In the first half of 2015 the United States faced its worst outbreak on record of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in poultry (HPAI, informally known as bird flu). According to the World Organisation For Animal Health, since December 2014 in the U. S. nearly 65 million birds were susceptible to HPAI. In it's recent report, titled "Fall 2015 HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan", the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says 7.5 million turkeys and 42.1 million egg-layer and pullet chickens have already been killed or culled, with devastating effects on these businesses and a cost to Federal taxpayers of over $950 million. U.S. egg prices skyrocketed to record high in summer because of the egg shortage and may continue to rise in case of likely fall return of epidemic. Under USDA's worst case scenario, 500 or more commercial establishments of various sizes across a large geographical area could be affected, including commercial high-volume poultry establishments, commercial high-value poultry establishments (game or specialty birds), the live bird marketing system, and backyard flocks in the 20 States that represent a composite of the top broiler, turkey, and layer producing states.
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Africa’s power sector struggles under low access and insufficient capacity. Only 35 percent of the population of Sub-Sahara Africa, including South Africa, has access to electricity while more than 90 percent of the populations of Burundi, Chad, Liberia, Malawi, and South Sudan lack access to a power grid. Most African countries, except South Africa, face severe power generation capacity deficits even compared to international peers of similar economic size. For example, electric power consumption in Kenya is 157 kWh/year per capita, equivalent to 11 times less than in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the poorest Former Soviet Union countries. Similarly, Cameroon, with a population of about 22 million, has only 1 GW of installed electricity capacity versus 22 GW of installed capacity in Romania, one the poorest European countries with the same total population.
Unprecedented changes to the international tax system are expected over the next five years. An OECD/G20 global campaign to address tax base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) is in full swing and could dramatically alter the tax landscape.
According to a November 2014 update from the OECD, BEPS refers to corporate tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules between countries to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations characterized by little or no economic activity, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid. BEPS would potentially have major implications for developing countries due to the heavy reliance of these countries on corporate income tax, particularly from multinational enterprises.
The cost of education in the United States has dramatically increased against general inflation rates during the period 2000-2014. The consumer price index for education services increased 120 percent while overall inflation rose about 40 percent. Changes in recent months have only reinforced this trend. The consumer price index for education for the January-July period increased from 3.6 in 2014 to 3.8 percent in 2015, whereas the index for all consumer items was steady at -0.2 percent for the same period in 2014 and 2015. Turning to total expenditures, US federal government expenditures on education are about 5.2 percent of GDP, which is on par with other OECD economies and slightly higher than the world average. That said, the governments of several emerging countries, such as Bolivia, Brazil, and Ghana, outspend the OECD average.
The Global Firepower database published earlier this year provides an interesting perspective on the relative military strength of the former-Soviet Union (FSU) member states bordering Russia as compared to Russia. The contrast is so sharp that any of the FSU countries would almost certainly be unable to defend themselves from Russian military advancement without the direct involvement of NATO or other allied forces.
The Baltic States, Georgia, and Ukraine combined spend fifteen times less on defense than does Russia. While military expenditures offer only a simplistic cross-country comparison - obscuring differences such as procurement systems and how related industries are supported by each government - the data in this case does show a correlation with smaller armed forces and limited resources. For example, the active military manpower of the Baltic States - comprised of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - is 25 times less than Russia's, and the States have no tanks (vs 15,400 in Russia), no fighter jets or other interceptors, and only small coastal Naval defense crafts.
During the mid-to-late 2000s, Nigeria struggled to reign in the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, better known simply as MEND. MEND is a militant group based in the southwest of Nigeria in the Niger Delta, Nigeria's primary onshore oil production region. The group sought increased economic benefits for residents of the Niger Delta from the country's oil production and reparations for destruction of the environment by foreign oil companies. The group's guerrilla warfare tactics and deadly bombings were only part of the reason it was so potent; the group also caused severe economic losses by disrupting or shutting in oil and gas production infrastructure and kidnapping foreign oil workers.
A second violent group was developing its identity and reach during this same period: Boko Haram. Much of the world learned of the Boko Haram terrorist group after it kidnapped 276 school girls from their dormitory in the Nigerian town of Chibok in April 2014, but for years it has grown in size and capability. Formally established in the early 2000s, this Islamic extremist group gained new momentum and potency in the period 2009-2010 when it started an armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria.