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Iraq corruption menaces both average citizens and outside investors

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While Iraqi forces are still undertaking the slow, grueling effort to defeat the last vestiges of the Islamic State (IS), and 1.8 million people remain displaced, an equally important and perhaps even more complex political and humanitarian challenge is looming over Iraq. That challenge? Iraq’s egregious levels of corruption, which have poisoned the fundamental relationship between the Iraqi state and its citizens.

As protesters in Iraq’s southern port city of Basra made clear last year, corruption in their country does not just mean acts of bribery, but an entire parasitic “looting machine” that extracts resources and deliver nothing in return. Nor are everyday Iraqis the only ones at risk from the country’s endemic culture of graft, with some of the country’s largest investors – such as the French telecommunications giant Orange – seeing their investments expropriated and themselves kicked out of a market that nonetheless badly needs their support.

A parasitic relationship

The fundamental lack of credibility and legitimacy of Iraq’s official government institutions is at the center of the country’s myriad difficulties, from the government’s frighteningly incompetent attempts to fight off IS during the group’s initial onslaught in 2014 to the graft that seems to have permeated every link in the national bureaucracy.

Perhaps the best way to show the extent corruption impacts the governance of Iraq is to take a close look at one of the oft-touted “success stories” of post-war construction: the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdish region, often held up as a model for the rest of the country, is ruled as a fiefdom by powerful Barzani family, who recently gained an almost “monarchic” degree of control after two of its members, Masrour Barzani and Nechirvan Barzani, were recently respectively elected Prime Minister and President of the regional government.

When the Economist Intelligence Unit once claimed that corruption in the Kurdistan region is “not perceived” to be as bad as in the rest of Iraq, it pointed out this is a “small accolade given that Iraq is ranked 171/177 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.” A closer look reveals the only research suggesting the KRI is less corrupt seems to be a UN report that relies on asking civil servants how many bribes they are offered. If the results this study are to be believed, the percentage of civil servants being offered bribes in one of the most corrupt countries on Earth stands at only 4% in the KRI and 5% in Baghdad, percentages that fly in the fact of reality.

Orange shows no one is safe

One doesn’t need to depend on international statistics to see the depth of corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan. Last month, a deeply reported article in French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche explained how telecoms multinational Orange and its partner firm Agility, two of Iraq’s largest foreign investors, stand to lose more than $810 million and see themselves stripped of their shares in the Iraqi mobile operator Korek by the country’s telecommunications commission (CMC). While the regulators claim that Orange and its partner failed to “honor their commitments,” the companies insist they are being expropriated via a corrupt process.

The key detail in their accusation? The fact that Korek’s managing director is Sirwan Barzani, Nechirvan Barzani’s first cousin and a key figure in the aforementioned Barzani family. Sirwan Barzani, according to court filings from the companies, has misappropriated tens of millions of dollars from the firm through shady loans and self-dealing.

Allegations that Sirwan Barzani and his allies had managed to corrupt Iraq’s CMC were seemingly proven by the Financial Times last year, which discovered the chief executive of the regulatory body living in a London house that belonged to Barzani’s business partners. Over the weekend, the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) agreed to take up Agility’s claims against the Iraqi government.

Steep price to pay

Why would one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s most powerful figures manipulate regulatory officials to expropriate major investors? To prevent those investors, it seems, from exercising their options for full control over Korek. With other major companies like Germany’s Siemens and the US-based GE pursuing their own contractors to help Iraq rebuild and expand its highly inadequate infrastructure, the Korek expropriation could have a major chilling effect.

The fiasco surrounding the Barzani family’s willingness to expropriate one of the country’s most prominent investors also speaks to the sheer sense of immunity Iraqi leaders feel when it comes to taking the country’s wealth for their themselves. While the leadership of the KRI presents itself as a reliable partner for the West, the region’s economic statistics remain dismal despite years of outside aid.

Despite its oil wealth, the region faces both a recession and high unemployment – over 20% for those aged 18-34 and 69% among women under 24 – as well as rolling blackouts. Factional control over construction projects and government ministries, meanwhile, has left public education in Iraqi Kurdistan facing dire shortages of both schools and teachers. Of the KRI’s approximately 6,800 schools, it is estimated that 25% need to be demolished and fully half are in need of renovation. Paralyzed by political infighting, the regional government has not seen to any of these pressing needs.

