Premise: we must not forget that when we talk about migration we are actually talking about thousands of human lives–innocent children, women and men–that get lost every year in the pursuit of a normal life. The humanitarian aspect of migration in the Mediterranean is dramatic and should by itself be sufficient to allow EU countries to take unprecedented measures to curb this tragic reality. This is definitely what should have already driven EU countries to put forward a long-term plan. The incapacity or political unwillingness from certain member states to come up with a solution has been, however, evident so far.
The issue of migration flows is the next imminent threat to the unity of the EU. Considering that the number of attempts to cross the Mediterranean multiply over the summer period, the crisis requires an immediate resolution.
It’s the time for a political turning point. The best way to demonstrate the relevance of the EU in face of Brexit is to push for a courageous Migration Compact à l’italienne rather than the watered-down version that came of out of the Commission.
If the EU comes out again with its renowned half-measures (at best) on the migration issue, it will be a further confirmation of its inability in decision-making, thereby reinforcing euroscepticism.
Immigration policies have played a crucial role on Brexit. The EU needs to show it is able to provide timely and courageous responses to those global challenges. This is the only way to demonstrate that “together we are stronger.” This may really be the last call to keep the EU together.
Political instability, wars, the spread of ISIS, climate change, failed states are all factors telling us that the magnitude of migration flows is not a contingency and we must expect such massive flows to be a constant for many years to come. In order to face such a long-term global challenge, the EU needs to show its unity.
Three main aspects are worth analyzing. The crux of the matter remains first and foremost political. There is a need to find a mechanism for co-responsibility with the other member States. This was the core message of the Italian proposition in the original text of the Migration Compact that called for a Eurobond, which would signal the shared responsibility in facing the crisis. Mario Giro, Italy’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has recently stated that “Italy is not ideologically attached to the idea of Eurobonds” and that “alternative measures are welcome” as long as the political message of mutual responsibility remains the same.
Second, the financial resources to be put on the table are the indicator of the political will to find a credible solution. The departure from Italy’s original Migration Compact is not a good sign. The New Migration Partnership Framework of the Commission replicates the same (ambiguous) “Investment Plan for Europe” scheme a.k.a Juncker Plan according to which an investment package of €60 billion would trigger and leverage (quite magically) investment in the “real economy” for €315 billion. The economic think tank Bruegel analyzed the Juncker Plan a year after the beginning of its implementation and noticed that: “since it got underway a year ago only €11.2 billion worth of projects have been approved, just over half of the target for the first year.”
It is, therefore, unclear how the New Migration Partnership Framework will actually benefit from “building on the experience of the successful Investment Plan for Europe.” In fact, the New Migration Partnership Framework announces resources for €3.1 billion for several African partners–against the €3 billion made available for Turkey alone in order to curb the contingency of the migration flows caused by the Syrian War–that are “expected to trigger total investments of up to €31 billion and the potential to increase to €62 billion.”
Vice Minister Giro is right in stressing the need of an holistic Europe-Africa agreement to create a win-win situation that focuses on investment in energy and infrastructure where European companies can play a key role as well as agri-business–a crucial area of development for the sustainable growth of the African continent and its security. In order to shape up a similar grand partnership, the real financial resources on the table have to be significantly increased.
The third important aspect of the departure from the Italian version of the Migration Compact is the re-emergence of the old-fashioned Western idea of providing financial resources with strings attached. African partners, instead, have to be empowered through co-ownership of the framework.
Imposing conditions to your counterpart is by definition not a partnership. Historically, this has been the approach included in the European aid policies. The “carrot and stick” approach evokes the paternalistic vision to provide funds in exchange of proof of performance–in this case the African partners’ ability to demonstrate to be able to curb the massive flows of migrants.
The effectiveness of the New Migration Partnership Framework is, however, extremely dubious when the mutual security of the EU and African counterparts is at stake. Moreover, it is not clear how long-term investment on strategic sectors such as energy and infrastructure could take place if the disbursement would be tied to periodic reviews.
The strongest answer in the aftermath of Brexit is implementing courageous policies instead of getting stuck with the usual techno-politics EU leaders got us used to so far. I hope the European leadership will surprise us with the necessary rush of pride and put the migration issue at the core of a new spirit of the EU.
All six foreign ministers of the founding members agreed on Saturday that Europe needs to do more to solve pressing issues like the migration crisis. The European Council that will take place tomorrow and Wednesday is the only golden opportunity to show the braveness that has been lacking to EU leaders for a long time now. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.
