March 2004, Issue 28
 
 
 
  Asian Development Bank Releases Draft Public Communications Policy
Six-Party Talks Conclude as Disagreements Exist
Southeast Asia: 'Opening Up' to Raise Risks of Instability
US Grand Strategy in East Asia
Foreign Takeovers of Domestic Companies Produce More Benefits than Costs in Surveyed Economies: New APEC Report
APEC Science and Technology Ministers Call for Research into Information Technology and Science Skills Shortfall
Energy Security Sought Through Cooperation in Asia
ASEP 3 to Promote Asia-Europe Cooperation
 
  CHINA: New Legislation Would Make More Info Public in Beijing
Top Priorities for 2004 Budget Expenditures
Constitutional Amendments to Limit Public Power, Protect Individuals' Rights
Beijing Reiterates Hosting Corruption-Free Olympia
Ministry Stops Land Use Approvals for Cities
High Hopes Placed on Administrative Permit Law
China Endorses Private Property
Hong Kong: Education (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance to Come into Effect
China's Income Distribution Policy Urged to Be Adjusted
Hong Kong: Constitutional Powers and Responsibilities of Central Authorities in Overseeing Constitutional Development Not Limited to Basic Law
China Announces Regulations on Fund Management
New Chinese Regulations Encourage Private & Foreign Involvement in Welfare
China Adjusts Currency Policy
JAPAN: Proposal to Revise Consumer Rights Law Approved
Civil Servant Held for Campaigning
Japan Approves Bills to Authorise Wartime Cooperation with US
Cabinet Endorses Diluted Bill to Safeguard Whistle-Blowers
Municipal Merger Law to Be Updated
Security Bills Merit Deliberation
Cabinet Office to Revoke NPO Licenses for First Time
Monetary Policy Left Unchanged
Japan Reconsiders Alien Reporting System
Japan to Ease Up on Currency Intervention
Cabinet OK's Liberalization Plan
Gov't to Improve Privacy-Related Laws
Constitution Change Needed for Japan to Have Army: Koizumi
WWII Chinese Forced Laborers Win Damages in Landmark Ruling
SOUTH KOREA: Revised Laws May Help Businesses
Civic Groups to Boycott Protest Law
Special Bill for Engineering/Science Majors Passed
New Law Raises Legislators' Number by 26
New Law Raises Legislators' Number by 26
S. Korean Acting President Vetos Bill on Limiting Presidential Power to Grant Special Amnesty
Ministry Offers Incentives to Boost Birth Rate
 
  INDONESIA: House Endorses Judicial Laws Revisions
NGOs Demand Access to Law Making Process
Independent Figures May Have Chance for Presidency
MALAYSIA: Malaysian Cyberlaws Need to Keep Up
PHILIPPINES: Arroyo Promulgates 2004 Investment Priorities Plan
Government Will Not Stand in the Way of Entrepreneurs
Singapore Government to Introduce New Laws to Protect Subcontractors
Manpower Ministry Prefers Compulsory Employment Contracts Between Maids and Employers
THAILAND: New Legislation: Homeowners Face Property Tax
Draft Legislation: MCOT Calls for Equal Treatment
Regulatory Body for Egat
VIETNAM: Personal Income Tax Base Rate Rising
Plan to Control Chaotic Property Market
National Assembly to Appraise Law to Open Up Energy Sector
 
  BANGLADESH: Govt Okays Change in Constitution
BHUTAN: Guidelines for Urban Development Activities
Capital Punishment Abolished in Bhutan
INDIA: India Offers Pakistan Expertise on Social Security
Controversial Kashmir Residency Bill Becomes Political Landmine
SRI LANKA: PM Calls for Mandate to Lead Peace Process
NEPAL: Govt. Bans Strikes in Essential Services
Govt. Publicizes Action Plan to Safeguard Women Rights
Govt. Unveils Communication Policy
PAKISTAN: PM Jamali Warns Against 'Internal Dangers'
 
  IRAQ: Governing Council Signs Interim Constitution
New Law Governing Central Bank Announced
IRAN: Iran Readies Employment Plan
KYRGYZSTAN: New Tax Legislation to Meet Market Requirements
KAZAKHSTAN: Parliament Passes Election Bill
TURKEY: Parliamentary Committee Adopts Extra Funding Bill
 
  AUSTRALIA: Science First in Line for Budget Cash
Discriminating to Put More Men in Classroom
Law Plan 'Common Sense'
Latham Pledges to Cut Superannuation Tax, Fees
FIJI: Government to Draft Oil Legislation Soon
GUAM: Legislature OKs GRT Bill
NEW ZEALAND: National Rethinking Its Tax Policy
Law Change on Way to Help Flood-hit Taxpayers <
Law Commission Wants District Court Axed
Building Law Passes Early Test
Secrecy Law Could Hamper Inquiry into Police Conduct
Terrorism Fears Spark New Passport Laws
 
  UN Public Service Awards to Be Presented at Annual Shanghai Forum
Thailand Says ASEAN Will Back Foreign Minister to Replace UN Chief Annan
 
  Competing for Government Jobs an Unhealthy Trend
CHINA: Appointment of Cadres to Follow Democratic Nominating System in Rui An
New Governor Elected for Liaoning Province in NE China
Shenzhen Has New Mayor
Committeemen Removed from CPPCC for Not Performing Duties in Si Chuan Province
Guangdong Reduces Number of Counties
Premier Vows to Further Transform Government Functions
China's Cabinet Ends Irregular Decision-Making Meetings
System to Inspect Provincial Senior Officials' Financial Responsibility Starting Soon
Officials to Be Rated on Pollution Control
Six Ministerial Officials Given Guilty Verdicts in 2003
Draft Guideline Adopted to Build Clean Government
Introduction of a Five Year Term of Office Necessary for Government Officials
Hong Kong Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2003 Passed by Legislative Council
Taiwan Vote Dispute Drags into Fourth Day
The Central Government Urges to Rectify Official Plurality
JAPAN: Eight Prefectures Now Have Anti-terror Units
Third of Japan's Local Gov'ts Lack Deputy Mayors, Treasurers
Security Laws to Give Governors Power to Seize Property
Law Revision Eyed over Salaries of Pols' Aides
Cabinet Office to Get 1st Woman Director General for Econ Assessment
SOUTH KOREA: Government to Allow Civil Servants' Union
23 New Overseas Mission Heads Appointed
Korea's Fighting Corruption Not Successful
Government Committed to Stimulating FDI
Public Services Fees Freeze to Contain Inflation
Prime Minister Goh Serves as Acting President
S Korea's Main Opposition Elects New Leader
Uri Party Leads in Key Electoral Battlefields
Education Ministry, KICE Get 'F' for Unfit Examiners
Ex-President's Daughter Stakes Leadership on Poll
 
  INDONESIA: Susilo Asks President of His Duties in Cabinet
Panwaslu Reveals 'Money Politics'
INDONESIA: Most Ministries Full of Corruptors
MALAYSIA: Opposition Parties Ready for Elections
More Than 1,500 Candidates Contesting Seats
Malaysian Vote Hinges on Islam, Cash and Corruption
Malaysian PM Unveils New Cabinet After Election Landslide
PHILIPPINES: VP Slams Cabinet Members for Pushing for GMA Bid
Arroyo Manipulating Election Surveys Roco Spokesman
'Sor Por Khor' Controversy: Land Reform 'Under Threat'
THAILAND: Financial Sector Reform: 'No Need to Look for an Outside Partner'
VIETNAM: Corruption Fight Key to Sustaining Renewal
Party Leader Calls for Party Cells to Be Strengthened
 
  BANGLADESH: 45 Reserved Seats for Women Proposed - 14th Constitution Amendment Bill Introduced
INDIA: Congress Disgraced the Nation
Digvijay Alleges Vajpayee of Backtracking
SRI LANKA: A New Govt. Under President's Leadership to Alleviate Hardships of the Masses Will Be Set Up
President Dissolved Parliament Considering the Request of the Masses
Rid Country of Corrupt Politicians, Says President
Democracy Very Much Alive in Sri Lanka
President Abolishes 13 Non-Cabinet Ministries to Save Public Funds
MALDIVES: 3 Atoll Chiefs Appointed
NEPAL: King Appoints Dr. Thapa as FM
CIAA Wins 90 pc of Corruption Cases
Aryal Appointed Secretary of Rajparishad
PAKISTAN: Ijaz and Ghauri Join Federal Cabinet
 
  AFGHANISTAN: Six New Provincial Governors Appointed
TAJIKISTAN: Former Interior Minister in Dushanbe to Face Trial for Treason
IRAN: Newly Elected Legislator Resigns
KAZAKHSTAN: President Names New Administration Head
IRAQ: Civil Servants Awarded Certificates for Completion of First World Bank Training on Managing Projects
TURKEY: Revolution in the Structure of the Constitutional Court
Reform Package Reduces Ankara to Mere Capital
UZBEKISTAN: President Forms Council on Reformation of Legislative System
 
  AUSTRALIA: Howard Opens Election War-chest
Nation's 'Worst' Police Force Riddled with Corruption
Canberra Taps into a Register for Water
NOIE Gives Way to AGIMO
New Medicare Is Working: Minister
Income Tax Overhaul Urged
Red Tape Frenzy Fear
Corrupt Officers 'Threat to Inquiries'
NEW ZEALAND: Latest Government Advisory Panel Keen to Shake 'Talking Shop' Tag
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: 601 Servicemen to Be Retrenched
SOLOMON IS: Second Deputy Police Commissioner Charged
SOLOMON IS: Anti-Corruption Institutions Not Functioning
TONGA: Top Civil Servants to Sign Work Contracts
 
  Internet Governance Issues Discussed at ITU Workshop
ADB to Set Up Japan Fund for Public Policy Training
ASEAN Holds Clean Development Mechanism Workshop
World Bank Announces Global Learning Conference to Accelerate Large-Scale Poverty Reduction
 
