Opinion

Is Trump Palestine’s New Hope?

RAMALLAH – On his recent visit to Washington, DC, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas surprised many by heaping praise onUS President Donald Trump. Speaking through a translator, Abbas called Trump, who had promised to “get done” a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine,“courageous” and wise, and lauded Trump’s “great negotiating ability.” “Now, Mr. President,” Abbas concluded in English, “with you we have hope.”


The question, of course, is whether that hope is warranted. After all, in his own public statement,Trump made no reference to the two-state solution, and his vague declarations about peace (mentioned 11 times) included notso much as a hint about the need for Israel (also mentioned 11 times) to end its illegal settlement construction.And, in fact, Trumpfell back in his statements on that asymmetrical phrasing he has so often used in the past: Israel and the Palestinians.

The reality is that Trump has long been giving Palestinians reason to worry. During his election campaign, Trump spoke about moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem and condemned the outgoing Obama administration’s decision to abstain from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution denouncing Israeli settlements (rather than vetoing it). Once elected, Trump appointed as US ambassador to Israel his bankruptcy lawyer,David Friedman, who has a long history of supporting right-wing Israeli causes (even donating to a West Bank settlement).

Yet Abbas was silent about these issues. The mere fact that Trump had invited him to the White House so early in the administration seemed to provide reason for optimism. And Trump had already directed some attention to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tasking his son-in-law and trusted (though wholly inexperienced) adviser Jared Kushner with brokering a peace agreement.

Of course, promises to broker peace are nothing new for a US president. But Trump is no ordinary US president. Many Palestinians are encouraged by the fact that he does not seem bound by the usual lobby-influenced ideologies and commitments of US political parties. In their view, a US president who puts “America first” surely will see the absurdity of spending so much political and financial capital on Israel, which provides little strategic benefit to the US, at the cost ofgreater instability in the Middle East.

Trump’s image as a dealmaker reinforces this hopeful narrative. While his promises to strike “the ultimate deal” are not backed by much detail, they remain appealing to Palestinians, who have grown frustrated with a peace process thathas had little impact beyond allowing Israel to expand and consolidate its occupation of Palestinian land.

This is not to say that Palestinians blindly trust the Trump administration to determine their fate.On the contrary,Abbashas worked diligently to strengthen his own position, meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II five timesbetween Trump’s inauguration and the visit to the White House. When Sisi and Abdullahvisited Trump, each reiterated the position included in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative: Israel should withdraw fully from the occupied territories, in exchange for normalization of relations with Arab League countries. At the March 29 Arab League summit in Jordan, they and other Arab leaders underscored the need for an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

With such efforts, Abbas hoped to underscore the real goals that must be pursued, countering Israeli attempts at diversion. For example, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been calling on the Palestinian Authority to halt social benefits to the families of prisoners who killed Israelis, attempting to portray those allocations as some kind of payoff. Abbas’s praise of Trump at the White House may be another tactic for keeping Trump on track.

It is too early to tell if Abbas’s approach to the Trump administration will succeed. Some might argue that Trump’s decision to make Saudi Arabia, rather than Israel,the destination of his first trip abroad as US president reflects a new view of the region (though he will head to Israel immediately after).

When interviewed by Reuters on his first 100 days in office, Trump said that the US presidencyhad turned out to bea much harder job than he had anticipated. But the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians need not be. After all, we know what a deal must entail: an independent Palestinian state, secured through land swaps, and a creative solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.

The main obstacle to an agreementhas been insufficient political will on the part of the US to push for the needed compromise. Palestinian leaders hope that Trump, a businessmanobsessed with his legacy,will finally display the needed resolve, using the full clout of the US presidency to secure the“ultimate deal.”

DaoudKuttab, a former professor at Princeton University and the founder and former director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah, is a leading activist for media freedom in the Middle East.

By DaoudKuttab

Trump’s Strongman Weakness

NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump has made his affinity for authoritarian leaders abundantly clear. When Trump entertained Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the White House in April, he praised the Egyptian military ruler for doing “a fantastic job.” And after Turkish President RecepTayyipErdoğan declared a narrow victory in a referendum to approve a significant expansion of the presidency’s powers, Trump called to offer his congratulations.


Trump has also extended an invitation to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is presiding over a “war on drugs” that has so far resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings by the police. And he has continued to speak of Chinese President Xi Jinping in glowing terms, ever since the two met in April at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump has openly praised these and other strongmen, not least Russian President Vladimir Putin. But praise is not the same thing as policymaking; and, until this month, Trump and his advisers had left us guessing as to whether his enthusiasm for authoritarian leaders would actually lead to a change of course for US foreign policy.

We now have our answer. In a recent speech to his department’s employees, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson clarified the administration’s position on human rights. Since the mid-1970s, US law has required all presidential administrations to promote internationally recognized standards of human rights as a matter of US foreign policy. But in addressing this very issue, Tillerson ignored US law and various international treaties that the United States has adopted.

