June 2002, Issue No. 7
 
 
 
  ASEAN Law Ministers Meet to Discuss Amendment of Laws
Forum Secretariat Highlights Need for Regional Land Policies
Three Important Documents to Be Signed at SCO Summit: FM Spokesman
   
 
 

China to Issue Law on "Grain for Green" Project
Introducing Law into Governance
Revised Rules for Trust Firms
China to Adjust Immigration Policy to Attract Overseas Skills

New Agro-Policy Needed for WTO
China Amends Law to Further Open up Insurance Industry
Beijing Set to Grant Minimum Living Allowances for Urban Poor
China Beefs Up Legal and Policy Planning for Foreign Funds' Entry
Taibei Passes Asset-Sale Law
Beijing Orders Internet Cafes Closed
Chinese Legislature Ratifies Five Laws
Shanghai Introduces New Resident Card Policy Aimed at Attracting Foreign Expatriates
Audit Rules for China Banks
Chinese Legislators Debate Over Draft Law on Private Schools
Legislators Call for Tighter Supervision of Budget
Japan Lawmakers Grill Moody's Over Debt Rating
Lower House Approves New Anticorruption Bill
Gov't Gives Up Passing Privacy Protection Bill
Postal Bills 'Counterproductive': Yamato Chief
Japanese PM to Present Tax-Reform Policy
Environment Ministry Plans Bill to Help NPOs
Koizumi Calls for Local Cooperation on War Legislation
Gov't Panel Unveils Draft Policy Package
Koizumi Proposes Retroactive Tax Breaks
Japan Maintains Rates Near Zero in Bid to End Deflation
Japan: LDP Postal Reform Panel Criticizes Deregulation Bills
Lower House Passes Medical Reform Bills
Council Finalizes Basic Reform Policy
State-Run Universities Urged to Relax Nationality Clause
Ministry Plans Environment Protection Bill
Seoul to Raise Defense Budget 12.7% in 2003
Law to Prevent Draft Dodgers from Making Overseas Trips

   
 
  Bill to Allow Firms to Fund Mardi Research
BII Obtains Shareholders' Approval to Launch Rights Issue
Myanmar Enacts Money Laundering Control Law
Malaysian Parliament Passes Bills on Construction Industry
World Bank Welcomes Indonesia's Asset Support Securities Plan
Singapore Government Adds Three New Land Sites to Reserve List
Tioman Accorded Duty Free Status with Approval of Five Bills
Arroyo Asks Public for More Patience Over Power Bills
BOI Acts to Cap Tax Incentives
Bills Pave Way for Merging of Fields
Enterprise Law Hailed for Delivering Goods on Growth
Govt Launches Crackdown on Major Property Investments
Govt Uses Its Numbers to Pass Budget Bill

   
 
 

New Tariff Policy in Three Months: Prabhu
PM Declares War on Drug Peddling

Privatisation Will Improve Power Distribution: DVB
Companies Act Amended for Additional Disclosures
'Govt to Reform IPR Laws'
Pak to Introduce More Tax: Shaukat
Judicial Commission to Take Stern Action Against Defaulters
Nepal: Govt to Introduce Rafting Regulations
Provinces to Get Population Funds
Reforms, Trade Policy Under WTO X-Ray from Tomorrow
New Police Ordinance Criticized
Anti-Corruption Strategy Before Sept: NAB
Defence Budget Up, Provinces to Levy GST: NEC Okays Rs134bn PSDP
Trade Policy to Be Announced on July 7
New Law to Limit Govt Borrowings
Constitutional Reforms May Go Public Today

Govt Urged to Change Foreign Policy

   
 
 

Central Asian Summit to Be Held in Kazakhstan on 6-7 July
Azerbaijani Ngos Fear Chill from New Legislation
Azerbaijani President Declines to Sign Controversial Legislation on Grants
Georgia: Proposed Law Amendments Threaten to Stall Judicial Reform Efforts
Tajik Government Tackles Labor Migration Issue
Rakhmonov Praises National Law Enforcement
Uzbek Government Decrees Further on IT, Computerisation
Uzbek Supreme Court Discusses Shortcomings in Law Practices

   
 
 

Pacific Islands Environmental Conference 'A Community Affair'
Rates Set to Rise As Economy Surges
PM Lobbies on Free Trade
Budget Reforms Doubtful
Terror Law to Be Limited
Excision Law Set As Poll Trigger
Australia to Join ICC
Constitutional Reforms May Go Public Today
Terror Laws to Be Passed
Controversial Bill Postponed
Fiji Government to Study Waitangi Land Rights Treaty
Kiribati Fraud Amendments Rejected
Kiribati Government Introduces Bill to Control Newspapers
Government Backs Off Plan for 'Dobbing in' Legislation
Surpluses Key to Act Tax Plan
Govt Unveils $3b Defence Plan
Small Businesses Frozen by Govt Regulation
Dismissed PNG Governor Challenges Constitution
Papua New Guinea PM Morauta's Seat Safe But Government Future Shaky
New Constitution for Solomons Being Prepared
New Model for Land Laws in Solomon Islands

   
 
  SCO Annointed as International Organization
Asia-Pacific Steps Up Anti-Corruption Efforts
Chinese President Jiang Zemin Pushes to Boost 'Shanghai 6'
SCO Continues to Search for Operational Framework
16-Nation Eurasian Summit Convenes
1st ACD Meeting Seeks Asia's Common Strategy
Helping Developing Countries Implement WTO Agreements
ASEAN Economic Officials Discuss Integration and Economic Issues
   
 
 

HK Faces Major Government Shake-Up
China to Extend Government Reforms
China's Top Legislator on Party's Leadership
China Succeeds in Government Reforms: Premier Zhu
Hong Kong: Care Urged in Civil Service Pay Cut
Civil Servants Can't Watch Cup on
China Reduces Red Tape
Hong Kong SAR Legislation Reflects 'One Country, Two Systems'
Gov't to Tackle Tax Exemption Reforms
New Faces to Star in Hong Kong's New Cabinet
Reorganization Team Set Up in Farm Ministry
Gov't Officials Get Over Y90 Mil Retirement Allowance
G-7 Mute over Japan's Reform Plans
Japanese Computer Firm President Arrested over Government IT Subsidies
Top Cabinet Bureaucrat Marks Record Long Incumbency
GNP Unveils Measures on Corruption
JAPAN: Diet Extends Current Session by 42 Days to Pass Key Bills
House Passes Motion Calling for Suzuki's Resignation
Gov't Defines Key Purpose of Secret Funds
Japan PM May Reshuffle Cabinet in September
S. Korean Head Apologizes for Sons' Arrests
ROK Elected Member of ILO's Governing Body
Lee Myung-bak Vows to Be `CEO Mayor'
Voter Turnout Lowest in History
92,600 Volunteers for Local Elections
South Korea: MDP Calls for Cabinet Reshuffle to Ease Corruption Scandals
GNP Slams MDP's Anti-Corruption Drive
MDP Seeks to Scrap Lawmakers' Privileges

   
 
  Donors Warn Cambodia on Reforms
KPU Seeks Rp 2.3 Trillion for 2004 General Election
Legislators to Question Bambang Tri on Banpres
IMF Says Indonesia Needs Legal Dev't to Lift Economy
Akbar Denies He Misused State Funds
Senior Government Officials to Clear Their Names in Public
Malaysia Rules Out Early Elections
Arroyo Vows Drive VS Corruption
Thailand to Set Up FBI-Style Agency
Call for More Transparency
Thai Women Mps on Verge of Parliamentary Trousers Victory
Malaysia's Mahathir Stands Down
   
 
 

Nationwide CBI Raids on Govt Officials
Ninth Plan and National Budget Report
I-T Dept Set to Develop IT as Its Backbone
Govt Has Failed to Improve Transport System, Says BJP
Government Implements New Rule to Curb Corruption
WB Approves $500m Support Ongoing Reforms Program
Govt's Role in Power Transmission Limited
Report on Public Services Quality Released
President Reconstitutes the National Law Commission
Ministry Approves Draft Law: IT Accreditation Council
New Budget May Bring More Taxes for Govt Servants
PTCL to Set Up Co-Location Centers
IT Official Held, CBI Raids Yield Rs 10 Crore in Black Money

   
 
 

Afghan Grand Council Loya Jirga Opens in Kabul
Afghanistan Facing Task of Eradicating Corruption and Influence of Warlords: Karzai
Karzai Wins Re-Election to Lead Afghanistan
Afghan Women Find Political Voice
Karzai Names Transitional Afghan Cabinet
Key Cabinet Posts to Be Approved by Afghan Loya Jirga
Karzai Grapples with Appointment of Women'S Affairs Minister in Afghanistan
Azerbaijan: Ailing Azeri Leader Seeks to Hand Torch to Son
Georgia: Opposition Leader Poised to Become Tbilisi Council Chairman
Entrenched Corruption Begins at Georgia'S Border
Kazakhstan: European Parliament Singles Out Opposition Leader for Recognition
Political Struggle in Kazakhstan A Reflection of Maturation of Country's Economy
Tajikistan: Political Leader Jailed for Alleged Assassination Plot

   
 
  Institute Heaps Scorn on Plan to Reform VCAT
PM Will Trade on Pensions
States Shape New Crime Body
Government 'Spam' Under Scrutiny
PM Tightens Reins on States
Silence over Cooks Fraud Investigation
Fiji Government High Court Appeal Over Cabinet Composition
Good Governance Theme at Suva Talks
More And More Bad News for Nauru--Chief Secretary Resigns, Conditions Worsened
Bill to Restructure MPs' Pay
New Parliament Meets in Vanuatu
 
  Asia-Pacific Chambers Promote Good Corporate Governance
Lelaulu Urges Pacific Solution to Good Governance Problems
Improving Measuring, Monitoring and Managing of Development Results
 
 

Legal Service Hotline to Aid Foreigners
Accountability System to Boost HKSAR Gov't Efficiency
'Corporate Governance to Improve with WTO'
Sina.net Launched for Government, Firms
China Loosens Grip on Soes
E-Voting Could Go Nationwide
Chinese Non-Governmental Organizations May Pioneer 'Three Links'
China Orders Unlicensed Internet Cafes Closed Nationwide
E-Vote Names Mayor in 25 Minutes
Shanghai Govt Portal Links to 140 Departments
MDP to Embrace Special Prosecutor System
Local Elections A Test of New Voting System
New Electronic Vote Counters Fail to Live Up to Expectations
S. Korea Rated Highly for E-Government
Korean Proficiency Exam to Be Held September 15

 

 
  Viet Nam Calls for Regional Efforts to Expedite Economic Development
Malaysia: Business Sector Hails Smooth Leadership Transition
RP Gov'T to Embark on E-Governance to Enhance Delivery of Public Service
Dismal Ranking a Wake-Up Call for Education Reform
Key Economic Zones Encouraged to Spearhead National Growth
Govt Aims to Nurture Development of Grassroots Rural Health Care Network
Vietnam Sets Up Group to Supervise SOE Restructuring
Intan Gearing Up for E-Learning

 
 

Banks Asked to Adopt E-Banking
Govt to Implement Industrial Policy at Divisional Secretariat Level - Bogollagama
IT to Transform the Way Govt Works
Seminar on Financial Management Reform Begins
Govt to Reform SSC, HSC Exams System, Dr Farruk Tells JS

 
  IFC, EBRD and SECO Considering Central Asian SME Credit Line
Uzbekistan Introduces Single Imputed Earnings Tax for SME
Uzbek Government Commission Tightens Payment Discipline
75 % of Government Offices to Have Internet Access by 2005
EBRD to Sign $40 Million Uzbek SME Credit Line in August
 
  Air NZ Plans Huge IT Spend
Public Library Offers Free Internet Access
   
 
 

Asian University for Women to Start Operation in 2004
Calls for Concrete Objectives Arise in Bali Meeting
Developing Countries Make Progress in Sustainable Development
Central Asian Conference on Women's Role Starts in Dushanbe
Report Finds Software Piracy on the Increase
23 Countries Chosen for Pilot Program to Educate Poor
Asia-Pacific Talks About Digital Divide
Asia-Pacific Cities Information Forum Opens in Shanghai
Pacific Countries Join Call for International Alliance Against Hunger

 
  Pyongyang to Host International Forum on IT
China Wins International Environmental Awards
Nation to Launch IT Evaluation Scheme
China Introduce E-Commerce into Railway by 2005
Chinese Commission, Microsoft Sign Contract on Software Cooperation
Govt Considers Giving Billions to N-Waste Fund
Korea Sets Trend in Global Internet Market
Lawyers' Group Headed by Ex-Independent Counsel Works to Abolish National Security Law
Korea's National Competitiveness Half That of US
Gov't Agency Suggested to Make Korea N.East Asian Business Hub
 
  Poverty Alleviation Programs Exclude Those Without IDs
ADB to Pledge 105 Mln U.S. Dollars to Cambodia
Two Malaysian Cities Selected as WHO Pilot Project
ADB Extends $1.2-M Grant to MWSS-RO
IMF Says 2002 Deficit, Growth Goals Attainable
ADB Signs Poverty Partnerships with Micronesia, Marshall Islands
Singapore Jobless Rate May Peak at 5.5% by H2: Manpower Minister
Singapore Strives to Become Global Integrated Logistics Hub
US Investors See Asean Recovery in Mid-2003
Helping Urban Development in Viet Nam's Central Region
ADB to Aid Urban Infrastructure Work
UN Project to Fight Poverty Makes Start
CDMA System to Be Installed in Vietnam
Vietnam to Foster Development of Urban Infrastructure
 
  TK 2275cr to Improve Power Situation
Plan to Expand IT Edn Countrywide
Nasscom Optimism on IT Growth May Be Misplaced
IT-Enabled Services Segment Looking Up
Special Group to Help Take IT to Rural Areas
Sri Lanka Eyes UN Top Job
The Rural Industrial Estate Development Programs in Sri Lanka
BOI Signs 13 Agreements During April 2002
ADB Provides RS.230 Million in Assistance for Rural Electrification in Jaffna
First IT Park in Nepal
Committee to 'The State of IT' in Pak
Internet Users Up by 1.59 Million
Provinces to Get Rs 32bn for Local Govts
 
  Cisco to Provide IT Networks for Central Asia - NATO Project
Goooooal - Kyrgyz Mobile Phone Users Enjoy Special World Cup Service
New Presidential Decree Paves a Way for Further IT Development
Uzbek Market Economy Hopes Face Crucial Test
IMF Says Uzbek Reforms "On Track," Some Observers Express Doubt
 
  Negotiations to Begin on a Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement
Australian Economy Powers Ahead
$34 Million to Bush Telecommunications
Census Results Reveal Population Rise
$7.3 Billion to Cut City Jams
Government Pledges $32 Million Extra for Rural Health
Govt Releases Details of Tender Process
NZ Sites Climbing Up Ratings for Internet Awards
Panel Releases Blueprint for Internet Reform
Firms Shy About Doing Business Online
IT Capital Partners Float Rescue Plan
High-Tech Jobs Boom for North
Palau Hosts Pacific Islands Environment Conference
   
 
  ADB Hosts Conference to Raise Standards of Credit Rating in Asia
ADB Opens Inspection Function to Stakeholder Consultations
 
  New Rules to Regulate Corporate Governance in Commercial Banks
China Gives Four Foreign Banks Yuan Licences
Serious Stock Scandal Case Heard in Beijing
Taiwan, China: New Rules May Cut Bank Bailouts
Finance Ministry to Tighten Supervision of Lottery
China Sets Up Venture Capital Association
Transparency, Key Step in Financial Reforms: Analysis
Japan's New Debt Warning
Major Central Banks Sell Yen to Try to Stem Recent Rise
Central Bank Leaves Overnight Call Rate Unchanged at 4.25%
Banks See Profits Soar 107.2 Pct
 
 

Govt Urged to Protect Insurance Customers
Govt Makes New Pledges to IMF as Cabinet Cracks
Banks Focus on Consumer Loans as SBI Rate Declines
Control Urged for Capital Flow
Mahathir Faces Strong Opposition on College Reform
Singapore Banks Agree on Minimum Standards, Independent Mediator
S'pore's Monetary Authority Mulls Implementing Deposit Insurance Scheme
Banks Have to Provide Deposit Insurance, Says Monetary Authority of Singapore
Thai Central Bank Leaves Key Interest Rate Unchanged

 
  Success of Fiscal Measures Hinges on Good Governance
State Debt Burden on the Rise
Commercial Bank - Best Lankan Bank for Fourth Year by Global Finance
Private Sector Contribution Will Essential for Development - Minister Bakeer Markar
Finding a Secretary for Finance Is a Big Deal
Pakistan- Financial Sector Assessment Conference
 
  Armenia: Debt Deal with Russia Delayed Again
Bank Closure Underscores Difficult Business Environment in Azerbaijan
 
  Dollar Soars to 21-month High
Treasurer Looks Beyond the Red
NZ Dollar Hits Two-Year High with No Signs of Stopping
Vanuatu: Sela Molisa Gets Finance in Natapei Government
   
 
  FEMM--Private Sector Message to Go to the Region's Economic Ministers
 
  WPP Is First to Venture into China
Northern Digital Plans to Open Regional HQ in Hong Kong
IBM Leads China Software Market
Japan Looking at Privatization for Airports
 
  Jakarta Fails to Sell Bank Niaga
Dr M: Govt Will Continue to Ensure Conducive Environment for Private Sector
EPIC Expects Privatisation of Kemaman Port This Year
Sabah to Privatise Five Ailing Agencies
Alternative Plan for Transco Sale Explored
PPA Panel & Private Sector to Address Shipping Issues
UOB Completes Integration with OUB in Just 8 Months
Sembcorp Industries to Privatise Ship Repair Unit
SCI to Privatise Sembcorp Marine
Small Private Firms in S'pore to Be Exempt from Audit
Govt Scraps Plan for TOT, CAT Merger
TOT Ready for Corporatisation
MWA Scheduled for Listing by the End of This Year
Six PR Firms to Vie for B100m Contract
 
 

Support to Private Sector Will Continue
Incentives Announced to Strengthen the Private Sector
Communication Gap
Govt Rules Out Total Sellout in Major Ports
Privatization Board Meets Today

 
  British Firm Advises on Privatization of Uzbek Chemical Giant
UzPrivatBank's Capital Grows by UZS 347 Mln in 2002
 
  PM Confident on Telstra Sale
Airport Sold for $5 Billion
   

ASEAN Law Ministers Meet to Discuss Amendment of Laws

BANGKOK -- Law ministers of 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered here Monday to discuss how to make their respective countries' laws compatible in practices, according to a report of the Thai News Agency. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra opened the Fifth ASEAN Legal Ministerial Meeting. In his address at the opening session, the Thai leader said that it was a good opportunity for ASEAN ministers to gather here to discuss the amendment and the development of laws. ASEAN law ministers could also use the forum to discuss ways to adjust each country's laws so that it would be compatible in practices, noted the premier. Ideas and opinions raised at the meeting would also be considered and used for the revision and development of laws in each country, he indicated. "If ASEAN members have strong laws, they will help support the development of the region and the world as a whole," said the Thai leader.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/17/2002

 

Forum Secretariat Highlights Need for Regional Land Policies

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Noel Levi, has highlighted the need for good land policies in the region, to address sensitive land issues in member countries. Mr Levi was commenting on a report that the Acting Chief Justice of Solomon Islands, Justice Albert Palmer, has proposed a Land Tribunal to handle an increasing number of land disputes. The proposed Land Tribunal would place greater recognition on traditional forms of handling disputes, rather the Western style approach of confrontation. It would also recognise the role of traditional chiefs as custodians of customary law. Mr Levi says it is important to fully engage traditional landowners, and other stakeholders, in any discussions and decisions involving customary land, so that any benefits are maximised.

From http://abc.net.au/ 06/07/2002

 

Three Important Documents to Be Signed at SCO Summit: FM Spokesman

The Second Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, will kick off three legal and political documents related to the SCO mechanism and regional cooperation on anti-terrorism, a Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman said Thursday. Liu Jianchao said that Chinese President Jiang Zemin will discuss SCO construction and development strategies with other member countries' leaders and exchange views with them on international and regional issues of common concern. He stressed that the summit is of great importance in strengthening multilateral cooperation among SCO member states, improving the SCO mechanism, and promoting peace and stability in the region and the rest of the world. China holds a positive view on the regional economic cooperation within SCO which should be jointly promoted by all SCO members as a long-term goal, he added.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/05/2002

 

TOPˇü

 

China to Issue Law on "Grain for Green" Project

China has sped up drafting laws and regulations to help manage its afforestation projects in farmland areas. A draft regulation is expected to be officially issued in the near future. It will lay a solid legal foundation for the "Grain for Green" project after it goes into effect, said Zhang Hongwen, director of the farmland-to-forest project with the State Forestry Administration. According to Zhang, the draft regulation clearly defines the duties of relevant sectors and further explains the country's ecological policies and management measures. The farmland-to-forest project began in the provinces of Shaanxi, Sichuan and Gansu three years ago. A total of 34 million mu (2.3 million hectares) of farmland is expected to be turned into forest this year. "Although achievements have been made, problems still exist when implementing the project, such as people still being reluctant to plant trees on barren slopes and the forest property certificates not being granted to farmers in time," Zhang said, adding that the draft regulation may solve those problems.

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/15/2002

cIntroducing Law into Governance

Lawyers in China have elevated their position among the public and are starting to play an increasingly important role in government. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice indicate that there are currently more than 20,000 law experts and lawyers who serve as consultants to governments at different levels. They have assisted in local reform measures, urban planning and construction, and major projects. "More and more officials have started to get legal advice before making a decision on major issues concerning economic and social development," said the Minister of Justice Zhang Fusen at a national televised conference yesterday. "They now rely more heavily on the law in the management of social and economic affairs." Boosting the role that the law plays in the government is one of the primary focuses of China's on-going five-year project to popularize knowledge of law among the public. The action is of significance to China's endeavour to create a rule-of-law country, as the government has traditionally relied on administrative measures. "We need to shift from the past model on administrative measures, to the one based on law, and in that way, promote the rule of law in the country," said Zhang. Apart from providing legal advice, law experts have also been active in training the nation's governmental officials on how laws work. More than 190,000 officials above the mid-level rank have received law training between 1996 and 2000, and the figure is expected to rise in the next four years. "The law education of officials in past years has made them realize the important role of law in handling social, economic and cultural issues," said Zhao Shiju, deputy secretary of the North China's Hebei provincial committee of the Communist Party of China. Zhang, in yesterday's address, said that knowledge of law is imperative now that the government is working to build an orderly market and a credit system, as well as meet the challenges arising from China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). A May circular issued jointly by the Ministry of Justice and the Communist Party of China Central Committee urged the study of law among officials, with particular emphasis on the Constitution, economic laws and regulations, and laws and regulations related to China's status as a WTO member. Competence in law knowledge will also be included as a criterion for promotions. (by Shao Zongwei)

From http://www.chinadaily.net/ 06/06/2002

Revised Rules for Trust Firms

The People's Bank of China announced on June 5 the revised administrative measures for trust and investment companies. The move aims to step up the supervision and improve the administration of trust investment companies, standardize their management and promote the healthy development of the trust investment industry. The revised version provides clear and detailed regulations for the establishment, changing and winding up of trust investment companies as well as for their business scope, management rules, supervision and internal discipline. The new rules bar the country's trust and investment corporations from borrowing funds overseas. Trust and investment companies are also barred from issuing bonds and taking deposits. Each company must have a minimum of RMB 300 million in investment capital, and if it engages in foreign currency business, the company must have at least RMB 15 million in capital denominated in a foreign currency, the rules state. Trust and investment firms can engage in lending, interbank lending, leasing and investment, or can place their funds in deposits. They can also manage fixed assets or production facilities, and engage in the businesses of asset restructuring, mergers, fund-raising, financial advice, bond-issue underwriting and fund-management. They are also allowed to issue bank loan guarantees. However, each trust and investment company's investments in fixed assets or equity must not exceed 80 per cent of its net asset value. Each company must make an annual provision amounting to 5 per cent of its net profit in order to cover possible repayments to trustee investors, and these provisions must be made every year until the company's total provisions amount to 20 pct of its total registered capital. Trust and investment firms which are unable to pay due debts can apply for bankruptcy if they have approval from the central bank. The central bank also has the right to take over the management of a trust and investment firm or order the dismissal of its senior management if the company's management becomes disordered or runs into difficulties. Senior executives at trust and investment firms must be approved by the central bank before they take office. A spokesman for the bank said that the rectification and reform of trust investment companies, which started in 1999, has made impressive progress. A number of trust investment companies with acceptable management practices have been allowed to re-register. These companies have minimized their risks, increased their capital, standardized their business practices and improved their management structure. They will continue to perform trust investment activities and other related business.

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/06/2002

China to Adjust Immigration Policy to Attract Overseas Skills

The Chinese government will draft new immigration rules in an effort to create more favorable conditions for skilled foreigners to live and work in China, according to the country's 2002-2005 professional personnel-building program. Under the program, the new laws will allow long-term and permanent residence for overseas professionals working in China's industries involved with new and much-needed technology. The program emphasizes that relevant departments should frame and implement action plans to attract those skills the country urgently needs. They include expertise in information technology, bio-technology, new materials and manufacturing technology, as well as aviation and space technology. Such sectors as finance, law, international trade, science and technology management are also on the list. The government will provide the professionals with high pay, key laboratories and research facilities. The government will also offer preferential policies to encourage Chinese students abroad to return to the homeland or contribute in a specific way to its development, such as serving the country through cooperative projects, part-time work, academicinspections, lectures and vacations, or professional consultanciesto domestic firms. Governments at various levels should keep trying to improve services for fledgling high-tech ventures and businesses set up byreturned students. The program emphasizes that governments at all levels should fully trust returned students, give them enough responsibility to demonstrate their skills, and select elite professionals to administrative ranks. The state will improve policies on housing, medical care, children's education and employment of family members of returned students, and make policy adjustments concerning salary, residencypermits and investment matters, in order to create favorable living and working conditions for them as soon as possible. To attract and employ senior overseas professionals, a government job-vacancy web site will be set up to help them with employment. More intermediary agencies to help them find appropriate jobs in China.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/12/2002

New Agro-Policy Needed for WTO

Adjusting agricultural policies now that the nation is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is one of the government's most pressing tasks, a top agriculture official told an international workshop over the weekend in Beijing. China's policy readjustment is set to focus on improving agricultural and rural economic structure and increasing the income of farmers, while sharpening the market competitiveness of the country's farm produce, Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin said. In outlining what he called the "stern challenges" facing China's agricultural sector, the minister said that agricultural products that require large areas of land - notably grain and cotton - are being hit hard by the WTO entry. Labour-intensive products, such as vegetables and horticultural products, may fare somewhat better in the short term, but will face equally difficult challenges in the long term, according to Du. This situation, with the stress on labour intensive production, will aggravate the country's difficulty in adding to the coffers of the farmers, he told the two-day Workshop on Agricultural Policy Adjustment in China after WTO Accession. China will borrow the successful and advanced experience the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its members accumulated in applying the WTO rules to adapting to domestic agricultural policies, he told the workshop co-sponsored by his ministry and OECD. In its latest analytical paper on China's development, the OECD said the accession of China to the WTO marks an important milestone along the reform path China has been following for more than 20 years, rather than a new direction. In improving productivity in the agricultural sector, OECD suggests China "foster cropping patterns and other agricultural policies based on emerging market opportunities and comparative regional advantages, rather than on the traditional yardstick of increasing grain output in all regions." This, in fact, coincides with China's policy adjustment objective of shifting the focus from quantity to product quality, according to some experts. Li Zhenwei, director of the ministry's policy and regulation department, said China has already made marked progress in optimizing its agricultural structure. Acreage reserved for cash and fodder crops increased by 6 million hectares last year, up 30.6 per cent from figures for 1998, and 16.7 million hectares of the country's rice paddies - more than half of the country's total area planted in rice - are producing top-grade strains, he said. With regard to the country's support policy for agriculture, the official said China will adopt rational measures within the framework of WTO agricultural agreement to readjust the domestic agricultural support system.

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/04/2002

China Amends Law to Further Open up Insurance Industry

China's legislators are making amendments to the 7-year-old Insurance Law to further open up China's insurance industry, since the entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The amendment draft to the Insurance Law of China was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) Monday. Ma Yongwei, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), said that the Insurance Law, implemented in 1995, has played an important role in updating the insurance industry and protecting the interests of policy holders. However in recent years the present Insurance Law has not met the current situation and now needs to have some changes. The draft, in line with China's commitments to the WTO, brings the life insurance business into reinsurance, saying that insurance companies should conduct the reinsurance business according to regulations. Since Chinese and foreign insurance companies are now allowed to conduct joint ventures in China, the draft law allows insurance businesses to invest in businesses excluding securities companies. Currently, insurance rates and items were set up by the regulatory administration, which had barriers to the development of business insurance. The draft law states, insurance rates and items in relation to public interest and new forms of business should be approved by the regulatory administration. In keeping with international rules for short-term health insurance and accident insurance, the draft law states an individual insurer cannot sell property and life insurance at the same time while the real estate insurance business can operate two types of business with the approval of the CIRC. The current insurance law hinders the development of the professional and pluralistic insurance agent, and leads to a monopoly of the old insurance business, which acts against fair competition in the insurance industry. In the meantime, supervision of the individual insurance agent needs to be strengthened. The draft law says individual insurance agents should not be entrusted with life insurance at the expense of the above two insurers. To avoid and resolve insurance risks and strengthen the liquidation capability of insurance companies, the draft law rectifies the regulation of reserve drawing, grants regulatory administrations to inquire into insurance companies' deposits in financial institutions, and links the "legal responsibility" in the current law to China's criminal law. The draft law has also made some changes to the concept of regulatory administration.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/24/2002

Beijing Set to Grant Minimum Living Allowances for Urban Poor

The Ministry of Civil Affairs vowed Tuesday to grant minimum living allowances to all urban poor around China by June 30. Of the country's 19.38 million urban poor who exist on a per capita monthly income below the official bottom-line average of 152 yuan (about 18.3 U.S. dollars), some 15.91 million had received the subsidy by June 10. Those urban poor not yet covered by the system make up only 17.9 percent, 10.2 percent fewer than in April. Wang Zhikun of the ministry said that China was confident of carrying out its promise on schedule. "Only after all those who qualify get their allowances from the government can the country's bottom-line security system live up to its name as the last line of the national social security system," he said. According to Wang, those urban needy still awaiting assistance are mainly scattered across 19 provinces and autonomous regions including Hunan and Qinghai. A total of 12 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have already achieved the target of granting allowances to all local urban poor who qualify. They are Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Chongqing, Hebei, Jilin, Guangxi, Guizhou and Ningxia. To encourage local governments at all levels to redouble their efforts in granting allowances to all those who qualify as quickly as possible, the ministry is planning to release their statistics every fortnight to news media. Call-free telephones will also be set up nationwide for the urban needy to lodge complaints or ask for legal and technical assistance. On Wednesday, an inspection team comprising officials from the ministries of civil affairs and finance and the General Office of the State Council will fly to Yunnan, Jiangxi and Heilongjiang to check their work in preparing fund for this purpose. China's social security system was long plagued by a shortage of capital. Last month, Beijing allocated a record 4.6 billion yuan (554 million U.S. dollars) from state revenues as a fallback fund for local governments to use for payments to urban poor. "Such a large amount indicates the Chinese government's determination to guarantee basic living for the urban poor and to push local governments to contribute more," he said. In July, a large-scale random survey will be launched among the country's nearly 20 million urban poor to make sure none is being left out. "Once the allowances are granted to all those urban poor," Wang said, "development of the country's basic security system will stabilize. "Our emphasis will then shift to setting up institutions and standardizing management," the ministry official added. After a pilot program in Shanghai in 1993, the basic security system for urban dwellers was introduced across China in 1997.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/19/2002

China Beefs Up Legal and Policy Planning for Foreign Funds' Entry

China will beef up legislation and policy planning for the securities fund industry to clear way for foreign entry into the sector, a top securities official said. While legislators are still viewing the Investment Fund Law, the government will work out supporting regulations to create a sound legal and policy environment to boost the development of the fund industry and prepare for opening-up, said Zhou Xiaochuan, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) in a conference in Beijing on Monday. Fund management companies are encouraged to make innovations and produce more new investment products, he said. CSRC is also considering enlarging business scope for the fund managers, including allowing them to do trust investment, based on sound risk control. A healthy growth of the fund industry will help build a mature stock market in China, said Zhou. While the nation's institutional investors will continue to play a leading role in the expansion of the business, China still has much to learn from foreign countries. Zhou has promised to push hard to enable qualified foreign institutional investors to enter China's stock market as soon as possible, in line with China's World Trade Organization commitment. Following the CSRC's release of new rules for fund management and securities joint ventures two weeks ago, many domestic and foreign fund managers and securities companies are champing at the bit, hoping to get the first joint venture licence. Nearly 20 fund management companies, securities firms and banks in China have signed co-operative agreements with foreign asset management firms and other financial institutions. Some are in final negotiations over the establishment of fund management joint ventures and some have filed their applications. Shanghai-based Haitong Securities Co has submitted its application to set up a fund management joint venture with Fortis Investment Management from Belgium, a company spokesman said yesterday. "We have made all necessary preparations and are waiting for the approval," he said. Some fund managers said the authorities will look into the strength of the foreign applicants for fund management joint ventures, including their asset scale, reputation and familiarity with the Chinese market. Though it is hard to predict when the Chinese authorities will give the go-ahead to the newcomers, the attitude of the authorities is very positive, said Zhao Xinyu, an official with Beijing-based China Asset Management. And compared with the past, it is already much easier to get approval for new fund products, he said.

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/19/2002

Taibei Passes Asset-Sale Law

TAIPEI, Taiwan (Reuters) -- Taiwan's parliament early on Friday approved a securitization bill, allowing financial institutions to issue bonds that can be backed by almost any asset, the Ministry of Finance said. "Now that the bill is passed, interested market players can start preparing to issue asset-backed securitization products," a ministry official in charge of the bill said. Asset-backed securitization is a way of raising relatively expensive funds, but is attractive to issuers with high debt levels, who are allowed to move the financing off their books. In a typical securitization deal, or structured finance, an issuer isolates an asset or cashflow to "back" bonds issued on those assets. The bonds and the assets are then placed in a "special purpose entity (SPE)", which is separated from the issuer's financial statements. Its only assets are the cashflow and its only liabilities are those associated with the bond. Hopeful participants say the market could one day rival the island's T$1.6 trillion (US$47 billion) bond market, as a financing option. Taiwan has proclaimed 2001 "the year of financial reform" with a batch of legislation designed to promote consolidation in the overcrowded sector and break down barriers between banking, insurance and broking.

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/21/2002

Beijing Orders Internet Cafes Closed

BEIJING has ordered its 2,400 Internet cafes to close for safety inspections after a fire that killed 24 people in the university district, state media said yesterday. Mayor Liu Qi ordered Internet cafes in Beijing to close while the city draws up new regulations, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Just 200 of Beijing's 2,400 Internet cafes are licensed. Many are typically smokey and crowded, located in converted residential buildings.

From http://business-times.asia1.com.sg/ 06/18/2002

Chinese Legislature Ratifies Five Laws

BEIJING -- China's top legislature endorsed five new laws Saturday afternoon, including the law on government procurement which is expected to block loopholes in official purchasing. Chinese legislators at the 28th meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which ended Saturdayafternoon, agreed that various levels of government should usepublic funds more wisely, especially with the expansion of themarket economy. The approved law would regulate procedures for spending publicmoney, legislators said. Meanwhile, the bi-monthly meeting also passed four other lawson small and medium-sized enterprise promotion, work safety,science and technology popularization, and clean production. The work safety codes outlaw malfeasance and any obvious orhidden threat to workers' lives in any work place. A spate ofdisastrous accidents recently have resulted in high casualties andeconomic losses. In addition, the legislators agreed that the members of thefirst and incumbent Committee of the Basic Law of the Hong KongSpecial Administrative Region under the NPC Standing Committeeshould continue their duty. The meeting also approved two supplemental regulations onelection meetings for deputies to the 10th NPC from the Hong Kongand Macao special administrative regions. The legislators also ratified the documents on the "Worst Formsof Child Labor Convention 1999" which was approved by the 87thInternational Labor Conference.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/29/2002

Shanghai Introduces New Resident Card Policy Aimed at Attracting Foreign Expatriates

AS of June 15, a new residence policy aimed at attracting talented people from elsewhere in the country and abroad, was put into practice. The policy has granted some new advantages to expatriates in Shanghai. By applying for a Residence Card, which has different terms (six months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years), expatriates can save a lot of troubles on things like foreign exchange, children's schooling, and exiting or re-entering China. The main advantages are as following: With the Residence Card, the foreigner needn't apply for other employment permits. The children of Card holders have many choices besides international schools. They can enter other local schools like Shanghai children. Card holders can enter or exit China many times without each time renewing their visa during the term they live in Shanghai. Card holders can exchange renminbi, if it is legal income, into foreign currency at designated banks without the former limitations on the amount, and remit the money abroad. Although the policy has just been released, some quick-sighted companies have already focused their business on it - helping expats apply for the Residence Card. Naomen International Education Consultants Ltd believes it is one of the earliest to set eyes on it. "Before the policy was released, we got a complete plan on the business," said Danielle Dan, president of its China operation. "The procedure for getting the card, although it has been simplified, is still complex. We believe there will be many expatriates who are too busy to go through all these procedures by themselves."

From http://chinadaily.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/27/2002

Audit Rules for China Banks

In an apparent move to help improve the competitiveness of domestic banks, China's State Auditing Administration has invited Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, one of the world's leading public accounting firms, to help work out auditing rules for state commercial banks. The move, reported by the official China News Service yesterday, is aimed at helping state banks gain international recognition by improving management and internal control. The Big Four commercial state banks - the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China - are eager to improve their performances in order to make initial public stock offerings. Greg Fletcher, a partner of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in Australia, said the programme would advance China's accounting policy and standards to an international level, which in turn would boost overseas investors' confidence. ``Our auditors and the Australian government will provide full assistance to the China State Auditing Department,'' said Fletcher, who is in charge of the programme. Sponsored by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the programme is also part of a talent cultivation plan in China. Five senior bank auditors from the State Auditing Administration will arrive in Australia soon to work with Deloitte auditors for four months. This hands-on training will introduce the Chinese auditors to the international banking auditing methods of Deloitte. The auditing administration also hopes to distribute about 5,000 copies of the new auditing rules to domestic commercial banks. Deloitte and the administration previously worked on a similar AusAID-sponsored programme in which they produced an auditing book for state-owned enterprises. Deloitte has also helped the People's Bank of China to draft a framework for the restructuring of state commercial banks. Additionally, Deloitte has been providing professional advice to the Ministry of Finance since 1993, based on the development of international accounting standards.

From http://hk-imail.singtao.com/ 06/29/2002

Chinese Legislators Debate Over Draft Law on Private Schools

Chinese law-makers Friday had a heated debate over the issue of whether private schools should be run for profit or merely for the public interest. The debate originated from a draft law submitted to the 28th Session of Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC), which lays down that owners of the non-public educational institutions should be allowed to obtain reasonable profit given the condition that they are running the schools for the public interest. Under the Chinese law on education, educational institutions for the mere purpose of profit making are prohibited. Huang Yuzhang, member of the NPC Standing Committee, said allowing private school runners to earn reasonable profit will, on the one hand, attract more investment into education, and on the other, prevent some people from seeking exorbitant profits. Jiang Zhenghua, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, argued that since people have different needs for education, evaluation for private schools shouldn't be based on the single measure of whether they are run for profit or for public interest. "Private schools with high profit returns should be allowed to exist as long as they provide high-quality education," he added. Another NPC Standing Committee member Tsang Hin-Chi, who funded his own school and is famous for his frequent donations to education, did not show a clear stand on this issue, but called for tighter supervision and administration of private schools. Other lawmakers stressed the government should give more support to non-public schools catering for the children of people who have migrated from outside and laws should ensure that these children enjoy adequate education rights.

From http://search.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/29/2002

Legislators Call for Tighter Supervision of Budget

Senior Chinese legislators called for tighter supervision Thursday to curb illegal practices in executing the central budget. Auditor-General Li Jinhua delivered a central audit work reportWednesday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), exposing malpractice in some departments of the Ministry of Finance and some branches of the People's Bank of China. In a group discussion of the audit report Thursday, members of the NPC Standing Committee expressed their deep concern. NPC Standing Committee member Wang Mingshi said a lot of problems had been found through auditing. "Those practices not only damaged market order, but also badly affected the capital market and were therefore severe crimes," Wang said. He urged the government to increase expenditure on auditing, and that the NPC and its special committees should tighten supervision over financial activities. Another NPC Standing Committee member, Xie Youqing, said the problem departments should correct their mistakes and report to the NPC. Heads of those departments should also report to the NPC on how they would correct their mistakes. He further suggested that important decisions and measures on budget change and expenditure should be discussed and approved by the NPC before being enacted. Other legislators suggested further publicizing the budget planto prevent any potential opportunities for illegal activities. Another member, Wu Shuqing, suggested heavy punishment to the individuals and departments involved, so that they could make no illegal economic gains.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/27/2002

Japan Lawmakers Grill Moody's Over Debt Rating

(TOKYO) Officials from rating agency Moody's Investors Service made an unprecedented appearance in Japan's parliament yesterday to respond to anger over its downgrading of Japanese debt to the lowest level among leading economies. Answering questions from a largely hostile parliament committee, Thomas Byrne, Moody's lead analyst for Japan and Asia, said Japan's credit ratings would continue to reflect rising risks in the absence of a turnaround in debt policy. The Japanese government and international rating agencies have been involved in a war of words over ratings assigned to the nation, and Mr Byrne's testimony was the most high-profile parliamentary appearance by a foreign company since a bribery scandal involving aircraft maker Lockheed in the early 1970s. Kiyoshi Nakano of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party led off with an oft-asked question: Why must Japan, the world's second largest economy which has the world's largest foreign exchange reserves and mind-boggling household savings, be rated so lowly? 'Although we recognise that Japan may be able to sustain a very high domestic debt burden by world standards, we believe there is a point for any nation beyond which debt levels become unsustainable,' Mr Byrne replied in the Lower House Fiscal and Financial Committee meeting. He said it was not possible to know in advance when debt reached an unsustainable level or what the consequences would be but that the risk of a crisis increased as the debt rose. 'Without evidence of a turnaround in the country's fundamental public debt dynamics, the ratings will reflect such rising risks over time,' he said. Mr Byrne also said that factors that had so far helped Japan - namely the 1,400 trillion yen (S$19 trillion) of financial assets held by Japanese households - could not last forever, particularly as a rapidly ageing population threatened to erode the nation's saving ratio over time. Some 95 per cent of Japanese government bonds are held by domestic investors, mostly financial institutions. 'A decline in the savings surplus will pose a long-term risk if public debt is not brought under control,' Mr Byrne said. Mr Byrne added that Japan still had time to correct the situation. 'We do not expect crisis... The government has time to seek a remedy to its growing debt problem.' Years of inefficient public spending to try to boost growth have given Japan a public debt almost 1.4 times its GDP, the largest in the industrial world. Mr Byrne said the conclusion was that the government's current and anticipated policies would be insufficient to prevent the continued deterioration of Japan's domestic debt position. 'General government indebtedness, however measured, will approach levels unprecedented in the post-war era in the developed world,' he said. Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa still could not see why that should reflect on the credit rating of Japan's bonds. 'These (ratings reports) are meaningful in that they analyse Japan's economic situation. But what I cannot understand is why this is linked to the credit rating of government bonds. 'In the current situation, government bond prices are determined by various intertwined factors like the country's economic strength and the direction of its policy,' he said, failing to address Moody's criticism of policy failures. His Ministry of Finance hit out angrily at Moody's ratings decision last month and has also written to other major agencies - Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings - about their ratings. Citing debt levels unprecedented among advanced nations since World War II, Moody's last month cut Japan's local currency credit rating for long-term debt by two notches to A2 from Aa3. That put the world's second-largest economy and biggest creditor nation on the same local currency rating as Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Latvia, Poland and South Africa. One fact that has particularly irked Japanese lawmakers was the fact that the rating was also level with Botswana, which receives aid from Japan. Mr Byrne said Botswana's government had negligible domestic debt and enjoyed fiscal and current account surpluses. He added that Botswana's foreign debt was also small, but its foreign currency credit rating was nonetheless three notches below Japan's.

From http://business-times.asia1.com.sg/ 06/13/2002

Lower House Approves New Anticorruption Bill

Controls on lawmakers' private secretaries would be tightened but critics say loopholes remain. The House of Representatives approved an anticorruption bill Thursday that would subject private secretaries of lawmakers to penalties for accepting money or goods in return for providing political favors. The bill was immediately sent to the House of Councilors. The legislation cleared the Lower House committee on political ethics and then the chamber's plenary session on the strength of the majority of the ruling bloc, made up of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party. Because current law only applies to Diet members, their public secretaries, local government heads and members of local assemblies, it has been criticized in the Diet amid a spate of scandals involving influential politicians, including former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato. The opposition camp submitted a counterproposal that would have covered family members of public officials, along with their public and private secretaries. The counterproposal, however, was rejected in the Lower House, and voices are growing among opposition lawmakers that the ruling coalition-backed bill will not be effective in preventing further corruption scandals. When the ruling camp initially drew up the law in 2000, it firmly opposed including private secretaries in the legislation. The opposition proposal differs from the coalition bill in that it calls for lawmakers to face punishment even if requests for favors or links to official duties -- requisite conditions for punishment stated in the current law -- are not proved. The opposition parties had tried to strike a compromise with the ruling bloc, but to no avail. "The ruling bloc's hideous attitude to turn a deaf ear to the opposition's counterproposal showed that it wants to leave loopholes," said Hiroshi Kumagai, Diet affairs chief of the Democratic Party of Japan. The apparent change of policy followed the arrest of of Kato's top private secretary for alleged income tax evasion. Kato left the LDP in March and the legislature the following month to take responsibility for his aide's arrest.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/07/2002

Gov't Gives Up Passing Privacy Protection Bill

The government has given up passing a privacy protection bill that could regulate media coverage of political scandals during the current Diet session because of the opposition camp's resistance, officials said. The bill, sponsored by the government and the ruling coalition, is controversial because it is designed to set a legal framework on the acquisition and use of personal data and is expected to put restrictions on the media. Believing that the bill would infringe upon the freedom of the press, opposition parties have been demanding the government scrap the bill. High-ranking politicians in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, Komeito, have now decided to pigeonhole the bill from Diet deliberations because they hope other important bills should be approved first, the officials said. The ruling coalition hopes three other bills to set legal frameworks for military emergency situations and to reform the postal and health insurance systems will be approved in the current Diet session. "We have to have the bills on postal, insurance reforms and emergency situations passed (in the current Diet session) by all means," a top LDP politician said. When the Mainichi asked all Diet members about their opinions on the privacy protection bill in late April, nearly 60 percent of 378 politicians who responded said they were against the bill. Most of them said the bill could disrupt freedom of the press.

From http://www12.mainichi.co.jp/ 06/08/2002

Postal Bills 'Counterproductive': Yamato Chief

The president of major courier firm Yamato Transport Co. on Tuesday criticized a set of of four postal services deregulation bills being debated in the Diet and reiterated his company's decision not to enter the mail delivery business. "The bills are counterproductive to reforms and are unacceptable to our company philosophy as well," Keiji Aritomi told the House of Representatives Committee on Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. "That's why we decided not to enter the market." On April 26, Yamato Transport announced it had abandoned its plan to enter the mail delivery business, saying the government's moves to privatize the sector are likely to burden new entrants with too many requirements. The four bills include one that would allow private firms to offer mail services only under certain conditions, and another that would allow the establishment of a new public corporation in 2003 to take over the state-run mail, postal savings and "kampo" life insurance services. Allowing private firms to compete in the postal service sector is one of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's key structural reform strategies. But it is also a highly political issue since a large number of lawmakers in the ruling and opposition parties have vested interests in postal services. Early on, Yamato Transport expressed a keen interest in entering the field, but the strict requirements would leave postal services in the hands of the government and a handful of private companies, Aritomi said. Such requirements would leave Yamato hamstrung, Aritomi said, adding that the service will not be improved if it remains monopolized by the government. Responding to Aritomi's remarks, Koizumi later told reporters: "Once the bills are enacted, (Yamato) will learn that private-sector firms can enter the market. After that, it is up to individual companies to decide. "The reform bills mark a first step," he added, reiterating his determination to privatize the state-run services. Meanwhile, Japan Postal Workers' Union Chairman Masayuki Ishikawa, who was also invited to testify before the committee, said he opposes the bills because they would intensify competition in a way that would only benefit big cities and large companies. "Remote areas will be placed at a disadvantage, with likely increases in service fees," Ishikawa said. Mitsuko Yonaguni, a tour guide in Okinawa, told the committee that she fears the bills may result in the closure of unprofitable post offices in remote areas. "We need a school even if there is only one student," she said. "The same thing can be said with post offices. Post offices are indispensable to our daily life."

From http://www.japantimes.com/ 06/12/2002

cJapanese PM to Present Tax-Reform Policy

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Wednesday he plans to present a basic policy on tax reforms Friday. The policy will likely include Koizumi's decision on whether tocarry out a corporate tax cut proposed at a meeting with his ministers earlier Wednesday, Kyodo News reported. Asked by reporters at his office whether he will table the policy at the next meeting of the Council of Economic and Fiscal Policy on Friday, the prime minister said, "The situation has reached a point where that can be issued." He made the comment after a meeting with economic ministers to discuss tax reforms, expected to form a major portion of economic steps Koizumi will bring to the summit of the Group of Eight (G-8)major nations later in the month. "The time has come to issue a policy, so we organized our discussions and did some final fine-tuning," Koizumi added.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/05/2002

Environment Ministry Plans Bill to Help NPOs

TOKYO - The Environment Ministry plans to submit to the Diet next year a bill aimed at helping nonprofit organizations (NPOs), local firms and various groups promote environment-protection efforts, ministry officials said Sunday. Under the bill, regional organizations in group categories, such as NPOs or local firms, will be established and the ministry will support their work to protect the natural environment, they said.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/17/2002

Koizumi Calls for Local Cooperation on War Legislation

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday asked prefectural governors from across the country to cooperate in future efforts by the central government to formulate emergency legislation to govern Japan's response to a military attack. Koizumi made the request at the first-ever meeting on the matter between the central government and prefectural leaders, many of whom have expressed concern about the vague wording and insufficient detail of the set of three bills on the issue since their submission to the Diet in mid-April.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/13/2002

Gov't Panel Unveils Draft Policy Package

TOKYO - The Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP) proposed Thursday intensive spending on four sectors - science and technology, education, information technology and urban development as well as reinvigoration of local communities - under the fiscal 2003 budget. The draft recommends further efficiency in state spending in the fiscal 2003 budget in a budget compilation framework. It also calls for limiting the amount of general-account budget and policy-related expenditures to less than the level for the fiscal 2002 budget as part of efforts to promote fiscal reform.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/14/2002

Koizumi Proposes Retroactive Tax Breaks

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Thursday proposed making tax cuts due in fiscal 2003 retroactive to the current fiscal year as part of a second antideflation package. The proposal, which came at a meeting of key economic ministers and ruling coalition leaders, signifies a shift in policy toward quick cuts. Koizumi had been reluctant to implement tax cuts by the end of fiscal 2002, fearing doing so could force him to abandon his 30 trillion yen cap on new government bonds. "Some tax reform measures for fiscal 2003 can be implemented from Jan. 1," Koizumi told reporters. "I want such a step to be discussed as part of desirable tax reforms." Koizumi's approval of retroactive tax cuts could be seen as backpedaling on his fiscal reform drive and giving in to international and domestic pressure to swiftly shore up Japan's fragile economy, which has been plagued by prolonged deflation. The ruling coalition, meanwhile, continues to haggle over a promised antideflation package, with the ruling coalition demanding further details on the tax cuts. Koizumi, New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki and New Conservative Party chief Takeshi Noda are scheduled to finalize the antideflation package on Monday, and the government and coalition will try to hammer out their differences by then. The proposed measures call for legislation next year that would reduce corporate taxes to promote research and development as well as investment. The government also proposed breaks for the gift tax to encourage the transfer of financial assets from the elderly to younger generations in hopes of boosting spending. Under the plan, the government aims to legislate the tax cuts early next year, and make them retroactive to January 2003, thus making tax breaks within fiscal 2002 possible. To finance the reductions, the government aims to consolidate and scale down some of the deductions currently in place and avoid increasing government bond issues. Thus, the size of latest tax cuts is expected to remain small.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/14/2002

Japan Maintains Rates Near Zero in Bid to End Deflation

TOKYO - Japan's central bank kept monetary policy unchanged, leaving interest rates near zero, as it tries to end almost four years of falling prices and help the world's second- biggest economy emerge from recession. The Bank of Japan pared rates to close to zero 15 months ago and has made trillions of yen available to banks in an attempt to stem a five-year drop in lending. Policy makers today said they would keep the target for deposits held on reserve at the central bank at about 10 trillion yen ($80 billion) to 15 trillion yen. The decision to leave rates at zero may allow Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa to tell colleagues from the Group of Seven richest nations Japan is doing all it can to return the economy to growth and won't repeat the mistakes of two years ago, when a decision to raise rates was blamed for cutting short a budding recovery. "While the government is becoming upbeat about the economy, the central bank is more cautious," said Koji Shimamoto, chief strategist at BNP Paribas Securities Japan Ltd. "It needs to convince investors that it won't change policy any time soon." The central bank has said it would stick with its current policy until prices, excluding fresh food, stop falling from year-ago levels. Using that measure, prices started falling in July 1998, then leveled off between May and September 1999 before resuming their slide. "The BOJ has no policy options left to explore," said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York. The bank's nine-member policy-setting board sees no end to the drop in consumer prices, forecasting they will fall as much as one percent in the fiscal year that started April 1. Minutes of the meeting, at which board members voted unanimously to leave policy unchanged, will be published July 19. Finance chiefs from the G-7 meet in Halifax, Canada, on Friday and Saturday. While the drive to stop prices from falling will keep the bank from tightening credit, signs the economy is emerging from its third recession in a decade may ease pressure on the central bank to loosen policy further. Japan's economy grew for the first time in a year last quarter, expanding 1.4 percent, after exports rose at the fastest pace in 21 years. The government has said the economy has hit bottom. Still, the economy probably isn't strong enough to withstand a rate increase, a lesson Hayami learned when he lifted borrowing costs a quarter-point in August 2000, ending 17 months of zero rates. He was forced to reverse course just seven months later as the economy again headed downhill. "Though GDP rose in the first quarter, about half of the growth came from overseas demand," Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of Toyota Motor Corp. and head of Nihon Keidanren, Japan's biggest business lobby, said earlier this week. "Business investment and housing construction are sluggish, and we can't be optimistic about the economy's outlook at all," he said. Views like that may prompt the government to keep up pressure on the bank to stick with its current policy or take further steps to beat deflation, which eats into profits and makes it harder for companies to repay debts. "Easy monetary policy is also an important goal which we must pursue as part of our measures to stop deflation," Shiokawa said Monday. US officials are also pressuring the bank to do more. Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor said yesterday Japan's first-quarter growth isn't sustainable and the central bank should keep working to mend the economy. "There will be a step back before a strong recovery is in place in Japan," Taylor said. "The Bank of Japan is working on deflation, and until that's over they won't be able to have a strong recovery."

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 06/13/2002

Japan: LDP Postal Reform Panel Criticizes Deregulation Bills

A Liberal Democratic Party panel on postal reforms has drafted a six-point report criticizing four postal service deregulation bills currently being debated in the Diet, a senior LDP lawmaker said Thursday. "We have to amend them," said Hiroyuki Arai, head of the public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications division of the LDP's Policy Research Council. One of the bills in question would allow private firms to offer mail services, although only under onerous conditions, while another would see the establishment of a new public corporation in 2003 to take over the three state-run postal services -- mail, postal savings and "kampo" life insurance. Arai said one of the problems with the bills is they lack institutional guarantees on a clause requiring new entrants to offer nationwide mail delivery services at uniform rates, as the state-run postal service currently does. Another problem, arai said, is that the bills do not pre-empt a reduction in the number of post offices or mail boxes if the proposed public corporation runs into financial trouble. Some private transportation firms, including Yamato Transport Co., have abandoned plans to enter the mail delivery business because of the burdensome requirements on new entrants. Postal service privatization is one of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's pet structural reform projects. It is opposed by many lawmakers in both the ruling and opposition camps who have vested interests in the current postal system.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/28/2002

Lower House Passes Medical Reform Bills

The House of Representatives passed health-care reform bills at a plenary session Friday afternoon, a move which would raise medical expenses of the elderly from October and salaried workers from next April. The government and the ruling bloc - the Liberal Democratic Party, the New Komeito party and the New Conservative Party - have pushed to get the bills approved in the lower house, with the opposition voting against the bill or boycotting the vote.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/21/2002

Council Finalizes Basic Reform Policy

The government's Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy on Friday finalized a basic economic reform policy that features such revitalization and tax reform measures as corporate tax cuts and consolidation of government expenditures in the fiscal 2003 budget. The reform blueprint, which is expected to be approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, constitutes the second phase of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's "big-boned" structural reform agenda. The first outline last year did not specify what steps should be taken in these areas. The reform agenda proposed Friday by the policy-setting panel combines two separate packages -- for economic revitalization and tax reform -- that the panel adopted earlier. The measures will be explained by Koizumi to other leaders attending next week's summit of the Group of Eight nations in Kananaskis, Alberta, in an effort to prove that he is still determined to carry out reforms. Regarding the government's policy for the next fiscal year, however, the blueprint was watered down from its original, an apparent setback for Economy and Fiscal Policy Minister Heizo Takenaka, a reform proponent who played a central role in drafting the document. On Thursday, Takenaka's draft met opposition from Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers. Phrases in the original were toned down, such as changing "scaling down the public works budget" to "promoting more efficient use" of public works outlays. Similar changes were also made regarding official development assistance allocations. The original draft of the policy blueprint was hammered out by the economic panel on June 13. The government had since held consultations with the three ruling parties over its contents. The LDP did not approve the reform agenda during its Executive Council meeting Friday, although it gave the green light for it to be endorsed by the Cabinet, saying the party will continue to hold a "free hand" in discussing specific budgetary items. Executive Council head Mitsuo Horiuchi told a news conference after the gathering that the LDP reserves the right to freely discuss the policy outline's contents. In addition to fears over possible spending cuts, the LDP was also concerned the package did not include sufficient measures to support fundraising by small and medium-size companies. The package now includes such phrases as "efforts will be promoted to smoothly implement fiscal loans and investments" for smaller firms. Meanwhile, after submitting the reform blueprint to Koizumi at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, Takenaka told a news conference "I believe we said what we wanted to in the reform agenda. Despite some changes in its wording, our policy direction remains the same." Economic revitalization steps featured in the blueprint are based on six strategies: promoting science and technology; developing human resources; nurturing entrepreneurship; stimulating potential private-sector demand; revitalizing local communities; and further opening the domestic market to foreign businesses. The six strategies entail 30 action plans, including the creation of special zones in which regulations would be drastically eased to promote private-sector activity. On tax reform, which covers the four-year period between fiscal 2003 and fiscal 2006, the panel calls for reducing the overall tax burden on corporations to help bolster Japanese firms' international competitiveness. Ways to reduce corporate taxes center on a combination of rate cuts and tax-base expansion by introducing the pro forma standard for companies. The pro forma standard is based on the size of companies rather than their earnings, making it possible for firms in the red to be subject to taxation while those in the black might benefit from lower rates. Other corporate tax reforms proposed by the panel include the introduction of incentives to facilitate corporate spending on research and development and information technology. Regarding individual income tax, the reform agenda calls for a policy shift to a system that levies taxes on a broader base, but at lower rates. It recommends that various tax deductions -- such as those for spouses -- be scaled down. In principle, the proposed tax cuts are not supposed to depend on government bond issues to cover revenue shortfalls, according to the agenda. This is line with Koizumi's desire to reduce the nation's fiscal debt. Regarding the budget-making policy for fiscal 2003, the blueprint calls for capping the fiscal 2003 general account budget at the fiscal 2002 level. The council calls for allocating more funds to key priority areas -- including life sciences, information technology and nanotechnology -- following the example of last year's budget.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/22/2002

State-Run Universities Urged to Relax Nationality Clause

In a move that would open state universities to permanent residents who have obtained high school diplomas overseas, the Association of National Universities has urged state universities to scrap nationality clauses from their admission criteria, it has been learned. Many state-run universities, as well as some private universities, have long had a quota system for accepting applications to take entrance examinations from prospective students with high school diplomas obtained while living abroad, but this policy is restricted to Japanese citizens. The association has urged state-run universities to widen their criteria to include permanent residents of both South and North Korean descent under certain conditions, sources said, including a prerequisite stipulating that they spend a set number of years at overseas high schools in obtaining their diplomas, the sources said. A majority of state-run universities are expected to comply with the associations request, beginning from next year's entrance examinations, the sources said. Many state-run universities exempt Japanese applicants for the special overseas-diploma quota from taking examinations held by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, which are usually mandatory for all applicants to state-run schools. Exempted students are instead screened mainly through essay tests and interviews. According to an association survey, 63 of the 76 state-run universities that have a special overseas-diploma quota accept only Japanese citizens who apply for the quota. In autumn of last year, an Osaka-based citizens group pursuing human rights issues involving permanent residents of Korean descent urged the association and some private universities to scrap the nationality clause from their special overseas-diploma quota. The group was quoted as saying that high school graduates of Korean descent are excluded from admission. The group reportedly conducted a survey of the nation's major universities with regard to their special overseas-diploma quota and found out that many of the schools' quota systems had a nationality clause. It reportedly was moved to conduct its survey upon learning about a case in which a girl of South Korean descent who obtained her high school diploma overseas decided not to apply for the special quota of a university because of the nationality clause. According to an association official, the association's recent request was made because it deemed that "there is no good reason to restrict the application criteria by nationality." (by Yomiuri Shimbun )

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 06/24/2002

Ministry Plans Environment Protection Bill

The Environment Ministry said recently that it plans to submit to the Diet next year a bill aimed at helping nonprofit organizations and local firms promote environmental protection. Under the bill, regional organizations in group categories will be established and the ministry will support their work to protect the natural environment, ministry officials said. The ministry will seek budgetary allocations for the Japan Fund for Global Environment in the fiscal 2003 budget. The fund, established in 1993 by the state-run Japan Environment Corp. with financing from the government and public firms, will become the well for financial support of environmental projects. The ministry will also seek special tax treatment for donations related to conservation efforts by NPOs, firms and individuals. Each organization will train personnel who can explain global warming problems to local residents and advise them on conservation measures, the officials said. Such regional groups will hold training courses mainly designed for housewives and students. Those who accumulate knowledge in the field will be certified as experts. The ministry plans to submit the bill to the next ordinary Diet session, scheduled to start in January.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/18/2002

Seoul to Raise Defense Budget 12.7% in 2003

The Defense Ministry has drafted a budget of 18.44 trillion won ($14.15 billion) for 2003 that calls for more spending on high-tech warfare systems and modernization of fighters and destroyers. The 2003 spending plan represents a 12.7-percent increase over an estimated 16.36-trillion-won budget this year. The draft has been submitted to the Ministry of Planning and Budget, officials said. Defense expenditures will account for 3 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, up from 2.8 percent of 2002. The ministry will allot 6.29 trillion won in spending to modernizing its warfare capability, a 14.9 percent hike. Operational expenses will grow 11.6 percent to raise salaries and improve the welfare of service members, officials said. The ministry will spend 327.1 billion won on 27 projects for computerized intelligence and electronic warfare, including tactical communications, multi-channel VHF equipment, unmanned reconnaissance planes, and long-range radar systems. About 611.9 billion won will be used to procure tanks, self-propelled guns and U.S.-made multiple rocket launchers and tactical missiles. The Navy's acquisition programs for next-generation destroyers and submarines and the Air Force's fighter modernization projects will be allocated 1.33 trillion won and 1.26 trillion won, respectively, officials said.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/08/2002

Law to Prevent Draft Dodgers from Making Overseas Trips

The government approved yesterday a revised bill that aims to ban overseas trips by South Korean men who attempt to illegally sidestep mandatory military service, officials said. In a cabinet meeting presided over by President Kim Dae-jung, ministers passed the bill to prevent draft dodgers from slipping into foreign countries, the officials said. Under the nation's conscription system, all South Korean men deemed physically fit are subject to 26 months of service in the army, as the two Koreas are still technically at war. However, many well-to-do parents have offered bribes in return for their son's exemption from military service. "The amendment would allow subjects of draft irregularities to make overseas trips under unavoidable circumstances like the death of a family member," a government official said. In time of war, men aged 18 to 45 will now have to get permission from the Office of Military Manpower Administration to travel to foreign countries, according to the revised bill. Currently, only men aged 18 to 30 are required to go through the procedure. Regarded by some as a barometer of a man's integrity, the issue of fulfilling one's military duty is a sensitive one, which can have an explosive impact on presidential elections. In 1997, then ruling party candidate Lee Hoi-chang was dealt a fatal blow in his campaign for presidency when his two sons were discovered to have been exempted from military service for dubious reasons.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/04/2002

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Bill to Allow Firms to Fund Mardi Research

THE Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Amendment) Bill will allow the body's scientific research to be funded by the private sector. Deputy Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Shariff Omar said at present, private companies were reluctant to finance any of the research projects undertaken by Mardi. "This is because these companies will not have exclusive rights to the results of the research carried out," he said when tabling the Bill for second reading. He said the bill would propose provisions for "secrecy" and "confidentiality" in regards to any joint venture between Mardi and the private sector.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 06/18/2002

BII Obtains Shareholders' Approval to Launch Rights Issue

Publicly-listed Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) obtained shareholders' approval on Tuesday to launch a rights issue to raise Rp 4.81 trillion (US$552.87 million) to strengthen its capital.Sigit Pramono, head of BII's management team, said the move would boost the ailing bank's capital adequacy ratio (CAR) to 14 percent, compared to the minus 47 percent it recorded at the end of last year. The central bank has required all banks to have a minimum CAR level of 8 percent. CAR is the ratio between capital and risk-weighted assets. "All preparations are close to finalization and we're optimistic of the success of the (rights issue) plan as the government will act as a standby-buyer," Sigit told reporters. The rights issue, which means issuing new shares to raise capital, is expected to be completed in July. As a standby-buyer, the government must purchase the new shares offered should if fail to attract investors. The government, represented by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), now controls around 75 percent of the bank in return for trillions of rupiah worth of recapitalization bonds it has injected since it was taken over in 1999. The government first injected bonds worth Rp 6.6 trillion in 1999 to boost its CAR level to beyond the minimum 4 percent requirement at the time. Up till now, the government has injected some Rp 21 trillion worth of bonds whose interest rate is covered by the already strained state budget. Under the rights issue plan, if minority shareholders do not purchase the new shares, their stakes in BII would be diluted from the current 25 percent ownership. But the government's ownership will increase to around 86 percent. IBRA has said that prior to the issuance of new shares, the bank would also have to implement a "reverse stock" measure to increase the stock's price to a minimum level of Rp 100 per share so as to meet requirements of the Capital Market Supervisory Agency (Bapepam). The Bapepam ruling stipulates that a publicly listed company can only launch a rights issue if its share price is valued at least Rp 100 per share. BII's share price is currently hovering at Rp 20 per share. Sigit said that after the completion of the plan, the bank would then focus on restructuring its non-performing loans (NPLs), amounting to Rp 5.2 trillion as of last year, or about 60 percent of its total loans. "With the planned debt restructuring, we aim to reach a less than 10 percent of NPLs by the end of the year," he said. Sigit said that by the end of the year the bank's CAR was expected to reach around 20 percent. (by Dadan Wijaksana)

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 06/06/2002

Myanmar Enacts Money Laundering Control Law

YANGON -- The ruling Myanmar State Peace and Development Council has enacted the Control of Money Laundering Law to control and take effective actions against money and property obtained by illegal means. According to an announcement of the council Tuesday, the 11-chapter law, promulgated on Monday night, aims to curb the rise ofsuch offenses, and at the same time to prevent the executive, economic and social sectors from using such illegal money and property and to strengthen cooperation with international and regional organizations and neighboring countries in fight against the crime. Under the law, any person residing permanently in the country, who is charged with money laundering within or outside Myanmar, will be punished. The law empowers the government to form a Central Control Boardon Money Laundering with the minister of Home Affairs as its chairman. The law warns that different offenses committed under this law will be punished in imprisonment ranging from at least three years up to 10 years or a maximum of an unlimited period, depending on the degree of the crimes committed.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/18/2002

Malaysian Parliament Passes Bills on Construction Industry

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysian Parliament Monday passed three bills on its first day of sitting, all relating to three professions in the building construction industry, to enhance the capabilities of the local professionals. The bills are Quantity Surveyors (Amendment) Bill 2002, Registration of Engineers (Amendment) Bill 2002 and Architects (Amendment) Bill 2002. Winding up the debate on the bills, Works Minister S. Samy Vellu, who tabled the bills for second reading, said the amendments would enhance the capabilities of the local professionals in facing the challenges of globalization and liberalization of services. He said the multi-discipline practice, incorporated in these bills, would enable local companies to be at par with and more competitive than the multinationals in the country and enable them to provide a complete range of professional service. In achieving the objective of providing multi-discipline practice, Samy Vellu said the minimum equity ownership of the three professions in local companies had been fixed at 70 percent with the balance held by other individuals including other related professionals. The amendment bills also provided for a compulsory continuous professional development for the three professions to ensure the service provided would be the best apart from enhancing capabilities and efficiency.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/17/2002

World Bank Welcomes Indonesia's Asset Support Securities Plan

AKARTA -- The World Bank welcomed the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency's (IBRA) plan to set up assetsupport securities, as it could benefit the country. According to IBRA chairman Syaffruddin Tumenggung who was quoted by the Detik.com Online Wednesday as saying that the plan was in line with the consultancy report of the World Bank. The plan could reach two goals -- to maximize the asset recovery under IBRA, and to develop the tight institution for the national property in the future. The IBRA chairman said that the government will soon follow up the plan. He added that during his meeting with the World Bank Representative for Indonesia Mark Blair, they discussed how to improve the house finance system here under the asset support securities. The security asset plan definites as the selling of the IBRA's asset under one integrated package, particularly the property asset. The package considered could be sold properly. The package will be offered to the donor countries. The IBRA will ask the countries to give a low interest loan to Indonesia's property developers.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/05/2002

Singapore Government Adds Three New Land Sites to Reserve List

Singapore's National Development Ministry is adding three new land sites to its reserve list for the second half of this year. The three new sites will provide the market with a wider choice and they will be available towards the end of this year. One is a white site at Serangoon Central's proposed new MRT station. A white site can be used for commercial, residential or civic developments. The Ministry has appointed the Land Transport Authority as the sales agent for the site, marking a first for the LTA. The second new reserve site is for executive condominium development in Woodlands, for which the sales agent is the Housing Board. The last one is a residential land parcel in Bukit Ho Swee. The Singapore Land Authority will be its sales agent also a first for the SLA. Also on the reserve list for the second half are 16 sites carried over from the first half. (by Chan Hwa Loon)

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 06/24/2002

Tioman Accorded Duty Free Status with Approval of Five Bills

THE Dewan approved five Bills according Tioman with the status as the country's third duty free island after Langkawi and Labuan. Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chan Kong Choy said provisions under the Customs (Amendment) Bill, Sales Tax (Amendment) Bill, Excise (Amendment) Bill, Service Tax (Amendment) Bill and Free Zones (Amendment) Bill would not only be applicable to the main island. "The duty free status will also be inclusive of other surrounding islands in the area like Soyak, Rengis, Tumok, Tulai, Chebeh, Labas, Sepoi and Jahat. "The date of enforcement of the status will be announced later by the Finance Minister through a gazette," he said when tabling the Customs (Amendment) Bill for second reading. Later, Chan told Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar (PAS - Tumpat) that the status would not only mean the lifting of duties presently imposed on goods sold on the island. "Services rendered by hotel staff and restaurant will not be taxed as well. "This will be a big boost to the tourism industry based from our experience in Langkawi, where the number of visitors have climbed to over a million since it was accorded the status of a duty free island," he said. This, Chan added, had given rise to better job opportunities and infrastructure projects that had benefited the islanders. Tioman, he said, currently had 3,201 residents in an area measuring 33,000 acres 2% of which had been earmarked for future development. To a point raised by Kong Cho Ha (BN - Lumut), Chan said the Government would consider according duty free status to other islands in the future if there was a need to. Earlier, Abdul Rahman Yusof (Keadilan - Kemaman) complained that the status would only benefit the sale of goods such as cigarettes and alcohol, which were levied "sin taxes". "Most of these goods are imported from overseas. Locally made goods will not benefit," he said.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 06/19/2002

Arroyo Asks Public for More Patience Over Power Bills

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday asked the public for more patience as the government looks for more ways, including the privatization of the assets of National Power Corp. (Napocor), to reduce the cost of electricity. In a speech in Banayoyo, Ilocos Sur, after she distributed land certificates to farmer-beneficiaries, the President assured that power consumers will start to have reduced electricity bills starting July. "The PPA (Power Purchase Adjustment) reduction will be effective on July billings and I ask for your patience and understanding because there are still solutions to be made," she said. The reduced power bills next month follow the May 8 order of the President to the Napocor to reduce its PPA rates by 40 centavos on top of the 30-centavo reduction she ordered in July last year. Aside from anticipated PPA reductions this July, the President said her administration is also looking for long-term solutions to the problem of high cost of electricity in the country. "There is no one-shot medicine to cure all ills," she said. The President said one of the long-term solutions is the privatization the transmission and generation assets of the Napocor. The President cited the need to establish a competitive market for power generation, where power plants would compete with each other, as in the deregulated telecommunications industry. Malacanang plans to have the wholesale electricity spot market by the end of the year. "There will come a time when consumers using power can pick their suppliers. The power of choice will result in reduction of prices," she said. When the government deregulated the telecom sector, the President recalled, it took several years before the reduced cost of telephone bills was felt by the public. Under a deregulated telecoms sector, she said the public has been given the choice to choose from a wide selection of telecoms suppliers. The result of the review of contracts entered into by the government and Independent Power Producers (IPPs) will be made public next week, the President said. She warned that charges would be filed against people involved in any irregularity in the IPP contracts. The President said the Philippines is now ranked next to Japan with the highest electricity rates in the region. With the ongoing reforms in the power sector and anticipated reduction of electricity bills in July, she said, the Philippines should go down to sixth spot in the list of most expensive electricity providers in Asia.

