Japan Sprints to Myanmar’s Aid

Until recently Myanmar – also known as Burma – was considered a pariah state, virtually inaccessible to the outside world, and ruled by a repressive military junta with an appalling human rights record. The U.S. and E.U. placed sanctions on the country during the 1980s, but since the establishment of a new nominally-civilian government in 2010, Myanmar has passed sweeping reforms in hopes of opening and developing the country.

The rest of the world has not hesitated to use this opening: foreign governments and multi-lateral institutions, are boosting their aid and development packages after decades of absence that left the country of 60 million people one of the poorest in Asia. Private firms, too, are vying for access to the “next economic frontier” and perhaps one of the last major untapped markets.

While the U.S., E.U., World Bank, and Asian Development Bank have each committed hundreds of millions in development aid, so far Japan has been one of the most eager donors.

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Introducing The Global Guide – Laying the groundwork for measuring international corporate giving

Since 2006, the  Center for Global Prosperity has been producing its annual Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, which details the sources and magnitude of private giving to the developing world. Through this data collection, CGP has partnered with various domestic and international groups in order to ensure the most complete philanthropy figures. One such organization, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), has been key in providing corporate figures from corporations to developing countries.

Measuring corporate giving is not an easy task. Often corporations do not report their contributions, or they do not differentiate between domestic and international flows. Furthermore, there is no universal standard for corporate philanthropy reporting, and in the absence of any international consensus, measurements of corporate giving vary by country.

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Building BRICS of Foreign Aid: India Gives and Receives

A country with the distinction of having been the largest foreign aid recipient in history would seem an unlikely candidate as a powerful contributor in the world of foreign aid today.  Not so for India.

Between 1951 and 1992, India received an estimated $55 billion in foreign aid and has since emerged as a global economic powerhouse.  Since then, the country launched its own space program, and in 2011 it even contributed $10 billion to the IMF European bailout fund!   The foreign aid story has now come full circle: with the creation of an Indian state foreign aid agency, the Development Partnership Administration, India plans to distribute $15 billion over the next five years.

In contrast to the traditional Western philosophy of aid, where wealthier countries bestow aid upon poorer countries, India sees foreign aid as “mutually beneficial partnerships”  in the spirit of South-South cooperation.   This perspective on aid seems to be shared by India’s fellow BRIC countries.

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Philippines Economic Growth: Harbinger of Hope or Symptom of Illness?

Last week, the Asian Development Bank raised its 2012 Philippines GDP forecast to 5.5%, an especially notable feat considering it cut most of its estimates for the rest of Asia including powerhouses like China and India.  While this may appear a promising sign of future prosperity, upon further examination it becomes evident this growth can not be attributed to labor reforms putting the unemployed back to work, or the creation of new markets.  The Philippines economic growth is attributed to the country’s most successful export – its people. Continue reading

Trust in NGOs Dependent on Media Independence

NGOs operate on the principle of being independent “Third Sector” organizations, working outside the realm of the government “Public Sector” and the for-profit “Private Sector.” The independence of NGOs of all causes has long been considered a fundamental operating principle.  For humanitarian organizations, being perceived as an extension of state power could have fatal consequences. For another group of NGOs, a lack of independence may not be life-threatening, yet for political non-profit organizations in the U.S., a perception of partisanship could result in the revocation of its “social welfare” tax-exempt status.

An independent news media, where people have the freedom to access objective information, has long been seen as foundational to democracy.  The recent tragedies in Libya and Egypt highlight the potentially lethal consequences of a perceived state manipulated media flow, as these countries’ governments have inculcated the widespread belief that the US government approves of the inflammatory “Innocence of Muslims” video, believed to be the source of turmoil in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia and Libya. Continue reading

Banking on Islamic Banks

Islamic finance is an ancient concept, but it has only recently developed into a modern day institution.  Adhering  to the Muslim religious law of Sharia, it has prohibitions against charging interest and investing in morally dubious industries, such as alcohol, gambling, and pornography; furthermore all lending is based on profit-sharing.

Under Shariah, hoarding is frowned upon, so savings earn no return unless put to productive use. Rasheed Mohammed al-Maraj, governor of the central bank in Bahrain explains that “money cannot generate money – money should be used for creating better value in the country or the economy.” For some Muslims, conventional mortgages are regarded as sinful; under Shariah both the lender and the borrower share the risk of the investment.  The Islamic home mortgage functions by adding what would have been the monthly interest into the purchase price of a home. Most commonly, the bank actually buys the house at a qualified customer’s direction, and then sells it to that customer through monthly installments modeled on the payments of a 30-year mortgage. If the borrower loses his job and defaults on the payments, under Sharia it is very difficult for the family to be thrown out of their home, as that would be seen as a creditor exploiting a debtor. For any transaction, borrowers must possess underlying assets, an idea primarily driven by the rationale in Islamic law that borrowers do not over-borrow.  Under Islamic finance, the lender is also an investor, so he remains an active participant through the life of the transaction and is in a position to rectify mistakes before any situation occurs. Continue reading

The Korean “Goose Family” Phenomena: Educational Migrants

Travelling thousands of miles to attend university in a more developed country is nothing new: China and India combined sent over 260,000 students to the United States in 2011, making up a staggering 36% of all international students.  It’s not surprising that these emerging economies along with other developing nations want to send their youth to highly regarded universities abroad. Surprisingly, South Korea, now a DAC donor, also sends vast numbers of students to study at universities in English speaking countries, with 73,351 in the U.S. alone.  However, South Korea distinguishes itself by not only sending university aged children, but elementary, middle, and high school children as well.

Seoul – The hyper modernized capital of South Korea.

In South Korea, the 15th largest economy with the fastest and widest broadband internet coverage, and some of the top performing students, a mass “education exodus” is taking place. An estimated 200,000 middle class families are sending their pre-college children overseas to be educated in Western countries; most often New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Continue reading