Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

How many people live in shantytowns?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Even in the West, inequality and poverty are on the rise. Poverty has, in fact, reached the levels of 1933. Devote 4 minutes to watching Thomas Pogge, professor of Yale University, talking about the current international system that allows a large part of the world’s population to live in abject poverty:  

The great recession pushed millions of people into poverty, or worse, extreme poverty. Add to that the fact that people all over the world are moving into urban areas to seek their fortune and we have a danger of slums increasing tremendously. 

How do we keep them safe in urban areas?

There hence is a huge need to reduce vulnerability in urban settings. Half the world’s people now live in cities, a share that will rise to 70 percent by 2050.  

So what are we going to do to give more people in the world a decent life? If we don’t do anything the amount of people living in shantytowns will rise, everywhere. Or call them homeless, if you wish. 

Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz believes we are paying a high prize for inequality

Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz believes we are paying a high prize for inequality

Extreme poverty leads to crime – or worse

Countries with a lot of poverty easily gets trapped in crime or worse, become failed states. And I don’t need to tell you how easily failed states can follow in the steps of Afghanistan and Somalia, do I? Iraq and Syria are in the pipeline. So it’s in the interest of all of us to start eradicating poverty in the world. 

And let’s not forget poverty in the developed world

Frankly find it unbelievable that child poverty is on the increase even in a country like Sweden. And so is poverty in all age groups, for that matter. And the same applies to Europe as a whole and the United States Isn’t it, like Thomas Pogge put it, a crime against humanity? 

Do we really want a world where poverty is increasing and the middle classes are in decline? Just look at what has happened the last few decades in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Russia.

Negative for much of the world’s population

One hundred faculty members at University of Chicago wrote a letter of protest when university president Robert ZImmer announced the creation of a $200m Milton Friedman Institute stating that “The effects of the neoliberal global order … strongly buttressed by the Chicago School of Economics, have by no means been unequivocally positive. Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world’s population.” Since the time when Reagan was president the Chicago boys have dominated not only Washington but the world, not least through the IMF. So isn’t it time to stop implementing policies that favour multinational companies at the expense of the majority of people?

Do you agree with Pogge that many of the people who support the current international system are like passive Germans during the Nazi era? Do we really want the world’s middle classes and poor to be worse off? Is it really a good idea to have more people across the globe living in shantytowns? Or being homeless? What’s your opinion? Is it time to put market fundamentalism aside and start stimulating economies in order to grow again and give more people a decent life? Or are you of the opinion that Friedman’s version of corporate capitalism is the way forward?

(Video: carnegiecouncil – You Tube, Picture: GovernmentZA )

Which economies will grow fastest this year?

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Life is full of surprises and The Economist’s prediction may fall into that category. Watch this two-minute video outlining their forecast:

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of huge successful economies like China and India, isn’t it. But obviously economies that have not really grown so far are going to be the success stories. Last year The Economist predicted Macau, Mongolia, Libya and The Gambia would be the fastest growing.  And The World Bank’s forecast was Mongolia, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Timor and Sierra Leone.

Developing countries

No matter what forecast, and there are many, they all point to Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central Asia and Latin America. South Sudan is frequently mentioned and the reason for that is very well explained in the video. Have personally worked with all countries mentioned, apart from South Sudan and Timor.

There is ample scope for growth in all of them and it will be really interesting to see which ones will manage to grow as predicted. The US is currently considering targeted sanctions against South Sudan for its failure of leadership that has brought the country to the brink of civil war. So if South Sudan turns out to be the fastest growing economy in the world or just spiral into civil war is a huge question mark. 

It’s interesting to note that The World Economic Forum actually believe that all areas of the world will have contracting growth this year compared to last.

Do you agree with The Economist about which countries will grow fastest this year? Or are you betting on other countries? Will African countries finally forge ahead? Will Iraq grow this year or be hindered by conflict? Will MENA, excluding conflict zones, be a success story? Will South Sudan grow fast or be hindered by problems in the area? 

Video: The Economist – You Tube

How can Iraq be rebuilt when the money is stolen?