  Employment System to Be Carried Out in Public Institutions in Chongqing
CHINA: China to Start Innovating Instead of Copying as Research Strategy
Innovative Policy Entertains Public Complaints
Grassroots Ideas Merit Gov't Action
SOUTH KOREA: Ministry Sponsors Conference on Finance Evaluation Systems
Institutional Innovation Vital to Fighting Against Corruption
HK Govt Launches Learning Program for Women
New Official Rating System Stresses Enviroment
KCS to Innovate in Bid for Business Hub Plan
Transparency Tops Shareholders' Interests
China Adopts IPMA-HR Certification Program
Improving Minimum Living Subsidy Mechanism
JAPAN: Gov't to Improve Response to Human Rights Complaints
 
  THAILAND: Help for Overworked Anti-Graft Agency
VIETNAM: PM Praises Country's 'Vital' Entrepreneurs
SINGAPORE: Government to Launch SME Loan Securitisation Project by Year-End
New Unocal Chief: Tara To Focus on Innovation, Staff
MALAYSIA: Widen Knowledge, IGP Tells Cops
 
  BHUTAN: GYT and DYT Members Receive Management Training
Change in School Management
Financial Institutions Discuss Credit Bureau
SRI LANKA: Seminar for Judicial Officers
INDIA: Health Systems Project to Improve Quality of and Access to Health in the Indian State of Rajasthan
MALDIVES: Commission Asks Ministry to Include Human Rights Education in School Curriculum
Family Conferences Introduced in Island Courts
FET Starts Compiling BA in Education Course
Ministry to Find Ways to Integrate School Dropouts in Labor Market
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Azeris Open Road for Economic Development
KAZAKHSTAN: Initiative for "Socially Responsible Business Forum"
AFGHANISTAN: Conference in Berlin to Expedite Reform Process
UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek Reform to Spur Economy
 
  Australian Target within Reach for Waste Management
Banks Get Good Marks for Basel II
NEW ZEALAND: Bus-stop Banking: Westpac's New Image
Swiftt System Upgrade to Be Undertaken Slowly
 
  R&D Starts to Move Offshore: The Asia Connection
IT Companies Focus on Asia to Expand Jobs: Tech Leaders See Increased Hiring in India and China, But Not the U.S.
Worldwide IT Skills Shortage and Sustainable Development - High on APEC Science Ministers' Meeting Agenda
Asian Countries Join US-Led Coalition Against Spam
Managing Decentralization in East Asia Concept Note
The Press Conference on the 4th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region Successful Held in Beijing
Int'l Conference on Mdgs to Be Held in Beijing
Asia's Old Myths and New Realities
South Korea's Globalization Falls to 32nd While East Asia Is One of the Slowest Regions to Be Globalized
Asia Pacific IT Network Security Market to Grow 13.9 Percent Annually
U.N. Projects Historic City Populations by 2007
 
  CHINA: National R&D Projects Cost 9 Billion State Funds
Ministry Drafting Science Plan to Tackle Urban Planning
Digital R&D Base to Be Built in Beijing
Poverty Alleviation Pays Off in Yunnan
Shanghai Ranks No.1 in Income
Hong Kong: Smart Id Card Holders Embrace E-Cert
Income Disparities Widening in China
China Outlines Environmental Protection Plan for 2004
Hong Kong: Law Changes to Allow E-Filing of Registration for Patents and Designs
China Closes 677 State Newspapers, Saving 1.8bln Yuan
China Ranks No. 1 in DSL
China Initiates a Special Legal Aid Project for Poor Groups
Beijing's Market Socialism Brings Greater Inequalities
UN Launches Development Goals Report on China
China Contributes to Global Anti-Poverty
JAPAN: New Revitalization Plan Mapped Out
Web Site Set Up To Support Socially Isolated People
Japan's Rating Upgraded on Economic Outlook
SOUTH KOREA: Trained Human Resources Essential for Growth
 
  BRUNEI: Banks on Virgin Rainforests to Boost Tourist Arrivals
INDONESIA: Computer Industry Will Grow by 25%
Govt Launches Infrastructure Projects Nationwide
Govt Help Needed to Promote Technology Development
BURMA: FAO to Disseminate Advanced Technologies on Dairy Products Production in Myanmar
Minister Inspects Computerized Banking System
PHILIPPINES: Senator Warns Filipinos Against Undue Spending
SINGAPORE: Projects a Budget Deficit for FY2004 Despite an Improving Economy
Economy Must Grow 7-8% Annually for S'pore to Be Land of Opportunity
Singapore's Economy to Post Its Strongest Growth in 4 Years in 2004
THAILAND: Ministry: No 1 in Asean by 2008
Smart Cards: Winning Bid Still Too High, Minister Says
VIETNAM: President Pushes Growth in Two Northern Provinces
 
  BANGLADESH: Web Trade Portal Launched - Called TRADO for Bangladesh
Dhaka Signs Cable Agreement to Speed Up Internet, Telecommunications Access
BHUTAN: First ICT Working Group Meeting Held
Eliminating Gender Discrimination
SRI LANKA: UNF Put Country's Economy on Correct Path
MALDIVES: 15 Parties Submit Proposals for Government Computer Network and Applications
PAKISTAN: World Bank Reviews Poverty Reduction Strategy
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Pensioners Will Get Pensions via ATMs
IRAN: Alcatel to Build First DSL Internet Network
KAZAKHSTAN: National Consumers League Developed Internet Site
TURKEY: Reliable E-signature to Be Enabled by E-Guven
TURKMENISTAN: US Company to Create New Television Channel in Turkmenistan
UZBEKISTAN: E-document Turnover Issues Discussed in Capital
 
  AUSTRALIA: Women Still Poorer in Economy Boom
E-commerce Patent Can Now Be Enforced
ICT Industry Salaries Growing: AIIA
Low-paid 'Should Share in Prosperity'
NEW ZEALAND: Green Means Business
NZ Science on Show to World
NZ Lagging Behind in Broadband Uptake
We're World Leaders in Credit Card Nous
Internet NZ to Spend More on Regulation, Lobbying Politicians
 
  Stronger Measures Called for to Prevent Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing
Investors Push Asia to Fund Raising Record
 
  CHINA: Shenzhen Takes Measures to Curb Misuse of Public Funds
China Races Against Time in State-Owned Banks Reform
Companies Sue People's Bank of China
China Regulator Opts to Close B-Share Markets
Banking Watchdog Tightens Loan Supervision
JAPAN: Lower House Passes 738 Billion Dollar Budget for FY 2004
Koizumi Aims to Maintain 1 Trillion Yen Subsidy Cut in 2005
Outstanding Gov't Debt Hits Record at End of 2003
SOUTH KOREA: BOK Signals Measures Against Inflation
Throwing Good Money After Bad
Korean Banks Report Sharp Loss in Net Profit for 2003
Seoul Seeks More Stable Asia Bond Market
 
  INDONESIA: Indonesia Launches US$1b Global Int'l Bond c
IMF Hails Rising Confidence in RI, But Seeks Further Reform
Indonesian Banking Sector Remains Shaky
Central Bank Renews Calls for Domestic Banks to Merge
MALAYSIA: Bonds Still Good Option for Firms
Big BN Win Will Herald Funds Inflow
PHILIPPINES: Govt Junks T-Bond Bids
Govt Borrows Short-Term Money Despite High Rates
Govt Issues $500-M Bonds to Cover Budget Demands
Securities Registry to Include Agrarian Bonds
THAILAND: Bird-Flu Aftermath: Loans, Free Land for Chicken Farms
BOT Tells Potential Banks to Do Their Homework
VIETNAM: PM Sets Bold Targets for Bank of the Poor
Local Banks Want to Increase Capital to Compete Globally
Finance Ministry Wages Fiscal War
Major Cities to Issue Bonds to Raise Infrastructure Cash
 
  BANGLADESH: Major Crackdown on Money Launderers
INDIA: Reserve Bank Likely to Ease Cap on Unsecured Advances
SRI LANKA: SMB Group Post Tax Profit Up 344% to Rs. 50.29 Million
NEPAL: Nepal to Receive Support for Financial Sector Reform
PAKISTAN: Pakistan's First Cross Currency Swap Transaction: NBP and Citibank Arrange Rs 4.4b Swap for PARCO
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Azerbaijan May Issue First Eurobonds in 2006
KYRGYZSTAN: IMF Recommends Single Tax for Small Enterprises
KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhtelecom Redeems Domestic Bonds
TURKEY: S&P Raises Currency Rating
 
  AUSTRALIA: Bank Boss Damns 'Dishonest' Traders
Senate Probe May Focus on Regulator's NAB Role
Upbeat Reserve Boosts Bourse
YAP, FSM: Credit Union Opens Doors
NEW ZEALAND: Government Considering Controversial Tax on Investments
ANZ Learning How to Please Customers from National Bank Acquisition
Reserve Bank No Backstop for Business
 
 
 
  CHINA: Favorable Policies Boost Private Economic Development in Xinjiang
CPPCC Members on Developing Non State-Owned Sector
Private Firm to Enter Auto Industry
JAPAN: Koizumi Clears Road to Highway Privatization
Furor over Postal Reform Minister Rumbles on
Competition Heats Up for Japan's Private Equity Pie
Toyota Ranks 8th on Forbes' Corporate Rankings in 2004
SOUTH KOREA: Private Tutoring Expenses Doubled in 5 Years
 
  INDONESIAN: Govt Proposes Privatization of Merpati Airlines
INDONESIA: Private Oil Firm EMP to Sell 25-30% Stake
SINGAPORE: Law Society to Check Law Firms
Protection of Minority Shareholders Enhances Company's Value
THAILAND: Privatisation: Battle Shifts To MCOT
VIETNAM: Conference Pushes Up Equitisation Programme
 
  BANGLADESH: On-line Facilities of ONE Bank at Ctg Port
Petrobangla Being Turned into Holding Company Soon
BHUTAN: Private Sector Requests Excise Refund
INDIA: Govt Hikes FDI Ceiling in Private Banks to 74%
NEPAL: Govt. to Privatize NTC
PAKISTAN: Pakistan to Seek Backing for Utility Reform
PTCL Privatisation: Company Bosses Asked to Give Opinion Within Three Months
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Azercell to Be Privatized by Year-End
IRAN: 5 Power Plants on Privatization List
State-run Companies to Be Privatized, Reinsurance to Be Developed
KAZAKHSTAN: Pension Fund to be Privatized in 2004
 
  AUSTRALIA: T3 Bill Passes Reps
Medibank Continues Turnaround

Asian Development Bank Releases Draft Public Communications Policy

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB), recognizing the need for new approaches to its public communications and disclosure of information, has released a draft Public Communications Policy (PCP) ahead of consultations to be held in 12 countries over the next four months. The draft policy is expected to be considered by ADB's Board of Directors in the second half of the year. The result of extensive internal research and external consultations, the draft PCP represents a comprehensive review and overhaul of the bank's current approaches to its public communications with new emphases on explaining ADB's work, proactively sharing operational information, seeking feedback, and demonstrating development results. The draft policy is designed to support ADB's overarching goal of reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region, to enhance development effectiveness, and to strengthen ADB's capacity for knowledge management and dissemination. The draft PCP, which once approved will supersede ADB's earlier information and disclosure policies, can be accessed at http://www.adb.org/disclosure. "We live in a new, dynamic age of communications and information exchange -- an age that demands much more from international financial institutions such as ADB," says ADB's Vice-President, Geert van der Linden. "We fully recognize that accountability, openness, and transparency strengthen the development process by encouraging debate, building closer partnerships with stakeholders, and broadening understanding of the bank's role. That is why the draft PCP is taking this bold, participatory approach." ADB has been actively soliciting comments on its current information and disclosure policies since mid-August 2003. Responses have been placed on ADB's web site and inputs collected during this initial consultation phase have helped shape the draft document. In addition, ADB staff have contributed their insights into how the bank could strengthen its public communications. Today's public posting and release of the draft PCP will take the review process to the next stage, with consultations planned with representatives from member governments, the private sector, academia, nongovernment organizations and other interested parties in 12 cities: Beijing, Bishkek, Dhaka, Hanoi, Jakarta, London, New Delhi, Ottawa, Suva, Sydney, Tokyo, and Washington DC. "We are seeking a broad range of views on this important subject" says Mr. van der Linden, "so that we can formulate the right policy for ADB. I believe that the draft policy we will take to our Board of Directors will place us at the forefront of the international community in this vital area." Comments on the draft policy may be sent to Robert H. Salamon, Tel: (63-2) 632-4178, Email: rsalamon@adb.org. The Asian Development Bank is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Established in 1966, it is owned by 63 members - 45 from the region. In 2003, it approved loans and technical assistance amounting to US$6.1 billion and US$177 million, respectively.

From http://www.adb.org/ 28/02/2004

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Six-Party Talks Conclude as Disagreements Exist

The second round of the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue ended Saturday afternoon with the six sides reaching consensus on setting up a working group and on the next round of talks. The talks, which began Wednesday among the United States, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Japan, focused on the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said at the closing ceremony of the second round of six-party talks Saturday in Beijing that the six delegations had reached consensus on setting up a working group and the next round of talks. The consensus "is of great importance in pushing forward the process of dialogue," he said in a speech at the end of three and half days of talks at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. The importance of the second-round talks was that the six delegations held substantial dialogue and made "a big step forward" toward the realization of the final goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, said Li. "Profound and constructive" discussions were held at the second round of talks and the six sides put forward "valuable suggestions" with their "wisdom" and "reason", said the Chinese foreign minister. "Spring is a season full of hope," he said. "There is a thorny long way to go, but time is on our side and time is on the side o fpeace." He admitted that there are still disagreements among different sides because of historical and other factors. He hoped that relevant sides would take a "constructive attitude" and gradually narrow the differences and expand common ground. "No matter what the difficulties face us and no matter what ups and downs appear, we should adhere to the peace process and try to solve the Korean nuclear issue through dialogue," said Li. He urged the parties concerned to "make unremitting efforts to write a new chapter of peace and reconciliation". "There is a thorny long way to go, but time is on our side and time is on the side of peace," he said. The achievements of the six-party talks are hard-won and deserve to be treasured by all sides, said the Chinese Foreign Minister. "Some people may think that not enough progress was made, and the talks did not go fast enough," Li said, "but in my opinion, the achievements were hard-won and worth valuing since this round of talks had been started when mutual trust was lacking among relevant sides and their differences were growing. The achievements are the fruit of the parties' tireless efforts and reflect the parties' political will to push forward the peace process." He said the people from the six nations need peace, long for peace and love peace, and so does the whole world. On the other hand, the United States described the second roundof the six-party talks as "very successful." A senior official of the United States also said on condition of anonymity after the end of the talks that China was not only a "participant", but also a "facilitator", and has done an "exceptional job." A press conference is scheduled to be held soon by Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi, head of the Chinese delegation tothe talks. The six parties have been working hard to hammer out a joint document. Liu Jianchao, member of the Chinese delegation, said earlier that the document was hopeful. A press conference by the host country will be held at 17:00 (0900 GMT) Saturday by Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi, also head of the Chinese delegation. Some Chinese observers said the result of the current round canbe applauded. "The six parties came together, held serious talks, and have reached importance consensus," said Yang Chengxu, a Chinese experton arms control and foreign policy observer. "I think we should congratulate on it although severe differences remain." Piao Jianyi, a Chinese expert on the Korean study, said ForeignMinister Li's mention of spring indicated that it is possible new progress can be expected later this year. Delegates of the United States, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Russia and Japan began the second round of talks on Wednesday. The first round of talks was held in the Chinese capital last August.

From People's Daily Online 02/28/2004

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Southeast Asia: 'Opening Up' to Raise Risks of Instability

SINGAPORE -- At a Feb. 23 international conference in Tokyo titled "Future Prospects of the East Asian Economy and Its Geopolitical Risks," which was organized jointly by the Policy Research Institute, Japan's Finance Ministry and the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, I presented a paper on the geopolitical risks in Southeast Asia. The discussion was held in the context of fast-evolving developments in East Asia and the implications of the recent recovery and rise of East Asian economies. Although Northeast Asia is a potential source of conflict and uncertainty (notably due to the North Korean debacle), Southeast Asia also contains risks, though less apparent, during this period of political, economic and social transition. Southeast Asia's political economy has recently been molded by three waves of change and transformation -- namely, the liberalization/globalization of the 1980s and early 1990s, the 1997-98 financial crisis, and the Oct. 12, 2002, Bali bombing followed by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003. These waves of change have left Southeast Asia with important economic, social and political traits, including a rise in domestic consumption, the elevation of civil society and democratic aspirations and, more recently, a "resurgence" of the state in its fight against terrorism and SARS and in its support of accountability, transparency and communicative governance. Fundamental geopolitical and geo-economic shifts, such as the emergence of China, the relative "decline" of Japan (in the past 13 years) and the redefinition of future regional roles for the United States and Russia, will undoubtedly also have important consequences for Southeast Asia and its economy. The geopolitical risks, or the potential risks of instability, in Southeast Asia can best be analyzed according to "internal" and "external" stability. Internal stability includes four aspects: * the effects of the 1997-98 financial crisis in parallel with the expansion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to 10 members, and the risks inherent to transition economies and societies; * weak and budding ASEAN institutions and systems within the context of democracy, reforms and social duties; * profound cultural and social issues, such as history, religion and ethnicity in Southeast Asia; and * transborder problems within ASEAN, such as terrorism, "triad" gang activity, piracy, smuggling, insurgencies, arms and human trafficking, clandestine labor movements, health epidemics (including avian flu and AIDS) and environmental scourges (haze and water pollution). External stability involves: the emergence of China and its implications for Southeast Asia, especially for its ethnic Chinese population, and the potential for anti-Chinese sentiment; post-9/11 repercussions related to Islamic radicalism and the rise of political Islam in the region; a drop in ASEAN's "soft appeal" and Southeast Asian regionalism; and "globalization risks" of geo-economics (bloc-building or marginalization) and geopolitics (democracy or further "opening up") for ASEAN. It is clear that the geopolitical risks in Southeast Asia are more internal than external, but these two risk categories are intrinsically and symbiotically linked. As Southeast Asian economies and societies "open up," it is inevitable that external factors and pressure (such as the three waves of change above) will increase "internal" geopolitical risks. The emergence of a "two-tier ASEAN" -- the original six members vs. the transitional economies of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam -- heralds a potential "permanent" divide that, if mishandled, could lead to profound socio-political instability for the region. Democrasi, reformasi and the many electoral contests in Southeast Asia this year portend geopolitical risks of instability within ASEAN, especially when systems and institution-building remain weak or in a state of nascent consolidation. Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar are prime examples of this geopolitical risk. Moreover, the intricate history of animosity in the region is coupled with complex religious and ethnic tussles, making this region potentially unstable. Lastly, due to the fragility of Southeast Asian institutions and political systems, as well as the porous nature of the borders, cross-border problems are manifold. There is the risk that arms smuggling, piracy, triad activities and insurgencies could mesh with regional and international terrorism across Southeast Asia, especially as a result of the Bali bombing. Clandestine labor movements, the trafficking of women and children as well as health and environmental problems are other potential conflict points. Both the internal and external dimensions of ASEAN's geopolitical risks have undoubtedly made Southeast Asia more vulnerable today. Until and unless the internal as well as the external stability of ASEAN countries is effectively secured, the geopolitical risks in Southeast Asia will remain high. (by Eric Teo Chu Cheow)

From The Japan Times 02/29/2004

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US Grand Strategy in East Asia

