Archives for posts with tag: Development

In a recent turn of events holders of sovereign debt from Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Greece have sold off some of it, which has increased the yield (amount of interest these countries will have to pay) on their debt. Italy now has to pay 5.35% interest on its debt, while Greece, Ireland and Portugal¬† now must pay 28%, 16.3% and 18.6% respectively. Spain’s debt was not affected by this recent sell-off but has a current yield of 5.65%. This news is particularly alarming because yield rates had began to stabilize before this recent sell-off. More to the point, Italy (and already struggling Spain) are much more important to the economy of the Eurozone than Ireland, Greece, or Portugal.

A look at this graph on google helps to illuminate the size of the problem. I created this pie graph to show the relative size of the Eurozone’s economies also: (red countries have been bailed out already, pink countries have seen their debt yields rise and ratings fall)


When I was getting vaccinated for a trip to the Middle East, I was surprised to find the doctor asking me which part of Turkey I’d be visiting. She pulled out a map that looked something like this:

I was shocked because Turkey had to be the most developed country we would visit on that trip; how could they the only one where Malaria shots are necessary in certain parts. I felt even more shocked after I visited Istanbul, where its level of development seemed otherworldly compared to Damascus, Amman, Beirut, or even Jerusalem. They have a transit system that is efficient, people sort of obeyed traffic rules, and everything looked much better maintained. It felt like a European city, while the others felt like something else. I marveled at Istanbul’s unique mix of secularism¬† and development. Yet apparently for someone living in Diyarbakir, Malaria is a part of life.

What’s more startling is that Turkey’s HDI for 2010 is 0.679, behind Jordan and Tunisia and not far ahead of Algeria [source]. How could a city that seemed so modern be in a country less developed than resource-starved Jordan, who has some 13 miles of coastline and a mostly desertous landscape. Jordan’s GDP (PPP) per head in 2010 was $5,400 while Turkey’s is more than twice that at $12,300 [source]. There has been research from multiple good sources on the matter:

A great research publication called “Regional Disparities and Territorial Indicators in Turkey: Socio-Economic¬† Development Index (SEDI)” written by¬†Metin √ĖZASLAN, B√ľlent DINCER, and H√ľseyin √ĖZG√úR (found here) delves into this question with depth and authority I can’t match, so I’m going to just post some of their findings and briefly summarize them. They use 58 different indicators from myriad sources to measure provincial development and collate them into one index called the SEDI. Unfortunately this means that, like the HDI value from we cannot compare these values directly to other countries. Fortunately they do go into great detail in the article on their methodology and it appears to check out. Time for some cool maps thanks to this article.

Many things stand out. Most of Turkey’s most developed regions are in the western part of Turkey, with the lowest SEDI scored provinces all being in the east.Four Cities+suburbs stand out as the most developed provinces in Turkey: Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, and Bursa. These provinces (and a province that includes suburbs of from Istanbul) have a combined population of 26.14 million, according to Turkstat. This means that of Turkey’s 73 million people, just over a 3rd live in these five most developed provinces [source]. This shouldn’t seem so troubling, when you look at the US (as we did in the previous blog) you can see its not so uncommon for states (especially ones with big cities) to score higher on development indicators. The problem with Turkey is it’s development curve among provinces is much steeper than the disparity among US states. A graph from the same source illustrates this effectively:

Istanbul’s score dwarfs the others, its more than four times that of 6th ranked EskiŇüehir province. The top five provinces themselves dwarf the remainder of the provinces.

Here is a map of the geographical regions of Turkey using the same source. I edited it to show which regions have above average and below average scores (note: mediterranean is almost perfectly at the average):

Now here is an unedited graph showing the regional SEDI scores from the same source:

This paints a picture of Turkey having three regions that this source claims, drive most economic growth in Turkey, with Marmara far outpacing the rest of the country. Meanwhile the two easternmost regions of Turkey experience the least amount of growth or development. This doesn’t perfectly coincide with the Malaria map I showed earlier, but I suspect that map was geared towards ease of use and probably wanted to include the entire southern border region to aid tourists traveling by land.

