UK Aid Projects Have Been ‘Scaled Back’ Since The Brexit Referendum

International development programmes promoting water security and helping refugees in Uganda have been hit by the fall in the value of the pound

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has called for more private sector involvement in UK aid. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Joe Sandler Clarke, @JSandlerClarke!|AIWA! NO!|Aid projects designed to help some of the poorest people in the world and mitigate climate change have been harmed by the dramatic fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum.

Programmes aimed at alleviating poverty in the Congo Basin region and supporting refugees in Uganda have both had to be scaled back, according to UK government documents.

UK support for programmes mitigating climate change have also been hit. The World Bank’s Forest Investment Program, a fund to encourage reforestation, faced an “unrealised currency loss of $37.26million” last year due to the fluctuation of the pound.

NGOs say they have had to balance their currency losses with income from other sources.

Claire Godfrey from Bond, the network that represents UK international development NGOs, told Unearthed that the current uncertainty “hits the most vulnerable and poorest people the hardest”.

She said: “Delivering aid and development programmes needs a level of predictability and currency volatility affects predictability, long-term planning and therefore sustainability… donors and NGOs are going to have to do some contingency planning to ensure that the currency fluctuations we are seeing post-Brexit do not have such a harmful impact on programming.”

Pete Clutton-Brock, policy advisor with the environmental organisation E3G, said the uncertainty around Brexit posed a risk for UK development funding and climate finance. He urged the Department for International Development (Dfid) to “consider options for hedging against such volatility as a matter of urgency.”

The news comes as MPs on the International Development Committee today heard evidence from policy institutes, including E3G, on ways UK aid money can be used to mitigate climate change.

Dramatic fall

For years, the relative strength of the pound meant organisations working with the Department for International Development budgeted in sterling. But fears about the impact of Brexit on the British economy have seen the value of the pound fall dramatically since the June 2016 referendum, leaving some aid projects under-funded.

Annual reviews of aid projects published by Dfid show that several programmes have been affected by the fluctuation of the pound since the referendum.

I fear Dfid will lose the ability to leverage the most out of the aid budget and contribute to UK soft power

project aimed at reducing deforestation and “improving the livelihoods of forest dependent communities” in the Congo Basin region has had to “scale back on activities to align with the new value of sterling”.

The latest review of a £45m programme providing “emergency life-saving assistance to the large influxes of refugees arriving in Uganda” warned that a “weaker pound would mean fewer beneficiaries will be reached and therefore less impact”.

An effort to “improve water security and climate resilience for poor people” around the world has also been caught out by the fall in the value of sterling, with the project’s annual review stating that partners on the programme may have to “reduce operational budgets” due to currency uncertainty.

Unearthed approached several major aid organisations receiving Dfid funding to ask if their projects had been affected by the fluctuation of the pound. These included the German organisation GIZ, which works on the Water Security Programme, and Rainforest Foundation UK, which works on the Congo Basin project.

All said they had found ways of insulating themselves from such uncertainty, by diversifying their donors and getting funding in a mix of currencies. But such options aren’t open to smaller NGOs, which carry out work on the ground.

Joseph English, a communications officer with Unicef, which receives Dfid funding, told Unearthed: “Any fluctuation in currency markets can cause revaluations of funds held by Unicef country offices or funds in support of Unicef programmes, and can lead to resource shortfalls or surplus.

“Unicef works to monitor currency fluctuations and assess their possible impact on local programme costs, and broaden funding pools and consider changes to programmes to mitigate any possible disruption due to revaluations and fluctuations.”

0.7% commitment

David Hulme, executive director of the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester, told Unearthed he feared Brexit could reduce the ‘soft power’ derived from the UK’s aid programme.

“In the short term, any fall in the value of the pound will affect many aid programmes, but the longer term consequences of our declining global influence could be even more profound.

“With Brexit likely to further erode both the value of the pound and reduce the UK’s credentials for international cooperation, I fear that Dfid will lose the ability to leverage the most out of the aid budget and to contribute to UK soft power.  This could have very real consequences for millions of people still living in poverty.”

In March 2015, David Cameron’s government passed a bill to enshrine in law the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid.

At the time of publication, Dfid were yet to provide a comment.

The World Bank did not respond to a request for comment.

Zimbabwe Economic Crisis; Beer One Per Customer – Things Are Very,Very Bad

Image result for zimbabwe economic crisisZimbabwe economic crisis – Photos show how bad it really is

New Hyperinflation Index (HHIZ) Puts Zimbabwe Inflation at 89.7 Sextillion Percent. Zimbabwe is the first country in the 21st century to hyperinflate. In February 2007, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate topped 50% per month, the minimum rate required to qualify as a hyperinflation (50% per month is equal to a 12,875% per year)
Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis in a decade, with prices soaring, limits on bread purchases, and long queues for fuel.

Zimbabwe economic crisis – Photos show how bad it really is

This followed Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s decision to introduce a tax increase on money transfers last week to try and stabilise the government’s finances.

The announcement triggered a rise in basic-commodity prices, stoking fears of an inflationary spiral and leading to long queues forming at petrol stations.