In describing the Trump administration’s “America first” approach, Tillerson indicated that the US will no longer emphasize human rights when it interacts with other countries on security and economic issues. “If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we’ve come to over a long history of our own,” he said, “it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

But US policymakers’ options for dealing with a country where systematic abuses take place are not limited to imposing American values on that country’s government. And, frankly, it’s difficult to see how simply telling Sisi, Erdoğan,or Duterte to adopt American values would do much good. But Tillerson does not seem to recognize that those countries, too, have agreed to abide by internationally accepted values, and to respect human rights.

• So, rather than imposing its values, the US can and should call on governments it works with to adhere to the commitments that they made when they ratified the Charter of the United Nations and other international treaties, such as the UN Convention Against Torture.

When Sisi’s forces kill hundreds of peaceful protestors in the streets of Cairo, they are violating values that their own government pledged to respect. The same goes for Erdoğanwhen his government imprisons more journalists than any other government in the world; and for Duterte, when he encourages his police forces and other “vigilantes” to carry out death-squad-style killings.

Another fallacy in Tillerson’s State Department remarks is the suggestion that human-rights promotion conflicts with US national-security and economic interests. What Tillerson misses is that praising the likes of Sisi, Erdoğan, and Duterte without also mentioning their human-rights abuses is not the same thing as adopting a neutral stance. Rather, it signals to all of those suffering under authoritarian governments that the US condones those governments’ repressive practices – a position that could damage US national-security and economic interests over the long term, by undermining America’s global respect and prestige.

Of course, when confronting particularly pressing and dangerous foreign-policy challenges, it may be appropriate to set aside human-rights concerns temporarily. For example, if the Trump administration is serious about persuading North Korea to abandon its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, then denouncing that regime’s gross abuses is not a strategic priority.

But leaving those abuses unmentioned is a far cry from endorsing or openly condoning Kim Jong-un’s reign of terror. Giving Kim a free pass would never be justified. And yet that is precisely what Trump has been giving other authoritarian leaders. Sadly, as Tillerson has made clear, Trump’s admiration for such leaders will now be an animating force of official policy.

AryehNeier is President Emeritus of the Open Society Foundations.

The Right to Agricultural Technology

STANFORD – In the 1960s, when biologist Paul Ehrlich was predicting mass starvation due to rapid population growth, plant breeder Norman Borlaug was developing the new crops and approaches to agriculture that would become mainstays of the Green Revolution. Those advances, along with other innovations in agricultural technology, are credited with preventing more than a billion deaths from starvation and improving the nutrition of the billions more people alive today. Yet some seem eager to roll back these gains.


Beyond saving lives, the Green Revolution saved the environment from massive despoliation. According to a Stanford University study, since 1961, modern agricultural technology has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions significantly, even as it has led to increases in net crop yields. It has also spared the equivalent of three Amazon rainforests – or double the area of the 48 contiguous US states – from having to be cleared of trees and plowed up for farmland. Genetically engineered crops, for their part, have reduced the use of environmentally damaging pesticides by 581 million kilograms (1.28 billion pounds), or 18.5%, cumulatively since 1996.

Surprisingly, many environmentalists are more likely to condemn these developments than they are to embrace them, promoting instead a return to inefficient, low-yield approaches. Included in the so-called agroecology that they advocate is primitive “peasant agriculture,” which, by lowering the yields and resilience of crops, undermines food security and leads to higher rates of starvation and malnutrition.

Promoting that lunacy, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently published a report by Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food HilalElver that called for a global agroecology regime, including a new global treaty to regulate and reduce the use of pesticides and genetic engineering, which it labeled human-rights violations.

The UNHRC – a body that includes such stalwart defenders of human rights as China, Cuba, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela – usually satisfies itself by bashing Israel. But in 2000, at the Cuban government’s urging, it created the post of special rapporteur on the right to food. Befitting the UNHRC’s absurd composition, the first person to fill the position, the Swiss sociologist Jean Ziegler, was the co-founder and a recipient of the Muammar al-Qaddafi International Human Rights Prize.

For her part, Elver has, according to UN Watch, cited works that claim the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were orchestrated by the United States government to justify its war on Muslims. Elver’s position on food reflects the same paranoid mindset. She opposes “industrial food production” and trade liberalization, and frequently collaborates with Greenpeace and other radical environmentalists.

Much of Elver’s new UNHRC report parrots the delusional musings of organic-industry-funded nongovernmental organizations. It blames agricultural innovations like pesticides for “destabilizing the ecosystem” and claims that they are unnecessary to increase crop yields.

This all might be dismissed as simply more misguided UN activism. But it is just one element of a broader and more consequential effort by global NGOs, together with allies in the European Union, to advance an agroecology model, in which critical farm inputs, including pesticides and genetically engineered crop plants, are prohibited. That agenda is now being promoted through a vast network of UN agencies and programs, as well as international treaties and agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and the International Agency on Research on Cancer.

The potential damage of this effort is difficult to overstate. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (which hasn’t yet completely succumbed to radical activists) estimates that, without pesticides, farmers would lose up to 80% of their harvests to insects, disease, and weeds. (Consider, for example, the impact of the fall armyworm, which, in the last 18 months alone, has devastated maize crops across much of Sub-Saharan Africa.) Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to radical regulatory regimes, because foreign aid is often contingent on compliance with them, though they can also reshape agriculture in the developed world, not least in the EU.

