Daily Archives: June 24, 2018

Millions of Poor Not Benefiting from Ghana’s Booming Economy

A United Nations report finds millions of people in Ghana are not benefiting from that country’s booming economy, but remain mired in poverty. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has submitted the results of his 10-day fact-finding mission to Ghana in April to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

U.N. Investigator Philip Alston says Ghana is the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the three fastest growing economies in the whole world. He says this success is making the rich richer, while a high proportion of the population continues to live in poverty.

He says the poor are losing out amidst the country’s growing wealth because Ghana spends 50 percent less than its peer countries in Africa on social protection.

He says most of the country’s resources are being plowed into private investment projects designed to make the wealthy better off. He says this policy comes at the expense of providing better employment opportunities and welfare benefits for the poor.

“So, the risk is that Ghana continues to be the great economic success story in the continent, but that very little of the wealth will trickle down to a fairly extensive number of Ghanaians, who continue to live in poverty,” said Alston.

Statistics show one in five Ghanaians live in poverty and one in eight live in extreme poverty. Alston says he finds it particularly troubling that 28 percent of children live in poverty.

He told VOA Ghana has a very big problem of corruption and the failure of the government to collect taxes strips the country of important revenue.

“That means that they do not have revenue for additional spending.So, they need to crack down seriously on corruption and on tax evasion and some of the resulting money, even a small part of it needs to be actually spent on these social protection programs,” said Alston.

In response, Ghana notes inequality often affects rapidly expanding economies such as its own. But, it says the government is committed to reducing poverty and to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating poverty by 2030.

Source: Voice of America

Millions of Poor Not Benefiting from Ghana’s Booming Economy

A United Nations report finds millions of people in Ghana are not benefiting from that country’s booming economy, but remain mired in poverty. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has submitted the results of his 10-day fact-finding mission to Ghana in April to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

U.N. Investigator Philip Alston says Ghana is the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the three fastest growing economies in the whole world. He says this success is making the rich richer, while a high proportion of the population continues to live in poverty.

He says the poor are losing out amidst the country’s growing wealth because Ghana spends 50 percent less than its peer countries in Africa on social protection.

He says most of the country’s resources are being plowed into private investment projects designed to make the wealthy better off. He says this policy comes at the expense of providing better employment opportunities and welfare benefits for the poor.

“So, the risk is that Ghana continues to be the great economic success story in the continent, but that very little of the wealth will trickle down to a fairly extensive number of Ghanaians, who continue to live in poverty,” said Alston.

Statistics show one in five Ghanaians live in poverty and one in eight live in extreme poverty. Alston says he finds it particularly troubling that 28 percent of children live in poverty.

He told VOA Ghana has a very big problem of corruption and the failure of the government to collect taxes strips the country of important revenue.

“That means that they do not have revenue for additional spending.So, they need to crack down seriously on corruption and on tax evasion and some of the resulting money, even a small part of it needs to be actually spent on these social protection programs,” said Alston.

In response, Ghana notes inequality often affects rapidly expanding economies such as its own. But, it says the government is committed to reducing poverty and to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating poverty by 2030.

Source: Voice of America

EU Leaders Meet, But Fail to Agree on Migration

European leaders failed to breach bitter divisions over migration during a mini-summit in Brussels Sunday, making chances increasingly slim they will reach any significant deal for managing the ongoing influx of economic migrants and asylum-seekers at a full-blown European Union meeting later this week.

Still, some leaders cited modest progress on a few issues — including a plan to set up migrant reception centers that is backed by France and Spain — even as Italy called for a major overhaul of the EU’s current system of dealing with migration.

“I think it was better than expected, there was some progress that has been achieved,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, echoing a similar assessment by his Spanish counterpart, with both describing frank exchanges in the afternoon meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the leaders discussed closer cooperation with non-EU countries, such as transit countries, in managing migration flows, as well as secondary migration movements within the bloc.

“We need to improve the internal functioning [of migration] to have an approach that is above all pragmatic, efficient, which fights against illegal migration but doesn’t go against our principles,” Macron said, describing what he saw as a consensus achieved during the meeting.

Yet agreement on a broad, overarching migration plan appeared elusive, and the summit was handicapped from the start, after being boycotted by eastern European countries deeply hostile over pressure to take in more asylum-seekers.

