the people. The European Central Bank, famed for its love of austerity, has a mandate to seek sustainable growth.

And the the Bank of Englands website says that, subject to its goal of price stability, it aims to support the governments economic objectives.

In South Africa, not only has the view that the central banks mandate is too restrictive been repeated periodically but it may well have been implemented for a while. In 2010, then finance minister Pravin Gordhan wrote to then Reserve Bank governor, Gill Marcus, proposing a mandate which included growth and employment. Marcus reacted positively, which suggests that the bank acted on Gordhans letter. The financial system survived.

The US, European and Australian financial systems have also not collapsed. Their mandates have not triggered a downgrade and no one has accused these societies of economic illiteracy.

So either double standards are being applied or we are being told that restrictive central bank mandates are essential only if countries are in particular parts of the world (such as Africa) and governed by particular types of people (Africans).

And why does a change in the Banks mandate undermine its independence? A central bank loses its independence if politicians (or anyone else) can tell it what to do, not if its mandate changes.

For all its flaws, the Public Protectors proposal would retain the Reserve Banks independence, leaving it to the bank to decide what promotes the well-being of the people or transformation.

Closing down debate is common

None of this means that the Reserve Banks mandate must change. Or that central bank independence must go. But it does mean that no one should be discouraged from debating the issue, as people routinely do in other democracies and market economies. What, besides that prejudice which we prettify by the term Afropessimism, explains the insistence that we may not debate what is freely discussed in most other places?

Closing down debate in this way is common in South Africa. It also lies behind complaints of policy uncertainty which does not mean, as it does elsewhere, that government keeps changing its mind and sending mixed messages the macro-economic framework has been stable for more than two decades. It means, rather, that some people who some others may take seriously raise policy ideas the economic mainstream does not like.

This demand that people can say anything they like about economic policy as long as the mainstream likes it too offers a misleading view of the economy. It says that there is nothing wrong with it except political interference and that it will flourish if politicians simply leave alone what is done now.

The contrary evidence is offered by mainstream organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the South African Reserve Bank itself which have shown that the current economic rut is a product of problems in the private economy as well as what government does.

This means that the economy must change. This, in turn, requires new ideas. They will not emerge unless everything is up for debate and ideas are not silenced because they trigger the fears and prejudices of a few.

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

21 June 2017

Analysts said the inflation outlook for the rest of year meant the Reserve Bank may now contemplate cutting rates or easing monetary policy to boost growth.

21 June 2017

Malikane, a former Wits University professor well known for his radical views, said on Tuesday he could not comment due to his role as Finance Minister Malusi Gigabas adviser.

20 June 2017

‘Amending the constitution is something different because it means all chapter nine institutions…may feel they want to amend the constitution,’ said ANC Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.

Read more here:

South Africa’s central bank row points to dangerous levels of intolerance – eNCA

Dangerous levels of intolerance exposed in Reserve Bank row – Independent Online

What kind of financial system is sure to collapse if the central bank cares about peoples well-being?

The recommendation by South Africas Public Protector that the Reserve Banks mandate change, says much about Busisiwe Mkhwebane, none of it flattering. It says just as much about mainstream economic debate – and none of that is flattering either.

Mkhwebane recommended that the central banks constitutional mandate, which makes protecting the currency its primary goal, be changed to one which requires it to promote balanced and sustainable economic growth while ensuring that the socio-economic well-being of the citizens are protected. She also said the constitution should require the bank to achieve meaningful socio-economic transformation.

This triggered a wave of protests, as well as an announcement from the South African Reserve Bank that it would take the matter to court. The Reserve Bank had no option. The constitutional court has ruled that the Public Protectors findings are binding unless they are challenged in court. Her recommendation wildly exceeded what she is allowed to do by the constitution or democratic good sense – and the Reserve Bank could not allow it to stand.

Democratic constitutions are changed by large majorities of the people or their elected representatives not by individuals. By making a binding recommendation that the constitution be changed, Mkhwebane signalled that she either doesnt understand or does not care for democracy.

Her report is also very useful to a faction of the governing party which wants to deflect charges of state capture by claiming that white monopoly capital already controls the state. There are real questions about the fitness for office of a Public Protector whose report seems more interested in protecting connected politicians and business people than with taking the peoples will seriously.

But the reaction did not stop at insisting that Mkhwebane has no business telling the people what the constitution should say. Much of it objected not only to her saying what the Reserve Banks mandate should be, but to anyone at all doing that.

An important debate

The prize for the wildest reaction went to the commentator who declared that Mkhwebanes ideas on the Banks mandate were inspired by someone who denied that the Nazi genocide happened. Others stopped short of tarring constitutional change with the same brush as mass murder but were united in claiming that to suggest that the Reserve Banks mandate be broadened is economically illiterate and deeply damaging.

Absa, who was the subject of a separate finding by the public protector on the issue of a controversial bailout, asked a court to rule that her proposed change posed a serious risk to the financial system. For its part the rating agency Standard & Poors, happy as ever to police the boundaries of economic correctness, warned that any interference with the Reserve Banks independence could trigger new downgrades.

To insist that anyone who proposes changing the Reserve Banks mandate is economically damaging and stupid is as contemptuous of democracy and dangerous to the economy as Mkhwebanes excess. It is undemocratic because it seeks to close down policy debate by declaring that only one view of the Reserve Banks mandate can ensure a healthy economy. It is dangerous because it blocks the search for economic remedies by seeking to bully even those who propose only mild changes to what the country now has.

The idea that the Reserve Bank should have a broader mandate is neither radical nor dangerous. The most famous central bank, the US Federal Reserve, has a broader mandate. Its dual mandate requires it to seek maximum employment as well as price stability.