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 06/21/2002

BOI Acts to Cap Tax Incentives

In consideration of the government's budgetary constraints, the Board of Investments (BOI) mulls putting a cap on tax incentives granted to its registered projects based on the amount of investments poured in by the investor. This was revealed by Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II, also chair of the BOI, as the agency is firming up proposals for the amendment of the existing Omnibus Investments Code or Executive Order 266 of 1987. "We have budget constraints," Roxas said stressing that tax incentives would now be matched with the government's overall fiscal policy. Under the plan, he said, a $10 million expansion project would be given incentives commensurate to the amount invested. At present, the BOI grants a six-year income tax holiday perk for a pioneer project, which could be extended for two more years or a maximum of eight years. Projects classified as non-pioneer are granted four year ITH. Expansion projects are also entitled to ITH. ITH is the only major tax incentive left for BOIregistered enterprises but other investmentgenerating agencies like the Philippine Economic Zone Authority still grants tax and dutyfree importation privilege for capital equipment. The most debated topic in the existing move to revise the Omnibus Investments Code to rationalize tax incentives given to investors concern the ITH issue. The BOI has proposed to lengthen the maximum 8-years of ITH to make the Philippines incentive package comparable with the rest of the ASEAN and other countries. Other ASEAN countries grant 10 years or more in ITH while the U.S., depending on a state, grants generous ITH to big ticket items. The BOI said a longer ITH could only be granted to projects with huge capitalization and in a pioneering venture. As usual, however, the Department of Finance has raised concern on the revenue consideration side of the granting of longer ITH. Once, the DoF, BOI/DTI and the National Economic and Development Authority have agreed on their version, Malacaang will submit the proposed bill to Congress. (by Bernie Cahiles-magkilat)

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 06/24/2002

Bills Pave Way for Merging of Fields

THE Dewan approved three Bills, paving the way for a multi-disciplinary practice where the architecture, engineering and quantity surveying fields are merged under a corporate body to provide a more comprehensive service. Under the Bills, new sections were proposed to widen professional consultancy services of the three fields. This would enable professionals under the fields to carry out the multi-discipline practice. The Bills, tabled by Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, are Quantity Surveyors Bill, Registration of Engineers Bill and Architect Bill. "It is hoped that the multi-discipline practice would enable local companies to be more competitive and may even export their services abroad," he said. Towards this objective, new sections were included in the Bills to allow for 70% of the joint equity be held by professionals of the three fields and the remaining 30% to be held by others. Tabling the Quantity Surveyors Bill, Samy Vellu said the amendments, aimed at en-abling the Malaysia Quantity Surveyors Board to carry out its functions more efficiently, were in line with the current development in the profession. On the Registration of Engineers Bill, he said the amendments included the introduction of a new entity called the Engineering Consultancy Practice.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 06/18/2002

Enterprise Law Hailed for Delivering Goods on Growth

HA NOI - The Enterprise Law has injected new momentum into economic growth and spurred job creation in its two and a half years of operation, a Government report states. But the hard work is far from over and officials and entrepreneurs alike must strive to keep up the tempo. Some 40,000 new businesses have joined the economic fray since the new law was enacted in January 2000. The first year of operation saw 35,157 enterprises registered - equal to the total number licensed in nine years previously - and a further 300,000 household producers and business units. Another 4,200 enterprises secured licences in the first three months of this year, with a combined registered capital of VND5,854 billion (US$389 million). A report from the Enterprise Law Working Group, headed up by Minister of Planning and Investment Tran Xuan Gia, said these firms' prescribed and supplementary capital hit VND55,500 billion ($3.7 billion): equalling the total registered capital of foreign-invested firms over the same time frame. The 750,000 jobs generated by companies set up under the Enterprise Law account for one-third of new jobs in society. Enterprises have also added another 9,200 branches and 900 representative offices in cities and provinces across the country since the law was promulgated. Gia and the other members of the working group presented these findings at a monthly Government meeting on May 27 and 28. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and his fellow cabinet members said central and local authorities must make better use of the Enterprise Law, as a tool for achieving growth targets. The business sector urgently needs directions to guide the implementation of this groundbreaking law and clear up any ambiguities. Small and medium sized enterprises need more help to grow, particularly in rural areas where times are still tough. Participants at the meeting stressed that Viet Nam still had too many regulations and decrees that conflicted with the Enterprise Law - and this fact was hampering the ability of the law to deliver on its stated aim to create a level playing field for all enterprises. But the country is striving to boost development growth by removing obstructions to the implementation of the law. Its achievements in socio-economic construction were acknowledged by the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and other donors at a meeting in HCM City early this month. But they and the Government officials present agreed that more work was needed to build on these gains. Foreign investors need guidelines on the purchase of equitised firms' shares or their capital contributions to local firms. This would help attract more foreign investment and bolster growth. The Ministry of Justice should guide the issuance of certificates for lawyers engaged in advocacy and consultancy services. An overhaul of many legal documents issued by central and local bodies so far is an imperative task as many of them are outdated or even incompatible with the Enterprise Law. The law will not be scrupulously observed unless State offices and their staff are well aware of its meaning and importance and ready to help people of all walks of life embark on production and business transactions. The Enterprise Law has put down roots, but its impact varies from urban centres to rural areas. Ha Noi and HCM City have the greatest share of the newly registered capital, at more than 60 per cent. But the new law has certainly seen a good spread among business sectors: 42 per cent of the new firms are in the trade sector; 31 per cent in industry and construction; 22 per cent in services and just 5 per cent in agriculture. The non-State sector's industrial production has made great strides, from 10.9 per cent of the gross domestic product in 1999 to 20.1 per cent in 2001 and 23 per cent in this year's first quarter. This growth is proof of the determination of the Government and relevant central and local offices to translate the law into reality. Officials are also accelerating work on administrative reform, particularly to simplify procedures on business licensing. Already, more than 160 licences deemed incompatible with the law have been abolished. A new State management mechanism, which is more concerned with post-production checks than pre-production controls, will ensure enterprises carry out their business operations in conformity with the law.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/18/2002

Govt Launches Crackdown on Major Property Investments

HA NOI - Six Government inspection teams have kicked off a new probe into major State property investment projects, aiming to crack down on waste, mismanagement and inefficiency. Deputy State chief inspector Tran Quoc Truong announced this week that the inspectors would work with ministries, branches, local authorities and enterprises to identify violations of the Government's property regulations. Every year, the Government invests heavily into infrastructure, equipment and technology for State departments, agencies and enterprises. But some 30 per cent of the investment in property is believed to be inefficient or, worse still, simply disappears altogether. The Government's unprecedented effort is expected to free up funds and accelerate national development by cutting back the hefty losses. The crackdown, which will last until mid-November, has started with key projects in transport, telecommunications, urban building and management, industry, energy, agriculture, aviation, and the social and culture sectors. Truong said that the State Inspectors' office had so far targeted building and investment projects in 40 cities and provinces nation-wide for scrutiny. "We will check three to six projects in each of these cities and provinces on average, depending on the size of the investments managed by the local authorities," said Truong. In a related move, another inspection team led by General Land Administration Department's director Bui Xuan Son has visited eight Government-targeted cities and provinces to look into the management and use of land. The targeted sites are Ha Noi, HCM City, and the provinces of Ha Tay, Hung Yen, Quang Ninh, Dong Nai, Binh Duong and Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Son said that despite a Government request last year to all localities to report any cases of mismanagement of State land and related wrongdoings, only 44 local bodies have complied, totting up 190,000 cases of violations. The director said lax management among local authorities was responsible for the large number of violations, and accused many offices of failing to carry out proper checks after granting or leasing out land for particular projects. Son is urging the remaining cities and provinces to finalise their reports before the end of this month. As part of the campaign, Ha Noi authorities have just set up three inter-ministerial inspection teams to investigate building and investment projects in the city. Inspectors will focus on major water supply projects, and the construction of commercial offices and residential apartments by Ha Noi Building Investment and Housing Development Corporation. In HCM City, eight inspection teams have been formed to evaluate infrastructure construction projects in local districts. According to HCM City's deputy chief inspector Dang Thi Xuan Thao, transport, electricity, health care and education will be the first sectors targeted for checks.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/07/2002

 

Govt Uses Its Numbers to Pass Budget Bill

The 2003 Budget Bill, providing for expenditure of 999.9 billion baht, sailed through the House last night after a two-day debate. Thai Rak Thai party members and MPs of its coalition partners cast an overwhelming vote to approve the bill in principle. The Democrats, having been highly critical of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration's financial and economic performance over the last year-and-a-half, voted against the bill. The government is budgeting for a 175 billion baht deficit, concentrating on five economy-boosting strategies which will consume hundreds of billions of baht.

 

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 06/28/2002

 

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New Tariff Policy in Three Months: Prabhu

New Delhi: The power ministry plans to announce a new tariff policy in the next three months. Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the Independent Power Producers Association of India here on Wednesday, power minister Suresh Prabhu said the draft of the tariff policy was prepared after consultations with various stake holders including the states.

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/05/2002

PM Declares War on Drug Peddling

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia yesterday asked all concerned to guard against any attempt to make Bangladesh a transit route for illicit drug trafficking. "We will not tolerate any negligence to checking illicit drug trafficking," she warned referring to making the anti-drug laws more stringent incorporating death sentence as the highest penalty. The prime minister was addressing a function on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking at the International Conference Center (ICC) here in the afternoon. Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, State Minister Lutfozzaman Babar, Secretary Dr Sadaat Hossain and Director General of Narcotics Control Abdus Salam also addressed the function organised by the Department of Narcotics Control. Ministers, MPs, diplomats, NGO representatives, girls guide and boy scouts attended the function. The day with this year's theme "Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS" is being observed to create mass awareness against drug abuse. Rallies, painting competition, special programmes on radio and television, and supplements in newspapers have been organised as part of the campaign. The prime minister pointed out that drugs like phensidyl and heroine are not produced in Bangladesh but are smuggled in. "Those involved in it intend to destroy the young generation, the future of our country... It is a sort of guerrilla war, a secret chemical war against us," Khaleda Zia said, adding, "We have to win this war." She sought support from the neighbouring countries in the bid to check smuggling of drugs through Bangladesh. Although the situation is still not alarming, drug addiction is increasing, she said asking all concerned to check the menace and take up necessary programmes in this regard. She also warned that if left uncontrolled, the society may experience anarchy and law and order cannot be maintained. "Our future will be ruined. We may face the crisis of drug addiction like many other countries," she cautioned. The prime minister stressed the need for increasing awareness about drug abuse, which is becoming a big challenge for the whole world. "Personal as well as collective effort is necessary for prevention of drug abuse," she said. Temptation for intoxicants is natural and the youths are more prone to it, the prime minister said emphasising that the youths should be encouraged to be involved in sports and practice of healthy culture. She said religious leaders and social workers have a big role to play in this regard but the major responsibility lies with the parents, guardians and teachers to involve them in constructive and creative works. Khaleda Zia urged the parents, guardians and teachers to remain alert against drug addiction, terming it a 'contagious disease'. "We should be sympathetic towards the unemployed educated youths until we can create job opportunities for them," she said referring to the huge unemployment, which is a major cause for frustration. The prime minister also noted that addiction of phensidyl and heroine in the urban areas was also a reason for the deterioration of law and order. "Therefore, members of the law enforcing agencies and the society have to be cautious against this major source of crime," she added. Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury mentioned the two largest drugs producing regions, the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent, on two sides of Bangladesh which make this country vulnerable to drug trafficking. "It is easily imaginable how difficult it is to keep Bangladesh free from drug abuse," he said. At the function, the prime minister presented crests to three organisations --- Bangladesh Anti-Drug Federation, CARE Bangladesh and Noton Jibon Gori --- for their role in the campaign against drug abuse.

From http://www.dailystarnews.com/ 06/27/2002

Privatisation Will Improve Power Distribution: DVB

The Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) on Monday said that the privatisation of the organisation would go a long way in providing quality and quantity of power to the people of Delhi and there was no alternative to privatisation. Defending allegations of a scandal in the privatisation deal, DVB chairman Jagdish Sagar said that not privatising the board would have resulted in a scam. "It was incurring massive losses for the government and this was the best possible and transparent deal, which we got after hard negotiations with the bidders," he said. Sagar said that in the first two years, it would not be feasible for the two companies to rectify the losses. After two years the deficit would come down progressively. On the charges that there was no audit of the DVB accounts by the CAG, the DVB chairman said that the accounts were never prepared in the past. "It is only now that the accounts have been brought up to date," he said, adding, "had the accounts been prepared earlier, it could have been sent for auditing,"he said. On the track record of the two companies - Tata Power and BSES, Sagar queried that if these companies are not good enough then which are the good ones? While BSES has been distributing power in Bombay for more than 70 years, Tata Power has an excellent record of its operations. Sagar also denied that there was any attempt to appease the two companies who will distribute power in Delhi from July onwards. "The increase in the loan assistance to 3450 crore from 2600 crore will not benefit the distribution companies. This has been done to keep the tariff down and is intended for the benefit of the consumers," the chairman said. He said that the profit of the distribution companies would be limited to 16 per cent and the loan assistance would not benefit them in any way. Sagar also claimed that this summer has been one of the best as compared to previous years when denizens had to go through long hours of load shedding in almost all parts of Delhi. Barring a few breakdowns and bad weather, the power scene till date this year has been noteworthy. (by Amitabh Shukla)

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/03/2002

Companies Act Amended for Additional Disclosures

The government has amended schedule VI of the Companies Act, 1956, to provide additional disclosures in balance sheets. According to a notification issued by the government, companies would have to disclose the names of small scale industrial units to which they owe money, along with interest for a period exceeding 30 days in the Part I form of the balance sheet. In a statement issued here, the department of company affairs (DCA) said, under the sub-heading 'current liabilities and provisions, companies are required to substitute the paragraph with "the name(s) of small scale industrial undertaking(s) to whom the company owes any sum together with interest outstanding for more than 30 days are to be disclosed". It added that the notification is intended to protect the interests of investors by mandating the companies to disclose the smallest details of liabilities and assets in its balance sheet. The notification has been issued under sub-section 1 of the section 641 of the companies Act.

From http://www.business-standard.com/ 06/04/2002

'Govt to Reform IPR Laws'

The Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed said yesterday that the government would reform the existing laws relating to Intellectuals Property Rights (IPR) suiting to the need of the hour. Speaking as chief guest at a discussion on 'Intellectual Property Rights and Bangladesh' at the CIRDAP auditorium, Barrister Moudud said that the existing copyright and trade mark laws are not sufficient in the present era of globalisation. "We have to make our own laws to protect our interest." The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and the Centre For Sustainable Development (CFSD) jointly organised the discussion. Managing Director of UBINIG Farhad Mazhar and Secretary General of CFSP Mahfuz Ullah made separate presentations on protecting copyright and trade mark covering national and global perspectives. Director (Programme) of BELA Syeda Rizwana Hasan acted as moderator. Among others, BELA President Prof K A A Quamruddin and members of different government and non-government organisations (NGOs) took part in the open discussion. Underlining the urgent imperatives of developing expertise to protect intellectuals property rights, the law minister sought cooperation of the private sector and the NGOs in this regard. Due to many reasons, the government has so far failed to develop required expertise in different fields, he added. The minister also called upon the private organisations and the NGOs to create awareness about the IPR and others related issues.

From http://www.dailystarnews.com/ 06/18/2002

Pak to Introduce More Tax: Shaukat

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz has remarked that government was considering to introduce more reforms in the tax and tariff structure in order to provide conducive atmosphere to foreign investors to accelerate industrial development of the country. This he said in a meeting held here Saturday with Shun Imaizumi, chairman of Standing Committee of Japan-Pakistan Business Cooperation Committee and Sadaaki Numata, Ambassador of Japan in Pakistan. He added that government is determined to stay the course of reforms to ensure macro-economic discipline and continue structural reforms. Owing to these reforms the country has been able to contain inflation to under 3 percent and raise the foreign exchange reserves to $ 5. 6 billion, which are likely to touch $ 6 billion, he revealed. He hoped that Japan would consider yen credits to support infrastructure development in Pakistan keeping in view the economic performance of the government. He commended Japan's support in stock re-profiling of debt by the Paris Club hoping that the two countries would continue to cooperate in further seeking support of international financial institutions to further consolidate economy of Pakistan, he sounded optimistic. Spelling out the various projects initiated by the government he said that several projects including Gawadar Sea Port, water and infrastructure projects have been undertaken by the government adding that these will attract local and Japanese investors. These projects would create employment, generate economic activities and help reduce poverty, he asserted.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/02/2002

Judicial Commission to Take Stern Action Against Defaulters

The Judicial Commission formed to probe the property and riches of those holding public posts after the restoration of democracy in 1990 warned Friday that it would make public the names of those who had refused to accept the forms seeking the details of their property and also take stringent disciplinary action against them. According to the Commission those who have not submitted the forms will also be brought under the purview of legal action. According to the Commission, only 3,500 civil servants have so far submitted the forms.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 06/08/2002

Nepal: Govt to Introduce Rafting Regulations

Almost 30 years after commercial rafting began in Nepal, the government is preparing to introduce rafting regulations to oversee the rafting agencies and safeguard the interests of its employees. The draft of the proposed regulations has been prepared and would be submitted to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for legal considerations within a short time, a highly placed tourism official told The Kathmandu Post today. "It is likely that the draft will be registered with the council of ministers and get enforced within a month's time." According to the draft of the 'Rafting Regulations-2002', only government-registered rafting agencies that have a minimum of four professional rafting guides and two rafting boats would be allowed to operate rafting service after its enforcement. Currently there are around 600 government trained rafting guides, but just half of them are active, said Kumar Ranabhat, former President of Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA). Currently National Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM) provides basic training to rafting guides. Following the enforcement of the new regulations, the rafting agencies will have to submit a bank guarantee of Rs 500,000 to the government. The government says this guarantee would be helpful to compensate claimants in case of disputes. The new regulations is also aimed at safeguarding the interests of domestic workers in the rafting companies. It has set a minimum daily allowance, remuneration and other benefits for Nepali workers. The regulations has clearly stated that the rafting agency would be responsible for covering medical expenses of its workers associated with the rafting team. It has also provisioned for an accidental insurance and compensation of a minimum Rs 500,000 per worker. "The insurance claim would be valid on any accident met within the rafting period with the rafting team," according to the draft. This is the first time that the government is introducing such provision targeting at more than 750 rafting employees involved in more than 85 government registered rafting agencies. Out of this number, around 65 is registered with the NARA, and just above 50 are in active operation. Once the rafting agency takes permit for rafting from the government, the permit would be valid for a 30-day period, which can be extended upon request of rafting agencies with proper reasoning. After the enforcement of this new regulation foreigners will not be allowed to go for rafting on their own. Permission for rafting will be granted only to a rafting agency registered with the government. Currently, any rafting agency registered with NARA can operate rafting trips without any permission from the government in selected rivers open for rafting. Rafting entrepreneurs say that foreigners are mis-utilising the provision as they go for rafting without anyone's notice. The government so far has opened ten rivers for rafting purposes. They include Arun, Bheri, Karnali, Trishuli, Bhotekoshi, Kaligandaki, Sunkoshi and Seti rivers. Hoping that with the opening of the new rivers, Nepal would become more thrilling and challenging, thereby boosting adventure tourism, the NARA since past four years has been urging the government to open Upper Seti, Karnali, Upper Bheri, Rapti, Seti, Gandaki, Budhi Gandaki, Dudh Koshi and Tamor rivers for rafting. Rafters say that new rivers need to be opened since many of the rivers permitted by the government to raft now run almost dry. The construction of water reserves at places has prevented perennial water flow downstream, making rafting impossible..The first ever-rafting regulations seem to be environment consensus as it has provisioned for garbage disposal by the agency itself. "The rafting agencies should dispose garbage on their own," it says.

From http://www.kantipuronline.com/ 06/27/2002

Provinces to Get Population Funds

ISLAMABAD: Finances for the population programme will be transferred to the provinces from the next fiscal year (2002-03) to implement the government's devolution of power plan. This decision was taken at a high-level inter-provincial meeting of the ministries of population welfare and finance here on Thursday. The minister for population welfare, Dr Attiya Inayatullah, took the chair. The meeting decided that the finance division would issue one-line budget allocation for the population welfare departments from the next fiscal year as part of the overall public sector development programme (PSDP). According to the decision, the provincial secretaries of the population welfare departments "shall act as principal accounting officers for their respective population welfare departments as per provincial rules." Dr Inayatullah, while emphasizing the need for ensuring smooth transfer of responsibilities, said the provincial finance departments as well as respective AG's should ensure that no delays occurred in the disbursement of salaries to the employees and grants to carry out other operations of population programme after switching over of accounts from the Centre to the provinces. She said any impediments, if encountered during the implementation of the population welfare programme, would be removed by the provincial governments expeditiously by ensuring timely release of funds. The finance department will monitor the release of funds from the federal government down to the district population welfare departments. On her recommendation, it was also decided that a committee, comprising the federal and provincial representatives, would be set up with a view to removing anomalies and bottlenecks that might emerge in the wake of de-federalization of the population programme. It was observed that a close coordination between the health and population welfare departments was required for complementing the services provided by each of them. Among others, the meeting was attended by Finance Secretary- General Moin Afzal and Accountant-General Iftikhar A. Khan.

From http://www.dawn.com/ 05/31/2002

Reforms, Trade Policy Under WTO X-Ray from Tomorrow

New Delhi: India will undergo a three-day collective examination of its full range of trade policies and practices at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva beginning Wednesday. "Two documents will be discussed on our laws and regulations, our institutional framework, business regulations and other preferential agreements. One has been prepared by us and the other by WTO secretariat, both addressing the wider economic context and external environment," a commerce ministry official said. Commerce secretary Deepak Chatterjee and additional secretary SV Menon, alongside Indian envoy to WTO KM Chandrasekhar will represent India, and WTO director-general Mike Moore will chair. India's trade policy review was last done in 1998. "The review is extremely important, for they (member nations such as the US) might go after you with hammer and tongs, some of that nuanced in the context of what they want from you," feels trade policy expert Pradeep Mehta at CUTS Jaipur. "They'll put an x-ray through your internal liberalisation process, FDI, TRIMS, tariffs, anti-dumping, and many areas where you've been lacking. This (the process) can be excruciating," Mr Mehta argues. Ministry officials don't share this sentiment, and say this is a "routine evaluation, like, say, the one Pakistan underwent in January". They mention though that "any issue whatsoever" including our past commitments may be brought up by member nations and Mr Moore's closing observations will be considerably important. CII senior advisor TK Bhaumik feels that "India will, indeed, be put on the radar screen of the general council" and "difficult questions will be asked". These, he says, will "impact on our forthcoming negotiation strength" at the trade negotiations committee under Mr Moore. "I, however, don't expect cynical observations, and hope our negotiating position won't be weakened," Mr Bhaumik said. (by Amiti Sen & Rohit Bansal)

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/17/2002

New Police Ordinance Criticized

HYDERABAD: Speakers at a seminar on Wednesday criticised the new police ordinance, under which police officials have been given sweeping powers , saying that no positive change could take place in the society unless discriminatory laws such as Qisas and Diyat Ordinance, Hudood Ordinance, and blasphemy laws were repealed. THe speakers said this at the seminar, which was organized by the Sindh National Council at a local hotel, to observe the international day in support of the victims of torture. It was presided over by Advocate Rochi Ram. They called upon the government to ratify all conventions pertaining to fundamental human, women, and child rights. In his paper, Sindh National Council's Hussain Bux Thebo expressed hope that one day the world would be torture-free. Dr Rahim Solangi vowed to wage a struggle for the oppressed people. He said even those organizations which were diametrically opposed to the use of torture and violence were using weapons. Citing reasons for torture by sadists, Dr Hameed Memon, a psychiatrist, told participants that joblessness in the society was the root cause. He said those who indulged in torture tactics always do it regardless of the consequences of their acts. He said that medical tests of these people showed that their brain was found immature in various cases. The torture victims and heirs of those who fell prey to custodial or extra-judicial killings also narrated their woeful tales. Lambasting the government for not ratifying various conventions on human rights, Advocate Ms Noor Naz Agha, called for the right of self-determination of an individual, and added that the government was not doing it deliberately. She described the Hudood Ordinance a bogus and jocular law which led to an increase in the number of women internees in jails under this offence. Likewise, she informed the audience that the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance had also become a license to kill and also saw an increase in the number of Karo-kari cases. She added that blasphemy was also a discriminatory law having affected minorities badly. She said that all discriminatory laws should be amended. RESOLUTION: The seminar adopted several resolutions, condemning use of torture in different forms in Pakistan and all other countries and expressing support with all the torture victims who were struggling to overcome the psychological effects of these practices. The resolution treated all the confessional statements and evidences extorted by way of torture as inadmissible in any legal proceedings in order to prohibit them in the eyes of the law. It expressed grave concern over torture tactics being applied at private jails, and demanded abolition of compulsory labour. Another resolution treated women as equal citizens and demandedrestitution of their rights, life, and honour at home as well as in the society. It said that strict measures should be taken to stop use of violence against them and killings on the pretext of Karo-kari. The resolution demanded abolition of all the discriminatory laws against women including the Hudood Ordinance and Qanoon-e-Shahadat. Demanding abolition of child labour, in another resolution, the seminar condemned use of torture in all manifestations against children at home, madrassah, school, or any other institution. It also condemned torture tactics, employed by activists of racial and religious organizations against their opponents or those who differed with their views. It said that these groups should carry out de-weaponization in their ranks. The seminar appealed to the government to ratify the UN convention against torture thereby accepting obligations to adopt effective measures in preventing acts of torture and treating all these acts as an offence punishable under the relevant laws. MODERNIZATION: The Zila Nazim, Makhdoom Rafiquzzaman has said that Hyderabad would soon become an ultra-modern city where economic activities were gaining momentum. Inaugurating a branch of a private aviation services company here on Wednesday, Mr Zaman held out the assurance that the district authorities would extend all cooperation for the development of tourism and travel.

From http://www.dawn.com/ 06/27/2002

Anti-Corruption Strategy Before Sept: NAB

LAHORE: To continue the process of accountability initiated by the present regime, a National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) is being formulated, which would be made public before September, said Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lt-Gen Muneer Hafeez

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/09/2002

Defence Budget Up, Provinces to Levy GST: NEC Okays Rs134bn PSDP

ISLAMABAD, June 8: The National Economic Council here on Saturday approved Rs134 billion new Public Sector Development Programme for 2002-2003 that contains 40 per cent allocation for health, education and poverty alleviation. The NEC also decided to considerably increase the defence budget in 2002-2003 due to growing tension in the region. Later, briefing newsmen about the decisions of the NEC, presided over by President Gen Pervez Musharraf, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz said that the meeting further decided to fix 4.5 per cent GDP growth target for the next financial year against 3.6 per cent of the current financial year. He said 4 per cent GDP growth target for 2001-2002 had been revised to 3.3 per cent due to world recession and Sept 11 events of last year. "But finally we managed to have 3.6 per cent growth for the current fiscal year which is very encouraging compared to other countries of the region including India", he claimed. Asked why the NEC did not accept the recommendations of National Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) to have Rs144 billion PSDP, he said it was due to petroleum sector which has now been separated from the federal budget to be looked after by the Petroleum Holding Company that has recently been established. Informed sources said that the representatives of the provinces complained that they were not being offered adequate funds. They also said that they have not been taken into confidence for undertaking various new projects. In this behalf, the finance and planning ministers of Sindh particularly mentioned Thal Canal project which was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) without taking into confidence the officials of the provinces. However, sources said that the president assured the provinces that from now onwards all the water projects will be approved with the consent of the provinces as well as on the recommendations of Indus River System Authority (IRSA). Sources said that the meeting was told by the president that a list has been prepared for undertaking some of the development projects which will be initiated with the help of foreign grants to be offered by friendly countries. Another "wish list" of projects was also finalized subject to availability of funds. Giving details about various economic indicators, the finance minister said that agriculture has registered 1.4 per cent growth against minus 2.5 per cent of 2000-2001. The overall manufacturing sector witnessed an increase of 4.4 per cent in 2001-2002 against the revised target of 3.8 per cent. Large scale manufacturing was 4.4 per cent against the revised target of 3.3 per cent. He said had there been no impact of drought, the GDP growth could have reached to 4.3 per cent. The per capita income grew by 3.2 per cent and inflation remained 2.5 per cent which according to the finance minister was the lowest in three decades. "We expect that inflation will be below 4 per cent in 2002-2003". He said exports reached to $9bn against the target of $10bn due to cancellation of orders in the aftermath of Sept 11 events of last year. Furnishing the details, he said that export of cotton cloth was 12 per cent, bead wear 26 per cent, towels 17 per cent and readymade garments 23 per cent. He said there has been a significant improvement in the exports of value-added products. Mr Aziz said that current account balance was surplus by $2bn due to $1.2bn foreign remittances received till the month of May this year. "The final figure of remittances is likely to reach to $2.2bn by June 30 this year". The foreign exchange reserves, he said, have reached to $5.6bn and would touch to $6bn by the end of the current financial year. He said foreign debt has reduced from $38bn to $36bn. The finance minister said that the NEC has decided to allow the provinces to impose 2.5 per cent general sales tax to collect additional Rs30 to Rs32 billion to be spent on poverty alleviation. Responding to a question he said that out of Rs134bn new PSDP, Rs23.7bn has been kept for water and power, Rs7bn for Railways and Rs15bn for roads and highways. Banks' interest rate, he said, has been reduced from 14 per cent to 12 per cent. He did not give the figure of budget deficit but said it was well under control. He also said there was no pressure on exchange rate and the banks have enough liquidity to lend.

From http://www.dawn.com/ 06/09/2002

Trade Policy to Be Announced on July 7

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): Trade Policy for the year 2002-03 will be announced on July 7. A senior Commerce Ministry official told PNS that the trade policy would focus on the new target of exports, import and balance of trade. He said that the new target of exports is expected to be fixed at 10.5 billion dollars for the next financial year. Imports target is also being projected around 11 billion dollars. The official said that some new incentives would also be announced to encourage exports in the coming financial year.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/13/2002

New Law to Limit Govt Borrowings

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): The government has formulated a Fiscal Responsibility Law in the new budget, which places a limit on the government to make borrowing for financing its expenditure. "This has been a significant element missing in our fiscal management, the one that induced mismanagement and indiscipline at a fairly wide scale and with this law, we have joined the ranks of those countries that have instituted similar laws and achieved stability in their fiscal system," said Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz while addressing a post budget press conference here on Sunday. He said the law proposes to limit the government to make borrowings only for the purpose of development expenditures and meet all its current expenditures from revenue receipts. "Thus no deficit will be allowed in the current account, and specified time period has been suggested to the government to comply with this requirement," he said. In addition, he said, the government would be bound to bring down the level of overall public debt to 60 per cent of GDP, within a period of 10 years, and not to exceed this limit in future. "Of course such limits can be relaxed by the Parliament particularly in the case of emergency such as war or natural calamity," he added. The finance minister said the law also binds the government to regularly place reports of economic developments and progress in achieving the debt limits on a regular basis. According to the summary of the draft Fiscal Responsibility Law which is to be there no later than 31 August 2002, the foundation of the draft law is based on the principles of sound fiscal and debt management which included eliminating revenue deficit to nil not later than June 30, 2007 and thereafter maintaining a surplus; minimising the public debt to 60 per cent of the estimated GDP by June 30, 2012; reducing the public debt by not less than two and half per cent of the GDP in every financial year provided that the social and poverty-related expenditures are not reduced below 4 per cent of GDP; and not issuing new guarantees including those on rupees lending, bonds, rates of return, output charges agreements and all other claims and commitments that may be prescribed from time to time for any account exceeding 2 per cent of the GDP. The government can depart from these principles on grounds of unforeseen demands on the finances of the government due to national security or natural calamity, which are required to be determined by the National Assembly. The federal government shall, to maintain transparency in its performance, lay before the National Assembly in each financial year the following five economic policy statements: a) The medium-term budgetary statement included in the Annual Budget Statement (ABS). b) The annual fiscal policy statement included in the ABS. c) The annual debt policy statement included in the ABS. d) The Mid year economic report by the end of the February. And, e) The annual statement of the economic report by the end of June. The economic policy shall incorporate to the fullest extent possible all government decision, which have a material effect on the economic situation of the country, except those that have been excluded for specified reasons by the finance minister. A Debt Policy Coordination Office (DPCO) is proposed to be established to serve as a secretariat to achieve the objective of this law. The office shall prepare a 10-year debt reduction path, which will be followed by the government and against which the performance of the government will be monitored and analysed by the DCO. The DPCO shall submit its annual reports to the cabinet after the approval of the finance minister. Where the government fails to meet the target of the debt to GDP over a period of two years, it would be required to take all necessary measures including the suspension of salaries of the cabinet members to return to the debt reduction path given by DPCO by the end of next two years. However, this shall not apply to the expenditures charged upon the Federal Consolidated Fund under Article 81 of the Constitution. Furthermore, the social and poverty-related expenditures shall not be reduced from 4 per cent of the GDP for that year. All the economic policy statements laid before the National Assembly under the proposed law shall be accompanied by a statement of the finance minister and secretary finance comprising the integrity of the disclosure contained therein and consistency with the requirements of the law.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/17/2002

Constitutional Reforms May Go Public Today

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): The official grapevine late Tuesday suggested that the military government might publish its constitutional reform package for feedback and debate, on Wednesday. Although no confirmation is on hand as of now, the development should be in line with President General Pervez Musharraf's declared policy of making the proposed constitutional amendments public before enacting them. The package is likely to be unveiled by Lt. Gen. Tanwir Naqvi, Chairman National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), at a media conference. Naqwi Tuesday briefed the four provincial governors on the contents of the package, official sources said. The governors are said to have thrown their weight behind the amendment relating to vestment of more powers in the office of the president. The proposed reform package is said to contain an amendment, which will empower the President to sack the Prime Minister, the cabinet, the parliament. Comparable powers at provincial level may be vested in the office of governor. When it validated the 12 October 1999 military takeover, the Supreme Court of Pakistan empowered General Musharraf to amend the constitution, albeit without altering its parliamentary character. Musharraf, who has justified his takeover on the basis of constitutional meltdown, has made no secret of his resolve to undertake constitutional reform. In fact, his devolution of power programme is the centerpiece of a restructuring of the polity. Province-to-district devolution, however, is not all; up next is federation-to- province devolution, for which plans are well advanced. The proposed constitutional reform package, justified by some politicians in the light of an exit strategy of the military government rather than a development of intrinsic value, will include all these and other measures deemed necessary by the government. Gen. Naqwi's NRB is the mastermind of almost all the constitutional and institutional reform initiatives undertaken by the Musharraf government. (by Naveed Miraj)

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/26/2002

Govt Urged to Change Foreign Policy

FAISALABAD: Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan Central President Sahibzada Fazle Karim has urged the government to immediately change its foreign policy. Talking to newsmen here on Sunday, the former Punjab minister said that the rulers have miserably failed to get the support even of Islamic countries over the Kashmir issue because of the 'ill-conceived' foreign policy. "The big powers are not ready to hold the Indian government responsible for killing thousands of innocent Muslims in Gujarat and Ahmedabad." He said that because of the 'incompetence' of the policy-makers and an inexperienced foreign minister, the struggle of Kashmiri freedom fighters was being termed as terrorists campaign. The government should immediately take all political leaders into confidence over Kashmir policy. The former minister said that only an elected government could steer the country out of the internal and external crisis. The army should perform its duties on borders. He said that Gen Pervez Musharraf should formulate new foreign policy after consulting heads of neighbouring Islamic countries and national leaders. RAID CRITICIZED: The managements of over a dozen deeni madaris in the city have strongly criticized the raid on a religious institution by the Peshawar police. Speaking at an emergent meeting here on Sunday, Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi, Mian Naeemur Rahman, Maulana Yousaf Anwar and others said that Western forces were trying hard to disgrace Muslims all over the world. They regretted that the rulers of Pakistan "are playing the role of middle-men in the conspiracy." They demanded that the government should take immediate action against the law enforces who raided a deeni madressah in Peshawar without any justification. They also urged the rulers to stop mud-slinging campaign against religious leaders and deeni-madaris, otherwise a countrywide protest would be started against them. SHOT DEAD: A villager was gunned down allegedly by his rivals in Chak No 26 JB, Nishatabad, on Sunday. Police said that Ali Muhammad was sleeping in the courtyard of his house when masked men opened fire on him. He died on way to a hospital. Area police have registered a case against some unidentified persons and started investigation. Family alleged that their rivals were involved in the murder of Ali Muhammad.

From http://www.dawn.com/ 06/03/2002

 

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Central Asian Summit to Be Held in Kazakhstan on 6-7 July

Summit of member-states of the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation (CAC) will be held on 6-7 July in Aktau (administrative centre of the Mangistau Region of Kazakhstan). According to the press service of the Kazakh president, it is expected that presidents of all four CAC member-countries will participate in the summit. Within the framework of the summit its participants will visit the Aktau port on the Caspian Sea, which is Kazakhstan's only international seaport. At present Aktau is actively preparing for the visit of heads of Central Asian countries. The agreement on creation of CAC was achieved during the Tashkent summit on 27-28 December 2001 and secured in the Tashkent Declaration of leaders of four states. CAC, which replaced the former Central Asian Economic Community, includes Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/29/2002

 

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Azerbaijani Ngos Fear Chill from New Legislation

Local and international non-governmental organizations active in Azerbaijan are pressing President Heidar Aliyev to reject amendments the Azerbaijani parliament passed in early May to the country's Law on Grants. Defenders of the changes, which would require charities and other nonprofit groups to register their grant payments with authorities, say it aims to promote "transparency" and prevent corruption. The NGO community, though, fears the amendments will spur new restrictions on their activities and might make it impossible for some organizations to continue their work. Under the current law, all such payments from Azerbaijani organizations to foreign recipients must be registered. Parliament's amendments to the grants law's Article 4 would subject domestic grantees to the same registration requirements. Any activities funded by unregistered grants would be illegal. Many NGO representatives believe the amendments are deliberately vague, and fear that, under the proposed new procedures, they will effectively need the government's permission to implement projects. Even though lawmakers called the measures a step toward "transparency," NGO representatives fear that the registration and authorization procedure could increase opportunities for corruption, facilitate censorship and weaken the development of the NGO sector. NGOs are suspicious in large part because, they say, the administrative elements of the law seem redundant. "The government says the law is just about registering grants, not authorizing them. But we already have legislation that obliges NGOs to send information to the Ministry of Economic Development, the Tax Department, the State Statistics Committee and local social insurance departments," Anar Qasimov of the International Center for Non-Profit Law told EurasiaNet. "Why change the law, unless you want to change the situation?" Politics may inform the parliament's reasoning, says Qasimov. He said in the run-up to elections next year, some agencies worry that the government may want to control funding to organizations that monitor the vote. Meanwhile, the amendments' defenders use political symbolism to justify their position. The authorities argue that the new measures form part of Azerbaijan's cooperation in the war against terror, and that they will clarify the sources of funding coming into the country. (The United States reported shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks that some charities had served as fronts for al Qaeda. Azerbaijan has occasionally surfaced as a possible site of al Qaeda cells.) But members of the donor community say that the amendments run counter to the principles of transparency and efficiency that are increasingly important in international aid. If that conviction takes hold, the amendments might reduce Azerbaijan's standing with civil-society organizations. Margo Squire of the Eurasia Foundation says her group, which operates on a grant and disburses grants within Azerbaijan, doesn't think the new amendments will be good for the development of civil society. "We have no problem with the idea of notification-all our grants are public ?but there's already a notification procedure under current law," she says. "The new procedure seems like an unnecessary step which adds another bureaucratic hurdle, at a time when everyone is calling for less bureaucracy." Other organizations fear that the law could suffocate them. "If the suggested changes become law and are interpreted literally, it could mean that the Norwegian Refugee Council is unable to continue its work in Azerbaijan," says Merethe Kvenrod, the NRC's resident representative in Baku. Her agency starts to pay for board-approved relief projects several months before it receives money to fund the projects directly, so any process requiring approval from the authorities could impede its cash flow and delay its work. "We would have to change our financial year routines and the employment situation would be much more insecure for our 134 local employees," says Kvenrod, who also worries about government crackdowns. "We would also have less freedom to choose implementing partners among the local NGOs." NGOs' hostility to the law has prompted them to join forces. Local and international NGOs have been campaigning together to stop the amendments from becoming law. They have taken their case to the president with a statement urging him to reject the changes as "inconsistent with both international standards and experience and with other legislative acts of Azerbaijan." The National NGO Forum passed an appeal to this effect on May 21. "Experience shows that administrative methods and unreasonable restrictions do not address issues, but stimulate further violations and create more problems," says the appeal. "It will be sound, transparent and tax-paying NGOs who suffer from these restrictions." By emphasizing the amendments' threats to international credibility, the appeal drew signatures from representatives of some of the oil companies and foreign embassies in Baku. NGOs have suggested amendments using alternative wording, which would require recipients and donors to apply for registration rather than to receive it. It may be too late for alternatives, since Aliyev could technically sign the amendments into law at any moment. To make up for lost time, NGO representatives are planning further action and seeking permission to stage a demonstration in central Baku. If the legislation goes through, there are already plans to mount a legal challenge based on alleged inconsistencies with Azerbaijan's constitution.


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/05/2002

 

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Azerbaijani President Declines to Sign Controversial Legislation on Grants

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev has apparently declined to sign controversial amendments to legislation covering grant making, according to a June 19 report in the Azadliq newspaper. International organizations had denounced the amendments, which would have effectively strengthened official oversight over non-governmental organization activity. Intense criticism by both local and international NGOs appeared to play a significant role in influencing Aliyev's decision. Azadliq, citing unnamed sources, said a presidential aide, Ramiz Mehdiyev, told a local UN official on June 17 that Aliyev had not signed the amendments into law. As news of Aliyev's decision spread, local NGO activists were in a celebratory mood. "NGO solidarity yields fruit," proclaimed a statement issued by the NGO Forum in Baku. The amendments to the law on grants would have required that all grants given to local organizations by international governments, NGOs and other funding organizations be registered. In addition, the amendments stipulated that only officially registered organizations could receive grants. In effect, the changes would have given the Azerbaijani government a veto over the dispersal of grant money to NGOs. [For further information see the EurasiaNet Human Rights archive]. After the Azerbaijani parliament approved the amendments in March, international and local groups mobilized to protest the potential changes. A group of Azerbaijani NGOs appealed to Aliyev to reject the amendments. The Council of Europe and the OSCE sent a letter to the Azerbaijani president pressing him to veto the proposed changes. American NGOs raised their objections both in Baku and with the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington. Prior to Aliyev's decision, Kate Watters, Deputy Director of the Institute for Social Action and Renewal in Eurasia (ISAR), expressed concern that the amendments endangered democratic development in Azerbaijan. "The potential harm to civil society is quite great," Watters said. Gavin Half, Director of Grant Programs for the Eurasia Foundation, described the amendments as "a step in the wrong direction," adding that had they been approved by Aliyev, international organizations would probably have cut back on programs in Azerbaijan. "There's a limited amount of assistance that goes to the former Soviet Union, and if it's harder to expend these resources in Azerbaijan, naturally it's going to flow to other places where there's a better environment," Half said. Leyla Yunus, the head of the Institute of Peace and Democracy in Baku, stated that "the only aim of this legislation [was] to destroy all NGOs that the government dislikes, or which it cannot control." As it already stands, Yunus says, the government utilizes the registration process to exert pressure on NGOs. Groups with a civic or political agenda that authorities find objectionable have commonly waited years to register their organizations, or not been approved at all. If they do not receive formal status, they must to operate at great risk of government harassment. A lack of registration also prevents an NGO from opening a bank account legally, or raising funds publicly. As a result, unregistered organizations, human rights groups in particular, have depended upon foreign assistance to sustain their activities. At the same time, many local NGOs have opted not to go through the official registration process, in some cases because they are responding to urgent, emergency situations, in others because they seek to evade the state bureaucracy and its inherent inefficiencies and graft. For the same reasons, donors have also defended the unregistered status of these groups. Government officials explained that the amendments were an appropriate response to the post-September 11 security environment. Watters dismissed this explanation, pointing out that most of the organizations giving assistance to NGOs are international assistance and development organizations. "Much of the source of that funding comes from US government-funded and other European government and foundation donors." Critics suggested that the Azerbaijani government sought to use September 11-related security concerns as a pretext to suppress political opponents and to curtail the activity of independent citizens' groups. (by Kenan Aliyev)


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/20/2002

 

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Georgia: Proposed Law Amendments Threaten to Stall Judicial Reform Efforts

Proposed amendments to a law concerning Georgia's legal establishment threaten to upend a decade of judicial reform efforts. If adopted, the changes would effectively prevent the establishment of new professional and ethical standards for lawyers, thus leaving the legal system prone to corruption. The proposed amendments to the Law on the Bar, which was adopted last June, would inhibit the formation of a Western-style Bar Association to oversee the conduct of the country's lawyers. Legal observers say the amendments are an indicator of backtracking in Georgia's overall reform process. They also highlight the inherent fragility of legal reform achievements in former Soviet republics. "This is very bad, worse than anyone can imagine," says Tina Khidasheli, of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association. The amendments are now scheduled for a second reading in the Georgian parliament in mid-June. There is little chance the amendments can be defeated outright at this point, some observers say. "This is a fight over who will control the bar association - it's really between the old guard, the old psychology and a new movement," says Gia Getsadze, an attorney working in a USAID-funded legal reform project. The old guard is the reputedly corrupt Collegium of Advocates, a Soviet-era, state-run organization of public defenders. It is currently the country's largest grouping of attorneys. "The Collegium doesn't want to lose its power. If it succeeds [in retaining control of the legal establishment], it will stop the legal reform process," Getsadze said. The Law on the Bar requires all Georgian lawyers to pass a new bar exam-developed with help from the American Bar Association ?by 2003. The exam is designed to ensure that Georgian lawyers are familiar with sweeping changes in the country's legal codes that have occurred since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Experts envisioned that those passing the bar exam would form the backbone of a new Bar Association that would assume broad powers over the legal profession, including setting and enforcing ethical standards. Many of the 800 students studying for the exam are younger lawyers. Faced with the impending threat to its authority, the Collegium drew up amendments that would exempt most of its members from taking the new bar exam. Those exempted would include lawyers with three years of litigation experience or 20 years of legal practice, and any attorney over 65 years of age. The amendments would also position the Collegium to dominate any new association of lawyers. In addition, the amendments would limit penalties for unethical behavior-with the maximum length of a suspension being one year. "Collegium members have a single objective: they want to continue practicing as they did during the Soviet time," says Ketti Kvartskhava, a leading commercial lawyer with Business and Legal Counsel. According to a USAID legal assessment released in 2000, Georgia's legal system is riddled with corrupt practices, such that the merits of a particular case has little connection with the verdict. Bribery often determines the outcome of a trial or other judicial proceeding. "Within this circle [of advocates, prosecutors, and police], self-interested state agents make decisions every day that direct outcomes of cases, often with no consideration of the legal positions of either the defendant or the victim," the USAID report said. The Collegium's president, Nugzar Birkaia, denied that the Collegium sought to maintain a corrupt status quo. "Of course that is not true," he said in an interview at his office located at the Ministry of Justice. The Collegium's opposition to reforms has grown more determined in the wake of an earlier overhaul attempt of Georgia's judges, who have also been compelled to pass new exams, observers say. To date, there has been a turnover of more than 80 percent of the country's 360 judges. There has also been a drastic drop in the median age of judges. In arguing that many Collegium members should be exempted from taking a new bar exam, Birkaia alleged that the testing process itself has become tainted by corruption. He cited the experience of qualification exams given to judges. He alleged that some members of the 12-member Council of Justice, which was responsible for administering the judicial exams, took bribes in return for granting passing grades. Anecdotal reports indicate that up to one-third of newly minted judges purchased their passing grades. Rates reportedly ranged from $5,000 to $10,000 - somewhere between two and five times the country's annual per capita income. At the same time, the high turnover of judges has not had a perceptible impact on reducing bribery in the legal system. "From the standpoint of ethics the judges have not improved, the whole system still stands on bribery, the new ones might be just more clever in hiding their corruption," says Kvartskhava. World Bank-organized focus groups consistently show that members of the public (as opposed to lawyers, judges, etc.) are not impressed with the judicial reform efforts to date. So profound is the disillusionment that donors - who have so far focused on improving the 'supply-side' of the justice system - are now planning to stimulate 'demand' for impartial justice from the public. The concern, say some of those involved, is to calibrate a balance between demand and supply. The prospect of the amendments to the Law on Bar winning legislative approval has already had a demoralizing effect on Western legal advisors. Carolyn Clark Campbell, who, as the American Bar Association's country director has played a central role advising Georgia on reforms for attorneys, is among those holding a bleak assessment for the medium term. "I am afraid this means the energy has gone out of the legal reform process," she said. "It will probably be years before there is another chance." (by Ken Stier)


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/12/2002

 

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Tajik Government Tackles Labor Migration Issue

The scene these days at Dushanbe's main railway station is frenzied. On a typical morning, about 4,000 men and women converge on the ticket office, hoping to obtain a seat on the twice-weekly Dushanbe-Astrakhan train. Only 700 tickets are made available for each train ?a major conduit for Tajik migrant workers hoping to find opportunity abroad. Up to 500,000 Tajiks leave the country each year in search of seasonal work, according to an estimate prepared under the auspices of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Dushanbe. Many migrant workers say the lack of economic opportunity in Tajikistan leaves them no choice but to search for work in other CIS countries ?mainly Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. However, Tajik experts say the largely unregulated outflow of workers has a debilitating effect on the country's economy. The annual migration wave has also been a source of political friction among Tajikistan and its neighbors. In late September last year, for instance, Kazakhstan forced the suspension of Dushanbe-Astrakhan service, by refusing to permit the train to cross its territory. [For background see the EurasiaNet Business and Economics archive]. Kazakhstani officials attributed the move to concern over the unregulated movements of Tajik migrant laborers. Managing labor migration has emerged as one of the most important issues confronting Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov's administration. The income generated by migrant workers is critical to the economic survival of many Tajik families. According to some estimates, the earnings of migrant workers are double the annual state budget of Tajikistan. "Labor migration for Tajikistan is of no less importance than production of cotton, aluminum and other resources," says Igor Bosc, head of the IOM office in Dushanbe. Tajik authorities in recent months have implemented a variety of measures to regulate labor migration. The measures stand not only to benefit Tajikistan's economic development and regional relations, but may also serve to help protect legal migrant workers from abuse by employers in other countries by reducing exposure to extortion and deceptive practices. At present, according to Bosc, about 90 percent of Tajik migrant workers are undocumented. The lack of legal status leaves many Tajiks vulnerable to abuse. For example, Azzam Shermatova, a Tajik woman who found work in the Orenburg Region of Russia, told the Varorud news agency that on her return journey she was subjected repeatedly to shakedowns by Uzbek police. "Everything was good until we reached the Uzbek border-all officials saw a potential drug trafficker in me. Under this pretext they began to extort money from me," Shermatova said. "So I ended up returning from Russia penniless a with debts, as I had borrowed money for the trip." In late 2001, the Tajik government adopted a framework on labor migration. Under the plan, the government established a procedure for the licensing and oversight of job placement agencies. At present there are five license companies that help place Tajik workers in foreign jobs. Of the companies that have received licenses to date, four of the five have ties to Tajik government structures. The Tajik government has also simplified procedures and fees for inter-bank wire transfers, a move designed to help migrant workers remit funds to their families back in Tajikistan. In addition, the government established a special commission to oversee the sale a rail tickets following an incident in which a man was crushed May 18 during a melee at Dushanba's station. The capacity of Tajik employment agencies to meet demand for jobs is limited, however. They have managed so far to establish only a few partnerships with Russian firms. In addition, only residents of Dushanbe have easy access to their services. Tajik officials say labor migration issues must be address on a governmental level. "It is impossible to solve the issue of legalization of labor migration without bilateral cooperation with those countries in which Tajik citizens find work," said Jamshed Quddusov, the head of the Labor Market and Employment Administration of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. To date, Tajikistan has signed a bilateral agreement concerning the protection of labor migrants' rights only with Kyrgyzstan. Quddusov said the Tajik government was negotiating similar agreements with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russian. "We are seeking mutually acceptable solutions to these problems because each country has interests of its own labor market. We, in tun, have established a good legal foundations," he said. A top priority for Tajik officials is reaching a labor deal with Russia. The overwhelming majority of Tajik migrant workers (82 percent) go to Russia in search of jobs. Several factors-including the lack of a visa regime, and an overall labor shortage-make Russia an enticing destination. In general, Tajik migrants in Russia find employment as traders at farmer's markets, or as unskilled construction workers. Many Russian employers prefer to take on seasonal workers from Central Asian countries, especially Tajiks, because they tend not to complain and are willing to work for low wages. Many Tajiks, meanwhile, end up the victims of deception. Some readily make agreements to perform work, only never to receive payment. And according to an IOM study, many Tajik women are lured into drug trafficking or prostitution rings under false promises of gainful employment. According to the study, which covers 2000, more than 1,000 women from Tajikistan were the victims of female trafficking schemes.

 

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/14/2002

 

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Rakhmonov Praises National Law Enforcement

In Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, on 31 May, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov addressed a meeting of the chiefs of the country's law-enforcement agencies, parliamentary deputies, and top officials from the provinces, focusing on the fight against terrorism, political extremism, and drug trafficking (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2002). Stressing the need for trustworthy law-enforcement officials as a condition for security and social stability, Rakhmonov said the chaotic situation in the country in the wake of the 1992-97 civil war can partly be blamed on "criminals... [who] joined the law-enforcement agencies, posing as defenders of the law," Tajik radio reported on 31 May. The president acknowledged that there are still cases of police and custom officers involved in criminal activities such as narcotics smuggling but averred that Tajikistan's power-wielding structures have eliminated most of the malefactors from their ranks and are now working much more efficiently. In evidence, Rakhmonov reported that since February 1999 (when a similar meeting of law-enforcement representatives was convened) police have apprehended 105 criminal gangs responsible for 900 crimes ranging from drug trafficking and gun-running to hostage-taking and murder, Tajik radio said. (Yet an annual U.S. State Department report criticized Tajikistan as one of 19 countries not doing enough to combat international traffic in human beings, AP said on 4 June. Kyrgyzstan was the only other Central Asian state among the 19 countries cited.) Rakhmonov also proposed that a special department for combating international terrorism be established within the Security Ministry, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 3 June.


From http://www.rferl.org/ 06/22/2002

 

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Uzbek Government Decrees Further on IT, Computerisation

The Government of Uzbekistan issued a decree with specific instructions endorsing a program stipulating the development of computer hardware and software, as well as that of data-exchange technologies, over the entire 2002-2010 periods. This decree is a follow up for the IT development decree issued on June 1, 2002. The Cabinet decree, which was published throughout the country on Saturday, sets forth specific guidelines pertaining to the development of telecommunications and other data-exchange networks, the use of various resources, as well as the creation of more and more Internet web sites. The governmental program also envisages the construction of new telecommunications facilities. The development of new computer hardware and software, as well as their production on Uzbek territory, are seen as a top-priority aspect. In this connection, it has been decided to charge easy-term taxes and customs duties on all imported computers, their accessories and software packages. Plans are in place to considerably increase the number of international digital channels by the year 2005. Meanwhile the number of regional channels will stand at 50,000, with digital channels accounting for 72 percent of the grand total. Right now, only 40 out of 62 Uzbek colleges and universities, as well as 22 out of the republic's 531 secondary schools and vocational-training schools, boast Internet access. Meanwhile the number of schools and vocational-training centers having Internet access is to soar 10-15-fold by the year 2010. Data-exchange networks will also expand a great deal. At least 235 new data-exchange stations will be established before the year is out. Meanwhile local cyber-cafes will have 45,000 Internet ports. This will allow over 3.3 million Uzbek population to access the Internet. The decree also tasks all government organizations with rendering support all private companies and commercial entities working in IT sector. It also tasks different ministries to seek more financial assistance, loans and grants for the Sectors during the same timeframe.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/08/2002

 

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Uzbek Supreme Court Discusses Shortcomings in Law Practices

The Uzbek Supreme Court has held a plenary session. UzA national news agencythat it discussed a draft Supreme Court resolution on judicial practice in reconciliation affairs. It was noted that courts applied this legal institution rightly. Still, mistakes are made and shortcomings occur while dealing with criminal cases in this category, which was why the meeting underlined the need to clarify a number of points related to the application of the law. It also discussed judicial practice in the field of hooliganism. Those present at the plenary session also discussed introducing amendments and additions to some Supreme Court resolutions following the recent legal move to liberalize criminal punishment.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/20/2002

 

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Pacific Islands Environmental Conference 'A Community Affair'

Koror --Guests have arrived in Palau for this week's 21st Annual Pacific Islands Environment Conference, an event described as a "community affair. "This year's conference theme is "Merging Tradition with Modern Technology." The conference is jointly sponsored by Palau and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Putting this conference together has been a truly community affair," said Pearl Marumoto, co-chairwoman of the conference development committee. A variety of private individuals, local companies and government agencies have donated the use of boats, buses and other vehicles. "I think that guests will be impressed at the way the Palauans have pulled together to make this conference a success," Marumoto said. Sponsors include the Office of the President, the national legislature, the Governor's Association, Black Micro Corp., Socio Micronesia, Inc., and Daewoo. Mobil is also supporting the conference. Many members of the Palauan community will speak at the conference to share their wisdom. They include political leaders such as President Tommy Remengesau and a panel of senators and delegates. There will also be a panel with traditional leaders, including Ibedul Gibbons, Reklai Ngirmang, Bilung Salii. Several prominent researchers and teachers will give presentations. These speakers are joined by notable guests, including Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris. Agency and private employees will share a wealth of information during field trips to the wastewater treatment plant, the drinking water plant, and the Bureau of Lands and Survey. There will also be a number of students attending the conference. "This should be a very valuable conference in terms of information transfer," said Marumoto, "but we expect it to be even more valuable in terms of getting things accomplished." Some of the goals include the drafting of an eco-tourism policy and creating a used oil plant.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/25/2002

 

Rates Set to Rise As Economy Surges

The Reserve Bank yesterday was given more reasons to raise its official interest rate, with figures revealing an unexpected housing surge, strong manufacturing activity and a robust jobs market.After the stronger-than-expected data, economists said they were near certain that the Reserve board would announce a second interest rate rise tomorrow - of 0.25 percentage points - in a bid to tame inflationary pressures.The Bureau of Statistics said the number of houses, flats and townhouses approved for construction in April climbed by 5.3 per cent to 15,056 - the highest figure in more than two years.Private sector analysts, who had been predicting a fall, expressed amazement at the resilience of the housing sector and the economy in general. "If there was any doubt that rates were going to be raised on Wednesday, there is none now," said BT Funds Management chief economist Chris Caton.The surge was driven entirely by approvals of new apartment complexes in Melbourne and Sydney. But the Master Builders Association said the market for new houses was tapering off and pleaded with the Reserve not to be heavy-handed.In other figures reflecting a strengthening economy: [FUBlob][PI9017]ANZ Bank's monthly survey showed a weekly average 21,477 job advertisements in daily newspapers in May - 8 per cent more than a year earlier.[FUBlob][PI9017]Manufacturing sales grew 2.4 per cent in the March quarter to $63.57 billion. [FUBlob][PI9017]Company profits before tax rose 9.5 per cent to $10.33 billion, 23 per cent higher than a year earlier.[FUBlob][PI9017]The value of inventories climbed 0.9 per cent to $89.79 billion, showing firms have been stocking up in apparent anticipation of strong sales.Reserve Bank Governor Ian Macfarlane signalled last week that rates would rise by between one and two percentage points in coming months. Every 0.25 percentage-point rise adds about $16 to monthly repayments for every $100,000 of borrowing. (by Josh Gordon)


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 06/04/2002

 

PM Lobbies on Free Trade

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister John Howard has lobbied some of the most powerful members of the United States Congress to push the benefits of a free trade deal with Australia.The Prime Minister met Republican congressional leaders, Senate minority leader Trent Lott and the powerful Democrat Senator Max Baucus, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Mr Howard said he used the meeting to express Australian concerns about US farm subsidies, but to also point out the benefits to the US of free trade with Australia. He said he left the meetings hopeful that congress would finalise trade promotion authority, which would allow President George W Bush to start trade negotiations with Australia. "If we do get to a negotiating stage, I think it would take a deal of time before those negotiations are finished," Mr Howard said. "It's going to be very difficult. "I would hope that if trade promotion authority is given it could start fairly soon." He said the US would benefit from a free-trade deal, particularly in the services sector and as a window to regional markets. It would also give the US added influence in the region, he said. "A free-trade agreement with Australia would represent a demonstration to the region of the advantages of involvement with the United States economically, and therefore that would be an advantage and help to the United States in expanding its influence in the region," he said. Mr Howard said agriculture would have to be involved in any free trade deal.


Fromhttp://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/12/2002

 

Budget Reforms Doubtful

THE federal Government's attempts to push through its Budget reforms came under further pressure last night after Labor and the minor parties announced they would block a $200 million tax break for foreign executives.As the impasse continued over key Budget health and welfare measures, Peter Costello warned that fewer high-cost drugs would receive taxpayer subsidies in the future, placing them out of reach of thousands of ordinary Australians. "Governments will be forced to take a much tougher attitude on the listings of new pharmaceutical benefits," the Treasurer told parliament. But the Government's new tactic to secure Senate backing for its core Budget measures failed to shift either Labor or the minor parties, who remain resolutely opposed. Labor's decision to block the tax break for foreign executives is a blow to big business, which has been arguing for the tax break to lure high-quality CEOs from overseas. Under the tax measure, foreign-sourced income received by Australian-based expatriates - such as dividends - would be tax-exempt. But Labor, the Democrats and the Greens said the Government was offering tax breaks for the rich at the expense of ordinary voters. Launching a strong attack against the Opposition parties, the Treasurer said no area of the Budget was growing faster than the PBS. The scheme costs around $4.5 billion each year and is growing at 14 per cent, a rate that Mr Costello said was unsustainable as he urged the opposition parties to back the savings measures. ". . .fewer new treatments will come into the scheme . . . the Government will be forced to take a much tougher attitude to new drugs," the Treasurer said. He accused Labor of "opportunism that will lead to hardship". Labor's health spokesman Stephen Smith said the Treasurer's threat could mean subsidies being removed from existing treatments. Announcing Labor's decision to oppose the tax measure, shadow spokesman Bob McMullan said the Government had provided "no evidence Australia's tax on foreign-source income of temporary residents is uncompetitive". The developments came as Catholic Health Australia urged the Government to consider introducing a means test to ensure the rich pay more for prescription drugs. Executive director Francis Sullivan said the planned budget drug hikes would hit the poor and the sick. (by Steve Lewis and John Kerin)


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/19/2002

 

Terror Law to Be Limited

IN a further backdown on tough new anti-terror legislation, Attorney-General Daryl Williams has agreed to dilute a bill that would give ASIO sweeping powers to detain terror suspectsMr Williams has accepted most of the recommendations of a joint parliamentary committee that found the bill would undermine civil liberties. The committee recommended two weeks ago that people detained under the legislation be given access to legal representation and that detention be limited to seven days. It also found ASIO should not have the power to detain and strip-search children. The Coalition partyroom yesterday approved changing the bill, but Mr Williams was finalising changes with a backbench committee before announcing which of 15 recommendations would be adopted. Liberal MP David Jull, chairman of the bipartisan committee, had said that in its original form the bill was the most draconian legislation ever to come before parliament. An amended version is expected to be reintroduced to the House of Representatives next week. It is the second time in a fortnight that Mr Williams has been forced to accept changes to anti-terror laws developed after the September 11 US terror attacks. Labor Senate leader John Faulkner last night discussed with the Greens and Democrats another package of anti-terror legislation containing the proscription provision. The introduction of these bills to the Senate was postponed last month while Coalition backbenchers forced changes to the legislation. Mr Williams agreed two weeks ago to restrain proscription (the power to ban organisations), but Labor, the Democrats and the Greens say terrorist actions, not organisations, should be targeted. In their current form, the bills require parliament's approval for an organisation to be proscribed, but Labor is concerned that groups involved in legitimate protest could be banned. In a projection of a terrorist threat, an energy industry expert told a conference in Adelaide that an attack on Australia's future offshore gas platforms could black out the eastern seaboard. Beach Petroleum NL managing director Reg Nelson said Australia's involvement in the war on terror made it an enemy of terrorists, and offshore gas platforms were a perfect target. He said 20-year energy use projections pointed to the eastern states having increased reliance on distant offshore gas sources in the Timor Sea and Papua New Guinea. "We will be more vulnerable to any accident or terrorist attack because we are reliant on a single source of supply without any back-up." He urged government and industry to devise a national plan for a series of emergency gas stores close to big Australian cities. (by Sophie Morris, Rebecca DiGirolamo)


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/19/2002

 

Excision Law Set As Poll Trigger

THE Howard Government has raised the spectre of another border protection election by reintroducing its island excision rules as legislation, daring Labor to block it in the Senate to set up a double-dissolution election trigger.A hostile Senate yesterday knocked back regulations excising 3000 islands off the northern coastline from Australia's migration zone. But after declaring it would not take defeat lying down, the Coalition plans to today reintroduce the move into parliament - as legislation rather than regulation. Labor yesterday pledged to stand firm against it. "It's the same concept whether they do it by regulation or legislation," a spokesman for Opposition Leader Simon Crean said. In question time earlier, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock accused Labor of "sabotaging" the Government's border protection policy. "The Government will be introducing tomorrow legislation into this house to provide protection by way of amendment to the Migration Act," Mr Ruddock said. "And you will have an opportunity to be able to deal with that legislation as well with all of the implications over the longer term that that will involve." Border protection has been a difficult issue for Labor, which is moving away from its failed election policy of supporting the Howard Government's hardline approach. It is also yet to release its rede fined policy on the issue. The Democrats and Greens senator Bob Brown were resolute in theiropposition yesterday. Senator Brown said the move to now introduce legislation was "purely political" and would never make it through the Senate. "This is wedge politics at its most base," he said. Democrats immigration spokesman Andrew Bartlett said excising further islands would not stop people from coming to Australia and only ensured their treatment was less humane. The disallowance motion knocking back the regulations was passed in a vote of 37-34 with Labor, the Greens, Democrats and independent senator Shayne Murphy making up the opposition numbers. One Nation senator Len Harris voted with the Coalition, while the other independent senator, Brian Harradine, who had indicated his intention to support the disallowance,was not in the Senate to cast a vote. A spokesman for Senator Harradine said last night his absence was not deliberate - he had not been kept up to date with the Senate movements by the major parties. For the excision legislation to become a double-dissolution trigger it would have to be knocked back twice in the Senate with an interval of at least three months. (by Megan Saunders)

 

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/20/2002

 

Australia to Join ICC

AUSTRALIA has signed up to become an inaugural member of the International Criminal Court, after John Howard subdued a revolt within government ranks.In a concession to those concerned that the court would undermine Australian sovereignty, Mr Howard was at pains to stress the primacy of Australia's legal system. He outlined a declaration to accompany the legislation enabling the ratification of the treaty establishing the court, giving the Attorney-General the power to block the arrest of an Australian by the court. Australia will be able to take part in meetings in The Hague in September to elect judges to the court, joining 67 other nations that have ratified. "We want to be part of additional efforts to catch war criminals but we don't want it to occur in circumstances where Australian sovereignty or independence is compromised," Mr Howard said. "We don't believe that will happen, and it's in that spirit we've decided to ratify." But Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, who has urged quick ratification of the treaty, dismissed the declaration as an attempt to placate conservatives in the Coalition. "Our advice is that the declaration statement is little more than a restatement of the content of the statute, garnished with a layer of political window-dressing" he said. The declaration stipulated that the Attorney-General's decision to block the arrest of an Australian could not be appealed except through the Constitution in the High Court. The statute creates for the first time a permanent international body to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Under the declaration, these offences will be interpreted with reference to Australian law. Mr Howard stressed that Australian troops serving overseas would be completely covered by Australian law. He said the court would proceed with or without Australia's ratification and it was in the national interest to shape the processes of the court. Both the Government and the Opposition have supported the concept of the court since signing the Statute of Rome to create it in 1998, but in recent weeks vocal opposition surfaced within the government ranks, threatening Australia's participation as an inaugural member. Some backbenchers previously had threatened to defy government policy if Mr Howard decided to ratify, but firm Opposition support for the court meant theirs would be a lonely protest vote. Aid agencies UNICEF and Red Cross yesterday welcomed Australia's decision to ratify the statute to create the court. Melbourne University professor of International humanitarian law Tim McCormack said the declaration reaffirmed checks already existing in the statute. "This is a reaffirmation of Australian national sovereignty which I think is entirely appropriate," he said. Former US president Bill Clinton supported the court but successor George W. Bush withdrew in May, citing concerns that defence personnel could be targeted for prosecution. (by Sophie Morris)


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/21/2002

 

Constitutional Reforms May Go Public Today

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): The official grapevine late Tuesday suggested that the military government might publish its constitutional reform package for feedback and debate, on Wednesday. Although no confirmation is on hand as of now, the development should be in line with President General Pervez Musharraf's declared policy of making the proposed constitutional amendments public before enacting them. The package is likely to be unveiled by Lt. Gen. Tanwir Naqvi, Chairman National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), at a media conference. Naqwi Tuesday briefed the four provincial governors on the contents of the package, official sources said. The governors are said to have thrown their weight behind the amendment relating to vestment of more powers in the office of the president. The proposed reform package is said to contain an amendment, which will empower the President to sack the Prime Minister, the cabinet, the parliament. Comparable powers at provincial level may be vested in the office of governor. When it validated the 12 October 1999 military takeover, the Supreme Court of Pakistan empowered General Musharraf to amend the constitution, albeit without altering its parliamentary character. Musharraf, who has justified his takeover on the basis of constitutional meltdown, has made no secret of his resolve to undertake constitutional reform. In fact, his devolution of power programme is the centerpiece of a restructuring of the polity. Province-to-district devolution, however, is not all; up next is federation-to- province devolution, for which plans are well advanced. The proposed constitutional reform package, justified by some politicians in the light of an exit strategy of the military government rather than a development of intrinsic value, will include all these and other measures deemed necessary by the government. Gen. Naqwi's NRB is the mastermind of almost all the constitutional and institutional reform initiatives undertaken by the Musharraf government. (by Naveed Miraj)


From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/26/2002

 

Terror Laws to Be Passed

FOR the first time in its history, Australia is set to have a comprehensive package of anti-terrorism laws, with key bills expected to pass federal parliament today. After a marathon debate yesterday the Senate passed amendments removing from the Attorney-General the power to ban organisations by regulation, after Labor Senate leader John Faulkner argued the bill would threaten democratic freedoms. The Senate has amended the Government's controversial proscriptive provisions, which will now allow only the UN Security Council to determine which organisations should be proscribed. Attorney-General Daryl Williams last night attacked Labor's position as "incomprehensible" because it did not allow Australia to respond to domestic threats of terrorism. "Australia has its own concerns, separate to the rest of the world. And Australia should retain the right to respond to circumstances where an organisation poses a terrorist threat and deal with it under our domestic legislation," Mr Williams said. "The Opposition's position provides no flexibility to deal with groups that may not come to the notice of the Security Council such as those operating only in our region." Despite his conviction that the Attorney-General should be able to initiate the process to ban an organisation, Mr Williams said the package of bills was too important to be further delayed and allowed Labor's amendments to pass. "The events of September 11 last year showed we can no longer sit back and assume we are safe from terrorism," he said. The amended bills make it an offence to belong to an organisation listed by the UN as terrorist, punishable by up to 25 years' jail, depending on the degree of involvement in the organisation's activities. Legislation giving ASIO sweeping powers has been delayed until the August sitting of parliament. Senator Faulkner said last night that domestic proscription powers in the hands of executive government could have been abused for dom estic political purposes. He said that by banning organisations listed by the UN, Australia would join the international community in pursuing terrorist groups like Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network. "Historically, proscription has been used for political repression," Senator Faulkner said. "Such powers are a recipe for disaster, and that disaster has been averted by Labor." The legislation has been significantly amended since it was first introduced to the parliament in March after Mr Williams was repeatedly forced to acknowledge concerns it could undermine basic freedoms. But civil libertarians, along with the Democrats and Greens, said the amended laws were still open to abuse and that the power to ban organisations should have been struck out altogether. (by Sophie Morris)

 

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/27/2002

 

Controversial Bill Postponed

In Cook Islands, a Select Committee hearing on the controversial Environment Bill has been postponed until Friday, after strong protests from members of the public.There have been fears the proposed bill would give Environment Service personnel excessive powers, including the right to make arrests.Opponents of the bill also say it would grant the Environment Minister, Norman George, powers greater than those of the Prime Minister.


From http://abc.net.au/ 06/04/2002

 

Fiji Government to Study Waitangi Land Rights Treaty

A delegation of Fiji government officials will leave for New Zealand soon to study details of the Waitangi Treaty - an agreement that secured land rights for the indigenous Maori population.The trip coincides with the government's decision to set up a Lands Claims Tribunal to address land claims in Fiji.During the colonial era, some land in Fiji was either sold or seized by government and converted to freehold land, following uncertainties over traditional owners. The issue came alive during the 2000 political crisis, when indigenous villagers seized, or attempted to seize, a number of properties around the country.The Prime Minister's Office says the trip will study the legislation, funding and structure of the Waitangi Tribunal - the body that deals with indigenous land claims.


From http://abc.net.au/ 06/06/2002

 

Kiribati Fraud Amendments Rejected

Kiribati parliamentary speaker Tekiree Tamuera has blocked discussion on a motion to amend parts of the country's Election Act.MP Anote Tong had asked the Minister for Home Affairs to amend the Act to prevent people casting multiple votes at elections. Mr Anote said that the right thumb of voters should be marked with irremovable ink to avoid possible breaches of the election process, especially on South Tarawa.But the speaker said he hadn't received any reports of such illegal practices during recent elections and therefore the amendment is unnecessary.


From http://abc.net.au/ 05/28/2002

 

Kiribati Government Introduces Bill to Control Newspapers

The Kiribati Government has begun parliamentary moves to enable newspapers in the country to be shut down if there are complaints about them.A bill, which carries the name of Attorney-General Titabu Tabane, is now before the Maneaba ni Maungatabu seeking to amend the Newspaper Registration Act.If passed it will give the Registrar power, on receiving a complaint, to strike off and close newspapers alleged to have not met a series of standards.The shock move follows the launching of the country's first successful non-government newspaper, the Kiribati NewStar.The NewStar was launched by former president Ieremia Tabai and former government news media employees after the government continued to block their efforts to start a radio station.Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) president Johnson Honimae called the Kiribati Government move "draconian" and obviously intended to stifle freedom of expression.He urged the Kiribati Government and parliamentarians to consider the implications of this and how it will harm Kiribati's reputation internationally and regionally.The amendment to the Newspaper Registration Act requires proprietors, publishers or printers to:- print nothing which "offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling";- present content with "due accuracy and impartiality";- where an article "contains matters affecting the credibility or reputation of any person" ensure they can respond in the same article.Proprietors, publishers or printers who do not comply with this or continue to operate after the Registrar has struck them off from the register will be deemed guilty of an offence.In the case of a continuing offence there will be an additional fine of A$500 for every offence committed, the amendment says.An explanatory memorandum with the bill says: "With the emergence of several newspapers whose affidavits of publication need to be registered under section 4 of the Newspaper Registration Act there need to be emphasised certain standards to be complied with respect to the contents of such newspapers."The new section 16 seeks to achieve that by outlining certain requirements for a newspaper to follow in the articles that it publishes."Failure to comply with those requirements may entitle the Registrar to strike off that newspaper affidavits from the register and therefore that newspaper ceases to operate, or that newspaper risks being prosecuted under the Act."


From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 05/30/2002

 

Government Backs Off Plan for 'Dobbing in' Legislation

Legislation that would have required health professionals to dob in incompetent colleagues has been altered to make it voluntary. The Health Professionals' Competency Assurance Bill had drawn criticism from inside and outside Parliament, with complaints that it would create a culture of blame. The bill would have made it a statutory requirement for health workers to report colleagues if they felt they were working below standards, with a complaint prompting a competency review of the practitioner. Health Minister Annette King told NZPA the clause had been changed after consultation. "We changed the 'shall report' to 'may report'," she said. "It was the 'mandatory' that was too difficult to be able to implement." The clause had initially been supported by the Medical Council and the Medical Association but it became clear it would not be workable. "It would be token and it would not do what we were trying to make it do," Ms King said. "So rather than proceed with something that was not going to work and everybody was going to make submissions ... and say this doesn't work, why is it there, during consultation it was decided before the bill comes in we would remove it." The clause had been dubbed the "dob in a doctor" clause but Ms King said that was a "stupid name" as 11 occupational groups were covered by it. The bill had taken two years to develop and was expected to be introduced to Parliament next month. After that it would be examined by a committee of MPs, to which people could make submissions. It was drafted following a report by Queen's Counsel Helen Cull into Whangarei surgeon Graham Parry's care of Northland women. It also followed pathologist Michael Bottrill's misdiagnosing of Gisborne women's cervical smears.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 05/31/2002

 

Surpluses Key to Act Tax Plan

The Act party is looking to projected budget surpluses to cover immediate tax cuts worth $2.9 billion a year. Act leader Richard Prebble yesterday relaunched the tax policy foreshadowed at the party's conference in March: immediately dropping the top personal and company tax rates to 28c, which would cost $2.3 billion a year, and shaving the lower personal tax rate from 19.5c to 18c, which would cost another $600 million. Reaching the longer-term goal of a flat tax rate of 18c would cost only another $4 billion a year, Prebble said. It proposes to get there in stages by cutting the 28c rates by 2c a year for five years. That would be financed by the stimulatory effect of the tax cuts and a "bonfire" of red tape, each of which would boost economic growth by 1 per cent a year, he said. Finance Minister Michael Cullen described it as a return to the discredited trickle-down theory. "It's a sign of madness to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result," he said. Last month's Budget forecast an operating surplus of $2.3 billion for the year, and $3 billion for the next financial year. From this the Budget allocates contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation fund of $1.3 billion and $2 billion respectively. Act would scrap the Cullen super fund. Further savings would arise from scrapping the $150 million a year for Closing the Gaps, $40 million for Maori TV, and $200 million from "corporate welfare" such as the regional development schemes. "Act believes there are further savings in welfare as we get able-bodied working-age beneficiaries back into the workforce," he said. Prebble was evasive when asked if Act was prepared to risk running fiscal deficits. "I'd rather not answer it that way. That assumes Cullen is right and cutting taxes makes no difference. Our experience is that cutting company tax rates will boost growth and jobs and that boosts tax revenue." He said the company tax take had trebled in the decade after 1988 when the rate was cut from 48c to 33c. To reduce compliance costs, Act's policy is a review of all existing regulations and a Regulatory Responsibility Act to ensure all new regulations are cost-benefit positive. Prebble said compliance-costly laws on accident compensation, employment relations, occupational safety and health and the Resource Management Act needed a rewrite.

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 06/07/2002

 

Govt Unveils $3b Defence Plan

The Government is finally about to move on two long-delayed defence projects - replacing the Army's worn-out Land-Rovers and rebuilding the runway at Ohakea Air Base. Defence Minister Mark Burton has also indicated the Air Force will probably get new utility helicopters to replace its 14 Vietnam War-era Iroquois and that the contentious project to upgrade the Orion maritime patrol aircraft won't be done until later in the decade. Mr Burton was commenting yesterday as he unveiled a $3 billion spending programme on defence equipment during the next 10 years to meet the Government's commitment to building a modern, focused, professional Defence Force. The figure includes almost $1 billion already spent on buying new armoured vehicles, due for delivery next year, and new radios for the Army. Another $1 billion will be funded from depreciation on present equipment while the third $1 billion will involve an extra capital injection. Mr Burton said he would be seeking Cabinet approval in the next two weeks to call tenders to buy a mix of 321 armoured and unarmoured four-wheel-drive military vehicles to replace the Army's obsolete Land-Rover fleet at a cost of between $60 million and $110 million. Another priority would be to rebuild the runway at Ohakea next summer at a cost of about $23 million. This does not include the option of spending up to $45 million more to allow long-range commercial flights to use Ohakea as well. Asked about the present state of defence equipment, Mr Burton said the fact $3 billion was being budgeted during the next 10 years "tells me there is a lot to do. We are facing obsolesence, or we certainly were 2? years ago, in a number of areas". Since then, however, the Defence Force had taken delivery of new maritime helicopters, ordered new armoured vehicles and received $135 million of new radio equipment. "What this plan says very clearly is that we've only got a matter of years before a lot of the equipment is worn out and finished." The plan is similar to an earlier version published by The Post last month. Mr Burton said the costings were approximate but the plan provided a framework so that the Government could make decisions on each project as it was developed.


From http://www.stuff.co.nz/ 06/12/2002

 

Small Businesses Frozen by Govt Regulation

Small businesses are often frozen into inaction by a fear of breaking Government regulations, according to a new study by the University of Auckland Business School. For example, it found, many businesses have "a genuine reluctance to hire strangers" because of worries about the impact of the various employment-related rules. Lack of knowledge of such regulations, the authors conclude, is one reason so few New Zealand start-up companies reach the big time. Other reasons noted include "a profound lack of management skills" and ignorance of essential topics such as finance, networking and internationalisation. The research follows the publication last year of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which ranked New Zealand second only to Mexico in the number of start-up ventures. Unfortunately, the GEM report also found that very few of those start-ups ever went on to become significant businesses, and even fewer broke into exporting. A team from the business school decided to find out why. Rather than go to the myriad small businesses themselves, they interviewed representatives of 32 SME (small-to-medium enterprise) stakeholder organisations ranging from Government and semi-Government agencies to business associations and small business advisers. Barbara Simpson, a senior lecturer at the business school, said the respondents cited many of the usual problems, such as distance from markets, excessive Government regulation and lack of assistance. "All of those are certainly issues for New Zealand companies, but they are outside the control of business," Dr Simpson said. "For the purposes of our study, we decided to focus on areas where, with appropriate assistance, they can take control of their own destinies. "Owners and manager of small businesses often have high industry-specific skills and good knowledge of their businesses, but they frequently lack basic business skills and rarely carry out business planning, human resource management or strategic thinking." There was a vast array of courses available to fill such gaps, but - apart from some "sexy" topics such as marketing - they were usually "totally underwhelmed by demand from small business operators". Dr Simpson said part of the problem was that courses were often not tailored to the realities of business life, in which operators were free for only a couple of hours in the evening. "Perhaps those providing them should do more talking to the business operators themselves and find out what the needs are." Another difficulty was a lack of information to "help business people make intelligent choices between the huge range of courses on offer. Perhaps that's an area where an agency like the Ministry of Economic Development could help." The study also found that small business operators lacked financial knowledge and often had little idea of how to access funds for expansion.


From http://www.stuff.co.nz/ 06/24/2002

 

Dismissed PNG Governor Challenges Constitution

In Papua New Guinea, the dismissed Southern Highlands governor, Anderson Agiru, has filed a constitutional challenge, disputing the process of judicial review by the PNG courts.Agiru's latest action follows the quashing of his application by the Supreme Court, which automatically disqualifies him from contesting the general elections.He said he wants the courts to hear the merits of the case and not base their rulings on technicalities.


From http://abc.net.au/asiapacific/ 06/04/2002

 

Papua New Guinea PM Morauta's Seat Safe But Government Future Shaky

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta has kept his seat in Parliament after a violence-marred election, but the future of his Government remains unclear with four more days of voting. "This is my first hurdle; the next hurdle is to form the Government," Morauta said at a counting center in the capital, Port Moresby. Morauta, a reformist former Central Bank Governor who came to power in 1999, won his seat by 1,100 votes from his nearest rival, the PNG Electoral Commission said. "In the next five years the important job for the nation, and which I face, is to go ahead with the reforms I have begun," Morauta said. The election has been marred by violence, stolen ballot boxes, multiple voting and incomplete electoral rolls since voting started on June 15. The death toll rose to nine after police confirmed seven more deaths in tribal clashes in the nation's remote Highlands. Morauta has pursued a reformist agenda of privatization and cost cutting to salvage his cash-strapped nation. He has also vowed to rid PNG of endemic political corruption, a move backed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. But the future of his Government still hangs in the balance, with voting not due to finish until Saturday and delays expected in counting from remote polling stations. Morauta's People's Democratic Movement has won two out of six declared seats in the 109-seat Parliament. Even when counting is complete, Morauta faces possibly a month of horse trading to again form a coalition government in a country racked by seismic shifts in political allegiances.


From http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/ 06/25/2002

 

New Constitution for Solomons Being Prepared

Solomon Islands could have a new National Constitution in place by the end of the year. The Ministry of Provincial Government, says a comprehensive review of the country's constitution which is now being undertaken, should be ready and presented to parliament by December. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, John Tuhaika says the decision to review the Constitution was made during the process of amending the constitution to provide for Solomon Islands becoming a federation of states. Mr Tuhaika says introduction of the federal system of government in Solomon Islands has been an issue in the country since independence in 1978. Sam Seke asked Mr Tuhaika why the review is being undertaken.


From http://abc.net.au/ 06/03/2002

 

New Model for Land Laws in Solomon Islands

A new model has been proposed for dealing with customary land issues in Solomon Islands.The proposal will remove Local Courts and set up an alternative body with wider functions to determine the rights of ownership and use of customary land. Heading the review, Acting High Court Chief Justice Rocky Palmer said the proposed model would include an alternative body called a tribunal.Dorothy Wickham reports from Honiara: "Justice Palmer said it removes the western court model to one more keeping with the Melanesian way of determination by consensus with matters determined according to the custom applying the area under dispute or discussion, recognising the role of chiefs and custodians of customary law. Justice Palmer said the new tribunal would be empowered to make determinations and clarifications on ownership and rights to the use of land and its produce that are binding on the land rather than on the parties alone. He said, determinations of the proposed tribunal would be binding on the land in question and therefore all persons having rights to the land, because of the very limited rights of appeal from this tribunal, it will be vital that everyone who may have a claim be advised of and involved in any of these meetings."


From http://abc.net.au/ 06/04/2002

 

 

SCO Annointed as International Organization

Meeting on 7 June in the Petrodvorets Palace in St. Petersburg, the leaders of the six Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) states signed a 26-point charter turning their loose security group into a fully-fledged international organization, with a permanent secretariat in Beijing, Russian and Western news services reported. They further agreed to establish a regional antiterrorist structure in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and signed a political declaration highlighting the SCO's joint goals. The SCO consists of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and China. On the day before the summit, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin convened in the Yusupov Palace for bilateral talks, at which Putin sought to calm China's fears that Moscow, by recently forging ties with Washington, was turning its back on friendship with China, AP said on 6 June. "We believe that relations with our great eastern neighbor, China, are a major priority," Putin said, as quoted by the news agency. Meanwhile China's foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said on 8 June in St. Petersburg that China expected the U.S. military presence in Central Asia not to be extended after operations in Afghanistan cease, Reuters reported. Commentators noted that a coherent vision of the SCO's aims seemed to be lacking in St. Petersburg, as the six leaders put different amounts of emphasis on the organization's strategic priorities and possible functions. At their 6 June meeting, for example, Putin and Jiang expressed special interest in seeing the SCO develop a trade component, RFE/RL reported. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev concurred, saying that he hoped the SCO would become an important factor in ensuring economic prosperity in the region, and suggested that the member states consider a common tariff policy (see "Shanghai Group Aims To Increase Economic Cooperation," rferl.org, 12 June 2002). According to the political declaration adopted following the summit, reported by Xinhua news agency on 7 June, the SCO should negotiate favorable conditions for trade and investment and develop a long-term program for multilateral economic cooperation. Special attention is to be given to projects such as the construction of transportation networks and power-generation facilities, water usage, and the production and export of hydrocarbon fuels. Meanwhile on the sidelines of the summit, Putin and Nazarbaev signed a long-term hydrocarbon pact whereby at least 17.5 million metric tons of Kazakh oil will transit Russia annually for 15 years, CNA and TVS Moscow reported. The two sides also agreed to establish a joint company that will process and transport natural gas, ITAR-TASS said, adding that 50 percent of the new company will be owned by the Kazakh state gas company KazMunayGaz, with the remaining shares to be divided between Russia's Gazprom and Rosneft. The agreement assumes that initially Russian pipelines will be carrying 3.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Kazakh gas annually, rising to 50 bcm in the course of a few years in tandem with the development of Kazakhstan's huge offshore Caspian gas field at Kashagan, CNA said. But other leaders, such as Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, were less enthusiastic about expanding the SCO's mandate to include economic affairs, a eurasianet.org commentary said on 11 June. Akaev told his colleagues that would have to establish guidelines concerning the extraction of minerals, and on the use of fuel and water resources, before there could be large-scale economic cooperation, Kyrgyz TV reported on 7 June. As the leader of a small and economically weak country that could be economically exploited by its giant neighbors, Akaev preferred to focus on the need to fight terrorism and develop transport and communication links. In his speech in St. Petersburg, Akaev said that the SCO's top priority was to set up the counterterrorism agency in Bishkek, Kyrgyz TV reported on 7 June. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 8 June that the agency would be open for cooperation with any state willing to join forces with it, Interfax reported. President Imomali Rakhmonov of Tajikistan, another weak country which, like Kyrgyzstan, has suffered from Islamist militants in recent years, also reckoned that the most valuable role the SCO could play was in the fight against terrorists, eurasianet.org said on 11 June. (Not forgetting that Kyrgyzstan already contributes to the international counterterrorism effort through the CIS, Akaev remarked to Putin in St. Petersburg that cooperation in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty was also proceeding successfully and signaled their states' resolve to fight terrorists, Interfax reported on 7 June. Putin replied that, "The only good signal to terrorists would be a bullet in the head," the agency said.) Most dubious of all the SCO leaders about the organization's usefulness, whether its strategic focus be trade or expanding its counterterrorism capacities, was Uzbek President Islam Karimov, whose last-minute resolution to attend the summit at all was newsworthy (see "Karimov Decides To Take Part In Shanghai Group Summit," rfel.org, 7 June 2002). Giving only lukewarm support to the idea of a counterterrorism agency in Bishkek, the Uzbek president said the SCO should not become a military alliance or a political bloc, but it should attempt modest forms of counterterrorist cooperation, and its main function should be as a forum for debating global political issues, Uzbek TV reported on 7 June. CHEMICAL AGENTS FOUND AT HANABAD. On 7 June a routine inspection of the Hanabad air base in southern Uzbekistan, where some 1,000 U.S. troops are presently stationed, detected traces of nerve gas in a bunker on the edge of the base, RFE/RL and AP reported. Two more sources of nerve and mustard gas, including in the hangar serving as a headquarters, were detected the next day. Initial fears that the chemical agents represented an attack on the military personnel at the base quickly gave way to suspicions that an underground stockpile of chemical weapons, stored secretly at the base during Soviet times, was leaking. All American soldiers were evacuated from the sites, Reuters reported. None had reported exposure or illness from the contaminants, AP said on 9 June. U.S. military health teams were told only last week by Uzbek officials that chemical weapons had indeed been stored at Hanabad under the USSR (see "Discovery Of Gases At Coalition Base Raises Questions," rferl.org, 11 June). Nevertheless, on 10 June Colonel General Viktor Kholstov, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Force, told Interfax-Military News Agency that, "It is out of the question that Soviet troops could have left any war gas in Uzbekistan." He was promptly backed up by a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman. Hanabad was one of several bases in Uzbekistan used as the staging ground for the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A large contingent of Western troops is also based at Manas airport outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. Furthermore, an unnamed Uzbek Defense Ministry official denied to Interfax on 11 June that either chemical of biological weapons have ever been stored at Hanabad. He rejected as "deliberate rumors or disinformation" reports of an "emergency" at the base (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2002). He did admit that biological and chemical weapons had been stockpiled "at a former military training ground near Vozrozhdenie Island in the Aral Sea," where they had been tested by joint U.S-Uzbek military teams. But the official said that that example had no bearing whatsoever on Hanabad, Interfax reported.

From http://www.rferl.org/ 06/13/2002

Asia-Pacific Steps Up Anti-Corruption Efforts

Manila -- Asia-Pacific governments are passing laws against corruption and money-laundering, launching integrity training for civil servants, and setting up systems to protect whistleblowers, a meeting in Manila heard.These are among concrete actions the region has taken since endorsing the Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Asia-Pacific in Tokyo last November. Representatives of 14 countries gave details at the Action Plan's Steering Group meeting hosted by the Asian Development Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Initiatives listed included Papua New Guinea training government employees to improve their ability to investigate and prosecute bribery offences. Under the Action Plan, governments are:- developing effective and transparent systems for public service,- strengthening anti-bribery actions,- promoting integrity in business operations,- and launching public awareness programs. Officials at the Steering Group meeting reported on reforms taken to comply with the Action Plan. They discussed with their colleagues from the region ways to put these into effect. "The strength of the initiative is the dialogue it generates among countries," said Lloyd McKay, Lead Economist, World Bank Philippines Country Office.On 22 May Kazakhstan became the 18th country to endorse the Action Plan. Pacific Islands countries to have already endorsed it are Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Vanuatu.The Action Plan involves a prominent role for nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and the private sector in raising public awareness and encouraging reform in cooperation with governments. It also emphasizes civil society's role in monitoring public sector programs and activities.Said Peter Rooke, of Transparency International, an NGO fighting corruption worldwide: "We value the Action Plan's commitment to involve business and civil society in the fight against corruption at regional and national levels. "Most projects proposed by endorsing governments reflect this commitment. "Said Stephen Olson, Acting President of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, an international business association representing 1,000 firms in 20 countries: "The ultimate objective is to raise the standard of living for the people of the Asia-Pacific region. "Corruption siphons off revenues that could be used for education, health care, and social services, and hampers the ability of business to create the jobs that fuel economic growth. "Reducing corruption will raise the quality of life for all peoples, and for their children and grandchildren. "Other anti-corruption measures discussed by country representatives:* Korea is planning to protect witnesses in corruption cases and to introduce a program to support NGOs working against corruption;* Malaysia is conducting a public opinion survey to assess views of corruption and assist policy makers in formulating an effective prevention strategy;* Nepal is strengthening the investigation and prosecution capacity of its anti-corruption commission;* Indonesia has begun a project to curtail misconduct in tax, customs and budgeting agencies;* Mongolia is reviewing the legal framework for issuing business licenses to limit opportunities for graft;* Philippines and Malaysia are implementing new anti-money laundering laws; and * Kyrgyz Republic is drawing up administrative codes of conduct prohibiting conflicts of interest and promoting professionalism among state employees. The Steering Group will meet again early next year to make a first assessment of the concrete impact of these measures taken under the Action Plan. It will consider additional legislative and enforcement actions. The group is also expected to welcome new endorsing countries at that time. The Asian Development Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are jointly responsible for the Action Plan's Secretariat.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/05/2002

Chinese President Jiang Zemin Pushes to Boost 'Shanghai 6'

Chinese President Jiang Zemin is hopeful that maintaining peace in South Asia and fighting terrorism will restore momentum to the lackluster Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Heads of state of the six SCO members -- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan -- are meeting later this week in St Petersburg. The viability of the SCO, often considered a Jiang diplomatic initiative, has been affected by the recent Russian-NATO rapprochement as well as new relationships between several Central Asian countries and the U.S. However, the need to tackle the India-Pakistan crisis could give the body, originally conceived by Jiang as an anti-NATO bloc, new relevance. Diplomatic sources in Beijing said Jiang hoped the summit would restore close Sino-Russian ties as well as inject new momentum to the SCO movement. The sources said Beijing was working on joint efforts with Russia to help defuse the Indo-Pakistan crisis. India-Pakistan stand off Jiang and Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as their senior ministers are in Almaty, Kazakhstan to attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), whose focus is the India-Pakistani standoff. State media on Wednesday quoted the foreign ministers of both countries as saying China and Russia "have agreed to continue efforts to ease tension in South Asia." Given the role of terrorism in the Indo-Pakistani conflict, the South Asian crisis will also figure prominently on the SCO agenda. In his speech to the CICA on Tuesday, Jiang played up the pioneering role of SCO in the war against terrorism. "Even before the September 11 attacks, China and other members of the SCO had signed the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism and are now stepping up efforts to set up a regional anti-terrorism agency," Jiang said. Chinese and Western diplomats say the summit will endorse a SCO charter, one of whose major thrusts is to fight terrorism, whether it is in South Asia, Central Asia, Russia or China. Economic aid Beijing is lobbying for a permanent SCO secretariat to be set up in the Chinese capital, and that it be headed by a vice-minister from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. "Beijing is confident it can breathe new life into the SCO," said an Asian diplomat. "It is true that Russian, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan need American economic aid. Yet they are faced with internal terrorist, pro-independence movements and only the SCO can provide them with the framework and rationale for cracking down hard on terrorism." Chinese officials have also indicated Beijing is willing to help the other five SCO countries speed up their application procedures to the World Trade Organization.

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/06/2002

SCO Continues to Search for Operational Framework

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) minted itself as a full-fledged international organization at the recent St. Petersburg summit attended by the leaders of the six member states. However, the gathering revealed that the grouping remains in search of a unifying operational framework. The leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan approved a 26-point charter at the June 7 SCO gathering in Russia's second city. The leaders also agreed to base the SCO secretariat in Beijing and to establish an anti-terrorism center in Kyrgyzstan. In a joint declaration, the SCO member-states stressed that global order should be based on "mechanisms of collective decision-making and democratization of international relations." But comments by the various heads of state indicate that there are broad differences among the SCO states concerning the strategic priorities of the organization. When the first steps were taken in June 2001 to forge the SCO out of the informal Shaghai Five group of states, member states envisioned the organization as a counterweight to growing US economic and political influence. The September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath exposed the SCO's weakness as a vehicle to promote regional security, forcing member states to reevaluate the group's strategic purpose. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives]. The group still seeks to be a geopolitical player in Central Asian developments. The St. Petersburg declaration, for example, noted that the SCO favored a move towards "new and stable Afghanistan, free from terror, war, drugs and poverty." Also, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov suggested June 8 that SCO member states should cooperate with the United States and other members of the anti-terrorism coalition in promoting stability in Afghanistan. In addition, China and Russia are both interested in seeing the SCO develop a trade component. At a June 6 meeting prior to the start of the SCO summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin suggested that there is room for broad expansion of regional trade, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. The smaller SCO members - Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - prefer to emphasize the need for the rapid development of the SCO's anti-terrorism capabilities. Both countries have, in recent years, struggled to contain radical Islamic insurgents. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives]. The fighting capabilities of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were believed to be crippled during the US-led anti-terrorism campaign in late 2001. But according to a published report June 7, Kyrgyz security officials are worried that reconstituted IMU units are planning to launch new raids in Central Asia this summer. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev gave qualified support for the expansion of the SCO's mandate to include economic affairs, Kyrgyz television reported. Perhaps revealing concern that smaller SCO states would be vulnerable to exploitation by larger members, Akayev said that before substantive economic cooperation could occur, the member states would need to agree on guidelines concerning the extraction of minerals, and on the use of fuel and water resources. He also said fair economic competition would require the lifting a many trade barriers. Akayev went on to propose that transport and trade officials of SCO members gather in September to discuss methods to facilitate commerce. Meanwhile, Uzbek President Islam Karimov gave only tepid support for the SCO's move to base the secretariat in Beijing and the anti-terrorism center in Bishkek. At the summit, he indicated that he would prefer to see the SCO largely remain a forum for the debate of global political issues. Since September 11, Uzbekistan has closely aligned itself with the United States in the on-going anti-terrorism campaign. Uzbekistan is viewed by other SCO states as a fickle member, an image enhanced in recent months by the fact that Uzbekistan sometimes failed to send a representative to SCO sessions. On June 7, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev told journalists that under the SCO Charter a member-state could be expelled from the organization for "systematic non-compliance" with collective decisions. (by Sergei Blagov)

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/11/2002

16-Nation Eurasian Summit Convenes

President Jiang Zemin yesterday arrived in the Kazakh city of Almaty for the first summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. Jiang is expected to meet separately with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tonight on the sideline of the summit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan confirmed yesterday. "China sincerely hopes that Pakistan and India practise restraint and solve their disputes through peaceful negotiation and dialogue for the maintenance of peace and stability in South Asia," Kong said, adding that China's attitude towards reducing tensions between Pakistan and India is clear-cut. The spokesman said the international community, including China, hopes to see Pakistan-India tensions ease up, which is in the interests of both nations. The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures - the brainchild of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev - was suggested at the United Nations General Assembly in October 1992. It aims to establish a multilateral forum for peace and security in Eurasia. The conference has 16 members: China, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine National Administration, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Four international organizations including the UN, the League of Arab States and the Organization on Security and Co-operation in Europe, as well as 11 countries including the United States, have observer status at this conference. After the conference the Chinese president will fly to the Russian city of St Petersburg to attend the second summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization. Jiang's half-month-long tour will also take him to Latvia, Estonia, Iceland and Lithuania for state visits. His entourage includes Vice-Premier Qian Qichen, Defence Minister Chi Haotian, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, Minister of the State Development Planning Commission Zeng Peiyan and Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng. (by Meng Yan)

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/04/2002

 

1st ACD Meeting Seeks Asia's Common Strategy

Foreign ministers and ministerial-level officials from 17 Asian countries kicked off thefirst-ever pan-continental cooperation dialogue Wednesday morning in Cha-am beach resort, 170 kilometers south of Bangkok, aimed to seek a common strategy for Asia's development. ˇˇˇˇ"A new chapter of history begins today and this is a gathering of ministers from every region of Asia, which is, in itself, already a historic Asian event," Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in his address at the formal opening ceremony of the first Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) meeting being held here between June 18 and 19.The event, initiated and hosted by Thailand, is attended by foreign ministers from Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Japan,South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Brunei, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Qatar are represented by other ministerial-level officials. "The meeting will become a founding stone for a new framework of cooperation for more than half of the world's population and this cooperation will maximize Asia's collective strength and potential, and ensure the optimum use of the region's rich resources and culture," said Thaksin. "This cooperation will turn Asia's diversity into mutual benefits, opening up new opportunities, helping to alleviate poverty, and fulfilling Asian people's sense of 'common belonging'," he said. "Most important of all, the cooperation will bring peace and prosperity for all the peoples and the nations of Asia, " noted the Thai leader. Thaksin said the ACD will push forward the confidence-building process in Asia which has been advocated by many leading politicians in the region such as late former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Elaborating the main objectives of the meeting, a brainchild of the Thai premier himself, he said the ACD aims to provide a non-institutional arrangement for the exchange of ideas and experiences in Asia, to help improve national and regional capacities so as to make Asia stronger as a whole, and finally, toserve as a forum for Asian countries to exchange views with one another in a frank manner on international trends and developments. Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said although thereare many existing regional mechanisms in Asia, none of them covers the whole region of Asia. He said thus the ACD initiative will supplement all the current forums and bring all Asian countries together. First raised by Thaksin two years ago, the ACD concept has been advocated by Thailand since then and supported by many countries in Asia and the world.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/19/2002

Helping Developing Countries Implement WTO Agreements

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide a US$450,000 regional technical assistance grant to help its developing member countries better understand and implement the WTO trading system. This is the first ADB major activity to support the WTO since the two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding recently to enhance cooperation in trade matters in the Asian and Pacific region, including implementation of the Doha Development Agenda. As well as helping developing members integrate into the WTO trading system, the technical assistance will assist members to participate in a new round of WTO negotiations and help countries which have applied for WTO membership. The capacity-building program will focus on trade and customs. The trade component comprises a high-level meeting on the WTO trading system and a course on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS Agreement), including border enforcement. The customs component includes a course on trade facilitation, with an emphasis on the World Customs Organization Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (Revised Kyoto Convention), and a course on WTO Customs Valuation Agreement, including a post-entry audit system.The first of these four activities, the High Level meeting on the WTO Trading System, will be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 31 July to 2 August 2002. The meeting will bring together 32 senior government officials who will be trade negotiators at the new WTO round. The meeting will discuss (i) the key agenda in the Doha Development Round; (ii) experience in multilateral trade negotiations in implementing WTO agreements and in WTO membership; (iii) dispute settlement mechanisms; and (iv) trade policies of the European Union, Japan, and the United States and the new round of negotiations. Vice-President Myoung-Ho Shin will represent ADB at the Bangkok meeting.

From http://www.adb.org/ 06/17/2002

ASEAN Economic Officials Discuss Integration and Economic Issues

Southeast Asian countries have called for assistance from developed countries and international organisations to boost regional economic development. This was at an annual meeting of senior ASEAN economic officials in Vientiane, Laos. The June 12-14 meeting discussed concrete measures to implement decisions passed by the 33rd ASEAN economic ministers' meeting in Hanoi in last September and the ASEAN Summit in Brunei in November, 2001. The participants focused their discussions on an ASEAN integration roadmap, and regional implementation of ASEAN integration initiatives, which aimed to help new ASEAN members to accelerate economic growth. Co-operation between ASEAN and its partners, including China, Japan, India, the US, Australia and New Zealand, were also touched upon. The Vietnamese delegation to the meeting was led by Hoang Tich Phuc, Assistant to the Trade Minister. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

From http://www.nhandan.org.vn/ 06/17/2002

 

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HK Faces Major Government Shake-Up


HONG KONG, China (AP) -- A day before Hong Kong's leader was set to unveil the territory's biggest government shake-up since it was handed back from Britain to China, his opponents predicted a political catastrophe and complained their voices were ignored. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa will reveal Friday the much-anticipated lineup of a new Cabinet in which political appointees will get seats once occupied by civil servants -- a reshuffle that his critics are dreading as a massive tightening of his control. "It will be disastrous for Hong Kong, because Tung is getting people who are like-minded to him," opposition lawmaker Cyd Ho said Thursday. "The administration, by high-handedly forcing this system through, is asking for more opposition." The formation of a new Cabinet comes as former shipping magnate Tung prepares to begin his second five-year term at the helm of the former colony, where freedoms and rights unknown in mainland China were guaranteed as part of the handover arrangements in 1997. Tung's re-election earlier this year was called a farce by many concerned about the erosion of those rights. He was picked in an unusual electoral process that gave votes only to 800 members of a committee made up mostly of pro-Beijing figures or big business representatives -- nobody else was nominated. Tung calls his new plan an "accountability system," but opponents argue that political appointees will be accountable only to Tung -- and say that Tung is beholden only to Beijing. The new Cabinet members will replace civil servants who worked their way through the ranks in a government structure viewed as one of Hong Kong's main strengths because of its uncorrupt and fair reputation. Local media have been abuzz with speculation about who will be in and who out in the new system, but there seems to be no dispute that Tung's top two deputies -- Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang and Financial Secretary Antony Leung -- will continue to play key roles. Opposition lawmakers have accused Tung, who begins his second term July 1, of pushing his plans through without adequate consultation and worry that he may end up giving undue power to appointees with ties to Beijing and big business. Ho said there was not enough time to discuss an array of critical issues, such as rules on conflicts of interest and codes of behavior for the new officials, who will not even be vetted by lawmakers before they take their jobs. "It is far, far beyond reason," Ho said. Tung's spokesman, Stephen Lam, has dismissed such naysaying. "We are preserving the best features of an apolitical and professional civil service," Lam told The Associated Press in a recent interview. The political opposition, which holds little power in Hong Kong's Legislative Council under a system critics also say is unfairly rigged, has tried to modify Tung's plans without success. The Legislative Council on Thursday approved Tung's plans to shift power to the political appointees on a 36-21 vote, following a stormy session in which four lawmakers who represent trade union interests walked out in protest.

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/20/2002

China to Extend Government Reforms

China will push forward the reform of its administrative system and government restructuring in four respects over the next five years, head of the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform (SCOPSR) Zhang Zhijian said in Beijing on Tuesday. Zhang said the four respects included transforming the role of government in line with the requirements of the developing market economy and the World Trade Organization (WTO), streamlining local governments in western areas to improve their efficiency in public services, strengthening market supervisory institutions and redefining non-profit and intermediary public institutions for a clearer relationship with the government and a stronger market role. Zhang made the remarks at a signing ceremony of the Public Sector Reform in the People's Republic of China program between the SCOPSR, the International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This is the third phase of the SCOPSR-UNDP program that started in 1990. Zhang said the SCOPSR-UNDP program had extensively involved restructuring of the Chinese government over the years. The content of the program mainly conformed to the requirements and agenda of public sector reform in China. The major results of research projects under the program had been adopted by Chinese decision makers. He called the inception of the third phase of the program "a visionary move." The 5-year program will focus on four areas - reform of the administrative system and government restructuring after China's accession to the WTO, efficiency of local governments in western areas of China, market supervision and law enforcement, and reform of the administrative system of non-profit and intermediary public institutions. The UNDP will contribute one million US dollars to the program, and the Chinese government 1.17 million US dollars.

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/19//2002

China's Top Legislator on Party's Leadership

Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), has urged the people's congress at all levels to support the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). At the same time, Party committees at all levels should strengthen the leadership of the people's congress and bring them role into full play, said Li during a recent inspection tour to east China's Shandong Province. Li, who is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, visited new high- tech businesses, harbors and economic development zones in Qingdao, a scenic port City in Shandong. In talks with people's congress members in Qingdao City and Shandong Province, Li said experience showed that the more a region developed, the greater its need to operate under the framework of the law. He urged the people's congress and its standing committee at all levels to be innovative and widen their experience. When not in session, the people's congress should also engage in organized activities in a planned manner and make proposals to leading authorities. He urged local officials to work hard to solve the problems in economic development, open wider to the outside world, reform State-owned enterprises and improve the business climate for foreign investors.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/19/2002

China Succeeds in Government Reforms: Premier Zhu

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji said Wednesday that China has basically completed the reform of its government institutions. The major task in the near future is altering government functions and reforming the administrative approval system, which would be heavy and arduous, Zhu said in a meeting of the committee which had compiled the framework of organizational reform. Present at the meeting was Hu Jintao, China's vice president and director of the compilation committee. Reform of government institutions was an important task set forth at the 15th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Over the past five years, the State Council, China's highest governing body, had cut its subordinate ministries from 40 to 29, reducing the government payroll by half, Zhu said. Government departments at provincial levels had also shrunk by a big margin, with the staff working there cut by half. The number of staff working in government departments at county and township levels was cut by 20 percent. In all, the number of government functionaries had decreased by 1.15 million. The anticipated target has been met, Zhu said. However, he said, measures should be taken to prevent restoration of the old size of government institutions or expansion of reformed government institutions.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/20/2002

Hong Kong: Care Urged in Civil Service Pay Cut

Civil service associations are expressing the hope that the ongoing review of the civil service pay policy and system can be handled carefully,step by step, and that foreign examples would not be copied without reference to the local situation. They are also calling for extensive consultation prior to final decisions so that the review will have the thorough support of civil servants in particular and society as a whole. Representatives from a central staff consultative council and six civil service unions yesterday presented opinions on the phase one interim report at the Legislative Council's Public Service Panel meeting. The Senior Non-Expatriate Officers' Association said that since the review is very complicated and far-reaching, the government shall keep an open mind and set no pre-determined stances at this stage. The Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association said the interim report is overshadowed by the civil service pay cut saga. There have been very few discussions on this far-reaching and fundamental review, especially at a time when the political, economic and social scenes are quite uncertain. They suggested a longer consultation period for 2-3 months after the initial consultation period expires at the end of this month in the interest of a broader consensus. Most associations also noted that although the pay systems in five commonwealth countries are highlighted, there is little mention in the report of their examples of success and failure. While on the subject of the pay adjustment mechanism, all of them spoke against pay cuts through legislation. But they agreed that upward and downward adjustments are possible under the existing mechanism, and showed a willingness to have a law for validation of both functions, in reply to the Frontier's Emily Lau. On whether police should maintain a separate pay scale, the Police Force Council "clashed" with James Tien of the Liberal Party who said although there is no direct comparison with the private sector, wages of civilian staff in the police force are very high. But Lau Kam-wah, chairman of the Council's Junior Police Officers' Association, argued that salaries of their staff comply with the pay scale.

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/18/2002

Civil Servants Can't Watch Cup on TV

YAMAGATA (Kyodo) The Yamagata Prefectural Government has told its workers not to turn on TVs in the workplace during the Japan-Tunisia World Cup soccer match Friday, prefectural officials said Wednesday. The ban follows a remark by Yamagata Gov. Kazuo Takahashi, who told a news conference Monday, "I am not glued to the TV" during work hours and "I expect the same from my staff." An official in the personnel department, which issued the ban, said: "We merely called on staff to abide by the public workers' obligation to concentrate on work. If someone wants to watch the match, we recommend he or she take annual leave." The ban has vexed at least one worker, who said: "I will be more anxious than ever now to know the results. I think we should be allowed to watch the scores at least." The ban covers not only TVs but also Internet access to obtain data on match results, the officials said. A TV set in the lobby of the prefectural office will show the match, but it is strictly for visitors waiting in the lobby and is not for staff viewing, they said. Friday's match, scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m., is the decisive one for Japan as it will determine if the Japanese team can move on to the second round. Sunday's match between Japan and Russia drew a 66.1 percent TV viewership rating in the Kanto region, the second-highest figure in the history of Japanese sports broadcasting.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/13/2002

China Reduces Red Tape

For Carma Elliot, the British Consulate General to the west China metropolitan of Chongqing, one of the primary reason that she has never been bored by hosting frequent diplomatic activities is that she does not need to go through time-consuming approvals. The diplomat who arrived in China two years ago said that she is a beneficiary of China's reform of simplifying administrative examination and approval procedures. Now, Elliot is an ardent sponsor of numerous Sino-British symposiums, exhibitions and other forms of exchanges. Her contactswith the cultural, construction and environment protection departments of Chongqing have never been hindered by the complexity of seals of approval. "This is a sharp contrast to 18 years ago," Elliot said. At that time as a student enrolled by the Fudan University in Shanghai to study Chinese she was kept waiting for more than two months before she could get her wish and be allowed to come to China. Later when she wanted to travel from Shanghai to Yunnan Province in southwest China, she had to have an introduction letter stamped with over a dozen seals. Foreigners coming to China nowadays have only to wait one week,and over 20 entry ports in China grant provisional visas to foreigners who apply for instant entry. China's accession into the World Trade Organization has given the impetus to the country's administrative reforms. In Chongqing,the municipal government discontinued 110 examination procedures over the past two years, and announced that government departmentsmust finish routine approval procedures within seven working days.Procedures that need more than 15 working days should be reported to higher authorities. When Du Jiang, a native Chongqing resident, returned from studying for his master's degree in computer science in the Republic of Korea, he was astounded by the government's one-off approval service for his newly established software business in the city's high-tech development zone. Before he left the country two years ago, he heard that a bridge builder had to spend one year obtaining over 120 seals to get a contract for a construction project. Hearing this, Du almostdecided not to come home to set up his business. Inherited from the planning economic era, officials seals with the power of approval not only damage the investment environment in regions where investment is urgently needed, but also nurture abreeding ground for corruption. Li Guang, a software expert with the Wuhan University in central China's Hubei Province, said that current international economic competition is a contest of the administrative efficiency of governments. This presents a big challenge to China. In large Chinese cities like Beijing, Tianjin and Shenzhen, administrative reforms have entered the second phase, during whichgovernments in these cities are trying out various ways to become more efficient ranging from opening approval centers and one-off approval halls to offering examinations and approvals on-line in order to hasten government approval services and expedite government efficiency. "The improved administrative environment has injected a great vitality into Chongqing's economic growth, which saw a nine percent GDP growth rate last year," said Bao Xuding, mayor of Chongqing, China's most populous metropolitan. Simplifying government approval authorizations has not weakenedthe governments' administrative power, but has allowed it to concentrate on more important and urgent matters such as maintaining the market order and protecting the environment, the mayor said.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/27/2002

Hong Kong SAR Legislation Reflects 'One Country, Two Systems'

Rita Fan, president of the Legislative Council (LegCo) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), said the LegCo fulfills its duty as alegislature in accordance with the Basic Law, and the legislation of the Hong Kong SAR reflects the "one country, two systems" principle. In an exclusive interview with Xinhua upon the fifth anniversary of the Hong Kong SAR, Fan said the legislation of the SAR has been in smooth progress in the past five years. Fan has been serving as president of the LegCo since the formation of the Provisional Legislative Council before Hong Kong's return to the motherland. After the return and the Provisional Legislative Council accomplished its task, she was elected as president of the first LegCo of the Hong Kong SAR and re-elected for a second term. Fan said the LegCo of the three terms have passed over 270 ordinances, over 1,300 pieces of subsidiary legislation and over 260 motions with legislative effects. The legislation of the Hong Kong SAR is based on the common law,and the Basic Law is the main continental law enacted in Hong Kong,and no law formulated by the SAR legislature can contravene the Basic Law, she said. Under this circumstance, it is obvious how the "one country, two systems" principle is implemented in legislation of the Hong Kong SAR, she noted. According to the Basic Law, law enacted by the LegCo of the Hong Kong SAR must be reported to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee for the record, but the reporting would not affect entry into force of such law. If the NPC Standing Committee considers that any law enacted bythe LegCo does not comply with the Basic Law, it can return the law in question but cannot amend it. Fan said it is the work of the LegCo to decide how to amend thelaw, and the NPC Standing Committee will not interfere, noting that such case also reflects the "one country, two systems" principle. She explained that the "one country" means that the Basic Law is applied in the Hong Kong SAR and the whole country, while the "two systems" means that law adopted by the legislature of the HongKong SAR, if complying with the Basic Law, can be enforced only inthe Hong Kong SAR. Referring to the relationship between the Hong Kong SAR LegCo and the NPC, Fan said the organization rules of the NPC is not applied in Hong Kong, and the SAR LegCo is not subordinate to the NPC and does not report its work to the NPC. The Hong Kong SAR has its deputies to the NPC by means of election, Fan said, adding that members of the LegCo, if they are willing to, are eligible to become members of the board responsible for electing the Hong Kong deputies to the NPC. However, the elected NPC deputies and the LegCo of the Hong Kong SAR have nothing to do with each other, Fan said. "The NPC deputies do not need to report their work to the LegCo,and LegCo has no right to require them to do anything," she added. There is fine distinction between the two parties, Fan said, noting that the Hong Kong deputies to the NPC belong to the NPC system, while the LegCo is the legislature of the Hong Kong SAR. Fan said the power of LegCo is limited to the Hong Kong SAR andthe LegCo members are able to examine departments of the SAR government, while the Hong Kong deputies to the NPC can only inspect other provinces in the country. "This is a very special arrangement," she added. Talking about the difference between the Legislative Council ofthe Hong Kong SAR and the former Legislative Council of the British Hong Kong authorities, Fan said the SAR LegCo is operated in accordance with the Basic Law and it follows the methods of thelatter in discussing issues in most cases, but some of the rules were changed. In terms of the powers of the LegCo, Fan said two more functions have been granted to the LegCo of the Hong Kong SAR after the return of Hong Kong to the motherland -- the SAR LegCo would endorse the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court; and the SAR LegCo could pass a motion of impeachment against the chiefexecutive. Fan said it was impossible to impeach the governor of Hong Kongunder the British colonial rule, as the governor represented the British queen. Now, the chief executive is responsible for the Central People's Government and the Hong Kong SAR and the SAR LegCo represents the will of the people. As a matter of fact, the SAR LegCo has this power and the SAR LegCo is a true legislature, she noted.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/27/2002

Gov't to Tackle Tax Exemption Reforms

The government's tax panel is considering proposing to simplify and integrate a variety of tax breaks for dependents, sources close to the panel said Thursday. In a draft report to be submitted to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Friday, the Tax Commission states that tax exemptions for dependents should be simplified or abolished on a step-by-step bases. It points out that tax breaks for spouses should eventually be abolished. Under the system of tax exemptions for dependents, certain amounts for looking after family members are deducted from individual taxable income. As the first step of the proposed reform, various tax exemptions for dependents, such as elderly people, spouses and those studying at higher education institutions while working full-time should be integrated into a basic tax exemption, an exemption for spouses and an exemption for other dependents, the panel says. As the next step, the draft report proposes three options: These tax breaks would be simplified into tax exemptions for spouses and other dependents; Tax exemptions for spouses and other dependents would be abolished while establishing exemptions for children and elderly family members; Tax exemptions for spouses and other dependents would be abolished while establishing an exemption for children. The panel leaves the selection of these three to discussions by policy-makers of the government as well as Diet deliberations. Whether the reform will result in a tax hike or cut depends on the rate of the basic exemption.

From http://www12.mainichi.co.jp/ 06/13/2002

New Faces to Star in Hong Kong's New Cabinet

Under the new accountability or "ministerial" system, Tung is empowered by Beijing to appoint all 14 policy secretaries, who will report directly to the chief executive and serve at his pleasure. Before this controversial constitutional change, most policy secretaries were senior civil servants who were supposed to be politically neutral. Among the new faces are businessman Henry Tang, who will hold the portfolio for industry and IT, and Pacific Century CyberWorks executive Frederick Ma, who will look after financial services and the treasury. College president Arthur Li and medical doctor Patrick Chan, both members Beijing's top advisory council, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), will become respectively secretary for education and secretary for home affairs. The Special Administrative Region's (SAR) top three officials ?Chief Secretary Donald Tsang, Financial Secretary Antony Leung and Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung, remain unchanged. At the same time, Tung has expanded the cabinet, or Executive Council (Exco), from 13 to 20 members to accommodate the 14 secretaries and five leading politicians and trusted advisers. The most important change is the induction into Exco of the chairmen of two pro-government parties: Tsang Yok-sing of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) and James Tien of the business-oriented Liberal Party. With the appointment of the two party leaders, the government is assured of a majority in the Legislative Council (Legco), Hong Kong's legislature. Tsang is also a CPPCC member. Another new Exco member, labor leader Cheng Yiu-tong, is a deputy to the National People's Congress. Explaining the developments to Legco last week, Tung said "the government needs to give strong leadership in these difficult times." Earlier, the Chief Executive had denied that he would only appoint yes men as secretaries or Exco members. Henry Fok, a CPPCC vice-chairman and close adviser to Tung, also praised the new constitutional changes. He said the accountability system would raise efficiency and ensure that each department would have clear-cut responsibilities. Chinese President Jiang Zemin is due to be in Hong Kong on June 30 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the foundation of the SAR. He will swear in the SAR's new cabinet on July 1, which will also be marked by festivities including a fireworks display. However, Tung's critics, including members of the Democratic Party, have pointed out the ministerial system will only work in a country or city with direct elections and checks and balances. According to Vice-chairman of the Democratic Party and legislator Yeung Sum, under the new system, "officials will only be accountable to Tung, but not accountable to either the legislature or the public."

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/23/2002

Reorganization Team Set Up in Farm Ministry

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries set up a team Tuesday to consider reorganization within the ministry, ministry officials said. The move is in line with the decision to abolish the Food Agency and set up an independent panel of experts to assess risks related to food. A meeting of cabinet ministers in charge of food safety has decided that the abolishment of the Food Agency and setting up a new food panel are necessary to enhance food safety and regain public trust.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/18/2002

Gov't Officials Get Over Y90 Mil Retirement Allowance

TOKYO - Thirteen former central government officials who retired in the three-year period to March this year received more than 90 million yen each in retirement allowances, according to a government document released Friday. The document was compiled in response to a query by Akira Nagatsuma, a House of Representatives lawmaker from the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and approved at a Cabinet meeting Friday.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/15/2002

G-7 Mute over Japan's Reform Plans

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Kyodo) A fresh claim by Japan that it will not be a drag on world growth fell on a silent audience in a weekend meeting of finance ministers of the Group of Seven nations, where no one was openly critical of Japan but the lack of supportive remarks was notable. With domestic wrangling still under way over specific economic measures, uncertainties remain over whether Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi can deliver a convincing package when he attends a June 26-27 summit of the Group of Eight nations -- the G-7 plus Russia -- in Kananaskis, Alberta. In the two-day meeting in this eastern Canada port city, Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa outlined to his G-7 partners Japan's latest efforts to revive its struggling deflationary economy. The move was yet another attempt by Shiokawa to persuade the G-7 that Japan is committed to spurring its economy, after promising to draw up new economic steps, including tax cuts, at the previous meeting with the ministers held in Washington in April. "I explained that we will promote (the steps) firmly as a new economic policy," Shiokawa told the news conference. "There were comments (from other G-7 ministers) expressing appreciation over Japan's reform efforts," he added. A senior Japanese official told reporters that in response to Shiokawa's comments about Japan's economy, his G-7 counterparts made remarks that they believe Japan recognizes its problems and is moving ahead with policies accordingly. But the other G-7 members -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States -- did not openly back Shiokawa's plan. However, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill urged Japan to carry out the measures when the Japanese minister briefed him in a separate meeting Friday. O'Neill expressed "expectations" about the plan, according to another Japanese government official. Shiokawa was outlining Japan's basic economic and fiscal policy blueprint, which will be finalized next week by the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, chaired by Koizumi. Among the steps to be included in the plan are tax reforms, deregulation, efforts to dispose of nonperforming loans, steps to nurture leading businesses and the government's plan to maintain fiscal discipline in drawing up the fiscal 2003 budget. But the economic promises may prove to be far easier made than kept. Major political squabbling is expected to take place before the government can settle on specific reform steps. The most explosive of the issues are tax reforms, the central plank of the plan. Which specific tax reform steps should be taken on what scale and when are questions that have yet to be answered. There are three panels tasked with discussing the tax system -- the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, the government's Tax Commission and the Tax System Research Commission of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party -- which further complicates the debate. Business leaders and local government heads have also entered what is turning into a heated debate. But at least one agreement has been reached. Koizumi put an end to wrangling between the two government panels -- the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and the Tax Commission -- by calling for cutting the effective taxation rate on companies, a step called for by the council, which wants to cut taxes to boost the economy. Critics of the tax panel say it focuses too much on securing revenue. In order to carry out the tax cuts, the government is considering a plan to introduce a so-called pro forma tax system, which is designed to tax corporations on the basis of business size -- such as the number of employees and the size of capital -- rather than profits. Under the system, companies in the red would be subject to taxes, while moneymaking firms could pay less without the government seeing a drop in tax revenue. But much still needs to be worked out before the government can come up with a detailed package of steps, and even when it does, the measures could face major hurdles before they can be implemented. Also making the outlook murky is the drop in Koizumi's once-high support ratings. In recent opinion polls, disapproval ratings have overtaken approval ratings. Koizumi enjoyed about 80 percent support when he took power in April. "I expect the tax debate to continue for a while yet," a Finance Ministry official said.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 06/17/2002

Japanese Computer Firm President Arrested over Government IT Subsidies

Japan's public prosecutors arrested the president of an Osaka-based computer software developer Tuesday on illegally taking government subsidies in information technology (IT) field. According to Kyodo News, the prosecutors arrested Masaki Kambayashi, 59, on charges of violating a law governing state subsidy issuance by illegitimately receiving the 160 million yen (about 1.27 million U.S. dollars) subsidies from fiscal 1998 to 2000 by padding personnel and other expenses. The prosecutors also arrested four other officials of the firm,Computer Consultant, which was set up in 1975 and has some 130 employees. All the five have admitted to the allegations, according to the prosecutors. It is the first time in Japan for a company to be accused of pocketing state subsidies introduced in fiscal 1997 to promote IT research and development.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/18/2002

Top Cabinet Bureaucrat Marks Record Long Incumbency

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Teijiro Furukawa, top civil servant of the cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will mark a record long incumbency in the post Saturday, Cabinet Office officials said Thursday. Furukawa, 67, first assumed the post in February 1995 under the cabinet of then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, after serving as the vice minister at the former Health and Welfare Ministry. The current record of 2,668 days as a deputy chief cabinet secretary has been held by Nobuo Ishihara, a former Home Affairs Ministry bureaucrat and unsuccessful candidate for Tokyo governor.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/14/2002

GNP Unveils Measures on Corruption

In a pointed attack on an administration dogged by a string of graft scandals, the Grand National Party (GNP) unveiled yesterday a package of measures to eradicate corruption. The announcement came a day after the prosecution indicted President Kim Dae-jung's youngest son on charges of bribery and influence peddling. Lee Kang-too, a top GNP policymaker, said the party will push to simplify the legal procedures for appointing an independent counsel in corruption cases involving relatives of the president and senior officials. It will also enhance the National Assembly's authority to deal with irregularities among the power elite by installing a special parliamentary committee for investigation and putting the Board of Audit and Inspection, the top government watchdog, under parliamentary control. Other measures include enforcing stricter discipline among public servants, allowing citizens to recall local administrative heads and giving more legal power to the presidential Independent Commission Against Corruption. "The leadership mandate was lost, and the nation's image was damaged due to widespread corruption under the Kim administration," Lee said. The GNP has made anti-corruption a central campaign theme for local elections next Thursday and the presidential election scheduled for Dec. 19.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/07/20002

JAPAN: Diet Extends Current Session by 42 Days to Pass Key Bills

TOKYO - The House of Representatives decided Wednesday to extend the current 150-day parliamentary session by 42 days to July 31 because the ruling bloc wants to pass key bills during it. The extension was approved in a majority vote by lawmakers from the three ruling parties - the Liberal Democratic Party, the New Komeito party and the New Conservative Party. The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) voted against the proposal, while the other three opposition parties - the Liberal Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the tiny Social Democratic Party - boycotted the vote.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/19/2002

House Passes Motion Calling for Suzuki's Resignation

TOKYO - The House of Representatives passed Friday a nonbinding resolution urging scandal-hit lawmaker Muneo Suzuki to give up his seat in the lower chamber. In passing the resolution in plenary session, lawmakers took a standing vote, as agreed earlier in the day among officials of the ruling and opposition blocs. The opposition camp had called for an open ballot, which would clarify lawmakers' voting behavior. All parties in the ruling and opposition camps voted for the resolution.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/21/2002

Gov't Defines Key Purpose of Secret Funds

TOKYO - The government has for the first time stipulated a set of guidelines on how the cabinet's confidential funds, a source of controversy, should be spent by creating three spending categories, government sources said Sunday. The sources said the three categories are the promotion of policies, research and data, and activities in which the chief cabinet secretary is designated to oversee secret funds, along with the two other categories. The rules include mentioning the receipt of such funds, dates of spending, amounts and purposes.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 06/24/2002

Japan PM May Reshuffle Cabinet in September

TOKYO: OKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, facing a slide in public opinion polls and slow progress on his reform agenda, is considering reshuffling his cabinet in September, the Yomiuri Shimbun said yesterday. Koizumi pledged when he took office in April last year there would be no cabinet reshuffle as long as he remained in power and said last month he saw no need for one, a move critics say could increase the clout of anti-reformers in his party. But the Yomiuri, citing sources close to the prime minister, said Koizumi now thinks a reshuffle is necessary to ensure his cabinet functions smoothly. It said Koizumi was weighing options for a cabinet reshuffle in September ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament and when executives from his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) complete their terms. "I won't reshuffle the Cabinet right after the current Diet session ends. But if I were to do so in September, there would be sweeping changes without regard for (the balance of power among) the factions," Koizumi was quoted by one of his aides as saying. Koizumi, who sprang to power last year promising reforms that would bring longterm growth to a stagnant economy and to clean up his long-ruling party, has seen his support rating fall to less than half the 80-90 per cent he enjoyed when he took office. His legislative agenda has taken a beating from ruling party and government scandals, and although Koizumi and his two coalition partners agreed on Monday to extend the current session of parliament, which was set to end today, to 42 days, prospects for enacting key bills remain cloudy at best. Recent political scandals include a furore surrounding lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, once a key figure in the LDP's biggest faction. Japanese prosecutors asked the Tokyo District Court on Monday to issue a warrant for the arrest of Suzuki on suspicion of accepting a bribe from a lumber firm. Suzuki has denied any wrongdoing. Media reports said the cabinet had asked the Lower House, of which Suzuki is a member, to allow his arrest, a move required by law when parliament is in session. The chamber is expected to vote on the request this week.

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/19/2002

S. Korean Head Apologizes for Sons' Arrests

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- In a television speech broadcast nationwide, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has apologized for the actions of two of his sons, who have been arrested on corruption and influence-peddling charges. "This is my fault, due to my inefficiencies," the president said on Friday. "I cannot hold up my head as I stand before you." Kim also promised that his sons will be firmly punished according to law. The president's youngest son, Kim Hong-gol, is in jail for allegedly trying to influence the government's decision to grant a lottery license to a company in return for payment. The president's second son, Kim Hong-op, was arrested Friday on similar charges. Both have denied any wrongdoing. The president's speech cast a somber pall over South Korea, which is basking in the international spotlight as the country co-hosts soccer's World Cup with neighboring Japan -- and its national team reached the quarterfinals. The 77-year-old chief of state is in the final months of his five-year term in office, which began in 1998 when he took office with a pledge to clean up South Korean politics. Kim is constitutionally barred from seeking another term in December's presidential election.

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/21/2002

ROK Elected Member of ILO's Governing Body

South Korea has been re-elected to a three-year term as a regular member of the International Labor Organization (ILO)'s governing body. It is the third consecutive time for the country to be chosen since joining the U.N. labor agency in 1991. South Korea was first picked for the executive council in 1996 and was again chosen three years later. The government of South Korea received 203 votes, or half of the total, at the election on Monday. The meeting, held during the 90th International Labor Conference in Geneva, was presided over by the South Korean Representative to Geneva Chung Eui-yong. The Asia-Pacific labor ministerial meeting also chose South Korea as coordinator of the regional group. In its capacity as coordinator, the government will represent the 26 member governments of the group until the 91st session of the International Labor Conference next year. Accepting the coordinator post, South Korean Labor Minister Bang Yong-seok proposed that Asia-Pacific governments work closely together in addressing various labor issues, given they share similar cultural backgrounds and socio-economic conditions. He pointed out that the governments should strengthen cooperation to promote international labor standards and practices in the region. Diplomatic observers expected that the appointments would encourage South Korea to take a more active role in addressing various issues at the international labor forum, especially those related to labor and trade. The International Labor Conference, currently meeting in Geneva from June 3-20, is the annual assembly and main decision-making body of the ILO. It is being attended by some 3,000 delegates and advisers, representing governments, labor unions and employers' organizations from 175 countries. (by Heo Yun-seon)

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/11/2002

Lee Myung-bak Vows to Be `CEO Mayor'

Lee Myung-bak, 61, a former Hyundai Group executive, rose to the top post in Seoul, yesterday. ``It was a victory for all Seoul citizens, not my own. Now I will repay citizens' support as a hardworking economic mayor,'' Lee said, after being elected new mayor of Seoul on Thursday. Having started working with Hyundai Construction Co. as a rank-and-file employee in 1965, Lee climbed up the ladder to become its chief executive officer after 12 years, at the age of 36. His rapid achievements gave him the nickname, ``myth of a salaried worker'' and his success story was even made into a TV soap opera. The former businessman, in 1992, won a parliamentary seat as a proportional representative of the Democratic Liberal Party, a forerunner to the Grand National Party, under whose flag he ran for the Seoul mayoral election. Lee's political career has not always thrived, unlike his business career. He failed to win the DLP ticket for the Seoul mayoral election in 1995. The following year, he was elected to the National Assembly only to lose his seat due to violations during the campaign. During the campaign period, Lee focused on entrepreneurship as one of the most important requirements for the next mayor of the capital. As former Hyundai chief executive, Lee said that he contributed to the so-called Miracle of the Han River, which stands for the rapid economic development that pulled South Korea out of the extreme post-war poverty. Now, Lee talks about another miracle for Seoul, epitomized by his election motto _ ``Miracle Once Again in Seoul!'' The former lawmaker pledges to elevate Seoul into a lively city with a robust economy, resident-oriented policies and an upgraded welfare system. One of his major public pledges is the restoration of the severely polluted Chonggye Stream, which runs through the central part of the capital. ``If elected, I will revitalize the Chonggye Stream, which takes enormous amounts of money for repairing the outmoded paved road and overpasses,'' Lee said before his election. Lee's project is to remove the roads, resuscitate the dead stream and change the adjacent areas, currently filled with messy shops and street peddling handcarts, into a new commercial and cultural zone with an ecological park. Lee also pledged he would try to attract more branches of multinational enterprises to Seoul by providing more favorable business conditions and softening various regulations. ``It is CEO-like leadership and corporate efficiency that Seoul needs in this era of global competition. I believe I will be the person who can transform Seoul into an outstanding metropolis and raise the quality of citizens' life,'' Lee said, expressing his vision to make Seoul the financial hub of East Asia. (by Ryu Jin)

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/14/2002

Voter Turnout Lowest in History

Koreans voted yesterday to elect a total of 4,415 local administrative and parliamentary officials, with opinion polls suggesting the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) would beat the Millennium Democratic Party founded by President Kim Dae-jung. Though the quadrennial elections have been widely publicized, Korean voters' political apathy has deepened as a result of high-profile corruption scandals. The World Cup soccer tournament also has kept many voters away from the polls. Polls opened at 6 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. at 13,461 polling stations across the country. The number of the total registered voters stood at 34,744,232, but only 37.9 percent cast their ballots as of 3 p.m. The turnout was the lowest in history, compared to 40.8 percent at the 1998 local polls and 44.7 percent at the 2000 parliamentary elections. The elections selected mayors of seven major cities including Seoul, nine provincial governors and 232 heads of lower-level administrative units, in addition to 4,167 local assembly members. The local elections are seen as a prelude to the Dec. 19 presidential poll, in which GNP's Lee Hoi-chang and MDP's Roh Moo-hyun are as of now the only principal contenders. Pre-vote surveys showed that GNP candidates were set to secure at least seven to eight of the 16 major mayoral and gubernatorial races, while MDP runners held clear leads in only three electorates. The rival parties waged neck-and-neck races in three mayoral races, in Seoul, Daejeon and Ulsan and two gubernatorial competitions in Gyeonggi and Jeju provinces. Media polls also gave GNP candidates convincing leads over MDP contenders in elections for the 232 heads of smaller administrative units. The polls predicted the GNP will sweep more than 100 of the contests, compared with MDP's 40-50 races. "I will humbly accept the people's choice, and hope good results will come out," GNP presidential nominee Lee Hoi-chang said after voting with his wife early yesterday morning. Lee and his party censured the scandal-ridden Kim administration during the campaign. The MDP has partly attributed its electoral defeat to the lowest-ever turnout, largely blamed on election weariness by young voters, the age group that traditionally backs the MDP. "If you stay away from the polls because of disappointment with politicians, politics cannot change," MDP presidential candidate Roh told reporters after voting with his family members. Roh, who is running on the platform of political reform, was trailing GNP's Lee within the margin of error in a recent opinion poll. The World Cup tournament is said to be keeping young voters away from the polls. A recent survey showed only 35.4 percent of young soccer fans in their 20s and 30s said they would "definitely" vote. President Kim urged voters to go to the polling stations. "We are successfully holding the World Cup games. So we must successfully hold the local elections, too. Let's vote," Kim said. The local elections were tainted early on by illegal campaigning and mudslinging by rival candidates. The NEC said it found a total of 7,454 instances of vote buying as of Tuesday, about four times more than in the 1998 polls. The figure includes electioneering prior to the official campaigning period. During the campaigning period May 28-June 12, the NEC uncovered 2,036 cases of election law violation.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/14/2002

92,600 Volunteers for Local Elections

The National Election Commission yesterday said a total of 92,600 volunteers are participating in the local elections scheduled for Thursday. About 54 percent, or 50,259 volunteers, mostly middle school or high school students, will be assigned to help physically-challenged or elderly people cast votes in polling stations on the election date. Other volunteers, 79.4 percent of them teenagers, have been assigned to help distribute campaign leaflets, watch for illegal election campaigning and assist in other administrative affairs.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/11/2002

South Korea: MDP Calls for Cabinet Reshuffle to Ease Corruption Scandals

Hahn Hwa-kap, chairman of the Millennium Democratic Party, is set to convey to President Kim Dae-jung party members' request for a comprehensive Cabinet shake-up and a decision on the fate of President Kim's Peace Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Region. The decision, reached at a Supreme Council meeting, is apparently aimed at winning back public confidence by cleaning up the party's image, which has been tainted by a string of corruption scandals involving two sons of President Kim, the former MDP head. But it remains unclear whether Hahn will brief the president on the party's opinion in a report or in person, or when this will take place, said Spokesman Lee Nak-yon, adding that supreme councilors shared the view that it is an issue that should be urgently addressed. Meanwhile, Chong Wa Dae spokeswoman Park Sun-sook rebutted the MDP's call for the revamping of the Cabinet. ``Whether or not to change the Cabinet is up to President Kim," Park told reporters, adding that Kim renounced his ties with the MDP. The participants in the Supreme Council meeting discussed ways to address the damaging internal feud over who should be held accountable for its crushing defeat in recent local elections. A group of reformist lawmakers have pressed President Kim to dissolve his private think tank as a gesture of combating corruption, and hold his secretaries, including Presidential Chief of Staff Park Jie-won, accountable for graft scandals. The MDP also agreed that it would entrust Hahn with the fate of Rep. Kim Hong-il, which has surfaced as one of the most controversial internal disputes splitting the embattled party. Kim, the eldest son of the president, has been pressured by reformist lawmakers to leave the party as a gesture of taking moral responsibility for a string of corruption scandals involving his younger brothers. Rep. Kim had made clear his opposition to leaving the party, arguing that he did his best to ensure the MDP prevailed in recent local elections. However, it was recently alleged that he was considering quitting the party sometime around the end of the World Cup finals. Hahn has said he would seek to resolve the issue of Rep. Kim's future behind the scenes. The MDP plans to discuss proposals about a set of institutional measures to combat corruption, including the establishment of an investigation agency charged with looking into corruption cases involving senior government officials, at the plenary session of the special committee for political reform next Wednesday. Then, the party will reflect the decisions in proposed legislation and the campaign pledges of its presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun. With this agreement, the embattled party is likely to put to rest the simmering internal dispute for the time being as the ball is now in the court of Chong Wa Dae and Rep. Kim. So far, reformist lawmakers have been pitted against the party's old guard, represented by the Tonggyo-dong faction _ a group of President Kim's loyalists from the time when he was an opposition leader _ over how to make a clean break from President Kim. The president has become a serious political liability for the MDP and its presidential candidate Roh, as corruption scandals close to him have alienated the public from the party even though he no longer belongs to it. During the three-hour session, supreme councilors were at odds over such issues as the fate of Rep. Kim and the embattled think tank. ``Applying pressure on a fellow lawmaker about his future course of action through the media is wrong,'' said Rep. Chung Kyun-hwan. His remarks were echoed by former MDP chairman Han Kwang-ok, who said that the decision should be Rep. Kim's. In a related development, Roh and Hahn held a breakfast meeting and agreed that Hahn would play a key role in making a clean break from President Kim.

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/28/2002

GNP Slams MDP's Anti-Corruption Drive

Suh Chung-won, chairman of the Grand National Party, yesterday called for the dissolution of President Kim Dae-jung's private think tank and the resignation of Chong Wa Dae Chief of Staff Park Jie-won. ``The property of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Region, which proved to be the hotbed of corruption scandals, should be sent to the state coffers and Presidential Chief of Staff Park Jie-won should be sacked as soon as possible,'' Rep. Suh said in a meeting of key party post-holders. Suh's remarks came at a time when the anti-corruption campaign of the Millennium Democratic Party, founded and formerly led by President Kim Dae-jung, is about to go into full swing. After suffering a crushing defeat in recent local elections, the embattled MDP has been searching for measures to clean its corruption-tainted image, which originated from a spate of influence-peddling scandals that involved President Kim's sons and close aides. Pundits analyzed that the GNP has resumed its attacks against the government and the MDP over the corruption cases in an effort to thwart the MDP's efforts to renew the reputation of the party. In a similar tenor, the GNP also tried to devaluate the MDP's efforts to stamp out corruption. Nam Kyung-phil, GNP spokesperson, said, ``The MDP is clinging to disguised contrition rather than showing sincere remorse. We doubt whether it has any intention to clear away corruption.'' Rep. Nam added the MDP should accept the GNP's demands such as the introduction of the special prosecution system, parliamentary investigation and televised hearings of the trials of the president's sons. GNP chairman Suh said, ``The MDP is now chanting about anti-corruption measures. However, it should first make sincere efforts to reveal the truth behind the cases.'' Since last year, the conservative GNP and its presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang have enjoyed enormous benefits by attacking the government and the MDP, which have been dogged by graft scandals. Ultimately, the single largest parliamentary force scored an overwhelming victory in the June 13 local elections, claiming 11 posts out of 16 in the mayoral and gubernatorial elections. The GNP and its presidential nominee Lee seem to be keeping to the strategy of separating roles of the two, with the party leadership, spearheaded by Chairman Suh, fulfilling the job of attacking the government and the presidential candidate concentrating on policy developments. (by Ryu Jin)

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/25/2002

MDP Seeks to Scrap Lawmakers' Privileges

The Millennium Democratic Party is considering suggesting a revision of the National Assembly Law to open the way for the prosecution to arrest lawmakers suspected to have been involved in corruption scandals without a parliamentary consent even while the assembly is in session. It is also mulling revising its charter to exclude lawmakers and chiefs of local governments fined over 10 million won ($8,200) over corruption scandals from running on the party's ticket in elections. Currently, the prosecution requires parliamentary approval to arrest lawmakers involved in corruption scandals. The clause has come under public fire as political parties have abused it to prevent their lawmakers from being arrested even when there is a clear evidence against them by keeping the parliamentary session open. This and other anti-corruption programs are expected to be unveiled by Hahn Hwa-kap, MDP chairman, in a press conference early this week. ``To win back the hearts and minds of the public, we have to declare our stern position on corruption and show the public that the party has changed,'' said a key MDP official, adding that Hahn is considering announcing a set of anti-corruption measures early this week. The move came at a time when the public opinion has turned against the MDP due to a spate of corruption scandals involving the sons and aides of President Kim Dae-jung. In addition, the MDP is seeking to establish an investigation agency charged with digging corruption scandals involving family members and relatives of the president, and senior government officials. Also under consideration is a measure to reveal the wealth of family members and relatives of the president, and improve the transparency in collecting and executing political funds. The scandal-marred party is allegedly considering announcing its position on how to set new relations with President Kim, including the fate of MDP Rep. Kim Hong-il, the eldest son of President Kim, and President Kim's Peace Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Region. Rep. Kim has been pressured by fellow lawmakers to leave the party as a gesture of taking moral responsibility for the corruption scandals involving his younger brothers.

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/22/2002

 

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Donors Warn Cambodia on Reforms

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (Reuters) -- Foreign donors expected to offer Cambodia some $500 million in aid for the next year warned on Friday they would not be so generous in future unless there was progress in fighting graft and protecting the environment. Donors meeting in Phnom Penh for the annual Consultative Group meeting are set to announce their aid package later on Friday. But the money comes with conditions attached, and many donors say promised reform has failed to materialise. "Demonstrable limits on the Royal Cambodian government's capacity and perhaps willingness to make progress reinforce the need for prioritisation. A pattern of increased donor support should not be taken as a given," representatives from Britain said in a statement. They said the government had achieved "overall disappointing progress against the action points agreed at the 2001 Consultative Group meeting, with only four of 10 points done and at best modest progress in the areas judged partially done." Donors want an improvement in the pace of reform, particularly in fighting corruption, judicial and legal reform, human rights, fiscal development, demobilisation of the military and environmental issues such as logging. The United States said future aid would also depend on whether general elections next year were free and fair. "Support for free and fair national elections will be a priority for U.S. assistance in the coming year," the U.S. delegation said in a statement. "If the conduct of the 2003 national elections provides a safe environment for all participants to compete... we can anticipate a basic reexamination of remaining restrictions on U.S. assistance to Cambodia." World Bank country director Ian Porter, co-chair of the meeting, said the past year had seen significant progress by the government. "But progress with respect to anti-corruption and legal and judicial reform has been disappointing," he said. "It is critical that the government's overall strategies and policy pronouncements are translated into effective implementation and real results." Donors give Cambodia about $500 million each year, or more than half the country's annual state budget. Cambodia received $560 million in aid last year and $548 million in 2000, and is now seeking $484 million a year over the next three years. Cambodia has been discussing for much of the last decade a possible trial of former leaders of the notorious Khmer Rouge regime which oversaw the deaths of some 1.7 million people during the late 1970s. But years of talks between the United Nations and Cambodia over setting up a tribunal broke down this year. Committed to justicePrime Minister Hun Sen told the meeting on Thursday he was committed to justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" but that a successful trial would require considerable financial assistance from overseas. There have been questions, however, about Hun Sen's real commitment to a Khmer Rouge trial. Hun Sen, himself a former low-level member of the Khmer Rouge, has been accused of foot-dragging to prevent what could be an embarrassment for many senior Cambodian figures, including top members of his party. Sam Rainsy, a former finance minister who heads the opposition Sam Rainsy party, said aid money had been wasted. "In spite of billions of dollars that have been lavishly poured into this country over the last nine years, the Cambodian people continue to live in poverty," he said in a statement. "I hope the donors will not be fooled again."

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/21/2002


KPU Seeks Rp 2.3 Trillion for 2004 General Election

The General Election Commission (KPU) needs Rp 2.3 trillion for organizing and conducting the 2004 polls across the nation, KPU members officially told a hearing at House Commission II for legal and home affairs on Thursday."We will be setting up over 300,000 polling stations across 30 provinces, and nearly 400 regencies," KPU member Imam Budidarmawan Prasodjo, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia, told the hearing. "This is not forgetting the 3 million staff who will need training in voter education, before being deployed in provinces and regencies to supervise the voting process nationwide." In the 1999 elections, Rp 1.3 trillion in election funds was allocated from the national budget. Imam said this figure was bound to increase since prices of several election necessities has sharply risen since then. KPU deputy chairman Ramlan Surbekti added that the funds were needed for other critical matters such as the formation of a permanent KPU secretariat office with its own committee in regencies and provinces. "This permanency is needed for continuity ... for supervising future elections and to secure all election assets in provinces and regencies, which can be reused in all coming elections," Ramlan told the hearing. Following the June 1999 elections, he said, 5,000 typewriters that had been allocated for the use of elections remain unaccounted for. He said that funds for the 2004 polls were also needed to set up an online database system that records and updates the number of voters and population data. This he said, would be continually updated by KPU secretariat members from information provided to them by district and subdistrict offices. "Accuracy of such data is crucial during elections. Anybody for instance, in a district or subdistrict who weds, dies or moves out, will be noted by subdistrict and district offices," Ramlan told The Jakarta Post. "Staffers of KPU secretariats will be trained to coordinate with these offices in order to get such data." The 1999 law on elections stipulates that KPU is responsible for determining the number of seats in the legislature, both at the national and regency levels. However, data on district populations, considered the most accurate information to calculate regency populations because of the fast expansion of districts, had not been available to KPU since they had no access to population records. Commission members earlier had used data from the 1997 election which was based on 1995 statistics. The home affairs ministry had said that 11 newly established regencies must be included with the existing 316 regencies. The commission, forced to redetermine the allotment of legislative seats, decided to base its calculations on the latest population figures. Some forecasted operational expenses for 2004 polls: 1. Payment of staff members setting up polling stations (Rp 235 billion) 2. Establishment of secretariats, committees on national and regional level (Rp 432 billion) 3. Official trips (Rp 155 billion) 4. Polling station equipment, printers, ballot papers, stationery, voting administration needs (Rp 734 billion) 5. Voters registration, recording population data, etc. (Rp 375 billion) 6. Setting up Election Information System for records of voters and population data (Rp 120 billion). (by Moch. N. Kurniawan, Yogita Tahilramani)

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 06/21/2002

Legislators to Question Bambang Tri on Banpres

An investigation into irregularities in the Presidential Aid Fund (Banpres) is widening, with House of Representatives members planning to summon former president Soeharto's son Bambang Trihatmodjo and businessman Bambang Riyadi Sugama.House Commission I member Djoko Susilo said on Thursday the two would be summoned as members of the Sea Games Consortium, which borrowed Rp 70 billion from the Banpres in 1997 and still has not repaid the money. "The House will summon the two businessmen as soon as possible to demand that they return the money to the state," Djoko said after questioning former assistant state secretary Bambang Sutanto over the matter. Djoko, who is a member of the Commission I team set up to look into abuses of Banpres, refused to say exactly when his team would question the two men. The Sea Games Consortium was established to organize and sponsor the biannual sports event involving member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Indonesia hosted in 1997. Most consortium members were family members and associates of former president Soeharto. Bambang Sutanto, who administered the fund from 1996 to June 2000, said on Thursday that Soeharto ordered him to give Rp 70 billion to the consortium. "As far as I can remember, they never returned the money to the state," said Bambang, who now works in the Vice Presidential Office. He also told the House team that the Tapos plantation received Rp 6.7 billion from the fund, which has not been repaid. Tapos is owned by Soeharto. Bambang Sutanto was the fifth former and current state official summoned by the House during its investigation into irregularities in Banpres, a fund established by Soeharto in 1984. The investigation was triggered by President Megawati Soekarnoputri's announcement earlier this year that she had given Rp 30 billion to the Indonesian Military and the National Police to build housing for their personnel. Megawati originally failed to reveal the source of the money, stirring speculation that Megawati's camp was illegally collecting funds from the public to buy the military and police's support in the 2004 general election. State/Cabinet Secretary Bambang Kesowo belatedly told the House in May that the money was taken from Banpres. His explanation prompted House Commission I to investigate irregularities in Banpres. The House has already summoned former state secretaries Moerdiono, Muladi and Ali Rachman, and former presidential secretary Abdul Mudjib Manan. Bondan Gunawan, Djohan Effendy and current State Secretary Bambang Kesowo are scheduled to be summoned next week. Bambang Sutanto said there was some Rp 476 billion and US$14 million in Banpres when he handed it over to his successor Djohan Effendy in June 2000. He also said President Megawati, in the beginning of her tenure last year, ordered Bambang Kesowo to combine the fund and hand it over to the Ministry of Finance. "Bambang Kesowo returned the fund to the Ministry of Finance in May this year," Bambang Sutanto said. (by Fabiola Desy Unidjaja)

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 06/21/2002

IMF Says Indonesia Needs Legal Dev't to Lift Economy

Jakarta - Indonesia needs improvements in its legal system to win investments that would create economic growth and reduce poverty in the long run, a statement from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington said. The comment on Friday by IMF Deputy Managing Director Anne Krueger came a week after Canada-based Manulife Financial Corp.'s Indonesian unit was declared bankrupt by an Indonesian court in a legal tussle between Manulife and its former Indonesian partner. Manulife is appealing. The receiver appointed by the Indonesian commercial court to verse the management and assets of the unit, PT Asuransi Jiwa Manulife Indonesia, had testified against Manulife in a Hong Kong court in 2000, a court affidavit obtained by Bloomberg News shows, leading Manulife to question the neutrality of the court. The Canadian government is considering sanctions against Indonesia over its treatment of Asuransi Jiwa Manulife Indonesia. Canada is a member of the Consultative Group on Indonesia, international lenders who pledged $3.14 billion to the country in November to help cover its budget deficit. In her comments, IMF's Krueger said "more forceful progress is needed, notably with respect to creation of an anti-corruption commission, reform of the commercial court and revision of the bankruptcy law." Without referring to the Manulife case specifically, she said "a recent high-profile controversial ruling underscores the need for an acceleration of reforms." The IMF extended $358 million in loans last Friday, having now disbursed $2.6 billion of a $4.7- billion loan program. Manulife employs 4,000 people in Indonesia and has an estimated 400,000 customers.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 06/25/2002

Akbar Denies He Misused State Funds

JAKARTA: Fighting back tears at his corruption trial, the speaker of Indonesia's Parliament testified that he feels "heavy hearted" about being accused of misusing state funds and denied any wrongdoing. "The public already considers me guilty. But I don't think I've done anything wrong," Akbar Tandjung told a courtroom filled with 100 of his supporters. It was his first time taking the stand in his three-month-long trial. Akbar is charged with abuse of power and corruption for allegedly misusing US$4.5mil (RM17.1mil) of funds from state food agency Bulog that were earmarked for food distribution in 1999. The crimes allegedly took place when he was the government's state secretary. Yesterday, he blamed a co-defendant for misusing the money. President Megawati Sukarnoputri has promised to get tough on powerful politicians who break the law. Akbar's case is considered a test of Megawati's willingness to act on those promises and reform a court system seen as corrupt and inefficient. Akbar initially appeared composed as he methodically answered questions about the Bulog scandal. But towards the end of his four-hour testimony, he lamented tearfully that the public had already branded him a crook. "I feel heavy hearted because the situation is very serious," he told the court. Akbar, the leader of Golkar party, could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. - AP

From http://thestar.com.my/ 06/18/2002

Senior Government Officials to Clear Their Names in Public

HA NOI - Six senior officials, including two members of the Communist Party of Viet Nam's (CPV's) Central Committee, have been ordered to make reports on their responsibilities for issues relating to the crime gang of Nam Cam. Nam Cam, the head of a notorious organised crime gang, was apprehended recently. The request has come from the Party's Politburo and Secretariat. The first official to self-criticise will be Lieutenant General Bui Quoc Huy, member of the Party Central Committee, Deputy Minister of Public Security and former director of the HCM City Police. The second official, Major General Hoang Ngoc Nhat, Deputy Minister of Public Security will have to explain why he signed the decision to release crime boss Nam Cam before the end of his prison term in 1997. The other four officials are: Major General Do Nam, head of the Public Security Ministry's Department for Prison and Rehabilitation Centre Management; Pham Si Chien, former deputy director of the Supreme People's Procuracy; Tran Mai Hanh, CPV Central Committee member, former deputy chairman and former general secretary of the Viet Nam Journalists' Association, and former general director of Voice of Viet Nam (VOV) radio; Le Thanh Dao, deputy director of the Party Commission for Mass Mobilisation, and former director of the Supreme People's Procuracy. The Public Security Ministry's Party Committee, the Politburo appointed Party Board of the Supreme People's Procuracy, and HCM City's Party Standing Committee were also forced to do self-criticism over two days from June 18-19.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/20/2002

Malaysia Rules Out Early Elections

In what will be a major test of his leadership, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, Mahathir's anointed successor, will lead the ruling United Malays National Organization in elections that it expects to win over the Islamic fundamentalist opposition. "Abdullah would have about a year to consolidate himself as leader of the party and the government before facing the general elections," an UMNO official said Friday on condition of anonymity. Speculation has been building that Mahathir, 76, would lead the party one last time in general elections before giving up power to Abdullah in October 2003 following a summit of Islamic nations in Kuala Lumpur. Mahathir, who has overseen Malaysia's transformation into one of Asia's richest nations in 21 years in power, shocked the country last weekend when he announced without warning at the party's annual congress that he was resigning. Party leaders persuaded him to retract the resignation. Under a transition plan announced Tuesday, Mahathir will hand over his powers as party chief and head of government to Abdullah, 62, in 16 months in a smooth transition to ensure stability. Party officials said on condition of anonymity that Mahathir has indicated his wish for Abdullah to lead the party and government in the next elections, and that they should not be moved up to 2003 as loyalists have been pushing. Abdullah would "give continuity to policies laid out by Mahathir" over the past 21 years, an official said, denying reports that Abdullah might replace Mahathir's economic advisers, who are highly respected by foreign investors. Mahathir will keep his eye fixed on the economy, the official said, and is likely to appoint a second finance minister to help him. He has held the finance portfolio for more than a year. Abdullah is likely to take over key tasks in running the government when Mahathir returns next week from a holiday in Italy. Mahathir has indicated that he would like to focus on a few major tasks such as education, and party matters, the official said. The fundamentalists are perceived to be losing popularity following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States. Mahathir's party hopes to reverse opposition gains from elections in 1999 in reaction to anger over the firing and jailing of his then-deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. Mahathir has strengthened the party since 1999, and Abdullah, dubbed the "Mr. Clean" of Malaysian politics and a seasoned campaigner, has tried to forge unity and to dispel criticism of corruption. Abdullah spearheaded the party in several by-elections victories over the past two years against the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, whose biggest gain in 1999 was winning control of a second of Malaysia's 13 states. Abdullah faces his next test soon -- to contest by-elections for the parliamentary and state assembly seats that became empty Sunday when the fundamentalists' leader, Fadzil Noor, died after recent bypass surgery. Abdullah has his own strong Islamic credentials and a corruption-free image, and opposition leaders privately admit that his looming ascendancy will made defending Fadzil's seats more difficult. A sympathy vote for the fundamentalists because of Fadzil's death is a possibility, however. Fadzil, a moderate, was an architect of an opposition coalition with widely disparate ideologies in 1999 that capitalized on public disapproval over the treatment of Anwar. The coalition would have made the charismatic Anwar -- who had been deputy leader of the ruling party but is also close to the fundamentalists -- prime minister if it had won. Anwar has been convicted of sodomy and corruption and is serving prison terms totaling 15 years. He claims he was framed to prevent him from challenging Mahathir for power. The government denies it.

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/28/2002

Arroyo Vows Drive VS Corruption

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday renewed her commitment to good governance and vowed to rid her administration of graft and corruption during the National Grand Breakfast of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals in Hotel Intercon in Makati City. (by Genalyn D. Kabiling & Ferdie J. Maglalang)

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 06/26/2002

Thailand to Set Up FBI-Style Agency

BANGKOK -- The Thai cabinet has approved the establishment of a special investigation agency which is dubbed as a Thai version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the state-owned radio reported Wednesday. The cabinet made the decision of setting up the Special Cases Department (SCD) later Tuesday without much debate because it had already been discussed by Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbaransi and representatives of the government agencies concerned. The new security agency will be formally launched in October in line with the implementation of the bureaucratic reform. Justice Minister Chaturon Chaisang said the planned SCD will not have more power than the Royal Thai Police but will focus on cases that require specialists such as economic crimes or cases affecting national security.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/05/2002

Call for More Transparency

The Thai Asset Management Corporation has been urged to encourage firms to reveal details of major corporate debt restructuring in order to build public confidence in its operations. Somkid Jatusripitak, a deputy prime minister and finance minister, told TAMC senior executives yesterday to persuade owners of large companies to disclose the details. ``It is the duty of the TAMC to convince the debtors to accept public disclosure. The government wants to create transparency in debt restructuring,'' he said. The TAMC is prohibited by law from disclosing specific details of restructuring on a case by case basis. However, as a result, the agency has been under fire for an alleged lack of transparency. The agency has responded by setting up a complaints centre for the public. An audit committee, headed by Securities and Exchange Commission secretary-general Prasarn Trairatvorakul, has authority to examine each case and file lawsuit if warranted. The TAMC has restructured loans totalling 150 billion baht since October, including 18 billion baht in the past month. It aims to reach 200 billion baht by the end of this month and 500 billion baht this year. ``TAMC will restructure more medium-size and large loans. It should apply the law strictly and extend new credit lines to the borrowers once the restructuring is finished,'' Mr Somkid said. The government planned to transfer to the TAMC individual loans of less than 50 million baht to 60,000 debtors of state-owned banks. Sathit Limpongpan, the TAMC's executive chairman, said the agency would ask the state-owned banks for co-operation in managing the assets. The assets which would be newly transferred were mostly in the industries that the government support. They would be an important base for future industrial developments, he said. Mr Somkid said excess liquidity in the money market would be reduced by government bond issues and privatisation. He expected the Airports Authority of Thailand to be privatised in October, while the Telephone Organisation of Thailand and the Communications Authority of Thailand were also expected to be privatised separately this year. Krung Thai Bank and Bank Thai were expected to begin distributing shares this year. (by Wichit Sirithaveeporn)

From http://scoop.bangkokpost.co.th/ 06/06/2002

Thai Women Mps on Verge of Parliamentary Trousers Victory

Women MPs in Thailand have come a step closer to being allowed to wear trousers in parliament.But the women will only be allowed to wear either grey or black pairs - brighter colours will still be banned.The Thai parliament has passed a resolution changing its long-standing rules.The parliament's president must now approve it.Current rules ban women from wearing trousers except with the express permission from the senate speaker, The Straits Times reports.Senate speaker Uthai Pimchaichon proposed the motion.The committee on parliamentary affairs concluded women MPs find it difficult to carry out some constituency duties in skirts and changing into them for parliament wastes time.Committee spokesman Jakkraphan Yomchinda said it would pass on the recommendation for the change to be approved by parliament's president Uthai Pimchaichon."I think approval may be granted soon and the female MPs will get to wear slacks to parliament in the next parliamentary session," he said.

From http://www.ananova.com/ 06/08/2002

Malaysia's Mahathir Stands Down

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has announced he is resigning from all positions in the government and ruling party after 21 years in power. Mahathir broke the news during his closing speech at the annual congress of the ruling United Malays National Organization on Saturday, The Associated Press reported. The news was greeted with disbelief and chants of "Mahathir! Mahathir!" His voice choked with emotion when he said: "I wish to announce I am resigning from UMNO and all positions in the National Front." Mahathir did not specifically say that he was stepping down as prime minister, but that appeared to be the case, AP added. The televised resignation sent a shock wave through Southeast Asia where Mahathir, leader of the nation's 23 million population, has established himself on the world stage. During his two decades in power, Malaysia has become one of the wealthiest countries in Asia, and Mahathir had earlier earmarked the government's programs. The news shocked party loyalists, who had been increasingly confident the 76-year-old would lead them in early general elections next year. "Why?" shouted Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz. "I have decided," Mahathir said. "It's been a long time." He was later mobbed by supporters. Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, Deputy Prime Minister and deputy leader of UMNO, is expected to take over both positions. Sufi Yussof, Mahathir's press secretary, said that senior party leaders were refusing to accept the resignation. In a long career championing the economic advancement of the Malay Muslim majority, Mahathir has juggled the country's racial problems while building one of Asia's strongest economies. Most recently, he has emerged as a moderate Muslim leader in the global anti-terrorism effort. Malaysia has arrested 62 people over the past year who are suspected of plotting terror attacks and attempting to establish a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/22/2002

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Nationwide CBI Raids on Govt Officials

In a nationwide operation, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday raided 66 premises belonging to senior government officials including a retired High Court judge and recovered cash, investments and gold worth crores of rupees. The biggest catch of the day was Maithili Rani, an Indian Revenue Service Officer of the 1979 batch who was posted in Hyderabad as Income Tax Commissioner (Appeals). Rs 1.5 crore in cash, fixed deposit receipts worth Rs 77 lakh, four kg of gold and diamonds worth about Rs 20 lakh was recovered from her house. Rani was also found to own residential property worth about Rs 70 lakh. Raids on the premises of R.A. Verma, Joint Commissioner of Income Tax in Jaipur, led to Rs 22 lakh in cash being seized. He was also found to own three houses, a farmhouse in Jaipur and three cars. All this is worth over Rs 1 crore. The CBI also raided the premises of M.R. Agnihotri, a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He is now the chairman of the Punjab Oil Selection Board. Sleuths from the agency seized Rs 15 lakh in cash from the house of A.Dev, an engineer with Oil India Ltd posted in Assam. Dev also owns seven flats and four plots of land. Cash and investments worth Rs 12 lakh were recovered from Prabin Chandra Das of the Telecom Department in Guhawati. The agency also raided the premises of three senior officials of the Vishakhapatnam Steel Plant and recovered over Rs 22 lakh in cash and investments from them. The premises of three senior officials of United India Insurance Company in Mumbai were also raided. This is the second time the CBI has launched a countrywide operation against corrupt Government officials. In an earlier operation in February, more than 500 CBI teams had raided premises of government officials across the country. The operation yielded over Rs 5 crore in cash and investments.

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/11/2002

Ninth Plan and National Budget Report

In today's session of the National Assembly the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, will be reporting on the Ninth Five Year Plan followed by the minister of finance, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba who will be presenting the national budget for the financial year 2002-2003 and reporting on the national budget for the previous year 2001-2002.

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 06/26/2002

I-T Dept Set to Develop IT as Its Backbone

New Delhi: The income tax department is set to develop information technology-based functioning as the backbone of tax collection during the current financial year. Implementation of pilot projects for speedy mass processing of returns and online transmission of tax payment/refund data between the department and banks, and computer-based taxpayer help scheme with various facilities are among the steps to be taken during the current fiscal to facilitate switchover from manual to electronic functioning. Completion of the permanent account number (PAN) grievance fortnight by June 15 is also one of the major action areas identified by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) for computerisation during 2002-03. Revenue department sources said PAN data will now be made available to other user departments through leased lines and to taxpayers through the Internet with necessary security and safeguards. They added the pilot project for speedy mass processing of returns has been developed with the help of the Canadian revenue department. The project will be implemented in Mumbai from July. CBDT has already issued a draft notification for filing of bulk returns of employees by their employer in a computer-readable medium under the Suvidha scheme. The department will provide facilities to ensure that from July onwards, returns are received only after verification of the PAN. Basic data of returns including PAN, income and refund, will be captured on computers to generate a computerised-return receipt register. At 60 centres on the I-T network, returns will be processed on networked computers using integrated software. The returns at other centres will be processed on stand-alone PCs till they come on the network. Sources said intensive training is being undertaken in the I-T department to handle computerised system of filing returns. Computer-based training programs have already been supplied to achieve this goal, they added. The computer-based taxpayer help scheme called 'Sampark' will provide interactive voice response service with fax facility at major centres, self-service information kiosks in major cities, and a simple return preparation software on the web and through offline media for generating returns with the help of a question-answer session. Among other measures, CBDT will create a databank of transactions where quoting of PAN is mandatory, and also those where tax is liable to be deducted at source. One direct benefit of implementing this scheme will be digitisation of a large part of TDS returns, sources said, adding a detailed plan for augmentation of departmental computer resources was submitted by CBDT last January.

From http://www.financialexpress.com/ 06/03/2002

Govt Has Failed to Improve Transport System, Says BJP

BJP senior leader and Delhi affairs in-charge Madan Lal Khurana lashed out at the Congress government for its total failure to improve the power, water and transport system in the city. Khurana said the government had failed in the three major sectors which affect the lives of people. "Chief minister Sheila Dikshit is to answer for the dismal conditions in all the three areas. The BJP is going to launch a city-wide jan jagran (awareness campaign) agitation to underline the fact that it is due to corruption and incompetence of the Delhi government that the people have to suffer. Khurana who was flanked by BJP Delhi chief Mange Ram Garg said figures released by the government showed a massive slide in DTC operational level. In 1996, the total bus fleet was 29,000 but it has now dwindled to 8,000 with only 1,000 diesel buses on the road. This, when the population had gone up to nearly 1.40 crore. DTC losses which were around Rs 72 crore in 1996 touched Rs 120 crore this year. He said the manner in which the kilometer scheme had been scrapped "with undue haste" was shocking. He said the worst hit were the 1,759 DTC conductors who were on daily wages.

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/04/2002

Government Implements New Rule to Curb Corruption

Employees of the government and public sector corporations and their spouses will be governed by a new set of rules aimed at preventing them from engaging in activities which may conflict with their regular jobs. The employees are allowed to own shares in public, joint sector and private corporations but they cannot hold majority stocks of any company nor are they allowed to trade shares or bonds except those owned by them. The new "private trade and employment rule", introduced by the government last month, adds that employees should "declare" the business or trade of their spouses and dependents. Among other requirements and restrictions, the rule says that employees should not sit in tender committees if they have a direct interest in anyone contesting or communicate any information to the bidders, other than those officially required. The rule, which affects civil servants from grades 1 to 17 and all corporate employees "regardless of the nature of appointment", does not allow employees to hire their vehicles or rent their houses to the organization where they are working. They are, however, permitted to write books or articles on payment provided they do not use office time and resources. According to the secretary of the RCSC, Dasho Jigme Singay, the new rule aims to check corruption by preventing employees from compromising public interests. He said that the rule, which supersedes all rules and circulars issued earlier, emphasises "accountability" and is more comprehensive and detailed. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of employees, clearly specifying the boundaries within which they can operate, and defines areas or activities of private trade their spouses or dependents are allowed to take up. Spouses and dependents of employees can undertake any licensed or unlicensed trade or business activity as long as there is no "conflict of interest" in the services or products provided by them. This, for example, would mean that a corporate or government employee hosting an "official meal" cannot have it catered by his or her spouse or anyone closely related to the employee. Similarly, an official who heads an organisation cannot purchase goods and equipment from his or her spouse. The earlier rule on private trade and employment, implemented as a result of a National Assembly resolution in 1971, stated that civil servants should not be allowed to undertake private trade or commercial activities. There was no mention of spouses or dependents in the resolution. It was, however, interpreted by some quarters as applying even to spouses and dependents. Officials at the RCSC secretariat say that because of such gray areas and inherent drawbacks, the old rule could not be "effectively implemented". The new rules now give government and corporate agencies a clear sense of direction and empower them to take action against any employee breaking the rule. If employees violate any rule, they could face "administrative action", termination from service without retirement benefits, or even prosecution under criminal laws, depending on the nature and severity of violation. The new rule is generally welcomed. Many believe that it will "inject much-needed professionalism" in the corporate and civil service culture and "nip corruption in the bud". "But enforcement is more important than having the rule," one corporate employee points out. "We have too many rules that are formulated and forgotten. It remains to be seen how far we can go on this one."

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 06/21/2002

WB Approves $500m Support Ongoing Reforms Program

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): The World Bank Board of Directors Wednesday endorsed the instructions strategic roadmap for continued engagement with Pakistan and approved a US $500 million credit to support the ongoing implementation of Pakistan's reform program and debt reduction strategy. The new Country Assistance Strategy (CAS), which will guide the Bank's work in Pakistan over the next three years, focuses on supporting those key reform that will put the country on a path of sustainable growth needed to generate the resources for improvement in the education and health of all Pakistanis. The US $ 500 million Second Structural Adjustment credit, provides balance of payment and is triggered by a number of reforms already under implementation including government improvement and increased on social service delivery, such as education. "Today we look forward to continuing our support to Pakistan," said John wall, World Bank Country Director Of Pakistan. "The Country Assistance Strategy keeps a relentless focus on reforms which creating the fiscal space for aggressive human development efforts. The balance of payment support finances reforms already achieve or in progress. As our CAS notes there remain a huge challenge ahead for Pakistan to really make an impact on the lives of its many poor citizens and in the worlds of its own leaders, make Government of Pakistan and, simultaneously, sent a firm message to move eve faster." The CAS was developed in extensive consultations held across Pakistan and voices villages, towns and cities contributed to shaping the final document that was discussed today. One of the guiding principles of this document was that it should reflect the country's own strong ownership of reforms. As Pakistan's authorities had already launched an economical revival plan in late 1999, before going on to formulate the current Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), a home-ground plan was already firmly in place to underpin the CAS. The Second Structural Adjustment Credit supports the ongoing implementation of the Government's PRSP and its focus on engendering growth, improving governance and human development, and enhancing social protection and employment opportunities for the poor. The PRSP outlines an ambitious program of reforms for economic policies. The various actions supported by this credit contribute to maintaining macro economic stability and laying the foundation for growth and poverty reduction by: Accelerating power sector reforms by restoring the sector's financial viability and its expansion; Revamping the tax administration system to improve governance and increase revenues; Improving the effectiveness of social services through civil service reforms, and enhanced transparency and accountability in the use of public resources; Accelerating the implementation of the education sector reforms action plan and the new national health policy; and establishing monitoring and evaluations system to assess progress in the implementation of the poverty reduction strategy. The credit, from the international development association the world bank's concessionaire lending arm, has a 35- year maturity with a 10-year grace period and a 0.75% service charges.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/13/2002

Govt's Role in Power Transmission Limited

The Delhi Government has limited the role of government-owned transmission company in electricity distribution with the decision to hand over 66 kv sub-stations to Tata Power and Bombay Suburban Electricity Supply Limited, the two companies which have bought three distribution regions of Delhi. According to Power secretary Ramesh Chandra, the role of transmission company (Transco) will be limited to supplying power to areas under New Delhi Municipal Council and Cantonment. To the rest of the government undertakings like Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Public Works Department, Delhi Jal Board, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Delhi Police, the power will be distributed by the private companies. "It will not be possible for Transco to supply power directly as network to be used will be of the distribution companies. So, the money from them will also be collected by these private companies who will provide power and the undertakings will have to pay the bills regularly," he said. Transco could have distributed power to government undertakings had the government decided only to provide 11 kv sub-stations to the private distributors. Government officials say sub-stations up to 66 kv are being given to the distribution companies for accountability and ensuring steady power supply. "Only NDMC and Cantonment will get power directly from Transco but it will be at a higher price as the power will not be subsidised and the bulk power tariff is being revised," an official said. Chandra, however, assured that all important utilities like DMRC would get power from more than one source. "If there is power in any part of Delhi, DMRC will definitely get electricity. But if northern grid trips then even metro rail will come to a halt," he added.

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/20/2002

Report on Public Services Quality Released

MALE, (HNS) - The Public Service Division of the President's Office has released a report on the projects that were undertaken by government offices last year to improve the quality of services they provide to the public and to foster and promote the spirit of service among government officials.This report includes information on the work undertaken by the government to improve and speed up the delivery of services as well as information about the projects undertaken by various government offices to develop services offered to the public. Some of the important activities carried out by government offices for this purpose include improving counter services, establishment of websites to disseminate information about the offices, establishment of computer networks, preparation of databases, orientation programmes for new entrants, customer surveys and revision of regulations aimed at the public. In the Presidential Address of 2000, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said that the policy of the government was to improve the quality and accessibility of services to the public while instilling a spirit of service delivery and work ethic in all government offices. Additional projects to improve quality of service is to be carried out this year.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 06/04/2002

President Reconstitutes the National Law Commission

MALE, (HNS) - President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has reconstituted the National Law Commission. The Attorney-General Mohamed Munawwar was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission, and Shaheen Hameed as the Vice-Chairman.The work of the Commission will be administered by the Vice-Chairman in consultation with the Chairman. The other members of the Commission are Ahmed Hameed Fahmee, Mariya Ahmed Didi, Adam Mohamed Abdulla, Aishath Azima Shakoor, Abdulla Muizz, Ali Niyaz and Deena Hussain.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 06/13/2002

Ministry Approves Draft Law: IT Accreditation Council

ISLAMABAD: The law ministry has approved a draft law on Accreditation Council for Education in IT after constant persuasion by science and technology minister Dr Attaur Rehman, an official source told Dawn. "Now the draft ordinance, intended to streamline and standardize the mushroom growth of different IT institutes in the country, is ready to be submitted before the Cabinet for final endorsement," the source said. Earlier, the law ministry had rejected the law on the grounds that education fell within the provincial domain under the 1973 Constitution, the source said. The draft ordinance, submitted to the law ministry few months ago for vetting, was prepared by the science and technology ministry after it had to seek its approval from the chief executive office when the education ministry failed to respond for 18 months. The ordinance lays down minimum requirements of IT education to ensure that the institutions have the required physical, professional and financial resources. According to the draft ordinance, only those IT institutions that conform to the minimum requirements will be granted accreditation by the council in the public as well as private sectors. The council will comprise eight members, out of which the chairman is to be nominated by the federal government, while the members, including a woman, will be prominent IT educationists. The law also bars those institutions from operating that have not been granted accreditation by restricting them from issuing certificates, diplomas and degrees in IT disciplines. The draft law also empowers the council to withdraw accreditation if it finds that an institution is unable to meet minimum requirements. The council can also validate the curricula and syllabi of the accredited institutions of higher education, and supervise their academic programme and development schemes. This is to ensure that the internal procedures for review and upgradation of curricula remain effective even after accreditation has been granted. It will also inspect the institutions to ensure that the minimum requirements are being met, besides monitoring academic performance, internal procedures for course development, quality control, standard of education and staff development programmes. In addition to this, it will conduct periodic academic audit of institutions that have been granted accreditation. The council will prepare the syllabi and formulate recommendations and guidelines for improving the standards and quality of teaching, education, research and system of examination to maintain uniform standards. With the help of local, federal or provincial governments' agencies, it can also close an institution or withdraw affiliation, if standards are not maintained and any provision of the ordinance is violated. It can also ask for reports or any other information from the institutions and undertake any other measures with the approval of the government to enforce accreditation if the institution fails to cooperate with the council or comply with the rules and regulation laid down by it. The council will also force the institutions to inform the general public of their accreditation. It will prepare the list of the accredited institutions for the information of the public. Under the law, an appeal against the final order of the council can be filed within 60 days. The decision will be taken by the federal government within 90 day.

From http://www.dawn.com/ 05/31/2002

New Budget May Bring More Taxes for Govt Servants

ISLAMABAD: The forthcoming budget is feared to bring more tax for the government servants instead of giving them the relief in the shape of promised salaries rise.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/06/2002

PTCL to Set Up Co-Location Centers

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL) has decided to establish Co-Location centers throughout the country. The step is aimed at promoting the IT industry in Pakistan. The Data and Internet Service Providers and other IT concerns will install their equipment directly in PTCL building in ready fitted environment, said Akhtar Ahmad Bajwa, Chairman PTCL while talking to a group of newsmen here on Wednesday. This step would directly benefit new firms and will locate in these centers, he added. The first center at Islamabad is expected to be operational in the 3rd week of June while the rest would become operational within two months. The three co-location centers will be completed by an investment of about Rs 20 million. He told to the journalists that the decision was part of Government's policy, which PTCL promptly implemented in the interest of promotion of Information Technology in the country. He said, to begin with, such centers would be functional in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore in order to offer standard IT, Internet and telecom related facilities to the new IT/telecom entrepreneurs. These centers will be fully equipped with the facilities such as fully fitted premises, no break power supply, air conditioning, security and proximity of infrastructure for customers to access the IT platforms, he added. The major advantage of these centers is to eliminate duplication of infrastructure and save heavy investment in costly remote access to reduce service launch time for star-up companies and improve quality, he added. The Chairman PTCL said, these centers will facilitate the service providers with better business opportunities to start functioning even with smaller capital. In addition, PTCL is also planning to extend similar facilities to other cities like Peshawar, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Hyderabad and Quetta under the Co-location policy within next six months. These facilities will help in expanding the IT market as well as the telecom business and will result in attracting the valued customers in the face of the impending competition.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/06/2002

IT Official Held, CBI Raids Yield Rs 10 Crore in Black Money

New Delhi: Nationwide raids by the CBI on Tuesday at over 83 places in the country has led to seizure of black money of crores of rupees and arrest of one Joint Commissioner of I-T from Jaipur for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. CBI sources said R.A. Varma, an IRS officer of the 1985 batch, was arrested after the agency recovered Rs 22 lakh cash from his locker. He also reportedly possesses two houses, a farmhouse in Jaipur, four cars - two Toyota Qualis, a Maruti Esteem and a Tata Indica - Rs 2 lakh worth jewellery and Rs 50 lakh in his PPF account, CBI sources said. The CBI raids have yielded cash and immovable assets of over Rs 10 crore. Raids on the residence and official premises of the chairman of Oil Selection Board in Chandigarh, M.R. Agnihotri, yielded moveable and immovable property worth Rs two crore. He owns a showroom, a plot in Panchkula, two flats in Delhi, two houses in Chandigarh and Haryana, and investments worth Rs 35 lakh, CBI sources said. CBI has registered a case against the chairman, a retired judge, for allegedly committing forgery and cheating in allotting petrol pumps.

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/12/2002

 

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Afghan Grand Council Loya Jirga Opens in Kabul

Leader of Afghanistan's interim administration Hamid Karzai said Tuesday the transitional government to be selected at the Loya Jirga faced a major task in eradicating corruption and the influence of warlords. Speaking at the opening session of the Loya Jirga assemble in the capital, Karzai said, "There is bribery and corruption in the government departments. Any future administration should rid the country of corruption and bribery." He also said that the Afghan people need honor, dignity, education and progress. Men and Women ask for education and want to go to university. United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi congratulated Karzai for his performance over the six months as interim leader and praised his administration for holding the Loya Jirga.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/11/2002

 

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Afghanistan Facing Task of Eradicating Corruption and Influence of Warlords: Karzai

KABUL -- Leader of Afghanistan's interim administration Hamid Karzai said Tuesday the transitional government to be selected at the Loya Jirga faced a major task in eradicating corruption and the influence of warlords. Speaking at the opening session of the Loya Jirga assemble in the capital, Karzai said, "There is bribery and corruption in the government departments. Any future administration should rid the country of corruption and bribery." He also said that the Afghan people need honor, dignity, education and progress. Men and Women ask for education and want to go to university. United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi congratulated Karzai for his performance over the six months as interim leader and praised his administration for holding the Loya Jirga. "In just under six months they have put Afghanistan back on track and established a foundation on which, God willing, the transitional authority will consolidate peace and lasting stability," he said. "The message of the Loya Jirga is a message of national unity, a message of peace and reconstruction. It is a manifestation of the free will of the Afghan people," he said. "The people of Afghanistan have suffered for more than two decades. They have suffered tragedies. Now they have a chance for happiness," he said. In his opening address, Zahir Shah asked all the delegates to give top priorities to national interests. The 87-year-old former king renewed his support for interim leader Hamid Karzai to run for the leader of the transitional government. "I deem it necessary to mention that dear Karzai has shown during this span of time qualities and efficacy, and I would like to declare that we support him and he is our candidate for the transitional period," the ex-king said. The former king also declared he has no intention to restore the monarchy. "Now that there is a chance for the Loya Jirga, I would like to support it and I would like to declare that I do nothave the intention to restore the monarchy," he said. At a joint press conference with the interim leader after theiremergent talks in his residence late Monday, Zahir Shah also expressed his support for Karzai. About 1551 delegates of the Loya Jirga, which was scheduled on Monday and postponed twice to Tuesday, will decide who will governAfghanistan for the next 18 months until the first general election in the war-torn country in 2004.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/11/2002

 

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Karzai Wins Re-Election to Lead Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's interim chairman, won a landslide re-election on Thursday in the loya jirga, the tribal assembly deciding the next step in the Afghan peace process. His election by 1,295 out of 1,575 votes cast was a foregone conclusion, as all serious competitors had withdrawn their candidacies before the jirga began. But he also delivered a masterful performance in several speeches before the jirga, outlining his vision for an Afghanistan free of warlords and free of ethnic rivalries. Mr Karzai will now serve as president of the new interim government until a new loya jirga organises popular elections in 18 months to two years, as set out in the Bonn peace accords last December. Mr Karzai benefited heavily from support of the US, which had originally championed him at Bonn, and helped pave the way for his re-election by convincing Afghanistan's former King Zahir Shah not to seek the post of head of state on Monday. The next, and probably most contentious issue the jirga will face is selection of a new interim cabinet. The Bonn peace agreement, adopted in December, gives few details on how this should be done. On Thursday Ashraf Ghani, Mr Karzai's senior adviser, said the manner of selection would be up to 21 member United Nations-appointed loya jirga commission. They would then submit this to the jirga for approval, he said. The mood of the new jirga had calmed down from Wednesday, when insults flew and debates sometimes degenerated into shoving matches between delegates. But due to the chaotic conditions election of the speaker of the jirga took place only at 6:40 am on Thursday - nearly 24 hours after the first working session started. Ismail Qasimyar, UN-appointed chairman of the loya jirga commission, was voted speaker. He ran against Abdulaziz Wasifi, a supporter of former King Zahir Shah, who accused the commission of "serious irregularities" in adding delegates at the last minute. The original number of jirga delegates was to be 1551 as of last Friday, but government officials on Thursday said that 45 had been added at the last minute, leading to charges that the interim administration was packing the jirga. Fifty had been added on Friday, as well, at the request of Mr Karzai. (by Charles Clover)


From http://news.ft.com/ 06/13/2002

 

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Afghan Women Find Political Voice

At late night "tea parties" in the dormitories of Kabul Polytechnic, where Afghanistan is conducting a grand legislative council called an emergency Loya Jirga, political newcomers fill the halls with talk of political strategies. These newcomers, 160 women who would have been banned from appearing in public under the Taliban militia, have surprised most of the male delegates with their assertiveness, leadership and organization. Despite the educational and professional setbacks the Taliban imposed during its five-year rule since 1996, these 160 women are helping enrich Afghan politics, not just helping advance women. These women have ingratiated themselves into the heart of the Loya Jirga. On June 13, when delegates elected interim government chairman Hamid Karzai to serve as president for two years, a Kabul delegate named Massouda Jalal gathered nearly 200 votes. Jalal was the first woman to run for head of state in Afghanistan. Although her loss to Karzai was something of a foregone conclusion, she is still campaigning for a position in the Karzai cabinet. A former World Food Program employee and a professor of medicine at Kabul University, Jalal won praise from male and female delegates after her fifteen-minute speech on June 13. "I am your sister and if you want me as a leader than I will be your leader," said Jalal as she tucked a wisp of dark hair under her peach-colored headscarf. "The women of Afghanistan are champions and they have to tell the world that even though they have been forced inside the home for the last five or six years they are living proof of the problems facing the Afghan people and the nation. They can free Afghanistan and the world can trust them," said Jalal. Of course, in a country where many public officials earned their reputations on the battlefield, women can make inscrutable politicians. Jalal, who would not reveal her age or ethnicity, says that she always had it in her heart to be a leader for the right reasons and not for political or personal gain. "I have been thinking about this for 23 years when I see our people suffering, dying of poverty, I would always think, what is our way out of these problems? Now the opportunity has come," said the Kabul representative. "I am an Afghan woman and I am qualified to be a leader of this country. That is all that matters," she said. With their relative anonymity, women like Jalal may influence the Loya Jirga in subtle ways. During intermissions, crowds of men gathered around key women figures asking their opinions on the day's events. "We see women in government positions as very patient and trustworthy, we think that if a woman was leader, Afghanistan would progress much faster," said one male delegate. Jalal says she is not affiliated with any political party but was strategically trying to sway support from delegates who had intended to vote for former King Zahir Shah. Such a move would have been impossible in June 2001, when the Taliban banned men and women from occupying the same room together. Though Karzai reached out to former Taliban members in his acceptance speech on June 13, delegate Surya Bahader rebuffed the memory of the militia. "Don't ask about them anymore," she said. "God gave them their punishment and now the women of Afghanistan are thinking about their bright future." Like Jalal, Bahader has been recognized as a leader amongst the women of the Loya Jirga. She has become somewhat of a spokesperson, speaking out against delays caused by bickering between the male delegates. "We are here to work and choose the best people for our government. Too much time is being wasted on the past," Bahader said. Many female delegates have raised sensitive political issues during the grand assembly. One female delegate protested the Commission's use of the national anthem that had prevailed under former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, whom she said ran a corrupt regime. Others protested having warlords like Wahabbi leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf at the assembly and as a voting delegate. "Sayyaf should not even be in this tent. His hands are as bloody as the rest," said a female delegate standing at a microphone just one row away from Sayyaf. Some say women are able to voice their concerns freely because, for the most part, they are not tied to any political groups. They say their liberation from warlords and corrupt village commanders keeps them fair and unafraid. "The women's hands are not bloody, it is the men who do the killing and who are fearful of each other," said Maha Mushtari. But to advance in Afghan politics, women will have to conquer common gender ideas that did not vanish with the Taliban. A male delegate from the conservative eastern province of Kunar says the Koran forbids a woman to be the president of a country. He did not want to be identified. Other male delegates, like Attiqullah Atta, say they are caught in a tough place. "I want my wife to be able to run for president of Afghanistan but what happens to the children when she has to travel?" he said. "Also, politics is male dominated, how am I supposed to let her travel with other men?" Among the many questions confronting delegates at the Loya Jirga, this may be one of the most sensitive. But the women of the Loya Jirga say they can be political within their cultural and religious framework. "There is room for politics in Isalm," one woman said. So far, there seems to also be room for women in Afghan politics. (by Halima Kazem)


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/14/2002

 

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Karzai Names Transitional Afghan Cabinet

The Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, today named an executive cabinet for an 18-month transitional administration, dividing key ministries between ethnic Tajiks and Pashtuns, the two dominant ethnic groups in the country. Delegates of the loya jirga, grand council, charged with endorsing the new government, had voiced concern that the top three cabinet posts would be dominated by ethnic Tajiks from the Panjshir valley, members of the northern alliance of opposition groups who fought the former Taliban regime. While ethnic Tajiks were named at the head of the powerful defence and foreign ministries, Mr Karzai named an ethnic Pashtun as interior minister. In all, he named 14 ministers in a long-awaited speech to the 1,650 delegates packed inside a tent in the Afghan capital. He also appointed three deputy presidents and a chief justice to the country's highest court, pending approval by the delegates. Mr Karzai reappointed Mohammed Fahim as defence minister. The prickly Panjshiri, who controls many of the northern alliance forces in Kabul since the alliance swept into the capital when the Taliban fled in November, has held the post during the interim administration. Dr Abdullah, a fellow Tajik who had been the northern alliance's main spokesman during the final weeks of its campaign to retake Kabul, was also reappointed as foreign minister. However, the newly appointed interior minister, Taj Mohammed Wardak, is a Pashtun, the biggest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Many delegates, particularly Pashtuns from eastern and southern Afghanistan, said it would be unacceptable to keep power in the top three ministries restricted to Panjshiris. As such, a Panjshiri who had held the interior ministry post, Yunus Qanooni, was appointed as education minister. He had offered to resign as interior minister last week when the loya jirga convened. Mr Karzai also appointed his top adviser, Ashraf Ghani, a former official at the World Bank, as finance minister. "If Afghanistan does not have a strong central government, nothing will happen," Mr Karzai said. The interim administration, which took office in late December, has faced problems exerting its authority outside Kabul. The grand council immediately approved Mr Karzai's appointments with a show of hands. None of the country's major warlords, who wield great influence and command private armies in their regions, were given cabinet posts. The appointments came after repeated delays that annoyed some loya jirga delegates. They complained of feeling excluded from the process. The grand council, which convened a day late on June 11, has also been plagued by charges that delegates who spoke out - or planned to - were subject to intimidation and harassment. However, others praised the process as being the first in years that allowed them to speak publicly about issues important to them. Mr Karzai himself was elected president by the loya jirga last week after six months of leading the interim administration. He said that the continued fight against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in eastern Afghanistan would play an important role in the stability of the new government. "Terrorists should not be allowed in Afghanistan," he said. "Terrorism should be finished throughout the world, and Afghanistan is committed to eliminating terrorism ... We will relieve Afghanistan of this pain." He said that former Taliban members who had "not committed political crimes" should be allowed to return home. The transitional government, which must be in place by Saturday under the UN-brokered Bonn agreement, represents the midpoint of the immediate plan for Afghanistan. The third phase is a constitutional convention and free elections.


From http://www.guardian.co.uk/ 06/19/2002

 

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Key Cabinet Posts to Be Approved by Afghan Loya Jirga

The key portfolios of the cabinet to be presented to the Loya Jirga Wednesday by newly elected leader of the Afghan transitional government Hamid Karzai should be approved by delegates, a senior Afghan official said Tuesday. Karzai's advisor Ashraf Ghani said at a news conference after Tuesday's session that it was a misunderstanding of the Bonn Agreement that the key portfolios need no permission from the LoyaJirga. "The text of the Bonn Agreement actually does say the key postsof the transitional government should be approved by the Loya Jirga," said Ghani. The key cabinet posts refer to ministries of national defense, interior affairs, foreign affairs, judiciary and finance. However, at Monday's news conference, Foreign Minister of the Interim Administration Abdullah Abdullah stressed that according to the international practice, it is the jurisdiction of Karzai todecide the cabinet members of the transitional government. Karzai's spokesman, Tayyab Jawad, said the list of the cabinet members would be announced, not submitted to the Loya Jirga for discussion. "Approval is not necessary," he said. Ghani denied that the decision of submitting the list of key ministers to the Loya Jirga was made under the pressure of U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad said on early Tuesday that Karzai was required to present the structure of the government and key ministerial appointments to the Loya Jirga for approval in accordance with theBonn Agreement. Karzai was expected to announce the key posts of the cabinet Tuesday afternoon. But he postponed it to Wednesday because more time is needed for further discussion.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/19/2002

 

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Karzai Grapples with Appointment of Women'S Affairs Minister in Afghanistan

Transitional Afghan President Hamid Karzai is grappling with a cabinet conundrum over the selection of a minister of women's affairs. Given the privations suffered by women under Taliban rule, the women's affairs post, which remains vacant, should attract international scrutiny and could serve as one gauge of Afghanistan's civil society progress. But in nudging Afghanistan in a progressive direction on women's issues, Karzai is taking care not to offend a large conservative constituency. It is proving to be a difficult balancing act for Karzai. His first choice as Minister for Women's Affairs, Sima Samar, declined the offer after coming under attack from Islamic conservatives. Samar, who served in the interim Afghan administration from December until earlier this June, has said she will assume a leadership post on the Afghan commission for human rights. Samar, a doctor by training, was perhaps the best-qualified person for the women's affairs portfolio. During the Taliban era she had been a leading advocate of women's rights, gaining prominence by opening a network of clinics that specialized in treating women and children. She also helped organize schools and literacy programs, and engaged in family planning advocacy. With no clear-cut alternative, Karzai has indicated that he may opt for a stopgap solution. "Mahbobeh Hoghogh-Mal would be our representative at the Women Affairs Ministry." Karzai said June 24 at a swearing-in ceremony for 26 cabinet members. Karzai declined to clarify whether Hoghogh-Mal would be appointed as minister, or serve as an interim administrator. The transitional president emphasized that running the Women's Affairs Ministry might be too daunting a challenge for one individual to handle. Samar indicated that a smear campaign led by the Jamiat-i-Islami Party ?headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former leader of the Mujahedin government in the early 1990s ?played a key role in prompting her to decline the women's affairs portfolio. Rabbani is closely aligned with Islamic conservatives, including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who claim that Islam does not allow for women's participation in public life. According to Samar, the campaign to discredit her began with the publication of an article last December in Canadian newspaper read predominantly by Iranian exiles. The article, published in Persian, purported to quote Samar as saying she didn't believe in the Sahria, or Islamic law. Prior to the June 11 opening of the Afghan Loya Jirga, or grand council, the article was reprinted in an Afghan newspaper called Payem-i-Mojahed, or The Mujahed's Message, controlled by Jamiat-i-Islami. Copies of the article were widely circulated among Loya Jirga delegates, with the obvious intent of embarrassing Samar, and blocking her re-nomination to the women's affairs ministry. "It was a coordinated plan to derail the women's movement by targeting me in particular," Samar told EurasiaNet. " I never talked about Sharia. They tried to manipulate the audience with the broad circulation of the article." Based on the comments attributed to Samar in the article, some conservative leaders have called her the Afghan Salman Rushdie, a reference to the author who Iranian clerics say blasphemed Islam in his book the Satanic Verses. When asked why she thought she was targeted, Samar responded: "I am a woman, I am a professional, I am outspoken and I am a Hazara. That's why I am targeted." Samar also expressed concern that without the strong support of government leaders, the Ministry of Women's Affairs could evolve into a mainly symbolic entity, lacking the substantive ability to improve women's lives in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, it appears that a potential rift between Karzai and Panjshiri Tajik leaders in the cabinet has been averted. The mini-crisis began when Karzai offered former interior minister Yunus Qanooni the education portfolio. Qanooni, a Panjshiri Tajik leader, reportedly considered the offer a snub. Even when Karzai also offered to make Qanooni a special advisor on security issues, the former interior minister hesitated before accepting. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Qanooni will reportedly maintain significant influence in the internal security sphere in his presidential advisorial capacity. According to an aide of Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, another Panjshiri Tajik leader, smoothing out the differences between Karzai and Qanooni proved to be a challenge. "We had to negotiate with Qanooni and Karzai, keep our people happy and protect the country's unity. It was really difficult," the aide said. "What became worrisome was those invisible hands-that are all-too-ready to sow disunity and discord among us. Well, fortunately that is over now."


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/25/2002

 

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Azerbaijan: Ailing Azeri Leader Seeks to Hand Torch to Son

Aliyev, 79, who has been at the prow of this oil-rich Caspian nation for nearly 10 years but is now in ill health, has called a referendum on constitutional changes that would leave his son, Ilgam, well placed to succeed if he dies in office. The proposed reforms, that have brought howls of protest from Aliyev's political opponents, include changing the parliamentary election system in such a way that the power of the already splintered opposition will be emasculated. Aliyev is also proposing, crucially, that the prime minister becomes officially the second most powerful person in the hierarchy, who stands in if the president is unable to govern, instead of the parliamentary speaker as now. As the prime minister is named by the president, unlike the speaker who is chosen by parliament, this means Aliyev will be able to make his son his legal stand-in by making him premier. The referendum will be held on August 24. Aliyev has been actively seeking to promote further the political fortunes of his 40-year-old son, who is deputy head of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan) party and first vice-president of the state oil company, in the past few years. ''In all likelihood, Aliyev can see that it will be much easier for him to make someone from government his heir in the event of 'force majeure','' independent analyst Rasim Musabekov commented. The proposed amendments also include lowering the threshhold of votes required for victory in presidential elections from 75 per cent to 50 per cent. Analysts say this will favour Aliyev if he fulfils his pledge to run for another term in power next year, or his son if Aliyev steps aside to allow him to bid for the presidency. Aliyev, a former KGB officer and one-time member of Leonid Brezhnev's politburo, has sealed a raft of multi-billion-dollar deals with Western companies to develop the former Soviet republic's Caspian oil deposits since coming to power in 1993. He has sought to maintain the delicate balance in relations with Azerbaijan's three big neighbours -- NATO member Turkey, Russia and Iran. But his rule has been marked by harsh action against opposition parties, some of which do not recognise his re-election in 1998, and harassment of the opposition press. Opposition parties accused him of widespread fraud when he was re-elected and the OSCE and Council of Europe said the ballot was not conducted according to international standards. Referred to as ''Baba'' (grandfather) by many of his countrymen, he underwent heart surgery in the United States in 1999. He seemed very frail when he visited St Petersburg, Russia, earlier this month. Despite his failing health, Aliyev announced on June 19 that he would run for another five-year term in office in 2003. But analysts say he could pull out at the last minute and allow Ilgam to take his place as candidate, and then work to marshal popular support for him. If his son does not want the post -- and it is not yet certain he does -- Aliyev seems certain to try to push someone else forward from the ruling circle. The Azeri opposition, which blames Aliyev for his failure to lift low living standards and resolve the problem of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, says the ''Aliyev clan'' has outlived its usefulness and should go. Karabakh, populated mostly by ethnic Armenians, broke from Azerbaijan in the waning years of the Soviet Union. The two post-Soviet states went to war over the territory in 1992-94 and, despite intermittent peace negotiations since, no solution has yet been found. Opposition parties were sharply critical of the proposed changes to the parliamentary voting system, which would replace the current system mixing majority and proportional voting by a single, majority system. Analyst Musabekov said the experience of other former Soviet republics showed that a single majority system favoured the party in power. The effectiveness of the opposition at the ballot box would be seriously weakened, he said. ''This amendment is reactionary since it presupposes a return to the Soviet single-party system of government,'' Sardar Dzhalaloglu, general secretary of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, told Reuters. ''By removing the proportional electoral system they are virtually barring parties from parliamentary elections,'' Etibar Mamedov, chairman of the Party of National Independence, said.

