From: The Stream

How could a new region change southern Ethiopia?

On Wednesday, October 6 at 19:30 GMT:
In this episode of The Stream, we look at three developing stories in different parts of the world.

Ethiopia – a new region awaits?
Counting and verification is underway in a referendum expected to approve the formation of a new regional state in southern Ethiopia.

People living in six parts of the existing Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNPPR) were asked on September 30 if they supported forming a South West regional state. Up to 900,000 registered voters were expected to cast ballots in the referendum.

Observers expect a result in favour of the new region, which would see federal money come its way while allowing its leaders greater control over taxation, security, and health and education policy. People across southern Ethiopia have long contended that it needs greater investment and development.

The vote comes less than two years after Sidama became Ethiopia’s 10th regional state, after a public poll in which more 98 percent of voters expressed favour.

We’ll look at what a new South West region could mean for people living there.

Resetting Venezuela’s currency
People in Venezuela are getting used to a new currency – one with six fewer zeros than its predecessor.

The introduction of the new bolivar is part of an effort by Venezuela’s central bank to address runaway inflation that is among the highest in the world. Under the changes brought in on October 1, the highest denomination changes from a one million bolivar note worth $0.25 to a one-hundred bolivar note worth about $25. A central digital currency (CBDC) has also been introduced.

The central bank says the updated currency – the third such reconversion since 2008 – will make everyday transactions easier. Prior to the relaunch, residents often used US dollars rather than wads of bolivar notes that carried little value.

But Venezuela continues to faces other major economic challenges. The International Monetary Fund projects its GDP will fall by 10 percent in 2021, after a drop of 35 percent in 2019. People across the country are struggling to find food, fuel and essential medical supplies, with COVID-19 exacerbating the precarity they are facing. Thousands of people are emigrating as coronavirus continues to take a toll. More than three-quarters of the population are enduring extreme poverty, according to a recent survey by researchers at Andres Bello Catholic University.

Critics of President Nicolas Maduro says Venezuela’s economic problems are down to government mismanagement and an over-reliance on exports of oil that nosedived in price from 2014 to 2016. Maduro and his supporters says US sanctions, some of which target the state-owned oil company PdVSA, are largely to blame for the country’s woes.

We’ll look at what the new currency means for residents in Venezuela and examine the economic challenges they are facing.

Tension in Tunisia
The gulf between supporters and opponents of Tunisia’s president appears to be widening, with rival rallies suggesting the country faces continued political uncertainty.

Thousands of people rallied in support of Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on October 3, an apparent riposte to demonstrations against Saied throughout the two preceding weekends.

Saied sacked the country’s government and dissolved parliament in late July, assuming near total control in a move opposition parties call a coup. The political crisis intensified after he granted himself powers to rule by decree on September 22. Saied’s appointment of a new prime minister has done little to bridge the divide.

The president and his supporters say the measures he has taken are constitutional and are needed to tackle corruption and major economic problems that worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saied’s opponents say he is making a thinly-disguised power grab, but they are themselves divided.  While four opposition parties have issued a statement saying Saied has “lost his legitimacy”, the country’s largest party did not join them. It is enmeshed in its own struggles, with more than 100 senior officials standing down in protest at the party’s failure to tackle the “imminent tyrannical danger” they say Saied poses.

We’ll look at the public mood in Tunisia as the political stand-off continues.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Bereket Eshetu Messele
Lawyer and consultant

Sam Kimball, @samontheroad
Independent journalist

Sarah Kinosian, @skinosian
Correspondent, Reuters


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