It doesn't have any oil, its economy has practically bottomed out and the population is a mere 22 million, a significant portion of whom are malnourished. Why on earth is the United States so fixated on regime change in North Korea? The answer lies in Washington's grand strategy toward East Asia, which in turn can only be understood against the backdrop of the region's recent history. Before the United States ever entered the picture, East Asia was a Sino-centric universe. Chinese language, culture and Confucianism heavily influenced Japan and Korea; in the Chinese tributary system, subject countries paid deference to the Chinese emperor. This regional dominance ended in the mid-19th century, when China was defeated in the Opium Wars and subjected to the humiliation of territorial division and economic subjugation. In part to avoid China's fate, Japan took a different tactic after being pried open by Admiral Perry's "black ships" in 1853. By absorbing Western technology but preserving Japanese culture, Japan built up its economic and military power until, in 1905, it shocked the world by defeating a Western colonial power, Russia. And what of Korea, the third principal country in East Asia? Although it maintained a unified, independent existence for over a thousand years, its position as a small peninsula jutting out of China in the direction of Japan made it vulnerable to invasion from all sides. It often relied on Chinese back-up to keep the Japanese at arm's length. By the late 19th century, with China humbled and Japan ascendant, Korea could not prevent itself from falling into the latter's orbit. In the treaty that ended the 1905 Russo-Japanese War Korea was ceded to the Japanese and would remain a Japanese colony until the end of World War II. Having defeated Japan, the United States became the dominant regional power in East Asia in the Cold War era, billing itself as guarantor of stability through its mutual defense treaties with South Korea and Japan under which it has maintained 100,000 troops in the region supported by a massive array of weaponry. The division of the region, represented so painfully by the division of the Korean peninsula, has suited U.S. military and economic objectives. The Communist "threat" not only justified the U.S. military presence, but served as a useful stick for Japan and South Korea to repress unions and dissident parties. Japan played an important role in this hardening of positions, though its military was limited to defensive operations by its peace constitution. During the Korean War, Japan enjoyed an economic windfall by serving as a staging area for U.S. troops. It subsequently followed the U.S. lead on Korean relations, helping the South Korean economy and largely remaining aloof from North Korea. Washington assumed that China and North Korea were indeed as "close as lips and teeth," as the two countries liked to say. This was not, however, correct. First, Pyongyang skillfully played Beijing and Moscow off one another to get the best economic and political deals. Second, North Korea patterned its entire philosophy of self-sufficiency - juche - as a repudiation of what it termed the "flunkeyism" of Korea's previous position in the Chinese tributary system. Third, China's embrace of market reforms after 1979 raised not a few eyebrows among the North Korean leadership, not because the latter was rigidly opposed to economic experimentation, but because it thought Beijing naive about the political ramifications of the reforms. The end of the Cold War in Europe scrambled the geopolitical playing field in Asia. The Soviet Union removed its nuclear umbrella from North Korea, which pushed Pyongyang toward developing its own deterrent. China became even less dependable for its erstwhile communist neighbor and Japan began to break free of its peace constitution. South Korea established diplomatic relations with China and Russia, while North Korea was not able to secure a comparable deal with Japan and the United States. During the 1990s, despite serious attempts to become engaged in the new global order, North Korea became progressively more isolated. Successive U.S. administrations have expected the North Korean regime to collapse and have devised various strategies to accelerate that process, but there are many reasons why the end of North Korea would upset U.S. geopolitical calculations. For one, with communism no longer a convenient bogeyman, the North Korean "threat" serves as a very useful justification for maintaining a U.S. military presence in East Asia. North Korea's missiles, even though they can't reach the United States, have made missile defense more politically feasible in Washington. Judging from its various national security documents, the Bush administration certainly considers China the more long-range threat. But, given U.S. corporate ties to China and Beijing's willingness to join the war on terrorism, it has been more politically expedient to elevate the North Korean threat. Were North Korea suddenly to disappear, the Pentagon would have to play up the threat of terrorism in the region. The underlying challenge for the United States has been to ensure, if not a divided Korea, then at least one that is aligned with Washington. But what would happen if anti-American sentiment in South Korea (more accurately, anti-Bush administration sentiment) combines with more deeply engrained anti-American sentiment in the North? Korean nationalism is a potent force and many South Koreans have been secretly pleased at North Korea's missile launches and nuclear program, for these don't pose a threat to the South and are, ultimately, Korean missiles and nukes. Such nationalism may militate against the Pentagon having any important foothold on a unified peninsula. Coupled with growing resentment against U.S. troops in Japan, particularly Okinawa, the Pentagon may find itself without a port to call home in East Asia. An independent, reunified, and neutral Korea is worrisome for the Pentagon. But a reassertion of an older order is even more troubling for Washington. With Japan rearming itself and China becoming an economic and military superpower, Korea will find itself back in the 19th century. And thus the United States has seen the need to control the future of the Korean peninsula. The Bush administration wants regime change in North Korea, but not just any regime change. It wants to secure its foothold in East Asia and it would like to play the role of the liberator in North Korea. The model here is not exactly Iraq, since liberator has segued rather too precipitously into occupier. But it would love to turn North Korea into the Romania of Asia - a country to be relied on in the containment of China, more dependable than the unpredictable South Korea and more grateful in the long run than Japan. It doesn't have oil or attractive real estate and it doesn't represent a large enough consumer market to interest U.S. corporations. But North Korea has something else. It is the imagined pivot for a newly conceived U.S. military and economic presence in East Asia that, to paraphrase the old saw about NATO, keeps us in, China out, and Korea down. (by John Feffer)

From The Korean Herald 03/01/2004

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Foreign Takeovers of Domestic Companies Produce More Benefits than Costs in Surveyed Economies: New APEC Report

A new APEC report has found that cross-border mergers and acquisitions produced more benefits than costs and added to the competitiveness of the host economy. The report also found a direct correlation between overall economic performance and the relative openness of an economy to cross-border mergers and acquisitions. The report, "Cross-Border Mergers & Acquisitions: Case Studies of Korea, China and Hong Kong, China" has been presented to the first round of APEC meetings for 2004 currently taking place in Santiago, Chile. Compiled by the APEC Investment Experts' Group (IEG), the report explores the impacts of cross-border mergers and acquisitions in a framework that can be applied across the APEC Region. Acting Chair of the IEG, Mr. Ramon Vicente T Kabigting, said he hoped the findings in the report would help to improve understanding and reduce investment barriers to foreign investment. "This report should serve to improve public awareness of the benefits of foreign investment in economies where there is an emotional attachment to particular companies," Mr. Kabigting said. "Although there will always be legitimate cases that call for upholding the domestic players, we hope this report will enable APEC Member Economies to expedite cooperative policies relating to mergers and acquisitions through lower barriers." Mr. Kabigting said the report identified a range of benefits to come from cross-border mergers and acquisitions. "Technology transfer and new research and development centers are one obvious benefit to come from a merger or acquisition with a local company by a foreign company. "Other benefits came in the form of increased consumer choice or a rise in demand for improved locally produced goods." The report notes that in the global economy, cross-border mergers and acquisitions have become more important than Greenfield investment, accounting for over 80 percent of foreign direct investment by multinational corporations. The study drew from analysis of five case studies in Hong Kong, China; Korea and China. The criteria for selection was that the mergers or acquisitions were highly publicized, were drawn from both the manufacturing and services sectors, were between 1999 and 2002 and involved high dollar amounts of between US$16 million and US$5.9 billion.

From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/03/2004

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APEC Science and Technology Ministers Call for Research into Information Technology and Science Skills Shortfall

APEC Science Ministers have agreed to undertake a program of research to identify the causes and seek solutions to the apparent shortfall in science and technology skills in the global economy. In their Joint Communiqu¨¦ following the 4th APEC Ministers' Meeting on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation, Ministers have also drawn attention to environmental and sustainability issues relating to science and technology development. Ministers noted in the Communiqu¨¦: "Some evidence suggests that most economies face difficulties in training and retaining people with the needed science and technology (S&T) skills. We ask that Industrial Science and Technology Working Group (ISTWG) and other APEC working groups including the Human Resource Development Working Group (HRDWG) work together and consider how to promote further research on the supply and demand of needed science and technology skills within APEC economies. "The focus of this study should be whether there is a world-wide shortage of S&T skills, or a mismatch between available skills and changing demands. Depending on the results of this work, topics that could be considered for information exchange and further study by the two working groups are: The demand for S&T skills in relation to the capacity of economies to educate and train researchers, scientists and secondary & tertiary teaching staff. The main factors that encourage people to study and work in the S&T field (or discourage them from doing so). The key factors behind skilled S&T staff moving across borders, either within APEC or to other countries. "We underscored the need to ensure the workforce within APEC economies is equipped to meet the scientific and technological needs of today and the challenges of the future, and that it draws on the widest pool of talent, now and in the future." Drawing attention to environmental and development issues, Ministers recognized that "the concept of sustainable growth is very broad, and extends well beyond the responsibilities of science portfolios. "However, we are well aware that science and technology will play a pivotal role in APEC's ability to deliver sustainable growth," the Communiqu¨¦ stated. "We have noted the potential of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to improve the region's energy, environment and economic security, and that the Energy Working Group is developing a framework document on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as directed by APEC Leaders. "We ask Industrial Science and Technology Working Group and the Center for Technology Foresight to continue to collaborate with the APEC Energy Working Group in its research on the hydrogen economy." Ministers also made a series of recommendations on sustainability that will be considered by other APEC Ministers throughout the year. These include a call for business leaders to take an increasingly sustainable approach to business practices. The Communiqu¨¦ stated: "Business leaders within APEC be encouraged to adopt a positive approach towards sustainability concepts as a way of establishing goals that will release the creativity of engineers and scientists." Throughout their meetings on March 10-12 in Christchurch, New Zealand, a common theme has been the recognition of the link between globalisation and the development of new technologies. The communiqu¨¦ recognizes that: "Globalisation has profound implications for S&T. As economies become increasingly knowledge-based and subject to international flows of goods, services, people, investment and ideas, governments have a critical role in encouraging collaboration among universities, research institutions and business." The Joint Communiqu¨¦ and recommendations from Science Ministers will now be presented to other APEC Ministerial Meetings and APEC working groups. The Communiqu¨¦ specifically calls for Education Ministers to consider the issues arising in science and technology education at the APEC Education Ministers meet in Santiago, Chile, in April. The Final Communiqu¨¦ from the 4th APEC Ministers' Meeting on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation is available online at: www.apec.org