Zimbabwe Inflation Rate  2009-2018 

The inflation rate in Zimbabwe rose to 4.83 percent year-on-year in August 2018 from 4.29 percent in the prior month. It was the highest inflation rate since December 2011, mainly as prices advanced faster for food & non-alcoholic beverages (7.5 percent vs 6.3 percent in July). On a monthly basis, consumer prices went up 0.40 percent, following a 0.98 percent increase in the previous month. Inflation Rate in Zimbabwe averaged 1.08 percent from 2009 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 5.30 percent in May of 2010 and a record low of -7.50 percent in December of 2009.Zimbabwe Inflation Rate

Zimbabwe Inflation Rate

In Zimbabwe, the inflation rate measures a broad rise or fall in prices that consumers pay for a standard basket of goods. This page provides the latest reported value for – Zimbabwe Inflation Rate – plus previous releases, historical high and low, short-term forecast and long-term prediction, economic calendar, survey consensus and news. Zimbabwe Inflation Rate – actual data, historical chart and calendar of releases – was last updated on October of 2018.

Many shops, under pressure from the government, are restricting customers’ purchases to prevent hoarding.

Others have gone further: Yum! Brands Inc. temporarily shut some of its KFC outlets this week, saying it couldn’t find enough dollars to pay suppliers.

On Thursday, police arrested and beat two leaders of the country’s main trade union at protests over the increasing cost of living, the labor group said in a statement.

The country’s quasi-currency, known as bond notes (introduced two years ago and were meant to represent the value of one dollar), have plunged in value.

It now takes 4.3 of them to buy one U.S. dollar – the weakest exchange rate on record, according to the Zim Dollar Index. In early September, the rate was 1.75.

Some businesses have now stopped accepting bonds notes or electronic payments – which are even less valuable than the notes – altogether, and will only take hard cash.

Zimbabwe, having scrapped its own worthless Zimbabwe dollar to end 500 billion-percent inflation in 2009, accepts them and the US dollar, Euro and rand, among others, as legal tender.Image result for zimbabwe economic crisis

Photos tell the story

Many Zimbabweans have posted photos to social media to show how bad the situation has become in the country.

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA – How I fled Zimbabwe And Am Safe For Now In The United Kingdom 20-plus Odd Years; Being British… Having To Pay for A VISA If I Were to Fly To Zim Today; It Doesn’t Matter At All, At Least For Me – God Forbid; Why I’ll Never Fly To America While Trump Is President”’ Crimson Tazvinzwa Story – How The British Keep Me Well and Safe … At Least For Now – Remembering Jamal Khashoggi – You ARE Not Alone Mate!

DR. KELLY, THE BRITISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS EXPERT & PHYSICIST DIED A MYSTERIOUS DEATH; IT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN MYSTERIOUS AT ALL … HE DIED!!!

David Kelly 2000s.jpg
Screenshot of David Kelly, Welsh scientist and authority on biological warfare

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|“No time to say Good Bye to your lot in the villages including your venerable grandfather Mr. HLUPO Nyathi MAKONI (The Buffalo) in 2000! there are many of them still lying around … the Nyathis I mean. He is gone now. God bless His Soul. The man who sold one of the ‘best and fattest oxen’ in the village so I went to school; (but for me to become a journalist instead.  Aah!’. Mum: Modesta Makoni Nyathi (Buffalo)Tazvinzwa went to BE with the Lord 7 July 2018 – YOU DIED in some hospital in Botswana for Zimbabwe has NO CREDIBLE left.

Image result for crimson tazvinzwa
Crimson Tazvinzwa

You’re not alone though CRIMSON; … You have not been back to Zimbabwe since then; people say ‘You’re now on British Passport’ – it’s OK – I hope you now see how it’s not OK.

“Just go!, My uncle Joseph Makoni Nyathi whom I had not seen for ages (20- years plus then …then) said. He was trembling so was I. That was it! That was at Harare Road Port! “Africa Unit Square” in Harare – The Freedom Corner. Jan Von Ovangelle, Hilde (vana), Julliet Masama and Chritospher Muchabayiwa – Thomas mapfumo’ bass guitarist);  were all there but no mbiras/xylophones or drums aah boys and girls –  to see me off to oblivion. Except it never had to be!

Getting on a connecting coach at Harare Road Port for Johannesburg South Africa and then  connecting flight to Zurich, Switzerland. Where I was met by Nathalie Oestreicher, Kaspar Scheidegger and the whole shebang! Kaspar’s mum, I don;t remember the name. Oh dear! She paid 160.000 fnaks for my indemnity. scary! She didi>

For then I couldn’t fly straight from Harare. Imagine! iT WOULD HAVE BEEN OBVIOUS. And easily caught. At that … Poor.

It was illegal for the likes of me.

That would have been fatal.

