Stories from Quick Reads and Governance
Iranian judiciary has set a one-month deadline for Hassan Rohani's government to block or to control messaging applications Viber, WhatsApp and TangoMe.
— Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) September 20, 2014
As the Trinidad and Tobago government, in anticipation of national elections next year, serves up a massive budget, two political bloggers take the country's leaders to task.
Afra Raymond, whose blog keeps a close eye on politics, corruption and transparency, provided some disturbing financial context:
The Minister of Finance has just met cynical expectations by announcing Trinidad & Tobago’s largest-ever budget for 2015, with estimated revenue of $60.351 Billion in support of estimated expenditure of $64.664 Billion. This expenditure is $4.313 Billion more than the expected revenue, with 2015 being the sixth consecutive year of deficit budgets with a nominal total of just under $34 Billion in excess expenditure in that period.
While Raymond was not surprised at the “high-stakes election budget”, he maintained that there were a few key issues to be considered – the importance of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property law being passed, the government's exclusion of a billion dollar water recycling project in the country's accounts, continued ambiguity about the specific output of the state housing programme and the issue of campaign finance reform, to name a few.
Over at This Beach Called Life, the blogger had additional concerns, such as the intolerable traffic situation between south and north Trinidad (most corporate offices and state agencies are concentrated in the island's capital, Port of Spain, with nothing being done to alleviate the problem), as well as the government's latest controversial crime-fighting gimmick, the purchase of armoured vehicles that has been one of the hot topics of discussion on social media, with many netizens getting the sense that the concept of community policing has been traded for an approach that could potentially endanger civilians. The blogger summed up the situation this way:
Naturally, Kamla’s [Persad-Bissessar, the Prime Minister] amusing and often childish sounding chant ‘serve the people, serve the people, serve the people’ can no longer be heard as the Government buys fifty two armored vehicles to ‘blow up the people’ should they step out of line. Are we a nation on the verge of revolt?
Yes, a revolt might be near simply because when the Government [...] removes the unsustainable subsides on gasoline, water, electricity [...] all hell will break loose in paradise and whether party financiers get their contracts and the appropriate kickbacks paid will be the least of the Government’s concerns.
As the UN launchs its peace keeping mission with the arrival of 1,500 troops in the Central African Republic (CAR), a few observers were wondering why it took so long given the extent of the casualties. Les Cercles nationaux de Réflexion sur la Jeunesse (CNRJ) is an NGO in Bangui, CAR that strives to build the foundation for sustainable peace in the country in partnership with the University of Bangui. Here is a video that illustrates the work in process :
Hu Yong, associate professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication, explained the issue at stake regarding China's latest regulations on instant messaging tools on Chinafile. The regulations forbidden public account holders, except from registered media organizations accounts, to republish articles on current events. The result is a highly selective enforcement of law as any comment can fall under the category of “news commentary”.
There are about 105 cities listed in all of Madagascar. The Minister of Energy Fienena Richard recently announced that 80 cities of Madagascar are curently deprived of electricity because JIRAMA, the public company in charge of providing electricity across the territory is running short on fuel. As a result, JIRAMA has to pick and choose the cities that will receive electricity. That is close to 75% of all cities in the nation, a ratio that would be unfathomable in most countries of the world. The JIRAMA company is also plagued by the threat of a general strike from employees who demand more safety measures against angry customers. One those unhappy customers was the Malagasy president himself who threatened to sue the company after an electrical malfunction at his home. Blogger Andriamihaja in Tulear (South East of Madagascar) wrote a humorous open letter to the company picturing life without power outage in his town.
The Press Union of Liberia is concerned about the threat to freedom of information as a result of the actions taken by the government to limit the expansion of the Ebola virus. The union wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice to draw his attention to the challenges media workers are currently facing. Here is an excerpt of the letter:
The Press Union of Liberia’s attention is specifically drawn to several circumstances that do not only restrain journalists in their obligation to seek out and share useful news and information with the public, but significantly threaten even media participation in the global fight against Ebola. By all accounts, the media space in Liberia has been a significant partner in the fight to strengthen awareness in our society about the impact and challenges of the epidemic. Notwithstanding the loss of revenue due to the emergency nature of the epidemic and the effect on general life, the media has remained committed to this fight. Unfortunately, several actions against media by government actors, especially during these times, have simply given room to growing skepticism about the disease, and further exacerbating the denials within the community. We think this is unfair and improper.