The Australian equivalents mandate includes maintenance of full employment and economic prosperity and welfare of the people. The European Central Bank, famed for its love of austerity, has a mandate to seek sustainable growth.

And the the Bank of Englands website says that, subject to its goal of price stability, it aims to support the governments economic objectives.

In South Africa, not only has the view that the central banks mandate is too restrictive been repeated periodically but it may well have been implemented for a while. In 2010, then finance minister Pravin Gordhan wrote to then Reserve Bank governor, Gill Marcus, proposing a mandate which included growth and employment. Marcus reacted positively, which suggests that the bank acted on Gordhans letter. The financial system survived.

The US, European and Australian financial systems have also not collapsed. Their mandates have not triggered a downgrade and no one has accused these societies of economic illiteracy.

So either double standards are being applied or we are being told that restrictive central bank mandates are essential only if countries are in particular parts of the world (such as Africa) and governed by particular types of people (Africans).

And why does a change in the Banks mandate undermine its independence? A central bank loses its independence if politicians (or anyone else) can tell it what to do, not if its mandate changes.

For all its flaws, the Public Protectors proposal would retain the Reserve Banks independence, leaving it to the bank to decide what promotes the well-being of the people or transformation.

Closing down debate is common

None of this means that the Reserve Banks mandate must change. Or that central bank independence must go. But it does mean that no one should be discouraged from debating the issue, as people routinely do in other democracies and market economies. What, besides that prejudice which we prettify by the term Afropessimism, explains the insistence that we may not debate what is freely discussed in most other places?

Closing down debate in this way is common in South Africa. It also lies behind complaints of policy uncertainty which does not mean, as it does elsewhere, that government keeps changing its mind and sending mixed messages the macro-economic framework has been stable for more than two decades. It means, rather, that some people who some others may take seriously raise policy ideas the economic mainstream does not like.

This demand that people can say anything they like about economic policy as long as the mainstream likes it too offers a misleading view of the economy. It says that there is nothing wrong with it except political interference and that it will flourish if politicians simply leave alone what is done now.

The contrary evidence is offered by mainstream organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the South African Reserve Bank itself which have shown that the current economic rut is a product of problems in the private economy as well as what government does.

This means that the economy must change. This, in turn, requires new ideas. They will not emerge unless everything is up for debate and ideas are not silenced because they trigger the fears and prejudices of a few.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Conversation

Continued here:

Dangerous levels of intolerance exposed in Reserve Bank row – Independent Online

The Wonderful World of Binary Categorizations – Geopoliticalmonitor.com

A new Cold War knocks on our doors, suddenly. Why so? How did it previously cease?

The end of the Cold War came abruptly, overnight.

Many in the West dreamt about it, but nobody really saw it coming. The Warsaw Pact, Red Army in DDR, Berlin Wall, DDR itself, Soviet Union one after the other, vanished rapidly, unexpectedly. There was no ceasefire, no peace conference, no formal treaty and guaranties, no expression of interests and settlement. Only the gazing facial expression of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who circles around and unconvincingly repeats: We now better understand each other.

On the contrary, Bush (the 41st US president) calmly diagnosed: We win, they lose! His administration immediately declared that US policies, including all military capabilities, will remain unchanged but with a different pretexts to respond to the technological sophistication of the third world powers and to radical nationalism (meaning any indigenous emancipation). The world-is-flat mantra saw the non-West rest still enveloped in the Huntingtonian clash. Hence, the so-called normative revolution from the Atlantic followed shortly, in which the extensive (assertive) rights were self-prescribed on the global south. Thus, the might-makes-right interventions were justified through the new (de facto imperial) doctrines: humanitarian intervention, R2P (incl. Kouchner-Lvy bombing for a noble cause), doctrine of preemption, uninhabited access to or beyond the grand area, as well as the so-called Afroasia forward deployment, as a sort of the enlarged Brezhnev and Monroe doctrines combined together, etc.

Simultaneously, Washingtons darling, Francis Fukuyama, published his famous article The End of History? and the book which followed. Tounderline how sure he was about that claim, he even dropped the question mark in the title of the book.

Was this sudden meltdown of the Soviet giant and its Day After intrinsic or by design?

Brutality respected?

The generous support, the lavish and lasting funds that Atlantic-Central Europe enjoyed in the form of Marshall Aid has never reached the principal victim of WWII Eastern Europe. Despite the weak ethical grounds, this was due to ideological constrains in the post-WWII period. Total WWII devastation of the East and their demographic loss of 36 million people (versus only 1.2 million in the West), was of no help.

Moreover, only eight years after the end of WWII, the West brokered the so-called London Agreement on German External Debts (also known as the London Debt Agreement or Londoner Schuldenabkommen). By the letter of this accord, over 60% of German reparations for the colossal atrocities committed in both WW were forgiven (or generously reprogramed) by their former European victims, including quite unwillingly several Eastern European states. The contemporary world wonder and the economic wunderkind, Germany that dragged world into the two devastating world wars, is in fact a serial defaulter which received debt relief like no one else on the globe four times in the 20th century (1924, 1929, 1932 and 1953).

Despite all the subsidies given to the West, the East recovered remarkably fast. By the 1950s and 1960s, many influential western economists seriously considered communism as better suited for economic advancements, along with a Soviet planned economy as the superior socio-economic model and winsome ideological matrix.