I packed what I could and burnt what I could at 78 Lomagundi Road, Malborough; Harare. Jan Ovangelle and Julliet Masama my Belgian housemates would bear wetness to this.Map of A1, Harare, Zimbabwe Most importantly my ‘documents’. Nobody asked me to; but I thought it was the most importnat thing to do – IDENTITY. I made it to Suisse unscathed; escaped with a a few bumps on my head and face – historical, of course; that’s another story for another month … ; which even up to now in my naivety would not call for torcher – few ‘bumps on my head’ incurred doing what I love doing –  reading, listening, observing, talking to real people, listening and writing, and commenting – not even writing news as it were and as it happens; imagine how would that have been – news synonymous with event/occurrence or as it happens; more controversial – spend most of the time in court than necessary; than being in the field – documentary is my hiding spot. Forget about my childhood dream of ‘becoming a bus driver or an assistant bus driver. My uncle always addressed me as ‘Teacher’ even before I went to school – his argument: ‘I explained things too much … in graphic details; that was the thing for me … never became a DRIVER anyway which ends well; here I am, a journalist and trainer; whom at that most people struggle to understand; let alone fathom – me neither; don’t understand myself; there were just scraps!

Journalism is DIFFICULT for you’re an enemy of ALL including your FAMILY. Surely it shouldn’t be!

Let me say now and for all. If what happened to Washington Post Journalist Jamal happens to me … that would be the end of the world for such things don’t happen in England. Magna Carta!

I have been in my somnambulism … not at all!

HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE – Around the world, 15 million girls marry each year; On International #DayoftheGirl call for an end to child marriage. #EndChildMarriage

“Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948)

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA|AIWA! NO!|Malawi should increase efforts to end widespread child marriage, or risk worsening poverty, illiteracy, and preventable maternal deaths, warned Human Rights Watch in a 2014 report.

“I’ve never experienced happiness: Child marriage in Malawi” documents how child marriage prevents girls and women from participating in all spheres of life in Malawi, a country where 1 in 2 girls is married before age 18.

Child marriage is a harmful practice that violates girls’ rights to health, to education , to be free from violence, and to choose if, when, and whom to marry.

The report outlines concrete measures for Malawi’s President, Joyce Banda, and the government to protect girls from child marriage including:

  • Enact the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill, which set the legal minimum age of marriage at 18;
  • Develop a comprehensive national action plan to prevent and address the consequences of child marriage;
  • Develop a national policy on adolescent reproductive health;
  • Train law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute cases of violence against women, including child marriage
  • Support non-governmental organisations working on violence against women and girls, including child marriage
  • Support shelters for survivors of gender-based violence

READ THE REPORT

GIRLS’ VOICES

Watch:

Read the press release.

Girls who marry as children see their rights to health, to education, to be free from violence and to choose, violated. Over 80 women and girls shared their experiences with Human Rights Watch.

Trump Information-sphere – Debunking with data; Insights From Fact-checkers Around The World

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA!NO!|EJC|Ever wondered if a politician’s claims really add up? Or perhaps you read a news story which seemed a little fishy? Armed with data, fact-checking organisations across the globe work tirelessly to help separate these facts from fiction, and any misnomers in-between.

To find out more about debunking with data, European Journalism Centre (EJC) gave subscribers to their data newsletter access to a global group of fact-checkers for an exclusive; “Ask Me Anything“.

How about starting with the most recent one; US President Trump’s UN LIE of the ‘century and centuries’ to come;  “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” line which drove the listeners into murmurs and laughter – mockery.2018-09-26

The world just laughed out loud at Donald Trump. That day, during the president’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, the audience laughed when Trump boasted that “my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

As soon as the words left Trump’s mouth, a ripple of laughter traveled through the crowd and grew as Trump reacted to the guffaws

An unnecessary and embarrassing spectacle at that; if you ask me. Of course the humongous CLAIM was debunked as quickly as it was uttered; by the laughter of the audience and the world; also later on; hours later if I remember correctly, by Donald Trump himself;  

On the one hand, that is a pretty even-keeled response from someone as tantrum-prone as Trump.

Reader question: Can you share some good examples or best cases where data has been successfully used for fact-checking?

Anim van Wyk, Chief Editor, Africa CheckGood data aids good fact-checking, which need to point out exactly what the data can and can’t tell you. The more limitations, the less certain the answer becomes.

For example, it’s easy to use data from the World Health Organization’s Global Ambient Air Quality database to rank cities according to their pollution levels. But the fine print shows that these entries aren’t comparable. This is due to differences in the methods and quality of measurements – and the fact that some cities suspected to be the most polluted don’t report data to the WHO.

Samar Halarnkar, Editor, Factchecker.in: Data are [we never use the singular!] the foundation of fact-checking.

One example: The Indian telecommunications minister announced that within a year of taking charge, his administration ensured that the government-run telecoms behemoth, BSNL, had turned a operating profit, after seven years of losses, and had added subscribers. After a meticulous examination of data–including right-to-information requests–we found that operating profits did not mean the company had turned profitable; indeed net losses had increased, and the minister had, conveniently, not mentioned that more subscribers left than were added.

