Thursday, February 26, 2009

Securing Personal Safety in the Caucasus | CRRC Data

Who secures personal safety in the South Caucasus? CRRC DI has an answer to this question and a surprising answer at that. We asked around 8000 households in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to evaluate how well criminal leaders, friends, relatives, media, neighbors, NGOs, Ombudsmen, police, private security agencies and Prosecutor’s office secure personal safety. For now let’s just focus on the three components: the Ombudsmen, police and the criminal leaders.

In Armenia, ironically, criminal leaders have top positions in the chart of groups/institutions that effectively secure personal safety of the population with 22% of the respondents evaluating them positively. Criminal leaders are not far from the police; moreover, while a similar percentage of respondents (22.1% vs. 22.9%) finds Ombudsmen and criminal leaders effective in securing personal safety, more respondents actually find Ombudsmen ineffective, by comparison with criminal leaders (52.3% vs. 47.1%).

How does the situation look in the neighboring countries? In Georgia, the percent of those who positively evaluate how criminal leaders secure personal safety (arguably relatively high) is around 13%; it would be interesting to compare these numbers with the data prior to Saakashvili reforms. (We actually have some data from 2004 in a different file, so let us know if you are interested in the comparison!) In Azerbaijan, only 7.2% assess criminal leaders effective in securing personal safety against 87.5% of those who find them ineffective.

Among the three South Caucasus countries Armenia shows the lowest level of trust in the police, while the highest level of trust being observed in Azerbaijan – almost 60%. Trust in the police in Georgia is not very high considering the fact that it is seen as one of the main successes of the post-revolution government. From our data we can see that the trust in police had decreased after the murder case of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006, but it is going up again.

CRRC DI allows exploring this topic further by looking at other components such as how relatives, friends or the Prosecutor’s office secure personal safety. More comparisons (age, settlement type, education, and so on) can be done thanks to the rich demographic bloc. Time comparison is also possible, since we have some data starting 2004. The datasets are available at CRRC website.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Caucasus Currencies against the US Dollar

How have Caucasus currencies developed against the dollar? This question is not entirely trivial, since significant parts of the local economy are dollarised. Some colleagues, for example, have their salaries denominated in dollars.

As the above chart shows, the Armenian currency appreciated quite sharply against the dollar. The other currencies also appreciated, but remained a little more stable. How to interpret this? We turn to EBRD's 2008 Transition Report.

With Azerbaijan, the report tells us that in "an attempt to slow imported inflation and reduce the impact of the weaker dollar on domestic inflation, the NBA [National Bank of Azerbaijan] switched the targeted currency from the US dollar (effective peg) to a currency basket that currently comprises 70% US dollars and 30% euros." (p. 101)

Georgia, the Transition Report notes, has also pegged and defended its currency, trying to keep it stable; as a result "international reserves fell from 1.5 billion USD to 1.04 billion USD at end-September 2008" (p. 129). The EBRD report does not note anything on Armenian exchange rates, except for a continuing consumer price inflation of just below 12%, annually (August 2008).

Over the next few months, exchange rates are going to be one of the issues to watch. Large fluctuations could make life more difficult. In Azerbaijan, the EBRD suggests that "real exchange rate appreciation (through either nominal depreciation or higher inflation, or both) is inevitable. A tighter fiscal policy will be necessary to control inflation of the medium-term." (p. 101)

And on Georgia: "Given the still high level of dollarisation in the banking sector (more than 60% of lending is in foreign currency), a possible depreciation of the currency would affect the quality of banks' portfolios as the repayment capacity of unhedged corporates [sic] and retail clients weakens." (p. 128)

The Armenian economy seems less dollarised, but, as the report notes, its real estate boom was heavily dependent on remittances. As those decrease, one would expect some impact on the currency as well.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Social Capital, Civic Engagement and Local Self- Government in Azerbaijan

An article entitled “Social Capital, Civic Engagement and the Performance of Local Self- Government in Azerbaijan” by Rafail Hasanov, CRRC 2007 Research Fellowship recipient from Azerbaijan, was published in Nationalities Papers.

The research addresses two questions: what is the role of social capital in civic engagement in the municipalities of three regions of Azerbaijan and how are the norms and networks of civic engagement linked to the quality of public life and performance of local government.

The major finding of the research is that while the legislation offers opportunities for the independence of institutions of local government at all levels, in reality, municipalities are subordinate to executive authority and operate on the basis of an uncertain system of laws and rules, resulting in their limited authority, influence and responsibilities.

Another interesting conclusion is that municipalities are more closely linked with citizens in rural areas, where smaller and less dense communities are typical. However, many citizens still mistrust this relatively new local institution. Moreover, the overall involvement of citizens in all sorts of associations and participation in joint NGO-municipality projects, which serve as the basis for functional local government, is low.

Fair and transparent elections, merit-based personnel selection and expanding municipalities' financial resources are the areas that would need the most improvement in Azerbaijan to ensure responsible and effective local self-government, according to the author.

As a way to increase the efficiency of municipalities, the study recommends regular reporting to the population about the work that has been completed by municipalities, frequent meetings with the population and responsiveness to people’s needs, budgetary transparency and increased staff competence. It is also necessary to gradually replace the currently prevailing vertical networks of civil participation with the horizontal form of interaction in communities.

For more information, check out the research paper of Rafail Hasanov, or the journal article.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Christian Welzel from World Value Survey visits CRRC

Christian Welzel, Professor at Jacobs University in Bremen and Vice President of the World Values Survey (WVS), held a lecture on his findings at the Tbilisi State University on the 23rd of January. The World Values Survey has conducted five waves of surveys from 1981 to 2007. In total, this has given them coverage of 90 % of the world’s population and representative national data for 97 societies. The data of WVS gives a general position on values for surveyed societies, indicates the direction of trends and illustrates their subsequent impact on social, political and economic life.

Here are some interesting points of the lecture:

  • Data from the Global Value Surveys contradict the assertion of an ongoing global convergence of values/ideas. While data tend in the same “emancipatory” direction in all global regions, they do so parallely. Consequently, regional differences in values do neither decrease nor increase.
  • Happiness has been increasing steadily since 1981 in the world (amongst 45 of 52 surveyed countries). The only societies that have experienced regression in this respect were the post-socialist countries during the 90’s. The incentives for enhancing happiness are, according to Welzel, increasing levels of democratization, tolerance and economic development.
  • Secular values, encompassing variables such as levels of inter-ethnic tolerance and gender equality, are generally increasing in the world. However, a few countries are experiencing notable regression, amongst which Russia and Turkey stands out.
  • Levels of national pride are generally lower in countries that have suffered losses in wars (Japan) or have gone through stages of major disintegration (Russia).

The lecture included a presentation of an updated “global culture map” (similar to the previous Inglehart-Welzel map, shown below). Christian Welzel explained the two sets of dimensions that make out the axis’s that creates an illustration of how the general worldviews between cultural regions differ. The South Caucasian countries are juxtaposed in the “Ex Communist” cultural sphere. In spite of all their differences, the South Caucasus countries are tightly packed together (note that this is mid-90’s data though, and that Welzel's newest map is a little different).

The Traditional vs. Secular-rational values axis reflects importance of religious values, i.e. on issues such as deference to authority, divorce, abortion etcetera. The Survival vs. Self-expression axis is, other than a scale for economic development, an indication on how much individuals in a given society can concentrate on self expression values that gives priority to issues, such as, tolerance, gender equality and decision-making in economic and political life.

As regards the World Value Surveys data for the South Caucasus, one can not track changing trends in the region since it has only been included in one of the wave of surveys (1994-1999). However, good news: the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (CRRC’s mothership) has sponsored data to be collected in Georgia in 2008. We will let you know as soon as the data is available.

A journalist's account of the lecture is here. Want to investigate the works of the World Value Surveys, access other graphs or conduct you own online analysis? Click here.