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

We have all heard about how officials and companies are making the money assigned to rebuild Iraq disappear. But did you know that recently there’s also been a record number of US soldiers convicted of such theft and bribery? Devote 2 minutes to watching Gayane Chichakyan reporting:

Isn’t it interesting how little coverage the issue of the missing billions have had in the media? The US military promised they would help rebuild war torn Iraq. Sure, there has been some aid, but unfortunately war contractors are getting away with billions of dollars in profits. In some parts of Iraq there is still no running water,even though someone has been paid to arrange that.

War profiteers steal billions

What amazes me even more is that many war time contractors have been given money to build hospitals that never opened and jails that will never hold any prisoners. On top of it these contractors that have stolen billions from US tax payers have complete impunity from the justice system. Congress has cut the funding to these contractors, but their report will be sealed until 2031. For more in-debth coverage of the problem  watch this interesting video:

Only going after petty thiefs

Isn’t it amazing that soldiers stealing a few thousand dollars are taken to court while US contractors pocketing billions have immunity? Makes you wonder what the US congress is doing, doesn’t it? Can’t help wondering if they will honour their promise to rebuild Iraq? It’s worth remembering that Iraq is still paying Kuwait for the damage they caused when they invaded.

If it wasn’t so critical to rebuild Iraq we could just say that we were not surprised. But the UNHCR  is concerned about almost 2 million people inside Iraq and about 3,4 million originating from Iraq. In other words more than five million people are yet to be able return home to a safe and sound environment. Many of them live in deplorable conditions in camps and it’s actually these people’s lives the people stealing the funds are ruining.

So how can Iraq be rebuilt? Not only are corrupt officials bagging the money but contractors and US soldiers as well. The longer we wait the more problematic the situation in Iraq will be. It’s already the Wild West and the sooner it’s rebuilt the better for not only Iraq but the world. We don’t need another failed state. One solution would be for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to coordinate an effort. But that’s unlikely considering the role Iran is playing in Iraq. Is it likely that Iran will rebuild it? Or does it serve their interest to keep Iraq the way it is? Maybe The Arab League could be in charge of rebuilding it? After what happened to the UN in the country, is it likely the United Nations would be prepared to coordinate the effort? Or should the US take its responsibility and find new funds to rebuild the country? What’s your opinion? And how can we assure that money allocated will be used to rebuild Iraq and not end up in someone’s pocket?

Videos: RT America – YouTube

Is Ahmadinejad provoking a strike on Iran?

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Just days after President Barack Obama voiced willingness to talk to Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed 9/11 had been trumped up as an excuse for the United States to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

If necessary, could the Saudis, again, in the interest of the world succeed in making Teheran opt for peace?

He said there was no evidence that the death toll at New York’s World Trade Center, destroyed in the attacks, was as high as reported. “They created and prepared public opinion so that everyone considered an attack on Afghanistan and Iraq as (their) right,” he said in a televised speech.

No “Zionists” were killed in the World Trade Center, according to him, because “one day earlier they were told not go to their workplace.” That there is a published list of Sept. 11 dead from more than 90 countries available online, was conveniently ignored.

Ahmadinejad accused the US government of exercising more media censorship than anywhere in the world. And, again, talked about the Holocaust never happening. Obviously having a go at Israel again.

The Iranian president leaves a lot to be desired but no matter how much we disapprove of him he is not an idiot. If he was, he wouldn’t have succeeded to get elected the first time (unlike the last election which was obviously rigged). He knows what he is doing and he has the Mullahs approval. Considering that Iranian elections are rigged they don’t need to show Iranians that he is capable of standing up to the West. They already know that.

What does the Iranian regime gain from sable rattling?

Begs the question of why they keep on provoking Israel and the US with his statements? Maybe the timing is not a coincidence since only 50,000 US soldiers will soon be left in Iraq? The current Israeli government is also more likely to be provoked to strike Iran than the previous one. Maybe he and the Mullahs would like that to happen to give them an excuse to strike back? Or worse, start a war with Iraq that could lead to an all out war in the Middle East? The Mullahs would love to control Makkah and Medina and Iran has caused trouble there in the past which the Saudis luckily managed to handle.

Tehran says it is refining uranium only for electricity and medical treatments. But it’s not out of the question that they already have been supplied with enough uranium for a few missiles from North Korea or Pakistan? Whatever their reason they are hiding something when it comes to their nuclear capacity.

Iran has already caused enough problems in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan. That the current regime would like to be more prominent in the Middle East is no secret. So is Ahmadinejad, just like he accused the US of doing, trumping up an excuse to invade Iraq or attack Israel? After all the best thing an unpopular regime can do is unite the people behind an outside enemy.