After a new right-wing government took over in 2014, there were many reports of lynchings, especially of minorities, based on violence related to cows, considered holy by many Hindus. The ruling party and its adherents insisted these were isolated incidents, were never reported before and were not related to the extreme version on Hinduism that they promoted. A debate raged nationwide, poisoning politics and society, made worse by the absence of data–national crime records did not register crimes related to bovines. At Factchecker.in, we created a database of each such crime from 2010 onwards, so that crime patterns could be compared with those after 2014, when the new government took office. Our database–now widely quoted in India and abroad–clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of the victims of such lynchings are minorities, in particular Muslims, and most violence has occurred in states run by India’s ruling party.

Image: Factchecker.in’s interactive database of cow-related violence in India.

Matt Martino, Online Editor, RMIT ABC Fact Check: Politicians in Australia often like to speak about records, both when attacking opponents and spruiking their achievements. A famous example in our unit was when the ruling Coalition Foreign Minister said that when the Opposition Labor Party were last in government, they bequeathed the “worst set of financial accounts” in Australia’s history to their incoming government. This particular fact-check took several months of work sourcing data from the history books on debt and deficit. We were able to find data on federal government surpluses and deficits, plus gross debt, stretching back to 1901, and on net debt handed over to incoming governments back to the 1970s. It’s a great example of where a claimant has used the raw number in place of a percentage, which puts the figure in historical context. In this case, experts told us that these figures must be expressed as a percentage of GDP to enable historical comparisons. Ultimately, we found that the Foreign Minister’s claim was wrong, as there were far larger (as a percentage of GDP) inherited deficits recorded during WWII, far larger gross debt inherited in the same period, and far larger net debt bequeathed to a government during the 1990s.

Dinda Purnamasari, Senior Researcher, Tirto.id: Data is the soul of fact-checking. But not just data, more importantly, the context of data itself is what makes our fact-check more reliable.

First, on 2 May 2017, Jake Van Der Kamp, an economist, shared an opinion entitled “Sorry President Widodo, GDP rankings are economists’ equivalent of fake news”. At that time, Kamp quoted a statement from President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) that Indonesia’s economic growth was third in the world, after India and China.

‘GDP is an attempt to emulate the corporate world by putting money numbers on performance but… with GDP you get no equivalents of the corporate balance sheet or profit and loss account and no notes to the accounts’“Indonesia’s economic growth is the third in the world, after India and China,” said Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

Third in the world, is it? What world is that? Within Asia alone I count 13 countries with higher reported economic growth rates than Indonesia’s latest 5.02 per cent.

They are India (7.5), Laos (7.4), Myanmar (7.3), Cambodia (7.2), Bangladesh (7.1), Philippines (6.9), China (6.7) Vietnam (6.2), Pakistan (5.7), Mongolia (5.5), Palau (5.5), Timor-Leste (5.5) and Papua New Guinea (5.4).

But of course President Widodo’s Indonesia is a very populous country with 261 million people. We cannot really compare it with pipsqueak places like Timor or Palau. Thus let’s draw the line at the 200 million people or more.

This gives us six countries across the world and, in terms of economic growth, Indonesia is in the bottom half of these six behind India, China and Pakistan. Try it at a cut-off of 100 million people or more and you still get no luck. Bottom half again.

Way to go, Joko. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. We’ll make a journalist of you yet.

 

After this opinion became an issue in Indonesia, Tirto.id decided to verify the data that had been used by Jokowi. We looked at data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and based on that we concluded that Indonesia was not in the third position using general criteria, but instead ranks third among BRICS and high populated countries.

Image: A graph from tirto.id’s fact-check, showing that Indonesia is ranked third out of the BRICS countries.

Second, in early August 2018, the Vice Governor claimed that their policy of odd-even traffic limitation had reduced air pollution in Jakarta. His statement became an issue, and even some media quoted his data. We verified the data using measurements from the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi, dan Geofisika – BMKG) and the US Embassy. Based on those, his statement was incorrect. The average of air pollution in Jakarta was still high and did not appear to be decreasing.

Tania Roettger, Head of Fact-Checking Team, Correctiv/EchtJetzt: Fact-checking only works for statements of fact, not opinions. So ideally there is data available to verify claims. We regularly use statistics about topics like crime, HIV-rates or jobs. If there are statistics on a topic, we will consult them. Of course, statistics differ in quality depending on the topic and who gathers the data.

Earlier this year, we debunked the claim that refugees sent 4.2 Billion Euros to their home countries in 2016. Data from the German federal bank showed that the 4.2 Billion Euros in remittances actually came from all migrants working in Germany for more than a year, not specifically from refugees. Most of the money, 3.4 Billion Euros, went to European countries, followed by Asia (491 Million) and Africa (177 Million).

Image: Correctiv/EchtJetzt rated the statement as four on their seven point rating scale.

Reader question: Have you seen examples where the same data has been manipulated to support both sides of an argument? If so, how do you ensure that your way of looking at the data isn’t biased?

Anim van Wyk: At Africa Check, we’re fond of the quip that some people use statistics “as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than illumination”. Depending on what you want to prove, you can cherry-pick data which supports your argument.

