Rushdie Joins 102 International Writers to Demand Freedom of Expression in India

Journalists, writers, both local and international, have called on the authorities in India to respect human rights and release imprisoned writes and dissident and critical voices. Protests about media freedom have become more urgent in recent years since this protest by the Mumbai Press Club. Credit: Facebook

Journalists, writers, both local and international, have called on the authorities in India to respect human rights and release imprisoned writes and dissident and critical voices. Protests about media freedom have become more urgent in recent years since this protest by the Mumbai Press Club. Credit: Facebook

By Mehru Jaffer
Lucknow, Aug 17 2022 – On the eve of India’s 76th Independence Day, the president of the country, Droupadi Murmu, received a letter signed by 102 international writers, including authors from India and the Indian diaspora expressing “grave concerns about the rapidly worsening situation for human rights” and calling for the release of imprisoned writers and “dissident and critical voices”.

Salman Rushdie signed the letter before the attack on him on August 12, 2022. Rushdie joined PEN America and PEN International, two worldwide associations of writers, to convey his anguish to the highest office in India.

Dated August 14, 2022, the letter urged the President of India to support the democratic ideals promoting and protecting free expression in the spirit of India’s independence and to restore India’s reputation as an inclusive, secular, multi-ethnic and -religious democracy where writers can express dissenting or critical views without threat of detention, investigation, physical attacks, or retaliation.

“Free expression is the cornerstone of a robust democracy. By weakening this core right, all other rights are at risk and the promises made at India’s birth as an independent republic are severely compromised,” the writers emphasised.

In its Freedom to Write Index 2021, PEN America considered India the only “nominally democratic country” among the “top 10 jailers” of writers and public intellectuals worldwide. The letter highlighted the arrest of writers, including poet Varavara Rao who was recently granted bail.

The “grave concern” regarding threats to free expression and other core rights has grown steadily in recent years.

The signatories underlined that writers and public intellectuals were “subject to arrest, prosecution, and travel bans intended to restrain their free speech”.

Well-known authors Amitav Ghosh, Perumal Murugan, Orhan Pamuk, Jerry Pinto, Salil Tripathi, Aatish Taseer and Shobhaa De, have signed the letter that said, “Online trolling and harassment is rife, hate speech is expressed loudly”, and criticised frequent internet shutdowns “centred on Kashmir” limit the access to news and information.

The letter registered a strong protest over the “persecution” of writers, columnists, editors, journalists, and artists, including Mohammed Zubair, Siddique Kappan, Teesta Setalvad, Avinash Das, and Fahad Shah.

In yet another PEN America initiative, 113 authors from India and the Indian diaspora have contributed to a collection reflecting on the state of free expression and democratic ideals. Titled India at 75, the collection includes original writings by Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Geetanjali Shree, Rajmohan Gandhi and Romila Thapar, among others.

Rushdie writes that India’s “dream of fellowship and liberty is dead, or close to death”.

“Then, in the First Age of Hindustan Hamara, our India, we celebrated one another’s festivals, and believed, or almost believed, that all of the land’s multifariousness belonged to all of us. Now that dream of fellowship and liberty is dead, or close to death. A shadow lies upon the country we loved so deeply. Hindustan isn’t hamara anymore. The Ruling Ring—one might say—has been forged in the fire of an Indian Mount Doom. Can any new fellowship be created to stand against it?”

On August 15, India celebrated 75 years of independence from colonial rule. The country has yet to conquer poverty, but the largest democracy in the world did enjoy an excellent track record of encouraging free and fair media.

However, press freedom, as well as the unity of the country, is threatened by communal politics. A large section of mainstream media has turned pro-government, especially after the general elections in the spring of 2019. Ever since pressure has increased on the media to toe the line of the Hindu nationalist government. For the same reason, it is often difficult to distinguish between a ruling party spokesperson and a journalist in India today.

“At centre stage of media are views of political parties, their respective spokespersons making more noise than saying anything substantive on the electronic media,” Anand Vardhan Singh, Lucknow-based senior journalist and founder of YouTube channel The Public, told the IPS.

