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  • Author: Savita Shankar
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for the Advanced Study of India
  • Abstract: Despite being the focus of numerous policy initiatives, the credit gap of the MSME sector in India has been persistent. An investment in tapping the data being generated by lenders to build a database to inform future lending is likely to improve the quality of lending decisions over time. This, in turn, has the potential to further expand MSME loan access and reduce MSME borrowing costs. To realize this objective, a credit risk database (CRD) has been found to play a useful role in catalyzing collateral and guarantee free loans for SMEs in Japan. The availability of the OCEN network and the account aggregator framework offers an opportunity to create a CRD involving banks and NBFCs at relatively low incremental cost. The CRD’s role will be distinct from that of credit bureaus and rating agencies as it is based on financial and default data for the sector as a whole, rather than for individual entities. The main benefits of CRD include the development of credit scoring models based on nationwide data and the availability of benchmarks for different segments of the MSME sector. Additional benefits are that the credit scores from the models could be used to develop a more sophisticated pricing mechanism for guarantees and for potentially aiding MSME loan securitizations
  • Topic: Microcredit, Risk, Credit, Resource-Backed Loans
  • Political Geography: India
  • Author: Noah Coburn
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: The United States’ Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program was designed to help Afghans and Iraqis who are in danger of being killed as a result of their service to the U.S. government as translators or in other civilian jobs. As of 2020, over 18,000 Afghan applicants have received U.S. visas, along with over 45,000 of their immediate family members, and immigrated to the U.S. The program has been plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies and significant problems with the application process, resulting in a backlog of an additional 18,800 applications according to a 2019 review of the program. The lives of thousands of these applicants are currently at risk. This report on the Afghan SIV program, based on interviews with over 150 SIV applicants and recipients, as well as a review of other studies of the program, suggests that while the program is well-intentioned and beneficial to certain successful applicants, its current structure puts the lives of applicants at risk and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation before, during and after the process. The lack of a coherent, effective strategy to support these workers, and the failure to implement the program as originally envisioned, leaves applicants stranded in Afghanistan or elsewhere and vulnerable to attacks by the Taliban and criminal groups, as well as other forms of exploitation. This has further undermined the reputation of the United States government in Afghanistan while serving a relatively small percentage of those Afghans who worked closely with the U.S. The program also does little to support those who do receive visas and move to the U.S. They are ultimately disappointed in, and unprepared for, the lack of support they receive upon settling in the United States. The program could do much more to prepare and support these recipients for the challenges they are likely to face during resettlement. The Biden administration’s current review of the SIV program is a good step forward, but unless that review takes a closer look at the true human costs of its flawed processes, it is likely to result in little more than bureaucratic tinkering. The program must be seriously overhauled, based on a reconceptualization of how to best support those who put their lives at risk to assist the United States government. As it is currently structured, the SIV program may in fact be doing more harm than good.
  • Topic: Immigration, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, War on Terror
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Stephanie Savell
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: United States “security assistance” exports a militarized counterterrorism model to dozens of countries through money, training, and weapons. This model comes with dangerous costs. The narrative, tactics, funding, and institutional supports of the U.S. post-9/11 wars fuel repression and corruption, and escalate cycles of violence. This paper delves into the current conflict in Burkina Faso as an illustrative case study of how the U.S. counterterrorism model has caused more, not less, instability and violence. Despite the relatively low levels of terrorism assessed in Burkina Faso at the time, the United States laid the groundwork for increased militarism in the region when it began providing security assistance to the country in 2009. Today, Burkina Faso is enveloped in a spiraling conflict involving government forces, state-sponsored militias, and militant groups, and civilians are paying the price. Militant groups have strengthened and seized territory, ethnic tensions have skyrocketed, thousands of Burkinabe have been killed and over one million displaced. A Burkina-based human rights group has warned that the government’s ethnic killings may lead to the “next Rwanda.”