From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/12/2004

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Energy Security Sought Through Cooperation in Asia

Distinguished international energy experts on Tuesday gathered in Seoul to discuss energy cooperation and security in the Northeast Asian region. The international conference on "Northeast Asia Energy Security and Regional Cooperation," jointly organized by the Korea Energy Economics Institute (KEEI) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), kicked off Tuesday for a two-day run at the JW Marriott Hotel in southern Seoul. Some 230 energy and economic experts both at home and abroad, including the United States, Europe, Japan, China, Russia and Mongolia, attended the international conference. It is the first IEA conference on Northeast Asia and also the first to be held in South Korea since becoming a member of the agency in March 2002. The conference, with the theme of "Promoting a Sustainable Energy Future in Northeast Asia: Facilitation of Energy Cooperation and Its Impact on World Energy Security," is supported by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, Korea National Oil Corp. and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The conference is organized to assess major challenges to energy integration of Northeast Asia, evaluate its effects on world energy security and draw recommendations for what governments, multilateral institutions and other stakeholders can do to overcome those challenges. The meeting addressed critical energy issues in the region, such as developing energy security, stabilizing energy supply and promoting a sustainable energy future and wider access to environmentally friendly energy sources, such as natural gas and hydroelectric power. "Up to now, since there is no well-coordinated cooperative mechanism for energy supply across Northeast Asian counties, an individual country is extremely vulnerable to any single energy crisis. As a matter of fact, the countries in crisis have to depend on their own limited and myopic solutions," noted Lee Sang-gon, president of KEEI. Ambassador William C. Ramsay, deputy executive director of the IEA said South Korea, China and Japan together are expected to account for about one-third of world energy demand increases over the next three decades, while the eastern part of Russia holds significant amounts of reserves of oil, gas and coal as well as hydropower. Therefore energy cooperation and attaining energy security in the region is crucial, he advised. "Establishment of a regional cooperative framework and government role are still important since most of the cross-border energy trade and investment projects inevitably incur the problem of incompatibility between the laws and regulations among nations and different investment environments," Ramsay pointed out. Vice Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Kim Childoo said during his congratulatory speech that forming Northeast Asian energy cooperation will provide a win-win opportunity for countries in the region, benefiting all countries in the region, as well as other energy exporting and importing countries in other parts of the world. "It is important to secure energy security through cooperation rather than competition in the region. The Korean government believes that the energy security problem will substantially resolved if countries in the region cooperate on importing resources," Kim said. Bae Soon-hoon, chairman of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Business Hub, stressed during his keynote speech that Northeast Asian energy cooperation is important to protect the nation's interests from potential crisis involving primary energy sources. He said energy competition in the region is expected to get worse as China moves aggressively to gain more access. Bae, nevertheless, said there still remain barriers in energy cooperation, such as political and institutional issues as well as historical conflict. "A more practical approach will gradually build the consensus necessary for energy cooperation in the region; first, by removing such barriers as historical legacy in the region," Bae said. He advised countries in the region should exert efforts on creating open regionalism, promoting dialogue for energy cooperation, dividing roles between government and private sector, forming bilateral and multilateral cooperation in parallel, incorporate environment concerns and setting up institutional financing vehicles. Kim Jin-woo, director of the Center for Energy Research for Northeast Asia of the KEEI, said energy cooperation in the region can be achieved by diversifying import sources as well as fuel sources, which would make the countries in the region less vulnerable to external shocks. "The collective efforts to build the Northeast Asian natural gas pipeline project linking the rich gas fields in Russia with the rest of the countries in the region will improve the three Es: energy security, economic benefits and environmental improvement," Kim said. Northeast Asia, is comprised of only six countries - South Korea, China, Russia, Mongolia, Japan and North Korea. However, it is a significant group that makes up 27 percent of the world's population, 19 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP) and one-fourth of global energy consumption. In recent years, Northeast Asia has emerged as one of the fastest growing regional markets for oil, natural gas and electricity. Today, the second day of the conference, global energy experts will discuss Northeast Asian cooperation and security for oil, natural gas and electricity. The international conference also takes on a special meaning, as it will celebrate the founding of the Center for Energy Research, Northeast Asia (CERNA). The KEEI established CERNA to enhance its research focus and facilitate cooperative efforts on the challenging issues in achieving regional energy cooperation in Northeast Asia, as these issues will entail significant implications for regional and global energy security and energy markets. (by Kim Sung-jin)

From http://times.hankooki.com/ 03/16/2004

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ASEP 3 to Promote Asia-Europe Cooperation

Hue city (Vietnam) -- Delegates to the 3rd Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP 3) believe that the meeting will come up with new ideas and constructive recommendations to create new momentum for ASEM. Nguyen Van An, chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam, made the remarks when delivering the opening address at the ASEP 3,which opened here on Thursday. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) process is built on three main pillars, namely economy, politics and culture, An said, adding that ASEP 3 will reach high consensus on measures to bring a new momentum to Asia-Europe economic cooperation. "There remains huge potential for further boosting trade and investment cooperation between the two continents, especially when ASEM is seeing a new opportunity for its enlargement," he stated, explaining that ASEM members now make up more than 43 percent of global trade. On the political and security aspects, delegates at ASEP 3 are expected to sort out concrete measures to end wars and conflicts, push back terrorism, improve the role of the United Nations, and establish equal and mutual-benefit international relations on the basis of respect for independence, sovereignty and the right to self-determination of all nations, An noted. His statement was echoed by Juan M. Flavier, chairman of the Senate of the Philippines, who said: "Our topics [at ASEP 3] complement our Manila Agenda, where we vowed to find solutions to the problem of international terrorism, the sustainability of environment, and the rights of women and children." Both Flavier and Manh highly appreciated the contribution to Asia-Europe cooperation made by parliamentarians, who "feel directly the pulse of our peoples" as stated by the former. "Now is the time for us to define a regular cooperation mechanism in ASEP in parallel with ASEM," An said. With respect to the cultural aspect, Flavier and Manh also shared the same view. Further cultural cooperation between Asia and Europe will deepen mutual understanding among peoples of the two continents in particular and of the whole world in general, aswell as consolidate the moral foundation for Asia-Europe ties, they stated. "The ASEM process can and should play a vital role since ASEM members now account for 37.1 percent of the world population and 46 percent of the world gross domestic product. The percentages will climb to 39 percent and 49 percent, respectively, when ASEM is enlarged to include 13 new members," An stressed. During the two-day meeting, 111 delegates, mainly parliamentarians from 10 Asian countries, 15 members of the European Union and the European Parliament, will focus their discussions on issues relating to economic, political and culturalcooperation between the two continents.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/25/2004

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CHINA: New Legislation Would Make More Info Public in Beijing

Beijing municipal authorities are considering making some information about government officials public while examining the definition of a State secret. According to the new legislation proposed by the Beijing Municipal Office of Information, the government would publish data that has, until now, been considered to inflict on the privacy of officials, sources told China Daily. "We believe that some personal affairs of governmental officials, such as their income, could be made public," Wang Yu, an official with the regulation department of the information office, said yesterday. At the same time, the definition of a State secret, which has sometimes been used as an excuse for governments to keep information away from eyes of the public, would be examined and possibly re-evaluated, sources said. Part of the motivation are the changes in China's society. What was once considered a secret, may no longer be one. Wang's office released the draft legislation last week and opened it up to comments from the public. According to the draft, personal details, duties and post changes of local governmental officials will have to be made public. "This is only a draft. We will add more things to it if residents believe they need know more about officials," Wang said. The government will leave the draft legislation open to opinions and comments until April. But the official emphasized that his office is only responsible for drafting the legislation and does not have final say. "We will hand in the draft to the Beijing municipal government's Legal Affairs Office for a formal version. It still needs final approval from the municipal government," he said. The released draft, however, protects private information of residents collected by the authorities and forbids the publication of State secrets. "The definition of State secret in our draft refers to that in the State law to ensure State secrets, which was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 1988," Wang said. But Wang said some of the definitions of a State secret are already out of date and need to be further revised. "We were asked for an opinion on the issue last year and were informed that the law is expected to be revised," he said. This was not confirmed by other authorities yesterday. The Guangzhou Municipal Bureau for the Protection of State Secrets made public more than 100,000 pieces of information last year which were previously defined as State secrets. Previous draft legislation that protected media outlets that released information on public figures, was deleted before it was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 2002. One example that highlighted the need for such protection was an accusation brought by Zhang Xide, former Party Chief of the Linquan County in Northwest China's Gansu Province, against authors of a best seller - Investigation into Chinese farmers - for infringement on his right of fame. Zhang claims the book's assertions that he beat down appeals by local farmers to higher authorities are not true. He asks for 200,000 yuan (US$24,200) in compensation. The draft legislation says the government must release information about any epidemics, disasters and accidents in the capital city. Another 14 items of governmental information that must be released are also listed.(by Xiao Liu)

From China Daily 02/25/2004

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Top Priorities for 2004 Budget Expenditures