While international companies like Orange enjoy access to outside recourse, ordinary Iraqis find they seemingly have no choice but to live with systematic corruption and unaccountability every day. Faced with such a bleak picture, and unless the governments ruling over Iraq fundamentally rethink their handling of the country’s resources, it is only a matter of time before the next great period of instability begins.

Samantha is a freshly minted graduate in International Relations based in Cairo, currently working as a research assistant in a small think tank looking at development and inequality in Africa

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Effective Investment in China: What Should Be Done When the Situation Gets Complicated?

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The current Chinese economy is facing a complex situation and is under unprecedented pressure to maintain steady economic growth. The growth was only 4.8% in the first quarter, making a poor start to 2022.

Domestic consumption has been in a slump for two years and is still lackluster in the first quarter of this year, with total retail sales of consumer goods growing by only 3.3% year-on-year (in the first quarter) and falling by 3.5% year-on-year in March. In terms of foreign trade, in the first quarter, imports and exports grew by 10.7%, exports by 13.4%, and imports by 7.5%. Compared with last year’s foreign trade data (in U.S. dollar terms), the growth of imports and exports slowed by 17 percentage points compared with the whole of last year, while exports slowed by 14.1 percentage points and imports significantly slowed by 20.5 percentage points.

With consumption and export growth slowing down, investment becomes an important means of stabilizing growth this year. In recent years, there has been a new concept of investment, known as “expanding effective investment”. Compared with the past investment that focused on scale and speed, to improve the effectiveness of investment is to pursue high-quality investment, which can also be seen as part of “high-quality development”. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the active expansion of effective investment is the focus of current macro policy, which will not only boost current demand and cope with downward pressure on the economy, but also help optimize the supply structure and promote high-quality development.

The NDRC called for targeted and effective investment, while resolutely avoiding indiscriminate investment. The state will appropriately advance infrastructure investment, and actively enhance water conservancy, transportation, energy, and other infrastructure construction. It will also strengthen the construction of new infrastructure and enhance the core competitiveness of the manufacturing industry. Additionally, it aims to improve the social and ecological environment, as well as urban infrastructure. The active expansion of effective investment does not mean blindly expanding projects or expanding infrastructure investment, nor imposing massive stimulus through large-scale infrastructure investment. Rather, it means focusing on key areas in economic and social development and carrying out targeted and orderly investment projects that benefit both immediate and long-term interests.

Yet government-driven investment still requires big projects. The NDRC put forward that 102 major projects in the 14th Five-Year Plan should be steadily promoted. In the view of the NDRC, the promotion of these projects is a major measure to actively expand effective investment. In addition, the expansion of effective investment also requires the market to play a major role in mobilizing social investment to participate. For example, within the more than RMB 50 trillion annual fixed-asset investment in China, government investment accounts for a very limited share, while nongovernmental investment accounts for the majority. Government investment plays a guiding role and arouses the proactiveness of social investment.

According to the researchers at ANBOUND, improving the effectiveness of investment starts with an understanding of effective investment itself, and how it can be differentiated in diverse situations.

What then, is an effective investment? As we have pointed out, effective investment is embodied in three aspects. First, it is economically effective. It would not be an investment for the sake of investment, nor to create a pile of debt and turn it into a dead-end project. Investment should be market-oriented, and should not be wholly invested by the state and government. Otherwise, it will cause a crowding-out effect on the private economy and foreign capital and is not conducive to giving full play to the guiding role of financial capital investment. Second, such an investment should be effective in innovation. There is no doubt that effective investment should reflect high-quality development as much as possible and give priority to innovation. In recent years, there has been a large amount of investment in semiconductor chips in China, but a lot of investment has resulted in hundreds of billions of yuan worth of dead-end projects, resulting in the most ineffective waste of investment. Third, it needs to be effective in improving people’s livelihood. Steady economic growth is closely related to the realization of common prosperity. To realize effective investment, the state needs to increase investment in projects related to public subsistence. Investment in the ecological environment, urban renewal, education, medical care, elderly care, and urban public services will all be encouraged.