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Counter-terrorism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States of America, Burkina Faso
  • Author: Stephanie Savell, Rachel McMahon, Emily Rockwell, Yueshan Li
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: The map illustrates countries in which the U.S. government conducted operations it explicitly described as counterterrorism, in an outgrowth of President George W. Bush's “Global War on Terror.” These operations include air and drone strikes, on-the-ground combat, so-called “Section 127e” programs in which U.S. special operations forces plan and control partner force missions, military exercises in preparation for or as part of counterterrorism missions, and operations to train and assist foreign forces. (The map does not comprehensively cover the full scope of U.S. post-9/11 warfare, as it does not document, for instance, U.S. military bases used for counterterror operations, arms sales to foreign governments, or all deployments of U.S. special operations forces.) Despite the Pentagon’s assertion that the U.S. is shifting its strategic emphasis away from counterterrorism and towards great power competition with Russia and China, examining U.S. military activity on a country-by-country basis shows that there is yet to be a corresponding drawdown of the counterterror apparatus. If anything, the map demonstrates that counterterrorism operations have become more widespread in recent years.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In most parts of the world, the lines on maps separating countries are true borders. That is, they are controlled by the governments on one or both sides. But in some places, they remain the quasi-open frontiers they were in the past or have reemerged as such because of recent political changes; those borders are highly porous zones, where people and goods can move more or less freely in one or both directions without much regard to the powers that be. Such situations invite outside involvement that can ramp up quickly and disturb preexisting international arrangements. One poignant example is the adjoining border area shared by Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In recent years, that frontier has attracted attention because of the danger that Islamist militants from Afghanistan could cross it to move north into Tajikistan and beyond. But another danger is emerging: China is establishing increasing control over Tajikistan and, thus, is putting itself in a position to project power southward from Tajikistan into Afghanistan. If Beijing does so, that could fundamentally change the security situation and geopolitical balance in Central and South Asia as a whole.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Borders
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, China, South Asia, Central Asia, Asia, Tajikistan
  • Author: John C. K. Daly
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Amidst growing political dissatisfaction, the Russian government is grappling with the apparent vulnerabilities of the country’s internet. On February 1, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairperson of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, acknowledged during an extensive interview with Russian media what foreign analysts have long suspected: disconnecting Russia from the internet is possible (TASS, February 1). And as if to provide a rationale for such potential action, the previous week, the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents (NKTsKI) reported a threat of possible cyberattacks by the United States and its allies against Russia’s critical infrastructure (Interfax, January 22).
  • Topic: Government, Internet, Repression
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War (September 29–November 9) has had a transformative effect on the country. It not only changed the attitudes of its population, whose members now feel themselves to be heroes rather than victims (see EDM, January 21), but also bolstered the diplomatic weight and possibilities of the Azerbaijani government in its dealings with other regional states. In prosecuting a triumphant war against Yerevan, Baku demonstrated its own ability to act. But just as importantly, Azerbaijan has shown to peoples and governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that it is a force to be reckoned with, in part thanks to its growing links with Turkey. Moreover, that alliance makes possible an appealing path to the outside world for all who join it. That reality is causing countries east of the Caspian to look westward to and through Azerbaijan in their economic planning and political calculations. At the same time, however, these developments are generating concerns in Moscow and Tehran, which oppose east-west trade routes that bypass their countries’ territories and instead favor north-south corridors linking Russia and Iran together. As a result, Azerbaijan’s recent successes in expanding links with Central Asia set the stage for new conflicts between Azerbaijan and its Turkic partners, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran, which have far more significant naval assets in the Caspian, on the other (see EDM, November 27, 2018 and February 20, 2020; Casp-geo.ru, December 24, 2019; Chinalogist.ru, November 21, 2019).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Middle East, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Iran emerged as a potential loser from the Russia-brokered trilateral truce accords that ended last autumn’s 44-day Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see EDM January 25). Therefore, Tehran is seeking ways to reposition itself into the new situation in line with its interests. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s five-country regional tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, between January 25 and 28, clearly carried that mission (Tasnim News Agency, January 30). In particular, a top agenda item during this series of foreign visits was the proposal to reactivate a Soviet-era railway connecting Iran and Armenia via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, which is wedged between them and Turkey (Twitter.com/JZarif, January 26).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Infrastructure, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Given the Vladimir Putin regime’s past reliance on oil exports, it is perhaps no surprise that Moscow has been casting about for some other raw material it can sell abroad now that hydrocarbon prices have fallen and Russian government revenues along with them. But its apparent selection of water as “the new oil” that it can sell to water-short China is again outraging Russians. Indeed, the policy may soon lead to the repetition of protests against such projects that roiled the country east of the Urals in 2019 and 2020. And this could complicate Russia’s relations not just with China but with Mongolia and Central Asian countries as well. By focusing exclusively on the possibility of foreign profits rather than the concerns of its own population, the Putin regime—wittingly or not—is recapitulating some of the steps the Communist leaders fatefully took in the years preceding the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Water, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Alla Hurska
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On February 19, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) imposed sanctions on Ukrainian tycoon and politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his wife, Oksana Marchenko (Pravda.com.ua, February 19). Medvedchuk is a leader and people’s deputy of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform–For Life, the largest opposition faction in the Ukrainian parliament. Moreover, he is a close acquaintance of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The NSDC sanctions list also includes five Russian nationals and Ukrainian national Nataliya Lavreniuk. The latter is Marchenko’s friend and the common-law spouse of Taras Kozak (already under sanctions), a people’s deputy from the same political party and Medvedchuk’s business partner. Apart from targeting those eight individuals, sanctions were imposed on nineteen associated businesses, including firms that own aircraft and operate direct flights from Kyiv to Moscow as well as a number of joint stock companies registered in Russia, Moldova and Portugal (Pravda.com.ua, February 20). These measures came two weeks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the shutdown of several television channels—ZIK, NewsOne and 112—connected to Kozak. The move was described by Zelenskyy as a necessary step to fight Russian propaganda. But according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) and the NSDC, these actions were motivated by more complex issues. Specifically, the three aforementioned TV channels were being financed by limited liability company trading house Don Coal (Rostov, Russia), which receives revenue from smuggling coal out of the Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” (LPR/DPR) (Pravda.com.ua, February 4).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Coal
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe