Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

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

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Showing posts for "South Asia"

Malala Yousafzai and Girls’ Education in Pakistan

by Isobel Coleman
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) waves with nurses as she is discharged from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in this handout photograph released on January 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters). Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) waves with nurses as she is discharged from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in this handout photograph released on January 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, people around the world watched in admiration and awe a clip from an interview with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for girls’ education. “I want every girl, every child to be educated,” she said bravely in comments given before she had surgery at a hospital in England–apparently, she is now recovering well–and discussed the new Malala Fund to do just that. The fund’s inaugural grant will help girls from the Swat Valley, where Malala is from, receive an education instead of entering the workforce prematurely. Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Cash Transfers, Goals for 2030, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi (R) presents the 210 millionth biometric card to Vali (L), a villager residing in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan, during the national launch of a scheme to make direct cash transfers to the poor, at Dudu town in Rajasthan, India, October 20, 2012 (Vinay Joshi/Courtesy Reuters). Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi (R) presents the 210 millionth biometric card to Vali (L), a villager residing in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan, during the national launch of a scheme to make direct cash transfers to the poor, at Dudu town in Rajasthan, India, October 20, 2012 (Vinay Joshi/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow looks at items on India, Africa, the post-2015 agenda, and economic growth. Enjoy the reading and the weekend.
  • India’s Cash Transfers: The new year brought a new development program in India with revolutionary potential. Under the scheme, Voice of America reports, “245,000 people across 20 districts… are getting pension and scholarship money transferred directly into their bank accounts, instead of having to wait to receive it from post offices or bank officials.” The aim is to eliminate skimming. And the current effort could be just a start. The real test would be using cash transfers to replace India’s massive distribution of subsidized food and fuel. Some analysts enthusiastically support doing so. Others, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, caution that food rations tend to benefit families—especially girls—while cash might not. Scaling up cash transfers also requires giving bank accounts and reliable identification to hundreds of millions of Indians, which is no easy task. Read more »

Sexual Violence in India: Part II

by Isobel Coleman
A policeman keeps guard outside a court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). A policeman keeps guard outside a court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

The father of the rape victim in India who died recently from her injuries has publicly named his daughter and asked that Jyoti Singh Pandey be remembered for her bravery. “My daughter did nothing wrong. She died while protecting herself…Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks,” he told a London paper. The family’s decision to speak out publicly about their daughter’s tragic death is another important step in chipping away at the culture of shame that too often blankets rape victims in countries around the world. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Africa’s Outlook, Corruption in India, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Angolan youths play on the beach in the capital Luanda, September 2, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). Angolan youths play on the beach in the capital Luanda, September 2, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers stories on Africa, India, and the World Bank in the first Missing Pieces installment of the new year. I hope you enjoy the selection.

  • Africa’s Outlook: What are the essential issues affecting Africa in 2013? In the Brookings Institution’s “Foresight Africa” report, scholars offer eight suggestions: employment, “energy poverty,” China-Africa relations, Kenya’s presidential elections, “discordant development,” education, infrastructure, and leveraging Africa’s diaspora. On employment, one essay argues that Africa’s “rapid growth has created few good jobs.” It calls for better education and training, along with more investment in industry. The piece on “discordant development” focuses on “how deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress can generate uncertainty and violent conflict.” Sounder governance is a big part of the answer, the piece says. Meanwhile, CFR’s Sebastian Mallaby writes in the Financial Times that Africa’s growth, often deemed unsustainable, is proving enduring. Though commodity prices, demographics, and technology are helping, he says, “better policy has also made a difference,” especially by enabling higher productivity. Read more »

Sexual Violence in India

by Isobel Coleman
Women hold placards as they march during a rally organized by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (unseen) protesting for justice and security for women, in New Delhi January 2, 2013. Women hold placards as they march during a rally organized by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (unseen) protesting for justice and security for women in New Delhi on January 2, 2013 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

Shocked by a brutal rape case that has gripped the country, India is going through some soul-searching about its shameful mistreatment of women. Riot police lined the streets of Delhi the past few days to calm protesters who gathered in outrage as the body of the 23 year-old rape victim returned from Singapore where she had been transferred for emergency treatment. She suffered severe internal injuries after being gang-raped, beaten, and thrown naked from the bus she and her boyfriend tragically got on after seeing a movie on December 16. She died on Saturday and protesters have demanded the death penalty for the rapists. Read more »

Missing Pieces: South Africa’s Struggles, India’s Struggles, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Children play in the dump as the Lonmin mine is seen in the background in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 21, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). Children play in the dump as the Lonmin mine is seen in the background in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 21, 2012 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow highlights developments in Africa and Asia in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