The next article I am going to use comes from the World Bank, titled “Turkey: Country Economic Memorandum Volume I ‚Äď Main Report” it can be found here and the section I will cite begins on chapter 6, page 29 (41 in adobe). This article compares regional GDP per head variation among European countries and shows its findings in this graph:

Turkey ties with Belgium, a country known for its Flemish/Wallonian divide (a north/south divide in this case). I am surprised by the other results in this publication, as I had assumed Italy’s regional GDP variation would exceed the UK’s.

This article points out that from 1980 to 2000 Turkey’s regional disparity has either increased (gotten worse) or stayed the same. It points out that while Industrial activity has expanded in the Western half of Turkey, the East remains primarily employed by agriculture, and that hours/employee are considerably lower in the East. Finally, the article gives some explanations for why Turkey’s institutions might inhibit growth in the Eastern regions; it states that Turkey’s centralized planning and allocation of resources for things like infrastructure and public works projects gives local officials few options to raise their provinces from poverty and underemployment.

A few quick statistics can be found in this report from the European Commission titled “Second report on economic and social cohesion: Regional Features in Turkey” found here. It states:

“between east and west: two-thirds of the population were concentrated in the west of the country in half the land area, accounting for 82% of national GDP, and with GDP per head 23% above the national average (41% of the EU average). In the east, GDP per head was 53% of the national average, much the same as 10 years earlier”

One word that is missing from all of these articles is “Kurd” which is surprising because Kurds make up the largest ethnic minority in Turkey with 15 million living there, most of them are located in the Eastern part of Turkey. Here is a map I found from the University of Texas here that shows where most Kurds live:,

I found another, more recent map here that looks at recent elections results in Turkey in 2011:

It’s worth noting that Turkey has a unique 10% electoral threshold that prevents most Kurdish interest parties from electing members into parliament; the easiest way to circumvent this rule is to run candidates as independents.

There seems to be a strong correlation (using these two maps and the first map) between Kurds and low development. I am not trying to imply that Kurds don’t work as hard, but simply pointing out that like Appalachia and the Mississippi Embayment, the Kurdish region of Turkey appears to lag behind the rest of Turkey. Something I would be very interested in seeing is how a partition of Turkey that removed part Eastern Turkey from the rest would effect the HDI value Turkey currently enjoys. Using the 3 sources from the beginning of this article, it seems clear that Turkey’s Western half would benefit (at least in its HDI score) if its indicators were measured separately from the Eastern/Kurdish part. Of course the political ramifications of such an outcome would be significant. I’ll leave that debate for the citizens of Turkey, be it Kurds or Turks.

recently I wrote about the trend of low HDI scores in the US South and Appalachia. This time I want to focus on a metric found from the same source. The metric of life expectancy from birth is actually a good way of comparing US congressional districts to other countries.

The CIA World Factbook has a listing of most nations’ average life expectancy from birth here. It’s important to note that because this is an actual year-based estimate, the rankings for congressional districts and countries is tightly ranked, and misreporting statistics from developing countries is a possibility. I want to stress that these are averages so while someone living 2 years less might not seem like much, but this is the result of everyone in a district/country living longer or shorter lives. Some of these statistics will make you question the world.

While I’ll mention the regional disparity briefly, I’d like to focus on the comparison of life expectancy with certain US congressional districts (CDs) and other countries as well.

Here is a map of the bottom 100 CDs in the US:

Many things stand out compared to the HDI graph representing the bottom 100, though the US South+Appalachia region is similarly represented in this map.

Firstly, the West Coast does considerably better than the East Coast, with only a single CD making the list west of Texas. Second, cities in many Eastern States have lower comparative life expectancies than their HDI suggests. Regions of the Rust Belt including North Ohio and the Detroit metro area score poorly. The mid-Atlantic cities Philadelphia and Baltimore do poorly, but the rest of the Northeast does well.

This map shows the bottom 25 districts in the US, these districts only live 72 to to 75 years on average (I’ll provide a complete table of average life expectancy later).

Much like the bottom 25 districts by HDI, the bottom 25 in life expectancy are almost all inside the US South and Appalachian regions. The Mississippi embayment and the Kentucky-West Virginia border are the worst hit.

Here is a listing of the bottom 100 districts by age. But I’ve added a column for countries with similar life expectancies for the bottom 50. I got these numbers here and here.