Indeed, impressive Soviet results were a living example to it: A backward, semi-feudal, rural country in 1920s, has won WWII and in parallel it evolved into a highly industrialized and urbanized superpower all that in just 30 years. Spain needed two centuries (and never completed), Holland 130 years, the UK 110, Germany 90, Japan 70 years to revolve from a backward agricultural cultivator into an industrial giant. Moscow achieved that in only 30-35 years, all alone. Thus, by the mid-1950s besides its becoming a nuclear power the Soviet Union was a pioneer of cosmos exploration, sending a woman into orbit while many in the West still struggled with elementary gender equality this was an ethical and technological blaster. Morality of communist narrative as well as its socio-economic advancements appealed globally.

Master-blaster

If all the above is true, why then did the Soviet Union collapse? Was it really a bankruptcy caused by the Afghan intervention and its costly space program? And finally, if the U.S. collapsed earlier with the so-called Nixon shock, why did America become stronger afterwards, while after the Gorbachev-era bankruptcy of the Soviet Union, the Russian historical empire melted away so rapidly?

There are numerous views on it. Still, there is nothing conclusive yet neither in the form of a popular nor scientific consensus.

Some years ago, I had the honor to teach at the famous Plekhanov University of Economics in Moscow. It was a block-week with students of the Plekhanovs elite IBS program. Twelve days in Moscow proved to be an excellent opportunity to ask these questions to some of the most relevant economic authorities among academic colleagues.

The line of answers was quite different to anything Ive usually heard or read in the West. Muscovites claimed that right after Nixon shock, the Soviet Politburo and Gosplan (the Soviet Central Planning Economic Body overseeing the entire economic performance of the Soviet Union and, indirectly, its satellites) sat jointly in an extensive closed session. They debated two items only:

After much debating, answer to both questions was a unanimous NO.

Consequently, the logical conclusion was: The Soviets need to save the U.S. as to preserve balance of power. Without equilibrium in world affairs, there is no peace, stability, and security over the long run a clear geostrategic imperative.

Indeed, right after the Nixon shock, an era of dtente has started, which led to the Helsinki process and its Decalogue (that remains the largest and most comprehensive security treaty ever brokered on our planet). The U.S. was left to re-approach China (so-called Triangular engagement). Soon after, it recognized the Beijing China (One-China policy), and closed the chapter on Vietnam.

Simultaneously, Americans (re-)gained a strategic balance elsewhere, like in Latina America and (horn of and western) Africa, with a brief superpowers face-off in the Middle East (Yom Kippur War) which though bloody and intensive did not damage the earlier set balances.

Why goodbye?

Why, then, the instability in todays world?

Apparently, Washington did not really consider these two questions when it was their turn. Soviet planetary stewardship was misused and Gorbachevs altruism was ridiculed. As a consequence of today, the edges of the former Soviet zone from Algeria to Korea and from Finland to the Balkans are enveloped in instabilities. On top of it, the Chinese powerhouse is unstoppable: Neither of the Western powers alone nor a combination of them is able to match the Sino-giant economically. Asia, although the largest continent, is extremely bilateral. Its fragile security structures were built on the precondition of a soft center.

A bear of permafrost worried about global balance and was finally outfoxed, while a fish of warm seas unleashed its (corporate) greed and turned the world into what it is today: a dangerous place full of widening asymmetries and unbalances. Climate, health, income, access to food and water, safety and security each regionally and globally disturbed. Exaggerated statement?

For the sake of empirical test, let us apply the method of sustainability on this short story of 21st century geopolitics. As per tentative definition, Sustainable Development is any development which aims at the so-called 3Ms: the maximum good for maximum species, over maximum time-space span comprehensive stewardship.

How did our superpowers behave? Was our 3M better off before or after 1991?

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (in his just released Global Trends Report) notes the unprecedented asymmetries of todays world. The facts are as heart-freezing as my Moscow winter years ago. The UNHCR notes: Every 113th person on this planet is displaced. Of the 65.6 million people forcibly displaced globally, 10.3 million became displaced in 2016 This equates to one person becoming displaced every 3 seconds less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

You are either with us or against us is a famous binary platform of Bush (the 43rd US president). Indeed, our planetary choice is binary but a bit broader.

An End of history in re-feudalization or a dialectic enhancement of civilization. Holistic or factionary. Cosmos (of order) or chaos (of predatory asymmetries) simple choice.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the authors are theirs alone and dont reflect any official position of Geopoliticalmonitor.com.

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The Wonderful World of Binary Categorizations – Geopoliticalmonitor.com

Collapsed bridge cut off over 5000 residents in llorin – National Accord

From KEHINDE AKINPELU, Ilorin Over 5,000 residents including school children of Alagbado community in llorin South Local Government of Kwara have been cut off with other communities following the collapse of the only bridge linking them.

Alhaji Mustapha AbdulHameed, the Chairman Joint Associations for the community gave the figure of the affected residents during an interview with National Accord.

He lamented since the bridge. Collapsed about a month ago, it had virtually paralysed the social and Economic activities of the affected residents.

The collapsed bridged. He added affected the acquisition of both western and lslamic educations of their children as. The school buses that normally convey the children had stopped coming.

AbdulHameed appealed to the state Government to assist in the construction of the bridge to improve the socio-economic life of the affected residents.

A commercial motorcyclist, lshola Aremu plying the route who spoke with NATIONAL ACCORD, said most residents were unable to pay for the alternative which is a long distance to other communities.

In a swift reaction, the state Commissioner for. Works and Transport, Alhaji Aro Yahaya said the state Government had awarded contract for the construction of real concrete bridge that can last longer than the collapsed one.

He appealed to the affected residents to exercise patience, sitting that the construction will commence in august when rain break.