Singh regrets that the people in power have fragmented the national media between English versus regional languages, print versus electronic versus social media.

Investigative journalism is a thing of the past. The reporting aspect of media has taken a backseat.

This year’s independence day celebration will be remembered for what 9-year-old Mehnaz Kappan said.

“I am Mehnaz Kappan, daughter of journalist Siddique Kappan, a citizen who has been forced into a dark room by breaking all freedom of a citizen”.

Siddique Kappan is a Delhi-based journalist from Kerala. He was arrested in October 2020 on his way to Hathras, a poverty-stricken village in north India in Uttar Pradesh, to report on the rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman.

“Attempts to demean, belittle, and outlaw dissent and protest and the problem of growing communalisation are the principal challenges the country faces today. A journalist needs nerves of steel and tremendous courage to continue to ask questions,” senior journalist and founding editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan, said.

Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire has also been targeted. Credit: The Wire

Siddharth Varadarajan, foundering editor of The Wire has also been targeted. Credit: The Wire

Like many others, Varadarajan, too, was punished for speaking out, and court cases are filed against him. Many journalists are booked for sedition to intimidate those scribes who refuse to toe the line of people in power.

The problem is that mainstream media has stopped questioning the government. Public interest is no longer on the mind of the media. The purpose of mainstream journalists, nicknamed ‘godi’ media or ‘cozy’ journalism, is only to praise those in power.

The media has abrogated its responsibility of asking questions, and those journalists who question, like Mohammad Zubair (33), are put into jail. The arrest of journalist Zubair marks a new low for press freedom in India, where the government has created a hostile and unsafe environment for members of the press. Zubair was arrested because AltNews,  a fact-checking website he co-founded, frequently exposed claims made by the government, making him an obstacle to false propaganda. Zubair was arrested last June. He spent 23 days in prisons and police custody in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and was released on July 23, 2022, after the Supreme Court granted interim bail to him.

Soon after he had walked out of prison, Zubair told the national daily The Hindu that he thinks his arrest was made an example for others.

Zubair said that multiple First Information Reports (FIR) filed against him were a message from the government that it could book 10-15 random FIRs in different states to keep one in jail for years. Zubair was released after a Supreme Court ruling to grant him bail. The FIRs filed against Zubair are random and bizarre, like two FIRs in Uttar Pradesh are for fact-checking a media channel-which is his job. There is another FIR for calling an accused in a hate speech case a hate monger in a tweet!

Zubair happens to be a Muslim. Another Muslim journalist Sana Mattoo was prevented from flying abroad for a book release. To intimidate Zubair, money-laundering charges were filed against him. Maria Ressa, the Nobel Prize-winning journalist from the Philippines, said that she was shocked at the arrest of Zubair and human rights activist Teesta Setalvad. Ressa told a digital media reporter in India that all journalists should unite to oppose what has happened.

“Everyone should be talking about it; everyone should be writing about this,” said Ressa.

In a population of 1.4 billion people, 14 percent are Muslim, but the practice of majoritarian politics in recent times has made the ruling party increasingly intolerant of Muslim voices in the country. Kappan, a Muslim, was denied bail.

Millions of tweets are directed at journalist Rana Ayyub, another Muslim, making her one of the most brutally targeted journalists in the world.

Ayyub, an independent journalist and a Washington Post columnist, has used her social media heft and the global attention she receives to highlight the plight of Indian Muslims and the arrest of journalists in India. She was accused of money laundering and tax fraud related to her crowdfunding campaign to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Ayyub has denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations baseless. Early this year, the United Nations appointed independent rights experts issued a statement calling Indian authorities to stop the systematic harassment against Ayyub.

“Relentless misogynistic and sectarian attacks online against journalist Rana Ayyub must be promptly and thoroughly investigated by the Indian authorities, and the judicial harassment against her brought to an end at once,” the statement said.