West Virgini 3 72.9 Egypt 72.66
Kentucky 5 73.6  Thailand 73.6
Mississippi 2 73.6 Bulgaria 73.59
Alabama 4 74.3 Serbia 74.32
Pennsylvania 2 74.4 Mauritius 74.48
Oklahoma 2 74.5 Algeria 74.5
Pennsylvania 1 74.5 Colombia 74.55
Georgia 2 74.6 China 74.68
Alabama 3 74.7 Syria 74.69
Alabama 7 74.7 Cook Islands 74.7
Louisiana 7 74.8 Hungary 74.79
Arkansas 1 74.8 Tunisia 75.01
Tennessee 8 75.0 Lebanon 75.01
Tennessee 9 75.0 West Bank 75.01
Mississippi 3 75.0  Macedonia 75.14
North Caroli 1 75.0 Tonga 75.16
Louisiana 5 75.0 ” “
Arkansas 4 75.1 ” “
Georgia 1 75.1 ” “
Missouri 8 75.1 ” “
Alabama 1 75.1 ” “
Georgia 8 75.1 ” “
Mississippi 4 75.2 ” “
South Caroli 6 75.3 Lithuania 75.34
Florida 4 75.3 ” “
Louisiana 4 75.3 ” “
Mississippi 1 75.4 Antigua and Barbuda 75.48
Georgia 12 75.4 ” “
Arkansas 2 75.4 ” “
Michigan 13 75.4 ” “
Michigan 14 75.4 ” “
Kentucky 1 75.5 ” “
Maryland 7 75.5 ” “
Louisiana 6 75.5 ” “
District of Columbia 75.6 ” “
Louisiana 1 75.6 ” “
Oklahoma 4 75.6 ” “
South Caroli 5 75.7  Ecuador 75.73
Louisiana 3 75.7 Croatia 75.79
Alabama 2 75.7
Alabama 6 75.7
Tennessee 1 75.7
Virginia 9 75.7
West Virgini 2 75.9  Morocco 75.9
Louisiana 2 75.9
Tennessee 4 75.9
Oklahoma 5 76.0  Poland 76.05
North Caroli 7 76.0
Oklahoma 3 76.0
Oklahoma 1 76.0
Virginia 3 76.0
Alabama 5 76.1
Texas 1 76.1
Ohio 6 76.2
Kentucky 4 76.3
Illinois 12 76.3
South Caroli 3 76.3
Texas 13 76.4
Tennessee 7 76.4
Virginia 4 76.5
Georgia 3 76.5 Mexico 76.47
Texas 8 76.5
Michigan 5 76.6
Tennessee 6 76.6
Kentucky 3 76.6
Tennessee 3 76.6
Indiana 7 76.6
Texas 5 76.6
Michigan 11 76.7
North Caroli 10 76.7
Missouri 5 76.7
West Virgini 1 76.7
North Caroli 3 76.7
South Caroli 4 76.7
Texas 19 76.8
North Caroli 8 76.8
Texas 2 76.8
Georgia 11 76.9
Ohio 15 76.9
North Caroli 2 76.9
Maryland 3 76.9
Indiana 1 76.9
California 2 76.9
Georgia 10 76.9
Maryland 2 77.0
Ohio 17 77.0
Ohio 9 77.0
Missouri 4 77.1
North Caroli 5 77.1
Virginia 5 77.1
Kansas 4 77.1
Indiana 8 77.1
Wisconsin 4 77.2
Missouri 3 77.2
Tennessee 2 77.2
Ohio 10 77.2
Ohio 11 77.2
Tennessee 5 77.2
Indiana 6 77.2
Texas 14 77.2

Surprisingly, many countries perform better than US congressional districts. Eastern Kentucky has the same life expectancy of someone in Thailand, think about that for a second. Not only are parts of the US much lower than the US average, they’re actually much lower than most developed countries. The US¬† ranks 50th overall on the CIA World Factbook, th0ugh a number of meaningless micro-states and dependent territories distort this ranking somewhat. US life expectancy raises many important questions about access to healthcare and our dietary habits among other things.