 

From http://famulus.msnbc.com/ 06/25/2002

 

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Georgia: Opposition Leader Poised to Become Tbilisi Council Chairman

If Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze thought the gathering opposition had suffered a setback in the June 2 local elections, he will soon have many chances to test that conclusion. Shevardnadze looks to face one of his most strident opponents every day in the capital. Mikhail Saakashvili, formerly a Justice Minister and later a prominent reformist in Shevardnadze's ruling Citizens Union of Georgia (CUG) party, seems posed to capture the post of the Tbilisi city council chairman. Shevardnadze might have hoped to avoid this confrontation after the Labor Party took first place in June 2 elections. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. But on June 13, the Labor Party made a surprise offer to Saakashvili's National Movement. Labor leader Shalva Natelashvili met with Saakashvili and proposed to support Saakashvili's party if Saakashvili quit Parliament and agreed to chair the capital's city council. The two parties will effectively form a voting coalition. This deal ended a round of jockeying for the Labor party's 15 council votes, which began when Natelashvili declared after the elections that he would not run for the chairmanship himself. It also surprised most Tbilisi veterans, who considered an alliance between the parties impossible. Labor has, in the past, called for distribution of land to fugitives; Saakashvili's new party seeks to develop a more market-based model. Moreover, Natelashvili lambasted Saakashvili in pre-election campaigning, accusing him of posing as a reformer while maintaining covert ties to the government. But the deal capitalizes on broader, less partisan discontent. Analysts have also noted that Saakashvili and Labor appealed to a similar base with similar populist, anti-governmental appeals. And they captured nearly equal voter sympathies-25.5 percent and 23.75 percent of the votes respectively. The dispute between Natelashvili and Saakashvili, which appears personal, will probably survive this truce. It may also make the personal animosity an ongoing factor in Georgian politics. Natelashvili made his offer with as little friendliness as possible. "It is better to support him [Saakashvili], so afterwards people won't say that Saakashvili could have saved Tbilisi and Georgia and we did not give him a chance. The National Movement conducts large PR campaigns about all this," he said at a news conference on June 13, apparently trying to save face with his electorate. Saakashvili, the cabinet veteran, said he perceived this proposal as a "constructive" one and expressed reciprocal willingness to cooperate. While Saakashvili's new post provides him with a perch and insulates Natelashvili from charges of pettiness, it offers little cheer to the president. Saakashvili was campaigning under the slogan "Tbilisi without Shevardnadze" and his flashy, media-savvy style could seriously undermine Shevardnadze's already-slashed credibility. Saakashvili clearly perceives the chairmanship of the 49-seat council as a platform from which to build support for the upcoming parliamentary elections of 2003. Many analysts also believe that the young politician maintains ambitions for the presidential race of 2005. That scenario reveals the deal's potential to turn into a poisoned chalice for Saakashvili. The Georgian capital is home to some 1.5 million people and has multiple problems ranging from poor budgeting to collapsing infrastructure. At the same time, chief responsibility for executive affairs rests with Tbilisi 's Mayor-a presidential appointee. Many observers expect that Shevardnadze would move to balance Saakashvili by replacing the unprepossessing Vano Zodelava with a more assertive mayor who might tussle with the new chairman. The new mayor could manipulate some of the council's political forces to neutralize Saakashvili. As he ponders his next move, Shevardnadze can rely on support from the New Rights Party and its leader Levan Gachechiladze, whose ambitions for council chairmanship have wilted after the Natelashvili-Saakashvili accord. The relatively young, pro-business New Right leadership has bitterly opposed Saakshvili since he and fellow reformist Zurab Zhvania pushed them out of the Citizens' Union core. Despite their pact, Labor members on the council will not necessarily feel enough party discipline to keep their coalition alive. Nonetheless, Shevardnadze stands to lose much more than Saakashvili if the former Justice Minister heads the city council. Saakashvili's Nationalists already claim a critical level of support on the council. "Industry will Save Georgia," which finished the locals in fifth position, will be nominating its member for the chairman's post, but welcomed the Labor-National coalition. "Tbilisi voted for these two parties. Therefore, we will welcome these two jointly undertaking responsibility for situation in Sakrebulo. Of course, any kind of alliance was not good for us though," said Zurab Tkemaladze, one of the leaders of the Industrialists. In addition, Zurab Zhvania's Christian Conservative Party would provide Saakashvili with four reliable votes. Dealing with problems of tax collection, sewer maintenance and central heating would sorely test Saakashvili's leadership and diligence. It would also provide him ample opportunity, though, to urge Georgians to blame Shevardnadze for their miseries. The president has already come under fire for failing to rein in corruption, and already faces thriving separatist movements in South Ossetia, Ajaria and Abkhazia. The appointment of Saakashvili would sorely test his ability to deliver tangible results and maintain popular support. (by Jaba Devdariani)


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/19/2002

 

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Entrenched Corruption Begins at Georgia'S Border

One can gauge how seriously Georgia takes customs-duty collection by visiting the country's border station at Azerbaijan: it's not on the border. The station sits nearly four kilometers inside Georgian territory - and before one gets there, numerous unmonitored roads head off in various directions. At the nearby Red Bridge Market, effectively a huge, unauthorized duty-free area, vehicles are rarely checked. "This is a remarkable thing," says Jonathan Dunne, the International Monetary Fund's representative in Tbilisi, "and you can draw your own conclusions." When a progressive customs commissioner tried a couple of years ago to move the customs house, there was a shoot-out ?and the chief was soon reassigned. The conclusions have been apparent for years: Georgia has an abysmal record when it comes to import-export duty collection, even when compared to other former Soviet republics. Customs accounts for about half of tax collections, which totals 14.5 percent of GDP. This small take is a factor in Tbilisi's chronic government budget deficits, which approach $200 million-$300 million annually. It also plays a role in the huge accumulated wage arrears to employees and pensioners and the virtual lack of state capital investments. Finances are such that core social spending is dependent on international assistance. Stronger customs collection could reduce this burden - but like the roads leading from Azerbaijan, corruption infects Georgian tax collection along many paths. The United Nations has noted the "fantastic volume of contraband imported into Georgia," which consists mostly of cigarettes, petroleum products and alcoholic drinks. For example, one estimate shows that two out of every five Georgians are smokers. They consume about 1.5 million packs of cigarettes per day and the value of those cigarettes is over $100 million annually, the Anti-Smoking Centre figures. But official import figures understate this by roughly 40 percent according to a study by the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia. Duties on alcohol imports have run at less than one-third of estimated imports, the study also reported. While the government imposed excise stamps on cigarettes and tobacco in 1999, it has taken more disheartening steps more recently. A British firm called the ITS Group won a contract to help Georgia boost customs revenue in 1999. But the government recently opted not to renew the agreement. The firm's employees say that customs officials themselves stymied much of their effort. "We were treated as the enemy," says one former employee. A source familiar with ITS' experience in Georgia told of an incident in which customs inspectors pulled over a truck laden with household appliances, coming from the Russian border through South Ossetia. Before the inspection could begin, the source says, a Mercedes appeared on the scene, screeching to a halt and disgorging heavily armed men who succeeded in preventing the truck from being searched. Such a business climate discourages foreign investors. Even after paying full duties, foreign corporate managers say, customs officials often provide documents clearing only half a shipment's value. "Then you have to have a meeting with the taxman, on down the bribery chain, everyone gets you into the box where there is no way out," says an exasperated American businessman. Representatives of the international business community have proposed to cut corruption by completely re-staffing customs and then paying the new recruits a substantially higher salary. Business would cover the estimated $6 million in pay raises for a year, after which higher customs revenue would allow the government to maintain the higher wages. "Some people are corrupt by greed, but most are corrupt by need," argues Fady Asly, the president of American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, a food importer who has been a leading backer of the proposal. Customs salaries start at 50 dollars a month. The plan would raise salaries at least fivefold. But many skeptics doubt that even a raise of this magnitude would diminish corruption. Even low-ranking officers can earn between $2,000-$5,000 a month in actual income, sources say, although some portion of this is passed on through the ranks of their superiors as payoff for having a job. "Even if a worker has $500 in his pocket, $1,000 will always be better," says a European transportation executive. And an international observer doubts the attraction of bribery will fade. "With high value items like petroleum, you can never pay them [Customs officials] enough," the economic observer says. "For these guys, $1,000 a shipment is nothing." American customs inspectors who visited Georgian borders in November 2001 recommend creating an audit team comprising Americans and Europeans to seek out "high-risk importers" under protection of the Georgian state. The customs agents also recommend arming Georgian customs guards. Like the Chamber's salary-raise plan, though, this proposal has not garnered support among Georgian politicians. Nevertheless, the government says it is committed to implementing meaningful reforms. New Minister of Finance Mirian Gogiashvili assumed his post after leaving the Anti-Corruption Council in a springtime cabinet shake-up. Not yet 30 years old, he is the first minister to oversee both finance and state revenues, and has asked the Chamber to hold its plan in abeyance while he seeks a way to improve customs performance without it. He has little time to deliberate: a customs commissioner's average tenure during the last few years has been about six months. In the end, eliminating customs corruption may mean confronting powerful vested interests in Georgia. For example, the US Customs team said in a report that the current situation at Tbilisi International Airport "makes customs control of arriving passengers and cargo impossible." A "Secret Presidential Directive" in 2000, according to the report, gave the Airport Security Co. the right to make first and last contact with any arrivals. The US inspectors discussed this arrangement with former National Security Advisor Nugzar Sajaia, a confidante of President Eduard Shevardnadze who committed suicide in February. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archives]. (by Ken Stier)


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/27/2002

 

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Kazakhstan: European Parliament Singles Out Opposition Leader for Recognition

Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the leader of the Kazakh Republican People's Party and former prime minister from 1994 to 1997, received Tuesday a so-called Passport of Freedom at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. By issuing this honorary document to a "prominent opposition figure," the European Union says it intends to show its support for the democratic opposition in Kazakhstan, as well as anyone who is being persecuted for their political views in the country. Kazhegeldin, who is currently living in self-imposed exile in Europe, expressed his satisfaction to RFE/RL. "This document was given to me, but I think, and it has already been said by several members of the [European] Parliament, that, although I have received this passport, it has not been only given to me but also to all the democrats in Kazakhstan, to all our comrades and colleagues there in Kazakhstan. I think this is a clear answer to their questions: What is going to happen with us? What will be achieved? Does anyone cares about us?" Kazhegeldin said. Kazhegeldin was sentenced in absentia to 10 years' hard labor in September on charges of abuse of office, tax evasion, taking bribes, and illegal possession of weapons. The opposition has called the trial a farce, while the office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Kazakhstan has expressed doubt that the sentence conforms to international standards of justice. Sharip Omarov, chairman of the Committee on International Affairs, Defense, and Security of the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament (Mazhilis), declined to comment on the event. Omarov said it is too early to speak about democratic institutions in his country. "We are not members of the European Parliament. We don't have direct relations with the European Parliament. We are not part of Europe. We can't be part of Europe because they would not accept us. We are part of Eurasia, closer to Asia," Omarov said. Ari Vatanen, a Finnish member of the European Parliament, is at the origin of the European Parliament's decision. He told RFE/RL that Kazhegeldin is the 27th person to receive a Passport of Freedom, adding that such a document has to be signed by 15 members of the parliament belonging to different political affiliations. Kazhegeldin's Passport of Freedom has notably been signed by former president of the European Parliament, Spain's Jose Maria Gil-Delgado; by French writer and member of the Convention for the Future of Europe, Olivier Duhamel; and by German president of the Commission on Foreign Affairs at the parliament, Elmar Brok.
Vatanen said this "strong move" is a clear message to "ordinary citizens" and the leadership in Central Asia that the EU is committed to "basic values" of humanity, democracy, and human rights. "At the parliament, we don't take a stand who should be the leader of a country. We just support those profound values and Kazhegeldin is in Kazakhstan the figure who meets our criteria. And we believe that it will encourage Kazhegeldin in his work to promote these basic values. And also it gives the hope not just to him and people around him but people in Kazakhstan and people in Central Asia," Vatanen said. Vatanen said he hopes this "very big" symbolic move will be followed by concrete actions from the EU. He warned that the European Parliament will watch "very carefully" the developments concerning Kazhegeldin, as well as the democratic process in Kazakhstan. "Because without real democracy, without human rights, without good governance, you cannot have development, you cannot have a better future. History has proven it. So therefore, we give our support to people like Mr. Kazhegeldin, who are promoting a better tomorrow for people in Kazakhstan and in Central Asia," Vatanen said. While many local and international observers worry the West has turned its eyes away from human-rights abuses in the region to maintain the coalition against terrorism, Vatanen stressed that Europe must put pressure on Central Asian leaders to improve democracy in their respective states. "Human rights are something that cannot be compromised. Democracy cannot be diluted because it's for the benefit of everybody, except a few leaders. And I think that Europe as a whole should use more of its weight in order to help those people who fight for real democracy in any country," Vatanen said. Vatanen said Europe should open up more trade with Central Asian countries in order to give local populations better hope of the future. According to Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry, trade turnover between Kazakhstan and EU member countries was about $3.52 billion last year, which is an increase of 19 percent over 2000. As of July 2001, 608 companies from EU member countries were registered in Kazakhstan. The European Parliament's decision comes amid allegations of a sharp rise in human-rights abuses in Kazakhstan. The most recent example involves Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, a founding member of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK), who is said to be suffering from a heart condition that has been aggravated by his arrest in April. Despite the OSCE's repeated statement about the government's commitment to human rights, repeated requests to allow doctors to examine him have been rejected or ignored. Zhaqiyanov had earlier taken refuge in the French embassy in Almaty to escape arrest. Zhaqiyanov handed himself over after EU and Kazakh officials signed a memorandum. Despite the terms of the memorandum, which called for Zhaqiyanov to remain under house arrest in Almaty, he is being kept incommunicado in a country house in the northern city of Pavlodar. The government insists it is pursuing embezzlement charges against Zhaqiyanov, and accuses EU diplomats of meddling in the country's internal affairs.

 

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/15/2002

 

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Political Struggle in Kazakhstan A Reflection of Maturation of Country's Economy

Oraz Jandosov, co-chairman of the reform-minded Ak Zhol Party, suggests that the ongoing struggle between the opposition and President Nursultan Nazarbayev's administration are a reflection of Kazakhstan's economic maturation. "The economic basis for Kazakhstan has firmed. It is only natural that attention shifts to the political field," Jandosov said. Economic indicators show that Kazkahstan has the most dynamic growth potential of all former Soviet states. The country recorded 13.2 percent growth in 2001, and registered 12 percent growth during the first two months of 2002. Experts expect Kazakhstan to emerge as a leading global energy exporter in the coming decades. Businessmen played a prominent role in the formation of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement. Jandosov stressed that many businessmen who have become active in the political sphere in recent months are not striving to accumulate power. Instead they are intent on fostering a more stable economic environment. "Business wants a clearer political framework because they are trying to make investment decisions with an eye towards the long term," he said. "They want society to be more predictable." Jandosov stressed that there are sharp strategic differences in the opposition camp. Some parties and movements, including the democratic Ak Zhol party, are willing to work with Nazarbayev to bring about change. Other opposition leaders, most notably former prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, have adopted a far more confrontational stance towards Nazarbayev. [See related EurasiaNet story]. Jandosov said that he has met with Nazarbayev on several occasions and is convinced that the Kazakhstani president continues to support the need for reforms. "He [Nazarbayev] understands he shouldn't stay on [as president] forever, but he wants to leave when he feels the country is stable," Jandosov said. "It is a question over timing and the path taken," Jandosov continued, referring to the differences between the opposition and the president. "We want to see gradual, but consistent steps towards political liberalization. At the moment, the president sees this question differently. ?What we view as gradual, he may view as radical." The inability to introduce political reforms could ultimately hamper the country's economic performance, Jandosov cautioned. He noted that the development of the oil and gas sectors does not "depend much on the political situation." But, Jandosov argued, the lack of political reforms would make the challenge of diversifying the Kazakhstani economy more difficult. He said that changes in the country's political framework were needed to tackle the problem of pervasive corruption. "The improvement of the investment climate is closely related to political conditions," he said. "If corruption stays at its current levels, then there can be no discussion about improving the investment climate? Overcoming corruption will be impossible without a more democratic environment and a free press."


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/19/2002

 

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Tajikistan: Political Leader Jailed for Alleged Assassination Plot

A former regional leader and the relative of a former prime minister has been found guilty of setting up illegal militias, planning a coup d'etat, and corruption. Abdulaziz Khamidov, who headed the Leninabad province between 1994 and 1997, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Khamidov was also found guilty of attempts to assassinate both his successor as regional governor and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov. Several alleged accomplices were sentenced to jail terms ranging from five to 25 years, according to the Tajik weekly Asia Plus.
Information on this case is scarce, and it has barely been covered in the Tajik press. The lack of information has left room for speculation that the imprisonment of Khamidov is part of a larger political purge, particularly as Khamidov is a relative of Abdumalik Abdullojanov, who challenged Rakhmonov in the 1999 presidential elections. Abdullojanov, who served as the Tajik prime minister between 1992 and 1994, is originally from the Leninabad (Sugd) province in northern Tajikistan. This is the most developed region of the country, its industrial heartland, and also a fertile farming area. Leninabad also escaped the ravages of the civil war that raged between 1992 and 1997. The relative peace of the region was disrupted only after the war, when, in 1998, a seasoned military commander, Makhmud Khudoiberdiyev, attempted to seize the city of Khujand, the province's administrative center. Khudoiberdiyev was allegedly based in Uzbekistan, and rumors at the time suggested that Abdullojanov and the Uzbek secret services were in some way implicated in the intrusion. The incident led to a serious deterioration in the two countries' relationship. Abdullojanov himself was then brought to court, accused of money-laundering and stealing money while in office. Abdullojanov claimed he had inherited his capital from his grandfather. Abdullojanov was certainly an influential political figure. Economically astute, he was also a polished politician and enjoyed strong support in his region. Seen as a third force in the mid-1990s, he never aligned himself with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), the Islamically oriented group of parties opposed to the government of Rakhmonov. Abdullojanov's presidential challenge to Rakhmonov ended abruptly in 1999 when the State Election Commission struck his name from the list of candidates for alleged violations. Some sources suggest that Abdullojanov is now in Switzerland, others that he is hiding in Uzbekistan. Khamidov was arrested last year when he returned from Uzbekistan to attend the funeral of his sister. According to the Associated Press, Tajik prosecutors believe that Abdullojanov was involved in the assassination attempt on Rakhmonov and in the $50 million corruption case that Khamidov has been found guilty of. During the week, another senior political figure found himself in trouble with the law, as the Tajik Military Prosecutor's Office leveled charges of drug-trafficking, grand larceny, and desertion against former Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Kim. He stands accused of using a Defense Ministry helicopter to transport raw opium and heroin. The former military official went into hiding in Kazakhstan, but was then found and deported by the Kazakh police. Whatever the political dimensions of these cases, corruption is certainly seen as a major problem in Tajikistan by the international community. In late May, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), together with the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation), USAID, and other donors, hosted a conference in Tajikistan to look into issues relating to corruption and organized crime. Tajikistan has signed and ratified a number of international anti-corruption conventions and treaties, but law enforcement remains weak, partly because of a lack of technical support and a regional and international failure to pool information.

 

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/23/2002

 

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Institute Heaps Scorn on Plan to Reform VCAT

The Royal Australian Planning Institute considers Save Our Suburbs' plan to reform the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal simplistic and naive. Institute president Peter Tesdorpf agreed that aspects of VCAT's operation should be reviewed urgently but the entrenched problems with the system lay "further upstream".He said the proposal did not tackle the root of the problem, which included the growing complexity of planning schemes, failure to reconcile state, metropolitan and local planning objectives, and the shortage of local government planners.The Age reported last week that the Save Our Suburbs lobby group had submitted its plan to change VCAT to the State Government, arguing that the tribunal should review only planning appeals that had legal and technical errors or inconsistencies in council decisions.Mr Tesdorpf said it was naive to propose that matters of subjective judgment should not be open to appeal. "A lot of statements in planning schemes are matters of subjective judgment and interpretation, so I think that's a good reason why it's probably healthy to have an appeal mechanism," he said. He said planning decisions could be subjected to political interference and open to different interpretations by planners."The SOS policy appears to be based on the assumption that local community views should be the overriding factor in all planning decisions," he said. "But urban planning involves balancing statewide, metropolitan, regional and local considerations. A speedy release of the State Government's metropolitan strategy would also help provide some leadership."Planning lawyer Ian Pitt said VCAT was required by law to take into account the state's planning policies and could not displace them with local policies.Housing Industry Association chief John Gaffney said VCAT existed to independently assess applications because politics interfered with decision-making at the local government level. (by Meaghan Shaw)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 06/04/2002

 

PM Will Trade on Pensions

THE federal Government is preparing to soften its plans to restrict access to the disability pension as it tries to protect $1.4 billion in Budget savings in negotiations with the Senate.John Howard is expected to enter talks with Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja as the Government steps up its efforts to secure parliamentary support for its Budget changes to the health and welfare sectors. In a sign the Government is prepared to make concessions to secure core Budget measures, senior Coalition sources have confirmed plans to consider further exemptions to the disability pension curbs. While prepared to trade on the disability support pension, the Government does not want to budge on proposals to increase patient payments for subsidised medicines and to tighten rules on prescriptions. But the Democrats said the Government must agree to wide-ranging changes to the proposals on the disability pension and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Senator Stott Despoja said increased charges under the PBS must be stopped and called on the Government to consider alternative funding proposals for the disability support pension. "If it is true the Prime Minister is having second thoughts on the DSP, it is because he recognises the changes were ill-conceived from the start," she said. Labor and the minor parties say the Budget measures, which would force welfare recipients off the DSP unless they prove they cannot work at least 15 hours a week, are too harsh and would force thousands of genuine recipients on to the lower paid Newstart scheme. Family and Community Services Minister Amanda Vanstone has indicated the Government would protect about 12,000 disability pensioners who are on award wages and face DSP cuts under the Budget measures. The Coalition is now investigating whether other welfare recipients might also be disadvantaged by the DSP reforms. Senior government sources said the focus has shifted to those working in part-time jobs - from 15 to 30 hours a week - who may be affected by the changes. Opposition family and community service spokesman Wayne Swan said evidence to the Senate estimates committee shows the rules would cut benefits for people working in sheltered workshops. The evidence suggests people judged by the department of being capable of working under award wages would be forced off the disability pension even if they were working for pay lower than the standard minimum wage. "That such an impact was anticipated and no safeguards contemplated reveals how cold and calculating the Howard Government really is," Mr Swan said. The Government is bracing for the toughest Budget negotiations since 1993, when Labor was forced to substantially modify its economic plans in the face of Senate resistance. (by Steve Lewis, Sid Marris)


Fromhttp://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/10/2002

 

States Shape New Crime Body

THE shape of the new law enforcement body to replace the National Crime Authority will be determined today, but the defiant stances of the states look set to ensure it will change largely in name alone.Two months of lobbying by state bureaucrats appears to have lessened the will of the commonwealth to strip the new agency, the Australian Crime Commission, of its operational role and leave it as an assessment agency with coercive hearing powers. Instead, the commonwealth has notionally agreed to allow the commission to maintain its operational brief, but only if state police forces pick up the bill for seconding their police to its taskforces. Until this year, the commonwealth had funded the $12 million cost of seconding state police, but it has cut that amount from budget estimates for the next three years. However, it is understood the commonwealth's top bureaucrat, secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Max Moore-Wilton, has agreed that the commission will retain a core of about 200 staff, a figure only slightly lower than the existing payroll. The Government wants the new body operational by December, and Australian Federal Police chief operating officer Simon Overland has been tasked to oversee its establishment. Its main brief will be to interrogate organised criminals and, in some cases, terrorists, or those whom police believe have knowledge of serious crime. Under part of the ACC's proposed powers, it will be able to jail witnesses who fail to co-operate with it. Crucial to determining the rest of its role will be the commonwealth's choice of who will run it and join its management board. The Government wants state and territory police commissioners to sit on the ACC board. It is understood Justice Minister Chris Ellison favours the secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, career bureaucrat Rob Cornall, who will chair today's meeting in Canberra, to run the organisation. Also in the running are NSW Crime Commissioner Phillip Bradley and his former contemporary in Queensland, Tim Carmody, who returned to the bar after the Beattie Government merged his agency with the Criminal Justice Commission in January. Both have personally conducted hearings of witnesses. Police and NCA staff said yesterday that a senior interrogator was far more suitable for the role than a department secretary. "We can't have this new body being established as an arm of the federal public service," said one senior official. "Its strength has to be in its independence." The NCA was once the jewel of national law enforcement, acting as a clearing house of state and federal criminal intelligence, and ensuring co-operation between both bodies. However, it fell from favour with the Howard Government after endorsing a heroin trial as a policy option, a plan that contradicted John Howard's hardline stance against the liberalisation of drug laws. It has since been argued that the NCA's operational effectiveness has also fallen away, as state police, customs and the Australian Federal Police have achieved more consistent results, especially with drug seizures. (by Martin Chulov)


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/11/2002

 

Government 'Spam' Under Scrutiny

THE Federal Privacy Commissioner is formally investigating a government agency which allegedly spammed users of its website aimed at young people.The investigation is into a website run by the Department of Family and Community Services, known as "The Source". It was claimed that unsolicited emails were sent to users who had previously registered for a competition. Deputy Federal Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said a formal investigation had been launched to determine whether the Privacy Act, which came into effect on December 21, had been breached. "I strongly urge federal Government agencies that collect, store and use personal information via web sites, especially the information of young people, to ensure that they comply with the Commissioner's Guidelines for Federal ACT and Government World Wide Websites to ensure they protect the privacy of their users," he said. The department had been contacted by the office of the Privacy Commissioner and asked to respond to the claims. Opposition IT spokeswoman Senator Kate Lundy said the incident showed the Coalition had no commitment to fighting spam. "Last week I called upon Senator Alston to direct every online department and agency to ensure they have watertight privacy policies which respect the privacy of their users," Senator Lundy said. "As usual, he has done nothing, and left it up to the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner to try and fix this mess." (by Kate Mackenzie)


From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 06/14/2002

 

PM Tightens Reins on States

THE Howard Government plans to impose tough new controls over how the states spend $22 billion in annual commonwealth payments in a move likely to trigger a backlash from Labor premiersIn what one state official described as a "power-grab by the commonwealth", the federal Government has decided to be more hands-on in managing billions of dollars used for essential services such as housing and public hospitals. The move threatens to reopen hostilities between Canberra and the Labor states over financial relations following the introduction of the GST in 2000. Under the cabinet plan, stricter management controls will be introduced to govern the use of specific-purpose payments - or "tied" grants - to the states. Some funding could be withheld if a state or territory fails to meet new reporting criteria, which is expected to be applied within months. The Productivity Commission is also expected to monitor the efficiency of the scheme, as Canberra challenges the fiscal sovereignty of the states, which also receive more than $25 billion a year in GST revenues from the commonwealth. The new rules are expected to affect a range of commonwealth-state agreements to be negotiated over coming months, covering health, vocational education and training, housing and disability services. At present, the commonwealth has little scope to influence how, and when, specific-purpose payments are spent once framework agreements are made. But with Treasury forecasting that healthcare costs will soar, Canberra is seeking to play a more influential role in determining how taxpayer funds are spent. Senior federal government sources last night confirmed Canberra was keen to make the states more accountable for public expenditure. However, the sources rejected claims of a "backdoor attempt" by the federal Government to cut the overall level of commonwealth funding received by the states. The sources said cabinet wanted to ensure the states were unable to use commonwealth funding for blatant political purposes, particularly in the lead-up to state elections. The cabinet decision also reflects the new paradigm in Australian politics - of a conservative federal administration against an unprecedented line-up of Labor-aligned state and territory governments. Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has already sought to impose the national building industry code on Victoria, a move rejected by the Bracks Government. Although individual federal ministers will still be responsible for negotiating with their state counterparts, the powerful economic departments of Treasury and Finance are likely to play a stronger co-ordinating role. A final decision on the new framework is expected in several months, with the departments of Treasury, Finance and Prime Minister and Cabinet asked to undertake additional work before reporting back to cabinet. Finance Minister Nick Minchin, who has sought to shake up the budget process since taking over the finance portfolio last November, will oversee the new arrangements. This will include the federal Government adopting a whole-of-government approach to monitoring how the states use their payments. Cabinet's powerful Expenditure Review Committee, which signs off on budget spending, is also expected to be asked to oversee the application of specific-purpose payments. (by Steve Lewis)


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/24/2002

 

Silence over Cooks Fraud Investigation

Cook Islands Police are tight lipped about a big investigation into alleged misappropriation of government money by a top government official and a business partner.Private properties and government offices were searched yesterday by local police. They were understood to have been assisted by an officer from the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office.The search is understood to be part of a major investigation into alleged misuse of public monies.Police Commissioner Pira Wichman would not confirm or deny the involvement of any agencies in assisting the Police Service. He said they are at the "very, very early stages of our inquiry."The investigation has been underway for "two or three weeks", the commissioner said. In fairness to the people involved, Wichman says Police want to keep matters "in-house" until they're ready to make a public statement, he said.He said three or four people have already been interviewed, with another two or three more to be spoken to.


From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/22/2002

 

Fiji Government High Court Appeal Over Cabinet Composition

The Fiji government has filed its appeal in the Supreme Court disputing a High Court judge's interpretation of the constitution on the composition of cabinet.As Ofa Kaukimoce reports, government lawyers argue the constitution does not impose a duty on the Prime Minister to invite political parties to be part of his government: Justice Anthony Gates had endorsed the Fiji Court of Appeal constitutional finding that Mahendra Chaudhry's Labour Party should be included in Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's cabinet. This is because it is the only other party which achieved the 10-percent threshold, allowing it to be part of a multi party government. However State lawyers say the relevant constitutional provisions creates no entitlement for any party to be part of cabinet. They submit that the provisions does not allow the Prime Minister to send an unconditional invite to Mr. Chaudhry. They say his invitation was no more than a mandatory first step in good faith negotiations on the formation of a multi party cabinet. In absence of any negotiations between the two leaders, other parties had agreed to accept the invitation and join Qarase's government. Mr. Chaudhry's acceptance therefore they say is subsequently declined under Sections 99 of the 1977 Consitution. Government is expected to rehire Australian Queens Counsel, Steven Gagler to fight its appeal before the Supreme Court. A hearing date is yet to be announced."


From http://goasiapacific.com/ 06/06/2002

 

Good Governance Theme at Suva Talks

Good governance will be amongst issues discussed at the two-day executive director's meeting of the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International.A news release from Counterpart International said the two-day meeting gets underway in Suva today, with Counterpart International President and Chief Executive Officer Lelei LeLaulu attending.The Suva-based Foundation of the South Pacific International is an arm of the Counterpart International, a major American non government organisation.Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International is promoting the "Voices and Choices: Gardening Good Governance and Democracy in the Pacific" project. It targets citizenship empowerment at the rural and grassroots level, the news release said.The meeting will hear updates from foundation affiliates in Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and East Timor, it said.The meeting will also discuss policy and regional program development issues that include environmental, health (HIV/AIDS, Mental Health), capacity building, and income generation.


From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/21/2002

 

More And More Bad News for Nauru--Chief Secretary Resigns, Conditions Worsened

The awful conditions of the affairs of the Republic of Nauru have worsened. Late in February, Nauru's top bureaucrat, chief secretary Matthew Batsiua, a man credited with keeping the day-to-day government machinery from breaking down, resigned in disgust. Batsiua spoke of lack of economic plan and cabinet professionalism, of denigrating activities by cabinet ministers, the breakdown of communications between himself as chief secretary and the cabinet, and the cabinet's lack of support for him. Retired chief secretary, Willie Starr, replaced him.David Adeang, who last year in a by-election reached Parliament as the first MP representative of Naoero Amo (Nauru First), a new party of young agitating reformists, had his suspension as a presidential counsel lifted by Batsiua. It was re-imposed on the cabinet's order.Another critic, director of medical services, Dr Ludwig Keke, got a month1s notice of dismissal.By the end of March, as the appalling state of Nauru's finances deteriorated daily, a move to dump the bumbling government of President Rene Harris was under way.Using a constitutional provision, seven MPs, including some former presidents, had signed a petition asking Parliament's Speaker, Ludwig Scotty, within 14 days of getting the request, to hold a meeting of the 20-member Parliament to discuss matters of "grave national interest".The petitioners included Adeang, Bernard Dowiyogo, Derog Gioura, Kinza Clodumar, Nimes Ekwona, Vassal Gadoengin and Vinson Detenamo. Three MPs travelling overseas were asked to support the petition.Pressure from the government delayed the meeting until the Speaker set April 4 for it. The government asked for a postponement until April 11, citing President Harris's poor health as an excuse. But the April 4 meeting went ahead, opening a way for the government's opponents to press for an early dissolution of parliament. The next election is due to be held by April-June 2003. The opposition, supported by Naoero Amo, wants Nauruans to be allowed to vote for a replacement government as early as possible.Naoero Amo disclosures last year, drawn from public records and leaks from civil servants who share the former chief secretary's disgust, showed that a succession of rotten governments had squandered about A$2100 million of the wealth built up from exports of the now nearly exhausted phosphate reserves.The government additionally had foreign debts in the region of A$400 million and had mortgaged most of Nauru's few remaining foreign assets for a loan to pay interest on other loans. Since the new loans couldn't be serviced, Naoero Amo said, Nauru's 7000 citizens were on the verge of losing everything invested as an economic cushion to fall back on when phosphate mining ended - in probably about five or six years.The government is now existing on a A$30 million payoff from Australia for agreeing to detain illegal would-be migrants, mainly Muslims, the Australians don't want to admit, in a camp on a sports field in the middle of the island.It is scraping every cent it can from such sources of revenue as petrol pump sales and minor licence fees.In its latest edition, The Visionary, Naoero Amo's political publication, says that while civil servants, phosphate mineworkers and expatriate employers have not been paid for weeks or months, along with phosphate royalty payments to landowners, government ministers have been collecting up to A$20,000 or more as per diem allowances for many unnecessary overseas trips. One minister is said to have taken more than A$100,000 in cash with him on one trip. The wives of two other ministers took more than A$100,000 in one case and A$34,000 in another, later topped up by another A$40,000 telegraphed to her, for a trip to Melbourne.The government-owned Bank of Nauru, which technically is insolvent, meanwhile, restricted savings bank account withdrawals to A$150 when it opened for a day for depositors who had run out of cash.President Harris, sick with diabetes, has been hospitalised in Melbourne with leg infection and blood circulation conditions, and had been confirmed to be in need of dialysis. The Visionary said the acting president, Remy Namaduk, appeared to be more interested in personally supervising the importation of second hand cars than attending to national affairs.Justifications given in the petition for an emergency meeting of Parliament and the latest revelations published in The Visionary are an incredible litany of government failures, misdoings and wrongs.Just some items from the publication are: Unpaid landowners' rent, unpaid royalties, lack of cash at the Bank of Nauru. Unpaid fortnightly Nauru Phosphate Commission workers salaries since January. Unpaid fortnightly salaries for civil servants since February 15. Gross negligence of schools and education needs. Breakdown of the health and hospital services. Breakdown of telecommunications services since 2001; Power cuts, water delivery delays, worsening. unemployment for hundreds of Nauruans. Unaccountable and unprecedented travelling by cabinet ministers and government officials despite the deepening cash crisis. Imports and sales of second hand vehicles by cabinet ministers despite conflict of interest between political and private interests. Obvious lack of substance, competence and integrity behind the government's present A$71 million budget. Obvious inability of President Harris to function effectively due to worsening health. Failure by finance minister Aloysius Amwano to deliver his promised A$300 million from the World Bank. Government ministers and their families travel without restraint and without cash restrictions, while civil servants go unpaid. Abuse of power, nepotism, preference for scholarship, free but unjustifiable overseas medical treatment for politicians; politicians' relatives have cheques cashed by the Bank of Nauru or Treasury at the cost of bank depositors who can1t draw money. Cases of sexual favours in return for job security, cash and other benefits. Bribes for government contracts. Political influence used to block traffic prosecutions. A Nauruan choir flown to Melbourne for a lavish 34th independence anniversary party. Air Nauru under pressure for a Boeing 737 jet lease payments. The jet halted night landings due to the breakdown of airport equipment. (by Robert Keith-Reid)

 

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/06/2002

 

Bill to Restructure MPs' Pay

Legislation has been introduced to overhaul how MPs are paid and to ensure their allowances are taxed. The Remuneration Authority (Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill follows a report this year which said a future system must provide for "proper tax treatment of MPs' and ministers' remuneration". Up to 20 longstanding allowances - many of them tax-free - can push a backbench constituency MP's annual income to about $130,000 from a basic $90,500 salary. Few ordinary workers are entitled to allowances such as those enjoyed by MPs, as employers have moved progressively toward single-tiered packages. The Higher Salaries Commission will also be renamed the Remuneration Authority and told to restructure the pay structure in line with the earlier review. It recommended a new regime, allowing a distinction between parliamentary remuneration and MPs' work-related expenses and said these should be taxed according to standard practice.



From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 06/12/2002

 

New Parliament Meets in Vanuatu

The new Parliament in Vanuatu has held its first meeting and, as expected, it has re-elected Edward Natapei as Prime Minister.Sean Dorney reports the important post of Finance Minister has gone to one of Mr Natapei's party colleagues, Sela Molisa, one of Vanuatu's longest serving politicians. Under the new coalition agreement in Vanuatu the leading party in the coalition, the Vanua'aku Party, the VP, has kept the Prime Ministership but it's given the Speakership and six of the thirteen Ministries to its coalition partner, the Union of Moderate Parties. The UMP won one more seat than the VP but Mr Natapei's party has the support of some independents, one of whom, Nicolas Brown, has been given a Ministry, Ni-Vanuatu Business. Sela Molisa's appointment to the Finance Ministry will be welcome news to aid donors. He's a known quantity and is expected to carry on with the economic reform policies of Joe Kalo, who lost his seat. The former Speaker, another Vanua'aku Party stalwart, Donald Kalpokas, returns to the Cabinet as Health Minister.


From http://abc.net.au/ 06/04/2002

 

 

Asia-Pacific Chambers Promote Good Corporate Governance

Port Moresby --Strong, effective systems of corporate governance are essential to the sustained competitive advantage of commerce and industry to realise the opportunities offered by globalisation. This is one of the resolutions that was passed by the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry as it met in Mongolia. The Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a member. The assembled Asia-Pacific chambers said such frameworks for developing countries, especially for economies in transition from centrally planned to market-based systems, would enable credibility: - with foreign investors,- owners of intellectual property-and international financial institutions. "Decisive action to eradicate corruption and other improper practices which are indicative of corporate and political failure is imperative," they said.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/18/2002

Lelaulu Urges Pacific Solution to Good Governance Problems

A Samoan heading a prominent American non-governmental organization, Counterpart International, has welcomed calls by the University of the South Pacific for the promotion of good governance practices. Counterpart's President and Chief Executive Officer Lelei LeLaulu said that a Pacific solution must be found to address the economic, political and social woes that have plagued the region in the past few years. And he has called on regional leaders to embrace a project titled "Voices and Choices: Gardening Good Governance and Democracy in the Pacific" promoted by the Foundation of the South Pacific International. The Suva-based Foundation of the South Pacific International is an arm of the Counterpart. The Voices and Choices project targets citizenship empowerment on good governance at the rural and grassroots level. Mr LeLaulu said there was little interaction with or understanding of national governments and civic institutions - "recently introduced concepts in the Pacific" - amongst rural people. Mr LeLaulu, who has held senior development positions in the United Nations system, said: "FSPI argues that the long history and continued strength of subsistence economies within these communities leads to difficulties in translation from traditional interdependent structures to independent national government and public service - a disconnect between traditional and western forms of governance. "Voices and Choices has identified that the key to understanding the current state of governance in the region, as well as opportunities for promoting good governance and equitable decision making, are likely to be found in analyzing and targeting this rural context." Mr LeLaulu said a new ambitious approach to promoting governance and citizen empowerment was required. "FSPI believes that democracy and governance need nurturing in a Pacific appropriate fashion with outreach to be conducted at all levels of society, particularly at the rural and community level," he said. Mr LeLaulu's statement echoed sentiments by the University of the South Pacific's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra. He had called for good governance in national, sub-national, corporate and civil-society levels, while opening the joint "Country Update for Fiji" seminar. This was organized by the University of the South Pacific and the Australian National University. Mr LeLaulu added that the Voices and Choices project was a product of the Pacific that drew solutions from within the diverse cultures in the region He said that Foundation of the South Pacific International has not deviated from its guiding principles that:- It would help local Pacific Island communities build the structures through which they could solve their own problems.- Economic development of Pacific Islanders was the essential first step towards viable societies .Foundation of the South Pacific International executive director Rex Horoi, former Solomon Islands Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States, heads the project. He is being assisted by Suliana Siwatibau, a former Director of Energy in Fiji. ( by Wainikiti Waqa-Bogidrau)

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/16/2002

 

Improving Measuring, Monitoring and Managing of Development Results---Two-Day International Roundtable Sponsored by the Multilateral Development Banks and the OECD-DAC Gets Underway

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - A two-day international roundtable on Better Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing for Development Results was launched yesterday at the World Bank's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The roundtable is jointly sponsored by the multilateral development banks- Asian Development Bank (ADB), African Development Bank (AfDB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and World Bank-in cooperation with the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD. Participants at the opening session included ADB President Tadao Chino, AfDB President Omar Kabbaj, IDB President Enrique Iglesias, World Bank President James Wolfensohn and DAC Chairman Jean-Claude Faure. Willem Buiter, Chief Economist of the EBRD spoke on behalf of its President Jean Lemierre. In addition to roundtable sponsors, the opening session included statements by IMF Deputy Director Masood Ahmed; UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown; Roberto de Ocampo, President of the Asian Institute of Management and Tertius Zongo, Burkina Faso Ambassador to the U.S. The roundtable had its genesis in a meeting of the MDBs earlier this year where they discussed the challenge of enhancing their agencies' results orientation and development effectiveness. They agreed to work together, sharing ideas, experiences, and research findings, including through the joint preparation of the roundtable and related activities. Their intention to host the roundtable was set out in a joint statement of Heads of Multilateral Development Banks issued on March 19 at the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development. Following the opening session, the roundtable explored the strategic context for results-based development and the challenges of day-to-day management for development results. Today, participants will discuss the role of independent evaluation in institutional accountability and learning followed by four technical workshops, drilling down on specific issues touched on in the plenary sessions and permitting participants to share lessons learned and challenges associated with: (1) country performance rating systems; (2) results-based management; (3) statistical capacity building; and (4) scaling up of evaluation beyond projects. The roundtable closes today with a wrap-up session focused on lessons learned and next steps. Roundtable participants include representatives from the sponsoring MDBs and DAC, developing and donor countries, the IMF, the U.N., and other international agencies and civil society. Len Good, President of CIDA, was the Keynote Speaker at the June 5 Roundtable luncheon, speaking on "New Approaches to Development and Results-Based Management." John Taylor, Under Secretary for International Affairs, U.S. Treasury, addressed the reception on the evening of June 5. Madame Khempeng Pholsena, Vice-President of the Committee for Planning and Cooperation, Lao People's Democratic Republic, chaired the session on "Strategic Context for Results-Based Development" on June 5.

From http://www.adb.org/ 06/06/2002

 

TOPˇü

Legal Service Hotline to Aid Foreigners

If you are an overseas visitor in Beijing and happen to have a query about Chinese laws, answers are now just one call away. Starting from June 17, an English-language legal service hotline is available for foreigners in the Chinese capital. According to sources with the Beijing Bureau of Justice, English-speakers should dial 1600148 and then follow the instruction for legal consultations provided in English. Follow-up legal services can also be arranged for foreigners if they find the consultation satisfactory. "We hope that the English-language hotline will provide foreigners in Beijing with effective legal help," said Deng Jiansheng, who is responsible for the hotline. "We hope that our efforts will make them feel at home during their stay in Beijing." Sixteen lawyers who Deng's bureau said have " high caliber (experience) in law and are fluent in oral English" will be at the other end of the hotline to answer questions. More than half of them have doctorates or master's degrees. The 1600148 hotline is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. The number remains a nationwide hotline where people can get free and handy legal advice in Chinese.

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/18/2002

Accountability System to Boost HKSAR Gov't Efficiency

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government explained to a community in the United States that the imminent adoption of the accountability system will help boost administrative efficiency in the HKSAR. HKSAR Financial Secretary Anthony Leung made the explanation in his speech to the Asia Society in New York, which was issued by the HKSAR's Government Information Services late Tuesday night. Speaking on the HKSAR's appointing of a total of 14 principal officials on July 1 to head various bureaus, Leung said, "They (the officials) will have much more contact and communication with the people. They will work more closely with all political parties to get things done faster and more smoothly." "Those appointed will take full responsibility for their respective portfolios and be accountable for the success or failure of their policies," he added. The distribution of powers in new system is laid down in the Basic Law, and the strong checks and balances for such powers will come from the HKSAR Legislative Council, the people and the media, Leung stressed. Despite the reengineering, the Hong Kong SAR is expected to maintain an institutional framework conducive to market development, he said. But there will be the streamlining and enhancing of the government by "reprioritizing the various things" the HKSAR government does, he said.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/05/2002

'Corporate Governance to Improve with WTO'

China's entry to the World Trade Organization will help improve the country's corporate governance. Andrew Sheng, chairman of Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, made the point in his speech yesterday at the joint seminar of the Independent Commission against Corruption and Shanghai People's Procuratorate. "Because the whole range of Chinese institutions - both the State-owned and private enterprises, regulatory authorities, judiciary and other social bodies - must change as a result of external competition, an effective corporate governance framework lies at the heart of the reform process," Sheng said. The improvement of corporate governance is essentially based on the quality of all market participants, said Sheng. "In the end, it is the quality of people that determine the quality of markets, and markets are all about confidence and trust," he said. Good corporate governance is "a three-legged stool of discipline", namely self-discipline of firms' management or controlling shareholders, regulatory discipline and market discipline, he said. Sheng believed "the most significant impact" of China's WTO entry will be seen in bringing market discipline by introducing more competition and global standards. "To compete globally, the market demands professionalism and more effective management models ... Greater transparency to global standards will force the enterprises and their management to greater accountability," Sheng said. (by Li Ming)

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/14/2002

Sina.net Launched for Government, Firms

Sina Corp., the country's leading Internet portal, officially launched its unit Sina.net on June 15. It will focus on helping enterprises and the government build Websites. The opening was announced at Sina's Second Forum on Informatization of Enterprises and Government held in Shanghai.

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/16/2002

China Loosens Grip on Soes

China has worked out an aggressive plan that will allow foreign multinationals to acquire State-owned enterprises (SOEs), a breakthrough legal framework that will strategically shift the stakes of the country's tens of thousands of insolvent SOEs to foreign companies. The much-anticipated regulation will be soon released by the State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC), the body that governs the country's economic policy, following a review by the State Council, China's cabinet. "Currently, the rules have already been finalized by us," a senior SETC official confirmed. Laws and regulations governing foreign companies' mergers and acquisitions have been relatively nonexistent in China apart from a provision released by SETC in 1998 allowing foreign companies to acquire stakes from SOEs, but even that provision lacked measurable guidelines. The landmark policy breakthrough would provide detailed rules that foreign multinationals have desperately been waiting for but so far have not seen until now. According to the regulation, several of China's top 500 SOEs - which long have been pillars of the country's economy, but now are holding up the country's economic restructure with their mounting bad loans - will co-operate with foreign rivals in the near future. Jiang Qiangui, vice-minister of SETC, confirmed the news, but declined to give further details. Under the new regulation, most of the SOEs in the industrial sector will be opened to foreign companies for mergers and acquisitions, except a few that have security or national interests. And foreign partners will be allowed to take a controlling stake in the new companies. A research report with Guotai J&A Securities claims that foreign companies would be mostly interested in sectors in which China holds a competitive advantage and which have growth potential, such as manufacturing and the service sectors. The money from the stake sales will be used to fund the country's social security system, which is expected to support millions of retired SOE employees. "But it is very hard to forecast the exact time for the final debut of the regulation since it concerns many other departments," the SETC official said. The official said the regulation will set up a new benchmark for foreign companies looking to take a stake in major Chinese companies. "It is a total new (regulation), and we hope it will set up new standards to govern all the possible transactions between Chinese SOEs, including both big names and smaller companies, and foreign companies," he said. Under the current legal framework, direct transfers of stakes from SOEs to foreign multinationals are still not allowed because the State Council fears that giving such a go-ahead would lead to corruption and outflow of State assets. The State Council is keen on maintaining stability, even suspending the trading of corporate shares among domestic-listed companies in the domestic investor-only A-share market and postponing the much-planned reduction of State-owned shares on the stock market. Rumours of the selldown devastated investor confidence last year and wreaked havoc on the market. But further opening of China's insolvent SOEs relies less on restructuring of shareholding reform and more on acquisitions and mergers by foreign players. Wang Zhile, head of a central government think-tank, said the release of the new rules is a natural and inevitable result of the country's WTO accession. "One of the advantages that WTO membership brings us is the change of game rules, and this move would be the last but best choice for the restructuring of inefficient SOEs," Wang said. In the late 1990s, Premier Zhu Rongji vowed to turn around SOEs under a three-year timetable. Since then, the central government has adopted a series of important measures to relieve the burden of the 500 major SOEs. A number of new measures, including the debt-to-equity swap, sale of smaller SOEs to private companies and the establishment of four large asset management companies, have been taken to reform SOEs. The new regulations could signal the government's approval of the sale of State-held share in more than 1,000 public-listed companies - a move that is likely to spark fear in the market. China's four large State-owned asset management companies - including Huarong, Great Wall, Orient and Cinda - are already allowed to sell part of the large pool of assets they gather from the four largest State-owned banks, which is considered a major step forward by the central government for the landmark release of new regulations. As China's financial sectors grow increasingly more open, analysts say more foreign investors are likely to prefer stake transfers over direct investment in order to maximize their investments. Peng Yan, a lawyer specializing in mergers and acquisitions, said the new regulation is just the beginning of major reform and said further clarifications and guidelines must accompany the new regulations for them to be effective. Profit margins of the top 512 companies governed by SETC fell 18 per cent on a year-on-year basis to 66.8 billion yuan (US$8.05 billion) in the first four months of the year, according to the latest figures released by SETC last week. It signals that the performances of the large SOEs, though they are making profits are still fragile in the wake of the stiffer competition in the market. Among those mostly hurt are big names in a number of industries, such as petrochemical, machinery and transportations.

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/04/2002

E-Voting Could Go Nationwide

Public Management Minister Toranosuke Katayama expressed his intention Sunday to start examining legal and technical issues related to introducing the electronic voting system in national elections. Katayama made the statement in Niimi, Okayama Prefecture, which he visited to observe Japan's first electronic vote. It was the first time Katayama referred to the introduction of electronic voting in national elections. "I think we should aim for electronic voting because we live in the age of information technology," Katayama said at a press conference in the city. "What we aim for (next) is of course the national election. We will examine legal and technological problems to introduce the system to the national election while closely watching its performance in local elections."

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 06/24/2002

Chinese Non-Governmental Organizations May Pioneer 'Three Links'

Non-governmental organizations across the Taiwan Straits may for the first time be commissioned to negotiate for the three cross-Strait exchanges - the mail service, trade, and air and shipping services, according to a senior Chinese mainland official. "Deals resulting from these negotiations would then be implemented after confirmation by authorities on both sides," Li Bingcai, deputy director of the Taiwan Work Office of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, said Monday at a meeting with a visiting delegation from the Cross-Strait Economic and Trade Association of Kuomintang in Taiwan. Li is also vice president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) of the mainland. This is the first time that the Chinese mainland has announced concrete propositions on the non-governmental approach to the "Three Links" issue. The two sides have been estranged since a civil war in the late 1940s. Li reiterated the mainland's "one China" principle in promoting the three exchanges. He said that so long as the two sides regard the "Three Links" as the internal affairs of a state, non-governmental approaches would be used immediately to facilitate the "Three Links". He also called on Taiwan authorities to remove restrictions on the entry of mainland products into Taiwan and to allow mainland enterprises and business groups to establish offices in Taiwan as soon as possible. Her Jyh-Huei, head of the delegation from Taiwan, spoke highly of the meeting Monday. He said that since the two sides have both joined the WTO, promoting direct air and shipping links and other exchanges across the Straits has become inevitable. The Taiwan authorities should expedite this process. He said that the mainland side has shown goodwill in the "ThreeLinks" discussions. He hoped that sustained goodwill and sincerityfrom the mainland would help bring about the three exchanges" as soon as possible.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/25/2002

China Orders Unlicensed Internet Cafes Closed Nationwide

The Ministry of Culture announced Friday that a new crackdown on unlicensed Internet cafes will be launched nationwide from July 1 to August 31. Internet cafes without proper licenses are to be closed and owners will be prosecuted. Those providing sites for Internet cafes without permission will also face prosecution, said Liu Yuzhu, an official with the ministry. Authorities will pay more attention to fire control equipment in cyber cafes during the action, he added. A severe fire at an unlicensed Internet cafe in Beijing killed 25 people and injured 12 on June 16. The action will be carried out by four government departments: the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Information Industries and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. Legal Internet cafes are also required to reregister by October 1, Liu said. According to the Ministry of Culture, there are more than 200, 000 Internet bars in China, of which 46,000 are legally registered. A legal Internet bar must have documents concerning safety granted by the police, a special license for culture-related businesses and a general business license granted by commerce regulators.

From http://search.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/29/2002

E-Vote Names Mayor in 25 Minutes

The nation's first election using an electronic voting system was successfully completed Sunday in Niimi, Okayama Prefecture, in the mayoral and city assembly polls, the local election administration commission said. Incumbent Mayor Masao Ishigaki, 61, beat rookie Kiyoshi Kisaka, 51, in the mayoral election, the officials said. Voter turnout was 86.8 percent, slightly lower than the previous city assembly election at 88.4 percent. The city has 19,381 eligible voters. In spite of minor technical problems with voting machines at some polling stations, the poll ended at 8 p.m. as scheduled, the officials said. The result of the electronic vote became available only 25 minutes after the ballot count started at 9:25 p.m., proving the efficiency of the new system. The successful electronic vote in Niimi is expected to prompt other local governments to introduce the e-election system, observers said. Electronic voting was held at 43 polling stations in the city, where a total of 110 e-voting machines were installed. Officials helped voters who had difficulties using them. After the poll, compact flash memory cards that recorded the ballots were removed from the voting machines and transported to the ballot-counting station. Though the ballot count for the electronic voting was completed by two officials in about 25 minutes, officials still needed to tally absentee ballots manually. About 30 percent of the city's population is aged 60 or older. Out of concern that elderly voters would shy away from electronic voting, the city's election commission carried out a two-month campaign to familiarize voters with the new machines. (by Yomiuri Shimbun)

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 06/24/2002

Shanghai Govt Portal Links to 140 Departments

Shanghai municipal government's portal website "China Shanghai" (www.shanghai.gov.cn) is linked to more than 140 departments of the city, reveals the Informatization Office. Vice Mayor Yan Junqi said in the e-government process, Shanghai will introduce more technologies from countries with high quality e-government infrastructures like the United States, Singapore and Sweden. Wu Choy Peng, assistant chief executive of Singapore Government Chief Information Office, disclosed there are two co-operative projects between Singaporean and Shanghai governments.

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/18/2002

MDP to Embrace Special Prosecutor System

The Millennium Democratic Party is planning to introduce a set of institutional measures, including the system of an independent counsel on a temporary basis within the regular parliamentary session in September. If the bill is blocked by rival political parties, the MDP, which has been reeling from a recent election rout, plans to present anti-corruption measures as campaign pledges of Roh Moo-hyun, its presidential candidate. The move, which is aimed at addressing the corruption of the relatives of the president and senior government officials, was contained in a report Rep. Shin Ki-nam, chairman of the MDP's anti-corruption task force, will submit to the Supreme Council today for approval. Members of the Supreme Council were scheduled to hold a session to discuss the anti-corruption measures yesterday, but it was delayed until today as Roh and the party leadership were visiting a front line military base. The set of institutional measures also called for the establishment of an investigation agency charged with looking into corruption cases involving senior government officials. The task force demands that top government officials such as the prosecutor general and the director of the National Intelligence Service should undergo confirmation hearings. In addition, the task force has decided to ask the party leadership to persuade MDP Rep. Kim Hong-il, the eldest son of President Kim Dae-jung, to leave the party, ask President Kim to hold his secretaries accountable for their involvement in corruption cases and dissolve his private think tank, known as the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation for the Asia-Pacific Region. Shin stressed that the improvement of institutional measures in a stern and drastic manner would combat corruption and win back public confidence. In a related development, Roh is planning to hold a press conference early next month to announce a set of institutional measures to combat corruption and is allegedly considering announcing his position on cutting political ties with President Kim. ``Roh's announcements will surpass the level being discussed by the party,'' said a Roh's aide. ``We have passed the stage where we can address the problems we face with cosmetic measures.'' Yoo Jong-pil, Roh's spokesman, also said that additional measures would be required if public suspicion of the prosecution's investigation lingers. For days, Roh has been listening to opinions on anti-corruption measures by holding a series of sessions with party officials and leaders of civic organizations. The public image of the party has been tainted almost beyond repair by corruption scandals, which led to the party's crushing defeat in the recent local elections. (by Kim Kwang-tae)

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/27/2002

Local Elections A Test of New Voting System

The local elections tomorrow will test a new electoral system under which Koreans cast ballots not only for candidates but also for political parties. It is the first time for Koreans to vote for the party of their choice. The new system is widely expected to boost chances for small parties to advance into local councils. The result will also be a weathervane for the presidential election in December, as it will clearly show support rates for rival parties. Election management officials are concerned that voters may be confused by the complicated procedure that requires them to mark their choices on five ballot sheets. Each voter is to cast four ballots for their favorite candidates running for administrative posts and local council membership, both divided into higher and lower level units. The other is reserved for choosing political parties. The result will determine the proportional allocation of local council seats among parties that win more than 5 percent of the total votes cast in each district. Previously, voters chose only candidates. Parties divided among themselves seats reserved for proportional representation in accordance with the percentage of the vote each of their candidates received. Last July, the Constitutional Court ruled the electoral system unconstitutional because voters might not necessarily support the political party that has fielded their favorite candidate. The new system, to be introduced in tomorrow's local elections, prevents any political party from occupying more than two-thirds of the proportionally representative seats, in order to help minor parties make their way into local councils. To qualify for the proportionally allotted seats, parties have to secure at least 5 percent of party votes cast. But in case a single party secures the bulk of the vote, and all other parties win less than 5 percent, seats will still be awarded to unsuccessful parties, regardless of their qualifications. The National Election Commission (NEC) has tried to promote public understanding of the new electoral system though ads on television and newspapers, its Web site, and leaflets attached to voting materials that were mailed to citizens. But small parties and civic groups have complained that the NEC has not made a big enough effort, raising concerns about possible confusion at polling stations.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/12/2002

New Electronic Vote Counters Fail to Live Up to Expectations

Some electronic vote counters meant to facilitate the process of tallying ballots failed to meet expectations, election officials said yesterday. A number of electronic counters malfunctioned, and in other cases, the operators were not well trained, officials at the National Election Commission (NEC) said. "Voters also marked ballots incorrectly, causing the machines to malfunction," said an NEC official. In previous elections, hundreds of people, some of them schoolteachers, worked overnight; most found the job taxing. The NEC produced 650 electronic counters, and installed them at 275 of 277 counting stations nationwide, expecting they would cut the time and manpower required to count tens of millions of votes. In fact, it took only several minutes for three electronic vote counters to count more than 1,000 ballots at a counting station in Jongno, central Seoul. "If electronic vote counting takes root, nobody will have to count ballots overnight," an election observer said. However, in some districts, it took just as long for the machines to count ballots as people, partly because operators of the machines were improperly trained. At the counting station at a high school in Gangnam, southern Seoul, it took an average of 15 minutes from the time a ballot box was opened to the time the ballots were ready to be fed into the machines. In comparison, the same process took about 10 minutes in the last local locations in 1998. Voters' incorrect markings undermined the machines' effectiveness, the NEC officials said. Electronics vote counters failed to read about 20 percent of ballots in Dongdaemun-gu because of faulty markings, requiring slower, manual counting. Some of the machines were defective. In Ahyeong-dong, northern Seoul, a counter recognized 1,900 ballots for Seoul mayoral vote as 1,600, the NEC said. In Jeju, South Gyeongsang and Gangwon provinces, election workers had to count ballots manually in some constituencies because of defects in the machines.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/15/2002

S. Korea Rated Highly for E-Government

The Ministry of Information and Communication announced Wednesday that the country has been included among those at the forefront of instilling e-government in a UN-American Public Administration (ASPA) survey of some 190 nations. The UN-ASAP classified each nation's Internet administrative service into five levels; starting, developing, interacting, e-transacting, and integrated processing; and placed Korea in the top 16 advanced nations in e-transactions and e-payments, alongside the United States, Australia and Singapore. Among OECD member nations, Japan, Belgium and Austria were placed in the interacting level, lower than that of Korea. At the same time, in the ranking of the advancement of e-government Internet administrative services, IT infrastructure, IT and human resources overall, Korea edged Japan, Italy and Austria, to rank 15th. MOIC official Yang Jun-cheol in charge of international relations said the UN noted the Korean government as one whose planning showed the most dramatic advances, adding when the basic infrastructure is finalized at the end of the year, its status will be upgraded. (by Kim Ki-hong )

From http://english.chosun.com/ 06/19/2002

Korean Proficiency Exam to Be Held September 15

The sixth Korean Proficiency Test for non-native speakers of Korean, such as foreigners or ethnic Koreans living abroad, will be administered Sept. 15, the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) said yesterday. This year's examination will take place in 33 cities in 10 countries, including Korea, the United States, Russia, Australia, Japan and China. Application forms are available June 24-Aug. 2 at 10 locations, including KICE's main office near Gwanghwamun and four testing centers in Korea, or can be downloaded from KICE's Web site (www.kice.re.kr). The four test locations in Korea are Seoul, Chungnam, Pusan and Chonnam national universities. Test-takers should submit the forms to the university where they will take the test by Aug. 2, except for applicants wishing to take the test at Seoul National University who should submit their forms to KICE headquarters. The Korean Proficiency Test is used as a measure of the Korean language skills of foreigners or Koreans living abroad when they apply to Korean universities or companies. Divided into six skill levels, the test is comprised of four sections-- vocabulary and grammar, writing, listening and reading. One must score more than 60 points in each section to pass the test. For more information, call 02-3704-3684 or visit the Web site. Those living abroad can contact the Korean Education Center in their respective countries for application forms or other materials.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/11/2002

 

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Viet Nam Calls for Regional Efforts to Expedite Economic Development

HA NOI - Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien has urged Asian nations to pull together in their efforts to accelerate the pace of economic development. In his speech at a two-day Asian Co-operation Dialogue in Thailand, the foreign minister stressed the importance of the new spirit of co-operation among Asian nations. He said it was promoting peace and prosperity in the region, and provided a foundation of stability that allowed all countries to concentrate on their economic development. Nien said that the quest to tap regional strength and potential had become more imperative, particularly in the context of globalisation. "It's helping Asian countries not only get more competitive, but also achieve sustainable development," he said. "This is a new kind of co-operation, and it will assist all Asian nations to alleviate the poverty and suffering of our hundreds of millions of people, as well as protecting the environment and ensuring social equity." Nien said successful co-operation among Asian countries in recent years has made a vital contribution to economic development in this region, and helped raise the profile and prestige of Asian around the world. He expressed his hope that the ongoing dialogue would provide Asian countries with more opportunities to boost co-operation and mutual understanding. The Asia Co-operation Dialogue, which includes 12 foreign ministers and five other ministers, gathered for a free-from discussion aimed at boosting regional co-operation.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/21/2002

Malaysia: Business Sector Hails Smooth Leadership Transition

THE announcement of an orderly transition in leadership from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi promises that it will be business as usual. Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, an economist and adviser to the Sunway Group, said it was a relief to know that Dr Mahathir will stay on as head of Umno and Barisan Nasional for another year. "But it is still a little disconcerting... business confidence may be affected as this (his decision to step down) has come as a shock... there was no indication that Dr Mahathir would be leaving. "However, if that is his decision, it is reassuring that he has prepared for a smooth succession," he said. Navaratnam said the business community has great respect for Abdullah and the fact that he is taking over offers some comfort. US-Asean Business Council president Ernest Z. Bower said Dr Mahathir's resignation will not deter American businessmen from continuing to invest in Malaysia. "All I can tell you at this point is that American businesses are committed for the long term to Malaysia. "We have experienced a very high level of professionalism from our business partners and among the government officials who work to create an environment that encourages enhanced trade and investment. "We expect this environment to be fostered well into the future," he said. Bower said the council hopes and expects Malaysia to maintain its pro-business policies to ensure continued growth and job creation. The American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) also looks forward to seeing the policy stance maintained. "As indicated by the recent Amcham-Gallup survey (which rated Malaysia as being politically very stable), American businesses in the country have strong confidence in the political climate here," said Amcham president Timothy Garland. "A smooth transition would be very welcomed." An economist from a research firm, meanwhile, said the most important thing now is for economic policies to remain the same, particularly government spending and the ringgit peg. "Abdullah is quite safe because he is close to the PM... so my guess is that things will not change. We think the ringgit peg should stay for a while yet," he added. Nik Fauzan Nik Mohamed, economist at Hwang-DBS Securities, said the core macro-economic policies will likely be maintained "to provide stability in the initial stages". However, some uncertainties in the political equation can be expected, he said. Helen Tan, a research manager at ASM Asset Management which handles over RM400,000 in local funds, said the announcement brought a measure of relief to the market but may not completely eliminate selling pressure. The market hates uncertainty, which means the new Prime Minister has to be clear cut about whether there will be policy changes, she said. "If investors perceive that no drastic changes are in store, the market and business in general will get back on track very quickly." Conservative foreign funds may stay out of the market until the dust settles though, but the aggressive ones are likely to start nibbling given the attractive prices now. This is especially so given Wall Street's weakness of late. The stock market, which reacted negatively on Monday after Dr Mahathir's resignation announcement at the weekend, fell another 9.29 points yesterday to close at 717.21. An analyst with a securities firm said the Kuala Lumpur Stock exchange Composite Index (KLCI) should find strong support at the 700-point level. This is because the market had already entered a correction mode prior to the announcement. "The support level prior to the news was 725-730. "We believe that any further negative response would be moderate, because the market has largely come to grips with the Prime Minister's resignation. "Any downside would be limited... we do not believe the index would go below 700," the analyst said, adding that Monday' s fall was a knee-jerk reaction. On Monday, heavy selling towards the close saw the KLCI falling 16.85 points or 2.27 per cent to 726.50. Trading volume was 242.940 million shares, double that of last week's daily average of 117.798 million shares, but lower than the three-month daily average of 311 million. "We believe that Dr Mahathir could assume a senior position like what Lee Kuan Yew had done in Singapore, at least during the transitional period," the analyst said. Professor Dr Mohamed Ariff, executive director of Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, said Abdullah has his work cut out to convince the business community. "The concern is whether Abdullah will carry out the policies with the same enthusiasm. If he can show that a change in leadership does not mean a departure from old policies, then the doubts and qualms will settle down. "The good thing is our economy is already on auto-pilot... it will continue to recover."

