Afghan life expectancy has risen by 17 years since 2001.
February 13, 2014
THE NUMBERS: Afghan vital data from 2001 to 2012 -
|Life expectancy at birth||60 years in 2012|
|43 years in 2001|
|Child mortality rate||71 deaths per 1000 in 2012|
|257 deaths per 1000 in 2001|
|Maternal mortality rate||460 deaths per 1000 births in 2012|
|1300 deaths per 1000 births in 2001|
WHAT THEY MEAN:
As NATO’s International Security Assistance Force plans its withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer, the mood among American and other allied publics appears one more of disillusion than accomplishment. Understandable: A long mission is coming to an end, amid continuing violence and arguments between the U.S. and Afghan governments. A January release from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health provides a point of departure for a different and more positive perspective:
The official inaugural ceremony of Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital in the Darul Aman area took place on January 18, 2014 with the participation of H.E. Dr. Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health and H.E. Mr. Takao Makino, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. … Japan built the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital through its grant aide totalling USD 28 million. The hospital features an 80-bed facility for tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as a laboratory with state-of-the-art diagnostic technology such as digital X-ray machines. The hospital will also provide health services for outpatients. In Afghanistan, communicable diseases are leading causes of death. In particular, TB remains a serious threat. Afghanistan is one of the 22 countries worst affected by TB. It is estimated that 70,000 new TB cases are found each year, resulting in 20,000 casualties annually.
Here is a story is one of large challenges frankly admitted, generous aid from abroad, and problems once ignored now being slowly catalogued and addressed. It’s of course only one story, and the hospital’s future is yet to be seen. Figures compiled by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Telecommunications Union, and the WTO show that the hospital’s case is quite representative of Afghanistan’s national story:
Economic Growth: Afghanistan’s GDP has quintupled in the last 13 years, growing at 8 percent a year – the highest rate in the world at face value since 2008 – and rising in actual dollar terms from about $4 billion in 2001 to $20 billion now. Per capita income has more than doubled, from $700 to $1580. This is a complex story – least-developed country growth is always volatile, and in the Afghan case reflects aid, opium trade, and military spending as well as reviving town economies and border trade – but the IMF’s economic figures for Afghanistan now are typical of least-developed countries, rather than of failed-state disasters.
New Connections: According to the International Telecommunications Union’s database, no Afghans at all had Internet access or mobile phone subscriptions in 2001. The ITU is probably not quite right about this –Taliban officials certainly had mobile phones – but also likely gives a good picture of the isolation of Afghan life in 2001. As 2014 begins, the ITU reports 18 million Afghan mobile subscriptions and about 2 million Afghans using the Internet. Afghanistan’s trade with the world has grown less spectacularly than its communications, but nonetheless (setting aside opium) exports are up from $50 million to $370 million.
Longer Lives: Afghan life expectancy at birth has risen from 43 in 2001 to 60 years in 2012, the largest gain in the world since 2000. This reflects, above all, a cut in the child mortality rate from 257 deaths per 1000 children under five annually to 71, and in the maternal mortality rate from 1900 deaths per 100,000 births to 460.
All of this suggests a reasonably good story – and one reflected in most recent Asia Foundation public-opinion survey of Afghans, released in December. In this poll, 56 percent of the 9,300 respondents (in personal interviews) report the country on the ‘right track,’ up from 46 percent in 2011 and 52 percent in 2012; 74 percent view negotiations on political reconciliation favorably, and more than 70 percent feel their personal economic situation and the local availability of drinking water and education services have improved. Anxiety over violence and personal insecurity remain high – 19 percent report being threatened by political or criminal violence in the last year – as does unhappiness with corruption; on the other hand, views of national institutions are positive and provincial government slightly less so.
Back now to the ISAF and the western publics. Disillusion is understandable: a 13-year deployment, 3417 lives lost, a high expense, and an ambiguous future outlook, in which growth, improved education, and better health balance against a Taliban resilient enough to mount episodic offensives and terror attacks in much of the country. But this said, there is strong ground to view Afghanistan with a sense of achievement. As the ISAF soldiers return home this summer, they will be leaving a country vastly better than the one they found.