Millions of smallholder farmers in the developing world need crop protection. When they lack access to herbicides, for example, they must weed their plots by hand. This is literally backbreaking labor: to weed a one-hectare plot, farmers – usually women and children – have to walk ten kilometers (6.2 miles) in a stooped position. Over time, this produces painful and permanent spinal injuries. Indeed, that is why the state of California outlawed hand-weeding by agricultural workers in 2004, though an exception was made for organic farms, precisely because they refuse to use herbicides.

Depriving developing countries of more efficient and sustainable approaches to agriculture relegates them to poverty and denies them food security. That is the real human-rights violation.

Henry I. Miller is Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the US Food and Drug Administration.

By Henry I. Miller

Why AfricaShould Go Cashless

YAMOUSSOUKRO – India has lately been pursuing an ambitious goal: a cashless economy. Despite early missteps and frustrations, it will turn out to be a change for the better for the country’s 1.31 billion people. Africa should set a similar goal – and take the first step by establishing a monetary union.


Of course, achieving a cashless society is not an end in itself.Rather, it is a means to help advance financial inclusion, security, and prosperity. Today, an estimated 326 million Africans – 80% of the continent’s adult population – use no formal or informal financial services. But stashing bank notes under the mattress is no way to safeguard families’ savings, much less enable households to accumulate enough capital to escape chronic poverty.

Similarly, millions of Africans are scratching out a living in the informal economy, which represents about 41% of GDP in most parts of the continent. This leaves them unprotected, and without pathways to financial stability and wealth creation. Moving toward a cashless society would force citizens, companies, and policymakers to devise mechanisms to bring all Africans into the financial sector, drastically improving the lives of the millions who are now under- and unbanked.And it would bring many livelihoods into the formal economy – a major economic opportunity for African countries.

The goal should be to achieve prosperity through financial inclusion linked to economic activity. What small businesses and micro-enterprises need is fresh capital to create employment and expand the economic pie, and bank accounts connected to economic activity ensure that even those selling goods by the roadside can secure a piece of that pie.

But financial inclusion is not a natural by-product of the shift away from cash. On the contrary, as Harvard economist KennethRogoff argues, successful demonetization requires a comprehensive and implementable plan to increase financial inclusion and use of banks.

Such a plan should focus on building the right ecosystem for economic activity. In Africa, that means not just delivering financial services, but alsoadvancing financial literacy.Newly established bank accounts have few positive effects if they lie dormant. To ensure that financial inclusion actually enables economic transformation, Africans must gain the knowledge and tools to make the most of financial services.

Of course, none of this will be easy – a point made clear by India’s challenging experience implementing its radical demonetization process. Success will require, among other things, a gradual approach. Africa mustnot allowcash scarcity to cripple the informal economy, as it has in India.

But if Africa succeeds in this transition, the benefits will be profound. Demonetization would probably even save countries money. MasterCard estimates that countries worldwide spend as much as 1% of their GDP each year to mint, process, and distributebanknotes. That is money that could be better spent on meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, further improving the lives of Africa’s poor.

There is reason to believe that Africa can succeed in going cashless. Already, a large share of Africans uses digital payment systems like M-Pesa and EcoCash – precisely the types of innovative platforms that can play a pivotal role in the shift away from cash.

While hyperinflation is far from the ideal catalyst for such a shift, Zimbabwe’sexperienceproves that citizens can and will adapt to challenging circumstances. For example, some stores in the country will give credit to mobile money accounts in lieu of change.

But, to achieve a broader shift to a cashless Africa,progress toward monetary union will be essential for deepening economic integrationacrossthecontinent. That, in turn,wouldfoster a continent-wide digital financial services ecosystem capable of underwritinga massive expansion of intra-African trade –the quickest route to lifting people out of poverty.

Already, 14 countries in West and Central Africa share the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro. And South Africa shares a monetary policy with Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland. We cannot stumble where the road is clear.

Africans are latecomers to the demonetization movement. But we can use this to our advantage,by learning from countries that have already made the transition or are on the way.These include not just India, but also Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. We must view this as a strategic advantage in the much-needed structural transformation of the African economy.

With a smart strategy, underpinned by patience and commitment, Africa can build a cashless economy, with high levels of financial inclusion supporting economic prosperity and security. Before too long, buying a “Kofi broke man” – a roasted plantain with groundnuts– by the roadside in Ghana could be a cashless transaction, one that helps the vendor prosper in the present – and save for the future. Carl Manlan is an economist and Chief Operating Officer of the Ecobank Foundation. He is a 2016 Aspen New Voices Fellow.

By Carl Manlan

How Federalism Can Trump Populism

BERKELEY – America remains deeply divided on many economic and political issues. Just as US President Donald Trump was touting the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office, a federal court, responding to a legal complaint brought by several jurisdictions, temporarily blocked his executive order to strip federal funding from “sanctuary” states and cities.