For the same reason, India ranks as one of the most dangerous and restrictive countries for journalists today. Despite its secular and democratic status, India is ranked 142nd in the Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

There are other ways to make journalists feel uncomfortable. Notices were sent to the Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) to vacate the accommodation allotted to them as their lease will soon end. A similar notice was also sent to South Asia’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Both organisations are Delhi based.

Shobhna Jain, President of IWPC, said, “It’s a routine procedural thing. The government is giving us renewals, and we are quite hopeful that this year too, we will get the lease renewed for a longer period”.

The IWPC is the country’s first association of women journalists, founded in 1994 as a support group to help women meet challenges unique to women. It was to ensure that women’s by-lines were respected and heard. Today more than 800 women are members of the IWPC who use the premises to network, access news sources, exchange information and share experiences to advance the profession. Located in the heart of New Delhi and equipped with a library and computer centre, the premises are a boon for journalists wanting to save time from commuting in the city.

Often children accompany the women journalist as she works while they play on the premises. Here press conferences are organised and exclusive interactions with newsmakers.

July this year was a terrible month for journalists around Asia.

On July 3, journalist Hasibur Rehman Rubel left his office in the Kushtia district in western Bangladesh, never to return. On July 7, his decomposed body was found in a river.

On July 7, Peer Muhammad Khan Kakar, a Pakistani journalist, was arrested in the Loralai district of southwest Balochistan on complaints related to his Facebook posts.

On the same day in July, Ressa’s prison sentence was increased by several months. A court in the Philippines affirmed the libel conviction of Ressa, Rappler’s head and co-founder.

Two days later, on July 9, members of a television team were attacked in Sri Lanka. The paramilitary police Special Task Force assaulted journalists reporting a protest in the capital city of Colombo.

The BBC reported that a video journalist in Colombo was allegedly punched by a member of the Sri Lankan army, his phone snatched, and footage deleted.

What is the solution to the vicious attack on journalists today? According to Varadrajan, it is unity amongst all media persons that can together fight the assault on the media and freedom of speech in the country.

Despite differences in political beliefs, scribes need to stand by each other today like never before. Varadrajan suggests building a team of lawyers to defend media persons in court.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Intellian Signs Multi-Year Partnership Agreement with Speedcast to Meet Accelerated Satellite Communications Demand

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea, Aug. 17, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Intellian, a leading provider of future–proof satellite communications technology solutions, has announced a multi–year partnership agreement with Speedcast, one of the world's largest satellite communications service providers. The multi–million–dollar agreement will enable Intellian and Speedcast to collaborate in serving multiple markets with future–proof satellite connectivity, including the maritime and energy sectors.

The partnership builds upon the success of the existing relationship between the two organizations in the energy, commercial maritime and cruise industries, and comes at a promising time for the industry, which has been experiencing a recent explosion in demand. As part of the agreement, Intellian will continue to provide equipment to Speedcast as a preferred supplier, ensuring delivery to meet customer needs, despite volatile supply chain constraints. Specifically, this equipment encompasses the full range of Intellian's maritime portfolio, from the C700 up to v240M/MT models, as well as LEO antenna systems and the inclusion of future land antennas, enabling Speedcast to serve every market. Additionally, Intellian will support continued equipment upgrades across Speedcast's existing customer sites.

Intellian's expanding product portfolio, from the industry–leading v240MT Tri–band antenna, NX Maritime VSAT Series to the recently announced range of Enterprise terminals, will enable Speedcast to meet increasing customer demand amidst growth in the satellite communications sector. The upcoming launch of another factory in Pyeongtaek, South Korea will boost production and supercharge capacity, enabling Intellian to deliver optimized logistics and warehousing capabilities to Speedcast.

The agreement comes on the heels of Speedcast's recent renewals with all of its major cruise customers and the expansion of its Unified Global Platform (UGP), with the addition of 13 Gbps of capacity to its network, in part to support European and Alaskan cruise requirements. Speedcast's platform now includes 30 Gbps of total bandwidth, which the company leverages in the design and deployment of complete managed connectivity solutions for customers across energy, passenger and commercial maritime, and enterprise markets.