The International Security Assistance Force: http://www.isaf.nato.int/
And the Afghan Ministry of Defense, with an apt ‘Under Construction’ notice on the ‘Present Status of the Afghan National Army’ page: http://mod.gov.af/en
Views from -
The Obama administration, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes testimony on the transition, 12/2013: http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/the-transition-in-afghanistan
The Afghan public – The Asia Foundation’s 2013 survey of Afghan views on elections, violence, politics, public services, women’s education and more: http://asiafoundation.org/country/afghanistan/2013-poll.php
Aid and support -
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, with updates on polio eradication and an Afghan-Japanese collaboration on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis: http://moph.gov.af/en
New Zealand’s Bamiyan-based aid project, focused on education and health services: https://www.aid.govt.nz/where-we-work/afghanistan
ISAF looks at a girls-school project: http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/isaf-news-list/new-attitude-emerging-toward-girls-literacy.html
NGO GoodWeave on promoting traditional carpet and tapestry industry and fighting child labor: https://www.goodweave.org/index.php?pid=9401
The diplomats -
The Afghan Embassy in Washington: http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org/
And the U.S. Embassy in Kabul: http://kabul.usembassy.gov/
In Memoriam –
Over the 13 years of the deployment, ISAF members count 3417 deaths among soldiers from 29 countries. They include 2309 American soldiers and civilian ISAF employees, 447 British, 158 Canadians, 86 French, 54 Germans, 48 Italians, 43 Danes, 40 Australians, 38 Poles, 34 Spanish, 27 Georgians, 25 Dutch, 21 Romanians, 14 Turks, 11 New Zealanders; 10 Norwegians; 9 Estonians; 7 Hungarians; 5 from the Czech Republic and Sweden; 3 from Latvia and Slovakia; 2 from Jordan, Finland, and Portugal; and 1 from Albania, Belgium, Lithuania, and South Korea. Another 10 are unspecified ‘NATO’ casualties, whose nationalities have not yet been released. ISAF’s laconic weekly casualty reports: http://www.isaf.nato.int/article/casualty-report/index.php
An accounting by country: http://icasualties.org/oef/
And Wall Street Journal investigators look at casualty rates among Afghan National Army and police – no precise statistics exist – and estimate about 9,800 deaths between 2007 and 2012: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324665604579081193199072318
Ladies' tariff surcharge on underwear: ~50 cents.
February 11, 2014
THE NUMBERS: Average U.S. tariff rates* on men’s vs. women’s underwear –
* NTR rates, excluding the roughly 16 percent of total underwear imports arriving under free trade agreements and duty-free ‘preference’ programs. The figure is an average of the rates applied to all products.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
A correspondent in New England writes to us with an arresting query:
I came across an infographic on the net recently. [Note: the infographic is a chart pointing out that U.S. tariffs appear higher on women’s underwear than on men’s.] I’m hoping you can help me understand this. Are women taxed at a higher rate than men on these items? If so, how much does this add up to?
To these excellent questions there are direct answers: Yes, and about a half dollar for each pair of briefs. The facts –
1. Tariff rates: Underwear appears in sub-chapters 6107, 6108, 6207, 6208, and 6212 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. Together these five sub-chapters include 36 separate tariff “lines” for different varieties of underwear. The rates for items most directly comparable are as follows: women’s cotton panties are taxed at 7.6 percent and men’s cotton briefs at 7.4 percent; the analogous polyesters 14.9 percent for men and 15.6 percent for women; and silks, 0.9 percent for men and 2.1 percent for women. The highest-tariff products in the group are for women – the peak is 23.5 percent for corsets – while the tariff rate is the 0.9 percent for men’s silks noted above. By way of context, the ‘average’ U.S. tariff, using the WTO’s ‘simple mean’ calculation averaging all 10,771 tariff lines together, is 3.4 percent.
2. Tax revenue: How much money does this mean at the border? In 2013, women’s underwear brought $566 million in tariff revenue on $4.66 billion in imports, for an average rate of 12 percent. Men’s raised $76 million on $1.33 billion in imports, for a 5.7 percent average. The 20 Free Trade Agreement relationships and five developing-country tariff waiver programs offer both men and women a bit of help, but not really very much. In total they cover about $960 million worth of underwear – 16 percent of imports – the bulk of it $500 million in women’s underwear and $300 million in men’s arriving from Central America under the CAFTA. Taking out these products, which are tax-free for both, the average tariff rates are 14% on women’s underwear and 8% for men’s.
3. And the shopper: Last of all, we come to the cash-register and underwear drawer. Americans imported 600 million articles of men’s underwear in 2013. The $76 million tariff total implies an average border tax of 12 cents on each. The $566 million in tariff money from women’s underwear came from 2050 million articles of lingerie, so on average each got a 27.5 cent tax. Markups typically triple the price of a product from port to cash register, so the tariff system adds about 35 cents to the cost of each pair of men’s underwear, and a bit more than 80 cents to women’s. Thus the 50-cent ladies’ surcharge.
So our correspondent, if female, has a right to feel aggrieved. If male, a chance to smirk and high-five someone.