According to the ruling, Trump’s order violates the Constitution’s separation of powers clause, due-process guarantees, and the Tenth Amendment, which states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, states and cities may cooperate with the federal government by carrying out federal policies; but the Tenth Amendment provides the constitutional basis for them to challenge or resist federal policies that conflict with their own goals (in this case, shielding undocumented immigrants from arrest and possible deportation).

Citizens’ needs vary widely across the country, and federalism helps to ensure that they are addressed. State and municipal governments can implement policies more efficiently when they are free to source local ideas and enter into local partnerships with non-governmental actors.

Local-level pilot programs and policy experiments also accelerate innovation, with authorities able to close ineffective programs quickly and expand those that work. And, because a federalist approach encourages transparency and accountability in how policies are implemented, it also bolsters the public’s trust in government institutions and elected officials. This is why most Americans have maintained their confidence in state and local governments, even as their trust in the federal government has reached all-time lows.

State and municipal officials are often responsible for implementing federal policies – concerning health care, education, employment, law enforcement, and environmental protection – that directly affect people’s lives. And the federal government, for its part, uses a variety of tools to encourage innovation among state and local governments, including waivers, pay-for-performance contracts, and challenge grants. Waivers and state flexibility in Medicaid are at the heart of the fractious political showdown over health care.

During the past decade, many state and local governments have focused their attention on environmental policy. In 2006, 12 states sued the Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to classify greenhouse gases as pollutants, and to regulate them accordingly. In 2007, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision, siding with the states; and in 2009, the EPA concluded that certain greenhouse gases endanger public welfare. That finding provided a basis for the Obama administration’s new auto-emissions standards and Clean Power Plan, which were established to help America meet its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Trump has now signed an executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, claiming, ironically, that he wants to weaken federal regulations as a way to return power to the states. Still, many states are already on track to meet the plan’s emissions targets, and have established their own standards for emissions and renewable energy, as well as their own cap-and-trade systems. And many municipal governments have joined the fight against carbon emissions by expanding mass transit and making government buildings more energy efficient.

California is leading the way in these efforts. It has implemented the strictest CO2 emissions standards in the US, and it is a leader in the Under U2 Coalition, a group of 170 national and subnational governments (representing 37% of the global economy) that are committed to achieving the Paris agreement’s emissions targets.

In addition to pursuing their own environmental policies, state and local governments can also resist or undermine federal policies. For starters, they can simply abstain from taking action, as we have seen with some states’ reaction to federal education reforms. Or they can withhold the state-level resources needed to enforce federal laws, as states that have decriminalized marijuana have done, and as sanctuary states and cities are now doing. The immigration showdown will ultimately be adjudicated in the court system; and Trump has already lost his first battles there.

Under federalism – whether cooperative or “uncooperative” – it is often assumed that state and local governments are pursuing the same goals. In fact, there is a deep divide between left-leaning “blue” cities and the right-leaning “red” states where many are located. And there are many ways that state governments can thwart progressive federalism at the municipal level. Cities, for their part, often lack the information and resources necessary for developing and implementing effective policies. A number of organizations have now emerged to strengthen the policy-making capacity of city governments including Michael Bloomberg’s Government Innovation Program, Fuse Corps, Results for America, Social Finance, Third Sector Capital Partners, and USAFacts.

There have been several legal fights recently between city governments and state legislatures over the principle of preemption, which holds that state laws override local laws. According to Preemption Watch, in 2016 alone, at least 36 state governments – most of them Republican-led – preempted cities by introducing laws on a wide range of issues, from minimum wage to environmental protection, gun control, fracking, immigration, and anti-discrimination ordinances. And 42 states have set limits on the taxes and expenditures of their cities.

The political struggle between red states and blue cities will continue to play out in judicial and legislative battles, while giving rise to new citizen-led initiatives. A new movement of grassroots progressive federalism, reflecting the powers conferred on citizens by the Tenth Amendment, has already begun to emerge. It is apparent in huge citizen marches, and in coordinated civil-society initiatives advocating for a national popular vote, congressional redistricting, automatic voter registration, and a higher minimum wage.

Trump did not accomplish much in his first 100 days. But he did unwittingly remind many Americans that the US Constitution delegates substantial political authority to states, cities, and individual citizens. And his administration has only further highlighted the importance of an independent judiciary, where the coming years’ battles among local, state, and federal government entities will be fought.

Laura Tyson, a former chair of the US President's Council of Economic Advisers, is a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior adviser at the Rock Creek Group. Lenny Mendonca, Senior Fellow at the Presidio Institute, is a former director of McKinsey & Company.

By Laura Tyson and Lenny Mendonca

The Macron Miracle

PARIS –Before the just-concluded French presidential election, the United States’ National Public Radio (NPR) requested that I give an interview about the outcome. But there was a catch: the interview would take place only if the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen won. It seems that good news, like Le Pen’s defeat, is barely news at all nowadays.


But the truth is that the victory of the pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron is a very big deal. Last year, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and the US elected Donald Trump its president, the rise of right-wing populism went from seemingly impossible to seemingly irresistible.And, in many ways, France wasprimed for a right-wing populist to win power: beyond having been hit hard by the eurozone crises of the past decade, it has lately faced a wave of terrorist attacks.