In particular, under the current economic situation in China, it is impossible to expand effective investment by only undertaking large projects or investing in infrastructure, because such projects will not boost the economy in a broader way. When it comes to boosting effective investment, the policy objective cannot be focused solely on making economic data look good. In addition to the three types of effectiveness mentioned earlier, the following aspects should also be noted:

First, effective investment should be made in a wide range of areas, rather than allowing only a few areas to occupy too many resources. Second, the focus of this round of investment is to stabilize the economy, but stabilizing the economy is not the same as maintaining steady growth. Under the current circumstances, stabilizing the economy is more about ensuring people’s well-being. The investment to be stepped up in 2022 is a bottom-up investment for the macroeconomy, which focuses on ensuring livelihood, basic operation, and social stability. This is different from investments aimed at high growth. Third, the current situation of domestic investment in China should be divided into several stages, namely, stabilizing the economy (basic fundamentals), seeking growth (fundamentals of growth), and seeking development (fundamentals of future growth). In terms of investment priorities, the first one should be promoting consumption, ensuring employment, and guaranteeing the survival of small enterprises. This should then be followed by investments in urban renewal, agriculture, energy, social security, and key industries. Finally, there should be investments in major projects and industries, which are related to the long-term development of the country.

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The Belt and Road Initiative: Innovative Chinese Ideas for a New World Order

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One Belt, One Road is China’s largest infrastructure and investment project. China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy aims to develop economic and social linkages amongst the countries it passes through to revive the ancient Silk Road. Project covers 65% of global population and 40% of global GDP. China’s planned economy grew almost 10% each year from 1978 to 2014.

China initiated the initiative in 2013 to expand its exports and imports. Through this initiative, China seeks to establish trade and social links with other nations and economic blocs. This endeavor focuses on the expansion of the Chinese export markets through bilateral economic ties that will become strategic partnerships and alliances. The yuan is utilized as a trade currency, and one of China’s goals is to raise the rate of trade exchange in this currency, which will assist strengthen the yuan globally while reducing trade exchange costs and settlement times.

For the geopolitical axis, all maritime and land channels were planned to achieve additional geopolitical goals that may lead to future partnerships. More than 100 countries and international organizations have signed Belt and Road Initiative cooperation agreements and invested $5.4 billion in 28 projects in diverse countries. 4,000 rail links connecting China to Asian and European countries were also built. China and other countries have invested $70 billion.

This initiative comprises developing rail networks, oil and gas pipelines, power lines, the internet, and marine infrastructure.

This initiative includes the New Eurasian Land Bridge, The China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (CICPEC), China–Central Asia–West Asia Economic Corridor (CCAWEC), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM). China will contribute $126 billion if each participant pays for its own infrastructure. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Silk Road Fund give loans.

Half of its six Middle East lines travel through or end on the Mediterranean. China’s foreign policy is to stabilize the Middle East, which is known for wars and terrorism. European optimism and pessimism were split. Chinese funding thrilled Eastern and Central Europe. Germany, France, and many western European countries, especially northern ones, were suspicious.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a direct rival. China’s low interest rates are blamed for developing countries’ debt. In a scathing rebuttal to Trump’s protectionist policies, the Chinese president vowed to reject “protectionism.” All cooperation projects in the initiative would be guided by market principles, according to the Chinese president.

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All About Soybeans and the 5 Highest Soybean Producing Countries in the World

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Eating a balanced diet is one way to maintain health and a healthy lifestyle. The recommended balanced diet has a proportion of 4 healthy 5 perfect meals consisting of staple foods, side dishes, vegetables, fruit and milk or carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. Of the 5 compositions, the five components are easily found, including protein. The protein we consume can neutralize toxins in the body, help carry out the body’s metabolism and it can maintain fluids in body cavities (Ajeng, 2021). One type of protein that is most easily found in everyday life is food derived from processed soybeans. Soybean is one type of legume that contains protein so that it is used as a protein source that is easily found by the public. Soybeans are consumed in almost all countries in the world, although these countries do not produce soybeans independently but can export from other countries that are soybean producers. Each country has a unique product from soybean. For example, in Indonesia, soybeans are processed into tempeh, tofu, soy sauce and milk. While in Japan soybeans are processed into traditional foods natto, sauces such as miso and shoyu.

Due to the high demand for soybeans in each country, some countries are unable to meet the domestic supply of soybeans, so the option that can be done is to export soybeans from other countries. There are 5 countries that are known as the highest soybean producers in the world, the five countries are:

  1. Brazil

Brazil has the advantage that the climate and soil are very suitable for growing soybeans. So that the Brazilian government continues to expand the land used to increase soybean production every year. Based on World Atlas data, Brazil is listed as the largest soybean-producing country in the world with a total supply of soybeans produced reaching 124 million metric tons in 2019-2020 (Pratomo, 2022). And in 2020/2021 Brazil can hold 37% of world soybean production beating the United States (USA) which is in second position as the highest soybean producing country in the world.

  1. United States of America (USA)

The majority of farmers in America grow soybeans because the large land is supported by suitable climate. American soybean production reached 96.79 million metric tons.

  1. Argentina

Furthermore, the third country as the largest soybean supplier is Argentina. Soybean production reached 51 million metric tons. Argentina itself does not consume soybeans, soybean production is mostly imported and soybean commodities account for 31.8% of Argentina’s import income. Considering that soybean is Argentina’s main import commodity, the government has conducted a lot of research to increase its soybean production (Nur Aini, nd).

  1. China

The fourth position is held by China with soybean production reaching 19.6 million metric tons in 2020/2021. However, despite having a fairly high soybean production, China is also one of the importing countries for soybeans to meet domestic soybean needs.

  1. India

Then the last one in fifth position is India with soybean production reaching 11.9 million metric tons in November 2021. This puts India in the second largest position in Asia as well as contributing 3.9% of global production.

Soybean itself has 4 types, namely white soybeans, black soybeans, yellow soybeans and edamame. Each type of soybean has a function as a raw material for different processed products. Some examples of processed soybeans include: the first is tempeh, tempeh is one of the processed products from soybeans which is made through the process of fermenting a type of fungus in the process of making this tempeh, namely Rhizopus oligosporus. The process of making tempeh is initially carried out by boiling the soybeans for some time then soaking them overnight, adding yeast, packing them and letting them sit for + 48 hours. Tempe is a product that is sensitive to temperature, so in its manufacture it is necessary to pay attention to the amount of yeast added to the temperature. Then the second is tofu, tofu is made from soybeans that are soaked for + 6 hours and then mashed, filtered, the dregs are taken and the remaining water is boiled at a temperature of 70-80 °C then certain ingredients are added to produce a tofu precipitate so that the tofu can be pressed to reduce the water content in the tofu. Then the third is natto, natto is also a fermented product from soybeans. How to make natto, soybeans are washed and soaked for about 12-20 hours so that their size increases. Then the soybeans are steamed for 6 hours. If you use a press pot, the time can be less. The next stage, soybeans are mixed with Bacillus Subtilis bacteria. During this process, cleanliness must be maintained to avoid dirt and other bacteria. Then the mixture was fermented at a temperature of 40 °C for 24 hours. Then the natto is cooled for about a week until it forms fibers (Widya, 2017). And lastly, there is also processed drinking product from soybeans that is easily found in various countries, namely soy milk. Making soy milk is quite easy. First, soak the soybeans for 8 hours, wash and remove the skin. Then the clean soybeans are mashed, filtered and boiled over medium heat. During the boiling process, sugar, vanilla, or other flavors can be added according to taste. In addition to the four types of food and drink above, there are many other processed foods that can be made from soybeans. In fact, apart from being processed food that can be consumed by humans, soybeans can also be processed into animal feed and biodiesel.

With the many benefits that soybeans have as raw material for processed food and animal feed, it is hoped that in the future the soybean needs from every country can be fulfilled because it is estimated that soybean demand will always increase every year. With the proper handling process, it is hoped that in the future countries that can produce soybeans with good quality will emerge so that they can improve the economy of the country and meet the world’s supply of soybeans.

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