Finally, I want to point out that some of these statistics are hard to accept. Jordan ranks higher than the Netherlands, for example. and Bosnia, despite its violent recent history has a higher life expectancy than Denmark. I’m not necessarily accusing these countries of outright dishonesty, but perhaps their methodology was vulnerable to inaccuracies. There are hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Jordan, many of them weren’t born in hospitals so its possible that age estimates could be wrong. This isn’t the first time I’ve suspected this, in a much earlier blog on female literacy I found that the country of Georgia claims 100% literacy, despite having a GDP per capita lower than Syria, and a very rare and complicated language, in addition to smaller languages like Tsez being spoken. Take these statistics for what you will, its intriguing no less.

I would first like to note that this is not comparing the relative value of either indicator. What I mean is that instead of comparing the Human Development Index and military spending relative to other Middle Eastern countries, these values can be compared to any country for the year 2007. I found the data on spending from SIPRI and HDI values from several sources (for more on these look here and here). you can find both of these on really cool graphs on google’s public data explorer here and here. Secondly, I want to note that this map cannot conform to our previous definition of the Middle East due to a lack of complete data in several countries. The omitted countries are Iraq, Oman, and Lebanon.

This map is a little bit less intuitive as each index is measuring something different. The reason they matched up evenly was because excel used tenths for HDI (best value being 1.00) and hundredths for military spending (10% being the max)

This map blows away the notion HDI has anything to do with how much countries will spend on their military in the Middle East. It becomes clear that countries have different security strategies especially when you look at the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council). Smaller countries like Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait all spend a relatively low amount on their military. While Qatar dedicates the lowest amount (% of GDP) in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia spends the most; both in terms of percent of GDP and as an overall amount. These GCC countries all have a relatively high HDI values and nothing about Saudi Arabia or the UAE distinguishes their scores. Saudi Arabia’s military spending is puzzling for many reasons but lets look at some other observations before exploring this further.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East (only the Gaza Strip has scored lower on recent HDI scores) yet it dedicates more of its GDP than Egypt, Syria, or Iran on its military. Why is this? One possible explanation could be that in order to maintain a competent military organization one needs to spend a certain base amount. Yemen’s population is about the same size as Syria, but its GDP is ~45-60% the size (depending on whether you use Nominal or Purchasing Power Parity). So 4% of GDP means as little as half as much money spent for Yemen compared to Syria. To examine this idea further I used the SIPRI’s numbers for 2007. Yemen spent $1.2 billion on its military while Syria spent $2.1 billion. Does this mean that for a country w/ a population of ~22 million one can expect no less than ~$1 billion to maintain a credible military? well it get’s more complicated than that unfortunately.

The Middle East as a region spends an enormous amount of its GDP on military spending. The countries we list here average 4.6% of GDP on military spending, nearly double the world average of 2.4%.

It would be foolish to assume that every country in the Middle East was compelled by one reason to spend so much on the military. Iraq and Iran were at war for 8 years in the 80s, with over a million lives lost, Israel has been in over 5 interstate wars, Saudi Arabia owns 25% of the world’s oil. Instead I think it would be wise look at every country’s spending and ask this question: What strategy would do the most to preserve this state’s future? I’m not advocating for militarism just trying to explain the mindset that might motivate actors in the region to spend so much on their militaries.

Using Google’s Public Data Explorer lets take a look at labor force participation rates and gender. unfortunately I wasn’t able to upload the graphs to this blog directly, but you’re free to verify my findings here

contained in the data-set is this definition for Labor Force Participation Rate:¬† “Percentage of the working-age population (ages 15‚Äď64) that actively engages in the labour market, by either working or actively looking for work. ILO (2010d). [“Key Indicators on the Labour Market: 6th edition”. Geneva: ILO.] Accessed June 2010.” they direct you to this link for further detail:

I wondered how a selection of Muslim-majority countries would compare with non-Muslim majority ones, but wanted to retain some measure of development for fairness. I chose the latest UN report measuring the Human Development Index for 2010. The reason I chose to use HDI ranking was to prevent ridiculous scenarios like Afghanistan vs. France. While the HDI is not perfect, it should be sufficient for the task of roughly comparing levels of development.

I like pictures of flags so I created an image of my word table to retain them ūüėÄ

I tried to break down countries by region, using neighboring non-Muslim countries when I could*. I included several Middle Eastern countries that did not have current HDI information just for comparison’s sake. HDI ranking is on the left while the female/male participation ratio is on the right.¬† Red indicates comparisons where Muslim-majority countries have more female participation in labor than their non-Muslim counterparts.