  • South Africa’s Struggles: As South Africa’s labor unrest finally seems to abate, two Economist articles (here and here) survey the country’s unsettling scene. “After 18 years of full democracy,” the magazine says, “South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world.” A leading culprit is education. Despite healthy spending, outcomes lag: just 15 percent of 12-year-olds reach minimum proficiency in language, and 12 percent do so in math. Unemployment is officially 25 percent—but 29 percent for blacks against 6 percent for whites. The Economist says that “economic malaise and the chronic failure of government services are an indictment of South Africa’s politicians.” Many view positions with the African National Congress (ANC) as “a ticket for the gravy train.” Officials, generally elected on party-controlled lists, “have little incentive to provide for their voters.” Despite these failings, the magazine reports, the ANC’s dominance is not yet in doubt. Progress might not come until it is. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Uncertain India, Aid Transparency, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Rickshaw pullers wait for customers outside the Sahara Mall, a shopping center built by Sahara group, in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, September 20, 2012 (Mansi Thapliyal/Courtesy Reuters). Rickshaw pullers wait for customers outside the Sahara Mall, a shopping center built by Sahara group, in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, September 20, 2012 (Mansi Thapliyal/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights news and analysis on India, Georgia, foreign assistance, and Asia’s economic growth. Enjoy!
  • Uncertain India: India, long seen as a vibrant democracy headed for prosperity, has lately become known for sagging growth and political paralysis. An Economist special report surveys the scene. Though global weakness has harmed India’s economy, it says, “the greatest pains are self-inflicted.” Troubles include a large deficit, an unfriendly investment climate, high inflation, and inadequate infrastructure. Both elected politicians and bureaucrats stymie needed reforms and efficiencies. Literacy has risen from 52 to 74 percent since 1991, and “some 97 percent of school-age children enroll.” India also has the world’s largest number of higher education institutions (26,500). However, the quality of instruction ranges from “variable” to “often wretched,” producing a shortage of skilled professionals. Meanwhile, government welfare spending to combat poverty is up, but many view it as inefficient and prone to corruption. Still, the report foresees a brighter future for India—“eventually.” Read more »

Update on the Pakistani Blasphemy Case

by Isobel Coleman
A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad on August 23, 2012 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters). A family rides past the locked house of Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy, on the outskirts of Islamabad on August 23, 2012 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, when I wrote about the blasphemy charges against Rimsha Masih–a young Christian girl in Pakistan who apparently is developmentally disabled–she was in police custody. Today, in a surprise development, the judge in the case allowed her to be released on bail, and in theory, Masih should leave jail at some point soon. Read more »

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

by Isobel Coleman
Tahir Naveed Chaudhry (L) a lawyer for Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, speaks to the media along with other lawyers after he appeared before a judge at the district court in Islamabad, Pakistan on September 3, 2012 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters). Tahir Naveed Chaudhry (L) a lawyer for Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, speaks to the media along with other lawyers after he appeared before a judge at the district court in Islamabad, Pakistan on September 3, 2012 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).

Tracking blasphemy cases in Pakistan is a good proxy for measuring the ebb and flow of extremism–and it’s not a pretty picture these days. The latest case to roil the waters involves a young girl from Pakistan’s Christian minority who was discovered last month with burned pages of religious texts among her belongings. (Her accusers said the pages came from the Koran, although this story has since come under scrutiny.) A mob gathered, calling for her arrest, and she was taken into police custody and charged with blasphemy, an offense that can carry the death penalty. What makes this situation even more egregious than the usual sentenced-to-death-for insulting-Islam case is that while reports of the girl’s exact age vary, she seems to be around 14 years old and has a developmental disability. Read more »

Bangladeshi Politics and the Grameen Bank’s Uncertain Future

by Isobel Coleman
Employees of the Grameen Bank take part in a sit-in protest in front of their central office in Dhaka on April 5, 2011. Bangladesh's highest court rejected on April 4 an appeal by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus against his dismissal as managing director of Grameen Bank (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters). Employees of the Grameen Bank take part in a sit-in protest in front of their central office in Dhaka on April 5, 2011. Bangladesh's highest court had rejected an appeal by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus against his dismissal as managing director of Grameen Bank (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters).

An Economist article from a few months ago noted that if Bangladesh can sustain its annual growth rates of over six percent, it could “contemplate reaching middle-income levels in barely a decade.” That would be quite a feat for a country that was once synonymous with wrenching poverty. But as the Economist warned, the government must stay focused on meeting the country’s economic challenges. Sadly, political infighting instead seems to be winning the day. The leaders of the two main parties–Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the governing Awami Party and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) appear to be more interested in destroying each other than in leading. Their personal animosity is legendary but in the run-up to next year’s election, Bangladesh’s politics are poised to get even dirtier. Read more »