But French voters– including many whose preferred candidate or party didn’t make it to the second round – recognized the perils of letting Le Pen reach the Élysée Palace, and delivered Macron a robust victory. It was a show of maturity and political intelligence, and a lesson to the UK and the US. (Perhaps that is the part NPR didn’t want to face.)

It helped that, in the second presidential debate, Le Pen destroyed the façade that she had worked so hard to construct. Her push to “de-demonize” the National Front – in 2015, she even kicked her father, Jean-Marie, out of the party he founded– was all an act. She is, and always will be, her father’s daughter.

But the French election played out as it did, to paraphrase the essayist Michel de Montaigne, not just because Le Pen was Le Pen, but also because Macron was Macron. At another time in history, Macron’s youth and independence would have been a major liability. But, in the current environment of mistrust toward the political establishment, Macron offered France the prospect of a kind of renewal.

Of course, the implications of the French election extend far beyond the country’s borders. Begin with the UK, where Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for a snap general electionnext month was intended to strengthen her hand in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.Now she is confronted with the prospect of a reconstituted Franco-German axis – one that would be more balanced, and therefore more stable, than before. Winston Churchill’s political heirs certainly could not root for a candidate who waxes nostalgic about Vichy France. But they are not wrong to worry that the victory of the election’s most pro-European candidate will isolate them further.

In fact, Macron’s victory – which he celebrated to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the European anthem – is likely to invigorate more moderate, pro-European forces across Europe (with the possible exceptions of Hungary and Poland). Macron has proved that optimism, supported by a clear and firm pedagogy, can win an election, even in a Europe that has seemed bound by pessimism and fear. His approach will certainly be reflected in the coming year’s general elections in Germany and Italy.

Beyond transforming the image of France (and right-wing populism) in Europe, Macron’s victory is transforming Europe’s image in the world. Contrary to the claims of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the “old continent” isnot in the process of decay; it is still capable of renewal.

This might be disappointing for Russia. But, for China, Macron’s victory is a positive development. The Chinese do not, after all, like uncertainty, especially when it roils markets. And that is probably what a Le Pen victory would have done.

As for the US, responses to Macron’s victory are probably mixed. For the majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump, it probably inspires a combination of relief andsatisfaction. After all, to some extent, Le Pen’s defeat amounts to a rebuke of Trump himself. But there is probably also some envy mixed in:if only the Democrats had aMacron as their candidate, instead of Hillary Clinton, Trump would not be president.

Americanswho voted for Trump, for their part, may not be sure what to think. From an ideological standpoint, Macron’s victory is disappointing. But from a geopolitical viewpoint, it’s not such bad news. Indeed, by reinforcing the European pillar of NATO, it will benefit the entire Western world.As for Trump– much more a narcissist than an ideologue, who never actually met with Le Pen, even as many in his administration feted her – Macron’s victory can be spun in any number of positive ways.

For Macron, the work is just beginning. To deliver the change he has promised and remain a symbol of the world’s progressive hopes, his movement, La République En Marche!, will need to secure a majority in next month’s legislative elections. One hopes that French voters will again show self-awareness and wisdom, and deliver him the support he needs in the National Assembly. What is at stakeis not the future of a politician or his party, but the destiny of the French Republic– and the future of Europe. Dominique Moisi is Senior Counselor at the Institut Montaigne in Paris. 

By Dominique Moisi

Reducing Speed to Save Lives

NEW YORK – We can save so many lives around the world if we just slow down. Each year, more than 1.25 million people – many of them young people – die in automobile crashes.And a large proportion of these deaths are preventable: about one-third are due to vehicles traveling at excessive speeds. In low- and middle-income countries, that figure is closer to half.


Regardless of where one lives, speeding is a lethal problem. Studies show that on most roads, in most countries, 40-50% of all cars travel above the posted speed limit. And whether or not a car is speeding can be the difference between life and death. For example, someone who is hit by a vehicle traveling at 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour has a three times higher risk of dying than if they had been hit by a vehicle moving at 30 miles per hour.

This means that just setting urban speed limits at 30 miles per hour or less, and allowing local authorities to reduce speed limits further around schools and other areas with high pedestrian traffic, would save many lives. It is encouraging that 47 countries around the world are already implementing these commonsense practices. But we must do far more to expand the reach of such measures, and to ensure that more governments adopt them.

Not surprisingly, countries that have embraced a comprehensive approach to road safety, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, have had the most success in reducing their rates of death and injury from automobile accidents. These countries have made it a high priority to reduce rates of speeding, and they have taken steps to improve the safety of their roads, vehicles, drivers, and all others who use roads, including pedestrians and motorcyclists.

For example, proactive countries have built their roads to include features that calm traffic, such as roundabouts. They have also established speed limits tailored to local road conditions, while stepping up enforcement to deter traffic violations. And they have begun to require that all new cars include life-saving technologies such as autonomous emergency braking.

Municipal leaders worldwide – from Addis Ababa to Mumbai to Bangkok – have played a key role in implementing these measures, which are not just saving lives, but also making their cities healthier in other ways. Safer streets encourage more people to walk and cycle, helping to reduce air pollution, which has been linked to chronic respiratory disease, cancer, and other noncommunicable diseases.