Tomorrow’s EU Summit will seal Greece’s fate in the Eurozone. As these lines are being written, Euclid Tsakalotos, my great friend, comrade and successor as Greece’s Finance Ministry is heading for a Eurogroup meeting that will determine whether a last ditch agreement between Greece and our creditors is reached and whether this agreement contains the degree of debt relief that could render the Greek economy viable within the Euro Area. Euclid is taking with him a moderate, well-thought out debt restructuring plan that is undoubtedly in the interests both of Greece and its creditors. (Details of it I intend to publish here on Monday, once the dust has settled.) If these modest debt restructuring proposals are turned down, as the German finance minister has foreshadowed, Sunday’s EU Summit will be deciding between kicking Greece out of the Eurozone now or keeping it in for a little while longer, in a state of…
View original post 1,227 more words
Education tops once again Malaysia’s political and economic agenda. Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled on October 10 the new federal budget for 2015, in which education receives the largest allocation equal to RM56.6 billion (USD 16.2 billion), or 26% of the overall budget.
Education is recognized as the cornerstone of Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme. As such, it has been identified as a National Key Economic Area, with the objective of making Malaysia an international education hub by attracting 200,000 international students by 2020. Already in 2011, the World Bank assessed that Malaysia’s public expenditure on primary and secondary education as a percentage of GDP, was slightly higher than OECD average (3.8% versus 3.4%). In the Asian context, Malaysia’s public spending on education was more than double that of other ASEAN countries (3.8% versus 1.8%), and 1.6% higher than the “Asian Tigers” (South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore).
Concerns over deteriorating performance despite enormous investment
Experts in the sector, however, are raising eyebrows over the decreasing quality of education offered as well as the expected return on investment of the 2015 budget for education. Concerns are rising due to Malaysia’s deteriorating performance in the PISA assessment. According to the latest report, Malaysia scored below OECD average and in some areas (science and reading) the country’s performance worsened compered the previous assessment.
Critics underlined that the policy embraced by the government is excessively investment-driven without paying the necessary attention to teachers’ training and development needs. The 1BestariNet project, for instance, has the objective to supply 4G broadband access to all 10,000 schools in the country and promote the use of e-learning techniques by supplying new technological equipment thereby cutting the ratio of student-device to 10:1. Budget 2015 records a RM200 million (USD 57.3 million) increase in “hardware” developments (infrastructure and ICT) but also a RM600 million (USD172 million) cut in “software” services, such as pre-service, in-service and leadership training of teachers. From 1999 to 2010, the Ministry has invested approximately RM6 billion on ICT infrastructure for schools. However, UNESCO states that there is still little evidence that the usage of this technology is actually facilitating creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking.
Risks and opportunities of aligning education to economic objectives
On the one hand, education lobbyists such as Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) and public think tanks as the Penang Institute criticized the economic-oriented educational system that leaves little room for social objectives and equitable development of students. It appears that the adoption of latest technologies has little marginal impact on pupils in rural areas, where teachers do not receive the necessary training to reap the benefits of ICT infrastructure. On the other hand, the World Bank praises Malaysia for its effort in addressing the mismatch between education and market requirements, a gap responsible for leaving many graduates jobless. The presence of publicly funded high-tech parks – such as Kulim High-Tech Park, Senai Park, Technology Park Malaysia, Kuantan High-Tech Park – distributed on the whole national territory contribute to shape a conducive environment by leveraging R&D potential and profitability for innovative companies.
The internationalization of education
Malaysia is taking advantage of the rising global student mobility. According to UNESCO, the country is the 11th most preferred study destination worldwide and hosts students from approximately 100 countries. Due to steer competition from mid-value manufacturers such as India and China, Malaysia is investing heavily on education as the key variable to accomplish its economic transformation. This move did not go unnoticed to many MNCs that are picking Kuala Lumpur as their regional HQ because of the availability of high-skilled human capital. Private institutions and international schools have been mushrooming along with foreign universities setting branch campuses in Malaysia. EduCity, for instance, a project spearheaded by the federal government and State of Johor, is Malaysia’s first multi-campus education cluster. Ten international education institutions have signed up to set up local campuses in EduCity so far, of which two are secondary schools and the rest are higher learning institution. This provides foreigners with opportunities to send their children to internationally accredited institutions and places Malaysia in the right position to attract new talents from all around the world to fulfill its vision to become an international education hub.