Eric Sung, CEO and President at Intellian, commented: "Intellian is delighted to announce this strengthened partnership with Speedcast, building on an existing successful relationship. With Speedcast's global presence and expertise across multiple market sectors, this agreement signifies an important partnership for the industry. The collaboration will allow us to continue to provide innovative solutions and value to customers globally, addressing the burgeoning demand for satellite communications across the markets we serve."

Joe Spytek, CEO at Speedcast, shared: "Speedcast's industry–leading portfolio and extensive multi–technology terrestrial and offshore network are well–matched with Intellian's best–in–class technology solutions to serve our customers across the globe. We look forward to our continued collaboration, enabling the seamless delivery of critical connectivity solutions to meet the needs of our valued customers in all the markets we serve."

About Intellian Technologies, Inc.

Intellian is driven by a passion for innovation and an agile responsiveness to customer needs. As the crucial link between satellite networks and millions of people on Earth, Intellian's leading technology and antennas empower global connectivity across oceans and continents, organizations and communities. Strategic thinking, an obsession with quality and a proven ability to deliver enables Intellian to invent for the future, creating mutual success for partners and customers as the world's connectivity needs evolve. For more information, follow @intellian and visit Intellian Technologies Inc. is listed on the Korean Stock Exchange, KOSDAQ (189300:KS).

About Speedcast
Speedcast is a leading communications and IT services provider, delivering critical communications services to the Maritime, Energy, Mining, Media, Telecom, Cruise, NGO, Government, and Enterprise sectors. The company leverages its global network platform to provide fully connected systems that harness technologies and applications to transform what remote operations can achieve. With one of the world's most comprehensive networks, Speedcast enables faster, seamless pole–to–pole coverage from a global hybrid satellite, fiber, cellular, microwave, MPLS, and IP transport network with direct access to public cloud platforms. The company integrates differentiated technology offerings that provide smarter ways to communicate and distribute content, manage network and remote operations, protect and secure investments, and improve the crew and guest experience. With a passionate customer focus and a strong safety culture, Speedcast serves more than 3,200 customers in over 140 countries. Learn more at

Speedcast is a trademark and registered trademark. All other brand names, product names, or trademarks belong to their respective owners.

2022 Speedcast. All rights reserved.

Intellian Contact:
Stacey Nardozzi
Account Director at The Octopus Group

Speedcast Contact:
Alix Wright
SVP, Global Marketing and Communications

New medical school named American Canadian School of Medicine in Dominica to be operational by 2023

Roseau, Aug. 17, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The government of Dominica continues to make new investments in the education sector. The small Caribbean country is preparing its youngsters for the future by utilising technology to advance the sector. Dominica understands that education provides an individual with the knowledge and skills to adapt to the changing and evolving world.

The education sector is one of the key development pillars which Dominica is focussing on in order to achieve its plans for upliftment. Education is key to the growth and success of any nation and the government of Dominica recognises the significant impact it will have on the future of its people, especially its youth.

The journey thus far has included the construction of various schools, colleges and universities, equipped with modern facilities whose mandate is to provide quality education. While recently presenting the 1.3 billion dollar budget for the Fiscal Year 2022–2023 in the Parliament of Dominica, Prime Minister Dr Roosevelt Skerrit announced that the country planned to open a new medical school, named the American Canadian School of Medicine. The Prime Minister stated that the new medical school would be managed and operated at the campus of the Ross University in Picard, Portsmouth, by CSOM Holdings Limited.

He announced that the American Canadian School of Medicine will provide a 4–year Medical Degree (MD) and will be operational from September 2023 after several months of negotiations between the government and CSOM Holdings Limited. It will be a world–class university and will be headed by a team of experienced doctors from various universities in the United States of America. It is expected that students from across the globe, especially those from Canada, the USA and around the Caribbean, will consider pursuing their medical degrees at this new facility.