To build on these achievements, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the World Health Organization, and other partners are working with municipal leaders to help them gather the data needed to identify problem areas more effectively. They can then determine where to target their limited resources to make the biggest improvements. We are also providing support for local authorities to stage public-awareness campaigns that will help build grassroots support for new road-safety legislation and stronger penalties.

Improving road safety is one of the biggest opportunities we have to save lives around the world. And the good news is that, starting with the solutions outlined above, we already know how to do it.

The fourth annual United Nations Global Road Safety Week, May 8-14, provides a chance to draw more attention to these solutions. Over the course of the week, community events are being held in cities around the world, to help raise awareness of the problem and advance more solutions. These events will take many forms: street traffic will be slowed down, campaigns will be launched in many schools, and roundtable discussions will be held to explore how we can ensure that smart policies continue to spread.

All of these events and initiatives will bring together local and national leaders in government, civil society, business, law enforcement, and other sectors. To learn more about the week’s events, and how every community can take steps to reduce speeding, we encourage readers to visit the Road Safety Week website.

A world in which far fewer lives are lost to automobile accidents is possible and entirely within our reach. It is up to all of us to make it a reality.

Margaret Chan is Director-General of the World Health Organization. Michael Bloomberg is the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

By Margaret Chan and Michael Bloomberg

Development Beyond Aid

BEIJING – Despite the apparent tranquility of this year’s spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, there are reasons to be concerned about the global economy. The United Kingdom’s impending “hard” Brexit from the European Union and US President Donald Trump’s anti-globalization agenda are creating economic uncertainty, and will continue to do so for some time.


In contrast to Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping has come to the defense of globalization, and made new capital available for creating global pubic goods, enhancing connectivity, and creating jobs in developing countries. More than 60 countries have welcomed Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, and 28 heads of state will attend an OBOR summit in Beijing on May 14. So, what is China’s rationale for pursuing this grandiose vision – one that so many countries, especially in the developing world, have embraced?

In our new book, Going Beyond Aid: Development Cooperation for Structural Transformation, we argue that official development aid (ODA) need not always be concessional, and make the case for going “beyond aid,” toward a broader approach – like that taken by China – that includes trade and investment. Right now, the OECD’s definition of ODA does not even include some of the more effective instruments for facilitating structural transformation in recipient countries, such as equity investment and large non-concessional loans for infrastructure.

By combining aid with trade and investment, donor and recipient countries alike can benefit. For example, the South-South development cooperation uses all three activities to capitalize on recipient countries’ economic strengths. This allows the SSDC to avoid the bottlenecks in partner countries that one sees under the standard ODA model, which separates aid from trade and private investment – and thus impedes countries from exploiting their comparative advantages.

In our book, we look at this topic through the lens of New Structural Economics. NSE treats modern economic development as a process of continuous structural change in technologies, industries, and hard and soft infrastructure – all of which increases labor productivity, and thus per capita income.

According to NSE, the most effective and sustainable approach for a low-income country to jumpstart dynamic growth and development is to develop those sectors in which it has latent comparative advantages: where production costs are low, but transaction costs are high due to inadequate hard and soft infrastructure. Governments can help to reduce transaction costs by creating special economic zones or industrial parks, improving infrastructure, and making the overall business environment more attractive in those enclaves. With this approach, a developing country can grow dynamically, and create a virtuous circle of job creation and poverty reduction, even if its overall infrastructure and business environment are still lacking.

Moreover, large emerging-market economies such as China, Brazil, and India can use their comparative advantages in infrastructure and light manufacturing to help others. For China, this is in keeping with a Confucian dictum: “One who wishes himself to be successful must also help others to be successful; one who wishes to develop himself must also help others to develop.”

China has a clear comparative advantage in infrastructure construction, owing to its lower labor costs (the cost of a project site foreman in China is one-eighth that of OECD countries) and vast domestic market, which have enabled it to achieve economies of scale that other countries simply cannot. Consequently, the overall construction cost for high-speed rail in China is two-thirds of what it is in industrial countries.

But China’s comparative advantages in 46 of 97 subsectors – particularly in manufacturing – benefit other developing countries, too. As labor costs in China rise, labor-intensive industries are relocating to lower-wage developing countries, providing millions of job opportunities. For example, the Huajian Shoemaking Company, C&H Garments, and China JD Group (an apparel maker), are now operating in special economic zones in, respectively, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

In addition to exporting its comparative advantages, China also deploys “patient capital,” which has a maturity of ten years or more. In a recently published paper, we conceptualize patient capital as an investment in a “relationship,” whereby an investor has a long-term stake in a country’s development. Patient-capital owners are like equity investors, but they are willing to “sink” money in the real sector for an extended period of time.

Patient-capital owners are also more willing, and better able, to take risks. In the chart below, we show that a country’s net-foreign-asset position correlates strongly with its long-term orientation. On the other hand, net-foreign-asset positions of countries with a short-term orientation and a low savings rate tend to deteriorate, while their foreign debts mounts. [chart]

Patient capital plays an important role in infrastructure financing, because it is often accompanied by technological and administrative know-how, which helps to improve global connectivity and accelerate development.