From the U.S. International Trade Commission, the tariff system – check Chapter 61, subchapters 6107 and 6108, and Chapter 62, subchapters 6207, 6208, and 6212 (which includes the quite high brassiere and corset rates) for underwear: http://hts.usitc.gov/
And the ITC’s Dataweb, allowing you to check import levels, tariff collection, and more: dataweb.usitc.gov
How tough is the tariff system on women? Actually a bit hard to tell, and underwear may be the most glaring case. In a few other products – overcoats, cotton dress shirts, some types of swim-suits – tariffs are higher on men’s goods. On the whole, the divergences seem more random than systemic, though probably with an overall tilt against women.
The underwear system does, however, highlight a fully systemic trade-regime bias against lower-income shoppers – in effect, one favoring Park Avenue and Rodeo Drive over East St. Louis, Worcester, Birmingham, or Cheyenne. This is because (a) home-goods tariffs bring in most of the money, and (b) they are almost invariably lots higher on cheap and simple things than on expensive luxuries. P.E. Director Ed Gresser explains in The Return of Pro-Shopper Populism, 2011: http://progressive-economy.org/2011/06/14/the-rebirth-of-pro-shopper-populism-affordable-shoes-outdoor-apparel-and-the-case-for-tariff-reform/
For brief background, two tables illustrate
|1. TOTAL REVENUE:||$31.1 billion|
|2. HOME GOODS||$15.9 billion|
|Luggage, wallets, purses||$1.3 billion|
|Towels, sheets, other home linens||$0.9 billion|
|Silverware & tableware||$0.2 billion|
|EVERYTHING ELSE PUT TOGETHER||$15.2 billion|
“Home Goods” imports totalled about $145 billion last year, which means the average tariff rate is about 11%. Imports of “Everything Else Put Together” – oil, cars, steel, computers, smart-phones, coffee, fish, TV sets, power-generation equipment, chemicals, etc. – came to $2,055 billion, and therefore got tariff rates averaging 0.7% percent.
II. TARIFFS ON LUXURIES VS. ON WORKING-CLASS PRODUCTS
A tax on clothes, shoes, and other necessities will be, in general, tougher on lower-income families because more of their disposable income goes to these things. The actual real-world tariff system is uniquely so, because – as with the underwear case – rates are much higher on cheap and simple things than on luxuries. Rather than trouble the reader with long calculations (see the “Pro-Shopper Populism” essay above), here are representative samples drawn from the clothes, shoes, accessories, and tableware rate schedules:
|Underwear, women’s silk:||2.9%|
|Underwear, women’s polyester||15.6%|
|Shoes, dress leather||8.5%|
|Shoes, cheap sneaker below $3/pair||48.0%|
|Drinking glass, cut crystal||3.0%|
|Drinking glass, under 25 cents||28.5%|
|Spoon, sterling silver||3.3%|
|Spoon, cheap stainless steel||14.0%|
|Man’s shirt, silk||0.9%|
|Man’s shirt, polyester||32.0%|
P.E. Release: P.E. Executive Director Ed Gresser named "Scholar in Residence" at USTR for Winter 2014
February 3, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 2, 2014 – The GlobalWorks Foundation is very pleased to announce that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has named ProgressiveEcononomy Executive Director Edward Gresser “Scholar in Residence” at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for a period beginning today and lasting until early spring 2014. He will focus on potential new trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and others.
“This appointment is a remarkable recognition of the impact ProgressiveEconomy has made on American trade policymaking in its first three years,” said Claude G.B. Fontheim, Chairman of the GlobalWorks Foundation, which is ProgressiveEconomy’s parent organization. “We are very proud that Ed has been chosen as USTR’s first Scholar in Residence in many years, and all the more so at such a critical moment for America’s trade agenda.”
ProgressiveEconomy’s major publication and programming will continue as usual during Gresser’s work with USTR. As part of this programming, ProgressiveEconomy will continue to engage Members of Congress and their staffs, Executive Branch trade officials, and other thought leaders. In addition, the Trade Fact of the Week series, which Gresser normally edits, will also be published at minimum on a biweekly basis. Given the appointment’s limited duration, ProgressiveEconomy will not be appointing an interim Director.
== 30 ==
21st-Century Trade Policy: The Internet and the Next Generation’s Global Economy
January 31, 2014
“… We expect to break new ground, to create a true 21st century trade agreement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) I intend to negotiate and conclude will reflect U.S. priorities and values, enhance American competitiveness, and generate job-creating opportunities for American businesses and workers.” – Former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, announcing the U.S.’ decision to join the TPP, May 2009.
Ambassador Kirk’s vaguely mysterious phrase – “21st-century trade agreement” – implies two things: That there is something different about trade in the 21st century, and that policy needs to evolve in response. The concept’s meaning, however, has never been entirely clear. Trade itself tends to grow over time, agreements become incrementally more complex – but this has been going on for many years. But Kirk was correct to suggest that there has also been a more abrupt change in trade: the sudden emergence of the Internet as a pathway for trade in services, for small-scale business, logistics and supply-chain management, arts and media, and more.