An example is different stances on racial transformation in South Africa, or the lack thereof. A member of a leftist political party said in 2015 that  “whites are only 10% of the economically active population but occupy more than 60% of the top management positions.” The head of the Free Market Foundation, a liberal think-tank, then wrote: “Blacks in top management… doubled.”

Both were right – but by presenting only a specific slice of the same data source to support their argument.

Again, you need to find out what the data cannot tell you and try to triangulate by using different data sources.

Image: Africa Check’s ‘mostly correct’ verdict means that a claim contains elements of truth but is either not entirely accurate, according to the best evidence publicly available at the time, or needs clarification.

Matt Martino: A great example of this was the debate over “cuts” and “savings” to health and education during the early days of the Abbott Coalition government in Australia. The government argued that they were making a “saving” on health and education by reducing the amount spent on what the previous Labor government had budgeted to spend. Labor, now in opposition, argued that this was in fact a cut. We investigated the figures and found that the Coalition was still spending above inflation so it couldn’t be called a cut, but the projections the Coalition had made about savings were over such a long period of time that it was difficult to say whether they would come to pass. In the end we called the debate “hot air”.

How do we make sure we’re looking at the data the right way? We always rely on several experts in the field to guide our analysis and tell us the right way to interpret the data. We’re not experts in any of the topics we explore, whilst academics can spend their entire careers researching a single subject, so their advice is invaluable.

Dinda Purnamasari: In our experience, many use the right data, but the context is incorrect. Then, the data becomes incredible.

For example, reports that PT Telkom (state-owned telecommunication company in Indonesia) had provided Corporate Social Responsibility funds of around IDR 100 million to a Mosque and, in comparison, IDR 3.5 billion to a church.

We found that the numbers (IDR100 million and IDR3.5 billion) were right, but the purpose of the funding was incorrect. The 100 million was granted by PT Telkom in 2016 to pay the debt from a mosque renovation process. On the other hand, 3.5 billion was granted to renovate the old church, which also became a cultural heritage site in Nusa Tenggara Barat in 2017.

In this case, again, the context of data becomes an important thing in fact-checking. We must understand the methodology and how the data was gathered or estimated, even by double-checking on the ground, if needed.

Tania Roettger: Crime-data is a good example. In 2017 crime rates in Germany went down. But the statistic only shows the crimes that have been reported to the police. This has lead some politicians to claim that crime has not actually gone down and that the statistics are “fake news“.

When the meaning of data is debated, we consult independent experts to collect arguments about how the data can or should be interpreted. Or we look at alternative sources, for example the surveys some German states conduct with people about the crimes they experienced but did not report. (However, the validity of these surveys is disputed.)

Samar Halarnkar: In this era of fake news, data are often used to reinforce biases.

For instance, there was much self congratulation when the government claimed that India’s forests grew by 6,779 sq km over the two years to 2017. We found that this was not wrong because that is what the satellite imagery revealed. But what it did not reveal was that these new “forests” included forests converted to commercial plantations, as well as degraded and fragmented forests, and that the health of these forests was being gauged by satellite imagery with inadequate resolution. Indeed, numerous studies had recorded a steady degradation of forests over nearly a century.

Image: Factchecker.in found that this map of forest coverage was not what it seemed. Credit: India’s state of forest report (ISFR) 2017.

Indian remote-sensing satellites produce images with a resolution of 23.5 metres per pixel, which is too coarse to unequivocally identify small-scale deforestation and cannot distinguish between old-growth forests and plantations. To make that distinction, India needs imagery with resolution of 5.8 m per pixel.

So, all data are not always what they appear. They need to be verified and cross-checked, either with studies, other databases or ground reporting.

Reader question: How do you fact-check stories or statements when data on an issue isn’t available?

Anim van Wyk: It’s really unsatisfactory to use our “unproven” verdict, but sometimes the evidence publicly available at the time “neither proves nor disproves a statement”, as we define this rating. Still, the absence of data doesn’t mean anything goes in making statements of fact about a topic. We then point out what is known and what isn’t.

Samar Halarnkar: If data are not available–or independently verified data are not available–there is only one substitute: Verification through old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting.

For instance, India’s Prime Minister once claimed that his government had built 425,000 toilets within a year. With no independent verification, this claim was hard to dispute. Obviously, it was impossible to verify that 425,000 new toilets had indeed been built in all of India’s schools. But after sending reporters to conduct random verifications in eight Indian states, it quickly became apparent that the Prime Minister’s claim was–to put it plainly–a lie.

Matt Martino: RMIT ABC Fact Check tests the veracity of claims made by politicians and public figures in Australia. If someone is making a claim to influence policy, our position is that they should have good evidence to back it up. Lack of evidence is no excuse so we try and persevere regardless.

Sure, this often leads to less-exciting verdicts, such as “unverifiable” or “too soon to know” but the verdict is not the be-all-and-end-all of a fact-check. In these situations, we explore what data is out there; we consult experts in the field for their opinion, and we present it to the audience as best we can so they can see how we’ve come to our decision.

Video: More detail on how RMIT ABC Fact Check finds and checks claims.