So far, China’s large reserve of patient capital has been used to finance its own domestic projects. But it will increasingly be exported as more Chinese enterprises and banks “go global.” In fact, China could soon become the world’s largest net creditor, and a portion of its net foreign assets will take the form of patient capital that is suitable for improving infrastructure, developing manufacturing sectors, and creating jobs around the world.

Since 2015, development finance has started to come less from traditional aid, and more from development-finance institutions, development banks, and sovereign wealth funds in emerging economies. China, for example, has committed $60 billion in development financing to Africa for the 2016-2018 period – much of it patient capital.

China and other emerging economies are also shifting from bilateralism to multilateralism, by working with partners from the global North and South. As new South-led institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank work with established multilateral development banks, they are learning to be better partners, and adding momentum to global development efforts.

China, moreover, is trying to learn from its partners so that it can improve its own governance, labor, and environmental standards. And this two-way process is giving rise to new ideas, theories, and concepts – our book being one of them. China’s embrace of a global role should be welcomed. We are cautiously optimistic that the North and South can work together to ensure peace and prosperity for all.

Justin Yifu Lin is a former chief economist at the World Bank, Director of the Center for New Structural Economics, Dean of South-South Cooperation and Development, and Honorary Dean of the National School of Development, Peking University. Yan Wang is a Senior Fellow at the Center for New Structural Economics, Peking University.

By Justin Yifu Lin and Yan Wang

Why Did Trump Accept Venezuela’s Money?

CAMBRIDGE – There is a certain irony in recent news that Venezuela donated a half-million dollars to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration through Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-owned oil company. Venezuela, of course, is a serial defaulter, having done so more times than almost any other country over the last two centuries.


Recently, Venezuela’s despotic socialist government has been so desperate to avoid another default (which would be the country’s 11th since independence) that it mortgaged its industrial crown jewels, including the United States-based refiner Citgo, to the Russians and the Chinese. (The Citgo brand is especially famous in my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, where the company’s iconic sign has become a landmark in the environs of Fenway Park, where the Red Sox baseball team plays.)

It is not exactly clear why Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is so desperate to avoid defaulting on the country’s foreign debt that he is starving his own people, much the way Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu did in the 1980s. With such severe shortages of food and basic medicines, there is little doubt that if and when the autocrat is finally deposed, there will be some eerily familiar horror stories.

It is simplistic to portray the Venezuelan tragedy as an apocryphal tale of what happens when a country is taken over by left-wing populists. The right-wing governments of the 1980s and 1990s were also corrupt; and, while national income rose, income distribution was among the most unequal in the world. But it is true that Venezuela’s current horror show is very much a product of two decades of left-wing misgovernment.

There was a time when a contribution such as the one Venezuela made to Trump was a mere pittance in a much larger aid budget. Under its previous president, the charismatic Hugo Chávez, Venezuela spread its oil money far and wide, mostly to support other populist anti-American governments in the region. Chávez even funded heating fuel for some low-income households in the US, a program made famous by former US representative Joe Kennedy II’s 2006 television ads.

That was back when high and rising oil prices helped to maintain Venezuela’s revenues even as economic mismanagement sent oil production into a downward spiral. Mind you, Venezuela was never nearly as rich as the US, so its aid budget was like giving to the poor by taking from the almost poor.

Now, with oil prices having fallen dramatically since Chávez’s death from cancer in 2013, his successor, who has all the charisma of a lifelong apparatchik, is being forced to get by without the same easy revenues. And while Chávez was also autocratic, he probably won his elections.

Maduro’s election in 2013, by contrast, was a very close affair that many people question; for one thing, the opposition was allowed virtually no television time, even if starry-eyed US academics insisted that Maduro won fair and square. It is understandable that left-leaning scholars found some of the socialist government’s redistribution and education policies appealing, as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz did when visiting Caracas, the country’s capital, in 2007. But the left’s willingness to overlook the dismantling of democratic institutions in Venezuela is more reminiscent of right-leaning Chicago-school economists’ relationships with Latin American dictators in the 1970s.

Today, Venezuela’s economy is a full-blown disaster, with the collapse in growth and near-hyperinflation causing widespread human suffering. In such circumstances, one might expect a traditional Latin American military coup. The absence of one in Venezuela is hardly a reflection of strong democratic institutions. Rather, the government gives the military a free hand in running the drug trade, making many generals and officials extremely rich – and able to buy the loyalty of key troops.

And this bring us back to the bizarre spectacle of this economically desperate country helping to fund Trump’s inauguration festivities. Like Joe Kennedy II, the Trump organizers can plead that if Venezuela wants to spend its money on making life better for its much richer northern neighbor, who are they to say no?