From http://www.nstpi.com.my/ 06/26/2002

RP Gov'T to Embark on E-Governance to Enhance Delivery of Public Service

The use of digital technologies to enhance delivery of public services is a necessary element of government in its drive for good governance. "e-Government introduces another dimension that would fundamentally change how democratic governance is practiced," said Ambassador Roberto R. Romulo, senior adviser to President Arroyo on international competitiveness. Speaking at the recent e-Gobyerno 2002 exhibit and seminar, Romulo has stressed that the key to eGovernment is a long-term, government-wide strategy to constantly improve operations with the end in view of more efficiently and effectively fulfilling citizen needs. "For society as a whole, the ability of ICT (information and communication technology) to break down geographic and temporal barriers represents an unprecedented opportunity to bridge the gap between the governors and the governed." Romulo said that e-Gobyerno represents a significant milestone for the Philippines on the use of ICT to promotemore efficient and effective government, facilitate more accessible government services and allow greater public access to information. He noted the governments across the globe have begun to move online, thus, increasing expectation for more government services and transactions to be accessible and transacted online. Leaders in the egovern-ment movement are demonstrating that by combining technology with new ways of operating, government can be much more responsive and efficient. Romulo noted that despite an early start with the computerization in government with the creation of the National Computer Center (NCC) in the 1970s, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were ahead in terms of egovernment implementation in the region. A study conducted by Harvard University, the Philippines ranked 57th in e-government programs of the 75 countries. "We have much work ahead of us if we are to deliver the promise of e-government. Fortunately, we have already taken a number of important steps forward and the holding of eGobyerno is one of them." Romulo cited the importance of eGobyerno in leading to better public service and enhanced democracy. It would also stimulate the country's transition into the information economy. In the future, mastery of digital technologies is a pre-requisite for success. Countries that fail to prepare their citizens for the digital workplaces are bound to be left behind. "Connecting to the internet is not a luxury but a precondition for economic prosperity," said Romulo. He posed this challenge: "What effective steps can we take so that we are wealth creators and not just workers in the new economy?" The Arroyo administration is committed to harnessing the benefits of ICT for national development. Romulo also cited President Arroyo's declaration that technology is the foundation of future economic development and called for the creation of a digital culture. "The President believes that fostering a digital culture is driven by range of factors that include access to highlevel skills and strong research infrastructure, development of new and lasting education institutions, effective entrepreneurship, the protection of intellectual property rights, healthy and active capital markets and a regulatory environment that promotes innovation and investment." Three areas have been identified by President Arroyo for government activities that would foster a digital culture and maximizes the benefits of ICT building of physical infrastructure, an appropriate policy and legal environment, and the development of human capital. "Arroyo has asked Congress to enact laws to allow multimedia convergence and create a Department of Information and Communications Technology. The President also recognizes that our national efforts at preparing us for the new economy would be enhanced by regional efforts," said Romulo. He added that eGobyerno 2002 is an example of a partnership of the public and private sectors for better public service through technology. The national government has mandated all agencies to put in place online transactions by June 2002 to service the needs of Filipinos. Under the E-Commerce Law, the electronic version or copy of a document is as good as the original as long as thecriteria of accessibility, integrity, and identification of person and time are assured. "By compelling our departments to be online through E-Commerce Law, we are in effect instituting what is termed e-government. We have to assimilate effective information systems within the bureaucracy and redefine public service," said Mayette V. Busta-mante, a member of the eGobyerno technical working committee. It was estimated that around 250 government agencies have working websites that are offering mostly information. However, only a few actually feature interactive services to the public. The United Nations has set a standard to measure e-government preparedness. Stage 5 or integrated web presence is the ideal but for the Philippines, at least Stage 3 or interactive web presence would be satisfactory. Senator Ramon Magsay-say, Jr., author and sponsor of the e-Commerce Law said that eGobyerno is envisioned to be an effective venue to inform the public of government initiatives and advances on the use of ICT for better public services. The two-day exhibit and conference was sponsored by ePLDT, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, GMA 7, Manila Bulletin, Computer World, 105.1 Crossover, Philippine Information Agency, KBP, the Congressional Oversight Committee on e-Commerce co-chaired by Senator Magsaysay, ITECC and Congressman Harry Angping. (by Edu H. Lopez)

From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 06/16/2002

Dismal Ranking a Wake-Up Call for Education Reform

BANGKOK: The report Thai-land's Education Competitive-ness 2001 recently released by the Office of the National Education Commission (ONEC) should be required reading for all educators and education management professionals in this country. The ONEC report was a follow-up to the International Ins-titute for Management Develop-ment's (IMD) World Competi-tiveness Yearbook 2001 that assigned Thailand to 38th place among 49 countries surveyed. Thailand's dismal ranking trailed behind countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and China. Thailand's overall low ranking in terms of competitiveness could be attributed to its poor showing in education management. This despite the fact that Thailand spent an equivalent of 4.4% of gross domestic product on education, which was higher than most countries in Asia, with the exception of Malaysia. The country's teacher-to-student ratio of 1:18 and illiteracy rate of just 5.3% were above Asia's average, but low secondary school enrolment, poor quality teaching in science and mathematics, and tertiary education mismanagement, among other factors, contributed to the overall low ranking in education competitiveness. It would be a gross understatement to say the country's education is badly in need of patching up. Thailand's education system must be overhauled under a drastic reform programme tenaciously implemented by the government with strong support from the private sector and people from all walks of life. To catch up with other countries, Thailand's compulsory ed-ucation must be extended to 12 years without delay, to be followed by expansion of access to higher education, particularly in fields where there is still a shortage in manpower. Thailand must also be transformed into a learning society, where lifelong learning is encouraged and access to continuing education is open to all. In qualitative terms, education reformers must redouble their efforts to bring about positive change and the kind of environment that would encourage and compel education es-tablishments to upgrade their management efficiency, im-prove curricula, better train teachers and introduce child-centred learning. Other important aspects of education reform include the introduction of performance-based assessment, a significant increase in the salaries of teachers to keep them motivated, along with a general upgrade and investment in better quality teaching aids. Priority should be given to the ongoing effort to close the gap in terms of quality of education at well-financed urban schools and under-funded rural schools. A quality assurance system should also be put in place to ensure equal access to quality education for all. Decentralisation of education management must be implemented, while people in local communities must be encouraged to participate fully in monitoring the performance of school administrators to ensure that available resources for education are used wisely, cost-effectively and transparently. Whatever happened to the ambitious education reform that was launched with much fanfare but then fizzled out like a damp firecracker? Thai society is failing to reform its outdated, inefficient education system at its own peril.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 06/16/2002

Key Economic Zones Encouraged to Spearhead National Growth

HA NOI - Key economic zones in northern and southern Viet Nam must act as important pace-setters if the country is to accomplish its socio-economic development agenda. Toward this end, the State has drawn up preferential policies and measures for these zones, which currently account for 68 per cent of the nation's industrial production and 97 per cent of total export revenue. The State has taken significant strides to build and rejuvenate the socio-economic infrastructure in northern provinces, which was either destroyed by past wars or neglected during the post-war period. Essential economic zones have prospered in the northern provinces in great part, as a result of a flexible open-door policy. Domestic and foreign investors funnelled a considerable volume of capital into regional development. Today, agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors make up 20 per cent of the GDP, industry and construction 35 per cent, and the service sector 45 per cent, in northern economic zones. Exports in these sectors jumped sharply in several localities last year, with Hai Phong city recording an estimated export growth rate increase of 25 per cent year-on-year and Quang Ninh, 22 per cent. Despite this apparent success, total revenue from the region's exports reached only US$2 billion, or 14 per cent of the country's export value. On the one hand, local economists blame price competition in international markets for such low revenue figures. On the other, they also hold that development investment in northern provinces fails to meet demands for regional socio-economic growth. Many accuse industrial parks and export processing zones of being poor magnets for capital. For instance, only 57 foreign invested projects, with a total registered capital of $212 million, were licensed in northern provinces last year, representing just 12 per cent of the total number of foreign-invested projects and 9 per cent of combined legal capital in the country. Infrastructure expansion and structural economic reform are pivotal for amending these woes and boosting regional economic development. Diversifying southern production Southern economic zones currently account for 51 per cent of the country's total industrial production. Their output topped VND118,768 billion ($8 billion) last year, up 22.8 per cent from 2000. Their success largely contributed to the country's efforts to attain 14.2 per cent growth in industrial production last year. The southern region boasts a wide range of industrial capabilities, most significantly the oil and gas, garment making and leather footwear sectors. Apart from expanded industrial production, the southern region's agriculture, forestry and fishery sector has also achieved a fairly high level of development. Major economic and commercial centres such as HCM City, Dong Nai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Can Tho bustle with production and business transactions year round. Last year, regional GDP rose considerably in the region, with 9.5 per cent growth recorded in HCM City, 11.15 per cent in Dong Nai, 14.2 per cent in Binh Duong, and 13 per cent in Ba Ria-Vung Tau. HCM City's average per-capita income exceeded $1,468 last year, the country's highest figure. The southern region's fast economic growth is attributed to its relatively well developed infrastructure in comparison to other regions. Along with the northern economic region, it has become a mainstay and a strong engine for the country to achieve its industrialisation and modernisation targets.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/03/2002

Govt Aims to Nurture Development of Grassroots Rural Health Care Network

In response to the Central Committee's Fifth Plenum Resolution, which calls for accelerated modernisation and industrialisation of agricultural and rural areas, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has instituted a programme to develop a grass-roots health care system in rural areas. Health Minister Do Nguyen Phuong elaborated on the details of this programme in an interview with Quan Doi Nhan Dan (The People's Army) newspaper.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/14/2002

Vietnam Sets Up Group to Supervise SOE Restructuring

HANOI, (Xinhuanet) -- The Vietnamese government has decided to set up a group to supervise the restructuring of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the Vietnam News Agency said Monday. Under the decision, the group is responsible for supervising the compilation of legal documents on restructuring and developingSOEs and the tempo of equitising, transferring, selling, leasing, merging and dissolving state-owned enterprises. According to the Board for State-Owned Enterprise Renewal, since 1992, 800 state-owned enterprises have been equitised and more than 100 others have been transferred, sold or leased. The number of equitised SOEs is expected to increase by 300 percent in the next five years, according to the board. Among more than 5,600 enterprises currently owned by the state,2,000 will turn into state-owned limited liability companies, 734 will remain unchanged , 2,000 will be equitised, and the rest willbe sold or leased.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/17/2002

Intan Gearing Up for E-Learning

THE National Institute of Public Administration (Intan) has started developing and testing e-Learning as it gears up efforts to create a critical mass of information technology (IT) literate civil servants in time for nationwide implementation of the e-Government project. "It will be implemented soon," Intan Deputy Director (IT) Dr Raja Malik Raja Mohamed told Star Business, adding that the rollout would require a planned change process. "We have recognised the issues of organisational and people readiness in approaching learning in a new way. While training and buy-ins will help open up minds, the change process must include strategies to formalise, integrate and internalise." Asked how the e-Learning programme would be implemented, he said: "Intan believes in partnership in many forms. Over the years, Intan has practised the concept of e-Intan (for "extended Intan"), using both internal and external resources, including infrastructure, content and trainers. "The resources come from both the government and private sectors." Raja Malik, who was one of the speakers at the just concluded e-Government symposium, entitled Developing an e-Ready Government, organised by Intel, said with e-Government, the public would undoubtedly benefit by being able to gain access to government services at any time. At the same time, for the administration, there would be an increase in efficiency through improved and fewer processes, better and cheaper maintenance through the use of standard systems and applications, greater organisational cooperation, and reduction of paper, among other benefits. There are seven e-Government flagship projects: e-Services - the electronic delivery of driver and vehicle registration, licensing and summons services, utility bill payments and Health Ministry online information; e-Procurement - ministries and agencies as buyers procure goods and services by browsing the catalogues on goods and services advertised by government suppliers; aimed at best value for money for the buyer and timely and accurate payment for the supplier; Generic Office Environment - a new paradigm of working in a collaborative environment where departments and agencies communicate, interact and share information; Human Resource Management Information System - providing a single interface for government employees to perform human resource management functions effectively and efficiently in an integrated environment; Project Monitoring System - a new mechanism for monitoring the implementation of development projects, incorporating operational and managerial functions, and knowledge repository; Electronic Labour Exchange - a one-stop centre for labour market information, accessible to government agencies, the private sector and the general public; and e-Government-Accountant General (AG) Integration - which ensures that the process and payment procedures that are done electronically can be linked with the AG's legacy system to provide a total, or end-to-end, solution. Raja Malik said since the different departments and agencies used IT for different purposes, the criteria and measurement for effective IT adoption had to be viewed from various perspectives: Whether IT is used as a strategic or operational tool; Whether IT does really support business goals; The rate at which IT simplifies and reduces processes; and The level of acceptance of IT by the customer. In addition to courses conducted by the various government organisations, Intan has also trained more than 50,000 civil servants in the implementation of IT in their respective sectors, both in the pre e-Government and post e-Government eras. "When the e-Government initiative took off, Intan reviewed its strategy to accommodate the e-Government requirement to achieve the MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) goals," Raja Malik said. "Among its strategies are improvements to learning infrastructure, content and applications. "As far as e-Government is concerned, Intan has achieved the initial goal, which is to prepare civil servants to start using the flagship applications." This Intan managed to do in collaboration with other training players from both the government and private sectors, including its Authorised Training Centres (ATC), higher training institutions and other government departments. To a question, Raja Malik said the issue of whether e-Learning would cover all civil servants did not arise, since the actual number of civil servants would vary due to the process of new in-take and retirement. "However, if we can create enough critical mass to use the e-Government applications, it will be good. Eventually, the newer batches of civil servants are expected to be IT literate, making it possible for all civil servants to be IT literate in future." On inculcating an e-culture in the civil service, he said: "Initially, we focused on computer literacy. Then we moved on to IT literacy and information literacy. Now everyone is talking about knowledge. "We believe that these concepts have to be applied together, as they are intertwined, and depend on each other. "Whatever it is, Intan's approach is to ensure that trainees will get new IT knowledge and skills, and at the same time, be more motivated to apply it. "For example, it is not enough to know about the Internet and to be able to access it. "What is important is that we must ensure a culture of information sharing and knowledge exchange, information security consciousness, ethics in Internet use, etc. "All these exceed the requirement of knowing how to use the Internet and the PC," said Raja Malik.

From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 06/13/2002

 

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Banks Asked to Adopt E-Banking


ISLAMABAD: Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr. Ishrat Hussain has asked the banks to move towards electronic banking adding that electronic clearance would be the predominant mode of electronic banking in near future and an essential element of e-commerce. Dr. Ishrat Hussain made these remarks after inaugurating Habib Bank's Easy Access-Online Banking facility on Friday at the Corporate Center of the Bank at Karachi. In the first phase, Habib Bank's Easy Access will provide Inter-Branch Transaction facilities between 36 branches of the bank. A customer travelling within the city or outside would need only his cheque book to access his account. The facility would be available to all individual customers of the Bank, for deposits, withdrawal and transfer of funds from or to any designated branch on the network. The facility would be extended to other branches progressively. In his address, the SBP Governor appreciated HBL's continuing efforts to providing convenience to its customers through new and innovative products. Ishrat said that the SBP would be formulating rules and regulations governing electronic clearance and e-commerce. Briefly explaining the strategy of the Bank, Zakir Mahmood said that HBL is committed towards dedicating resources of improving technological infrastructure of the Bank. The infrastructure is continuously being expanded and upgraded for automating the branches and getting state of the art technology to reduce cost and turnaround time and provide quality service to the customer. He said that the Bank is well aware of the needs of its valued customers and is in the process of designing products and services to satisfy those needs.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/15/2002

Govt to Implement Industrial Policy at Divisional Secretariat Level - Bogollagama

The Government will implement its industrial policy at Divisional Secretariat level, identifying the particular needs and resources of every district, Industries Minster Rohitha Bogollagama said. He said the Government while focusing on the country's industrialisation in general through the proposed five economic jurisdictions, would facilitate the small and medium scale industrialists to solve their problems at divisional secretariat level. The Minister was addressing the business community and Government officials of Nuwara Eliya District last Saturday. "It has been over 20 years since the industrialisation of the country began in 1977. Today, the need is to implement our policy for the next 20 years. Our main aim is to generate employment opportunities in rural areas by setting up more industries with the participation of the private sector. Initially we should identify the particular needs and resources in each district. Human resource is the most important of them all. We must realise that the talents and skills of the youth in different areas vary and set up industries to suit them. Land, capital, technology and markets are the other important aspects. When it comes to finding capital, banks have a major role to play. They should always provide financial assistance to small and medium scale industrialists in rural areas," the Minister said. He said he would look into the possibility using the closed down tea factories in the District for industrial purposes. "There is a potential for setting up industries related to tourism and tea sectors in the Nuwara Eliya District. However, we must make sure that we do not harm the environment in this area by setting up too many factories. Our industrial policy is more concerned about the environment and we will not allow any factory to be set up or operated here that would harm the environment," the Minister said.

From http://origin.dailynews.lk/ 06/12/2002

IT to Transform the Way Govt Works

Sri Lanka's success in a global economy will depend heavily on how well and how quickly we move on leveraging Information Technology, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe when he met the World Bank Vice President, M.V. Mushin who was leading a high powered team to review the Road Map for using IT for development. Associated with the meeting was Minister for Economic Reform, Science and Technology, Milinda Moragoda at Temple Trees last week-end. Prime Minister Wickremasinghe said that its time for Sri Lanka to match statements and rhetoric with concrete actions. The Government is serious about this and are convinced that the country will be left behind, given the fast pace of globalisation enabled by Information Technology. "We are keen to take IT to every village, to every citizen, to every business and to transform the way Government works by using IT. An aggressive action plan has been prepared and we will mobilise resources from Aid Agencies such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, bilateral donars and from the private sector. World Bank Vice President, Mushin who is Sri Lankan and the first Sri Lankan to be Vice President in the World Bank's 55-year history, said that many countries were steaming ahead in the use of IT to deliver knowledge services locally and globally. He said that Sri Lanka had one of the highest literacy rates in the world, had extremely impressive IT professionals in the private sector, and a student population thirsty for using IT. This augurs well to move forward. He said that the World Bank was committed to promoting the use of knowledge based services through the use of IT and will be prepared to partner with Sri Lanka. Mr. Mushin said that having a nimble, competent and dynamic public - private partnership was critical to the success of the ambitious program set out in the Road Map.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 06/27/2002

Seminar on Financial Management Reform Begins

MALE, (HNS) - A seminar on financial management reform began in Male on Monday.The two-day seminar is organized by the Public Service Division of the President's Office in collaboration with the Finance Ministry with assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).Minister of State for Finance and Treasury Mohamed Jaleel said in his inaugural speech that the introduction of international standards of economic policy data management in Maldives was vital today. He said that the objectives of the seminar were to create awareness about the importance of financial management reform in the public sector, and to introduce the various aspects of the new Public Accounting System to be implemented by the Finance Ministry. He added that as with any such project, the development of human resources was of paramount importance. Dr. Mohamed Asim, the Director General of the Public Service Division, said that the objectives of strengthening the financial management system and the objectives of management reform were interrelated and that the Public Accounting System project supported increased accountability, access to timely information and improvement of the quality of service. Two experts from the ADB are to deliver the sessions of the seminar. Over 70 participants from 34 public authorities are participating the meeting.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 06/25/2002

Govt to Reform SSC, HSC Exams System, Dr Farruk Tells JS

Education Minister Dr Osman Farruk yesterday said the government would reform the current system of examination in the SSC and HSC level to make it modern and time befitting in the greater interest of the students. Replying to a question from M Delwar Hossain Khan Dulu of BNP (Mymensingh) in the Jatiya Sangsad yesterday, he said the government had already started contemplating reform of SSC and HSC level examination system by changing and updating the current syllabus and curriculum. Other measures include updating question formulation, construction of an auditorium in each district and upazila headquarters for taking examination, introduction of semester system, change of the current grading system and holding public examinations more than once in a year like the "A" and "O" level examination. A process is now underway to form an expert committee to prioritise the possible reform measures," he said. The Education Minister said, the government would take the issue of opening degree classes in ADB-assisted schools after consultation with Asian Development Bank (ADB) soon. In reply to a call attention notice by Engineer Shamsuddin Ahmed (Mymensingh-6) on permission for opening degree classes at ADB-assisted educational institutions under Higher Secondary Education Project. Dr Farruk said the government took the issue with ADB in November last year when it disagreed to relax the terms under which it funded the projects. Under the project, 133 educational institutions of the country were developed in the first half of 1990s. A term of the project said that the colleges developed under the project would not be allowed to open degree classes. He said the government would take the issue with the ADB again for the benefit of a large number of students. Making another statement on a call attention notice by M Giasuddin for building five-story foundations for educational institutions in and around the capital, he said the government would consider the issue in view of the rising number of students in educational institutions. He said, under the terms private universities must shift to their campuses, preferably outside the capital, within five years of their founding. He said own campuses were one of the key requirements of universities to offer congenial academic institutions.

From http://www.dailystarnews.com/ 06/24/2002

 

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IFC, EBRD and SECO Considering Central Asian SME Credit Line

International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) are considering jointly to establish the Central Asia Micro and Small Enterprise facility (CAME facility). Total project cost of the project is around US$118 million.

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/28/2002

 

Uzbekistan Introduces Single Imputed Earnings Tax for SME

President of Uzbekistan has signed a decree "On further improvement of taxation system in the sphere of trade and public catering". In order to further simplify the system of taxation of legal entities and natural persons in the sphere of trade and public catering as well as to ensure timely and full collection of taxes, starting from 1 July 2002 single tax on imputed earnings for small enterprises and micro firms in the sphere of retail trade is imposed. The tax has been established proceeding from the government-confirmed base tax rate calculated according to the unit of used area with application of adjusting factors depending on the location of trade enterprises, type and nomenclature and assortment of consumer goods sold by them. Starting from 1 July enterprises of wholesale and retail trade (except small enterprises and micro firms in the sphere of retail trade) and public catering instead of gross revenue tax, property tax and single tax will have to pay a single tax from total proceeds (volume of turnover). Enterprises of wholesale trade paying single tax from total proceeds also have to pay the value added tax in the established order. Enterprises of wholesale, retail trade and public catering are subject to existing order of customs payments, state taxes, fees for the right of trade, including license fees as well as allocations to state trust funds.

 

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/11/2002

 

Uzbek Government Commission Tightens Payment Discipline

The subcommission on reducing arrears of debts receivable and accounts payable under the government commission for improving the mechanism of payments and tightening up budget payment discipline has held a meeting in extended session at the Uzbek Central Bank. It discussed the work done by ministries, government departments, companies, associations and commercial banks to strengthen payment discipline and reduce mutual debts in the first quarter of 2002. Acting on the basis of material submitted by economic bodies during the first three months of this year, Prosecutor's Office agencies have opened 52 criminal cases. Administrative measures have been taken against 1,458 officials and disciplinary measures against 420 officials, while 63 officials have been fined. As a result of the measures taken, 3.5bn soms [about 4.8m dollars at the official rate] have been recovered [for the budget] through lawsuits.

 

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/12/2002

 

75 % of Government Offices to Have Internet Access by 2005

A low level of computerization is preventing Uzbekistan's access to the Internet, a senior Uzbek communications official told Uzbek TV in an interview broadcast on 16 June. Uzbekistan has a low level of access to the Internet "largely because of a low level of computerization in government offices, economic entities and educational establishments, schools and colleges", the first deputy managing director of the National Communications and Information Technologies Agency, Muhsin Mahmudov, said on the "Tahlilnoma" weekly analytical roundup. Only eight per cent of the government offices have access to the Internet today, but the number will be brought up to 75 by 2005, he said. The national software output over the last few years has reduced the need for the import of software by 140m dollars, Mahmudov added.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/17/2002

 

EBRD to Sign $40 Million Uzbek SME Credit Line in August

Government of Uzbekistan has adopted a decree on realisation of the programme of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on full-scale development of small business. The programme approves attraction of the EBRD credit line worth $40 million. The programme is directed at financing small private manufactures in the spheres of services, processing local raw materials and agricultural products as well as creation of additional workplaces.

 

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/18/2002

 

Air NZ Plans Huge IT Spend

Air New Zealand is embarking on a multimillion-dollar revamp of its core information systems and looking for a new chief information officer. Chief executive Ralph Norris says Air New Zealand is talking with suppliers including SAP, Oracle and Peoplesoft about new finance and human resources systems, and a replacement for its aging reservation system. "These are quite old systems and the airline is effectively being re-architected, so we need systems that better reflect what the company is going to be in the future, and systems that give us the ability to drill down and get much better quality customer information," he says. An SAP implementation in the company's engineering division has been very successful, he says. But Air New Zealand also uses Oracle Financials for group financial management. Mr Norris is unable to indicate the likely spend on new systems, but says the reservations system is a significant project. While that project is still being scoped, the company is "quite a way through the process" with the finance and human resources systems. He has a short-list of three to replace IT general manager Andrew David, promoted to vice-president group strategy and planning. He will run the company's short-haul strategy. Andrew Care is acting chief information officer. In October last year, Air New Zealand outsourced mainframe and mid-range systems to IBM and desktops to gen-i. On Friday, Qantas Airways said it wants to cut human resources, finance, payroll, purchasing and frequent flier programme costs by 15 per cent through better use of IT. PricewaterhouseCoopers will lead the programme, and IBM and Oracle will assist. (by Richard Braddell)

From http://www.stuff.co.nz/ 06/24/2002

 

Public Library Offers Free Internet Access

Free access to the Internet will now be available at Palau's public library after the Ministry of Education opened the use of the computers donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.Earlier, the ministry obtained a $39,630 grant for the installation of the computers. The grant included library computers, network accessory kits and printers.Sinton Soalablai, Palau High School principal, said the use of the computers and the Internet access is available to students and the public.Palau Horizon/PINA Nius Online

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/17/2002

 

Asian University for Women to Start Operation in 2004

DHAKA -- The Asian University for Women (AUW) will start academic activities in Bangladesh in 2004 as a residential four-year liberal arts university attracting talented young women from diverse backgrounds around Asia. The official Bangladesh News Agency Wednesday quoted Education Minister Osman Farruk as saying that the AUW will put special emphasis on poor, rural women and refugees around the world. He said that the AUW will serve as a model of excellence, skills and wisdom in the field of higher education and will work across borders and societies. International Support Committee (ISC), which is responsible for the overall development of the university, is co-chaired by Prime Minister of Bangladesh Khaleda Zia, and Lone Dybkjaer, a member of the European Parliament.The Bangladesh government has proposed to give the land for construction of the campus of the AUW in the northwestern Bogra town in the country. Leading international academicians and faculty members from abroad will serve the university. The AUW will draw students from south, south east and west Asian countries with a particular focus on less privileged women. The AUW has a plan to have 2,000 students, reflecting its emphasison high quality rather than large size.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/05/2002

 

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Calls for Concrete Objectives Arise in Bali Meeting

DENPASAR -- Hundreds of ministers and government officials from over 120 countries gathered Wednesday on the resort island of Bali, the venue for the 4th Preparatory Committee Meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to forge the common interests among different countries towards global sustainable development. United Nations Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette said: "We are here today because we face great challenges on both sides of the development-environment equation. Three billions of our fellow human beings suffer the dehumanizing conditions of poverty... living on less than two dollar a day." She added that the upcoming world summit in Johannesburg would be meant to find another way -- a path that improved standards of living while protecting environment. The relationship between human society and the natural environment would become the core concern of Johannesburg. South African Minister for Environment Mohammed Valli Moosa said that since the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro of Brazil, it had become clear that successful sustainable development required progress on the social,economic and environmental fronts. Kjell Larsson, minister for environment of Sweden called on delegations in Bali to identify and provide more specific means for pursuing sustainable development. Water crisis is among other specific issues that become major concerns of the delegations. Nigerian Minister of Water Resources Precious Ngelale argued that poverty reduction began with water issues. He stressed Bali meeting had to be remembered as a conference that squarely confronted the water and sanitation crisis. ˇˇˇˇSimilarly, the representative of Japan affirmed that water issues were a great challenge. A coordination information system must encompass those problems since Japan had many projects in that area. Meanwhile, Chairman of the Preparatory Committee Emil Salim underlined poverty alleviation as an essential element of sustainable development. In Addition, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production must change and natural resources must be managed in a way that supported social and economic development. "Those three facets must be merged into one -- that is sustainable development," the chairman said.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/05/2002

 

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Developing Countries Make Progress in Sustainable Development

BALI -- Research findings from theUnited Nations University (UNU) on a sustainable development framework for the developing world showed here Wednesday that progress has been made by a large number of the developing countries. Based on case study analyses on China, India and Indonesia, theresearch report says that the three countries represent more than just three large countries in the developing world. With a combined population of 2.5 billion people, they make up about 42 percent of the total world population as well as about 36 percent of the current population growth. These three countries are also undergoing rapid industrial, social and demographic changes. China has achieved great success in anti-poverty struggle in the past two decades. The number of people living below the poverty line dropped from 250 million in 1978 to around 34 million in 1999. Like China, Indonesia has been able to dramatically reduce its poverty rate from seventy percent in the early 1970s to below ten percent in the early 1990s, the report noted. "Even after the Asian financial crisis, Indonesia's poverty rate never reached above twenty percent," Palanivel, the author ofthe report said.ˇˇˇˇIndia, though it continues to have the highest concentration of poverty, has adopted national anti-poverty strategy consisted of economic development; human development with emphasis on health, education and basic needs; and poverty alleviation through employment generation. ˇˇˇˇApart from the significant poverty reduction, the three countries have also been transforming themselves from agriculture to industrialization, from public to private sectors and from rural to urban countries. The urbanization rate from rural to urban in China rose from 12.5 percent in 1950 to 32.1 percent in 2000, India from 17.3 percent to 28.4 percent and Indonesia from 12.4 percent to 40.9 percent, the report says. The governments of China, India and Indonesia are starting to recognize the crucial role to be played by private and civil society actors. In particular, the role of industry in protecting the environment and promoting economic and social development through improving productivity, making energy use more efficient and through waste recycling and disposal practices, seems to be having greater attention from the governments, it said.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/05/2002

 

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Central Asian Conference on Women's Role Starts in Dushanbe

International Conference on "Women's Role in Process of Social Democracy in Central Asia and Caucasus" opened in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Thursday with participation of the Central Asian and Caucasian nations. President Imamali Rahmanov sent a message to the conference hoping that the conference will work to help give more role to women in social activities. Tajik Deputy Prime Minister Nigina Sharipova also addressing the conference said that women should be given greater role in different social works especially in the political and government structure. Iranian President's Advisor for Women's Affairs Mrs. Zahra Shojaei said in her speech to the conference that Iranian women have been active in different fields ranging from politics to social services. She said that it is a bitter reality that men formed 86 percent of members of parliament worldwide showing that women have been given less attention in this respect. Iranian women assumed their political rights and took part in the social activities and democratically held general elections thanks to victory of the Islamic Revolution, Mrs. Shojaei said. The Founder of the Islamic Republic, the late Imam Khomeini, gave specific guidelines to enhance the social status of women, she said. Iran, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and observers from the international organizations have taken part in the three-day conference sponsored by Tajikistan.



From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/06/2002

 

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Report Finds Software Piracy on the Increase

New research suggests 40% of all business software in use worldwide is pirated. The Business Software Alliance says the figure represents a jump of 3% on last year's findings.
It's the first rise since the trade group began its annual surveys six years ago. The shift is attributed to growing computer markets in countries such as Vietnam, China and India.Vietnam topped the survey, with a 94% piracy rate. The alliance says Russia, Ukraine and other former members of the Soviet Union typically have high rates of unlicensed software as well. President Robert Holleyman says: "The number of people using PCs in these countries is exploding. The numbers of legal software sales are not keeping up. "The alliance represents leading companies such as Microsoft, Apple Computer and Adobe.


From http://www.ananova.com/ 06/10/2002

 

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23 Countries Chosen for Pilot Program to Educate Poor

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The World Bank on Wednesday selected the first 23 developing nations to participate in pilot programs aimed at educating millions of poor children around the world. The countries include 18 nations that will qualify immediately for money to expand schooling and another five that will be in line for aid once they have approved programs in place.The 18 countries judged ready for increased assistance now include nations in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. The five nations in line for money after approved programs are adopted are countries with the largest populations not in school: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Republic of Congo and Nigeria. In announcing the countries selected for the "Education for All Fast Track" program, World Bank President James Wolfensohn called on the Bush administration and other leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial countries to make significant pledges of support at the group's annual summit later this month in Canada. The World Bank has estimated that the G-8 and other wealthy donor countries will need to commit about $3 billion annually in additional foreign aid over the next 10 years to achieve the goal of universal primary education in the developing world by the year 2015. "We're making an important start here today with these 23 countries. More than 67 million children in these countries have never set foot in a classroom," Wolfensohn said in a statement. "Now it is up to the G-8 and other donors to follow through and provide the financing necessary to make this education fast track work." There are an estimated 113 million children in poor nations, two-thirds of them girls, who do not attend school. The issue of providing greater resources for poor nations has received renewed emphasis since Sept. 11, as wealthy countries seek to demonstrate a commitment to wiping out the extreme poverty viewed as a breeding ground for terrorists. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who recently completed a 12-day tour of Africa with singer Bono of the rock band U2, is leading an administration effort to boost the amount of World Bank support that goes to countries in the form of grants rather than loans, which have to be repaid. While Britain and other European countries initially objected to the plan, saying it would rob the World Bank of resources in future years unless donors increased their support, it was expected that all sides would reach a compromise this weekend at meetings of finance ministers preparing the agenda for the G-8 talks. Wolfensohn said that to qualify for education financing under the fast track program, countries had to agree to adopt policies that improved the quality and efficiency of their primary education programs. The 23 nations selected for the fast track program are part of a larger group of 88 nations that are not expected to meet the goal of universal primary education by 2015 without outside assistance.The 18 countries eligible for immediate support once funding becomes available are Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Honduras, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Albania, Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Vietnam, Guinea, Ethiopia and Yemen.These nations qualified by having a World Bank-approved poverty reduction strategy and an acceptable education plan. Wolfensohn said the World Bank would work in coming months with the five other countries in the initial group of 23 to resolve the problems blocking their receipt of education financing. Those five nations account for 50 million of the 113 million children worldwide who are not in school.


From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/12/2002

 

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Asia-Pacific Talks About Digital Divide

Nearly 800 people are expected to converge in Shanghai on Thursday to discuss ways to bridge the global digital divide between the technological haves and have-nots. Delegates from 90 cities and 50 countries will gather to find ways for governments to better serve their citizens using the Internet. Narrowing the digital divide has become a significant task for countries in the Asia-Pacific region, said Yang Xiong, deputy secretary of Shanghai Municipality. He believes this forum will further bridge co-operation between developing and developed countries in the region in the area of information technology (IT). Participants will discuss on-going projects such as building a digital library in the Asia-Pacific region, a tele-diagnosing network for doctors, a tele-education network, and an on-line tourism information database for the whole region. Other issues include government policy and strategies to promote the development and security of e-government.


From China Daily 06/12/2002

 

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Asia-Pacific Cities Information Forum Opens in Shanghai

The Third Asia-Pacific Cities Information Forum was opened on Thursday in Shanghai. In a congratulatory letter to the meeting Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo said that as the information revolution swept the world, many countries were paying close attention to the E-Government concept and have taken effective measure in this regard. The meeting will help promote exchange and cooperation among the cities, Wu said. Nitin Desai, United Nations deputy secretary-general addressed the opening ceremony via video. The forum, with the theme of Erase the Digital Gulf -- E-Government and City Information, aims to help strengthen cooperation and exchanges among cities of the world. The forum is co-sponsored by the UN Development Program, the Municipal Government of Shanghai, China's Information Industry Ministry, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. More than 800 representatives from over 90 cities in 50 countries are taking part in the forum. They will discuss such subjects as an E-government development policy and E-government security and infrastructure.


From Xinhua News Agency 06/13/2002

 

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Pacific Countries Join Call for International Alliance Against Hunger

Rome --Pacific Island nations are among 183 countries which renewed their commitment to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world no later than 2015.They called on governments, international organisations, civil society organisations and the private sector "to reinforce their efforts so as to act as an international alliance against hunger. "Eleven Pacific Islands countries are represented at the "World Food Summit: five years later" organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. Leaders of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Samoan and Tongan leaders are in Rome for it. Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu are represented at senior government levels. Heads of State and Government unanimously approved the declaration of the four-day Summit. They backed efforts aimed at ending the tragedy of more than 800 million people going hungry around the world. The countries invited the Council of the FAO to "elaborate, in a period of two years, a set of voluntary guidelines to support efforts to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to adequate food. "The declaration said: "With a view to reversing the overall decline of agriculture and rural development in the national budgets of developing countries, in official development assistance (ODA) and in total lending in international financial institutions, we call for an adequate share for those sectors of bilateral and multilateral ODA, lending by International Financial Institutions and budgetary allocations of developing countries. "We urge developed countries that have not done so to make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 percent of gross national product (GNP) as official development assistance to developing countries. "The declaration stressed that a "speedy, effective and full implementation of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, which should be fully financed through additional resources, is critical. "In addition, all countries are urged to implement the outcome of the Doha Conference regarding the reform of the international agricultural trading system. The President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, said in his address that "all issues blocking the access of developing countries into the markets of developed countries have to be addressed. "Spain's Prime Minister Jos¨¦ Aznar L¨®pez said on behalf of the European Union that "the time has come for a new association between governments, civil society and the private sector aimed at the reduction of hunger in the world." European Commission President Romano Prodi said that the European Union is in favour of greater open markets for agricultural products.Measures that are distorting agricultural imports should be reduced, he said. He expressed his concern about the recently approved United States 'Farm Bill'. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that industrialised countries have to open their markets for developing countries. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said: "Unless significant and fundamental changes occur in our countries, disparities in income levels and economic growth rates are likely to continue and to lead to social unrest."


From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/13/2002

 

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Pyongyang to Host International Forum on IT

North Korea will organize an international forum on information technology (IT) in Pyongyang next month, North Korean officials in Beijing said yesterday. The "Pyongyang International Info-Tech Forum & Expo" will be held June 28-29 at the People's Palace of Culture in the North Korean capital, officials of the Pan-Pacific Economic Development Association of Korean Nationals said. The association announced on its Internet homepage, (www.dprkorea.com) that scientists, businessmen and experts in the information technology sector from both Koreas and foreign countries will be invited to participate in the international forum. The forum will be co-hosted by the North's National Academy of Science. "The forum will discuss measures the (North Korean) government should take to develop software and hardware, build IT infrastructure and cooperate with the international community in the IT sector," it said. It added that North Korean authorities will describe the present conditions of and prospects for the IT sector in the North, and "demonstrate the communist country's interest and determination" in advancing in the industry. Representatives from all countries can attend the forum by sending a message by fax to 86-10-64301031, or by e-mail to chosun@dprkorea.com.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/03/2002

 

 

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China Wins International Environmental Awards

Leaders of the United Nations and China called for global campaigns to deal with environmental problems and the pursuit of sustainable development on the eve of the annual World Environment Day (WED). In a message to an international WED conference in Shenzhen Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called the Earth "a planet still in need of intensive care." "Poverty, pollution and population growth; rural poverty and rapid urbanization; wasteful consumption habits and growing demands for water, land and energy continue to place intense pressures on the planet's life support systems, threatening our ability to achieve sustainable development," he said. The conference, jointly launched by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), was the focus of global WED celebrations, with UNEP's "Global 500" awards presented. The U.N. Secretary General said that the theme of this year's World Environment Day - Give Earth A Chance - was meant to convey a message of urgency. "The theme is in fact an expression of our strong wish to improve the environment since the human kind has suffered too much from environmental degradation over the past century," Chinese Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao said in a message to the conference. The Chinese government pays great heed to environmental protection, and has kept environmental degradation under control through effective pollution control and ecological conservation measures, he noted. He said China would make still greater contributions to the global pursuit of sustainable development through more comprehensive measures, including reducing pollutant emissions, and conservation of natural forests. Both leaders of the U.N. and China expressed high expectations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in South Africa later this year. "I hope that all states and all stakeholders will come together... and that the breakthrough this time, 10 years along the path from Rio (de Janeiro), will be real and tangible," said Annan. World Environment Day on June 5, cited as one of the most important events on the environmental calendar, has been celebrated every year since 1972. "Despite considerable efforts and significant achievements, many of the problems that plagued the Earth during the 20th century still linger on. More than ever, we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that the environment remains at the top of the global agenda," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's executive director, who attended the celebrations in Shenzhen. Shenzhen, a booming coastal city neighboring Hong Kong, plays host to this year's WED international celebrations. Its government was also among the winners of the 2002 Global 500, world-class awards bestowed by the UNEP for achievements in the field of environmental protection. The city, whose skyline is dotted with high-rises while 45 percent of urban districts are covered by greenery, was regarded as a fine example of the concept of economic development without damaging the environment, said Klaus Toepfer. Aohanqi County on the verge of a vast desert in north China's Inner Mongolia also won an award this year for the 30-year efforts of its people to tame desertification. Located in a semi-arid area at the southern fringe of the sandy region of Keerqin, Aohanqi was menaced by desertification due to the unsustainable use of natural resources. Large-scale environmentally-friendly projects have been undertaken since the early 1970s. At present, forest coverage in the county has reached 43.5 per cent, whereas shifting sand dunes have been reduced to 6,000 hectares from 38,000 hectares 30 years ago. "The achievements of these two places epitomize China's intensive efforts to improve the environment over recent decades," said Xie Zhenhua, director of the SEPA. Among other award winners this year are the Amazon Conservation Team from the United States, the Eco-Walk Children of Baguio City in the Philippines, Princess Basma bint Ali from Jordan, and Tabigat Ecological Union of Kazakhstan.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/05/2002

 

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Nation to Launch IT Evaluation Scheme

China will launch a national enterprise informatization quotient (EIQ) -- an index to measure the application level of information technology (IT) among enterprises -- to promote IT applications in businesses, which will be used first as a key index for the ranking of the top 100 electronic companies made by the Ministry of Information Industry beginning next year. "We are collecting opinions from governmental departments, experts and enterprises on the composition of indices we will adopt in the system, and the preliminary survey will soon start," said Jiang Qiping, deputy director of the National Informatization Evaluation Centre, yesterday at a forum on the promotion of information in China. He said the key indices will be set this year and surveys in some pilot enterprises will also be finished. While the national organization is still studying the way to conduct EIQ such evaluations, local governments have begun to put it into practice on a trial basis. Yu Xuelin, deputy director of the information working office of Tianjin Municipality, said her city had selected 20 enterprises to conduct a survey on the scale of IT applications in their operations and management. The municipality will expand the survey to 300 to 500 manufacturing businesses next month and will eventually include all enterprises in the city. "We hope our researches in Tianjin will provide some value to the establishment of the national EIQ system," Yu said. She said Tianjin will soon set up an informatization research and evaluation centre to lead the survey and promotion of IT applications in enterprises. Enterprises also placed high hopes on the establishment of a national EIQ system. "The release of EIQ will provide us a good source to judge the potential of our market," said Arthur Chang, managing director of US domain name registry provider VeriSign's Asia Pacific operations. He said that the company had decided to continue to pour its sources into domain name registration and corporate e-mail systems in China, where more than 90 per cent of enterprises do not have their own domain name, which is called a "trade mark on the Internet." "Comparing the present some 600,000 domain names with China's 10 million plus enterprises, we can see the potential will be great," said Chang. The NASDAQ-listed company has 20 partners in China to help develop its domain name registry.

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/12/2002

 

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China Introduce E-Commerce into Railway by 2005

China's railways will be using e-commerce by the end of 2005, Wang Linshu, chief engineer of the Chinese Ministry of Railways, said on June 13 in Beijing. Wang said at a forum on "Railway Development Strategy" that setting up an e-commerce service is an important step for Chinese railways to meet international standards and it will enhance its competitiveness. In the next three years, he added, China will set up a platform combining ticketing and distributing, to improve its competitiveness in freight transport. It is estimated that from 2001 to 2005, passenger and freight transport in China will have an annual increase of 7.2 per cent and 3.9 per cent, respectively, and in 2005, China's railways will carry 21 billion people and 16.5 billion tons of cargo. Subsystems, including bills of lading, departure reports and marketing plans, are already being used in China, with more than 700 railway stations selling tickets through computer networks.

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/14/2002

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Chinese Commission, Microsoft Sign Contract on Software Cooperation

The State Development Planning Commission (SDPC) announced Thursday that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft on software cooperation worth of 6.2 billion yuan (756 million U.S. dollars). According to the memorandum, Microsoft will pay Chinese enterprises to develop software, provide services and produce hardware insetting Microsoft software in the next three years. Microsoft would also carry out training programs with the SDPC in 11 national software development bases in China, a SDPC source said. The company is to set up laboratories in related universities, research institutes and software enterprises and allow local companies to use research findings developed by microsoft institute in Asia, the source added.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/28/2002

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Govt Considers Giving Billions to N-Waste Fund

The government is likely to pledge several tens of billions of yen at the upcoming Group of Eight summit meeting to a fund to prevent nuclear materials from Russia and former communist countries flowing into the hands of terrorists, government sources said Saturday. Antiterrorism measures will be a key issue at the G-8 summit, which opens in Kananaskis, Canada, on Wednesday, as it will be the first G-8 meeting since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The government began considering extending the money after the United States urged the Group of Seven industrialized countries to provide a total of 20 billion dollars (about 2.4 trillion yen) to process plutonium left over from Russian nuclear weapons and to tighten controls of nuclear-related facilities in former communist countries. Washington also urged that the fund be used to set up a system to protect nuclear materials possessed by former communist countries. Canada and Germany expressed their intention to support the proposal during preparatory meetings for the G-8 summit meeting, according to the sources. While Germany is thought to back the plan out of a desire to prevent nuclear materials being leaked from its neighbors, Canada decided to share the financial burden of the scheme in its role as summit chair, the sources said. As conditions to extend the money, Japan is calling for: -- Effective use of the financial assistance in Russia. -- Smooth access to highly confidential military information. In particular, Tokyo seeks to strictly limit the use of the fund to ensure it is not used for military or other purposes outside the plan's scope. (by Yomiuri Shimbun)

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 06/23/2002

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Korea Sets Trend in Global Internet Market

The digital revolution, acclaimed as the third greatest innovation in human history, has resulted in a quantum jump over the whole of technology, industry, and economic life in a relatively short period of time, especially with the merging of technical growth and Internet hastening conversion from a labor, land, and capital centered resource-based economy to a knowledge, information, and culture centered knowledge-based economy. Korea had to pay a heavy price for remaining left behind by industrialization in the past. Korea's existence and prosperity are dependent on how we adapt ourselves to the waves of change, It must brace for the construction of a knowledge-based economy. Korea has formulated a national vision for the 21st century, constructing one of the world's top knowledge and information powerhouses, e-Korea, through the application of a knowledge and information-based economy. On the other hand, Korea has assumed the leadership of growing economies with a broadband based IT industry as the central figure. On this matter the government's efforts have already come to fruition, officially being placed as the number one high speed Internet nation by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in September, 2001 and again in May, 2001. The number of Internet users in Korea has been increasing continuously ever since the start of commercial Internet services in 1994 and has now exceeded 27.8 million at the end of last May, as well the scale of personal computer diffusion to 77.6 percent at the end of last January per household. It is no wonder Korea has accomplished such eye-opening progress over the past two to three years. Not only in the quantitative numbers but also in the qualitative use of the Internet users, a monthly mean page view or Internet usage time per person is two to three times greater than that of other countries. The diffusion of the broadband Internet, the coefficient of utilization of audio, video, or multimedia games, those services that require broadband, are the world's highest By the spread of the Internet, the epoch-making changes in politics, economy, and society have been intensifying as e-business on the Internet activated our country. More than 67 percent of stock trades are now traded over the Internet in South Korea. A recent survey showed that there are more than about 12 million Internet banking users here, and the usage rate of the Internet shopping is the highest in Asia. The South Korean broadband market has grown up sharply thanks to the demands of Internet users and unceasing complaints about old fashioned modem speeds. Hanaro Telecom provided the ADSL services for the first time anywhere in the world. Consequently South Korea jumped to become the world's leading country in Internet businesses according to usage rates. By the end of last April, South Korean Internet users totaled more 8.5 million, which might be regarded a miracle achievement as there were only 0.27 million Internet users at the end of 1999. There are three main reasons why South Korea has become the world's leading Internet country in such a short period. Firstly, Internet access fees in South Korea were among the lowest in the world. Current broadband access currently costs around 35,000 won per month. Secondly, PC Bangs spread across the nation rapidly from the end of 1999. There are now more than 20,000 PC Bangs throughout South Korea. Their proliferation boosted interest and awareness of the benefits of getting online. The spread of broadband created a new culture of entertainment among the young generation Young consumers feel the quality and benefits of incredible service speeds available at the PC Bangs. And their latent consumer demand for broadband Internet services could later be exploited. Lastly, South Koreans had already been moving toward utilizing cyber tools such as Internet banking and stock trading. Broadband service id considered essential for the cyber stock trading, which requires high speed for reliable transactions and exchange of information in real time. Turning to the demand side of the market, the first reason was the very unique geographical environment in South Korea. More than 70 percent of the population lives in densely populated urban areas. Consequently service providers could initially profit from deploying services in the high-density metropolitan areas. And in those areas, the proportion of so called ``apartment complexes'' was so high that service providers could deploy and provide their facilities and services to thousands of consumers very quickly and easily. Secondly, the demand of various multimedia content such as cyber chatting spread dramatically among the young generation, especially multimedia network games such as Star Craft, which promoted the use of broadband Internet. In addition to the demand and supply perspectives, the South Korean government's policy for supporting the IT industry is considered as one of the key contributors. The government has been pushing a strong IT policy in line with its ambitious vision to make Korea one of the world's top 10 IT countries. The government has been the main locomotive of helping South Korea become one of the leading Internet countries in the world. Most important of all is the introduction of competition in the broadband Internet market. It was on the strength of the government's consistent policy toward liberalization that Hanaro Telecom came into being in 1997 as the second local exchange carrier of the country. During the initial preparatory period of one and a half years, we came to realize that the voice transmission market had reached a saturation point. Therefore Hanaro Telecom should set its goal on the data market instead, which was then an untapped market. This is how Hanaro Telecom concentrated its efforts on the ADSL-based broadband Internet market and succeeded in commercializing it for the first time in the world, thereby building the inertia for creating a boom in the broadband Internet. In tandem with the expansion of the broad-band Internet, we are facing a number of side effects from informatization, and it is expected that they will become more of a challenge as society becomes more digitally sophisticated. Cases of privacy invasion and circulation of misinformation are on the rise, and cyber terror such as the dissemination of viruses and hacking is increasing. In particular, illegal sites such as suicide sites and bomb-making sites harm innocent Web surfers. However, we are also faced with the problem of the digital divide and it is incumbent upon us to solve it soon. The digital divide exasperates the disparity between social strata, regions, and generations. Telecommunications has up until recently been based on voice transmission through wire. Recently, however, telecommunication services have gravitated toward the transmission of data through wireless communication. With certain technological advances, broadband Internet services through wire will eventually be replaced by fiber to the home (FTTH). By that time it is likely to have evolved into a Wire and Wireless Integrated Broadband Internet. It must be not forgotten that the rapid growth of broadband Internet service can also give rise to a number of challenges. Consequently, the government should play an important role here to minimize the impact of these problems. More specifically, the government should revise the various laws and regulations in such a way as to prevent any harmful side effects that may be brought about as a consequence of the wider use of the Internet. (by Shin Yun-sik)

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/05/2002

 

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Lawyers' Group Headed by Ex-Independent Counsel Works to Abolish National Security Law

Since its establishment in 1988, the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, or "Minbyun," has been at the forefront of defending political prisoners and supporting the democratization movement in South Korea. Fourteen years after its foundation, the progressive lawyers' group, comprising some 350 members, is now shifting its focus to the National Security Law, which, according to the group, is a legacy of the past authoritarian governments that suppresses the basic rights of political dissidents, unionists and other activists. "The government should scrap the National Security Law, which authorizes the National Intelligence Service to collect, process and distribute domestic intelligence and investigate cases related to public security," said Choe Byoung-moh, new head of Minbyun. Choe, a former judge who served as the nation's first-ever independent counsel in 1999, was elected president of the lawyers' group in May. Public security cases refer to anti-state, pro-North Korea, labor, or democracy movement activities that were vigorously prosecuted during the military dictatorships of the 1960s and 70s. The National Security Law and other related laws have been misused to deny human rights and persecute individuals who exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, said Choe at his Duksu Law Offices in southern Seoul. In situations such as these, Minbyun lawyers not only represent defendants in criminal cases but also monitor the authorities for any unlawful conduct such as obtaining a confession through torture. "There is no reason to keep the National Security Law since its abolishment won't undermine public security," Choe said. "The National Security Law exists to censor and oppress internal ideology, rather than thwart enemies from abroad." President Kim Dae-jung, who has promoted his "sunshine policy" of engaging North Korea, previously promised to repeal or ease the security law, but has faced resistance from conservative forces in the country. Minbyun also offers legal consultation on labor disputes related to wages, working conditions and basic labor rights. To broaden its scope of expertise, it formed a committee in March last year to study problems concerning U.S. forces in Korea, including the return of U.S. bases in Korea and the revision of the Status of Forces Agreement. Minbyun defended many violators of public security during the 1980s, but after the Kim Young-sam administration took office in 1992, the first civilian government in 32 years in Korea, public security cases somewhat decreased, Choe said. That is when the organization decided to establish committees to discuss such issues as labor and environment and educate the public on human rights issues through the publication and circulation of pamphlets, books, printed materials and findings of petition drives. Through these publications, Minbyun informs the general public of undisclosed facts regarding human rights in Korea. Some of the reports published in English by the organization include "The National Security Law: Instrument of Political Repression in Korea" (June 1993) and "Human Rights in South Korea II" (August 1999). Choe, 53, made his name as an independent counsel investigating a high-profile corruption scandal involving wives of government and business officials, also known as "furgate," in 1999. The so-called "clothes-for-lobbying" scandal surrounded allegations that the wife of a jailed business tycoon bought expensive garments for the wives of then Prosecutor-General Kim Tae-joung and other government officials to curry favor with their husbands. The prosecution investigated the case, but did not indict Kim Tae-joung, which enraged the opposition and the public, forcing President Kim to name Choe the nation's first-ever independent counsel. "I think the independent counsel system was adopted due to the widespread belief that the prosecution was not doing its job right," Choe said. "If the prosecution were able to investigate neutrally, we wouldn't have needed a special prosecutor to look into the same case again." The presidential office's police detachment first investigated the scandal in January 1999, following rumors that Yon Jong-hee, wife of former Justice Minister Kim Tae-joung, might have accepted an expensive coat from Lee Hyung-ja, the wife of a business tycoon who faced arrest on corruption charges. Subsequent investigations determined that Lee was seeking to buy influence to save her husband from the prosecution's investigation. The achievement of the independent counsel led by Choe was in proving the wives of high-ranking government officials tried to conceal the truth, he said. The independent counsel revealed that Yon received the coat on Dec. 19, 1998 and not on Dec. 26, as she had previously testified. The team also found out that she returned the coat on Jan. 8, 1999 and not Jan. 5, raising suspicion that Lee may have actually lobbied on her husband's behalf. Choe said Korea needs an independent counsel system since there is no organization that limits the power of the prosecution. To ensure independence of the prosecution, Choe suggested creating a neutral committee that selects members of the prosecution and conducting hearings on the appointment of the prosecutor-general and justice minister. "Since the President appoints the justice minister and prosecutor-general, they are bound to follow the views and intentions of their boss," the lawyer said. The committee should be composed of people with different experiences and backgrounds such as government officials, civic group members and figures appointed by the President, he said. Although Korea has made strides in easing economic regulations, it still lacks reforms in the legislative system, Choe said. "Some laws, including the Criminal Procedure Code, the National Security Law and the National Intelligence Service Act, still restrict the basic rights of citizens," he said. "We intend to review these problematic laws and provide guidelines for reforming and even abolishing them."

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/05/2002

 

 

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Korea's National Competitiveness Half That of US

Korea is running low against countries like the United States in terms of competitiveness of the public sector and human resources, according to a report by the Federation of Korea Industries (FKI). According to the FKI, Korea is faring well in terms of industrial and economic activities but relatively weak in the public sector and in human resources. A survey of the CEOs of 328 large and medium-size companies shows that in consideration of 75 categories, including human resources and economic fundamentals, Korea is about 54 percent the level of the United States. ``We did not put the assessments into specific figures, but we are at approximately the level of Taiwan and China,'' said one FKI official who was in charge of the evaluations. The results of the evaluation showed that the United States was tops in 45 of the 75 categories, followed by Singapore, which is consistently regarded as a great location to do business. In addition, the survey proved that China is still the best country to perform manufacturing owing to its abundance of human resources and productivity when compared to expenses. Korea received high grades in terms of industrial and economic fundamentals but appeared to be poor in the public sector as well as the availability of human resources. In particular, the presence of corruption in government and administrative capability was evaluated to be 38 and 27 percent the level of Singapore which was judged to be the best in these areas. In the area of human resources, Korea has measured up poorly in terms of second language capabilities, indicating that more emphasis has to be placed on language education, the FKI officials claimed. ``The recent restructuring of Korean corporations has improved the transparency and economic performance but there is still a long way to go,'' one FKI official claimed. In particular, he said, there is an acute lack of qualified human resources necessary to take the domestic companies to the next level where they can compete effectively with multinationals.

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/19/2002

 

 

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Gov't Agency Suggested to Make Korea N.East Asian Business Hub

Traders and economists have suggested that President Kim Dae-jung set up an agency to be in charge of implementing the nation's ambitious plan to become a business hub in the North east region. In a keynote speech at a seminar entitled the New Trade Strategy for the 21st Century, former prime minister Nam Duck-woo said that one of the ways to make the nation prosper is to develop the nation as the logistics and business hub of the region, which is able to attract multinational firms to Korea and lead Korea as a regional production base for their high-tech products. To this end, he urged the government to set up a strategy planning body under the President to realize the nation's vision. He added that the top priority has to be put on the development of a logistics center at the International Incheon Airport. ``To become a hub of Asia, Korea must become a center of logistics, business, finance and information technology, among which the task of developing as a logistics hub is the most urgent,'' Nam said in a seminar run by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) yesterday at the Yongpyong Resort, Kwangwon Province. He stressed that candidate regions for the Northeast Asian logistic hub include Pusan, Kwangwang, Inchon, Cheju Island and Sangam-dong in Seoul, but the development of Inchon is the most immediate task. Jeroen P. Lamers, representative of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency in Korea, opined that stable labor relations, and improvement of living conditions for foreigners are essential to attract more inbound investment. (by Seo Jee-yeon)

From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/21/2002

 

 

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Poverty Alleviation Programs Exclude Those Without IDs

There are many theories to explain why the government's various programs to eliminate poverty have been futile. In Jakarta, one problem is clear: Over 100,000 poor do not have ID cards, which make public services unavailable to them.Many of the impoverished Jakartans do not have access to free health services, cannot buy cheap rice, cannot obtain soft loans or receive other aid from the government because they cannot show the card that proves that they are "legal" residents. Head of the City Health Agency Abdul Chalik Masulili, for example, admitted on Thursday that the various health programs in the capital were only for those who had Jakarta ID cards. "All health facilities for the poor are only for those who have the health cards (kartu sehat), while the cards can only be obtained by those who can show their city identity cards," said Chalik at a discussion on poverty elimination at a five-star hotel here. People without ID cards are excluded from the city health programs, for other reasons as well. Chalik said that the policy was taken in order to curb the flow of migrants into the capital. "If we give them the health cards, many more people will flock to Jakarta," he added. Overpopulation is one of the serious problems in the capital. The city administration estimates that every year, about 250,000 people migrate to the city. Governor Sutiyoso, who has failed to curb the influx of the impoverished masses, earlier said that he planned to make Jakarta a closed city. But the idea received strong criticism from human rights activists. In an effort to discourage unskilled people from entering the city, the administration periodically launches controversial door-to-door raids to arrest people who fail to show their city ID cards or other documents. In Thursday's seminar, Jakarta Statistics Office presented its results from 2000 which found that the total population in the capital was 8.38 million or some 2.23 million families. While the total of absolute poor was some 340,000 people. It also revealed that 32,983 poor families or over 100,000 people did not have identity cards. Other data presented by the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN) showed that early this year, the number of poor families, which it divided into three levels, reached 360,641, more than one million individuals. There are many government programs to combat poverty and to improve the welfare of the poor, including the social safety net (JPS), which is applied nationwide. Jakarta also has the Subdistrict Society Empowerment Program (PPMK) and various other schemes for family business development. Under the PPMK program, which started last year, each of the 167 subdistricts in the city received Rp 250 million (US$28,400) in soft loans, which was handled by each subdistrict council. But in some areas, the implementation of the program was reportedly marred by the practice of corruption due to the lack of transparency. Commenting on the city's policy in dealing with the poor, M. Berkah Gamulya of the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC) said that the city administration should treat everybody equal. "It is really unfair if the poor who do not have ID cards are not helped. All those people need similar help. If the government does not give a hand, who will help them? In any city in the world, such groups of people always exist and the authority has the responsibility to help them," he told The Jakarta Post. He said that the first thing which should be done was that the city administration had to recognize the presence of the squatters as a reality in all urban societies. "Only after the city administration recognizes their informality, then we can talk about how to help such a group of people," Gamulya said. "What the city authority has done so far to them is to destroy the places where they live and the places where they do business, without giving them any choice," he added, referring to the evictions conducted by the city public order officers against the poor. Paulus Wirutomo, an urban social affairs observer from the University of Indonesia, also stressed the need for the city administration to take responsibility for the fate of all people living in the city. Criteria of poor families: 1. Area of home is less than 8 square meters, 2. A dirt floor, 3. No access to clean water, 4. No toilet, 5. No furniture, 6. No meat, fish or eggs for one week, 7. Not able to buy new clothes for one year. A family is categorized as poor if it meets three of the above. (by Bambang Nurbianto)

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 06/14/2002

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ADB to Pledge 105 Mln U.S. Dollars to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB)will provide 105 million U.S. dollars in loans to Cambodia for thecoming year at the Consultative Group Donor Meeting to be held from June 19 to 21 in Phnom Penh. The first 70 million dollars will be provided for national projects, including decentralization, the Cambodia Daily quoted ADB representative Urooj Malik as saying Tuesday. The rest of the money will be used for two cross-border projects as part of the bank's Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program, the representative said. One project will involve road construction between Cambodia and Thailand in the northwest, the other will set up infrastructure to boost tourism along borders between the Laos and Vietnam. The ADB will also provide up to 8 million dollars in technical assistance for projects funded through these loans, Malik added.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/18/2002

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Two Malaysian Cities Selected as WHO Pilot Project

KUALA LUMPUR (Xinhuanet) -- Two Malaysian cities of Kuching and Johor Baharu have been selected by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pilot project for healthy cities in the ASEAN region as part of efforts to benchmark sustainable urban development. WHO representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, U.H Susantha de Silva, said Tuesday such an initiative could serve as a good example for ASEAN member countries to develop their integrated plan of action, Malaysia National News Agency reported. "The healthy cities program is part of the WHO priority area. We are concerned with the health of the people and the environment which they live in as a whole," he told a news conference in Kuching, east Malaysia, after the opening of the First ASEAN Healthy Cities Conference there. Except for Singapore, Laos and Vietnam, over 100 participants from the remaining seven ASEAN countries -- Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines -- are attending the three-day conference. He said WHO, which concentrates on certain areas like healthy cities, hospitals, schools, markets and islands, was collaborating with the Malaysia Health Ministry and the local city authorities to involve the community's participation in its projects. For example, intersectoral cooperation for healthy cities included looking into pollution from tobacco smoke and tackling the spread of diseases and other healthy issues, he said. Meanwhile, Malaysian Director-General of Health Mohamad Taha Arif said the percentage of people living in urban areas in ASEAN countries ranged from 20 percent in Malaysia to 100 percent in Singapore. He said the conference would also discuss urban ecosystem assessment and the city's impact on the people's physical and social environments. While some cities and towns all over the world were wonderful and healthy places with work, entertainment, education and services close by, the reality was often different, given that the health of the people in urban areas was an increasing concern, he said.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/18/2002

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ADB Extends $1.2-M Grant to MWSS-RO

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed Friday a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage SystemRegulatory Office (MWSS-RO) for a $1.2 million grant aimed to strengthen the RO's capability to effectively regulate the water industry. ADB Philippines Country Director Thomas Crouch said during the MOA signing that part of the aim of the technical assistance (TA) is to make the RO competent in setting and effecting price adjustments as it currently does not have a full capability in the price adjustment schemes agreed under the concession agreement between government and private firms. "The regulatory authority has responsibility in three areas-in running the concession which is legal, technical, and financial which relates to pricing so it has the responsibility to assessing the reasonable charge by the concessionaires," Crouch said. "If it doesn't have that resource inhouse, then it needs to outsource." For lack of its expertise in the rate rebasing scheme, MWSSRO has outsourced its rate rebasing function to a group of consultants from the University of the Philippines' School of Economics led by former Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla. Crouch said the TA also aims to prepare the regulatory office to an eventual independence from the MWSS, although he said that ADB does not find this an immediate goal. "We recognize that there may be a phased movement towards fully independent regulatory authority. The importance of a fully independent regulatory agency is generally recognized. With the establishment of the RO, the ideal situation is we want full independence of this body. But at the moment, we are happy supporting the existing structure in the water supply sector," Crouch said. MWSS-RO Chief Regulator Eduardo C. Santos said that at present, the RO cannot go beyond its price-setting mandate which is only recommendatory to the board of trustees (BOT) of the MWSS and it only implements the price adjustments approved by the BOT. The TA initially involves $800,000 which will help the RO "identify fair and transparent regulatory mechanisms in financial and technical regulation, and legal affairs." The grant, which comes from the ADB"s Asian Currency Crisis Support Facility (ACCSF) funded by the Japanese government, is expected to also come up with a method that will provide regulatory rules on how other public water utilities could conduct privatization in the future. Use for the remaining $400,000 will be determined by MWSS-RO as it adjusts water rates and service operations and evaluate infrastructure conditions of water concessionaires which only include Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company Inc. at present.


From http://www.mb.com.ph/ 06/15/2002

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IMF Says 2002 Deficit, Growth Goals Attainable

THE Philippines said the government could achieve its fiscal deficit target for 2002 provided it pushed forward with measures to boost tax revenues, a visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) team said on Thursday. Weak revenue collection has seen the country's budget deficit balloon to P82.694 billion in the first four months of the year, already around 64 percent of the full year target of P130 billion. "There is no doubt that if these measures (tax reforms) are implemented forcibly, there is a good chance they can achieve budget targets," IMF Mission Head Joshua Felman told reporters. "Rebuilding revenues will require a comprehensive restructuring of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) ... in addition, selective tax measures will be required, such as restoring the real levels of excise taxes to 1997 levels and tightening tax exemptions and incentives," he said. The IMF team was in Manila for a regular consultation. In the Philippines, revenue collection is seen by financial markets as the root cause of the deficit rather than expenditure. On the country's macro economic targets, Felman said recent developments "have been generally favorable especially when viewed against the backdrop of a still weak global economic environment." Noting that the economy has been growing at around four percent while inflation remains subdued and interest rates had fallen to low levels, he said: "Should these trends continue, the official 2002 targets for growth and inflation should be achieved." Philippines is projecting gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.0-4.5 percent for 2002. It had recently lowered its full-year average inflation estimate to 4.5-5.5 percent from 5-6 percent. Asked what the effect of sizeable overshoot on the deficit target would be, Felman said: "Pretty obviously, they would be large. Overshooting means higher interest rates, a weaker peso, higher inflation and general instability." But he said the government's target to achieve a balanced budget by 2006 was achievable. "The government is determined to meet its targets and is taking administrative measures to reform the BIR. If they continue on in this direction, then it should be possible." The IMF said in a statement that tax collection in the Philippines had dropped off sharply, falling 3.6 percentage points over the past four years to 12.7 percent of gross national product in 2001, the lowest ratio in the region. Felman said another challenge for the Philippines was strengthening bank balance sheets which have become heavily burdened by non-performing assets. The non-performing loan ratio of commercial banks rose to 18.23 percent at end April from 18.0 percent in March, according to the central bank. Felman said regulators would need to press banks to secure equity injections from existing owners, bring in new investors or find merger partners.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 06/15/2002

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ADB Signs Poverty Partnerships with Micronesia, Marshall Islands

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed Poverty Partnerships with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Under the agreements, ADB and the Governments will jointly prepare National Poverty Reduction Strategies (NPRS) by drawing on existing and forthcoming national development strategies, supplemented by community-based poverty consultation workshops. The strategies will guide future ADB assistance to the countries. The Partnerships set out the understanding reached between the Governments and ADB on the principles and processes by which the NPRS will be developed, and on the roles of ADB and the Governments to this end. The roles and commitments of ADB and the Governments, and progress in implementing ADB's program, will be monitored against the Millennium Development Goals and other critical poverty reduction indicators. ADB regards poverty of opportunity with greater concern than poverty of income in the Pacific region. Both Governments wish to provide their people with basic education and other basic services to ensure an enhanced quality of life. They both also stress the need for better governance for more effective policies, institutions and markets. ADB expects to sign Poverty Partnerships with other Pacific developing member countries soon.