“The school will offer a four–year medical degree designed for students who have already completed a bachelor's degree. It will be run by an experienced team comprising doctors who have held positions at major universities in the United States, including a former vice president of operations at the Ross University School of Medicine,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

Prime Minister Skerrit urged Dominicans to prepare themselves for the opportunities which the return of a medical school to Portsmouth will create. There will be a demand for additional lab technicians, scrub technicians, nurses, other health care workers, pharmacists and ancillary and support personnel. The government is optimistic about the potential of this new school and its positive impact on Dominica, especially the people in the north.

While presenting the budget, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit also assured that the government of Dominica would continue to focus on the upliftment of the medical and healthcare sector by upgrading and installing new medical equipment. During the past fiscal year, the government had pursued several projects, including the repair of existing health centres and the implementation of the OECS regional health project which focuses on improving health facilities and strengthening health services, laboratories, public health surveillance and emergency management.

To date, the Citizenship by Investment programme has assisted the government in completing the construction of 12 new Health and Wellness Centres. The Dominica China Friendship Hospital is also nearing completion and the construction of the new Reginald Armour Hospital in Portsmouth will commence soon.

Dominica established its Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) in 1993 to provide socio–economic development assistance in the country. The programme has allowed the government to grant citizenship to investors who in turn bolster Dominica's economic development.

Alternative citizenship comes with various lifestyle and business opportunities, which include:

1. Dominica's alternative citizenship can be a Plan B in this uncertain world.

2. By becoming a Dominican citizen, you can become a global citizen.

3. Alternative citizenship of Dominica opens doors to expanding business globally.

4. Investors can plan their wealth and diversify their portfolios.

5. Dominican citizenship allows one to live in a peaceful, safe and secure environment.

The programme aims to boost foreign economic contributions to Dominica and help grow its economy. The programme will also contribute to meeting the demands of a modern and competitive global market. There are two options which investors can follow in order to obtain citizenship. They can make a donation towards major development projects in both the public and private sectors or invest in government–approved real estate.

Economic Diversification Fund (EDF): This investment option is popularly known as the Fund Option, which encourages the socio–economic development of the country. It supports the public sector and helps run social programmes in the country, including housing, education, agriculture, tourism and healthcare. The minimum investment for the main applicant is US$ 100,000.

Real Estate Investment Option: Under this option, the individual(s) must invest in a government–approved real estate property, including hotels, spas, and villas. The minimum investment for the main applicant is the US$ 200,000.

Saint Lucia government to uplift infrastructure through CIP-Funds

Castries, Aug. 17, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The government of Saint Lucia has been focusing on the development of more resilient and advanced public infrastructure to enhance the wellbeing of its citizens. The government has been modernising and redeveloping schools, healthcare centres, hospitals and housing along with creating employment for the locals of Saint Lucia.

The economy of a country requires reliable infrastructure to secure rapid economic growth. The Saint Lucia government realises the need and has been making sizeable investments and creating high–quality jobs to uplift overall living standards.

Infrastructure is undoubtedly the building block that makes the economy possible, shaping how the natives of Saint Lucia can move, communicate and earn a living. The government is making investments in strategic areas to increase social mobility, access to jobs, essential services, educational opportunities and ideas.

Making it their top priority, the government has been working with a new vision and with the newly elected government, led by Prime Minister Philip J Pierre at the helm, have been working hard to provide its people with better infrastructure. The government anticipates building and shaping a new, prosperous and resilient future with the help of the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).

Launched in 2016, the Citizenship by Investment Programme of Saint Lucia is the newest and most advanced programme in the Caribbean, providing alternative citizenship to high–net–worth investors (HNWIs). Apart from this, the CIP also helps the country in areas of upliftment and advancement. The Citizenship by Investment Programme plays an important role in building and creating a better future.

The government has assured residents and citizens of the country that they will see an increase in developed infrastructure in the upcoming years. The new government endeavours to utilise the funds generated through the programme to build new housing units, schools, hospitals and healthcare, wellness centres, roads, bridges, sports complexes and other projects of public interest.