Well, in both cases, the US should have said no: while the aid is transparent, the symbolism of a rich country taking money from a poor neighbor with millions of suffering people is hardly attractive. And it is particularly bizarre that even as US policy toward Mexico has greatly increased the chances of an anti-American Chávez-type character becoming president there, officials are providing positive publicity to a government that is a caricature of disastrous governance.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, took a principled stand in US dealings with Venezuela, imposing sanctions to rein in rogue behavior, a policy that drew broad bipartisan support. The Trump administration needs to stay the course, especially as lower oil prices have weakened the Venezuelan government’s hand. Instead of bashing Latin America, the US needs to show it can be a steady and principled friend that will not be swayed by corrupt bribes of any type. Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist of the IMF, is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

By Kenneth Rogoff

Where We Must Vaccinate

KARACHI/GANDHIDHAM-GUJARAT – With measles outbreaks currently spreading across Europe and the Midwestern United States, and meningitis infecting US college students, health experts are doing something they never thought they’d have to do in early 2017: reminding people in developed countries that vaccines save lives.


Perhaps vaccines are a victim of their own success: they work so well in protecting people against certain illnesses that many in the West have forgotten how devastating preventable diseases can be. With the recent outbreaks in the US and Europe, parents are being reminded that foregoing vaccinations for their children is a deadly gambit.

Sadly, in many other parts of the world, particularly South Asia, parents need no reminding that immunization saves lives. What they need is access to vaccines.

Preventable disease outbreaks, rare as they are in Western countries, are all too frequent occurrences in a region that is home to the world’s largest number of unvaccinated children. In the early 1980s, one of us almost lost our baby son to bacterial meningitis, because no vaccine was available in Pakistan at the time. The boy made a full recovery, but only because of an early diagnosis and care at a premier hospital, which is out of reach for many parents in Pakistan. The boy’s siblings were later vaccinated, too, but only after stocks of the vaccine were secured in the US and hand-carried back to Pakistan.

Fortunately, going to such lengths is largely unnecessary today. On average, 90% of children in South Asia now receive vaccines for preventable illnesses such as tetanus, influenza, diphtheria, and pertussis, and the number of infants protected against Hepatitis B has increased by nearly 60% in the last decade. Moreover, six countries in the region were declared polio-free in 2014, following extensive vaccination campaigns. Only those living in marginalized and remote areas remain unvaccinated for polio, typically owing to local hesitancy and refusals.

Collectively, these remarkable figures amount to a public health miracle. But too many children are still suffering needlessly. The just-concluded World Immunization Week (April 24-30) should spur us to redouble our efforts to vaccinate the millions of children in South Asia who remain unprotected from preventable illnesses.

Globally, more than 11 children under the age of five die every minute, many of them in South Asia, from preventable diseases. Despite the region’s progress, one in four children remain unprotected against diseases like measles and hepatitis, and the figures are even higher for major killers such as pneumonia and meningitis. As a result, the mortality rate for children in South Asia today is almost twice as high as it was in the US 50 years ago.

We have the tools to address these shortcomings and ensure that no child dies unnecessarily from an illness that vaccination could have prevented. To succeed, however, several obstacles must be overcome.

First, we must resolve systemic weaknesses in the region’s underdeveloped health systems, by improving training for health workers, ensuring proper storage and transportation of vaccines, and developing effective ways to deliver them. These improvements, together with more effective information sharing in the medical profession, are critical for better planning and accountability as well.

Second, we must actively confront the growing anti-vaccine lobby, which threatens to undo the gains made in recent years. These groups spread falsehoods about vaccine safety that can lead parents to leave their children unprotected. Foregoing vaccinations not only puts the health of individual children at risk; it also raises the likelihood of outbreaks that jeopardize the health of entire communities.

Finally, we must continue to encourage countries in the region to increase vaccine coverage rates, in particular with newer vaccines proven to protect against pneumonia and diarrhea, the two leading infectious killers of children.

Positive steps are already being taken to realize these goals. In Pakistan, for example, officials in Punjab province, hoping to protect one million children from a common form of diarrhea, recently introduced the rotavirus vaccine. Next door, India has vaccinated close to four million children since launching an initiative to expand the rotavirus vaccine’s coverage in ten states, and plans to reach 13 million children by the last quarter of 2017.

There is still much to do in both countries. In India, 13 million children annually are not reached with the rotavirus initiative; in Pakistan, five million children annually are not vaccinated. But, with help from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, more vaccines are being brought to the world’s poorest communities through funding, training, and delivery. Health officials everywhere can learn from and replicate the gains made in these two countries.

We are at a pivotal moment in the global vaccination drive. As pediatric professionals who have dedicated our lives to protecting children from preventable diseases, we believe it is within the world’s capacity to end this needless suffering. Vaccines are a proven tool for improving children’s health and development. Ensuring that children have access to them is an achievable public health goal behind which parents and pediatricians everywhere should unite.

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta is Founding Director of Aga Khan University’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health in Karachi, Pakistan, Co-Director of SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, in Toronto, Canada, and President of the International Pediatric Association. Naveen Thacker is President of the Asia Pacific Pediatric Association and Coordinator of the International Pediatric Association, based in Gandhidham-Gujarat, India.

By Zulfiqar A. Bhutta and Naveen Thacker

Top
We use cookies to improve our website. By continuing to use this website, you are giving consent to cookies being used. More details…