The Chinese government will give top priority to agriculture, rural areas and farmers in terms of expenditures in the central budget for this year, Finance Minister Jin Renqing said at the national legislature's annual session Saturday. Total expenditures will increase by more than 30 billion yuan, or 20 percent over last year, to address the problems facing agriculture, rural areas and farmers, Jin said in a budget report. Except for tobacco, the tax on special agricultural products will be rescinded in 2004 and the overall agricultural tax rate will be reduced by over 1 percentage point, with a greater reduction for major grain producing areas and grain producers, reducing the burden on farmers by as much as 11.8 billion yuan. Agricultural taxes will be rescinded in five years, he said. Funds totaling 39.6 billion yuan in the form of transfer payments from the 2004 central budget will be set aside for the reform of taxes and administrative charges in rural areas, a year-on-year increase of 9.1 billion yuan. At the same time, 10 billion yuan from the grain risk fund willbe given directly to grain producers in 13 major grain producing provinces this year as subsidies, and more budgetary funds will beused to develop agricultural infrastructure, development forests for ecological conservation, make advanced in agricultural scienceand technology, train farmers, provide relief for agricultural disasters and fight poverty. "Investment will be increased for employment work and social security," the minister said. This year, the government plans to increase reemployment assistance funds by 3.6 billion yuan, 76.6 percent more than last year, to promote employment and reemployment. The government will also allocate 77.9 billion yuan from the 2004 central budget to guarantee that living allowances for workers laid off from state-owned enterprises and basic old-age pensions for retirees from these enterprises are paid on time and in full and ensure that low-income urban residents receive their subsistence allowances. A total of 17 billion yuan will be allocated in subsidies for enterprises that close down or go bankrupt in order to promote economic restructuring, the minister said. As a move to boost development of in the fields of education, health, science and technology, culture and sports, the governmentplans to allocate 95.5 billion yuan from the 2004 central budget, a year-on-year increase of 10 billion yuan, with priority mainly given to rural areas.

From People's Daily 03/07/2004

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Constitutional Amendments to Limit Public Power, Protect Individuals' Rights

Among the fourteen clauses proposed in the draft, two of them are of central importance to legal experts: the protection of private property, and the guarding of human rights. Professor Jiao Hongchang from the China University of Political Science and Law says the constitutional protection of private property is a necessity in present day China. "Ownership of private property in China has increased dramatically in recent years. To match the country's changing landscape, there should be new rulings in the Constitution covering new and future ownership. The amendment can also limit the government's power, thus protecting private property from being violated by public powers." Constitutional protection of private property is also a concern of China's overall financial security. The professor says in the past, many private entrepreneurs were afraid their property would be taken away by the government, and transferred ownership to foreign countries. With legal protection, private property can also be transferred to a family's future generations, which can stimulate people's desire to accumulate wealth. And more importantly, this amendment will technically form a basis for further legislation on private property protection. Human rights protection is another amendment considered important by the professor. He says it's a great step forward for China's legal construction and it makes China's legal system in line with international standards. "Protection of human rights reflects the CPC's ruling philosophy that government serve the people. This means government power will be restrained and will better respecting individuals' rights. This amendment sets the underlying purpose of the constitution, which is the care for the people." Zheng Jindu is a partner of the Zhejiang Liuhe Law Firm, a privately run company in south China's Zhejiang Province, where the private sector has been prosperous for decades. As a person working in legal circles, he has a deep understanding of the necessity of constitutional protection of private property. "Previously, the constitution focused more on the protection of state property and collective property, but it has some shortcomings in protecting private property. As an individual possessing property, I now feel more secure with my wealth. This is good for the creation of social wealth, and good for economic and social stability." He says following the amendment, there should be a clear definition of lawful private property that is entitled to legal protection.

From China Radio International 03/09/2004

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Beijing Reiterates Hosting Corruption-Free Olympia

Beijing organizers on Monday voiced their determination here on Wednesday to curb corruption inthe construction of facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games. "Projects for the Beijing Olympics should be projects 'in the sunshine'," said Wang Jun, vice-minster of the State General Administration of Sports (SGAS). Wang made the remarks at a meeting held here on Monday, underlining the importance of supervision and auditing to ensure the Beijing Games "clean". Of 20 competition venues to be built for the 2008 Olympics, the SGAS will undertake the construction of the Beijing Shooting Rangeand Laoshan Cycling Velodrome, while the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympics (BOCOG) handles the rest. Apart from the shooting and cycling venues, the foundation of which were laid last December, the SGAS will also build a total of33 training venues and renovate six existing ones. All these projects are expected to cost 3.8 billion yuan (about460 million US dollars). Wang said a supervision and audit office has been set up as a part of the drive to stage a corruption-free Olympic Games in 2008. "Every aspect concerning the Olympic construction projects is subject to the monitoring of the supervision and audit office," said Wang. The office has worked out relevant rules and regulations to prevent any possible corruption. "Such matters as financing, procurement and tendering will be closely watched," said Chen Shuxian, head of the supervision and audit office. And some other measures have been adopted to guard against unhealthy tendencies concerning the projects, Chen said. "All themajor preparations will be made public on the Internet and the process of preparations will be transparent," he said. A total of 35 venues will be used during the Beijing Olympics, including 30 in Beijing and five in other cities -- Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Tianjin and Shanghai. Beijing has promised to complete the construction of Olympic venues by the end of 2006.

From chinaview.cn 03/11/2004

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Ministry Stops Land Use Approvals for Cities

More than 20 cities across the country, including Beijing, were prevented from designating new land for construction use after failing to submit land use reports. The Ministry of Land and Resources suspended approving new applications to designate land for new construction projects in cities that failed to report their land use situation between 1999 and 2004 before the January 15 deadline, Wu Haiyang, vice-director of the Land Use Management Department of the Ministry of Land and Resources, told China Daily yesterday. The ministry announced in a March 2 circular that 26 of 84 Chinese cities ordered to submit a report failed to meet the deadline. The ministry had stipulated that cities that did not submit reports on time would not get new approvals to designate land for construction purposes. Several of the cities in question have, since then, submitted their reports and were taken off the blacklist. Wu said it takes just a few days to compile the statistics for the reports. He dismissed suggestions that the move might cause unsteadiness on the real estate markets. However, some real estate developers believe the move signals the coming of stricter governmental monitoring. Beijing has so far not yet submitted its report, but Wu refused to comment on the possible reasons. The land-use report helps the ministry get a clearer idea of the land use status across the country and plan for next year. Before adopting the reporting system last year, the ministry only assumed responsibility for endorsing specific amounts of cultivated land that were used for construction purposes. After getting the green light from the ministry, local governments at municipal and county levels can pick developers through public bidding or negotiations. The 1998 version of the Law on Land Management stipulates local governments have to report how they dispose of land intended for new construction. Confronted with a continuous decrease in cultivated land, which was down to 123.5 million hectares by the end of last year from 130.1 million hectares of year 1996, the ministry decided to put stress on the reporting system while vowing to punish those cities that turn a deaf ear to it. Local governments that submit fraudulent reports should expect even more severe punishments. The ministry is also using satellite remote sensing to help ensure the accuracy of the reports.

From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn 03/11/2004

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High Hopes Placed on Administrative Permit Law

Zhao Binghui, a deputy to China's top legislature, is longing for the arrival of July 1, a historic day when the country's first administrative permit law is scheduled to come into force. "The number of 'red letter-headed' documents will greatly be reduced by that time," said Zhao, who serves as a director of the economic and trade commission of Jilin Province, northeast China. "Red letter-headed" documents have long been the major carriers of administrative orders issued by government departments at all levels since New China was founded in 1949. With no rule of law, government bodies were accountable only to their superiors and handled public affairs at their own discretion, and this, plus the overlapping of power among government departments, often resulted in a stream of approval procedures for a single project. Miao Wei, general manager of the giant automaker, Dongfeng Automobile, has the first-hand knowledge of the red tape. He told President Hu Jintao during the legislative session that they sometimes have to wait for half a year to get a government approval for a technical innovation project involving import of foreign equipment. The administrative permit law, which will standardize the behaviors of government departments, is bound to bring about profound changes in the approval and examination system and deprive officials of the opportunities to abuse power for personalgains, said Zhao. "We are busy reviewing our current practice in case we'll be brought to court and have no chance to win," said Li Chengyu, an NPC deputy, and governor of central China's Henan Province. According to Wang Shengming, deputy director of the legislativeaffairs subcommittee of the NPC Standing Committee, the administrative permit law, adopted last year, prescribes the scopeand power of administrative permits, standardizes the procedures of administrative permits, sets clear requirements for administrative organs to improve work efficiency and provide good service, and lays down detailed rules on the legal responsibility and supervision concerning administrative permits. The promulgation of the law will further promote the transformation of government functions and play a role in evolving a fair, transparent, clean and highly efficient administrative system, Wang said.

From People's Daily 03/12/2004

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China Endorses Private Property

China's parliament has agreed to landmark changes to the constitution that will protect private property for the first time since the 1949 revolution, reports BBC Online (03/15). Sunday's endorsement came on the final day of the National People's Congress annual meeting in Beijing. The BBC's Beijing correspondent says with this vote, China is abandoning one of the key pillars of communism. The vote to amend the 1982 constitution was passed with 2,863 in favor to 10 against, with 17 abstentions. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that the "changes to the constitution are of great significance to the development of China." But he also warned that China's economy is at a critical juncture, and that the country's system of governance has to keep in step with the transformation to a capitalistic economy. "Without success in political restructuring, economic reforms in China cannot eventually succeed," he said at a press conference at the close of the annual session. China's parliament also voted to enshrine human rights in the constitution, for the first time. The mention of human rights reads: "The state respects and preserves human rights." Although it is the constitution's first reference to the issue, analysts say such a brief mention is ambiguous and makes no mention of political freedom. The Globe and Mail (Canada, 03/15) explains that despite its symbolism the amendment might not provide much concrete help for China's private sector. Chinese constitutional provisions are often ignored or never translated into useful measures for ordinary people. The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times (03/15) explain that the private property amendment was a recognition of private businesses' growing economic and political might rather than an effective legal guarantee. However, The Washington Post (03/15) writes that Ying Songnian, director of the law department at the National School of Administration, said the amendment could also offer increased protection to farmers and other small landowners whose property is confiscated by local governments eager to please big developers. Such confiscations, sometimes by corrupt officials, have produced a wave of complaints in recent months, prompting Wen to pledge that his government would seek to put a stop to them. The Associated Press (03/15) meanwhile explains that China already has laws regulating private property, and the constitution was amended in 1999 to declare private business an "important component" of the economy. Millions of Chinese own businesses and apartments and trade shares on the country's two stock exchanges. Still, entrepreneurs who are key to plans to create new jobs as state industry withers lobbied for constitutional protection. Communist leaders said the amendment, which declares that "private property obtained legally shall not be violated," was essential to future reforms. The NPC also approved an amendment writing into the constitution the political theory of retired President Jiang Zemin, who invited capitalists to join the ruling party. In another piece, The International Herald Tribune (03/15) reports that for all the hoopla about China's booming economy, its manufacturing muscle and its potential to become a great power, the world's most populous country is struggling to keep the lights on. And the sporadic blackouts that plagued much of China last year are raising complicated questions for the Communist Party and for the rest of the world: How and where will China get the energy it needs to maintain its economic growth?, and how much will the environment suffer for it?

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/15/2004

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Hong Kong: Education (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance to Come into Effect

The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) today (March 15) reminded the public that the Education (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2004 would come into operation on April 1. The amendments were made to tie in with the changing social environment, life-long learning for adults and diversified learning activities provided for students by schools in a flexible manner, an EMB spokesman said. These include permitting schools and post-secondary colleges to conduct courses on general holidays, abolishing the requirement for separate registration of schools that provide both day and evening instructions, and providing for the appointment of a panel of people to sit as members of an Appeal Board. "At present, no schools and post-secondary colleges should conduct courses on general holidays as stipulated in the General Holidays Ordinance. The amendments will allow them to conduct courses and give instruction on general holidays, including Sundays," the spokesman said. It is also noted that the existing legislation requiring day and evening sessions of a school to be registered separately even if they operate on the same premises and by the same school sponsoring body may not be cost-effective. With effect from April 1, 2004, all schools, except aided schools or those under the Direct Subsidy Scheme, providing both day and evening instructions, will not be required to register as two schools. Also introduced was an amendment to raise the qualifications requirement of teachers with effect from October 1, 2004, the spokesman added. The minimum qualifications for teachers engaged in primary, secondary and post-secondary education will be raised to post-secondary level while those teaching pupils undergoing nursery and kindergarten education to five passes in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE), including both English Language (Syllabus A or B) and Chinese Language. For teachers of other educational courses, the qualification requirement is a pass in not less than five separate subjects including English Language (Syllabus B) or Chinese Language taken in not more than two sittings in the HKCEE. "The existing provision allowing permitted teachers holding the minimum qualification with 10 years' approved teaching experience or holding an approved degree with three years' approved teaching experience to attain registered teacher status will be abolished," the spokesman said. "Thus teachers will have to possess relevant teacher training qualifications to attain the status. "Teachers who possess the above prescribed qualifications for registration as registered teachers immediately before October 1, 2004 should submit their application for registration within two months from the commencement date," he said. Degree-holding untrained teachers should enrol in a Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma in Education programme at their earliest opportunity. Untrained teachers without degrees should enrol in the In-service Course of Training for Teachers (ICTT) to be operated by the Hong Kong Institute of Education. School heads are requested to make suitable arrangements for untrained teachers to attend the courses. The Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower may grant special permission to serving teachers who have enrolled in approved teacher training courses to maintain their permitted teacher status when changing school, subject or level taught within the grace period of five years from the commencement date.

From http://www.info.gov.hk/ 03/15/2004

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China's Income Distribution Policy Urged to Be Adjusted

With US$ 1000 as a criterion, China has turned from a low-income country to a lower-medium-income country. The new development phase means not only a "golden development period" but also a "period with outstanding conflicts". The problem of income gap is a major social conflict in the development stage. Liaowang (Outlook) Weekly pointed out that wide income gap is unavoidable in the development stage and how to curb the widening of the income gap is a question we must face up in order to avoid social turbulence. In 2003, the nationwide per capita disposable income of city dwellers was 8, 472 yuan while the net income of rural inhabitants only 2, 622 yuan. In that year, some media released "China 400 richest" whose total wealth was 301.1 billion yuan, three times as much as that of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Guizhou Province in 2000. A report issued by the Ministry of Finance in 2003 showed that the overall gap of residents' income, represented by Gini Coefficient (Gi) was widening every year and has gone beyond the internationally recognized bottom line. The figure was 0.282 in 1991, 0.456 in 1998, 0.457 in 1999, 0.458 in 2000, an increase of 1.62 times in ten years. Professor Li Qiang with the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tsinghua University pointed out some new characteristics of the wealth differentiation in recent years. The differentiation at large is exasperated while the rate of differentiation was slower than that in the middle of 1990s; serious wealth concentration; severe differentiation among regions; peak differentiation between cities and rural areas; serious internal differentiation in cities and rural areas. In terms of social structure, China is still a pyramid society in which there is a big shortage of middle class while underclass and class with medium and low income are unduly separated from the whole society, forming economic bottom society with related culture and social value. Li Peilin, researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences held that we must tackle the problem of fairness from adjusting the income distribution policy and regulation. Under the system of social market economy, initial distribution is mainly determined by fair play and market mechanism and the state mainly depends on laws, regulations and policies to effect influences and controls on the re-distribution. If the state over-interfere with the initial distribution in the market, it will definitely affect efficiency, while there will be widened gap should the state give it a free rein.

From People's Daily Online 03/17/2004

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Hong Kong: Constitutional Powers and Responsibilities of Central Authorities in Overseeing Constitutional Development Not Limited to Basic Law

The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Mr Stephen Lam stressed that the Central Authorities had powers and responsibilities under the Chinese Constitution in overseeing the development of the political structure of Hong Kong, and that the powers and roles of the Central Authorities in this respect were not limited to those specified in Annexes I and II of the Basic Law. The Legislative Council (LegCo) Members today (March 17) debated the motion raised by the Honourable James To regarding constitutional development. Mr Lam made the above remarks while responding to Mr To's motion. Mr Lam said, "The Chinese Constitution provides the legal foundations for the nation and holds legal effect of the highest order. It symbolises national sovereignty. The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) provides in the preamble that it was enacted in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The National People's Congress (NPC) established the HKSAR and decided on the systems of the HKSAR in accordance with Articles 31 and 62 of the Constitution respectively." He said, "In enacting the Basic Law, the NPC prescribed the systems to be practised in Hong Kong. This set of systems included the political structure of Hong Kong. As the systems to be practised in Hong Kong, including the political structure, were determined by the Central Authorities in accordance with the Constitution, the Central Authorities clearly have powers and responsibilities in overseeing the development of the political structure of Hong Kong under the Constitution. The powers and roles of the Central Authorities in this respect are not limited to those specified in Annexes I and II of the Basic Law." Responding to the concerns of some Members on whether there was duplication of efforts between the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Research Institute set up by the relevant departments of the Central Authorities and the Constitutional Development Task Force of the SAR Government, Mr Lam said, "The establishment of the Institute underlines the importance which the Central Authorities attach to the future development of Hong Kong. As the Central Authorities care much about Hong Kong's developments, it is very natural that they would wish to conduct research through different channels. However, if there is any need to follow up on the issue of constitutional development within Hong Kong, it will still be up to the SAR Government to take the matter forward." As regards the question of whether it was appropriate for individual LegCo Members to go abroad to attend the hearing of a foreign legislature and to give evidence on the constitutional development of Hong Kong, Mr Lam said, "The SAR Government has made clear the position that the constitutional development of Hong Kong is part of the internal affairs of our country. The Central Authorities and the SAR will address this issue in accordance with the principles and provisions of this Basic Law." Mr Lam said, "As in the case of Principal Officials, when assuming office, LegCo Members must swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the HKSAR of the PRC. We have difficulty in understanding why LegCo Members should appear before a foreign legislature and give evidence on a matter which falls within our internal affairs. We consider their decision to do so to be inappropriate."

From http://www.info.gov.hk/ 03/17/2004

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China Announces Regulations on Fund Management

A press conference held by Chinese State Council on Friday morning explained the newly approved regulations on the management of foundations, or non-profit legal entities. The new regulations will take effect on June 1. The new regulations give a clearer definition of the function and establishment of foundations. A foundation usually engages in public welfare programs, using donations from individuals, legal bodies and organizations. Funds are forbidden to be used for private benefit. The new regulations also raise the requirements for setting up a foundation. A state-level foundation must have registered capital no less than 8 million yuan or about one million US dollars, a sharp increase on the previous requirement of just one hundred thousand yuan.

From http://www.cctv.com 03/19/2004

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New Chinese Regulations Encourage Private & Foreign Involvement in Welfare

China has issued new regulations to allow individuals, enterprises as well as foreigners to set up public welfare foundations on the mainland. Senior officials say the new regulations aim at maximum utility of social resources, as well as fall in line with the requirements of the World Trade Organization. For the first time, the regulations, which come into effect in June, divides foundations in China into two types. Public foundations are allowed to raise funds among the general public, and non-public ones are not allowed to do so. Vice minister of civil affairs Jiang Li explains the idea. Jiang Li says this will expand channels of funding and mobilize all kinds of social resources for public welfare. This will provide a way for better-off individuals and enterprises what want to do something for society. The raising of funds among the general public will be controlled, to limit pressure on the general public. Moreover, China will encourage foreigners and overseas public welfare organizations to set up foundations or representative offices. This is also expected to meet their desire to conduct activities in China after its entry into the World Trade Organization. However, according to the new regulations, these organizations are not allowed to raise funds from the general public on the mainland. Director of the Social Organization Department under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Li Bengong explains some other measures on the management of such organizations in China. First, Li Bengong says they must serve the public welfare of the Chinese mainland, and take on civil responsibilities in their activities. Also, if a foundation is headed by a Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan resident or a foreigner, that particular person has to live no less than three months on the mainland every year. All public foundations will enjoy preferential tax policies, concrete measures of which are being worked out by the ministry of finance and the state taxation administration. Meanwhile, they'll be put under stricter and more transparent public supervision. For example, the foundations will be required to publicize its annual work report through media channels that will be designated by the government. By the end of last year, there were about 1200 foundations all across China, among which 80 are national foundations under direct administration of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Statistics in 2002 show these national foundations possess about 375 million US dollars in funds, with annual spending of nearly 25 million US dollars on public welfare.