The Commissioner advised residents of the state to always ensure clean drainaged system to curb cases of collapsed bridges.

Accord re called that Alagbado bridge collapsed on Saturday 26th May after heavy downpour which listed over five hours .

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Collapsed bridge cut off over 5000 residents in llorin – National Accord

Op-Ed: South Africa’s central bank row points to dangerous levels of intolerance – CNBCAfrica.com

Photo: Flickr.

What kind of financial system is sure to collapse if the central bank cares about peoples well-being?

The recommendation by South Africas Public Protector that the Reserve Banks mandate change, says much about Busisiwe Mkhwebane, none of it flattering. It says just as much about mainstream economic debate and none of that is flattering either.

Mkhwebane recommended that the central banks constitutional mandate, which makes protecting the currency its primary goal, be changed to one which requires it to promote balanced and sustainable economic growth while ensuring that the socio-economic well-being of the citizens are protected. She also said the constitution should require the bank to achieve meaningful socio-economic transformation.

This triggered a wave of protests, as well as an announcement from the South African Reserve Bank that it would take the matter to court. The Reserve Bank had no option. The constitutional court has ruled that the Public Protectors findings are binding unless they are challenged in court. Her recommendation wildly exceeded what she is allowed to do by the constitution or democratic good sense and the Reserve Bank could not allow it to stand.

Democratic constitutions are changed by large majorities of the people or their elected representatives not by individuals. By making a binding recommendation that the constitution be changed, Mkhwebane signalled that she either doesnt understand or does not care for democracy.

Her report is also very useful to a faction of the governing party which wants to deflect charges of state capture by claiming that white monopoly capital already controls the state. There are real questions about the fitness for office of a Public Protector whose report seems more interested in protecting connected politicians and business people than with taking the peoples will seriously.

But the reaction did not stop at insisting that Mkhwebane has no business telling the people what the constitution should say. Much of it objected not only to her saying what the Reserve Banks mandate should be, but to anyone at all doing that.

The prize for the wildest reaction went to the commentator who declared that Mkhwebanes ideas on the Banks mandate were inspired by someone who denied that the Nazi genocide happened. Others stopped short of tarring constitutional change with the same brush as mass murder but were united in claiming that to suggest that the Reserve Banks mandate be broadened is economically illiterate and deeply damaging.

Absa, who was the subject of a separate finding by the public protector on the issue of a controversial bailout, asked a court to rule that her proposed change posed a serious risk to the financial system. For its part the rating agency Standard & Poors, happy as ever to police the boundaries of economic correctness, warned that any interference with the Reserve Banks independence could trigger new downgrades.

To insist that anyone who proposes changing the Reserve Banks mandate is economically damaging and stupid is as contemptuous of democracy and dangerous to the economy as Mkhwebanes excess. It is undemocratic because it seeks to close down policy debate by declaring that only one view of the Reserve Banks mandate can ensure a healthy economy. It is dangerous because it blocks the search for economic remedies by seeking to bully even those who propose only mild changes to what the country now has.

The idea that the Reserve Bank should have a broader mandate is neither radical nor dangerous. The most famous central bank, the US Federal Reserve, has a broader mandate. Its dual mandate requires it to seek maximum employment as well as price stability.

The Australian equivalents mandate includes maintenance of full employment and economic prosperity and welfare of the people. The European Central Bank, famed for its love of austerity, has a mandate to seek sustainable growth.

And the the Bank of Englands website says that, subject to its goal of price stability, it aims to support the governments economic objectives.

In South Africa, not only has the view that the central banks mandate is too restrictive been repeated periodically but it may well have been implemented for a while. In 2010, then finance minister Pravin Gordhan wrote to then Reserve Bank governor, Gill Marcus, proposing a mandate which included growth and employment. Marcus reacted positively, which suggests that the bank acted on Gordhans letter. The financial system survived.

The US, European and Australian financial systems have also not collapsed. Their mandates have not triggered a downgrade and no one has accused these societies of economic illiteracy.

So either double standards are being applied or we are being told that restrictive central bank mandates are essential only if countries are in particular parts of the world (such as Africa) and governed by particular types of people (Africans).

And why does a change in the Banks mandate undermine its independence? A central bank loses its independence if politicians (or anyone else) can tell it what to do, not if its mandate changes.

For all its flaws, the Public Protectors proposal would retain the Reserve Banks independence, leaving it to the bank to decide what promotes the well-being of the people or transformation.

None of this means that the Reserve Banks mandate must change. Or that central bank independence must go. But it does mean that no one should be discouraged from debating the issue, as people routinely do in other democracies and market economies. What, besides that prejudice which we prettify by the term Afropessimism, explains the insistence that we may not debate what is freely discussed in most other places?

Closing down debate in this way is common in South Africa. It also lies behind complaints of policy uncertainty which does not mean, as it does elsewhere, that government keeps changing its mind and sending mixed messages the macro-economic framework has been stable for more than two decades. It means, rather, that some people who some others may take seriously raise policy ideas the economic mainstream does not like.

This demand that people can say anything they like about economic policy as long as the mainstream likes it too offers a misleading view of the economy. It says that there is nothing wrong with it except political interference and that it will flourish if politicians simply leave alone what is done now.

The contrary evidence is offered by mainstream organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the South African Reserve Bank itself which have shown that the current economic rut is a product of problems in the private economy as well as what government does.

This means that the economy must change. This, in turn, requires new ideas. They will not emerge unless everything is up for debate and ideas are not silenced because they trigger the fears and prejudices of a few.