Their position, shared by Austria, stands in sharp contrast to a multiple-point plan outlined by Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte on Sunday that would increase responsibility for all EU countries in dealing with migrants, including handling asylum claims of those arriving on Italian and other European shores.

“At this moment, the only thing that can be done is laying the groundwork of what a consensus could look like in the future,” said Marie de Somer, a migration expert at the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think-tank. “The divides are too deep to see a compromise arriving within the next few days.”

Stranded migrants

The meeting came even as new reports came in of migrants stranded at sea, some in rickety boats off the Libyan coast and others in humanitarian rescue ships that have so far failed to be granted entrance at a European port.

A recent poll shows migration tops European concerns — even as the number of migrants arriving to European shores has plummeted in recent months — to just 41,000 so far this year, compared to a high of 1.2 million in 2015.

“The crisis now is not a migration crisis, it’s not a crisis of numbers, it’s a political crisis,” de Somer said.

The political stakes are indeed high across the 28-member bloc where anti-migrant sentiment has catapulted populists to power in Italy, Austria and Hungary, and helped shape the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

They may be the highest for Chancellor Angela Markel of Germany, which has taken in the lion’s share of asylum-seekers. She faces intense pressure to bring home a European migration deal this week that more fairly spreads the burden, or risk possible collapse of her coalition government.

Merkel left the summit saying there was “a lot of goodwill” during the meeting, and participants agreed to strengthen external borders and share the migration burden among all countries.

The apparent progress Sunday on “secondary” migration movements, including those reaching Germany, may help ease the political pressure Merkel faces. Her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has threatened to turn migrants away if EU leaders fail to reach agreement on these flows.

There was also some support for screening African migrants heading to Europe in North Africa and the Balkans, an idea that has sparked some concern about migrant rights, particularly after a 2016 EU migrant deal with Turkey.

Amnesty International described such reception centers as “docking platforms for refugees and asylum-seekers,” and called their creation as “irresponsible as it is dangerous.”

Analyst de Somer called it “worrisome” that ideas such as the reception centers is “taken on when EU members states have difficulties finding solutions and compromises. So instead of looking inwards, they look outwards.”

No game changer

There was little chance Sunday’s meeting would be a game changer — especially after four eastern European states, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — announced they would boycott it. Along with Austria, the four countries strongly oppose migrant quotas that would see them taking in more migrants, citing security risks.

Currently, frontline Mediterranean states, notably Italy and Greece, are grappling with the bulk of new arrivals, and asylum demands skewed toward western Mediterranean and richer northern European states. In 2017, for example, Germany received nearly a quarter-million requests for refugee status and Italy nearly 130,000 — compared to just over 5,000 for Poland.

Analyst de Somer believes progress in forging a European migration plan might be made incrementally, for example threats of ending the open-border Schengen system, which is popular among Europeans, to get eastern European countries to accept more migrants.

“Perhaps the outlook of losing Schengen can move things in the near future,” she said.

For his part, Macron has called for sanctions against states refusing to take in migrants — a stance that has drawn ire from Italy’s new government and is likely to be unpopular with eastern Europeans as well.

The differences have sometimes turned personal, with Italy’s new hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini most recently calling Macron “arrogant.”

“France will accept lessons from nobody,” Macron responded, noting the country ranked second in the number of asylum requests so far this year.

Meanwhile, the migrants themselves remained front and center in European news Sunday, as one humanitarian vessel remained stranded at sea in search of a safe harbor. Meanwhile, Italy reportedly rejected the request of another, Proactiva, to rescue several migrant boats in apparent distress, passing on the burden to the Libyan coast guard.

Earlier this month, Italy’s refused to accept another migrant rescue ship, Aquarius. The vessel ultimately docked in the Spanish port of Valencia.

Source: Voice of America

EU Leaders Meet, But Fail to Agree on Migration

European leaders failed to breach bitter divisions over migration during a mini-summit in Brussels Sunday, making chances increasingly slim they will reach any significant deal for managing the ongoing influx of economic migrants and asylum-seekers at a full-blown European Union meeting later this week.

Still, some leaders cited modest progress on a few issues — including a plan to set up migrant reception centers that is backed by France and Spain — even as Italy called for a major overhaul of the EU’s current system of dealing with migration.