There are several interesting things we find here. Overall, higher HDI ranking does not imply female participation, in Muslim and non-muslim countries. For example, the US has a ratio of 85% female participation vs. men, while Cambodia has 88% female participation!

At the same time, it would be remiss not to point out that the majority Muslim countries had a lower female participation than their similarly developed non-Muslim counterparts. out of 25 comparisons only 5 showed higher female participation in Muslim countries. In other words, 80% of the Muslim countries had a lower rates of female participation in the labor market.

What’s notable, is that of the five exceptions, all come from former communist states! even Turkey, which has been hailed for its secularism, had a considerably lower rate of female participation. Also notable is the outcome for Bangladesh. Even though it scored lower than Nepal, it ended up beating out a much bigger competitor in India! I didn’t use India as a comparison because the HDI difference was too high, but its worth pointing out that despite its higher development, India’s female participation is very low, at just 42.2%. India was also featured on an earlier list on female literacy. The Economist has an article on sexist attitudes in India that sheds some light on this.

In the Middle East (as defined by an earlier post) the picture more negative than in Bangladesh. Only two Muslim countries there reach 50% female participation and in eight have a 3rd or less participating. Even in oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain where per capita income is high and their HDI is comparable to European countries women are a marginal part of the labor force. The good news is that in many of these countries the rate of female participation is increasing; but unfortunately this trend is not uniform in the region. notably, Egypt, with its recent revolution has gone from having the best levels of female participation in 1980 (ahead of even turkey) to having a below-average participation ratio.

Perhaps more insight could be gleaned from the former communist exceptions in this table as well as Bangladesh.

*there is only one non-Muslim majority country in the middle east and it’s HDI rank is also considerably higher so I didn’t use it for any direct comparisons)

Total: 33

Majority muslim: 20. 60.7% Over 25% muslim: 5. 15.1% other: 24.2%

Sudan                  61.1%     71.8%    50.5%    4.72

W. and Futuna 50.0%    50.0%    50.0%    no data

Malawi                62.7%     76.1%    49.8%    5.92

Comoros              56.5%    63.6%    49.3%    5.03

India                     59.5%     70.2%    48.3%    2.73

Eritrea                  58.6%     69.9%    47.6%    5.08

Togo                     60.9%     75.4%    46.9%    4.96

Egypt                    57.7%     68.3%    46.9%    2.83

Burundi                51.6%    58.5%    45.2%    6.55

Cote d’Ivoire ¬†¬†¬†¬† 50.9% ¬†¬† 57.9% ¬†¬† 43.6% ¬†¬† 4.50

Liberia                  57.5%     73.3%    41.6%    6.02

Mali                      46.4%     53.5%    39.6%    7.42

Morocco              51.7%    64.1%    39.4%    2.68

C.African Rep.   51.0%    63.3%    39.3%    4.41

Chad                     47.5%     56.0%    39.3%    6.25

Pakistan               48.7%    61.7%    35.2%    4.00

Ethiopia                42.7%    50.3%    35.1%    5.22

Nepal                   48.6%     62.7%    34.9%    4.10

Gambia, The      40.1%    47.8%    32.8%    5.30

Mozambique     47.8%    63.5%    32.7%    4.62

Mauritania          41.7%    51.8%    31.9%    5.86

Bangladesh         43.1%    53.9%    31.8%    3.11

Senegal                40.2%    50.0%    30.7%    4.38

Yemen                50.2%     70.5%    30.0%    6.58

Guinea-Bissau   42.4%    58.1%    27.4%    4.86

Somalia                37.8%    49.7%    25.8%    6.76

Iraq                       40.4%     55.9%    24.4%    4.18

Benin                   33.6%     46.4%    22.6%    5.20

Guinea                35.9%     49.9%    21.9%    5.79

Afghanistan        36.0%    51.0%    21.0%    6.69

Sierra Leone       29.6%    39.8%    20.5%    6.08

Burkina Faso      26.6%    36.9%    16.6%    6.47

Niger                    17.6%     25.8%    9.7%      7.46