EU Aid Package for Egypt
The Arab Spring has undoubtedly brought about a radical transformation of the political scenario in the Arab region. However, the Arab world continues to be fraught with formidable challenges and obstacles, including political instability, economic and financial woes and absence of political consensus on major issues. In Egypt, GDP growth has declined from 5 per cent to 1 per cent in the span of a year. Foreign direct investment has declined from $6.4 billion in 2010 to 500 million in 2011. Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have dwindled from $36 billion in 2010 to $10 billion in 2011. The country is faced with mounting debts, which necessitates a likely devaluation of the currency, which in turn will inevitably lead to a sharp rise in the prices of food and other goods. Inflation now runs into double digits. Tourism is one of the major sources of revenue, and some 15 million Egyptians depend on tourism. The political turmoil, the collapse of the government and political uncertainly have led to a 30 per cent decline in tourism. Unemployment has risen from 10 to 15 per cent, while youth unemployment is now at an all-time high of 25 per cent.
In view of the formidable economic problems and challenges faced by Egypt, the European Union has approved a €5 billion financial support package for the country.
Sudan’s Post-Partition Woes
With the secession of South Sudan last year, Sudan split into two nations, the Arab-Muslim Sudan and the predominantly Christian South Sudan. The reverberations of the split are still being felt in the two countries, especially in Sudan. In the span of less than two years, Sudan has lost three-quarters of its oil, and inflation has soared to 45 per cent.
Omar Hassam al-Bashir, who has ruled Sudan with an iron hand for the past 23 years, is faced with a host of serious challenges, including widespread poverty, the simmering tensions between the civilians and the military regime and between religious moderates and radicals.
OIC’s Initiative for Women’s Empowerment
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has taken a much-needed initiative to improve the availability of rights and opportunities for women within its member states. A central focus of the OIC's Ten-Year Programme of Action is the advancement of women's rights. The initiative includes the formation of the Department of Family Affairs, which addresses issues relating to women, youth and children, and the creation of an Islamic Network of Women Scientists, which is aimed at ensuring the greater involvement of women in scientific and technological fields. The OIC has also partnered with the US Departments of State and Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, civil society organisations and international agencies to reduce the mortality rate of women during childbirth and to ensure children's health during the first month of their life.
In addition, the OIC took a historic decision to establish an independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) in June 2011. The commission has made the rights of women and children its top priority agenda. The 18-member Commission is currently chaired by an Indonesian lady, Dr. Siti Ruhuaini Dzuhayatin, an eminent professor of sociology, who helped set up the first women’s crisis centre in her country.
Islamic Finance Making Steady Strides
The global economic downturn has brought to the fore the shortcomings of interest-based finance. A growing number of people have become extremely cautious about investing their money in interest-based financial products. Many of them are turning to Islamic banking and Islamic financial products. Since the 1990s, the rate of expansion of Islamic finance has been increasing by an average of 25% every year.
According to the UK Islamic Finance Secretariat, the global market for Islamic finance at the end of 2011 was worth about $1.3 trillion. Since 2006 the total value of Shariah-compliant assets has grown by 150%. According to the latest quarterly report from Zawya, a business information firm, global sukuk issuance in the first quarter of 2012 was $ 43.3 billion, and total issuance could reach $126 billion by the end of 2012. It is interesting to note that a substantial proportion of investors in Islamic finance are non-Muslim.
Training Female Drivers in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 20,000 people lose their every year due to road accidents and thousands are injured. Most fatalities are due to rash and reckless driving and ignorance about traffic rules.
Now young women from poor families are being trained to become professional drivers. It is believed that women are more careful while driving. Bangladesh as passed a law which makes it mandatory for all public sector organizations to have at least 10 per cent female drivers.