MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russia –
Source: IMF – News in Russian
(photo: Melba-agefotostock-Newscom)David Липтон26 Feb 2020 Visit to any school located in Africa South of the Sahara, offers a hopeful picture of the future, but nevertheless serves as a reminder of the difficulties on the path to achieve that future. This duality is clearly evident during my last trip to Sierra Leone and Niger.In Sierra Leone the classroom of a municipal school Regent square are examples of large-scale state program of free, quality education which aims to develop the most valuable resource — its children. Despite the diligence and zeal of the students, the educational process in Sierra Leone is impeded by overcrowded classrooms, most teachers, not having the sufficient training and lack of teaching materials.Meanwhile, in Niger, changes also cause a lot of enthusiasm. At the research center on the edge of the desert in the Sahel, scientists are developing high-tech solutions for malaria control and climate change. But just a few miles away, students of all ages learn in the school houses of straw, where there are chalkboards, but almost no textbooks.
Education and technology as the driving force for change Despite the difficulties, the most impressive thing was the attention paid to education as a factor of change and the willingness to use technology to achieve this goal. This picture gives hope for the future, especially if these countries manage to find new domestic and foreign sources of financing, as well as be creative in using technology to overcome resource shortages. Sierra Leone embarked on a recovery path in 2002, after a decade of civil war. At that time, a debt of $ 1.6 billion was written off, and the development of rich iron ore deposits resumed in the country. Then, in 2014, against the backdrop of a collapse in world commodity prices, the Ebola epidemic broke out, which had catastrophic consequences for Sierra Leone and its neighboring Guinea and Liberia. Residents of the country now have to catch up. Today, an ambitious state development program is aimed at investing in infrastructure and human capital. A key element of the plan will be technology; for example, it is envisaged to use digitalization to evaluate the results of the educational process. David Moinina Senge, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Secondary Education (also a senior innovation official in the government) is one of Africa’s leading intellectuals. After receiving his doctorate at MIT, he led research in the field of artificial intelligence at IBM, and is currently responsible for education, which is of paramount importance in a country where more than 40 percent of the population is under 15 years old. Investing in the future Investing in children and their education lies in based on the national development plan of Sierra Leone and promises to increase GDP by 40 percent in the coming decades, reducing income inequality. In a country where GDP per capita is just over $ 500 and more than half of the population lives in poverty, this can make a big difference. But where can I get funds for investment? One of the key tasks is a balanced increase in taxes and an increase in the efficiency of government spending. In both cases, it will be necessary to improve the efficiency of public administration (which includes the fight against corruption). This is also one of the areas of cooperation between the IMF and Sierra Leone, which provides training and other specific support in areas such as revenue mobilization and tax control. It is noteworthy that some of these problems in Sierra Leone are solved with the help of new technological solutions made possible by the use of AI and machine learning. During the crisis caused by the Ebola, the international community has stepped up support, but in recent years the level of assistance has not reached the previous levels. So, for a decade after the end of civil conflicts, Rwanda and Mozambique received assistance in the form of grants, which amounted to about 8–9 percent of GDP. But in Sierra Leone, such aid today has fallen to 2–3 percent of GDP. The problems facing the Niger The Niger also has to solve the most acute problems. In recent years, there has been active growth, and in 2022 it is planned to begin exporting crude oil. But at the highest population growth rates in the world (3.8 percent, more than 7 children per mother and with high child mortality), the priority is to develop an emerging private sector and create jobs. Moreover, Niger has to deal with two existential threats – This is a military conflict and climate change. The neighboring countries of the Sahel are also affected by these problems. Armed conflict in Niger is increasingly being brought across the border by terrorist groups from Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. In economic terms, for a country whose resources are already depleted, the need for high security costs complicates the management of public finances, preventing the allocation of funds for the development of Niger. For Niger, a predominantly agricultural country with little annual rainfall, climate change represents permanent danger. As the temperature in the Sahel rises 1.5 times faster than the global average, there is an uneven rainfall and a shorter rainy season. According to UN estimates, 80 percent of Sahel’s farmland has degraded. Armed conflict and climate change should be on the agenda of advanced economies that are worried about rising terrorism in North Africa and the influx of migrants from the region. Economic development and security, especially in Europe, are shared by common interests. From aspirations for reality One cannot expect countries such as Niger and Sierra Leone to cope on their own. The UN’s sustainable development goals depend on mobilizing domestic and international resources to achieve the highest benchmarks set by the international community. It is enough to visit the localities to understand how strong the aspirations are and how important each step forward can be. With the availability of additional resources, these countries will be able to achieve even more and realize their aspirations. ***** David Lipton has been IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director since 2011. Prior to joining the IMF, he was President Clinton’s special assistant and served as senior director of international economic affairs at the National Economic Council and the White House National Security Council. He also served in the Clinton administration – first as an assistant minister, and then as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. Prior to that, he was managing director at Citi Bank, and has held senior positions at the global hedge fund Moore Capital Management and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was also a research fellow at the Scientific Center. Woodrow Wilson: From 1989 to 1992, Mr. Lipton, together with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who worked at Harvard University at that time, was the economic adviser to the governments of Russia, Poland and Slovenia during the transition to capitalism. Mr. Lipton has a doctorate and master’s degree from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation from Russian Language to English.