From http://www.adb.org/ 06/27/2002

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Singapore Jobless Rate May Peak at 5.5% by H2: Manpower Minister

Although the Singapore economy is recovering, Manpower Minister Lee Boon Yang has warned that unemployment is still likely to rise. The jobless rate may hit a high of 5.5 percent by the second half of the year, but it is not because of a lack of jobs, said Dr Lee, who was on a tour of Singapore Airport Terminal Services' (SATS) new S$217 million inflight catering centre. SATS is not unlike any other Singapore company trying to attract workers, Dr Lee said. Its qualified cooks earn up to S$2,600 per month, the company provides transport and allowances for those on late shifts, and there is a nearby MRT station -- so why aren't Singaporeans taking up the jobs? It is a question the Manpower Ministry itself wishes could be answered. While it can match six out of 10 people who apply for job assistance, only about 15 percent of those matched are eventually placed. Dr Lee said retrenchments have fallen from a high of 8,000 in the third quarter of last year to just 4,800 in the first quarter. But he said unemployment will rise even though there are 14,000 jobs out there, because people are just not taking up the jobs. Sectors like restaurants and hotels even have a 2.3 percent vacancy rate. "You cannot force people to take jobs and you cannot force employers to employ a certain person," Dr Lee said. "We can be the matchmaker but whether they get married or not depends whether they stick together and compatibility. What we can do is minimize the incompatibility if the person lacks a certain skill we are prepared to help." His message to workers is that unlike the previous recession, jobs lost in this downturn are unlikely to return, so workers must be prepared to learn new skills. For example, SATS spent S$80 million alone on automation and computerisation for its new centre and workers have to learn how to cope with such equipment. (by Dominique Loh)


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 06/27/2002

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Singapore Strives to Become Global Integrated Logistics Hub

SINGAPORE -- Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong Friday outlined a new strategy to make his country a global integrated logistics hub. In a speech at a gala dinner marking the 30 years of container service by main port operator PSA Group,the prime minister said: "Singapore should strive for the next level of competence -- to be a global integrated logistics hub." "This means that instead of just being a sea hub, or an air hub, Singapore will be a multi-modal hub," he said. "Being an integrated logistics hub also means that we have in Singapore a comprehensive range of 'soft' services ancillary to the physical handling of cargo, which cover the entire maritime and logistics value chain, including insurance, brokerage, arbitration and financing," he added. The prime minister underscored that the strategy that has propelled Singapore to become a top transhipment hub in Asia over the past 30 years needed to be revamped so as to meet tougher competition in the new environment. "We cannot continue competing using the business model of yester-year," he said, noting the government and companies are adopting new strategies. "No matter how successful this model has been,it will not bring us to greater heights in this changed environment," he pointed out." We cannot be locked in past thinking even as we celebrate 30 years of grand achievement as a container port." Goh, a former shipping executive before he joined politics, pointed out that "a win-win, long-term partnership with the shipping lines is the only viable strategy for the PSA," He affirmed that the PSA would offer long-term partnership with shipping lines which have their hubs in Singapore and will do its utmost to ensure that they do better than shipping lines which hub elsewhere. He added that this means the PSA will treat the shipping lines which hub at its ports not just as customers but partners. In the last two years, Singapore's port has faced new competition and some shipping lines have sailed away.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/29/2002

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US Investors See Asean Recovery in Mid-2003

American companies operating in Asean countries are confident the region will experience economic recovery before the middle of 2003, though corruption and local protectionism are souring business relations in Southeast Asia, according to a survey conducted by the Gallup Organisation for the American Chamber of Commerce.The web-based survey by four regional American chambers in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand showed that 86% of members believed Asean would enjoy an economic upturn by the second half of 2002 or the first half of 2003.Meanwhile, a staggering 83% of respondents in Thailand expressed intense dissatisfaction with local corruption. Only in the Philippines was there a higher dissatisfaction rate, at 92%.And though more than half of the respondents expected profits to rise _ with 80% projecting further growth in 2003 _ 64% believed that expansion would be directed to China, rather than Asean.``The principal findings show a very strong positive outlook for growth in the region. But they also highlight a key issue: there are some serious matters some governments in Southeast Asia will have to address if they want to stem the transfer of foreign investment to China,'' said Judy Benn, the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand.``This is particularly in relation to corruption issues, local protectionism and laws and regulations around the region. With the notable exception of Singapore, this was the very clear message.''The Gallup survey conducted in late April also found that American companies believed China would benefit the region, rather than act as a threat to businesses.A strong majority of 70% believed that the free flow of goods in Asean and other free-trade agreements would have a positive long term impact on business.``I think it's fair to say that many businesses have indicated the trend of investment is toward China,'' Singapore AmCham vice-chairman Stephen Monaghan told AFP.``I think that Asean governments should look at these results in terms of the level of dissatisfaction with local government institutions, the level of corruption and see they have some work to do if they are going to keep business here in the Asean region,'' Mr Monaghan said.The four chambers participating in the Gallup survey represent foreign investment worth an estimated US$60 billion. (by Natalie Suwanprakorn)

 

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 06/19/2002

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Helping Urban Development in Viet Nam's Central Region

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide a US$1 million technical assistance grant to prepare a project to improve urban drainage, sewerage and other facilities in some of the poorest provinces of Viet Nam's Central Region. The grant is from ADB's Japan Special Fund, financed by the Japanese Government.Following many years of rapid urbanization, infrastructure maintenance, repairs and capital works over the past decade have been inadequate. This has created a bottleneck for growing urban areas, and the rural areas around them. The Central Region has an urban population of 4.5 million that is growing at an average of 4.7 percent a year. Urban poverty is as high as 19 percent in some towns.The technical assistance will cover the provincial towns of Dong Ha, Quang Ngai, Tam Ky, Thanh Hoa and Ha Tinh, and the district town of Lang Co in Thue Thien Hue Province."The TA will prepare a project that will improve the urban environment in the selected towns, leading to an increase in productivity and reducing migration to the bigger cities in the country," says ADB project officer Alfredo Perdiguero. "The urban poor have unstable incomes, lack access to urban services and live in an unhealthy environment."The TA will also prepare policy reforms, measures to strengthen the institutional capacity of municipal bodies, and a program of investment prioritization. It will also explore private sector participation in the delivery of urban services.The project will emphasize a participatory approach by inviting to workshops representatives of central, provincial, and local government agencies along with public, nongovernmental, and private sector organizations.The total cost of the project preparation is estimated at $1.25 million, with the balance borne by the Government.

 

From http://www.adb.org/ 06/07/2002

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ADB to Aid Urban Infrastructure Work

HA NOI - Viet Nam's poorest central provinces will be the beneficiaries of an Asian Development Bank (ADB) technical assistance grant signed this week with the Government. Funded by US$1million from ADB's Japan Special Fund and an additional $250,000 from the Government, the grant will prepare a project to improve urban drainage, sewerage and other facilities. The project will cover provincial towns in Dong Ha, Quang Ngai, Tam Ky, Thanh Hoa and Ha Tinh provinces and the district town of Lang Co in Thua Thien Hue Province. Following years of rapid urbanisation, maintenance of infrastructure, repairs and capital works have been delayed and neglected. This has created a growth bottleneck for provincial urban areas and nearby rural areas. The project will emphasise a participatory approach by inviting to workshops representatives of central, provincial, and local government agencies along with public, non-governmental, and private sector organisations.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/08/2002

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UN Project to Fight Poverty Makes Start

HA NOI - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Tuesday launched a US$2.5 million project to assist Viet Nam in its nation-wide effort to combat poverty. The project lasting three years and a half will help improve the design, implementation, and monitoring of the five-year National Target Programme of Hunger Eradication, Poverty Reduction and Job Creation. The $2 billion National Target Programme is a key plank of Viet Nam's recently approved Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy. The UNDP project will help Government agencies improve the quality of hunger eradication and poverty reduction (HEPR) campaigns, drawing on the experience and knowledge of the intended beneficiaries and UNDP's previous work in the provinces. The project will also strengthen the capacities of HEPR staff, and establish an inter-agency system for poverty monitoring and programme evaluation. An integral part of the project will be reviews of, and reforms to, the social safety net for poor and vulnerable groups. The project will also fund further research to underpin debate and help formulate better policies. This will look more deeply at the poverty situation, and pay special attention to the issue of increased inequality. The project will also continues its support to the National Centre for Social Science and Humanities in producing the Viet Nam Human Development Report every two years. The Government estimates that 17 per cent of Viet Nam's population lives in poverty, and it has made a strong commitment to eradicate hunger and halve the poverty rate by 2015. The five-year National Target Programme, approved in September 2001, will help the Government achieve its poverty reduction target. The prime minister has set up an inter-ministerial board involving the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Planning and Investment, to co-ordinate the implementation of the programme.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 06/12/2002

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CDMA System to Be Installed in Vietnam

HANOI, (Xinhuanet)-- South Korean LG Electronics plans to install a code division multiple access (CDMA) system -- CDMA 20001x in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by the end of this September, the Vietnam News Agency Reported on Monday. The 35-million U.S. dollars- system, which is being imported toVietnam for the first time, will be managed by S-Telecom company, a joint venture between Vietnam's Saigon Postal and the three Korean mobile telephone giants, SK Telecom, LG Electronics, and Dongah Eleccomm Inc. According to estimates by LG Electronics, in the next five years, the turnover of Vietnam's CDMA 2000 1x-related system market will reach 100 million U.S. dollars. In April 2001, the LG Electronics Company won a contract to supply CDMA Wireless Local Loop equipment to the Vietnam Post and Telecommunication.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/17/2002

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Vietnam to Foster Development of Urban Infrastructure

HANOI, (Xinhuanet) -- The Vietnamese government is planning to foster development of the country's transport and urban infrastructure. Under the current five-year plan, a key focus will be put on the nation-wide road network, including the new inland high-way liking Ho Chi Minh City to the capital Hanoi and the ongoing upgrade to the existing coastal route, Vietnam News reported Wednesday. Upgrades will be accelerated on major roads linking Ho Chi MinhCity and other key economic zones with the Central Higlands (Tay Nguyen), rural areas, and the Mekong Delta provinces of the country. In all, up to 30,500 kilometers of roads are slated for improvement, including 12,382 km of highway. Meanwhile, the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi will be upgraded and Da Nang Airport will get an international terminal. The port and aiport improvements will lift international air freight capacity by 40 percent and sea frieght by 20 percent. In urban areas, infrastructure work will include better water supplies, draignage and environmental hygiene, public works and housing. In 2005, at least 80 percent of the country's urban population will have access to 80-100 litres of clean water per person per day. Regular inundation in big cities during the rainy season willbe completely eliminated. And solid waste will be treated by building better waste dumps and waste treatment facilities. Housing developers will build more residential accomodation in urban areas that boast an average living space of 15 square metersper person, and develop more housing aimed at poor, disadvantaged and low income people, and for resettlement purposes.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/19/2002

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TK 2275cr to Improve Power Situation

The budget proposes to allocate Tk 2,275 crore for speedy improvement of overall power situation in the country during fiscal 2002- 03. It also proposed an allocation of Tk 580 crore for the gas sector in the same fiscal year. The revised budget for 2001-02 outlined an allocation Tk 458 crore. The government has decided to rationalise in phases the price of gas and petroleum products consistent with the international price. The finance minister said power plants with a total capacity of 1229 MW are now underway in the public sector. Meanwhile, private builders are developing power plants with a capacity totalling 2238 MW on Build-Own-Operate basis. "According to the projection of the Power System Master Plan, a maximum of 6071 MW electricity would be required in the year 2007. Accordingly, the government is planning to build 18 power stations in phases," he said. To ensure power supply in the remote areas outside the National Power Grid, steps have been taken to build small-scale power plants. Saifur Rahman further said an energy regulatory commission would be formed with the responsibility of regulating gas and power generation and distribution including granting licences, fixing tariff, protecting interests of customers etc. The commission would be constituted under the Power Reforms Act, which is now at the final stage of approval. Besides, the cabinet has approved the draft bill -- Bangladesh Gas Act-- for long- term development of the gas sector in a competitive environment to encourage private investment, protect consumers' interests and abolish monopoly as well as to protect environment. Appropriate decision will be taken on economic use of gas keeping in view the interest of the country, on the basis of findings of two expert committees formed to resolve controversies regarding gas, he said.

From http://www.dailystarnews.com/ 06/07/2002

Plan to Expand IT Edn Countrywide

Commerce Minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury yesterday said the government has undertaken various programmes to expand IT (Information Technology) education across the country considering the global demand of IT professionals. "We have introduced computer education in school and college levels to develop expertise in the sector to cope with the IT-based modern world," he said. The minister was speaking at the certificate awarding ceremony of Aptech computer education at a local hotel. A total of 19 students, who successfully completed three years computer education course from Aptech's Dhanmondi centres, were awarded certificates in the function. Head of Asia Pacific of Aptech Worldwide Ltd Tarun Mitra, President of BASIS Habibullah N Karim and Sabur Khan of BCS spoke on the occasion with Managing Director of Axiom Technologies Limited Rizwan Bin Farouq in the chair. Khasru said the government has taken a move to set up an IT office in the USA to provide support to the private IT companies in the country and searching market to export software there, "Similar IT office would also be set up in Europe to this end," he added. Referring to prospects of IT education in the country, he said the technology is growing fast in Bangladesh and the students both boys and girls are taking IT training for searching jobs in the sector. He said at present the computer education is being a part of life of the people specially the middle class people in the country. Calling upon the private sector to come forward to create IT professionals, the commerce minister said the private entrepreneurs should invest more in the sector for the betterment of the nation. Referring to job opportunities for IT professionals, he said the government has formulated guidelines to provide jobs for the IT experts in the country.


From http://www.dailystarnews.com/ 06/24/2002

Nasscom Optimism on IT Growth May Be Misplaced

In a contradiction of sorts, the optimism regarding the potential of the Indian software and services sector, as projected by the Nasscom-McKinsey study on Monday, is significantly dampened by the actual business scenario existing in the sector today. The confusing signals sent by the Indian leadership and the recoil that such signals have caused in the international business partners of Indian IT companies is more than being sounded at the 'Indian IT and ITES Summit 2002', organized by Nasscom, in Hyderabad. Hughes Software CEO and Nasscom chairman Arun Kumar says: "War or no war, the confusion is not without an impact. The travel advisories have pushed back business negotiations and Indian executives will be forced to travel abroad in order to keep the talks kicking." Even if India does not go to war, the negative sentiment generated by this whole episode has made international clients hold back business visits and negotiations. "As a country, this is as good as handing the business on a platter to China and Philippines. There is no such geo-political uncertainty that companies will have to face there," says Raju Bhatnagar, vice-president, E-Funds International. The travel advisories mean that any executive traveling into India on individual responsibility will not have a corporate insurance cover. So even if there is no war, a minor health problem eventuality will lead executives into a big problem. So why would they travel? asks Bhatnagar. Coming at a time when most Indian companies have already rolled out their business process outsourcing plans and are scouting for their first few clients, the geo-political situation is certain to impact the acquisition of new clients, the industry opines. According to SpectraMind CEO Raman Roy, "The effects will not be felt in the short-term due to the existing relationships that the industry shares with the older clients. But if this uncertainty persists, getting new clients will become a more uphill task for most Indian ITES players." The new study, which has been under preparation for nearly a year, would not have factored in such geo-political risks as an Indo-Pak war. Therefore, effectively, in order to accomplish the vision enunciated in the study, the industry's primary focus will have to be on the business continuity. (by Prerna K Mishra)


From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/11/2002

IT-Enabled Services Segment Looking Up

Existing customers offshoring more business into India, new customers relocating work here, and the Indian players getting into eight untapped service lines, are all positive indicators as far as the Indian IT-enabled services segment is concerned. While most companies globally offshore 60-70 per cent of the business in the traditional services, including custom application development and application outsourcing, India has a 14-16 per cent global market share in these two service lines alone. "But, Indian companies are venturing into newer areas of opportunity like packaged software, system integration, network infrastructure management, network consulting and integration among others," according to McKinsey Principal Ramesh Venkataraman. In packaged software installation and support, Patni, for instance, is providing tier-2 and tier-3 support to Hewlett-Packard on a global basis. Similarly, Lattice has retained Wipro for a full end-to-end $70 million system integration project and 30-40 per cent of the effort is expected to be carried offshore. The confidence that the ITES segment will touch $21-24 billion of revenues by 2008, as projected by the Nasscom-McKinsey 2002 Study, stems from the fact that over the last 18 months more than 50 global corporates have announced their plans to offshore services to India. The speed of ramp up on the part of the Indian players to cater to bigger contracts is also an indication of good times to come. Players like Convergys, for instance, that set up a 500-seat call centre in 2001, is expected to ramp up the facility to 1,900 seats soon. There are also positive signs from global IT services majors increasing global footprint in India. (by Prerna K. Mishra)


From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/13/2002

Special Group to Help Take IT to Rural Areas

The Directorate of Information Technology has constituted a special group to initiate measures to enable rural areas to use IT services. Minister of State for Information Technology Prof B K Chandrashekar had convened a meeting of the members of the special group recently to evaluate the role of technology development required in both hardware and software sectors for taking IT successfully to the rural areas. The special group, headed by Mr Chandrashekar himself, has Dr Shankar Prasad, Dr Somashekar Reddy, Prof V K Nataraj, Mr Raghunandan, and representatives from n-Logue Communications Systems, School Net, iNablers and Sasken Communication Technologies as members. Briefing about the outcome of the meeting, Prof Chandrashekar said the information requirements of rural people would be documented and the final action plan would have recommendations with business plans to back them up. The minister said he was exploring the possibilities of extending services of various departments by using the infrastructure in the Raitha Mitra Kendras. Though the government would be initially providing the services, later the same would be transferred to private companies. Users would have to pay for the services they avail, he added. There were 741 Raitha Mitra Kendras at present and there was demand for four more Kendras. The special group would be concentrating on using the IT services in rural development, health, education and agricultural sectors and integrate initiatives of various departments. A final action plan would be ready in next ten days, he added. eplying to a query, he said during the last financial year, 110 IT companies were set up in the State. Of this, 60 per cent of the companies were established with foreign equity, 35 per cent by small and medium entrepreneurs and 5 per cent by Indian major companies. The total investment made was Rs 9,800 crore, he pointed out.



From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/17/2002

Sri Lanka Eyes UN Top Job

COLOMBO, (AFP) Sri Lanka is keen to contest the United Nations secretary general's post and the government will launch a campaign shortly to drum up international backing, officials said Monday. The Indian Ocean island is to put forward its Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando as a candidate to replace Secretary General Kofi Annan whose terms ends in December 2006. "We believe it is going to be Asia's turn to elect a Secretary General and Sri Lanka should stand a very good chance," a government spokesman said. He said the government would be sounding out neighbouring countries to secure their support for the Oxford-educated Fernando, a barrister by training. The last and only Asian secretary general was U Thant of Burma, now Myanmar, who served from 1961 to 1971. Fernando, 60, has been a member of the Sri Lankan parliament since 1977 and has held the portfolios of justice, information and broadcasting, and foreign affairs. He has also written several books with his latest on Sri Lanka's diplomatic relations through the ages to be released in August. He is also a consultant to a theatre play on the life of Nelson Mandela.



From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 06/03/2002

The Rural Industrial Estate Development Programs in Sri Lanka

Rural Industrial Estate Development Programs, an essential component in rural industrialisation had been a favourite proposal forwarded from time to time, as a solution to the unemployment problem. Proposed Industrial Park for printing and allied industries at Panaluwa is a latest in these regional development programs. Although massive investments have been incurred in these rural industrial development projects, the overall objectives have not been achieved so far in number of cases. There are about 32 rural industrial estates developed and managed by the Industrial Development Board (IDB), Ministry of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy and Investment Promotion (MEDIPIP), Southern Provincial Council and Mahaweli Authority. Extends of these estates vary from 2 acres to 50 acres. (Approx). Occupancy rate of some of these are very low even after nearly a decade from the commencement of the estates. Rural Industrial Estate Development Programs were expanded in early 90s and IDB and MEDIPIP have played a major role in these programs. Employment generation while promoting balanced regional development is the main objective of the Rural Industrialisation Programs. Strengths and weakness of these programs directly contribute to the success of the Rural Industrial Estate Development Programs. Since Rural Industrialisation Programs are essentially to be incorporated with the National Industrial Development Plan any initiative has to be started from it. In any of the project, viability has to be pre-assessed before implementation. Pre-feasibility studies without any interference is an essential factor for the success of the project. In the private sector since the beneficiary has the direct impact and sometimes immediate impact, viability in much concerned. However in public investments decision markers of the projects and programs have less impact with wrong decisions and as a result the attempts for the accuracy for pre-assessments are insufficient in some instances. In planning industrial estates the first stop is to find out the segments, which it caters to be. Resources availability is a prime factor in promoting the industrial ventures. Local area markets create opportunities for small and medium projects. Ready-made garments projects give an example for the industrial projects promoted under special incentive schemes. This category is determined by the National Industrial Policies, where long-term forecasting is rather difficult. Potential for other two categories could be more accurately assessed and size of an industrial estate would be mainly decided by these two segments. Distance from ports and airports is correlated with the scale of potential investments as well as the sectoral factors. Inadequate pre-assessment for the land requirement has been a reason for waste of funds., as in developing rural industrial estates, infrastructure cost, compared to the land cost is very high. Phased - out basis development avoids these massive wastes, while keeping space for future demand. Distance from the townships affects the industrial ventures, which depend on the local area market, where in most cases which belongs to the tiny and small categories. In some cases the mini rural industrial states planned mainly for this category had to wait for 15-20 years for fully or nearly fully occupancy, as the result of this locational disadvantage. The industrial projects based on resources or promoted under special incentive schemes even though not depend on the local area market, experience difficulties in staff transportation, access to other services etc. It has to be noted that even the limited facilities available such as postal, health, in rural areas are concentrated to the hearts of townships. As such it is strongly recommended to locate rural industrial estates much closer to the townships, preferably within the townships. In rural areas although an increase in awareness on environmental aspects is observed, establishing industrial units in residential areas is still common. As locating a project in an industrial estate is comparatively costly rather than establishing in his own land, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) there is no reason to look for an industrial estate. Utilisation of family labour in SMEs is easy when locating an industry in own home yard. This factor further discourages the interest for the industrial estates. Generally the difference between major cities and small townships and countryside is very high. Due to the poor social infrastructure especially in the sphere of eduction of children, professional and technical staffs are reluctant to move to country towns. This situation has significantly effected in obtaining expertise knowledge, which is an essential factor in an era of knowledge-based economy. Ultimate result is the negative impact on promotion of rural industrial estates. As it mentioned at the beginning, rural industrial development programs are only a component in Rural Industrialisation Program, unless the comparative disadvantages in Rural Industrialisation Programs are adequately compensated the expected achievement will not be reached. Usually the start-up cost of an industrial unit is too much high and if this could be borne by the authorities a certain increase in percentage of progress will be shown. At the stage, the project reached, with the strength of facing the competitiveness, the entrepreneur will start his project in a land allocated to him. In the case of small sector industries, the incubator concept associated with the Rural Industrial Estate Development Programs will be more result oriented. Sector-specific clusters of industrial units scattered in the country are primary based on tacit and accumulated knowledge gained by doing and learning by interaction. Markets have been created naturally. Programs of mini-rural industrial estates for these clusters followed by back-up services such as infusion of technologies will improve the overall output of the clusters. Especially access to the markets will be easier, when industrial estates established to cater the clusters. Spatial clusters of small production units engaged in black-smithy, pottery, brass products, aluminium and cast-iron are some of the areas with potential for development. Generally in all organisations engaged in development and management of industrial estates criteria of selection of investors have similarities. Rules, regulations and procedures all have similarities. However sometimes long delays from selection of investors to allocations of lands and inadequate evaluation process could be observed. Minimal formalities for lands make attractive for investors. Further some degree of testing is needed to weed out potential failures. Another one important area is ownership of land. In the industrial estates developed by the public organisations lands are generally allocated under the long-term lease, which vary from 30 years to 50 years. Although long-term leases are a necessity for obtaining bank loans, these leases are issued based on the progress of the projects. In rural areas where private lands are available in plenty, unless special benefits available in the industrial estates investors prefer the private lands. In most of the projects and programs under the public sector unnecessary influences are unavoidable. Cancellation of lands, given for the industrial ventures with poor performance is even difficult. Lands allocated are sometimes utilised for, merely residential purposes. Selection of investors is influenced. Private sector participation in development and management of the rural industrial estates will overcome these problems to certain extent. Mechanism of management designed for executing the functions independently is a necessity. Governing Council consisting of relevant government institutions, chamber of industries and the private sector will be beneficial rather than public sector management. Further the private sector participation from the planning stage limits the opportunities for biased feasibility and pre-investment studies, where the problem starts. However in the case of private sector participation, the comparative disadvantages in rural industrialisation, which hinder the viability of industrial estates development projects, have to be compensated. Finally it has to mentioned that the importance of the Rural Industrial Estate Development Programs under Rural Industrialisation Programs are to be clearly understood but without any over estimation.



From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 06/04/2002

BOI Signs 13 Agreements During April 2002

The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) has signed 13 agreements in April to the value of Rs. 2,493 million of which Rs. 716 million consists of Foreign Investment. The projected employment to be generated is 1,360. The most significant is in the tourism sector, an investment of Rs. 760 million from the Male based company Cyprea (Pvt) Ltd. It will employ 200 people. The investor will be taking over the assets of the Sinbad Hotels Ltd and will upgrade it to international standards while maintaining its natural beauty. Jessop and Baird Lanka (Pvt) Ltd has obtained approval to set up a project to manufacture of moulded bra (brassiers) cups and laminated bra materials for exports. The UK investment will ensure great diversification of products while exclusively producing bra accessories. It will contribute towards making Sri Lanka the intimate apparel capital of the world. The total investment for this project is Rs. 506 million and employment generation is 177. Vehicles Lanka (Pvt) Ltd which, a joint venture between Japan and Sri Lanka has signed an agreement with the BOI to assemble motor vehicles for the local market using imported second hand motor vehicle parts from Japan. This project will be at Panagoda, Homagama. It is an investment of Rs. 500 million and will create 150 jobs. Linea Sensual (Pvt) Ltd which belongs to the famous Mas Holdings (Pvt) Ltd intimate apparel company has signed an agreement to manufacture ladies underwear. These include briefs and lingerie for the UK market. The foreign collaborator of this project is Sara Lee Courtaulds from the UK. This project will also make Sri Lanka's garment industry better geared to compete in a post quota regime. The investment in this project is around Rs. 500 million and employment generation will be around 404. VMI Lanka International (Pvt) Ltd has obtained approval under the Thrust Industry program to establish a project to manufacture non-ferrous metal products for export. This Indian Investment venture will produce Copper, Brass, Zinc and Tin ingots and Copper wires and cables. All these items are made out of imported scrap for export. The investment of this project at the Makandura Industrial Estate is worth Rs. 84 million and will employ 60 people. Trans Screen Automated (Pvt) Ltd has signed an agreement with the BOI for an estimated investment of Rs.71 million to set up a project for textile screen printing services to export oriented manufacturers. The main foreign collaborator of this project is M/s Bezier Creative Print from the UK. Polycrome (Electrical) Industries (Pvt) Ltd has signed an agreement to manufacture electrical items and accessories for the export and the local market. They have invested Rs.35 million and will employed 51 local personnel. This project will be at the Homagama Industrial Estate. Jaysons Hospitality Services (Pvt) Ltd is a Netherlands Investment which will set up a recreational and aqua sports centre at Mt. Lavinia. This project is worth Rs. 21 million and will employ 61 staff. Jaysons main activities will be to provide recreational and aqua sports facilities such as surfing, sunbathing, fishing, boat rides, water scooter riding and Para gliding. Rapier Consultancies (Pvt) Ltd is also an investment of Mas Holdings (Pvt) Ltd has signed an agreement to develop software for the footwear and apparel sector companies in Sri Lanka and overseas. The local investment for this project is around Rs. 11 million and employment generation will be around 22 at capacity level. E-Nowave (Pvt) Ltd has signed an agreement to develop computer software for the export market investing Rs. 5 million with employment around 55. Senanee Lanka International (Pvt) Ltd will set up regional operating headquarters to provide business support services in collaboration with their two offshore companies namely, Ken Trading Company in Japan and Ken Business Syndicate in Pakistan. Total investment of this project is estimated at Rs. 1 million. In the apparel sector two companies Lanka Garments Manufacturing Co Ltd and Vision Apparels (Pvt) Ltd were granted BOI status under the harmonisation scheme. These have converted from non-BOI apparel manufacturing projects to BOI status. Typically 80-85% of the approval granted move on to formal agreements signed with the BOI. Approximately 60% of agreements finally move on to projects that materialise and commence operation.



From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 06/14/2002

ADB Provides RS.230 Million in Assistance for Rural Electrification in Jaffna

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA - The Asian Development Bank has approved the use of surplus loan funds amounting to Rs. 230 million (US$2.4 million) to provide electricity to households in the Jaffna peninsula. The funds, from the existing Second Power System Expansion project, will rehabilitate low voltage transmission and distribution systems and will complement the recently-awarded private sector contract for 20 megawatts of emergency power for Jaffna. The Ceylon Electricity Board will implement the project. This interim assistance by ADB, which follows its earlier agreement to utilize other loan savings for emergency rehabilitation of the A9 highway between Vavuniya and Jaffna, will contribute to Sri Lanka's efforts to restore normalcy in conflict-affected areas. ADB will consider other post-conflict rehabilitation assistance at an appropriate time.



From http://www.adb.org/ 06/27/2002

First IT Park in Nepal

The construction of the first IT park in Nepal has been initiated at Banepa in Kavrepalanchok district with the aim of bringing about a new dimension in the sector of information technology in the country. Talks on the construction of an IT park had been held during the formulation of the eighth five-year plan but the Ministry of science and Technology gave the contract for the construction of the park to a company only towards the end of the ninth five year plan. The Koi Construction Private Limited from Chitwan has been given the contract for the construction of the park at an estimated cost of 190 million rupees, according to the Ministry.


From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 06/03/2002

Committee to 'The State of IT' in Pak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis wondered what they have on the ground to show for the ceaseless media hype-and public spending-on the imminent Information Technology revolution that will promises to put Pakistan above the clouds? President General Pervez Musharraf does. The President has appointed a senior-level committee to conduct a study of "the state of Information Technology" in Pakistan. Headed by Secretary Planning Mutawakkil Qazi, the committee is to brief the President on its findings on 15 July. Also on the committee are Javed Siddiq Malik, Additional Secretary Budget; Muhammad Shahid, Chief Whip Planning Commission; and Tariq Badshah of the Ministry of Finance. It has been argued, and fairly soundly too, that IT can be Pakistan's ticket to prosperity. On paper at least, a variety of factors put Pakistan in a favorable position to pull the hypothetical coup. For instance, here is a Third World country with a telephone network better suited to IT usage than those of most First World countries. And Pakistan's telephone density is superior to that of India-widely regarded as an IT superpower in the making. The same is true of Internet density. In addition, this is a country with a young population and burgeoning labor force that can furnish young, motivated personnel to IT in significant numbers. But there is no gainsaying that IT is still a relative novelty to most Pakistanis. Training standards are poor. Up until now at least, domestic industry has been no great help in hatching software houses that would earn export dollar. Fiscal year 2000-2001 was the first when a Pakistani concern reported (however puny) income from export of software. However-to give an idea of how well documented the industry is-each of the Export Promotion Bureau, Ministry for Information Technology, and Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) had different export figures to report. Under the circumstances, the President wishes to know how far the efforts underway to promote IT are getting. The committee appointed will look into the progress achieved, and make a presentation to the President on 15 July. The budget makers are known to have earmarked Rs2 billion for IT promotion in the coming fiscal. However, the President may, depending how he views the matter, wish to do a few additional things in this respect.



From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/15/2002

Internet Users Up by 1.59 Million

ISLAMABAD, (PNS): Internet users number has rapidly increased by 1.59 million in the country. In 1998 the total number of internet users was 0.11 million but in 2001-02 this number increased to 1.7 million. The government and private sector are equally struggling for the promotion of information technology in the country. Officials say that in the days ahead the usage of information technology would further grow rapidly because of the importance of this sector in future.



From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/18/2002

Provinces to Get Rs 32bn for Local Govts

ISLAMABAD: The president has approved the distribution of Rs 32 billion resources, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of GST, to the provincial governments under the fiscal devolution plan, said Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz.


From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/21/2002

 

Cisco to Provide IT Networks for Central Asia - NATO Project

Cisco Systems, a provider of networking for the Internet, today announced that it is donating equipment to help a NATO Science Programme project deliver cost effective, fast Internet connectivity to the research community of Uzbekistan, other Central Asian Republics and the Caucasus. The 'Virtual Silk Highway' project will enable local scientific and academic communities to collaborate with their peers all over the world.

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/18/2002

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Goooooal - Kyrgyz Mobile Phone Users Enjoy Special World Cup Service

The following message, in Russian, popped up on hundreds of mobile phones in Kyrgyzstan, minutes after the end of the opening match of the World Cup soccer tournament: "France-Senegal 0-1. Goal scored by Papa Bouba Diop in the 30th minute." The result was something of a shocker, as France is the defending world champion and is considered one of the favorites again this year. Far less surprising is the rapidly growing market for mobile telecommunications in Kyrgyzstan. Many Kyrgyz, like billions of others around the globe, are closely following the month-long, 32-team World Cup tournament, which concludes June 30. This year, with the games being played in South Korea and Japan, the time difference makes it difficult for many in Kyrgyzstan to watch the contests. But the new phone message service enables affluent Kyrgyz to stay informed, at a cheaper price than that paid by soccer fans in the wired West. The World Cup news flashes are being provided by BITEL, one of Kyrgyzstan's two leading mobile communication companies (the other one being KATEL). The flash messages are widely used in Western Europe and account for a significant share of the revenue that mobile communication providers make. But in Kyrgyzstan, the service is relatively new, having been introduced last January. Yet in recent months the volume has increased significantly. According to BITEL spokeswoman Saida Sapieva, 200,000 messages are being sent every month by the company's 25,000 subscribers, an average of eight messages per customer. The rising usage totals indicate that even in a country like Kyrgyzstan, where the economy continues to languish a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there appears to be strong growth potential for communications and information services. The country's dilapidated infrastructure often makes mobile phones the logical choice for communications in many areas. In addition to World Cup updates, providers offers an array of message services, including the latest weather and money exchange rates. Sapieva said the full World Cup alert service gives the half time and the final scores of all 64 World Cup matches. The total cost is 150 Kyrgyz soms, or the equivalent of 3 US dollars. That's far cheaper than in most technologically advanced countries. In Switzerland, for example, one single flash message with World Cup news will cost the football fanatic half a Swiss franc each, or around 30 US cents. Most of the users of the World Cup alert package in Kyrgyzstan are locals from Bishkek and the suburbs of the Kyrgyz capital. "The information will be provided in Russian, therefore the main target for the service is local users," Sapieva said, adding that just 2 percent of the company's subscribers are foreigners. Although there is broad interest in the World Cup games in Kyrgyzstan, the country does not enjoy a strong soccer tradition. Indeed, the Kyrgyz national team performed poorly in World Cup qualifying matches. The team's World Cup 2002 campaign ended in the first qualifying round when it finished third in its group. The other Central Asian countries shared the same fate with the exception of Uzbekistan, which almost made it to the final qualifying stage before being eliminated by China. In the official FIFA rankings, Kyrgyzstan is ranked 165th out of 200 countries, Tajikistan 155th, Turkmenistan 114th and Kazakhstan 102nd while Uzbekistan is ranked 67th.


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/03/2002

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New Presidential Decree Paves a Way for Further IT Development

The Coordination Council on development of computerization and information communication technologies has been created in Uzbekistan. The formation of the Council follows the Presidential Decree "On further development of computerization and introduction of information communication technologies", which was signed on May 31. In line with the Decree, the following will be subject for tax exemption before 1st of January 2006.



From http://www.uzreport.com/ 06/02/2002

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Uzbek Market Economy Hopes Face Crucial Test

The ex-Soviet state of Uzbekistan faces a crunch point this month for its hopes of becoming a full market economy. Until now the central Asian state of 25m has clung to a Soviet-style system of multiple, state-controlled rates for hard currency exchanges. At the same time, local businesses have been limited by quotas on the amount of sum, the national currency, that they can turn into dollars. On June 30, all this is supposed to end. A staff monitored programme (SMP) agreed in January between the International Monetary Fund and President Islam Karimov's government, promises to remove all restrictions on foreign currency exchanges. It should also reduce the difference between the official rate and black market rate to 20 per cent. The restrictions were imposed in 1996 to shield the country from the shocks of a transition to a free-market economy. They are blamed, however, for turning Uzbekistan - which could be the economic engine of the region - into an economic backwater.
Central Asia as a whole has basked in increased international attention since September 11. Uzbekistan in particular has also enjoyed increased goodwill from the US for its willingness to provide a military base for operations in Afghanistan. The IMF says that if Uzbekistan manages to liberalise exchange rates by the end of the month, the country could soon begin new loan programme talks. This goodwill may not last, however, if Tashkent is seen to be against real change. "For the Uzebeks this is the best opportunity to get maximum economic support. Two years from now, it may be only 50 per cent. There has never been a time when the US government and other people were looking at Uzbekistan as favourably as now," said one senior western diplomat. If the Uzbeks fail, he said, the economy could sink further into stagnation and possibly destabilise neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The SMP also calls for other potentially revolutionary changes this year, such as an overhaul in procurement practices in the cotton industry, the country's main cash crop and a source of widespread corruption. Two official exchange rates remain: a commercial rate for business transactions and an over-the-counter rate for individuals. Uzbek officials freed up the OTC rate last month and are now believed to be buying up sum in order to drive down the black market rate. At the moment the commercial rate stands at 740 sum to the dollar, with the black market and OTC rates just above 900. But where some see good, tight fiscal policy in removing sum from circulation, others fear the move is only temporary to meet the June 30 deadline. The unofficial rate could shoot up again in the next months, they say. Erik De Vrijer, the IMF official dealing with Uzbekistan, said: "We will bend over backwards to help the Uzbeks, but we will not close our eyes." (by David Stern)



From http://news.ft.com/ 06/19/2002

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IMF Says Uzbek Reforms "On Track," Some Observers Express Doubt

An International Monetary Fund team, having recently completed a nearly two-week assessment mission, has announced that Uzbekistan has made "significant progress" on economic reforms, emphasizing that fiscal policies are "on track." But several economic observers in Tashkent express doubts privately that the government's fiscal policies can be sustained. The IMF assessment mission was designed to review implementation of a Staff Monitored Program (SMP) detailed in a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies covering the first six months of 2002. In the memorandum, the Uzbek government was called on to de-centralize the economy. Specifically, the SMP called on Uzbek officials to liberalize access to foreign exchange and unify the country's currency exchange rates. The memorandum, signed last February, promised the convertibility of the Uzbek currency, the sum, by July. In order to accomplish this goal, the government agreed to take measures that would effectively eliminate the black market for currency in the country. "We hope that the implementation of the measures described in the SMP will demonstrate our commitment to reform," Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov and other officials wrote in a February letter to IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler. "We fully understand the importance of adhering to the spirit of the reform program and will decisively implement formal decrees, resolutions and instructions." Since the Soviet collapse, Uzbekistan's government has maintained tight control over the country's political and economic life. There are several state-controlled exchange rates for hard currency. Currently, under the official rate it takes 749 sums to buy one US dollar. The official commercial (over-the-counter) rate is 990 sums per dollar and the black market rate is about 1,000-1,050 per dollar. In addition, the government controls how much foreign exchange citizens can purchase. The multi-tiered exchange rate, and the limited access to currency exchange, has helped the black market to flourish, while discouraging foreign investment. The assessment mission was in Uzbekistan from June 12-25. In the weeks leading up to the visit, Uzbek officials made tangible progress in meeting some SMP goals. For example, the US dollar conversion rate on the black market dropped throughout June from 1,450 sums per dollar to less than 1,000 sums per dollar. The rate was far lower at official exchange outlets. Local analysts say the drop can been attributed to the government's liberalization of the over-the-counter rate in May-a move designed to remove excess sums from the money supply and thus bring down the black market rate. Also, in May, the government simplified currency exchange procedures. It abolished a number of documents citizens need to submit in order to purchase foreign exchange. Officials additionally increased the amount of foreign exchange that an individual can purchase to up to $1000 per three months. Previously, citizens could only purchase up to $400 and had to produce evidence of scheduled travel, a visa and an official reason relating to family or business in order to purchase foreign exchange. These measures were sufficient for the IMF team to acknowledge in a joint statement along with the Uzbek government and Central Bank that Tashkent was meeting its reform requirements as outlined under the SMP. Currently, the Uzbek Government is not receiving any assistance from the IMF, nor does it have any existing program for cooperation with the fund as the IMF closed its offices last April citing a lack of progress in Uzbekistan's economic reform program. Nonetheless, the Uzbek government continues to receive technical assistance and consultations through the SMP. In striving to implement the SMP, the government intends to "establish an economic program beyond mid-2002 that could be supported by financial resources from the IMF-[and] the granting of financial assistance from other international financial organizations," Azimov said in his letter to Koehler. However, some Uzbek economic observers take a cynical view of how "on track" the SMP is. One Uzbek economist, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed out that the IMF mission had originally been scheduled to undertake the mission in April. At the time, the economist added, the Uzbek government had made no progress on implementing reforms and asked the IMF to delay its mission. The economist also noted that the date for the program's term has also been extended. The final IMF mission under the SMP had been scheduled for July, but now the assessment has been pushed back until September. The delay was needed "to enable the IMF staff to assess the sustainability and irreversibility of the reforms," according to the joint statement issued in late June. During this period, the IMF and Uzbek officials are expected to engage in negotiations on an economic program that would be supported by an arrangement with the IMF, the statement added. The economist expressed doubt that current fiscal policies aimed at narrowing the difference between official and black market exchange rates are sustainable. The specialist also said the government has so far not addressed broader structural reforms envisioned in the SMP, including the liberalization of access to foreign exchange for enterprises-not just for individuals. In addition, the government has not yet started to dismantle the state-order system for grain and cotton, which affects procurement and pricing. Given that many areas have not been addressed, the economist suggested that "the Staff Monitored Program effectively has failed, but politically, the IMF in its statement could never say it." Uzbekistan has developed into a key strategic ally of the United States in the ongoing campaign to curb terrorism. As such, international financial institutions face pressure not to do anything that might hamper the ability of Uzbekistan to actively participate in the anti-terrorism coalition, observers say.


From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/27/2002

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Negotiations to Begin on a Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement

Action has finally begun to try to sort out one of the Pacific's most heavily discussed problems - air services between the island nations. Samoa's Commerce Minister has told Trade Ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group, APEC, that negotiations should begin next month on a draft Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement. Our Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney reports "Fiji once had hopes that Air Pacific would become the Pacific Islands regional airline. But as more and more island nations became independent and set up their own airlines those hopes died. Some island airlines have failed but a mass of rules and regulations remain. Representing the Pacific Islands Forum at a meeting of APEC Trade Ministers in Mexico, Samoa's Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry, Hans Joachim Kiel, said Forum Leaders had endorsed the start of negotiations on a draft Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement. He told the APEC Ministers that the proposed agreement would increase access to air routes between the fourteen island countries, promote expansion and efficiency for their airlines and cut costs. He said talks on the Air Services Agreement would begin in June."

From http://abc.net.au/ 06/01/2002

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Australian Economy Powers Ahead

SYDNEY, Australia -- Australia's economy is growing at 4.2 percent a year, one of the fastest rates in the industrialized world, official figures released Wednesday show. Among Asia-Pacific advanced economies, only South Korea is doing better, with a forecast 5.7 percent expansion this year. Australia's growth is being driven by strong consumer spending, a booming housing sector and rising demand for the resources commodities that make up much of the country's exports. But the central bank is moving to take some of the steam out of the economy by again lifting interest rates, Two hours before the government released statistics showing gross domestic product grew a robust 0.9 percent in the March quarter, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) raised its benchmark interest rate a quarter of a percentage point to 4.75 percent. It was the second rise in two months for the cash rate, following a similar lift of a quarter of a percentage point on May 8. Strong expansionThe bank's move was widely expected by the market because of concerns expressed last month by RBA governor Ian Macfarlane about inflation pressures, and comments he made last week that the bank would lift the cash rate towards a "netural" setting that was neither too stimulatory nor too restrictive. In a statement Wednesday, Macfarlane again said the Australian economy was expanding strongly and inflation was close to the top of the bank's target range. SG Australia chief economist Glenn Maguire told CNN Wednesday that in the months ahead he expected the cash rate to go to 5.5 percent, which would be a neutral setting. Maguire said it was too early for the rate rises to restrict economic activity, with consumers still getting a lift from housing wealth and equities. He said he expected the housing sector to level off over the next 12 to 18 months. "The RBA just wants to take some heat out of the economy," he said. But Australia's peak building industry body, the Housing Industry Association, attacked the rate rise, saying it would dampen business and consumer confidence. 'Damaging' to housingHIA managing director Dr Ron Silberberg said the reliance on interest rates to stop the economy overheating was "damaging" for the housing industry and to businesses involved in manufacturing. Silberberg said the recent appreciation of the Australian dollar would clearly affect export activity and put downward pressure on inflation. The Australian currency has gained 13 percent againt the U.S. dollar since the start of the year and touched a 21-month high of 57.70 U.S. cents on Tuesday. It traded late Wednesday at about 57.25. The latest rate rise to 4.75 percent in Australia means there is now a margin of 3 percentage points over the U.S. federal funds rate, which will likely lead to a further appreciation of the Australian dollar. Some analysts say a rate of 60 U.S. cents in the short-term is highly likely, with 70 U.S. cents not out of the question. The Australian dollar hit a record low against the greenback of 47.75 on April 2 last year. In a commentary on the GDP figures Wednesday, Nomura Australia economists Tom Kenny and Poppy Liatis said the data represented "an extraordinary performance" by the Australian economy in the face of a significant global slowdown. But they warned that if the current momentum was to continue, business investment would need to increase to offset an expected tailing off in housing investment. (by Geoff Hiscock)

 

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/05/2002

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$34 Million to Bush Telecommunications

The Federal Government today announced funding for more than 70 new telecommunications projects, as part of the latest round of the Networking the Nation program.The $34 million will also cover the extension of 20 existing projects. The announcement comes as debate continues over whether telecommunications services in the country are at an acceptable standard to allow the Government to sell its remaining share of Telstra.The funding will go to:- $19 million to improving services in remote indigenous communities. This includes money for the Outback Digital Network, a program which aims to provide high speed internet services in the Northern Territory and Western Australia; - $4 million to the NSW Local Government and Shires Association for online facilities; and- $2 million for mobile phone services in Tasmania's Dorset and Circular Head regions.

 

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 06/07/2002

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Census Results Reveal Population Rise

The Bureau of Statistics has released the results of its most comprehensive study of Australia in five years. Australia's population has grown by 229,500 to 19,387,000.The findings of about nine million Census forms collected last August will now guide federal, state and local government decisions on issues such as expenditure.The country's population has increased by six per cent since the last Census in 1996, with Queensland recording the largest growth at 8.5 per cent.The nation is also becoming more culturally diverse. There has been a decline in the number of people born in Australia.That is coupled with an increase in the number of people speaking a language other than English at home, with the most common alternative being Italian, followed by Greek and Cantonese.There is an increase of 16 per cent in the number of people who identify as indigenous Australians, and they now represent 2 per cent of the broader population.The discrepancy in life expectancy between the two groups remains significant.The general population is ageing, with 13 per cent of people aged over 65.Among indigenous Australians almost 60 per cent of the population is under 25.

 

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 06/17/2002

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$7.3 Billion to Cut City Jams

The cost of fixing Auckland's congested roads over the next decade and beyond has been put at $5.92 billion - equal to the cost of four Clyde dams. At the same time a new public transport system will cost $1.36 billion to build. A mere $25 million will be spent encouraging people to walk and cycle to work. The "indicative costs and timing", including long-term plans to build a new $1.4 billion harbour crossing, have been compiled by the Auckland Regional Council. Of the 30-plus roading projects the ARC looked at, work has started on three - Grafton Gully, the Puhinui Rd interchange and the Upper Harbour Motorway. Transit NZ plans a start this year on improvements to Spaghetti Junction and extending State Highway 20 through Mt Roskill, barring a hold-up in the Environment Court. More progress has been made on public transport - the $204 million Britomart transport centre is on track to open in July next year, work has started on the $158 million North Shore Busway and 13 ferry wharves are set to get a spruce-up. Martin Gummer, chief executive of the road funding agency Transfund, said it was not impossible that Auckland would get most of its roading wishlist once the Government passed legislation allowing private companies to build toll roads. The region's bill would be greatly reduced if a new harbour crossing, which could be 15 to 30 years away, was put to one side and private money was used to build big projects such as the eastern highway. Mr Gummer said that within the next two to three years most of Transfund's budget for new roads would be going to Auckland projects. Auckland Mayor John Banks said the priority for the Auckland Mayoral Forum was to complete the motorway network and build an integrated transport system. He described the priorities as the "triple bypass" - untangling Spaghetti Junction at a cost of $174 million, completing State Highway 20 from Hillsborough Rd to the Northwestern Motorway at a cost of $864 million and building the eastern highway, which the ARC has put at $495 million but could cost twice that with a tunnel under Hobson Bay. Mr Banks said privately built toll roads were critical for making projects such as the eastern corridor viable in the medium term. Infrastructure Auckland, with a $1 billion money pot, is expected to finance much of the new public transport system. So far it has made big grants to Britomart ($45 million) and the North Shore Busway ($40 million) and is to give $31 million for developing the 13 ferry wharves. Auckland City ratepayers have contributed $134 million to Britomart. An Auckland Green list MP, Keith Locke, said Auckland had only one decent dedicated cycleway, from Te Atatu to the city, and more than $25 million was needed to make cycling and walking healthy alternatives to the motor car.

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 05/31/2002

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Government Pledges $32 Million Extra for Rural Health

The Government will commit an extra $32 million over the next three years to keeping health professionals in rural areas. Health Minister Annette King, announcing the package, said the extra money was for a primary health care premium recommended by the Rural Expert Advisory Group. The premium would work through incentive payments to GPs, nurses and other health workers, as well as extra money to ensure sufficient numbers of staff are on call. The amount of the premium would depend on how isolated an area was; Matamata would receive $8900 this year for a practice population of 1200 people while Reefton would get $22,500 for the same number. "This package is important not only to reassure rural communities and to recognise doctors, nurses and other health workers who serve them but also to underline our commitment to primary health care as the way forward for all New Zealanders," Ms King said in a statement. The measures were the first elements of a more comprehensive rural health package still being developed, she said. Yesterday, the National Party announced it would commit $15m over three years to rural health, $6m of which was aimed at attracting and keeping rural GPs.

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 05/30/2002

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Govt Releases Details of Tender Process

Details of a tender process intended to bring high-speed Internet access to all schools by 2004 were today released by the Government. The initiative would bring access of at least 512 kilobits per second for secondary schools to most schools by the end of next year, Education Minister Trevor Mallard said. There would be between 10 and 20 regional tenders covering the country. Key components for the tenders would be: the ability to make broadband available to all schools in a region; the percentage of the wider population who will have access; the level of capital funding required and in what form; the monthly cost of broadband service; the speed of implementation; the ability to expand in the future; and any other cost or constraint. Regional polytechnics, farms, rural businesses, iwi groups, and rural residents would benefit, Mr Mallard said. The programme was expected to cost the Education and Economic Development Ministries tens of millions of dollars, though no specific figures are available. Mr Mallard said last week the amount was between $20 million and $99 million and would come from a contingency budget. A dedicated project director, Amos Aked Swift (CRRCT), and a project team have been appointed. An independent project auditor would also be appointed. The tender process would take place over the next two months, with contracts negotiated by November.

 

From http://www.stuff.co.nz/ 05/30/2002

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NZ Sites Climbing Up Ratings for Internet Awards

Two New Zealand websites are closing in on their big-name rivals in the publicly-voted People's Voice section of the annual Webby Awards. The Webbys, the internet's version of the Oscars, will be handed out at a ceremony in San Francisco on June 18. Denis Dutton's influential Arts and Letters Daily site jumped from 5 per cent to 23 per cent in just three days after he announced its Webby nomination to his readers. The vote rocketed it past the BBC, and is only two points behind the current leader in the news category, Debkafile. Meanwhile, SciTechDaily.com has climbed against the United States space agency Nasa, passing 29 per cent and pulling NASA's vote down to below 50 per cent over the weekend. With only 11 days to go before public voting ends on June 7, SciTechDaily.com managing editor Vicki Hyde is predicting a close race. "We are small compared with Nasa and it's hard to believe we are narrowing in on them. We have 70,000 hits a month, theirs is probably in the millions," Ms Hyde told NZPA. "While we moved from 11 per cent to 29 per cent, Nasa fell from 61 per cent of the vote to 49 per cent." The New Zealand on-line community is also right behind the SciTechDaily.com's campaign for more votes. Major local search engine, SearchNZ and its affiliated sites have pledged one million banners to spread the word. SciTechDaily.com is one of five final nominations in the science category. The main awards are decided by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. It is the first time any New Zealand sites have been nominees in the six years of the awards. "We're going to have a great party at the awards ceremony in San Francisco regardless of whether we win a Webby or not," Ms Hyde said. "Being judged one of the top five science websites in the world by the International Academy is good enough... almost."

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 05/29/2002

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Panel Releases Blueprint for Internet Reform

WASHINGTON - The group that oversees the internet's traffic system moved closer to a complete overhaul over the weekend when a committee recommended changes aimed at making the controversial body function more smoothly. In a report released late Friday nignt, a committee set up by the internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers recommended that the group retool its internal structure and change how corporate directors are chosen, but rejected a proposal to bring governments on board. The committee, which consists of four of ICANN's 19 directors, emphasised that its report did not represent the official views of the entire ICANN board. But the report came out five days after the committee met privately with the other directors to come up with a rough consensus over how the global body should operate in the future. "For ICANN to be successful in the future, when it will face even more difficult challenges, it must evolve into a more effective entity," the report said. The committee asked for public feedback and said it hoped to approve a reform plan when ICANN next meets in Romania at the end of June. Created to control the domain-name system that enables internet users to find Web pages by typing in names like "www.example.com," ICANN has been plagued since its inception with questions about how it should function and who should participate. In February ICANN's president, Stuart Lynn, recommended that the group abandon online elections and instead rely on a "nominating committee" to pick the board members who were not chosen by technical and business groups. Lynn's plan drew widespread opposition from critics who said it would reduce accountability as the planet's 500 million users would no longer have a direct voice. At a meeting in March, ICANN ruled out future elections and set up the committee to fine-tune Lynn's plan. The restructuring committee, which is made up of four of ICANN's 19 directors, rejected Lynn's proposal to give national governments control of one-third of the board. But the committee upheld other key Lynn proposals. Under the committee's plan, seven seats on the ICANN board would go to groups representing domain-name sellers, security experts, government delegates, and other established technical and commercial groups. The international community behind "country code" domains such as France's ".fr" would also get a seat. Another five to 11 seats would be chosen by a nominating committee to represent the internet community as a whole, but the report declined to say who would sit on that committee. Outsiders could file complaints with an ombudsman, or go to an independent arbitration forum if they believed the group was violating its bylaws. ICANN should steer clear of any attempts to control online content, the reports said.

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 06/03/2002

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Firms Shy About Doing Business Online

More New Zealand companies now have websites, but the number taking orders and transactions on their sites is relatively low. This is one of the findings of a Waikato Management School study on e-business adoption. It is part of a wider study on the impact of information and communication technology. Associate Professor Delwyn Clark, a study co-author, said the number of firms with websites had increased 8.8 per cent to 63.4 per cent compared with a year ago. Most sites provided lists of products and services, and 68 per cent had company data. "However, when we looked at what people are actually doing with those sites, only about one in five sites can take orders and only one in 12 can take payments online," Clark said. "Those are the basics for working online and the percentages haven't really changed since last year." Firms doing electronic commerce had tempered their optimism. In last year's survey, they expected a 15 per cent increase in website sales or buying. Those targets were not met and they were now predicting about 11 per cent growth. "In terms of motives for initiating e-business, the ones that have increased are all to do with efficiency, streamlining business processes and reducing costs." There is a big difference between what companies with and without websites rate as challenges. Companies with websites said what stopped them doing more online was low customer use of e-commerce and the high cost of computing and networking technology. Companies without sites said they were not sure where the return would be on their investment, and whether they had the resources to run a site. "The interesting thing is there has been almost no uptake of the initiatives the Government has in place for e-business," Clark said. "Only 2 per cent considered using Government advisers or the BIZInfo service." (by Adam Gifford)

 

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 06/10/2002

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IT Capital Partners Float Rescue Plan

Shareholders in IT Capital will be asked to approve a rescue plan in which its new management team will contribute private equity investments and cash in exchange for a 41 per cent stake. In the plan to be put to the annual meeting on July 23, exo-net founders Maurice Bryham and David McKee Wright will contribute $1.2 million cash and stakes worth $5.5 million in three companies. These include 40 per cent of mobile phone application company Datasquirt, 70 per cent of boatbuilder Sealegs International and 50 per cent of electric motor developer Conceptual Solutionz. Bryham and McKee Wright will hold 41.4 per cent of the company, which could increase to 47 per cent if ambitious bonus targets over the next three years are met. The pair have lined up a further $2.5 million in cash from other investors, including board member Jay Snider. "That $3.7 million in cash is enough to support the new companies, Deep Video Imaging and ITC's administration for the next 18 months," Bryham said. Deep Video Imaging, which is developing technologies for video screens, is the only one of IT Capital's previous investments still considered worthy of management attention. Deep Video Imaging is looking for capital in the United States. New media company Terabyte Interactive is now trading profitably, but is not expected to make back the $8.4 million paid for it. Investments in Streamline, Golden Orb and Virtual Spectator have been written down to zero, and Virtual Spectator's assets have since been sold to entrepreneur Neville Jordan's Endeavour Capital. Bryham and McKee Wright's management company, Platinum Management, will be given a three-year contract to run the business. Bryham said he and McKee Wright would be on salaries of $150,000 - a far cry from the $307,000-plus US-based former chief executive Jeff Dittus drew last year. Their bonus plan, involving 50 million options in three tranches over 30 months, requires them to increase the share value by 35 per cent compounding in each of the next three years. Bryham said that once IT Capital bought their stakes in Datasquirt, Sealegs International and Conceptual Solutionz, he and McKee Wright would have no outside equity investments. "This is about aligning our interests with those of other IT Capital shareholders," Bryham said. "We only make money if the share price goes up." An independent report on the proposal by share valuation specialist Grant Samuel said the 4c a share the pair would buy in at was at the upper end of the fair value range. It said the amount being paid for the target companies was also fair, given that there were few, if any, early stage investment opportunities likely to accept IT Capital scrip. IT Capital traded at 5c yesterday. Acquiring such a diverse portfolio spread IT Capital's risk, and it also got the benefit of an experienced management team whose interests would be aligned with shareholders. Bryham said IT Capital had been too exposed to one sector. "We couldn't rebuild it as a pure IT investment company." (by Adam Gifford)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 06/22/2002

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High-Tech Jobs Boom for North

Job-seekers in the upper North Island will find the best prospects in electronics, information technology, construction/property, law and transport in the next six months. But there will not be much going in advertising and marketing, media, telecommunications and manufacturing. The forecast was made by recruitment company TMP Worldwide's Job Index Survey, carried out twice a year since 1997. The May survey took in 1741 employer clients, a group representative of Kiwi companies but skewed towards heavyweights such as Air New Zealand, Carter Holt Harvey and Telecom. Each was asked how confident it was of taking on more permanent fulltime staff in the next six months. The phone survey did not delve into what drove the trends, but TMP Worldwide general manager Denis Horner said the job growth that upper North Island employers expected in electronics - 58 per cent planned to take on more staff - emphasised how "New Zealand hooks on to electronics very quickly. Technology is the way we'll go forward". In information technology, 53 per cent of employers planned to hire more people. Mr Horner and Work and Income NZ's Auckland regional commissioner, Isabel Evans, linked this to the growth of call centres. Immigration-fed construction (51 per cent) flowed "directly" through to law (48 per cent). In transport, 46.7 per cent of employers planned more staff. Mrs Evans saw the expansion in those areas as typical of a region "looking for opportunities to continue growth". She added that courier companies made up most of the demand in transport. But the "consolidation" of internet-based business and mergers such as the TelstraSaturn-Clear marriage had limited opportunities in telecommunications. In the lower North Island - south of a line between New Plymouth and Napier - jobs would probably be most plentiful in retail (75 per cent of employers intended to hire more people), information technology (57 per cent), construction/property (53 per cent) and agriculture (50 per cent). Jobs might be more difficult to find in the non-profit, law and financial services sectors. The Winz regional manager for Wellington, Stephen Cunningham, said the forecasts tallied with noted trends. Retail activity in the lower north was partly driven by a good year for farmers and the growth in lifestyle-oriented festivals and events. The information technology sector had remained "pretty strong". The job opportunities in agriculture reflected a shortage of workers to deal with "the wall of wood" in the hilly lower North Island as forests matured over the next four years. Mr Cunningham noted that a predicted fall in professional jobs reflected restructuring and corporates moving to Auckland or overseas. In the South Island, the best prospects would be in health, medicine and pharmaceuticals (46 per cent of employers planned to hire more people), then manufacturing (45 per cent) and financial services (42 per cent). Prospects would be weaker in Government, services and transport. Medium-sized businesses - those with 20 to 200 staff - were the most positive about hiring more staff; the confidence of both small businesses and large companies trailed. Mr Horner said a "quite confident" economy provided further encouragement for companies to take on staff. Also, pre-election uncertainty was lower than usual, thanks to Labour's strong polling. The survey was also carried out across the Tasman. New Zealand bosses were slightly more optimistic about extra hiring than their Australian counterparts. They were found to be more upbeat in electronics, Government, information technology, law, services and telecommunications in particular. (by Julie Middleton)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 06/25/2002

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Palau Hosts Pacific Islands Environment Conference

Palau's Environmental Quality Protection Board will get US$25,000 to help preparation of the 21st Annual Pacific Islands Environment Conference, being held June 24-28.Executive Director Marhence Madranchar said this is the first time the board has been given funds for the conference by the Palau Government.Madranchar said the board's role in the preparation "is primarily to bring in people who could give the best messages to the public about protecting environment."The Ministry of Resources and Development will lead the preparation of the conference.Palau is expecting more than 200 delegates from other Pacific islands countries and territories.Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris had already confirmed his attendance as the keynote speaker.


From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 05/31/2002

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ADB Hosts Conference to Raise Standards of Credit Rating in Asia

MANILA, PHILIPPINES -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting a regional conference at its Manila headquarters on 6 June aimed at raising credit rating standards in the region.The "Conference to Strengthen Credit Rating Discipline in Asia" will facilitate networking and information exchange on best practices and other issues of common interest. Sound credit rating agencies are crucial to develop bond markets and to attract private capital to the region.Chief executives and senior officials of Asian credit rating agencies will attend the meeting. Co-organizer of the event is the Association of Credit Rating Agencies in Asia (ACRAA).Philippines Secretary of Finance, Jose Isidro Camacho, will give the keynote speech, "From Good Governance to Effective Governance." Dr. Masahiro Kawai, Deputy Vice Minister of Japan's Ministry of Finance, will talk on "Recent Issues on Credit Rating in Asia."Other speakers will include Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission chairperson, Lilia Bautista; Malaysia's Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman, YBHG Datuk Ali Bin Abdul Kadir; India's Securities and Exchange Board Chairman Ghaanendra Nat Bajpai; and Indonesia's Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Herwidayatmo. Pranab Kumar Choudhury, Managing Director of Investment Information & Credit Rating Agency Ltd (ICRA), India, will talk on "Credit Rating from the Regional Investors' Point of View."The SEC heads will discuss "Credit Rating as an Instrument of Effective Regulation." Officials involved in the Asian debt securities market will discuss "Credit Rating, the Banking Industry and Bond Markets."ACRAA is an organization comprising 13 credit rating agencies in Asia from Bangladesh; India, Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Pakistan; Philippines; Taipei,China; and Thailand. It was formed at the ADB Headquarters in Manila in September 2001.A related activity, a two-day training/workshop on Securitization - a highly topical issue - will be held on 4-5 June 2002 at ADB Headquarters. "This is the first of a series that will upgrade the knowledge and skills of our analysts on a continuing basis," says Kazuo Imai, chairman of ACRAA and concurrently General Manager-International Department of Japan Credit Rating Agency.

From http://www.adb.org/ 06/04/2002

 

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ADB Opens Inspection Function to Stakeholder Consultations

MANILA, PHILIPPINES -The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is encouraging its stakeholders-representatives of government, nongovernment organizations, civil society, and the private sector-to help improve ADB's inspection function to ensure the "highest quality" of projects and programs for the "best interests of the people affected." ADB President Tadao Chino welcomed the participation of all stakeholders at the opening of the regional consultation workshop to review its inspection function, held from 20-21 June at its Manila headquarters.In his opening remarks before participants from over 30 countries, Mr. Chino said, "Widespread consultation with our stakeholders is of paramount importance for a full review of our inspection mechanism and the development of a new and better mechanism." "As stakeholders of ADB, your views are critical in helping ADB to design such a mechanism that is responsive to the needs of ADB, our members, and the people ADB is to serve," he added.He stressed the importance of the inspection function as a governance tool to ensure that ADB is doing its work properly. "It is a way of checking that our programs and projects are designed and implemented as they should be. It is also a way for people to tell us if they think that ADB is not following its own policies in a program or project, and that someone will be adversely affected as a result." Mr. Chino raised for discussion whether a mechanism that not only ensures ADB's accountability and compliance with policies but also helps facilitate problem-solving on the ground should be considered. He added that the inspection process should be independent, transparent, fair to all stakeholders, simple, easy to use and understand, and cost-effective and efficient in the use of development resources. ADB General Counsel Gerald Sumida underscored the importance of reviewing the inspection function amid the challenges ADB faces in addressing issues in the development process, which he described as increasingly "complex, controversial, and disruptive." Along with the review of the inspection function, an internal review of ADB operations manual, containing its operational policies and procedures, is being undertaken, Mr. Sumida said. This was the first in a series of regional meetings to improve the inspection mechanism and prepare a working paper, for submission to the Board of Directors later this year. These will be held in eight cities covering four continents. An initial consultation was held in Tokyo (11 June), to be followed by a series of consultations in Frankfurt and Ottawa (26 June), and Washington DC (28 June); and subregional workshops in Phnom Penh (13 August), Kathmandu (16 August), Beijing (23 August), and Sydney (26 August). The Inspection Policy, adopted by ADB in 1995, established the inspection function that provides an opportunity to hear the concerns of people affected by ADB-financed projects, and to ensure projects' compliance with ADB's operational policies and procedures. Between December 2001 and March 2002, ADB received seven requests for inspection of its projects. The Inspection Committee found four of these requests ineligible and two were found to lack sufficient basis to recommend authorizing an inspection. In July 2001, the Board of Directors authorized its first inspection for a complaint alleging non-compliance with policies in the Samut Prakarn Wastewater Management Project in Thailand. ADB began its review of the inspection function in 1998, as stipulated in the Inspection Policy, but at that time ADB had little experience with the process. This current review will consider the lessons learned from ADB's experience with inspection requests, comments of stakeholders, and experiences of other multilateral development banks. Other issues expected to be examined in the consultations include the scope, eligibility and screening requirements, independence of the mechanism, the transparency of the process, the adversarial nature of inspections, conflict of interest issues, the cost of inspections and legal issues relating to the inspection function. A draft of the working paper on the inspection function can be found on ADB's web site http://www.adb.org and comments can be sent by e-mail to inspectionreview@adb.org. Speeches, a summary of discussions, and papers submitted by workshop participants are also available on the web at http://www.adb.org/Inspection/review.asp.

 

From http://www.adb.org/ 06/22/2002

 

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New Rules to Regulate Corporate Governance in Commercial Banks

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) issued new guidelines covering corporate governance for commercial banks, including a system of appointing independent directors and outside supervisors, the official Xinhua news agency reported. A spokesman for the PBOC was quoted by Xinhua as saying the guidelines on corporate governance clarify the functions of general meetings of shareholders, boards of directors and boards of supervisors, standardize the rights, duties and responsibilities of shareholders, directors, supervisors and presidents, and "provide regulations on the incentive and restrictive mechanism in corporate governance." The guidelines on independent directors and outside supervisors provide detailed regulations on the number and qualifications of independent directors and outside supervisors, as well as their rights, duties and responsibilities during their tenure.