The world came to a standstill during the COVID–19 pandemic and this in turn placed a spotlight on the need for strong and advanced health infrastructure to manage possible healthcare crises in the future. Saint Lucia has assured the general public that having a new, developed health sector equipped with modern amenities is a priority. The Ministry of Health and Wellness of the country is also taking urgent steps to strengthen the healthcare sector through the CIP of Saint Lucia.

The government of Saint Lucia has announced that part of these plans include the country building a new "smart" hospital with modern equipment and advanced treatment techniques. The hospital will be funded via the Citizenship by Investment Programme of Saint Lucia.

The health ministry of Saint Lucia also recently received a donation of equipment to enhance the healthcare facilities at St Jude Hospital. The hospital now has two significant pieces of medical equipment "" a haematology analyser and an immunoassay analyser, which will strengthen the delivery of diagnostic tests in the laboratory of the hospital. This was a significant donation by the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Jenny Daniel.

With the installation of new facilities and technology, the government and health ministry also provide training to the medical personnel concerned to enhance their knowledge and broaden their skills.

These upliftments, advancements and developments are either partially or fully funded by the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) of Saint Lucia. The country has been welcoming investors and their families to apply for alternative citizenship since 2016. Saint Lucia's Citizenship by Investment Programme has performed exceptionally well in the CBI Index 2021, a publication of the PWM Magazine of the Financial Times. The programme ranked four and topped three out of nice pillars of excellence, including minimum investment outlay, mandatory travel or residence and ease of processing.

Besides being one of the top choices for honeymooners and couples, Saint Lucia is also emerging as a choice for High Net Worth Individuals (HWNIs) across the globe for providing numerous business opportunities which will help in wealth planning and portfolio diversification. After witnessing global disasters and biological calamities, the world has become uncertain, and investors and individuals are looking to find a safe, stable and secure environment to spend their life. The CIP Programme of Saint Lucia meets all these requirements. Through this platform, the investors can explore new business opportunities, along with providing a secure future for their children.

An investor can apply for the alternative citizenship of Saint Lucia through the National Economic Fund Investment Option. The Economic Fund Option is popularly known as the Fund Option and contributes toward the socio–economic development of the country. The minimum investment under the Fund Option of Saint Lucia starts from USD 100,000.

The CIP is also known for being one of the most transparent in the industry, providing investors and applicants with an opportunity to access information on how funds are used. Another pillar which makes the CIP of Saint Lucia a strong candidate is its robust due–diligence procedures. The process is conducted by the CIP Unit of Saint Lucia and an independent third–party firm.

The Citizenship by Investment Programme is chosen by investors for the following reasons:

  • Makes an individual a global citizen
  • Assists the applicant in expanding business overseas and helps in portfolio diversification and wealth planning
  • Provides an opportunity to spend the rest of their life in a peaceful and safe environment
  • Offers citizenship for life to the investor, which can be passed on to future generations
  • It's a Plan B for the applicants and their families

The investor(s) can apply for the alternative citizenship of Saint Lucia by following the below–mentioned steps:

Step 1: Choose an Authorized Agent to process your application

Step 2: Complete the application

Step 3: Submit the application to the CIP Portal

Step 4: The documents and applications are then verified by the CIP Unit and undergo thorough due–diligence background checks

Step 5: The board takes the decision on the rejection or selection of the application

Step 6: The certificates are then handed over to the applicant

An Unexpected Treasure

Credit: SPC/Toga Raikoti

By External Source
Noumea, Aug 17 2022 (IPS-Partners)

When University of Arizona political economy professor, William Mishler needed Kiribati census and household income data for a project he was working on with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) he turned to the Pacific Data Hub (PDH) to access the microdata he needed.

The PDH is a central repository of data about the Pacific and from the Pacific. It is a collection of different data platforms and tools and a programme of work that encourages data sharing and access for increased transparency and evidence-based decision and policy making across the region.

The Pacific Data Hub – Microdata Library is one aspect of the PDH where microdata is preserved, cataloged and documented.