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Op-Ed: South Africa’s central bank row points to dangerous levels of intolerance – CNBCAfrica.com

Use of harmful chemicals for fish preservation harmful to consumers … – BusinessGhana

Mrs Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, has warned fishmongers using Monosodium Glutamate to process expired fishes to halt the practice since it is harmful to human health.

She said fishmongers use monosodium glutamate on expired fish especially tilapia to let it look glossy to attract potential buyers.

The Sector Minister gave the warning at a Stakeholders Meeting on Fisheries Law Enforcement in Accra, on Tuesday, to deliberate on the best ways of halting unreported and unregulated fishing practices in the country

She said some fishmongers around the Volta Lake and other coastal communities had been buying rotten or expired fishes from some cold stores, the practice known in local parlance as Kodoso and used Monosodium Glutamate to make them attractive to potential buyers.

The Fisheries Minister said the indiscriminate use of explosives, chemicals, under-sized fishing nets, light fishing and other aggregating devices for fishing would collapse the fisheries sector if serious and pragmatic measures were not taken to address the menace.

The continuous use of various chemicals to harvest fish in the artisanal sector has serious health consequences for consumers.

“The practice of using chemicals is seriously wiping out our fishery resources because many of the poisoned fishes that are not harvested eventually rot at the bottom of the sea, and this pollute the environment.

This she explained if not stopped would lead to the total collapse of the fishery industry.

She warned that individuals or fishers who would be caught in any form of illegal fishing practices would have a brush with the law.

Mrs Quaye promised to subsidise fishing nets to fishermen and canoe owners as part of efforts to enhance their work.

She also entreated all owners of seized fishing vessels to report to the Ministry for identification and collection and warned them not to indulge in any illegal fishing practices again.

The Minister said under the Collaboratory Fisheries Management, fishermen have been given the authority to regulate fishing activities in their respective areas and to deal with people practising illegal fishing methods.

She noted that light fishing affected the reproductive system of the fishes and changed the temperature of the water body and, thus, made the water uncomfortable for habitation by marine life.

She explained that the current exploitation rate of the fisheries resources was not sustainable and urged all stakeholders in the fisheries industry to collaborate to stamp out unreported and unregulated fishing practices.

The Sector Minister said that the collapse of the fishery industry would have grave consequences on the national economy such as job losses, malnutrition and other negative socio-economic repercussions that would be difficult to quantify.

In the efforts to arrest and reverse the situation, the Minister said, her outfit had developed a comprehensive Fisheries Management Plan to address the challenge.

She mentioned some key measures like the effective enforcement of Fisheries legislation, improving information on fisheries biology and stock assessment to support the re-building strategy and reducing the current levels of fishing efforts and capacity.

Other measures include protecting marine habitat to conserve biodiversity and product certification and reducing post-harvest losses.

Mrs Quaye advocated the need for fishers to collaborate with the Fisheries Law Enforcement Unit to clamp down on “galamsey in the fishing sector” for sustainable fishery conservation.

Watch Committee members in Prampram in the Greater Accra Region, testified that, their vigilance against light fishing in the area, had yielded positive outcomes and enjoying bumper catch.

They suggested that the Ministry should replicate the setting up of such committees in other coastal communities, to protect marine life in the sea and other water bodies

The stakeholders meeting concluded ended with major players in the fishing industry agreeing that light fishing, use of -chemicals, under-sized fishing nets and bamboo for fishing should be barred.

Ghana has been battling light fishing for a number of years now and consensus reached by the stakeholders would help in bringing an end to all forms of illegal fishing practices in the country.

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Use of harmful chemicals for fish preservation harmful to consumers … – BusinessGhana

Use of harmful chemicals for fish preservation harmful to consumers – Ghana News Agency

By Godwill Arthur-Mensah/ Bridget Denteh, GNA

Accra, June 20, GNA – Mrs Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, has warned fishmongers using Monosodium Glutamate to process expired fishes to halt the practice since it is harmful to human health.

She said fishmongers use monosodium glutamate on expired fish especially tilapia to let it look glossy to attract potential buyers.

The Sector Minister gave the warning at a Stakeholders Meeting on Fisheries Law Enforcement in Accra, on Tuesday, to deliberate on the best ways of halting unreported and unregulated fishing practices in the country

She said some fishmongers around the Volta Lake and other coastal communities had been buying rotten or expired fishes from some cold stores, the practice known in local parlance as Kodoso and used Monosodium Glutamate to make them attractive to potential buyers.

The Fisheries Minister said the indiscriminate use of explosives, chemicals, under-sized fishing nets, light fishing and other aggregating devices for fishing would collapse the fisheries sector if serious and pragmatic measures were not taken to address the menace.

The continuous use of various chemicals to harvest fish in the artisanal sector has serious health consequences for consumers.

“The practice of using chemicals is seriously wiping out our fishery resources because many of the poisoned fishes that are not harvested eventually rot at the bottom of the sea, and this pollute the environment.

This she explained if not stopped would lead to the total collapse of the fishery industry.

She warned that individuals or fishers who would be caught in any form of illegal fishing practices would have a brush with the law.

Mrs Quaye promised to subsidise fishing nets to fishermen and canoe owners as part of efforts to enhance their work.

She also entreated all owners of seized fishing vessels to report to the Ministry for identification and collection and warned them not to indulge in any illegal fishing practices again.

The Minister said under the Collaboratory Fisheries Management, fishermen have been given the authority to regulate fishing activities in their respective areas and to deal with people practising illegal fishing methods.

She noted that light fishing affected the reproductive system of the fishes and changed the temperature of the water body and, thus, made the water uncomfortable for habitation by marine life.