“I think it was better than expected, there was some progress that has been achieved,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, echoing a similar assessment by his Spanish counterpart, with both describing frank exchanges in the afternoon meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the leaders discussed closer cooperation with non-EU countries, such as transit countries, in managing migration flows, as well as secondary migration movements within the bloc.

“We need to improve the internal functioning [of migration] to have an approach that is above all pragmatic, efficient, which fights against illegal migration but doesn’t go against our principles,” Macron said, describing what he saw as a consensus achieved during the meeting.

Yet agreement on a broad, overarching migration plan appeared elusive, and the summit was handicapped from the start, after being boycotted by eastern European countries deeply hostile over pressure to take in more asylum-seekers.

Their position, shared by Austria, stands in sharp contrast to a multiple-point plan outlined by Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte on Sunday that would increase responsibility for all EU countries in dealing with migrants, including handling asylum claims of those arriving on Italian and other European shores.

“At this moment, the only thing that can be done is laying the groundwork of what a consensus could look like in the future,” said Marie de Somer, a migration expert at the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think-tank. “The divides are too deep to see a compromise arriving within the next few days.”

Stranded migrants

The meeting came even as new reports came in of migrants stranded at sea, some in rickety boats off the Libyan coast and others in humanitarian rescue ships that have so far failed to be granted entrance at a European port.

A recent poll shows migration tops European concerns — even as the number of migrants arriving to European shores has plummeted in recent months — to just 41,000 so far this year, compared to a high of 1.2 million in 2015.

“The crisis now is not a migration crisis, it’s not a crisis of numbers, it’s a political crisis,” de Somer said.

The political stakes are indeed high across the 28-member bloc where anti-migrant sentiment has catapulted populists to power in Italy, Austria and Hungary, and helped shape the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

They may be the highest for Chancellor Angela Markel of Germany, which has taken in the lion’s share of asylum-seekers. She faces intense pressure to bring home a European migration deal this week that more fairly spreads the burden, or risk possible collapse of her coalition government.

Merkel left the summit saying there was “a lot of goodwill” during the meeting, and participants agreed to strengthen external borders and share the migration burden among all countries.

The apparent progress Sunday on “secondary” migration movements, including those reaching Germany, may help ease the political pressure Merkel faces. Her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has threatened to turn migrants away if EU leaders fail to reach agreement on these flows.

There was also some support for screening African migrants heading to Europe in North Africa and the Balkans, an idea that has sparked some concern about migrant rights, particularly after a 2016 EU migrant deal with Turkey.

Amnesty International described such reception centers as “docking platforms for refugees and asylum-seekers,” and called their creation as “irresponsible as it is dangerous.”

Analyst de Somer called it “worrisome” that ideas such as the reception centers is “taken on when EU members states have difficulties finding solutions and compromises. So instead of looking inwards, they look outwards.”

No game changer

There was little chance Sunday’s meeting would be a game changer — especially after four eastern European states, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — announced they would boycott it. Along with Austria, the four countries strongly oppose migrant quotas that would see them taking in more migrants, citing security risks.

Currently, frontline Mediterranean states, notably Italy and Greece, are grappling with the bulk of new arrivals, and asylum demands skewed toward western Mediterranean and richer northern European states. In 2017, for example, Germany received nearly a quarter-million requests for refugee status and Italy nearly 130,000 — compared to just over 5,000 for Poland.

Analyst de Somer believes progress in forging a European migration plan might be made incrementally, for example threats of ending the open-border Schengen system, which is popular among Europeans, to get eastern European countries to accept more migrants.

“Perhaps the outlook of losing Schengen can move things in the near future,” she said.

For his part, Macron has called for sanctions against states refusing to take in migrants — a stance that has drawn ire from Italy’s new government and is likely to be unpopular with eastern Europeans as well.

The differences have sometimes turned personal, with Italy’s new hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini most recently calling Macron “arrogant.”

“France will accept lessons from nobody,” Macron responded, noting the country ranked second in the number of asylum requests so far this year.

Meanwhile, the migrants themselves remained front and center in European news Sunday, as one humanitarian vessel remained stranded at sea in search of a safe harbor. Meanwhile, Italy reportedly rejected the request of another, Proactiva, to rescue several migrant boats in apparent distress, passing on the burden to the Libyan coast guard.