’Microdata’ refers to data that contain information about people, that has been anonymised but otherwise retains the detailed individual responses to the original survey, to reduce the risk of respondents being identified.

In the past, microdata from the Pacific has been difficult to access. Traditionally there has been a conservative approach to the release of microdata in the region however, through the PDH’s work this is changing and a broad acceptance of the value of microdata for research, transparency and accountability is growing.

Central to this are government statisticians who oversee access to country microdata. It was thanks to Aritita Tekaieti, Republic Statistician in Kiribati, who saw the value in the request and released the microdata that enabled William to access the information he needed.

“Finding so much data on this small island country accessible in a single place and so well documented has been an unexpected treasure”, said William when we caught up with him to discuss his work and the role data plays in it.

Thanks for your time William, can you tell us a bit about your background and work?

My academic research traditionally has been focused on citizen participation and representation in the policy process as part of a more general concern with promoting democracy and democratization.

Virtually all my work over the years relies heavily on rigorous statistical analyses of survey research, which, when done well, is one of the best ways to understand public opinion and one of the best, as well, to give voice to otherwise voiceless people. I see public opinion surveys as fundamental tools for democracy. Indeed, I was co-founder and director for the better part of two decades of the New Democracy Barometer, a bi-annual survey conducted in ten Central and Eastern European Countries during the early years of their post-communist economic and political transitions. I also was co-director of the New Russia Barometer tracking public opinion in Russia from 1991 through 2012.

Parallel to my academic work, I have worked for many years as a consultant to a variety of Non-Profits working with USAID and, more recently, to the Millennium Challenge Corporation on projects promoting both democracy and economic development. It is my work with MCC on promoting productive employment in Kiribati that has prompted my interest with data on Pacific Island Countries in general and Kiribati in particular.

What role does data play in the work that you do?

MCC, and specifically the Gender and Social Inclusion Team at MCC, for whom I work directly, are committed to using data driven research to identify the constraints to private investment and entrepreneurship that are the most binding on inclusive economic growth in the country. In addition to macro-economic data on the economy of the countries in which MCC works, we also rely heavily on survey research and other individual-level data to help us understand how macro-economic forces impact individuals and sub-groups in society, especially those who are economically most at risk and traditionally have been marginalized and neglected.

In Kiribati, surveys not only allow us to assess the economic situations confronted by women and youth, but they also enable assessments of the economic and social forces affecting different islands and villages.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in accessing data on the Pacific?

Being new to research on PICT countries, I, personally, have been pleasantly surprised by how much survey data is available for Kiribati and other Pacific countries. Our work to date in Kiribati has used a variety of surveys including both the 2010, 2015 and preliminary 2020 Census data, but also the 2006 and 2019 Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (including the Village Resources Module of the 2019 HIES), the 2018-2019 Social Development Indicator Survey (MICS6), and the Transparency International 2021 Pacific Global Corruption Barometer.

There have been relatively few challenges to accessing these data. The Kiribati National Statistics Office and the Pacific Data Hub have been extremely generous in providing access to the data they have collected or archived. The data portals are well organized and well documented. The steps for gaining permission to access the data are clear and easy to follow. And the approval process has been fast and uniformly positive. Even data listed as “unavailable” has been made available.

The only limitation to the data that MCC has encountered is the difficulty experienced, in some data sets, of identifying respondent’s islands and villages. These have been anonymized in some surveys for the very good reason of protecting the identities of respondents who might otherwise be easily be identified in small islands and villages by virtual of a respondent’s age, family size, and position, etc. This limitation, however, has proved of minimum importance, however, since most analysis are focused on Island Groups and not specific islands other than South Tarawa, which is easily to identify from contextual data.

How are you using the Pacific Data Hub in your work?

MCC is using Pacific Hub data in combination with data from the World Bank, ILO, and other sources for a variety of purposes. First, the MCC country team for Kiribati is large and diverse, but few of its members have spent any substantial time in country or had any detailed knowledge about the country’s economy or society before starting this project. Moreover, the current international pandemic has made travel to Kiribati all but impossible. Pacific Data Hub data thus provided many of us our first opportunity to become familiar with the country, to “meet” its citizens, and to begin to understand the parameters of daily life on the islands.