She explained that the current exploitation rate of the fisheries resources was not sustainable and urged all stakeholders in the fisheries industry to collaborate to stamp out unreported and unregulated fishing practices.

The Sector Minister said that the collapse of the fishery industry would have grave consequences on the national economy such as job losses, malnutrition and other negative socio-economic repercussions that would be difficult to quantify.

In the efforts to arrest and reverse the situation, the Minister said, her outfit had developed a comprehensive Fisheries Management Plan to address the challenge.

She mentioned some key measures like the effective enforcement of Fisheries legislation, improving information on fisheries biology and stock assessment to support the re-building strategy and reducing the current levels of fishing efforts and capacity.

Other measures include protecting marine habitat to conserve biodiversity and product certification and reducing post-harvest losses.

Mrs Quaye advocated the need for fishers to collaborate with the Fisheries Law Enforcement Unit to clamp down on “galamsey in the fishing sector” for sustainable fishery conservation.

Watch Committee members in Prampram in the Greater Accra Region, testified that, their vigilance against light fishing in the area, had yielded positive outcomes and enjoying bumper catch.

They suggested that the Ministry should replicate the setting up of such committees in other coastal communities, to protect marine life in the sea and other water bodies.

The stakeholders meeting concluded ended with major players in the fishing industry agreeing that light fishing, use of -chemicals, under-sized fishing nets and bamboo for fishing should be barred.

Ghana has been battling light fishing for a number of years now and consensus reached by the stakeholders would help in bringing an end to all forms of illegal fishing practices in the country.

GNA

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Use of harmful chemicals for fish preservation harmful to consumers – Ghana News Agency

National priorities defy convention in St Lucia – St. Lucia Times News – St. Lucia Times Online News (press release)

The key issues of political change, socio economics and preservation of the environment will return to Saint Lucias House of Assembly on Tuesday, June 20, as debate resumes on the appropriation bill 2017/18.

However, far from Machiavellian schemes, hopefully, policymakers and the legislature would have perhaps gained more positivity on the key metrics that measure the outlook for future growth and development, as opposed to corporate welfare the transfer of business, economic opportunity and money from one subsector to another at the expense of anti-poverty measures.

Also, observers, professionals and intellectuals with a view to policy and unfettered opinions, myself included, are anticipating that the unintended six weeks suspension of parliament would repurposed with renewed hope on the part of policymakers and the legislature to lay out a vision for the country: a national initiative, whereby citizens could lay down their arms and support.And asnoted previously, we all know what the major issues are, including the IMPACS report, citizen security, the need for sustainable and appropriate foreign direct investment, preservation of the environment and addressing the dysfunctional administration of justice.

This we can accomplish, but let us all consider the specifics of what must be done to achieve prosperity, beginning with a reset agenda on socio-economic, security, governance, trade and international relations, on a bilateral and multilateral level.

Times have changed, but more entrenched is the need for immediate and long term strengthening of economic growth and sustainability. And so, one way or another, government debt at roughly EC$3.1billion and electoral promises that give rise to trickle-down economics by cutting taxes and eliminating government services in a trend that still has the economy in shambles, and showing increased volatility.On the other hand, a change of trend to allocate 72 percent of capital expenditure to economic services seems purely transactional and dangerous.The pivot to citizenship by investment (CIP) offers both threats and opportunities, albeit recent strengthening of capital outflow restrictions and corresponding banking make it more difficult for small developing countries to process financial transactions. This is in addition to the balancing act not to embrace nefarious characters and strongmen.The compound effect in such an environment seems unlikely to achieve an economic growth rate of at least four percent per year. Which means the savings gap will shrink and institutions will collapse, in a buildup of political and economic chaos, crisis and decline.

The peculiar environment that engulfs Saint Lucia today is not far removed from the global economic downturn of 2007-2008, or the current Qatar crisis, in terms of isolation as an island where approximately 90 percent of its overall trade is made by sea and imports around 80 percent of its oil through sea routes.

Political and economic stability is critical to successful investing, but more importantly, history has shown that, in the midst of crisis, opportunity abounds for renewed hope that allows for actual money to be invested: the monetization of the engine of growth and the ability to leverage Saint Lucias global economic identity as a destination for investment.

Whats more relevant is Saint Lucias geography. It is important to understand the blue economy the exploration of both the Caribbean and Atlantic ocean resources, in a sustainable manner supported by the green economy renewable energy, arable land use and environment preservation.In this context, the development of human resources, re-education and training in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are central. These are tools of the modern economy that go a long way in handling new jobs of the future. In fact, robust innovation and the economics of climate change adaptation would provide a renewable future for investment in Saint Lucia.Flexibility is sensible to investments and likewise the country. Financing, from the St Lucia Development Bank, for agriculture, agribusiness and fisheries sector should be accorded a high priority with the goal of doubling output, decreasing the food import bill, and the need for substantial import licences and concessions.This would eventually improve farmers and fishers income, help stabilize food and nutrition security to improve health care, restore rural economic development via infrastructure and housing, and provide an integrated development and management of the Saint Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation and Saint Lucia Marketing Board and the Government Supply Warehouse.There is, likewise, the opportunity to integrate the digital wave to agriculture, agribusiness and fisheries sector. Develop farmers seed systems to strengthen biodiversity, patent seeds, strains, breeds, concept and the protection of intellectual property rights.Digital penetration in rural communities would also strengthen research and development, the maintenance of wetlands and mangroves, and data collection in real time for analysis.

This is one avenue, not forgetting the cooperative model if decisiveness is required in the blue and green economic integration, with a sense of honesty, accountability and transparency for the uplifting of people and country facing 21.6 percent unemployment, youth unemployment rate of 43.1percent and poverty rate at 28 percent.