Earlier this month, Italy’s refused to accept another migrant rescue ship, Aquarius. The vessel ultimately docked in the Spanish port of Valencia.

Source: Voice of America

Solidarity, Resolve After Blast Interrupts Rally For Unity in Ethiopia

An explosion that killed two people punctured the final moments of a rally for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, bringing a flash of violence to what was the largest peaceful gathering in the country’s history.

Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians filled Meskel Square Saturday in the capital, Addis Ababa, in support of Ahmed’s message of mutual understanding and respect.

The movement that has started now for change should continue, and we should all participate. If we don’t have love, peace and unity, we can’t develop our Ethiopia. We can’t grow our society. And if we don’t help each other, we can’t live together, Haregeweyn Geresu, a rally participant, told a VOA reporter at the event.

The jubilant images that emerged from the rally sharply contrasted with the angry, and often violent, protests that have reverberated through Ethiopia in recent years.

Citizens who just months ago may have been protesting their government’s repressive policies and indifference were now celebrating its reforms.

The event culminated with a message from Ahmed that acknowledged past grievances, while urging renewal.

The only way to move forward from all the history is forgiveness and love. Revenge is for the weak. And because Ethiopians aren’t weak we won’t need revenge, and we will win with love, Ahmed told the massive crowd.

Speaking in English, an announcer addressed the global audience watching the event. Then, suddenly, a distinctive pop interrupted the speaker, and the group on the platform turned to their right as cries and confusion broke out.

Security personnel quickly escorted Ahmed and others from the stage and into a nearby vehicle, tense moments caught on video.

Day of ‘resurrection’

The gathering was the largest recorded in Ethiopia, with VOA estimating the crowd approached a half million people.

To tell you the truth, today is a really great day, and I consider it as a resurrection day. I haven’t seen an incident that brought so much joy in my life in Ethiopia. I am here to offer my support with all I have, Yacob Hailemariam, a renowned lawyer, told VOA.

The people have hope now. Sure, we haven’t seen anything tangible yet, but what we are witnessing is different. And for example when people are discussing (issues), people aren’t looking to the side or whispering anymore. People are freely and openly expressing their thoughts, and this is a really good atmosphere. I would like to encourage Dr. Abiy to continue with what he has started.

Ahmed has promised a new chapter in Ethiopia’s history. Since assuming office in April, the 41-year-old leader has backed his rhetoric with tangible results: The government has closed a notorious prison, released hundreds of dissidents, lifted a state of emergency, and loosened restrictions on the press and freedom of expression.

Earlier this year, opposition leaders were jailed for displaying a banned flag. Saturday, rally-goers waved the flag with pride.

Assassination attempt?

The blast occurred about 30 meters from the platform where Ahmed sat with other leaders.

Amir Aman, the minister of health, told VOA dozens of people remain in the hospital.

The exact nature of the explosion has not been confirmed, and no one has taken responsibility, but Seyoum Teshome, an event organizer, called the attack an assassination attempt. The prime minister was the target, Teshome told the Associated Press.

Zeynu Jemal, the commissioner general of the Federal Police Commission, told VOA’s Amharic Service dozens of people are being investigated, and some of the 156 casualties were caused by a stampede that followed the explosion.

We will continue to expose the people who are trying to mar the progress and good effort we call on our people to work alongside of the police, Jemal told VOA.

Ethiopian authorities say the capital’s deputy police chief, Girma Kassa, is among those arrested, and other police officers are being investigated for security lapses at the rally.

As of Sunday, 30 people had been arrested in connection with the blast, state broadcaster Fana said.

Challenges ahead

In a televised statement Saturday, Ahmed said, Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.

But significant challenges remain, and not everyone agrees with Ahmed’s reforms.

Efforts for peace with Eritrea, with whom Ethiopia has had a violent and acrimonious history, are far from certain, and the TPLF party, which has held considerable political and military power, has voiced deep concern over plans to cede the border town of Badme to Eritrea in accordance with a 2002 international ruling.

But Saturday’s rally shows the reformist leader has amassed considerable support for his vision of Ethiopia’s future.

What we are witnessing today is a miracle. It is a day of miracles. This gives us hope for the future, and nothing that comes after this can compare with this moment, Fekade Zeleke, a medical professional, said before the blast.

Source: Voice of America