Doubt that Teheran would attack Iraq unless the US were involved in a strike against them. But then again Israel would be using US equipment and that might be enough of a provocation?Do believe that it’s questionable if the Iranian regime would dare to attack Israel or Iraq without having an excuse to do so. So hopefully no strike on Iran will take place?

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states have for years been worried about Iran’s behavior because a strike against Iranian nuclear sites would spread radiation across the whole region. Or worse lead to an all out war in the Gulf between Shias and Sunnis. Don’t need to tell you what that would do not only to the region but the world economy.

So maybe it’s time for the Saudis to, again, make Teheran opt for peace? King Abdullah sent Prince Bandar to Teheran in 2006. The result was that Teheran ordered Hezbollah to stop fighting Israel in Lebanon, which effectively ended that war. Considering King Abdullah’s effort recently regarding Lebanon, maybe it’s no coincidence that the Hezbollah isn’t yet playing an active part in the border incidents?

When it comes to Iran the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and, most likely, the majority of the Iranian population are on the same side. Actually most of the citizens of the world is. If we all need to unite against Ahmadinejad and the Mullhas probably depends on how badly the Mullas and Ahmadinejad need to unite the Iranians against an outside enemy. Hopefully it will not come to that, but if it does it wouldn’t be the first time the West has been wrong about Iranian intentions.

(photo: The White House – Flickr)

Politicizing history serves no useful purpose

Monday, March 15th, 2010

The Swedish parliament voted a few days ago that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago was genocide. It followed a decision by a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives that approved a nonbinding measure condemning the 1915 killings.

Turks today can not be expected to take responsibility for what the Ottoman Turks did a century ago. If they are, then Swedes and Americans can also be held accountable for what happened in Sweden and the US before we were even born.

Why should today’s politicians vote on what happened in another part of the world almost a hundred years ago? What purpose does it serve? How can todays politicians believe they are able to judge historic events in another part of the world and even vote on what took place? What good does it do? Do they really think they are able to objectively judge something that happened a century ago? Members of parliament were not elected to vote on what happened in other parts of the world throughout history but to steer the country they serve, and the world, towards a prosperous future.

Seems that the vote took place because the opposition in Sweden wanted to cater to groups of immigrants to get their votes in the autumn elections. However, it still makes no sense since the leader of the opposition at the same time declares her support for Turkey joining the European Union. Considering the amount of immigrants in Sweden from Iraq and the Balkans presumably the next step will be parliament voting on events that took place in those parts of the world a hundred years ago? What do contemporary Swedish politicians know about that? How can that kind of opportunism be justified? Isn’t there a limit to how far politicians go to get more votes? Historic events in other parts of the world are not part of contemporary Swedish politics.

Genocide is horrendous. But numerous atrocities have been committed throughout history all over the world, unfortunately. The Vikings were no saints, for instance.

Today’s politicians are neither capable of voting on historic events nor is it their job to do so.
What relevance has the 1915 killings to politics in Sweden and the US today? What has already happened can not be changed the only things that politicians can influence is what happens from now on. And it is on such issues that today’s politicians are elected to vote.

Few ,if any, of the current population of Turkey were born when the killings took place, they didn’t commit those atrocities and can not be expected to take responsibility for what Ottoman Turks did a century ago. I certainly don’t want to take the blame for what happened before I was born, for instance neutral Sweden turning a blind eye to the Nazis during the second world war. How would Sweden feel if the Turkish parliament voted on condemning something that happened in Sweden a hundred years ago?

The only thing the votes have achieved is tension with Turkey. In fact so bad Swedish companies have had contracts and business meetings in Turkey cancelled. And for what? Getting a few more votes for the left wing opposition. How does it serve Sweden and the Swedes that Swedish companies lose money which could have a detrimental affect on creating new jobs? Even the Swedish government is against the vote and Prime Minster Reinfeldt made a call to that affect to Turkish PM Erdogan. That the foreign ministers of Sweden and Turkey held a joint press conference condemning the vote is good. Hopefully the fact that the Swedish government stands up and condemns such a vote will put an end to politicising history? If not, we will have to start electing historians for parliament.

photo: Mehrad HM – flickr