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/05/2002

 

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China Gives Four Foreign Banks Yuan Licences

China's central bank has given licences to four foreign banks to do yuan currency business with foreign firms and individuals in Tianjin, in line with its WTO commitments, state media and bank executives said on Jun.11. UFJ Bank, a unit of Japan's banking group UFJ Holdings Inc 8307.T , Korea Exchange Bank 04940.KS , Chohung Bank 00010.KS and Industrial Bank of Korea 24110.KQ became the foreign banks allowed to do such yuan business in the northern port city, the Financial News said. An executive at Chohung Bank's Tianjin branch said the bank planned to launch formally its yuan business with foreign firms and individuals in August. A yuan licence allows foreign banks to do yuan business with foreign passport holders and foreign-invested firms, but they are not allowed to take yuan deposits from domestic clients. China has promised to open its domestic currency business fully to foreign banks within five years of WTO entry. Until China joined the WTO, only about two dozen foreign bank branches based in Shanghai and Shenzhen had yuan licences. The government has said it will allow banks in Dalian and Tianjin to deal in yuan in its first year in the WTO. The government has given a handful of foreign banks approval to take foreign currency deposits from Chinese customers this year, the first time overseas banks were given direct access to domestic firms and individuals. ($1=8.277 Yuan)

From http://ce.cei.gov.cn/ 06/12/2002

 

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Serious Stock Scandal Case Heard in Beijing

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- The largest price manipulation case in China was heard Tuesday at Beijing's No.2 Intermediate people's Court, the English-language newspaper China Daily Reported Wednesday. The Shenzhen China Venture Capital Co case, which involves more than 5.4 billion yuan (about 653 million U.S. dollars) of funds gathered from more than 100 companies and individuals, marks the country's first manipulation case involving the price of stocks, the paper said. According to China's criminal law, manipulators of stock prices can be sentenced up to five years in prison. The two main suspects of the case, Lu Liang and Zhu Huanliang from Shenzhen China Venture Capital Co, have absconded. The duo, along with Shanghai Huaya Co, allegedly raised more than 5.4 billion yuan between December 1998 and January 2001, under the names of different companies, from over 100 financial institutions, companies, and individuals in 20 provinces and municipalities around the country. According to the court, the huge amount of money was then placed into more than 1,500 stock accounts nationwide and used by the two suspects to manipulate the price of shares of listed Shenzhen China Venture Capital Co. The two gained huge profits by manipulating the stock price. The court sentenced Tuesday two collaborators and representatives from Shanghai Huaya Co., but did not say whether the final verdict would be announced after the three-day hearing. After its exposure last year, the China Venture Capital Co case triggered panic amongst investors, which resulted in the company's stock slumping by more than ten percent in five days. The case is expected to bring about new regulations for the stock market, according to Bao Lei, an official with the court.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/12/2002

 

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Taiwan, China: New Rules May Cut Bank Bailouts

With the legislature scheduled to recess on Friday, Vice Minister of Finance Sam Wang yesterday said that the ministry plans to fight a resolution this week which may prohibit the government's financial clean-up fund from bailing out ailing commercial banks. The KMT and PFP legislative caucuses joined forces last Friday in passing the resolution with a 112 to 95 vote, stipulating that the government's Financial Restructuring Fund -- a mechanism similar to the US Resolution Trust Corp set up in early 1980s -- should be used to resolve the difficulties of grassroots financial institutions instead of debt-ridden commercial banks, such as Chung Shing Bank and Kaohsiung Commercial Bank. The legislature regards farmers' and fishermen's banks and local credit cooperatives as grass-roots financial institutions as. The resolution immediately created obstacles to the ministry's dealings with financially distressed commercial banks, as the third auction to sell off Chung Shing assets will be held in mid-July. According to the ministry's plan, the government may help absorb as much as NT$60 billion of Chung Shing's debt, which is all that the fund has left after bailing out 36 grassroots institutions last year. "We will discuss the matter further with the legislature this week," Wang said. The ministry hasn't decided whether it will propose a motion to reverse the legislative resolution this week, he said. Minister of Finance Lee Yung-san said the resolution would create enormous difficulties in resolving bad and non-performing loan issues in some domestic financial institutions. "It's unreasonable to ask the ministry to bail out all problematic grassroots financial institutions before it can deal with problematic commercial banks," Lee was quoted as saying in the local Chinese-language media. "If commercial-bank assets turn negative, how can the ministry just sit back and do nothing while the situation further deteriorates?" Lee said. "In any case, the ministry intends to first deal with any serious problems at grassroots financial institutions," Lee said. Failing to block the opposition-led resolution from passing, Lee said that he will further discuss the matter with other finance officials. A veto of the resolution may be considered, he said. (by Joyce Huang)


From http://www.taipeitimes.com/ 06/17/2002

 

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Finance Ministry to Tighten Supervision of Lottery

The Ministry of Finance announced Monday that it would tighten supervision over the country's lottery market in the coming months to maintain fair market order. The lottery institutions will need to have their game's regulations and distribution method approved by the ministry and they will need to publish them, a ministry spokesman said. "These institutions will not be allowed to revise the game regulations and distribution method without approval from the Ministry of Finance," the man said. Lottery bodies will also be required to tell the public when a game stops. The Ministry of Finance will crack down on organizations that conduct unfair competition and disrupt market order, the spokesman said. Lotteries re-emerged on the Chinese mainland in 1987, partly due to the need to raise money for government spending, said a researcher surnamed Ma with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Lotteries had been forbidden before then as they were considered gambling. The State now has a lottery run by the Ministry of Civil Affairs to raise funds for welfare projects. Another lottery falls under the wing of the State Sports General Administration to fund sports activities and facilities for the public. Ma said: "Lotteries are a promising industry as they increase tax revenues, create job opportunities and generate funds for the government."


From People's Daily 06/18/2002

 

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China Sets Up Venture Capital Association

A venture capital association, made up of 50 Chinese and foreign foundations and investment companies, was established Tuesday in Beijing. The China Venture Capital Association (CVCA) will manage about 40 billion U.S. dollars in funds, 25 billion of which is invested in China and other Asian countries, said Chang Sun, the CVCA president and managing director of the U.S.-based investment company Warburg Pincus. Venture capital was still in its infancy in China and agencies in the industry needed to promote exchanges and cooperation among investors, companies and managers as well as protect their interests, he said here Tuesday. The CVCA intended to help small and high-tech companies in China with finance in the international market and promote cooperation, he added. China has more than 300 foundations and agencies that fund small and high-tech firms with over 30 billion yuan. In 11 Chinese cities and provinces, industrial associations for venture capital have been founded, but most of them are regional organizations.


From People's Daily 2002/06/19

 

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Transparency, Key Step in Financial Reforms: Analysis

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China for the first time added two important figures to its latest annual report for 2001: the ratio of 29.78 percent of non-performing assets and the capital adequacy rate of 5.76 percent. Its non-performing ratio remains fairly high, and the capital adequacy rate is yet to be raised to the required standard of 8 percent, however, this is the first time that a State-owned commercial bank has published in its annual report the asset and capital adequacy conditions that have always been top secret. The People's Bank of China, the nation's central bank, introduced at the end of May procedures governing commercial banks' releasing information, requiring them to publish major information in their annual reports before the end of April every year, including fiscal and accounting reports, various risk management conditions, asset quality, corporate governance and major events within the year. So far this year, most of China's State-owned commercial banks have released their asset quality statistics and publicized their reform plans on different occasions. A central bank official says that improving the transparency of the financial industry is not only a commitment by China to the World Trade Organization, but also an inevitable requirement for further opening and reforms and reinforcing market discipline on banks. Banks also have to be transparent to compete in the international financial market. Under the old planned economy, China's State-owned commercial banks performed to a considerable extent the function of policy banks; channeling capital to support State-owned enterprises left them with a huge amount of non-performing assets. Commercial banks seldom disclose their operating information and asset quality due to the lack of a market environment. The poor transparency of banks covers risks and crises. When there are no competitors and capital flow is managed, these risks and crises remain concealed. However, the accelerated progress toward a market economy, especially China's entry into the WTO, has led to great changes in the operating environment of banks, and these concealed risks and crises are likely to surface if not exposed in time and solved. Over the past 20-odd years, especially the last few years, the Chinese government largely reinforced banking reforms, gave commercial banks a clear definition of "money-managing financial enterprises" and targeted the reform of State-owned commercial banks into "genuine commercial banks". During these years the government adopted a series of financial reform measures. Three policy banks were set up to replace commercial banks' policy functions; four financial asset management corporations were founded to buy non-performing assets from the four State-owned commercial banks; commercial banks were allowed to restructure into shareholding companies, and those qualified can be listed for public trading. These measures have been a good preparation for commercial banks to increase their transparency. They have successfully cut non-performing loans, and increasingly standardized their management, meanwhile the whole financial industry is learning from advanced international financial management. The central bank itself is leading the move in boosting transparency. From the beginning of last year, the central bank began to publish statistics and analyses of its financial operations in the previous quarter, and propose measures to solve some key issues. Experts hold that good transparency is conducive to improving the central bank's administrative efficiency, and is helpful in accepting public appraisal and supervision. Commercial banks have made a positive response to the demand for the release of information and show full confidence in this respect. Many commercial banks have invited noted international accounting firms to compile their annual reports and give advice, as well as auditing their asset quality, management, accounting and risk control and release of information to international standards. ICBC president Jiang Jianqing says that, with the gradual opening of China's financial market, all domestic commercial bank shave to face the challenge of competing with international financial giants. A good corporate governance structure, a highly efficient operating mechanism and a standardized information release system will help commercial banks improve their competitiveness and mold a good market image.


From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 06/29/2002

 

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Japan's New Debt Warning

Japan's government debt was slashed to a lower grade than Botswana's yesterday, as its central bank stepped into the foreign exchange markets in a desperate bid to save its recession-hit economy. While the Bank of Japan intervened to prevent an appreciation in the yen in order to keep the cost of exports low, Moody's, the biggest western ratings agency, downgraded the country's yen-denominated sovereign debt by two notches, to A2, Japan is now the lowest rated among the world's leading industrialised nations. Haruhiko Kuroda, the finance ministry's international spokesman, slammed the ratings cut as "completely inappropriate," and demanded that Moody's re-examine its decision. "Of course we want them to reconsider, and we will be requesting that they do just that," he said. Tokyo has been waging a war of words against the western ratings agencies, after three downgrades in six months. It argues that its position as the world's banker, and its large current account surplus, make it a special case despite its massive public debt. Like Standard and Poor's and Fitch, which have already defended their own downgrades of Japanese debt, Moody's was defiant yesterday. It issued a statement saying that Japanese government debt, which hit 135% of GDP at the end of March, would soon "approach levels unprecedented in the postwar era in the developed world", adding that reformist prime minister Junichiro Koizumu's policies would not be sufficient to reverse the situation. Radical action, such as "aggressive monetary expansion" to nurse the economy back to growth, or a tax on Japan's wealthy households, would be needed to prevent a debt crisis. Despite the row about the government's creditworthiness, signs that the Japanese economy is past the worst have given the yen a lift, and it was gaining on the dollar yesterday, before the Bank of Japan intervened to pull it back. A stronger yen could scupper Japan's chances of boosting exports to pull itself out of recession. After the dollar fell to below 123 yen - its lowest level for six months - the BOJ repeatedly stepped in, buying what analysts estimated to be $5-$6bn of dollars for yen. The greenback recovered to 124.6 yen after the intervention - the BOJ's third in a fortnight. Analysts said that although the action was successful, the BOJ could not keep running down its yen reserves by stepping into the foreign exchange markets. "The size of intervention seems to have increased since last week, but the power of intervention is short-lived and underlying pressure on the yen is still there," said Michael Lewis, senior currency strategist at Deutsche Bank. The dollar has taken repeated hits in the past week, falling by about 7% against the yen and the euro, as doubts have grown about the strength of recovery in the US- though it benefited yesterday from news that factory orders rose a stronger than expected 1.2% in April, and consumer confidence improved in May. In the longer term, analysts believe the dollar will decline further - and some were arguing yesterday that the best the BOJ could hope for was to smooth the yen's appreciation. "It seems that the BOJ's expectations are that it can't stop the dollar's decline, but is trying to slow it," said Ron Simpson, of Standard and Poor's. (by Heather Stewart)


From http://www.guardian.co.uk/ 06/01/2002

 

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Major Central Banks Sell Yen to Try to Stem Recent Rise

The world's three main central banks sold yen for dollars yesterday on behalf of the Japanese government, in hopes of stemming a rise in the value of the yen that threatens to hamper an export-driven recovery in Japan. The sales by the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan depressed the yen's value only briefly. By late afternoon in New York, the yen was trading at 119.66 to the dollar, a slight gain in value from the 119.27 level at the conclusion of New York trading on Thursday. The yen fell slightly against the euro. The Fed and the European Central Bank did not put their own money to work, analysts said; they merely conducted transactions on behalf of the Bank of Japan, which has "been intervening on its own with very little success," said Rebecca Patterson of J. P. Morgan Chase. The yen has gained 11 percent against the dollar in the last three months, as investors sought to profit from Japan's economic recovery and as weak profits and accounting scandals took some luster off American stocks. Analysts estimate Japan sold up to $5 billion worth of yen today, bringing the total since May 22 to some $35 billion. "The problem is it's still their own money," said Jeremy Fand of Friedberg Mercantile Group. Doing some of the selling through foreign central banks is a new wrinkle, he said: "How can they make it seem more serious? Get others involved." Slower growth in the United States, Japan's biggest foreign market, may stunt exports, which accounted for half of the Japanese economy's growth of 1.4 percent in the first quarter. "The most energetic piece of the Japanese economy now is exports, and the stronger yen threatens that," said David Rolley of Loomis Sayles in Boston. "It threatens the profitability of overseas sales and affects capital budgeting decisions inside Japan.


From http://www.nytimes.com/ 06/29/2002

 

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Central Bank Leaves Overnight Call Rate Unchanged at 4.25%

As widely expected, the Bank of Korea (BOK) yesterday left the short-term interest rate unchanged at the current 4.25 percent for June, betting that the strong won will allay rising inflationary pressure. Uncertainties hanging over the economy, including the slower-than-expected recovery in the United States, were also cited as reasons for standing pat. Emerging from the interest rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee meeting, BOK Gov. Park Seung said that economic fundamentals are in good shape. "The second-quarter growth rate will be higher than in the first quarter. I believe the growth rate for the full year will be around 6-7 percent (higher than the official estimate of 5.7 percent for the year)," he said. Last month, the central bank raised the overnight call rate by 25 basis points to 4.25 percent in order to rein in liquidity in the economy and rising household debt, ending its easing cycle that started last year. On the back of low interest rates and resilient domestic consumption, the economy grew 3 percent last year. In the first three months of the year, it expanded 5.7 percent year-on-year. The economy is also predicted to grow by more than 5 percent for the full year, as exports start to resume growth and consumer spending continues to expand. The BOK governor said export recovery, while at a nascent stage, is taking hold, but added "there are still lingering uncertainties, including the pace of recovery in the U.S. and chip prices, which could put export recovery at risk." Park said while he feels a little relieved of concerns about rising inflation, he is still worried that significant inflationary pressure could come during the second half of the year. "The inflation rate is being kept in the range of the central bank's target zone (3 percent) thanks to the strong Korean currency. The stronger-than-expected recovery is calling for a rate hike, but at the same time, it is true that the strong won is allaying inflation concerns," Park said. A strong won makes prices of imported goods cheaper, thus alleviating inflationary pressure arising from a surge in prices of imported goods. Economists said the strong currency will give the central bank more leeway to hold off a rate hike for a few more weeks. The Korean won has gained 7.7 percent to the greenback this year, which led to a 3.1 percent deterioration of export competitiveness, according to the central bank's analysis. The central bank said the won's appreciation, slowing gains in real-estate prices and falling oil prices are capping inflation. Price inflation also eased last month. Consumer prices rose in May at the slowest pace in five months as the Korean won continued to gain ground against the dollar, making imports cheaper while global oil prices fell. Money supply growth slowed for the first time in four months in May as household borrowing backed off, reducing the need to raise interest rates, the central bank's reports showed yesterday. The central bank predicted that strong economic recovery would stoke inflation in coming months. Though inflation is not an immediate threat to the economy, the BOK may need to raise rates in coming months as faster economic growth pushes up prices. "Demand-side inflationary pressures are expected to build up gradually in accordance with a continued economic recovery in the near future," the central bank said. Park said that as long as the Korean currency remains strong, it would deteriorate Korean exporters' price competitiveness in overseas markets. "We cannot help taking measures against the sharp gain of the won, should the currency's gain accelerate," Park said. Korea's exports are expected to stage a full-blown recovery during the second half of the year, but some are worried that the strong won will hurt export recovery.

 

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 06/06/2002

 

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Banks See Profits Soar 107.2 Pct

Domestic banks reported a 107.2 percent profit rise in the first quarter of the year on a year-on-year basis. The Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) said yesterday 20 domestic banks posted 2.30 trillion won ($1.87 billion) in net profits during the January-March period, more than doubling the 1.11 trillion won ($906 million) a year earlier. But their return on assets (ROA) stood at just 0.8 percent which was quite low compared to those of global banks _ ROA of Citibank came up to 2.3 percent, followed by Bank of America with 1.8 percent and the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation with 1.5 percent. Foreign banks in Korea also recorded an average of 1.1 percent ROA during the period, according to the FSS. ``Moreover, a rising tide of bad commercial loans made banks more reluctant to lend and blunt the impact of the Bank of Korea's interest rate cut at the beginning of the year,'' said Ahn Jong-shik, an official in the bank supervision department at the FSS. Banks tended to reduce lending when write-offs rose. Even though the central bank's rate cuts could spur loan demand from corporate borrowers, companies found out loans were harder to get, which slowed an economic recovery. He said corporate loans should be the primary source banks, adding, ``But for now, they are concentrated in a few large banks.'' More worrisome: Profits from commissions are still surpassing those from interest by 10 percentage points or more. One of their reliable income sources was combined home loans. Loans extended to the household sector soared by 56.2 percent from a year earlier. By bank, Kookmin topped the list as it made a net profit of 672.2 billion won, followed by Hanvit (current Woori) with 345.2 billion won, Industrial Bank of Korea with 225.0 billion won, the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation with 208.0 billion won and Shinhan with 180.6 billion won. In particular, regional and specialized banks, such as Daegu Bank and the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, showed great performance in their reduction of non-performing loans and making profits. Meanwhile, market experts say there is a possibility that consumers will unexpectedly cut back on their borrowing in the latter half of the year. The ratio of banks' credit card receivables of the total loans accounted for 3.8 percent, climbing by 1.0 percentage points from a year earlier. (by Kim Yon-se)


From http://www.hankooki.com/ 06/06/2002

 

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Govt Urged to Protect Insurance Customers

The Foundation of Indonesian Insurance Consumers (YLKAI) and the Association of Indonesian Life Insurance (AAJI) called on the government to provide a blanket guarantee program for life insurance policyholders in the wake of the bankruptcy ruling on insurance firm PT Asuransi Jiwa Manulife Indonesia (AJMI).They argued that the AJMI case could potentially harm the local life insurance industry as customers could lose confidence in insurance firms. Angger P. Yuwono, the chairman of AAJI said that the life insurance industry was concerned that the case might reduce public confidence in the industry. "The government must guarantee that all Manulife policyholders get their rights," Angger told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday. According to AAJI, at present, there are 23 million life insurance policyholders in Indonesia. YLKAI chairwoman Mira Amalia Malik said that the government must take an active role in resolving the impact of the Manulife case, especially in protecting consumers. AJMI is the local unit of Canadian insurance firm Manulife Financial Corp. The company is the fourth largest insurance firm in Indonesia with assets worth around Rp 3.1 trillion (around US$350 million) and some 400,000 policyholders. Last week, the Central Jakarta District Court issued a controversial ruling declaring AJMI bankrupt after Manulife's former partner filed a lawsuit over unpaid dividends in 1999. YLKAI called on the government to set up a "guarantee fund", as done in the banking sector, to ensure that policyholders would be able to recover all their funds. Under a blanket guarantee program launched in 1998, the government guaranteed all obligations of closed banks. Mira argued that like banks, insurance companies also gather funds from the public. "Therefore, the government must guarantee that policyholders can recover their money when insurance companies go bankrupt," Mira told the Post. Further, Angger asserted that Manulife would be able to fulfill their policyholders' rights as the company was in healthy condition with a Risk Base Capital of 165 percent which is higher than the government's minimum requirement of 75 percent. (by Fitri Wulandari)

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 06/04/2002

 

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Govt Makes New Pledges to IMF as Cabinet Cracks

Coordinating Minister for the Economy Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti and Minister of Finance Boediono have made a new economic reform agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite signs that the Cabinet is cracking due to a disagreement on key economic policies sponsored by the fund.Under a new letter of intent (LoI) to the IMF, the government promised to push ahead with several reform measures, including the sale of a number of banks before the end of this year. The LoI was also signed by Bank Indonesia Governor Sjahril Sabirin. The signing of the new LoI would pave the way for the disbursement of the IMF's next US$340 million loan tranche to the country, according to a media statement issued by Dorodjatun's office. The fund is making a three-year $5 billion packaged loan to Indonesia. The IMF board of directors in Washington is scheduled to convene within a few weeks to approve the new LoI. The new reform commitment comes in the light of intensifying disagreement between Cabinet members, particularly between Dorodjatun, on one side, and State Minister of National Development Planning Kwik Kian Gie, on the other. Kwik, former chief economics minister under the previous administration of Abdurrahman Wahid, has recently started a campaign to persuade the government to discontinue the IMF program here when it expires in November this year. He argued that IMF programs were dangerous to the country, adding that the fund was acting more like a new colonial master. Reports said that several Cabinet members and top politicians, such as People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, supported Kwik's stance. But the government, through Boediono, has already extended the IMF program here for another year, to the end of 2003. The extension was part of conditions set by the Paris Club of creditor nations in exchange for a sovereign debt rescheduling facility. The government obtained in April a rescheduling facility covering some $5.4 billion in sovereign debt due to mature this year and next. Kwik, via the mass media, accused Boediono of not consulting the Cabinet when extending the IMF program. Dorodjatun, however, said the plan had been discussed at a Cabinet meeting. He also gave a lengthy explanation to the media that the IMF was still needed to help the country find its way out of its current economic difficulties. Meanwhile, Kwik repeated his criticism of the IMF on Wednesday when he spoke at a forum to review Indonesia's commitment to the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI). He charged that the IMF had broken several agreements such as that on the plan for a transparent and open tender for the divestment of banks, including Bank Central Asia. "Mr. Hubert Neiss, in the name of Deutsche Bank, lobbied to assist the Farallon consortium to win (in the BCA divestment) and this worked," Kwik was quoted by Antara as saying, referring to the former IMF Asia Pacific director. He said Indonesia's economic recovery would continue without the help of the IMF. He argued that the fund's bailout assistance could not be used to finance anything before the central bank had run out of foreign exchange reserves. The presence of the IMF, whose loan goes to the central bank to supplement the country's foreign exchange reserves, is seen as important to help revive the confidence of foreign investors and creditors in the country, the economy of which was badly hit by a combination of the 1997 regional economic crisis and political crisis at home. LoI contains a set of reform targets under which the IMF measures the country's economic reform progress, with failure to comply leading to a halt in its lending program. The new LoI is the country's sixth. In the letter, the government said all the end-of-March quantitative performance criteria had been achieved, with the exception of the targets for the state budget deficit, as the implementation of fiscal policy had remained prudent under the program. The budget deficit in the first quarter of this year was higher than predicted, totaling Rp 5.6 trillion, or way above the target of Rp 2.7 trillion, due to lower-than-expected revenues as a result of the massive flooding that took place in the first two months of the year. Nevertheless, the government would remain resolute to bring the budget deficit back on track within the target of 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), as revenues from dividends and other nontax incomes were expected to increase in the remainder of the year. On the monetary policy front, it said that the central bank would maintain a cautious stance in the period ahead, to be consistent with its main objective of bringing inflation down to single digits. The government also reaffirmed plans to sell majority stakes in Bank Danamon next month and Bank Lippo by the end of the year. The sale of a 30 percent stake in state-owned Bank Mandiri would be made in the third quarter. The government will also sell a stake of up to 71 percent in Bank Niaga by mid-September. The LoI also said that tough action would be taken against former bank owners who had refused to repay billions of dollars in bailout funds. (by Dadan Wijaksana)


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 06/13/2002

 

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Banks Focus on Consumer Loans as SBI Rate Declines

The Jakarta Post, JakartaBanks have become increasingly aggressive in channeling their money into consumer loans as profitability from investing in Bank Indonesia SBI promissory notes has become thinner due to the declining trend in the interest rate, and lending to the corporate sector is still considered too risky."The excessive liquidity must not be left idle, therefore, the banking sector has started to channel part of its money into consumer loans," Soeswidijono, group head of corporate communications at Bank Mandiri, told The Jakarta Post. Bank Mandiri, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), ABN Amro Bank and many other banks have waged media campaigns recently, enticing the public to obtain the available credit from the banks. The interest rate on the one-month SBI notes has consistently declined since early this year, dropping to 15.16 percent as of last Wednesday, from over 18 percent last year. This has made investing in SBIs, the main investment target for many banks during the past couple of years due to its high interest rates, become less attractive. Thus banks now have excess funds as they are reluctant to channel money into the high-risk real sector, that owes a massive amount of bad debts to the banks. This can be seen from the relatively low loan to deposit ratio, which at the end of this quarter was at an average rate of 40 percent. The market potential for consumer loans business in this country is also promising. "The penetration of such credit here is very low, therefore we see great potential to develop this business and become a market leader," said Susilo Tedjaputra, senior product manager for personal loans at SCB. SCB is one of the banks that have recently promoted its retail credit facilities. The product has been offered to the public since 1999, and some Rp 1 trillion in funds has been disbursed to consumers, contributing around 60 percent to 70 percent of total loan applications. The loan could be used for personal matters such as investing in education, wedding parties and other purposes. People in the minimum monthly income bracket of Rp 2.5 million (US$287) in Jakarta and Rp 2 million outside Jakarta could apply for such a loan, in which they could obtain a loan of up to five times their salary. The loans must be paid within one to five years. Meanwhile, Bank Mandiri launched credit without collateral early this year, which is called Kredit Mitrakarya. The scheme provides multipurpose credit for employees, notably in the private sector, from Rp 10 million to Rp 25 million, with a credit return period of up to five years. The interest rate for consumer loans is quite high, leveling at an average of 19 percent. However, the response is not bad. SCB, for instance, receives some 7,000 to 8,000 applications every month. "The benefit of the scheme is that we can get a reasonable rate of return, and the loss rate is still manageable and within the lower range," said Susilo. (by A'an Suryana)


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 06/17/2002

 

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Control Urged for Capital Flow

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned yesterday that free capital flow would lead to an "anarchic" globalized market and called for all countries to be allowed to impose their own forms of control. "There is no reason to believe that the market will not become anarchic, and the strong will not oppress the weak, if the market is left unregulated," he said. "Level playing fields notwithstanding, everyone knows that the big and the rich will dominate a globalized free market." Mahathir, who is also Malaysia's finance minister, said many developing countries were not given an equal opportunity to voice their opinions on regulating capital flow as a means of protecting their markets. "In the World Trade Organization conference, for example, people are brow-beaten by countries that have very strong delegations and influence over other countries," he said. "But negotiations should be fair, and everybody should be given a hearing." His comments came at a regional conference of the Union Network International-Asia and Pacific Regional Organization. Mahathir said Malaysia embraced the arrival of globalization but rejected its present interpretation as being exclusively confined to unregulated cross-border capital flow.

 

From http://www1.chinadaily.com.cn/ 06/04/2002

 

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Mahathir Faces Strong Opposition on College Reform

PRIME Minister Mahathir Mohamad is going against the tide in trying to change the face of the Malaysian education system. His own ruling party members are robustly questioning the administration's decision to allow 10 per cent of Chinese and Indian students into government junior colleges - for decades the enclave of Malay students only. At a closed door meeting yesterday, the majority of Umno Youth executive council members baulked at the idea of changing the status quo. They said places in the fully-residential Mara Junior Colleges should be for Malay students exclusively as the community was still playing catch up with non-Malays. Others disagreed with Dr Mahathir's rationale that opening up these colleges to Chinese and Indians would provide much-needed competition for Malays to hit greater heights. Their argument: many Malay students in these junior colleges were already obtaining excellent results in an all-Malay environment. So there was little need for any 'outside' competition. Last Wednesday, the Malaysian Cabinet decided to set aside 10 per cent of places in the 34 junior colleges for non-Malays. Apart from injecting a competitive element into these institutions, Dr Mahathir also felt that it was an effective method of integrating the races. On a number of occasions, he has voiced concern over racial polarisation in schools and universities. But it is becoming obvious that many do not share his desire to push for a more competitive learning environment and more racial integration. The prevailing sentiment among Umno politicians and the Malays appears to be that it is still too early to dismantle policies were put in place 30 years ago to ensure that Malays obtained a bigger share of the economy. Several Umno Youth exco members interviewed by The Straits Times also felt that if there is a need to foster better racial integration, it could be done by ensuring that more Malay students gained entry into private colleges or universities in Malaysia. At present, less than 5 per cent of the 170,000 students in private colleges and 22,000 undergraduates in private universities are Malays. Said an Umno Youth exco member: 'We should compel the private colleges to accept more Malays or even push for a quota system.' Despite this opposition, Dr Mahathir is not likely to budge from his administration's decision to open up Mara junior colleges to Chinese and Indian students. He is also convinced that another way to promote integration among the races is by building more Vision Schools. Under this concept, national, Chinese-language and Tamil-language schools will be housed in separate buildings in one compound but all pupils will come together for extra-curricular activities.


From http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/ 06/08/2002

 

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Singapore Banks Agree on Minimum Standards, Independent Mediator

For the first time, banks in Singapore have come up with a set of minimum service standards that customers can expect from them. And if customers are not satisfied with the service they get, they can now seek redress from an independent third-party. Consumer watchdog CASE has welcomed the changes but says they are long overdue. From next year, when you apply for a credit card or a loan but aren't too sure what are the "right" questions to ask the bank, you can turn to Singapore's new consumer banking code, which will spell out what customers can expect from banks here. The voluntary initiative will cover the obligations of banks in terms of fairness and reliability, as well as the rights of customers. "What we've done is to put it in black and white, and in one document now, we know this is the service needed, the minimum code. But it's true consumers are becoming more vocal in expressing their dissatisfaction," said Ong-Ang Ai Boon, director of the Association of Banks (Singapore). From January, if a customer is unhappy with a bank's service, he can turn to an impartial mediation unit. If the mediation unit can't find a solution, the customers can pay S$50 to refer the dispute to an independent panel of mediators. Banks will have to pay S$500 for each case which reaches this stage. All retail banks here are bound by the panel's decision. The mediators will, however, only handle claims up to S$50,000, and won't deal with an individual bank's pricing policy. The Association of Banks says this code, which aims to bring fairness, transparency and even accountability, will be made available free-of-charge to customers at bank branches and on-line by August. Customers, generally welcomed the new consumer code but some were worried that it might lead to higher hidden bank charges. "As a layman, I hope they don't service charge us, especially small amount, with the economic downturn," one said. CASE, which has been pushing for such a code, said its effectiveness depends on whether customers understand it. "Having the code is one thing, getting customers to understand the code is another. So banks can consider consumer education drive to get customers to understand the consumer code better," CASE president Yeo Guat Kwang said. The consumer watchdog also called on other service industries to follow suit and come up with their own service standards. (by Farah Abdul Rahim)


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 06/25/2002

 

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S'pore's Monetary Authority Mulls Implementing Deposit Insurance Scheme

S'pore's Monetary Authority mulls implementing deposit insurance scheme to protect depositors The Monetary Authority of Singapore has said it is planning to implement an insurance scheme to protect depositors against bank failures. Second Finance Minister Lim Hng Kiang says that while Singapore's banking system is sound and stable, vigilant supervision can minimise the probability of bank failure but cannot eliminate the risk of failure entirely. "A deposit insurance scheme will provide a further layer of protection to depositors and complement the role of prudent bank management and MAS supervision in minimising risk," said Mr Lim, Second Minister for Finance, and MAS' Deputy Chairman. Speaking at the Association of Banks in Singapore Annual General Meeting dinner, Mr Lim said the study on a bank deposit insurance scheme for Singapore is still ongoing, and may take another year to complete. MAS expects the first phase of the study to be completed in August. From Mr Lim's outline of its objectives, the scheme would probably cover up to S$20,000 for each depositor. That is to minimise the cost to banks and also because about 80 percent of individual depositors maintain bank balances less than S$20,000. Mr Lim also gave the thumbs up to the voluntary initiatives by banks here to come up with the main features of an affordable basic bank account to ensure all Singaporeans have access to affordable bank services. Details will be announced in about two months' time, with implementation due early next year. The bank association chairman David Conner said the delay in implementation is because it will entail extensive technology system changes. "General agreement has been reached among all banks offering retail banking services on the overall shape of a basic banking account, which will ensure all Singaporeans have affordable access to an increasingly cashless market," said Mr Connor, Chairman of the Association of Banks in Singapore. Mr Conner also unveiled the bank association's code of consumer banking practice. For the first time, banks here have come up with a set of minimum service standards, which customers can expect from them. (by Farah Abdul Rahim)

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 06/25/2002

 

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Banks Have to Provide Deposit Insurance, Says Monetary Authority of Singapore

RETAIL banks will have to provide deposit insurance - for possibly as many as four out of five depositors here - under a new scheme being studied by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). But any legislation will not extend to the hotly debated topic of basic banking services for low-income depositors, said MAS deputy chairman and Second Minister for Finance Lim Hng Kiang, who was speaking at the annual general meeting dinner of the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) yesterday. This is because mandating the provision of basic banking services will 'impose burdensome costs on the industry and ultimately serve the interests of neither banks nor consumers'. Mr Lim, who is also Minister for Health, told bankers last night that they would have to offer 'deposit insurance' to local depositors soon. This essentially guarantees depositors compensation of up to a maximum specified amount of their deposits in the unlikely event that their bank fails. 'Just as the liberalised banking sector has prompted calls for an assurance of quality basic banking services at affordable cost, it has also prompted a review of whether depositor protection should be further strengthened,' he said. This is why the MAS has decided that Singapore should implement a deposit insurance scheme. He said that the risk of bank failures could not be eliminated completely even though Singapore's banking system was 'stable and sound'. Under such schemes, which have been implemented in more than 70 countries worldwide, the guarantee is provided typically by an insurance fund built up through premium contributions by participating banks. But Mr Lim noted that the design of Singapore's scheme should also meet certain objectives, such as being low-cost and covering primarily small depositors. This is why the MAS is suggesting a coverage limit of between $15,000 and $20,000 for a start, he added, This will cover the bank balances of about 80 per cent of depositors in Singapore, while 'not significantly' raising banks' cost of deposit-taking here. In addition, the MAS will be studying the possibility of making higher-risk banks contribute more to the insurance fund, said Mr Lim. This gives banks an added incentive to manage their risks well. Banks will be consulted actively on the proposal and the MAS expects to complete the first phase of its study in August. Touching on the introduction of a low-cost basic banking account in Singapore, Mr Lim reiterated that the Government will not force banks by law to provide a specified package of services with such accounts. 'A number of other countries have chosen this path, but the disadvantage is inflexibility: Once the package is fixed, it cannot easily be changed to adapt to changing needs and conditions,' he said. ABS said yesterday that it will announce details of its basic banking scheme within two months. The service will be made available in the first half of next year. (by Soh Wen Lin)


From http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/ 06/27/2002

 

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Thai Central Bank Leaves Key Interest Rate Unchanged

BANGKOK -- Thailand's central bank has decidedto leave its key interest rate unchanged as rising consumer-spending and rebounding exports reduced the need to spur growth with lower rates, the state-owned radio here reported Tuesday. The Bank of Thailand (BOT) resolved at its monetary board meeting later Monday to maintain its benchmark 14-day repurchase rate at two percent after trimming it by a total of half a percentage point in December 2001 and January this year. The central bank left the key rate unchanged even after the baht, the Thai currency, rose to a 15-month high last week, threatening to make the country's exports less competitive. BOT Governor Pridiyathorn Devakula said the country needn't adjust the key rate to halt the baht appreciation because other currencies in the region are also rising. He said any change in interest-rate policy will hinge mainly oneconomic conditions rather than the baht movement. Most local economists had expected the BOT decision, noting that there is a broad-based expansion in economic activity, including increases in manufacturing production, consumption and private investment. Thailand, Southeast Asia second-largest economy, is expected togrow as much as four percent this year, more than twice last year's 1.8 percent pace, as consumers spend more on homes, cars and mobile phones, and exports ended a 11-month decline in April.

 

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 06/04/2002

 

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Success of Fiscal Measures Hinges on Good Governance

Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) has said the investment policies and the fiscal incentives in the proposed budget may be extremely attractive, but the success hinges on establishment of good governance, putting cap on corruption and improvement of law and order situation. "These are the preconditions to earn confidence of investors. In Bangladesh, all these issues require serious and immediate attention. Otherwise, no amount of incentive or campaign will help. The budgetary objectives cannot simply be achieved if other factors are not addressed with priority," said Wali Bhuiyan, president of FICCI, at its monthly luncheon meeting at Sheraton Hotel in the city yesterday. He identified corruption as one of the major impediments for investors, particularly the honest ones who pay taxes. "There had been no indication in the proposed budget to right size the government. The size must be made right and the employees must be paid respectable compensation. Excessive discretionary authority to the administration compounded by the poor salary of the government officials is the main reason for corruption," he mentioned. Citing example of the Chittagong port, he said it is inefficient and expensive. Administrative hassles in port, customs and taxation not only cause delay, but also add costs to the business. Substantial improvement in the quality of infrastructure and its administration including telecommunications and power has to be made. Criticising the proposal to allow untaxed income in investment, he termed it an unjust and unfair. "Quite frankly, we fail to understand why a tax dodger will get such benefit when he is liable for punishment. Such initiative will only encourage the tax dodgers to do what they have done in the past and may discourage the honest taxpayers from paying tax in future. The chamber urges for immediate withdrawal of the proposal." Withdrawal of tax holiday scheme on account of monitoring difficulties is a disincentive for genuine taxpayers. The withdrawal will act as a disincentive as far as rapid industrialisation is concerned, Bhuiyan said adding, the proposal for new entrants in an industry in the form of a new company to have tax holiday facility is unjust and will create an uneven playing field for the existing investors in the industry. The high tax proposed on milk powder is a debatable tax measure. The demand estimate and supply position over last ten years show that the industry is highly dependent on imported milk powder to meet the requirement, he mentioned urging the finance minister to reconsider the proposal. The revenue targets are challenging, but it is achievable. While the tax net has been expanded, it is more important and meaningful to ensure that those who are already in the tax net pay the right taxes, the FICCI leader observed. "Quite frankly, reduction of tax exemption limit for individuals did not appear very appropriate when large number of those already in the net may continue to get away without paying the right tax."

From http://www.dailystarnews.com/ 06/24/2002

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State Debt Burden on the Rise

Karnataka's debt burden on the Union government has steadily been increasing with a three-year statistical data made available to Deccan Herald indicating that the outstanding debt has gone up by nearly Rs 1,000 crore. The total debt burden, which was Rs 18,725 crore in 2000 rose to Rs 22,438 crore in 2001 (revised estimate) and to Rs 27,149 crore in 2002 (budgetary estimate). During this period, its internal debt, loans and advances from Centre etc too kept on increasing. The internal debt shot up from Rs 4,633 crore to Rs 5,719 crore, ending up at Rs 6,758 crore in 2002. Similarly, loans and advances taken from the Centre showed an upward trend - it went up from Rs 9,599 crore to 10,251 crore to 11,876 crore in these years and provident funds etc from Rs 3,543 crore to Rs 4,313 crore to Rs 5,160 crore. Interestingly, market borrowings did not follow this trend. The gross market borrowings which stood at Rs 903.95 crore in 1999-2000, went down to Rs 825.58 crore in 2000-01 but increased to Rs 912.77 crore in 2001-02. As on March 31, the total debt burden of states on the Centre stood at Rs 5,91,833 crore which is inclusive of about Rs 1.45 lakh crore in internal debt, Rs 2.47 lakh crore in loans and advances, Rs 92,870 crore in special securities issued to NSSF and Rs 1.05 lakh crore in PF etc. The state with highest liability was of course Uttar Pradesh (Rs 79,439 crore) followed by West Bengal (57,358 crore), Maharashtra (51,554 crore) and Andhra Pradesh (44,994 crore). Union finance ministry sources told this newspaper today that most of the states, including Karnataka, had sought three types of relief: moratorium on debt, rescheduling of debt and reducing the interest burden on debt. The sources said that as far as the first two requests were concerned, the Eleventh Finance Commission (EFC) has already reviewed the position of the state governments and has recommended a scheme of debt relief as part of its report. There is, however, no provision for selective reopening of debt relief beyond the recommendations of EFC. In so far as the request regarding reducing the interest burden on debt, the finance ministry says the rate of interest on plan loans and small savings loans has been reduced from 11.5 to 10.5 per cent from 1.4.2002. As for the major fiscal indicators, Karnataka's revenue deficit which was Rs 2,335 crore in 1999-00, reduced to Rs 2,175 crore next financial year only to go up to Rs 2,624 crore in 2001-02. Similarly, the gross fiscal deficit rose to Rs 5,127 crore in 2001-02. Part of Karnataka's funding from the Centre comes through the transfers recommended by the finance commission. As against the transfer of Rs 10,520 crore recommended by the Tenth FC, the 11th FC recommended Rs 19,691 crore. However, Karnataka suffered a setback in 2001-02 as Central assistance was reduced for the annual plan. An amount of Rs 2,847.31 crore was released to the State against the total allocation of Rs 3,173.44 crore made in respect of various items of Central assistance for the year. The reduction in release of funds was on account of shortfall in respect of tied/scheme specific funds, where releases are linked to performance and are based on utilisation of funds or based on reimbursements. But the finance ministry has advised states to step up plan performance so that plan funds can be fully utilised.

From http://news.indiamart.com/ 06/11/2002

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Commercial Bank - Best Lankan Bank for Fourth Year by Global Finance

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has been rated the Best Bank in Sri Lanka for the fourth successive year, by "Global Finance", one of the most prestigious publications serving the international business community. The New York based monthly, which is circulated in over 160 countries, has selected the Commercial Bank on the basis of its financial performance in 2001, prudent use of resources and heavy investment in technology and solid capital base and capital adequacy ratios. This year's Global Finance survey of the best domestic banks in emerging markets includes famous establishments from Asia such as HSBC, ICICI Bank of India, Public Bank of Malaysia and Kookmin Bank of South Korea alongside the Commercial Bank of Ceylon. Commenting on the honour bestowed on the bank, Commercial Bank's Managing Director Amitha Gooneratne said: "Our commitment to excellence by providing an array of services to satisfy our customers and the efficient management of capital has resulted in Global Finance naming Commercial Bank as the Best Bank in Sri Lanka again. We are truly proud to be re-elected for the fourth consecutive time when in most countries new banks have emerged to replace the previous year's winners." In its profile of the Commercial Bank, the magazine says that "The bank aims to expand its customer base - and do more business with those customers - by increasing the number of delivery channels. That strategy seems to be paying off: Deposits grew by 23.4% during 2001; advances by 15.8%. Heavy investment in technology has put 99 out of the 100 branches online, the biggest computer-linked network in the country. Pre-tax profit rose to Rs. 1.324 billion in 2001, a 15% rise from the Rs. 1.15 billion recorded in 2000."

 

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 06/14/2002

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Private Sector Contribution Will Essential for Development - Minister Bakeer Markar

"The present Government was elected by the public, anticipating to get a solution for the hardships faced under the previous regime. Such an era which the largest economic distress is taken place in the history of our country. The major challenges faced by the Government are to fulfil those anticipations of the public and strengthen the economic of this country through achieving peace, mars Communication Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Markar said. Minister Markar was addressing the inauguration of proposed water supply system at a cost of Rs. 40 Billion (Rs. 400 Million) to be constructed in Beruwala, Maggona and Diyalagoda for the promotion of water supply of Beruwala town and the adjoining areas on June 8, Minister of Housing and Plantation Infrastructure Arumugan Thondaman partisipated. Presently the Government is taking all efforts to achieve the peace anticipated by the international world and all communities of our country. We the public representatives are responsible to fulfil the development needs of the public similar to that. It has become the contemporary necessity to find out alternatives for the fulfilment of public anticipations without frustrating them exclaiming on unavailability of money and other resources. The Private Sector contribution and availing of maximum usage of resources are the most appropriate alternative for the purpose. The most suitable procedure that could follow for the present development process is to implement a such programme for the regional development programme," the minister said. The Minister said at the end of 2002, the existing two hours of water supply will be increased up to six hours per day under the water supply promotion project in Beruwala which would be carried out step by step till 2004. At the end of 2003 the water supply would increase up to 16 hours and at the end of 2004, the time period scheduled to complete the project, water will supply for whole 24 hours. This project will be funded by Asian Development Bank and this will be carried out as sub project of Kalutara Water Supply Project. Minister of Housing and Plantation Infrastructure Mr. Arumugan Thondaman, said that "all leaders who had governed our country be held responsible for the economic and social disputes which have arisen today. Minister Mr. Arumugan Thondaman handed over two bowzers to Beruwala Urban Council and Beruwala Pradeshiya Sabha for the purpose of transporting water.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 06/14/2002

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Finding a Secretary for Finance Is a Big Deal

ISLAMABAD: The government has reportedly decided to appoint secretary finance Muhammad Younus Khan as the next auditor-general of Pakistan, but it is finding it difficult to get an experienced replacement for Khan in the high profile finance ministry, it is learnt.

 

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/05/2002

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Pakistan- Financial Sector Assessment Conference

KARACHI, (PNS): Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz will inaugurate a one-day conference on the Financial System of Pakistan' being organized by the State Bank at the institute of Bankers here tomorrow (Wednesday). Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Ishrat Hussain will also address the conference which will be attended by over 170 person including policy makers, senior Government officials, leading bankers, businessmen, researchers, analysis, academicians, representatives of Stock Exchanges, Development Finance Institutions and International financial institutions. The main objective of the conference is to solicit the views of stakeholders of financial system of the major findings and conclusions of a draft report entitled 'Pakistan: Financial Sector Assessment (1990-2000)', prepared by the State Bank of Pakistan. The agenda of the conference is the search for future directions of the financial system in the light of the findings of State Bank's draft report and assessment of the remaining weaknesses of the financial system as currently perceived. The deliberations of the conference will help evolve a sound, healthy and efficient financial system in the country.

From http://www.paknews.com/ 06/08/2002

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Armenia: Debt Deal with Russia Delayed Again

Russia and Armenia began negotiations on their unprecedented "equities for debt" arrangement early last year. The talks had been expected to yield an agreement by September 2001, in time for Russian President Vladimir Putin's official visit to Armenia. However, the signing of the deal, aimed at clearing Yerevan's $97 million debt to Moscow, has been repeatedly delayed. Disagreements appear to center on the list and market value of Armenian companies to be handed over to Russia. As recently as 31 May, Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian announced that the two sides had settled their differences and only had to deal with "procedural issues." The announcement came after Markarian's meeting in Moscow with Russia's representative on the matter, Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov. The Armenian government announced that Klebanov would arrive in the Armenian capital by 20 June to "complete the negotiating process and sign the final documents." The visit has been postponed indefinitely, however, fueling fresh uncertainty over the fate of the so-called "equities-for-debt" agreement between Russia and Armenia [For background see the EurasiaNet Insight archive]. Influential Armenian Defense Minster Serge Sarkisian, who has represented Yerevan in the debt talks, immediately sought to distance himself from Markarian's earlier statement. Speaking to reporters, Sarkisian said: "I have always said that Ilya Klebanov will come to Armenia only when he gets clearance from appropriate Russian government agencies to make a final decision. That will happen pretty soon." Sarkisian, who co-chairs with Klebanov the Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, avoided giving specific dates. Last December, Sarkisian and Klebanov reached a tentative agreement on the Armenian entities to be covered by the equities-for-debt scheme. They were Armenia's largest thermal-power plant, located in the central town of Hrazdan; an electronics factory in Yerevan; and three research institutes that used to perform work for the Soviet defense industry. Moscow had reportedly tried to win control of other, more lucrative Armenian industries, such as copper mines and power-distribution companies, in return for writing off the $97 million debt. This fact raised concerns among some Armenian analysts that the deal could add to Armenia's economic dependence on Russia. Russia is already the sole supplier of natural gas, nuclear fuel, and other energy resources to Armenia. But those concerns eased after it became known which Armenian companies would likely be handed over to Moscow. It was then the turn of Russian observers to question the wisdom of the planned accord. Indeed, of the five mentioned enterprises, only the Hrazdan plant is seen as a major asset. It is also thought to be the main source of disagreement between Yerevan and Moscow. According to Armenian Minister of Finance and Economy Vartan Khachatrian, the Armenian government has estimated Hrazdan's price at "around $100 million," and he said the Russians "seem to agree" with the figure. Khachatrian said last week that Russia's state-controlled Unified Energy Systems power monopoly, the likely future owner of the plant, is now seeking guarantees that Armenian power grids will continue to buy electricity from Hrazdan after the change of ownership. At the same time, Khachatrian, contradicting earlier statements by Sarkisian and other Armenian officials, revealed that Russia may not necessarily clear Armenia's entire debt as a result of the deal. Nor, he said, is the success of the ongoing negotiations a foregone conclusion. "These negotiations will or will not lead to a certain agreement as a result of which part of our debt will be fully or partly written off or will not be written off at all," Khachatrian said. The Armenian finance minister also indicated that both countries are conducting tough bargaining in the debt talks, despite their close political and military ties. "Each party has its own interests. We want to clear as much debt as possible with as little property as possible, while they, I guess, want to achieve the opposite," Khachatrian said. Defense chief Sarkisian, by contrast, has been more upbeat in his assessments. But his optimism on the issue has so far proved unfounded. Sarkisian, who is believed to be the second-most-powerful figure in the Armenian leadership, assured journalists in March that the debt agreement would be signed "within a month." Sarkisian said the deal would eliminate Armenia's entire debt to Russia. The current uncertainty calls that claim into question.

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/29/2002

Bank Closure Underscores Difficult Business Environment in Azerbaijan

When bank officials at the Baku branch of HSBC British Bank Middle East announced in March that they would be ending retail operations in Azerbaijan, more than a thousand panicked depositors, fearing that they were about to lose their life savings, descended on the bank's local office. Bank representatives explained to the anxious crowd that there was no need to worry. HSBC was closing down, but would continue operations until June 30, and customers would be able to withdraw funds from their accounts. The bank would also continue to maintain a representative office in Azerbaijan, they said. But the bank's impending closure has the Baku business community in a glum mood. HSBC's decision has dealt another blow to Azerbaijan's already battered image as an emerging market with a bright economic future. The bank had at one time an estimated $60 million in deposits from corporate customers and individual clients. But, for many, the HSBC branch was a prominent symbol of how the country's oil sector has so far enriched a privileged few, and not the population at large. Indeed, it may be years yet before the country sees widespread benefit from its offshore oil reserves. The bank's announcement came at a time-paradoxically-of some increased optimism in other areas of the country's oil sector. The country's three BP-driven, multi-billion dollar oil, gas and pipeline projects are forging ahead, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project, whereas just a year ago there was some doubt about their feasibility. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the country's sole working multinational consortium, has awarded eight construction contracts for the first major expansion of the ACG offshore oil fields. Additional foreign workers are expected to start moving to Baku, adding new life to the capital's moribund economy. But for all the optimistic statements by Azeri and foreign oil officials about the bright prospects for offshore oil development, the mood among the general business community in Baku is downbeat. Charles Mason, head of HSBC's Baku office, says the problem for his establishment was that the expected demand from country's non-oil sector failed to materialize. HSBC opened its Baku office in 1996, at the height of the excitement surrounding prospects in Azerbaijan's offshore oil sector, and despite investing $13 million in its Baku operations, the bank suffered losses every year since starting operations. "The market for us is not in the oil sector but in the broader economy. But this needs to be expanded for investments to come in. All are aware that the level of non-oil investment is very limited. I don't see that changing before 2010," Mason said. Azerbaijan's government stands to earn billions of dollars over the next decades from oil from the country's three offshore oil fields, which are being developed by a BP-led consortium-and the Shah Deniz offshore gas field. But foreign and local business executives in Baku say that little has been done to develop Azerbaijan's non-oil sector in a way that would promote broader economic prosperity. They complain, for instance, that tax officials single out foreign enterprises for special attention in order to meet government revenue goals. Corruption and bureaucratic red tape are rife, while projects that could be developed alongside the oil industry, such as upgrading Baku's port, remain on the drawing board. The issue came to a head in April when the country's president, Heidar Aliyev, called a special closed-door meeting with some 450 local entrepreneurs to discuss business-sector problems. Aliyev, in comments broadcast after the gathering, said that he was horrified at reports of scores of businesses closing because of interference by government authorities. At one point, he singled out the state customs officials, asking why they needed to meddle in small and medium businesses. He also gave an example of one state "trade and consumer department" in a small local region. The department had 23 officials-one for every kiosk operating in the area. The meeting may have made for great political theatre, but observers still question whether it will bring any improvements in the business climate. Corruption, they say, is too deeply entrenched. What's more, the entire system is constructed as a pyramid so that lower officials, who often buy their positions, pay tribute to their higher ups, who then in turn pay their superiors, according to local observers familiar with the system. High officials are reported to have interests in many of the country's largest business concerns as well. Aliyev asked for more patience from the businessmen, who have already grown more than skeptical of official promises to address corruption and other problems. "I believe [that this will be solved]. It just takes time," the Azeri president said.

 

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 06/28/2002

Dollar Soars to 21-month High

The Australian dollar has hit a new 21-month high this morning, ahead of the release of Australia's latest employment data. The local currency peaked at 57.79 US cents within the last hour, a level not surpassed since September 2000.Dealers say the dollar established solid support at lower levels overnight and is now testing higher in anticipation of a strong rebound in employment numbers in Australia.The figures, due to be released at 11:30am (AEST) are widely expected to show a jump in total employment of 45,000.But a higher number of job seekers is tipped to keep the official jobless rate unchanged at 6.3 per cent.At about 10:30am, the dollar was at 57.61 US cents, still up about one-quarter of a cent over the course of local trade this morning.

From http://www.abc.net.au/ 06/06/2002

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Treasurer Looks Beyond the Red

A $400 million windfall from stamp duty on conveyancing, and $150 million in extra dividends from government-owned Corporations, failed to stop yesterday's Queensland Budget remaining in the red for the second year in a row.Treasurer Terry Mackenroth admitted the Budget's operating deficit of $486 million could have blown out to more than $1 billion if not for the extra revenue and savings after a collapse in returns from the Government's investment arm, the Queensland Investment Corporation. "We could have had a deficit of $1.1 billion if we had not taken remedial action in relation to the downturn in the stock market when it started to happen in September last year," he said. Mr Mackenroth said the Budget, which had a cash surplus of $382 million, would be back in black next year with a small operating surplus of $23 million, with a forecast rebound in QIC's returns of $1 billion. Opposition Leader Mike Horan said the Government should be "ashamed" it had delivered consecutive deficits. Mr Mackenroth rejected yesterday claims by former QIC chairman Jim Kennedy that bureaucratic interference in the organisation could have affected QIC's results, again insisting it was due to a decline in global markets. Premier Peter Beattie ruled out privatising the QIC, although he revealed that it was something that Mr Kennedy previously had suggested to him. Mr Beattie also denied he had broken a promise not to increase taxes and charges by abolishing a 15 per cent general land tax rebate for companies, trustees and absentees. The move, along with increased land valuations, produced a 21.8 per cent, or almost $50 million, boost to land tax revenue. However, business would benefit from a payroll tax cut from 4.8 per cent to 4.75 per cent from July 1, 2002. The Budget had detailed a $400 million Priority Infrastructure Package - linked to the increased stamp duty revenue - under which money would be spent over four years on projects such as Burnett water infrastructure and the Tugan Bypass. Despite the special package, the Government's overall capital works spending was continuing to decline. While it had forecast $4.83 billion in spending over the next year, a rise of 1.4 per cent on actual outlays in 2001-02, the Government repeatedly had underspent in recent years and the forecast spending was $300 million down from last year's predicted outlays. Business investment was set for a 17.25 per cent increase, although rising interest rates would slow housing investment by 0.5 per cent. The state's jobless figures were expected to fall from 8 per cent to 7.5 per cent, boosted by economic growth of 4.25 per cent. (by Scott Emerson)


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/19/2002

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NZ Dollar Hits Two-Year High with No Signs of Stopping

The New Zealand dollar is testing two-year highs as it continues its spasmodic upward march. On Wednesday night, it reached a 23-month high of US47.85c, but retreated soon after as profit takers emerged. Dealers are adamant the kiwi's rally remains firmly in place despite the profit-taking - especially among speculative holders - stalling short-term progress. The New Zealand dollar has risen more than 10 per cent this year against the United States dollar. A sustained break through US47.8c would clear the way for the kiwi to reach US50c. Supporting this likelihood, several banks have upgraded their longer-term kiwi forecasts following the recent strong run. "Our 12-month New Zealand dollar forecast has been significantly upgraded from US46c to US51c, primarily being the flipside of a weaker US dollar, but also benefiting from very favourable cash-rate differentials," Salomon Smith Barney economist Annette Beacher said. There are five main drivers of New Zealand dollar movements: global growth, risk aversion, US dollar strength or weakness, technical levels and interest-rate differentials. Global growth and risk aversion were the main drivers in the first three months of the year while in April and May a shift to US dollar weakness and the ensuing interest-rate differential were the motivators. The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) has serious concerns about the effect of the stronger kiwi on exporters. EMA chief executive Alasdair Thompson said the arrival of currency speculators in New Zealand to take advantage of "unnecessarily high interest rates" is the only explanation why the New Zealand dollar is rising so rapidly. The rapid rise in the dollar's value is occurring as commodity prices plummet and bears no relationship to the economy's real performance and mid-term outlook, he said. It was a "serious turn of events that will see exporters achieve substantially lower returns this year". Thompson said overseas fund managers were betting on a sure thing as US fund managers were borrowing in the US at 1.8 per cent, sending it to New Zealand at US42/45c, lending it for 90 days at 5.5 per cent, and retrieving it at US46/48c. Westpac currency strategist Stuart Ritson said nothing could stop the process.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 05/31/2002

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Vanuatu: Sela Molisa Gets Finance in Natapei Government

Experienced Vanua'aku Party parliamentarian Sela Molisa has been appointed to the key job of managing the economy in the new Vanuatu government lineup of Prime Minister Edward Natapei.Mr Molisa becomes Minister of Finance and Economic Management.He is expected to press ahead with the reforms which were being introduced by former finance minister Joe Carlo. Mr Carlo failed to win reelection in last month's general elections.Mr Natapei's post-election government continues the previous coalition of the Vanua'aku Party and Union of Moderate Parties.Key appointments include an independent, Nicolas Brown, as Minister for Ni-Vanuatu Business Positions are (VP = Vanu'aku Party; UMP = Union of Moderate Parties):Edward Natapei (VP) - Prime Minister.Rialuth Serge Vohor (UMP) - Deputy Prime Minister/External Trade/Telecommunication.Sela Molisa (VP) - Minister for Finance & Economic Management.Jacques Sese (UMP) - Minister for Education.Joe Natuman (VP) - Minister for Internal Affairs.Willie Posen (UMP) - Minister for Public Urtilities and Infrastructure.Jacklyne Reuben Titeck (VP) - Minister for Land/Geology & Mines.Donald Kalpokas (VP) - Minister for Health.Steven Kalsakau (UMP) - Minister for Agriculture/ Forestry Livestock and Fisheries.Jean Alain Mahe (UMP) - Minister for Industry and Commerce.Nicolas Brown (Independent) - Minister for Ni-Vanuatu Business.Philip Boedoro (VP) - Minister for Comprehensive Reform Programme.Raphael Worwor (UMP) - Minister for Youth and Sports.Henri Taga (UMP) - Speaker.John Morsen Willie (VP) - 1st Deputy Speaker.Juda Issac (UMP) - 2nd Deputy Speaker.


From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/04/2002

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FEMM--Private Sector Message to Go to the Region's Economic Ministers

Port Vila --Private sector representatives from Fiji, Samoa and the Marshall Islands are to brief a regional workshop in Vanuatu on the value of building a stronger public-private sector partnership. The workshop is part of preparations leading into next week's Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM), a Forum Secretariat news release said. The briefings will include how public-private sector consultations are being undertaken in their countries, the difficulties faced and the benefits gained. Giving the briefings will be: - The president of the Fiji Employers Federation, David Aidney; - Jessica Reimers, a businesswoman and representative of the Majuro Chamber of Commerce from the Marshall Islands; - and Arthur Penn, a certified public accountant and representative of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce. Their briefings are part of a day-long workshop that will report its outcomes to the economic ministers.It is the latest in activities where Forum governments are being encouraged to consult more widely with the private sector and civil society on key economic and development issues, the news release said. The keynote address for the workshop will be delivered by John Aruhuri, general manager of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He will give a private sector perspective on the creation of partnerships between the public and private sectors. The workshop will also discuss issues raised in a Secretariat report on "Best Practice in Public-Private Sector Consultation in Policy Formulation". The delegates will share experiences of public-private sector partnerships in their own countries, the news release said. They will discuss how this may provide a base for stronger partnerships at both the national and regional levels. The inaugural Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in 1997 recognised that the development of the private sector was central to ensuring sustained economic growth. Subsequent FEMMs have reinforced the role of the private sector as the engine of economic growth. They urged governments to consult more widely with the private sector when formulating economic policy so that the policies are more effective. The Vanuatu workshop is expected to strengthen efforts to develop partnerships at the national level and help establish a regional consultative mechanism, the news release said.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 06/26/2002

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WPP Is First to Venture into China

WPP's subsidiary Ogilvy is reportedly about to make the first ever move by a foreign public relations firm into the Chinese PR market. Ogilvy is reported to be buying a 60% stake in Beijing Xian Consulting to create the country's largest public affairs group. Such an investment has only been possible since China joined the World Trade Organisation at the end of last year. According to the Financial Times, Beijing Xian Consulting will become Beijing Xian Aomei Information Consulting afer the acquisition. But Ogilvy will continue to run its China operations separately from those of the new company. Beijing Xian's clients include Microsoft, Intel, Dell and China Unicom. The company's chief executive Huang Hong says it has been in talks with more than 20 overseas PR firms about a possible merger. But it chose Ogilvy because of its extensive knowledge of foreign markets and its wide client base, he says. The cost of the acquisition has not been disclosed.

From http://www.ananova.com/ 06/10/2002

 

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Northern Digital Plans to Open Regional HQ in Hong Kong

Waterloo-based Northern Digital Inc., a provider of advanced measurement technology, has plans to open an office in Hong Kong that will serve as regional headquarters for business in China and the rest of Asia. The company has been operating in the Asia Pacific region for over a decade.


From Asia Pulse 06/11/2002

 

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IBM Leads China Software Market

SINGAPORE--Big Blue has outpaced the competition in China's packaged software industry, leading in both market share and growth for 2001, according to a report by research firm IDC. IBM registered a 6.8 percent market share on revenues of US$111 million for the sale of system-level and data management software (including Informix), Websphere and Tivoli. However, its e-mail, messaging and collaboration software unit, Lotus Software, was separately ranked No. 10 with a 1.1 percent market share and revenue of US$18 million. Microsoft was in second place with a 5.2 percent market share, followed by database software giant Oracle with a 3.6 percent share. According to IDC, China's software industry reached US$1.62 billion last year. By 2006, this is expected to increase to US$7.8 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 36.9 percent from 2001. (by Irene Tham)


From http://asia.cnet.com/ 06/18/2002

 

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Japan Looking at Privatization for Airports

TOKYO, Japan -- The Japanese government plans to privatize three airports in the 2004 business year. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has already settled on a privatization plan for the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya airports, according to one source. But the plan has drawn criticism from some analysts. They view it as a scheme to rescue the troubled Osaka airport. The Tokyo airport, Narita, is based in Chiba prefecture and is ready to expand. But the Osaka hub, Kansai International Airport, has a heavy debt load. Politicians in Chiba have voiced disapproval of the plan to privatize the Narita airport, fully known as New Tokyo International Airport. The other airport on the drawing board for privatization is the Chubu International Airport in Nagoya. It is not yet completed but will also compete with Narita for international traffic. Sources in the transport ministry say that the government will offload its ownership share of the airports after taking them public, according to news agency reports out of Japan, citing the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. The ministry anticipates setting up a public company to monitor development of the three airports, however. That company would budget land development and oversea the funding of airport development. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's administration has targeted numerous state-owned companies in Japan for privatization, notably the post office and home-loan state companies (full story). The transport ministry pushed forward six of its companies for privatization (full story). But few deadlines were set for the moves. The transport ministry still has to forward its airport privatization plan to an advisory panel for further inquiry. The airports in Japan face mounting pressure from air hubs in nearby South Korea and China.


From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/13/2002

 

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Jakarta Fails to Sell Bank Niaga

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia has confirmed it has cancelled the sale of a majority stake in Bank Niaga due to low-priced bids. The Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) was selling 51 percent of Bank Niaga, part of reforms pushed by the International Monetary Fund. But the government received only two full bids on the bank. Indonesia's finance ministry has now scrapped the sale, saying the bids were too low at between 20 and 30 rupiah per share. Lukita Dinarsyah Tuwo, Secretary of the Financial Sector Policy Committee, said the auction "is canceled because the offering price was below market price." Pushing ahead with other mechanismsThe government is looking to push ahead with the sale through other methods. "IBRA will study the mechanism to reach the optimal result according to expectations," Lukita told reporters Monday. Stock-market players in Jakarta had been expecting the sale to fail. Indonesia's reform chief, Laksamana Sukardi, in late May conceded that the bids were low. Bank Niaga stock is down 6.7 percent at 70 rupiah in Monday afternoon trade. Analysts contend the price is so high because the free float of stock is just 3 percent, with the government owning the rest. J.P. Morgan wrote in an April report that Niaga is worth around $120 million, although the market value of the bank approaches $1.2 billion. Indonesian stocks are lower, the Jakarta composite index off 0.49 percent at 511.52. But the losses stem mainly from uncertainty after two bombs went off in the Indonesian capital. Four people were killed by two blasts in Jakarta's Chinatown area. The rupiah is trading stronger on Monday, at 8,830 to the U.S. dollar. That's compared to the 8,970 level it was trading at early on Friday. Panin Bank and ANZ Banking Group told CNN in late May that they were not going to raise their price (full story). Malaysia-based Commerce Asset-Holding Berhad led the other team in the running for Niaga. No deadline for saleIndonesia nationalized almost all its banks in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. The International Monetary Fund has pushed the Niaga sale, which was due to close this month. Though the failure of the Niaga auction is not expected to have long-lasting effects, the IMF also demands that Indonesia sell off Bank Danamon and Bank Lippo this year. Indonesia has succeeded only in selling off a majority stake in Bank Central Asia, the country's largest retail bank. "No deadline is set for IBRA, but we are efforting to sell Niaga this year," Lukita said.

From http://asia.cnn.com/ 06/10/2002

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Dr M: Govt Will Continue to Ensure Conducive Environment for Private Sector

THE government will continue to restructure the corporate and financial sectors and enhance corporate governance to create a conducive environment for private sector activities, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said. He said the government would continue to offer cooperation and support to the private sector and provide the appropriate services and facilities. In his opening speech during the second session of the pre-Budget dialogue in Putrajaya yesterday, Dr Mahathir called on the private sector to resume their role of being the main driver for the country's economic activities. With the improving global economy spurring trade activities and international capital flow as well as the increased investor confidence in Malaysia, it was now timely for the private sector to the seize trade and investment opportunities. He said the private sector should forge smart partnerships with strategic parties to grow the domestic market. Dr Mahathir, who is also Finance Minister, called on the private sector to effect swift changes to be more dynamic. He said that efforts should be made to tap new markets that have great potential. "We should not just focus on traditional markets such as the US, Japan and the Euro area but must strive to penetrate the markets of other countries such as China, the Middle East and Africa. "To do this, we have to enhance our skills and productivity by encouraging creative capacity and constant innovation so that we are able to compete internationally, especially with China's entry into the World Trade Organisation," he said. According to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) update on the Malaysian economy, the gross domestic product is expected to gather momentum in the second half of this year. Growth was likely to take place in an environment of low inflation and unemployment. The current account in the balance of payments and the federal government account were estimated to be at sustainable levels, the EPU said. According to the EPU report, the economic conditions had improved in the first quarter of this year. They were helped by strong consumption spending, the stimulus packages and improving external demand following the general overall recovery in the global economy, the report said. (by Liau Y-Sing)


From http://biz.thestar.com.my/ 06/01/2002

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EPIC Expects Privatisation of Kemaman Port This Year

EASTERN Pacific Industrial Corp Bhd (EPIC) expects Kemaman Port in Terengganu to be privatised this year under revised terms. "Negotiations are still going on with the federal government as we are hoping for better terms, particularly in payment and lease matters under the privatisation," EPIC chairman Wan Abd Mutalib @ Wan Musa Embong said. "Based on recent meetings we are positive about it as both parties want to see it as a win-win situation and hope to complete it by this year," Mutalib told reporters after the company AGM in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. He said that EPIC subsidiary Pangkalan Bekalan Kemaman Sdn Bhd had been managing the port since 1998 and would continue to do so until the port was privatised. In April last year, the Economic Planning Unit had given approval to the Terengganu state-controlled EPIC to take up 36% stake in Konsortium Pelabuhan Kemaman Sdn Bhd under a 30-year concession. Other parties in the consortium are Road Builder Holdings Bhd with a 30% stake, Permodalan Trengganu Bhd 15%, Gadek (M) Bhd 10% and MasterFreighters (M) Sdn Bhd 9%. Kemaman Port is a strategically located all-weather deep-sea port providing logistic services to various industries in Terengganu. It is capable of handling vessels of up to 150,000 deadweight tonnes and cargo ranging from general cargo, dry bulk to liquid bulk cargo. Asked whether the implementation of the privatisation exercise, which had been delayed for two years, was due to political differences, Mutalib said: "At the moment, there are no political overtones on the matter. There is nothing political about it." "EPIC shareholders are keen to look at the returns that the privatisation project can contribute," EPIC chief executive officer Md Suhaimi Husain said. He said that apart from Kemaman Port EPIC group was also diversifying into other areas such as manufacturing and sludge management services while strengthening its core petro