Dinda Purnamasari: If the data isn’t available, we will place it as unproven, though this flag is unsatisfactory. But, before we conclude the issue as unproven, we still explain the verification steps that we undertook. This is because we want citizens to understand that, when tirto.id places a claims as unproven, it means we could not find the credible source of the information.

As an example, one of our politicians stated that the LRT development cost for 1 KM was USD 8 billion. After we checked reliable and credible sources, and we couldn’t find the information, then we concluded the issue as unproven.

Tania Roettger: “Knife crime on the rise“ is a recent story, but the federal crime statistics do not list crimes committed with knives as a special category. Some states in Germany do, but among them, they differ in what they count as knife crime. That definitely does not make our work easier.

In cases like this, we source as much information for a claim as is available. If it turns out the material is not sufficient to verify or debunk the claim, we list what is known and clearly state what is missing. If there is no convincing tendency we give the rating “unproven”. But it is important to keep in mind that those making a claim also carry a burden of proof – if one makes a statement of fact, it needs to be based on evidence. This is one of the things we’re trying to show with our work.

Reader question: Are there any established guidelines for determining the reliability of a data source? How does your organisation determine which data is appropriate to use?

Samar Halarnkar: We do not have established guidelines. In general, we consider if the data source is reliable. Sometimes, it might not entirely reliable; for example, a government source, in which case we use the data but cross check with experts, independent studies and/or our own checks. Some public databases are largely reliable: for instance, government-run databases on health, farming and education. We do not consider those data that have previously proven to be compromised or are doubtful.

Matt Martino: We don’t have any hard rules around it, but generally the source should be a non-partisan organisation. In Australia, we rely heavily on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is a government organisation which has a reputation for providing objective data on a range of issues. This is an example of a good source.

When considering a source, it’s always pertinent to ask: “what is their agenda?” If their motivations for providing data might influence the data in a partisan way, it’s best to leave it alone. As always, it’s a good idea to consult experts in the field on what is the best source to use in verifying a claim.

Dinda Purnamasari: Since we already know that every data has their own nature, such as context, methodology, etc, we have established a standard for the secondary data that is used. Our first level of the source comes from the Government Statistic Bureau, Ministry/Local Government, company financial reports and the stock exchange. As a second layer, we use world organisations, verified and credible journals, consultants and research companies, as well the national or high reputation news agencies. Although, we have this standard, we also cross-check information by consulting with experts in the field, so that we use the best sources.

Tania Roettger: When we’re investigating a claim, one task is to understand what exactly a given piece of data is able to tell. We establish how and why it was collected, what it contains and it excludes. Usually we note the shortcomings of a statistic in the article. Whenever we are uncertain about the evidence we have gathered, we discuss the issue among our team.

Anim van Wyk: There’s no way round studying the methodology by which the data is collected. This must then be discussed with experts to get their input. And all data sources, even those considered reliable, have limitations, which has to be highlighted.

Reader question: What do you think about the potential of automated fact-checking?

Samar Halarnkar: I am sure it has immense potential, but this requires coding expertise that we do not currently have.

Tania Roettger: There are several ways in which automation could help the fact-checking process: extracting fact-checkable claims from speeches or sourcing relevant statistics and documents from a data-pool, for example. But so far we have not experienced or heard of a tool that would do our work for us.

Image: An overview of out automation could aid fact-checking from Understanding the promise and limits of automated fact-checking, by Lucas Graves.

Matt Martino: It’s an interesting area, but one which is currently undercooked. Parsing language is a big part of what we do at Fact Check, and machines are not yet capable of interpreting a great deal of the nuance in language. That being said, anything that allows greater access to the facts in a debate for audiences would be a good thing.

One area where there is already enormous potential is in searching for and identifying potential claims to check and key data on government website such as Hansard and budget papers.

I think that, like a lot of AI, there’s a long way to go, and we’ll be watching this space intently.

Anim van Wyk: The tools I’ve seen are helpful in monitoring important sources for claims to fact-check, such as transcripts from parliament. But I’m quite hesitant about fact-checks without any human intervention as nuance plays such a big role. The potential of getting it completely wrong when you are the one claiming to be correcting claims is not worth the potential credibility loss, in my opinion.

Dinda Purnamasari: It is very interesting, and could make the fact-checker’s work easier. But, for us, it is still long way to go. But, more importantly, to provide the context to data that I am sure is still hard to do by machine.

Reader Question: What are some of your go-to data tools?

Anim van Wyk: You’t can beat a good old spreadsheet. For illustration purposes, we keep it simple by using Datawrapper.

Samar Halarnkar: We use Tabula for extracting tables from PDFs. For analysis, we depend on Excel/Google Sheets and Tableau depending on the size and type of the dataset. For visualisation, we work primarily with Google Sheets, Datawrapper, Infogram and Tableau. We also use Google My Maps and CartoDB for some maps.

Matt Martino: We use Excel or Google spreadsheets for simple analyses; for more complex ones I use R Studio, which is more powerful and can handle much larger datasets. It requires coding knowledge, but the training is well worth it.

In terms of visualisation, we’ve tried many different platforms throughout the years, but Tableau Public has emerged as our go-to. Its abilities in formatting, design, calculation and visualisation are pretty much unrivalled in my opinion, and we’ve been able to create really interesting and rich visualisations using the platform, like those seen here and here.

Dinda Purnamasari: For analysis, we use excel, SPSS, and other statistical tools. It really depends on the purpose, size and type of our data and analysis. For visualisation, we use adobe illustrator, datawrapper, etc.

Want to participate in future ask me anythings? Sign up to the European Journalism Centre’s data newsletter here.

BRITISH IMMIGRATION Detention Centres; sick, tortured immigrants locked up for months …

Revealed – sick, tortured immigrants locked up for months in Britain – investigation suggests hundreds of vulnerable people are detained indefinitely;  and 

Detainees in an immigration detention centre
The survey found almost half the detainees had not committed a crime but the average detainee had been imprisoned for four months. Photograph: The Guardian

|AIWA! NO!|An unprecedented snapshot of migrants held in British detention centres found more than half of the sample were either suicidal, seriously ill or victims of torture, a Guardian investigation has established.

The survey of almost 200 detainees held in seven deportation centres in England as of 31 August showed almost 56% were defined as an “adult at risk”. Such individuals are only supposed to be detained in extreme cases, suggesting that Home Office guidelines on detention have been breached.

The survey – conducted in association with 11 law firms and charities that work with those facing deportation – also found that a third had dependent children in the UK, and 84% had not been told when they would be deported – implying open-ended incarceration.

Almost half the detainees had not committed a crime, but the average detainee in the sample had been imprisoned for four months. The majority had lived in the UK for five years or more and some had been in the country for more than 20 years.

The sample amounts to 8% of all those held in detention at the time of survey, according to the most recent Home Office figures. A Home Office spokesperson insisted detention was “an important part of the immigration system”, but said that it must be “fair, dignified and protect the most vulnerable”, adding that further improvements could still be made to the system.

While it is not sufficiently scientific to be extrapolated across the entire removal population, the survey suggests many hundreds of extremely vulnerable people are being held indefinitely, in one of the most severe manifestations of the Conservatives’ “hostile environment” policy.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/09/deportation_centres/giv-3902kLLugVLHtE4f/

Roland Adjovi a member of the UN Office of the Human Rights Commissioner’s arbitrary detention working group, said that states must ensure that detention ‘is truly a measure of last resort’

“Detention in the context of migration must be a measure of last resort,” he said. “Such detention can never be of unlimited duration and the national legislation must clearly prescribe the maximum permitted duration of detention.”

The former prisons and probation ombudsman Stephen Shaw, who has conducted two comprehensive reviews for the government into immigration detention, added: “Although the overall use of detention has fallen by one third in the last three years, far too many people are still being detained for long periods when there is no realistic prospect of their removal from the UK.”

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “This snapshot is truly shocking, but not entirely surprising.

“There have been repeated assurances that vulnerable people, victims of trafficking and children would not been detained. But this investigation shows that those assurances are worthless. People are even being detained even though there is no instruction for their removal. This is a scandalously inhumane and unjustifiable system.”

The government detains just over 25,000 people every year pending deportation, at an annual cost of £108m. The practice of indefinite incarceration has been criticised by high court judges, local authorities, parliamentary committees and the UN.

More than half of all detainees are in any case ultimately released back into British society, not deported. Some have taken legal action over their imprisonment. The Home Office’s latest annual report acknowledges that government has paid out £3m to 118 people unlawfully detained in the 2017/18 financial year.

The UK is the only country in Europe to detain people without a time limit. It was Guardian revelations about government’s removal targets which forced Amber Rudd to resign as home secretary in April. Detention centres are instrumental to that policy.

In July, the new home secretary, Sajid Javid, promised to make changes to immigration detention. But the Guardian investigation revealed very little had changed and many vulnerable people were still being detained.

Eleven law firms and charities entered anonymised data on 188 people to build a snapshot of people in deportation centres on 31 August. The data included how long they were held, whether they were considered an adult at risk and whether they had been told when they would be deported.

The survey found:

  • Children were held in adult detention centres, while 30% of detainees had dependent children in the UK.
  • More than half were defined as an adult at risk due to being victims of torture, having suicidal thoughts or being unwell.
  • While the government claims detainees are held briefly before being deported, 84% had not been given removal directions.
  • Detention ranged from under five days to nearly three years, with a median of four months, despite Home Office guidance that it should be used sparingly and for the shortest period necessary.
  • Detainees came from 56 countries, most commonly Nigeria and Algeria.

An adult at risk should be given special protection because they are particularly vulnerable. They should not usually be imprisoned, though they can be if the Home Office believes they pose a risk to the public or have a history of non-compliance with immigration law.

Of those represented in the Guardian survey, 27% had been tortured, 24% had serious health conditions and 4% were at risk of suicide.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/oct/2018-10-08T13:48:54/embed.html

The survey found just over half of detainees had served a prison sentence.

Alieu, a refugee from Gambia who was tortured in his home country, says that seven years after being detained in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, near Heathrow, he is still suffering trauma.