Second, the data have allowed us to undertake a variety of more focused analyses of economic life on the islands: who is employed or in in search of employment, in what occupations, with what income and benefits. What limits productive employment for women and youth as well as men? How does household production, fit into the economic situation? How much do households rely on overseas remittances including international labor migration.

Third, the data are being used to test a variety of hypotheses generated by our conversations with Kiribati government officials, NGO leaders, and other Donor groups regarding the root causes of the constraints to private investment and entrepreneurship that have been identified in the country. All of this is intended to ensure that any programs MCC develops in cooperation with the Kiribati government is based on the best possible data we can assemble.

The Pacific Data Hub (PDH), is a central repository of data about the Pacific and from the Pacific. The platform serves as a gateway to the most comprehensive collection of data and information about the Pacific across key areas including population statistics, fisheries science, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and resilience, public health surveillance, conservation of plant genetic resources for food security and human rights.

Global Public Investment: Time to Build the Movement Now

By David McCoy
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug 17 2022 – Global Public Investment. A short and simple phrase. But one that means so much.

At its most basic, GPI means public money being used to invest in goods and services that are of global benefit. There is no shortage of goods and services that need GPI, whether they be used to prevent or respond to environmental catastrophe, international war and conflict, or the next pandemic.

We live on a single, small and fragile planet and greater levels of GPI are needed to help us look after our planet; and invest in the global institutions and services needed to provide security and health for all.

This is why over the last few years a group of committed individuals and organizations have worked to establish new ideas and thinking around GPI. Following an extensive period of consultation and discussion, an Expert Working Group has just produced a report on how we make GPI a reality.

The report describes the need for GPI, and how governments may contribute and participate in the governance and effective use of public finance for the common good.

Importantly, GPI offers a new model of development finance that can replace the ineffective and colonial forms of donor aid with an approach that is based on true multilateralism, fairness and shared benefit. Central to the idea of GPI is a simple slogan: all contribute, all benefit, all decide.

Nothing perhaps illustrates the need for GPI than the new fund being created to finance pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The fund, to be managed by the World Bank, has been built to fail according to many experts because of structural flaws that consolidate decision-making power in the hands of a small group of wealthy nations and philanthropies.

The English-language launch of the Expert Working Group’s report on July 27th took the form of a brief presentation of the history and principles of GPI followed by a three-woman panel discussion. Helen Clark (former prime minister of New Zealand), Jayati Ghosh (Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts) and Marianna Mazzucato (Professor of the Economics of Innovation and Public Value) each spoke to the relevance of GPI.

Importantly, the panel noted that for the GPI funding model to work, it must be accompanied by other political and economic efforts. These include restoring and rebuilding the status and capabilities of public departments and institutions after decades of neoliberal attacks on the public sector as well as ‘in-sourcing’ critical public functions that have been commercialized and privatised.

The panel also noted the need to rise to the political challenge of reforming the financial system so that enough public funding can be generated and so that we can better redistribute wealth across society.

This will require, among other things, an end to the tax abuses perpetrated or enabled by trans-national corporations, banks, accountancy firms and corrupt officials.

While the panel focused its discussion on GPI, the broader financialization of society and the role of private finance was not neglected. Indeed, it was argued that private finance needs to be part of the solution to meeting society’s needs. But equally, laws and regulations are needed to stop the social and environmental caused by the rapacious, short-term and unregulated flows of private finance capital that have grown over the past few decades.

It’s clear that transformative and structural social, political and economic is needed if we are to succeed in rescuing the planet, democracy and civilization from further degradation.

Is GPI one element of the new social, political and economic structural settlement that we need? I think it is. But see for yourself.

Professor Dr David McCoy is a public health doctor and currently a Research Lead at the UN University International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH). Follow him on Twitter @dcmccoy11.

IPS UN Bureau


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