This change does require policy to adapt and to take on some new missions. The TPP agreement is moving toward a likely conclusion this spring, and Congress has begun a discussion of Trade Promotion Authority. As both proceed, the question the uniquely ‘21st-century’ aspects of policy can help answer is about the nature of the global economy of 2030: perhaps one in which the Internet helps create a more affluent, more pluralistic, and more humane global economy; or, alternatively, one in which the digital world fragments, thickens, and ultimately comes to mirror the divisions of the physical world.
The full paper is available in pdf here:
Testimony to the International Trade Commission: AGOA at 14
January 16, 2014
AGOA AT 14: SUCCESSES, FAILURES, AND NEXT STEPS
U.S. International Trade Commission
January 14, 2014
Thank you very much for this opportunity to testify before the Commission on behalf of ProgressiveEconomy. By way of introduction, ProgressiveEconomy is a trade and global-economy research program based at the GlobalWorks Foundation in Washington, a non-profit 501(c)(3). The full written version of my testimony is available at the following link:
Let me summarize the findings briefly.
1. AGOA is a central element of both U.S.-Africa economic relations, and the broader African policy developed through the last three administrations. It should be renewed in a timely fashion.
2. AGOA’s market access provisions in clothing and manufacturing, however, have yielded less benefit than I think is commonly recognized; the enhanced dialogues, Trade Hubs, and other features meant to increase awareness of U.S. market opportunities and policy rules have probably done more.
3. The greatest current challenge to Africa’s ability to take full advantage of global market opportunities is a remaining weakness in infrastructure and trade logistics. While a next-generation AGOA program can usefully do more in market access, its main focus should be on trade facilitation and capacity-building.
AFRICA & U.S. AFRICAN POLICY, 2000-2013
I will begin by noting that fundamentally, the years since the passage of AGOA have been good ones for Africa. A comment from President Clinton at the time, drawn from his March 1999 address to the Conference on U.S.-Africa Partnership is very striking to re-read today:
Ten years from now, we want to see more growth rates above 5 percent. A generation from now, we want to see a larger middle class, more jobs and consumers, more African exports, thriving schools filled with children—boys and girls—with high expectations and a reasonable chance of fulfilling them.
A little more than ten years later, and not quite a generation later, all those things have happened. To match these hopes against some figures, Africa’s growth has averaged 5.6 percent since 2000. This has doubled continental GDP in real dollars, raising PPP-basis per capita income from $1390 to $2550, expanding the continent’s middle class from 175 million to 300 million, and reducing the absolute poverty rate from 58 percent in 1999 to 49 percent by the last measurement in 2010 and a likely 42 percent in 2015. Trade has played an important part in this evolution, with African exports up from $93 billion to $430 billion. And primary-school completion rates are up from 58 percent to 73 percent for boys, and 48 percent to 66 percent for girls.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act has made a contribution to this remarkable record, as a pillar of a broadly supported, non-partisan U.S. African policy joining trade and investment promotion with support for the continent’s fight against HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Feed the Future and other innovations of the past three administrations.
The next version of AGOA can build on this record. I believe it should be renewed with benefits extended for 15 years or permanently.
This said, AGOA’s successes seem to me often somewhat misunderstood, and there are important areas where it has brought less results than we hoped . In particular, the successes seem too heavily attributed to the program’s market access benefits, and too little to its convening powers and ability to bring better information about the U.S. market to African businesses and governments. Some of the most striking examples appear in products – Ethiopian birdseed, shea butter, and others – which are not tariffed at all. On the other hand, the effects of the additional market access appear to be concentrated in automotive industry, while the clothing program viewed as a centerpiece of the program in 2000 has produced only modest results, and perhaps had some perverse effects.
We are now approaching a decade likely to pose more challenges for Africa than did the last – commodity prices are down, the U.S. becoming more self-sufficient in energy, and Chinese growth rates fading a bit – and in which Africa will likely need to rely more heavily on domestic demand and exports of value-added good than it has since 2000.
The next version of AGOA should thus focus on areas that the first generation missed. This in particular should be trade facilitation. High port costs and slow delivery times, averaging $1,010 per exported container and 26-day deliver from the African littoral countries, as opposed (for example) to $440 and 16 days from Southeast Asia’s maritime states, continue to place African light manufacturing, processed food, and other labor-intensive value-added goods at disadvantages relative to competing regions. The WTO’s new Trade Facilitation Agreement, in which 38 African WTO member are participants, offers a unique chance to address these problems through capacity-building and enhanced U.S.-African partnership – in effect, the agenda “not for Africa, or about Africa, but with Africa” that President Clinton envisioned as AGOA began its life in 2000.
Thank you very much. The full version of our testimony is available at