“I kept asking the Home Office: ‘Am I a criminal, am I a prisoner?’ I was locked up in a very small space and was too scared to sleep. I’m still scared of people in uniform. The trauma from being locked up in detention after I’d already experienced torture will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/oct/2018-10-08T13:44:49/embed.html

The investigation also uncovered multiple cases of children being held in the adult estate, despite this being banned in all but exceptional circumstances. Almost a third of adult detainees had dependent children in the UK, prompting concerns their removal would lead to families being separated.

Bail for Immigration Detainees, a charity that assists with detainees’ bail applications, condemned such separations, saying it causes children extreme distress.

“Many of our clients’ children have lost weight, suffered from recurring nightmares and experienced insomnia during their parents’ enforced absence,” said Celia Clarke, director of BID.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, deplored the fact that the vast majority of detainees face open-ended imprisonment, adding: “That lack of an end date is causing serious harm, not only to those detained but also to their loved ones.”

Migration Watch, which monitors migration into the UK and has called for the detention estate to be expanded, said: “If people are here legally and they are being detained that’s a serious flaw in the system. It goes without saying that people who are here legally should not be detained.”

James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance expressed concern about the cost of detention: “Detention should only be used when there is a high chance of returning the individual in a short space of time, because a bureaucratic and lengthy wait is bad for the welfare of those detained, as well as costing taxpayers and meaning less money for essential services.”

The Home Office spokesman said: “We have made significant improvements to our approach in recent years, but it is clear we can go further.

“The home secretary has made clear that he is committed to going further and faster to explore alternatives to detention, increase transparency around immigration detention, further improve the support available for vulnerable detainees and initiate a new drive on detainee dignity.”

The methodology

The Guardian sent a series of questions to 15 organisations who work with detainees – law firms with Home Office contracts to represent detainees and specialist NGOs. We received responses from 11.

Our partner organisations provided anonymised data about a series of key metrics, including age, length of residence and family ties in the UK, length of detention and specific vulnerabilities.

We asked them to enter data about their entire client list on a single day, 31 August, but some did not have the resources to capture every detainee on their books.

After excluding a handful of potential double counts where an NGO and a law firm may have been working with the same detainee, we were left with 188 unique responses.

We then calculated the proportion of the group with certain characteristics, such as suicidal tendencies, dependent children and long-term residency.

The data should be treated as a snapshot and not as a sample representative of the whole population in immigration detention. Many detainees never have contact with any legal representative or NGO, and will not have been captured in our sample.

 In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or emailjo@samaritans.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

©The Guardian

AFRICA SIERRA LEONE Cancels China-Funded Mamamah Airport

Sierra Leone cancels China-funded Mamamah airport outside capital Free Town- a move that comes at a time when African leaders are waking-up from their deep slumber; beginning to question their ‘Look Far East-CHINA’ political dissertations/policies – tottering towards China’s ‘neo-imperialisation‘ of Africa through shameless debt traps – mega white elephant projects

Former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a signing ceremony in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on December 1, 2016.
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionFormer Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma (left) stepped down from power in April

|BBC|AIWA! NO!|Sierra Leone has cancelled a $400m (£304m) Chinese-funded project to build a new airport outside the capital Freetown.

Former President Ernest Bai Koroma signed the loan agreement with China before he lost elections in March.

At the time, the World Bank and the IMF warned that the project would impose a heavy debt burden.

The decision comes amid concern that many African countries risk defaulting on their debts to China.

Aviation Minister Kabineh Kallon told the BBC that the project, which was due to have been completed in 2022, wasn’t necessary and its current international airport would be renovated instead.

Image result for africa chinese debt
China’s set to have invested $60bn in Africa at the end of 2018

He said the current president, Julius Maada Bio, “didn’t see any need for Mamamah [the proposed airport]” and was considering building a bridge from the capital to Lungi airport – the only international airport in the country. Currently passengers need to get a boat or helicopter to reach Freetown.

Mr Kallon said he did not know whether the cancelled contract would lead to financial implications, and Sierra Leone remained on good terms with China.

“As [a] sovereign state, I do have the right to take the best decision for the country,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

Chart showing growth of China's loans to African governments

China is now the single largest bilateral financier of infrastructure in Africa – surpassing the African Development Bank (ADB), the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank and the Group of eight (G8) countries combined.

Critics say China is luring countries into debt traps by lending them money for massive infrastructure projects.

In August, 16 American senators voiced their concern about “predatory Chinese infrastructure lending” in a letter to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Zambia’s government has had to publicly deny reports China could seize some of its parastatal companies if it defaulted on loan repayments.

But China has denied claims that it is leading countries into a debt trap.

“If we take a closer look at these African countries that are heavily in debt, China is not their main creditor,” China’s special envoy for Africa, Xu Jinghu, told a news conference in September, Reuters reports.

“It’s senseless and baseless to shift the blame onto China for debt problems.”

Some Africans are also wary of the high levels of debt being built up and say the costs of some projects have been inflated by corruption, while others welcome China’s involvement, saying that the roads, ports, railways and other projects are badly needed.

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