A recent article in the Nation by Dennis Kucinich evoked the possibility faced in Saint Lucia.Growing poverty and inequality in America and other countries can be tied to a dismantling of the public sphere through the privatization of public services, which imposes the rentiers premium on parking meters, toll booths, waste and sanitation services, water and sewer fees, and health care, to name a few.In urban areas privatization looms as a major economic issue. People, through taxes, fees and utility rates, pay once for public services to be created. Once services are privatized, the public is forced to pay again and again, at higher rates, for less service.The public is told that money is saved. Whose? Wages are cut, services are reduced, increased rates and fees follow. The loss of public accountability and political control shifts onto the public as increased economic burdens and the social and economic costs borne by displaced public workers.In such a climate, unions are under attack, since they exist to promote economic justice. The right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to a secure retirement, the right to sue an employer for maintaining an unsafe work place, all these rights and more are at risk. Labor unions helped to build economic equality. Their demise means less bargaining power for all American workers.

This brings me to the importance of a vision for the country: a national initiative and infrastructure scope on a scaled-up level, higher minimum wage and job quality output.Russia is doing as it pleases in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and to some extent Latin America and the Caribbean.China is a major player in the Pacific and the Caribbean, pursuing an economic corridor, as part of its String of Pearls strategy, building up on a dominant maritime strategy worldwide.Saint Lucia is in the crosshairs via Desert Star Holdings, the Pearl of the Caribbean.And so, what is Saint Lucia to gain for its national interest and economic diplomacy? Whats the maritime strategy, in consequence to the blue and green economy? The development of our air and sea ports, maritime cooperation and information vis-a-vis national interest and strategic partners global aspirations?Saint Lucia should not have to choose a position of shortcoming; still, this requires collective action for a reassertion of sovereignty, economic edge and good governance that focuses on the general good, not the demands of sectoral groups.This is urgent and important. However, this of course calls for values-based policy both domestic and foreign, which rests on democratic rights and freedom, equality, equity, peace and human rights.Foreign policy is also trade policy. And according to then Senator John Kerry, Foreign policy is economic policy It is urgent that we show people in the rest of the world that we can get our business done in an effective and timely way.In the midst of current socio-economic volatility, the writing is on the wall. A key yardstick is the lack of focus; misplace priorities and the greatest fault, credibility.These are obvious liabilities to very difficult decisions that need to be made to determine the future of Saint Lucia. Much depends on whether socio-economic, security and governance issues can change course in time.But meanwhile, everyone waits in a sober and distorted mood; there is the battle for political survival the theatrics of the mind.

NOTE: Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality.He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at[emailprotected]

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National priorities defy convention in St Lucia – St. Lucia Times News – St. Lucia Times Online News (press release)

The downgrade and retirement funds: what does it mean? – African Independent

Since Fitchs decision to downgrade South Africas long-term foreign currency and local currency rating to sub-investment grade and S&Ps similar move on the sovereigns foreign currency rating in April, there has been much speculation about the impact of the downgrade on citizens and the broader economy.

With Fitch now reaffirming that rating, S&P set to announce its decision on reviewing its local currency rating of South Africa this week and Moodys announcing the sovereign rating after review for possible downgrade early in June, the outlook remains largely uncertain.

S&Ps review is particularly critical in the short term due to its impact on holdings of South African government bonds on global indices. Research suggests that the downgrade to sub-investment grade of the local currency rating by two or more agencies will trigger billions in capital outflows as foreign investors in local bonds are forced out of sub-IG debt by mandate restrictions and/or benchmark rules.

The worst case scenario, which is looking increasingly likely, is S&P and Moodys joining Fitch in downgrading the local currency to sub-IG. South Africa would, in that case, be removed from the World Government Bond Index (WGBI), which would result in the estimated selling of $8.8 billion or approximately R114.4 billion, as well as fall out of the JP Morgan Treasury Index which would lead to the forced selling of $4 to 5 billion (around R52 to 65 billion).

Regardless of the final outcome, the impact is considerable and will affect the balance of supply-demand in the local bond market resulting in upward pressure in yields. The returns on South Africa’s retirement fund investments, which are long-term holders of South African government bonds, will be adversely impacted by these developments in the short- to medium- term because we expect real bond and nominal bond yields to come under pressure; the exchange rate of the rand to be weaker in the short-term owing to outflows and generally negative sentiment around downgrade, weakened growth outlook and increasingly volatile political backdrop. However, it is critical to evaluate the historical backdrop leading to the countrys downgrade and how it compares to other countries that have been downgraded to sub-IG worldwide in order to formulate risk mitigation steps and techniques for retirement fund managers, principal officers and trustees to protect their clients investments as effectively as possible.

Broadly, South Africa enjoyed its best rating between 2008 and 2010 and the countrys position and performance has been deteriorating since then as fiscal ratios indicate a weakening state of affairs due to a combination of low growth, slowing GDP per capita growth, rising government debt, increasing political uncertainty, rising socio-economic pressures and overall inequality.

A downgrade in light of these factors may therefore seem a logical next step, and South Africa is by no means the first or only country to have been downgraded, even though there are not a wealth of case studies on local currency downgrades to take key learnings from.

The World Bank recently conducted a global study of 20 countries that were downgraded to sub-investment grade between 1998 and 2015, and found that asset allocation shifted markedly as a result of financial instruments being excluded from indices such as WGBI or the JP Morgan Treasury Index, for instance. Added to increased risk premiums and borrowing costs and a curtailed ability to borrow for the downgraded countrys firms, there is a markedly decided cap on growth and returns on investments.