Someone sure wanted people to know that he was thankful for Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé generosity. This week, a giant billboard was raised in Lomé, Togo that praised the president's action in favor of providing lunch for school children. The billboard seen below reads in french :” Thanks Daddy Faure for the children's school lunch“. Togolese citizens were taken aback by the message and its exuberance. They took to twitter to poke fun at the Billboard and create the hashtag #merciPapaFaure (Thank you Daddy Faure).
— Kelly Adediha (@KellyGeek) September 11, 2014
OK, how about some fun with the hashtag #mercipapaFaure ?
The photo above has been shared widely on twitter. Adzima provides some background on the state of the affair for the Togolese children at school.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was a commission of inquiry mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances which led to the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. After an 18-month inquiry, the commission submitted its report to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa almost three years ago, on 15 November 2011. The Sri Lankan citizen journalism website Groundviews recently posted an infographic released by Center For Policy Alternatives, a think tank, showing the slow progress of implementing the LLRC's recommendations.
It is noteworthy how Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe in March 2013 claimed that 99% of the LLRC Action Plan had been implemented, with President Rajapaksa claiming in May 2014 that only 30% had been implemented. These discrepancies highlight the lack of clarity across the GoSL [Government of Sri Lanka] on reconciliation efforts.
Trinidad and Tobago's Finance Minister yesterday delivered what many are calling a “welfare budget”, but prior to its unveiling in Parliament, blogger Afra Raymond had hoped that “a more restrained approach might be taken.”
In examining the country's national budgets since 2005, Raymond found it telling that “many of the key issues identified a full decade ago are still at the fore of the more recent budgets.” There have been recurring themes: the need for economic diversification, better infrastructure, more effective crime fighting and tactics to help reduce the incidence white-collar crime. The figures revealed a tendency towards increased expenditure, with only occasional surpluses, leading him to conclude:
The reality that we are on the verge of a national election which is sure to be strongly-contested, leaves me in little doubt that the 2015 budget is also likely to be a deficit budget, with the State spending more than it earns.
Making the point that “the extent to which our Treasury is protected from being plundered by criminal elements is a serious question which should concern every citizen”, the blogger notes that adding insult to injury is the fact that corruption goes virtually unpunished in the country.
But how to stem the tide? Raymond is convinced that passing the long overdue Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Bill “would play an important part in greatly reducing the scope for waste and theft of Public Money.”
Iran held the first annual Persian ICT week conference in Tehran's Ijlas center between August 30-31, 2014. The two day conference was a cooperative effort between Iran's ICT Guild Organization and the Arab ICT Organization. The theme of the conference was entitled, “Internet for Economic Growth,” and panels were held over the two days discussing youth using social media, the ICT industry post-sanctions in Iran, and the role of government in Internet development.
Many users followed the event on both Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #PersianICTWeek in English, and #هفته_فناوری_اطلاعات_و_ارتباطات_پارسیزبانان in Persian. Government representatives from many countries including Malaysia, Qatar and Lebanon were present at the event.
In a meeting that followed the event, Iran's Minister of ICT Mahmoud Vaezi and his Qatari counterpart Khatem Hesam Jabar, met to discuss cooperation between the two governments in developing both nation's ICT industry. According to Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, the minister wished to share with Qatar the merits of Iran's new national information network, a project that endeavours to create a countrywide network of websites assigned to domestic IP addresses, separate from the worldwide web. Many Iranian figures have suggested this will aid in the development of domestic ICT infrastructure and economy. Vaezi stated achievements were made in electronic banking, cyber security and information technology, and explained the network was one of the best ways forward in the new youth dominated Internet culture.
A large portion of the conference was focused on how Iranian youth were engaging in entrepreneurship within Iran's ICT sector, and the government's support of knowledge based industries amongst this new generation. This event preceded President Hassan Rouhani's September 1 televised speech, declaring the importance of the Internet for Iran's youth.