Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Economic Development"

Financial Inclusion and the World’s “Unbanked” Population

by Isobel Coleman
A man leaves an M-PESA booth after a money transaction in Nairobi on May 12, 2009 (Noor Khamis/Courtesy Reuters). A man leaves an M-Pesa booth after a money transaction in Nairobi on May 12, 2009 (Noor Khamis/Courtesy Reuters).

Imagine life without a bank account. Completing a simple financial transaction can require traveling a distance, incurring expenses, and losing precious income. Savings are more difficult to track and certainly don’t earn interest. Theft or loss of the proverbial “cookie jar” is a constant worry. Indeed, studies show that informal savers lose as much as 25 percent of their hard-earned cash each year due to theft and loss. Yet for over 2.5 billion people globally, this inconvenient, inefficient, and expensive reality is the case. Read more »

Challenges for Pakistan’s Prime Minister

by Isobel Coleman
Nawaz Sharif, incoming prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) political party, speaks to his party members, who were voted to political posts in the general election, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters). Nawaz Sharif, incoming prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) political party, speaks to his party members, who were voted to political posts in the general election, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters).

A few years ago on a flight from London to Karachi I sat next to one of Pakistan’s leading textile manufacturers who spent several hours discussing the sorry state of his business. The fact that his European clients will no longer visit the country because they view it as too dangerous was not even his biggest problem. His real issue is the constant blackouts his factories face due to a lack of reliable energy. “We can’t compete with the likes of Bangladesh and Vietnam,” he bemoaned. This is the tough economic reality that Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister, inherits. Read more »

Putting an End to Child Marriage

by Isobel Coleman
Child bride Krishna, 12, stands at a doorway into her compound in a village near Baran, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, India on July 30, 2011 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters). Child bride Krishna, 12, stands at a doorway into her compound in a village near Baran, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, India on July 30, 2011 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Today, CFR published a new report, Ending Child Marriage: How Elevating the Status of Girls Advances U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives. The report looks at the scope and causes of this practice, what it means for U.S. foreign policy, and ways the U.S. might tackle child marriage through policy. Read more »

Graph: Sovereign Wealth Funds

by Isobel Coleman
Numbers come from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute's Sovereign Wealth Fund Rankings (last updated March 2013). Asterisks indicate where the assets of a country's multiple SWFs have been added together. The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute notes that one of the Russian funds "includes the oil stabilization fund of Russia" and that the figure for China's largest fund "is a best guess estimation. Numbers come from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute's Sovereign Wealth Fund Rankings (last updated March 2013). Asterisks indicate where the assets of a country's multiple SWFs have been added together. The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute notes that one of the Russian funds "includes the oil stabilization fund of Russia" and that the figure for China's largest fund "is a best guess estimation.

Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Above, I show which countries have the largest sovereign wealth funds, and below, I show how these countries’ funds rank on a per capita basis. Data about the funds comes from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Rankings, and I calculated per capita values primarily by using World Bank population data. It’s interesting to note that: Read more »

Guest Post: Women in the Workforce in the Arab World

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Women in the Middle East stand to play a vital role in the region’s economic and political future, if given the opportunity. This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank’s senior adviser to the chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa, Nadereh Chamlou, spoke about women’s economic empowerment in the Arab world. Today, my colleague Reza Aslan–author of books including No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations—writes about Chamlou’s remarks and the challenges to women’s participation in the workforce. Read more »

Questions About the BRICS Development Bank

by Isobel Coleman
(L-R) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Jacob Zuma, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a family photograph during the fifth BRICS Summit in Durban on March 27, 2013 (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters). (L-R) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Jacob Zuma, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photograph during the fifth BRICS Summit in Durban on March 27, 2013 (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters).

The announcement last week by the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to launch a new international development bank has raised many questions. At their annual summit, hosted in Durban, South Africa, the leaders of these dynamic economies gushed that this was the beginning of increased cooperation and “a structural shift in the global economy.” In a piece published today on ForeignPolicy.com, I ask ten questions about the structure and purpose of a potential BRICS development bank and its implications for international development and the global economy. I write: Read more »

Egypt and the Challenge of Subsidy Reform

by Isobel Coleman
Vehicles queue at a petrol station in Toukh, in El-Kalubia governorate, about 25 km (16 miles) northeast of Cairo March 12, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Vehicles queue at a petrol station in Toukh, in El-Kalubia governorate, about 25 km (16 miles) northeast of Cairo March 12, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

When I last wrote about the long-discussed (and much-needed) $4.8 billion IMF loan to Egypt in January, it looked as if the loan was right around the corner. Now, in all likelihood, Egypt will not receive the funds any time soon. Much of the hold up is IMF concern over whether Egypt has the political will, and capacity, to scale back its unsustainable subsidy program. Today on ForeignPolicy.com, I discuss Egypt’s subsidy reform challenges as well as some lessons from other countries that have headed down the path of reform. As I write: Read more »

The Chicken and Egg of Skills and Jobs in the Arab World

by Isobel Coleman
Unemployed Tunisian graduate Salah al Massowiri holds up his diploma at their home in Cite El Boua, in the central province of Sidi Bouzid on May 26, 2012 (Anis Mili/Courtesy Reuters). Unemployed Tunisian graduate Salah al Massowiri holds up his diploma at their home in Cite El Boua, in the central province of Sidi Bouzid on May 26, 2012 (Anis Mili/Courtesy Reuters).

A new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)—Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies—examines employment issues, the relative lack of dynamic private sectors, broken social contracts, and more in the Arab world. Read more »

Thoughts on the State of the Union Address

by Isobel Coleman
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington on February 12, 2013 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington on February 12, 2013 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

Last night’s State of the Union address by President Obama was predictably light on foreign policy. His focus is appropriately on reinvigorating the economy and tackling a myriad of domestic challenges. Nevertheless, the world remains a dangerous place, yet Obama offered few new insights on dealing with emerging crises in the Middle East and Asia. His most ambitious foreign policy announcement was the pursuit of a free trade agreement with Europe. As I write today on CNN.com: Read more »

Economic Crisis and Cooperation in the Arab World

by Isobel Coleman
The opening bell is seen as traders work at the Egyptian stock exchange in Cairo on January 3, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). The opening bell is seen as traders work at the Egyptian stock exchange in Cairo on January 3, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier this week, leaders from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region gathered in Riyadh for the third annual Arab Economic and Social Development Summit. A main topic at the summit was the perennial issue of lack of economic integration among Arab countries. Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, facing his own economic Armageddon at home, was a vocal cheerleader for greater regional cooperation, declaring, “Let us not dwell on the weakness of Arab trade and commerce. What is necessary is common political will and a shared vision to set a timely agenda for the implementation of a common Arab market.” Nabil Elaraby, secretary general of the Arab League, confirmed the league’s commitment to a “free-trade area” and said that the leaders would work to “achieve the Arab customs union fully by 2015.” Read more »