Because the cost of investing is higher and the returns are lower, many fund managers make the choice to disinvest in local assets and countries struggle to grow out of the downgrade. On average, it takes seven years to win back investment-grade status and that is after intensive tightening up of fiscal and monetary policies in the country but there are a few exceptions.

A country that serves as a beacon of hope in being able to beat the downgrade curve is Latvia. It was downgraded in 2009 after a consumer credit and investment boom that followed its inclusion into the Eurozone collapsed in 2007. The collapse was further escalated by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Together, these events led to sharp falls in GDP and the deterioration of fiscal accounts. A resolute government, eager to maintain the currency peg to the euro, allowed for internal devaluation to take place resulting in cuts in government expenditure and investments, reduction in government employees, increased emigration, and a drastic rise in unemployment. The economy rebalanced through tighter fiscal austerity measures and monetary tightening which gave confidence back to investors and this in turn attracted capital investments back into the country. Private sector employment rose and was much higher than government, export sector was growing due to increased productivity of existing labor and the general optimism induced local demand. Notable improvements in budget balance, growth and short-term rates were evident barely three years after the boom-bust and the country was consequently upgraded back to investment grade in 2012.

What this indicates is that there is the potential for South Africa to regain its investment grade with concerted efforts in tightening up and implementing policies that will stabilise the socio-economic and political volatility that led to the downgrade.

Nevertheless, we can reasonably assume that the impact of South Africas downgrade to sub-investment grade and expected forthcoming downgrade will continue to make itself felt for the medium-term at the least, especially in the pension and retirement sphere as it is a long-term savings vehicle and typically sees investment in either nominal or inflation-adjusted bonds and equities.

The investment case for nominal bonds is relatively stronger than inflation-linked bonds, as we expect real yields to price higher in an environment of increased uncertainty, lower inflation and growth outlook. A weaker Rand outlook increases the case for offshore diversification and/or increased exposure to rand-hedge versus cyclical stocks in a defensive equity positioning; but overall equity exposure ought to remain underweight as we do not expect double digit returns in the next twelve months from the asset class under these economic conditions. However, equities post downgrades have not shown too much sensitivity on the downside but mild aberrations and below par growth rates. Looking ahead, equities are expected to hold but fund managers should not expect double digit growth and on a risk-adjusted basis nominal bonds will be relatively better investments. The fact remains that the downgrade has introduced real risks that have led to negative impacts on varying classes of investment, including equity and bond prices. This has widely led to, and will continue to result in, defensive and offshore pension and retirement fund asset allocation, with subdued return expectations.

As such, caution remains the most advisable course of action in the retirement and pension space. It is necessary for fund managers, principal officers and trustees alike to pay close attention to risks and opportunities alike in the ever evolving investment landscape in order to best mitigate risks and manage returns.

Ntobeko Stampu works at Barclays Africa Wealth, Investment Management and Insurance

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The downgrade and retirement funds: what does it mean? – African Independent

Country needs USDA Rural Development – Iowa Farmer Today

We write to express our opposition to the USDA Fiscal Year 2018 budget for Rural Development. This budget, if enacted, along with the ill-advised recommendation to eliminate the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development, will substantially diminish resources dedicated to improving rural communities and the lives of rural people.

We believe a better choice for rural America is to continue USDA Rural Development programs at no less than the FY 2017 levels included in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (115-31). This will allow USDA Rural Development to continue its important mission of providing technical and financial assistance aimed at improving the living and economic conditions in rural America.

For more than 50 years, USDA rural development programs have improved housing, utilities and community facilities, and economic opportunity for rural America.

In FY 2016 alone USDA made available over $29 billion in loans, guarantees, grants, and related assistance to over 157,000 individuals, businesses, non-profit corporations, cooperatives and governments. USDAs total loan portfolio includes over 1.3 million loans that amount to over $215 billion.

Yet, there is still more to be done: According to an analysis of socio-economic well-being prepared by the Wall Street Journal, rural counties in America are in worse condition than big cities, suburbs and small or medium metro areas. Rural communities, and the people who live in them, have higher poverty and unemployment rates as well as a higher incidence of substandard housing and rent overburden when compared to metropolitan areas.

Virtually every community in the country with inadequate drinking water has a population of 3,300 or less. Although much of the country has seen recovery from the financial crisis, rural America still lags behind.

The decades long trend of community bank closure and consolidation has hit rural areas particularly hard. The number of community banks in the United States has declined by an average of 300 per year over the past 30 years, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and a collapse in the price of agricultural commodities has added stress on many small towns and farming communities.

The administrations response to the problems facing rural America can only be described as a wholesale retreat. The FY 2018 budget eliminates funding for two dozen housing and rural development programs. The rescissions proposed for FY 17 and eliminations and reductions proposed for FY 18 total over $1 billion and well over $3 billion in program financing.

If approved, USDA will no longer provide direct rural housing loans, grants for mutual and self-help housing, financing for water and waste disposal systems, or loans and grants to small rural businesses, cooperatives and value added producers. Many other programs are reduced well below the current rate. What will be left is a hollowed-out Rural Development function, degraded within the department with far fewer resources to help rural America.

We urge the committee to reject the administrations FY 18 budget and reorganization proposals for Rural Development and instead provide appropriations at no less than the current rate and maintain the Rural Development mission area and position of Under Secretary for Rural Development.

The National Rural Housing Coalition campaigns to improve housing and community facilities for low-income rural families. These comments are from a sign-on letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees; full text is at http://bit.ly/2qJALEc.

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Country needs USDA Rural Development – Iowa Farmer Today