From CRIENGLISH.com 03/19/2004

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China Adjusts Currency Policy

The central bank, the People's Bank of China, says currency policies should be adjusted according to the country's economic situation, and at the same time, macro economic policy should be consistent and stable. It says a stable currency policy should continue and growth of bank loans should be curbed, while policy adjustment should be directed at preventing inflation and financial risks. The bank says the deposit and loan interest rates of the reminbi should be kept stable in the near term.

From CRIENGLISH.com 03/25/2004

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JAPAN: Proposal to Revise Consumer Rights Law Approved

A task force of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday approved a proposed amendment to the Consumer Protection Basic Law to widen the scope of consumer rights and encourage them to be self-reliant. The proposed legislation, jointly drafted by the LDP and its coalition partner, New Komeito, stipulates that the safety of consumers should be assured as part of consumer rights. The scope of rights in the proposed law includes receiving swift relief measures in case of damage and reflecting consumer opinions in administrative policymaking. In the first full-scale revision of the law, which came into effect in 1968, policymakers are urged to help consumers become more self-reliant -- a shift from the current law's basic concept of protecting consumers. The word "protection" would be removed from the name of the law, often dubbed the "constitution for consumers," which was established after a series of corporate scandals that caused serious damage to consumers in the 1950s and 1960s, including the Morinaga arsenic-contaminated milk scandal in 1955. The LDP said the revision is designed to catch up with new high-tech products and services. The LDP and New Komeito will approve the proposal soon and submit it to the current Diet session next week in the form of a bill sponsored by lawmakers. In the process of drafting the amendment, the LDP had proposed defining consumers' responsibilities. But it backed off in the face of opposition from New Komeito. The two parties created a clause calling for consumers to "give due consideration" to the protection of intellectual property rights, which observers say would serve as grounds for the government to prohibit purchases of illegally copied products. Among other features of the amendment, the government would be obliged to draw up basic policy plans to assist consumers. Prefectural governments would have to set up complaint-handling channels similar to those at smaller communities under the current law.

From The Japan Times 03/06/2004

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Civil Servant Held for Campaigning

Tokyo police on Wednesday arrested a civil servant employed by the central government on suspicion of distributing fliers on behalf of the Japanese Communist Party last year. Such behavior would violate a law restricting political activities by civil servants, police said. Akio Horikoshi, a 50-year-old employee of the Social Insurance Agency, was arrested Wednesday. Horikoshi allegedly distributed JCP fliers at more than 100 locations in Tokyo between Oct. 19 and Nov. 3 last year, ahead of the Nov. 9 general election for the House of Representatives. He has owned up to the charge, they said.

From The Japan Times 03/04/2004

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Japan Approves Bills to Authorise Wartime Cooperation with US

TOKYO, (AFP) - Japan's cabinet approved a set of bills, including measures to authorise US-Japanese military cooperation in case of an attack on the country, a government official said. The government will shortly submit the seven bills to parliament, in order to be enacted into law before the current session ends on June 16, the official said. The bills are part of Japan's efforts to acquire its first legal framework for responding to military attack since World War II. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ordered his ministers to ensure smooth passage of the bills. "Considering the importance and emergence of the bills, I think we need to pass the bills as soon as possible," Koizumi was quoted by Jiji Press as saying at a cabinet meeting. "I would like ministers concerned to cooperate in upcoming procedures for the passage in the Diet," he said. In June last year, legislation was enacted to expand the power of the prime minister and the military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, in emergency situations, prompting concern in some Asian countries victimised by Japan's wartime aggression. Although the Japanese constitution renounces war in settling international disputes, it has long been generally accepted that Tokyo retains the right to self-defense. One of the bills approved would enable the prime minister to allow the US military to use privately-owned land or buildings if Japan came under attack or the government anticipated an attack. The package of bills also provides a legal basis for Japan to provide personnel and necessary materials for the US military in case of emergency, and for Japanese and US forces to use sea and air ports, roads, public infrastructure and radio frequencies. While Japan and the United States have maintained security cooperation since they concluded a security treaty in 1951, the scope of their cooperation at an operational level had not been defined until now. Successive governments under the Liberal Democratic Party have pressed for such legislation, but the Koizumi administration became the first to submit legislation to parliament after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

From AFP 03/09/2004

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Cabinet Endorses Diluted Bill to Safeguard Whistle-Blowers

In response to a spate of insider revelations of corporate wrongdoing in recent years, the Cabinet endorsed a bill Tuesday to protect whistle-blowers from employer retaliation under certain conditions. The government is aiming for Diet passage of the bill before the current session ends June 16, enabling it to take effect as early as April 2006, government officials said. The bill would prevent employers from penalizing employees through dismissal, demotion or salary cuts for only revealing illegal corporate behavior that runs counter to the public interest. But the definition of whistle-blowers to be protected under the legislation was narrowed from an original draft issued last year. The watered-down version is apparently deferring to the interests of the business community, which feared revelations of corporate wrongdoing would increase if whistle-blowers were broadly protected. Consumer groups and legal experts have expressed concern that the legislation may in fact discourage whistle-blowers. Major corporate misdeeds exposed by whistle-blowers include the 2002 revelation that the now-defunct Snow Brand Foods Co. falsely labeled imported beef as domestic to defraud the government buyback scheme for domestic cattle hit by mad cow disease, and the failure of Asada Nosan Co. to report a massive outbreak of bird flu last month at one of its poultry farms in Kyoto Prefecture. The proposed bill is supposed to protect current and retired employees, including temporary staff, at companies and their business partners, as well as civil servants. They will be protected for reporting what they believe are illegal acts to in-house company organs, public administrators, the media and consumer protection groups. But reports to media and consumer protection groups are permitted under the bill only if the whistle-blowers fear the companies will destroy evidence. The government envisages that the bill will protect whistle-blowers for reporting what they believe to be violations of any of seven specific laws, including the Penal Code, the Securities and Exchange Law, and the Food Sanitation Law, the officials said. The government plans to increase the number of laws to be covered by the bill to several hundred by the time it takes effect, they said. The law will not take effect for two years to give the government time to fine-tune an expanded list of laws and for all parties involved to be well-prepared for the new measures. The bill also stipulates that the new law be reviewed five years after taking effect. The bill has been watered down from an earlier version drafted by the Cabinet Office last year, narrowing down the opportunities for whistle-blowers to come forward. The final draft stipulates that protection is warranted when "a criminal act is about to take place," instead of when one is "feared to take place" as in the initial draft. The opposition camp, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, criticized the bill Monday as insufficient due to the limits imposed. The Asada Nosan Funai chicken farm in the town of Tanba, Kyoto Prefecture, came under harsh public criticism for failing to report mass chicken deaths for about a week. The prefectural government inspected it Feb. 27 only after receiving an anonymous tip.

From The Japan Times 03/10/2004

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Municipal Merger Law to Be Updated

The Cabinet endorsed three bills Tuesday to update legislation to promote mergers of local administrations. Officials said one of the bills calls for prefectures to play a greater role in promoting mergers of towns and cities. It is designed to replace a law expiring next March on promotion of municipality mergers. The new law would operate for five years beginning in April 2005. It would ask prefectures to work out basic merger initiatives and governors to back concrete plans. The second bill covers revisions to the current law, including transitional steps until the law expires. The third bill would amend the Local Autonomy Law to simplify procedures to merge municipalities belonging to different prefectures.

From The Japan Times 03/10/2004

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Security Bills Merit Deliberation

For all the talk about defending the country against possible armed attacks from abroad, Japan has no legal framework for protecting civilian populations in these national emergencies. Now, belatedly but necessarily, the government is seeking Diet approval of such legislation as a followup to the military contingency package that took effect in June. The "national protection bill" is one of seven bills, all related to the contingency package, that the Cabinet approved Tuesday morning for submission to the Diet. They include plans to facilitate U.S. military activities under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. All these measures would effectively conclude Japan's on-and-off efforts, begun in 1977, to establish full-fledged defense legislation. More remarkable, however, is the buildup of legislation in the arena of international security. In 1992, following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, to which Japan made a substantial financial contribution, a landmark law was enacted that opened the way for the Self-Defense Forces to participate in U.N.-mandated peacekeeping operations. Under this law SDF troops have been dispatched to various places around the globe, including Cambodia, Mozambique and East Timor. The SDF has taken on more active roles in subsequent years. Under the 2001 law to fight international terrorism, created a month after the 9/11 attacks, the Maritime Self-Defense Force deployed a flotilla of refueling ships and destroyers in the Indian Ocean to support operations against the Taliban. Then came the war in Iraq, which prompted Japan in July 2003 to legalize for the first time an SDF dispatch to a virtual war zone. Moves to bolster Japan-U.S. defense cooperation in times of military crisis in areas around this country had already picked up momentum, leading to the enactment in 1999 of enabling legislation for the updated cooperation guidelines worked out in 1997. Thus the nation now has a three-dimensional system of security legislation -- national, regional and international -- that gives the SDF greater maneuverability than at any time since it was created 50 years ago. The followup bills would nearly complete this system. The most notable of these bills is one that would safeguard civilian populations. Specifically, it defines roles to be played by the central government, local governments and other organizations in coordinated efforts to protect residents, such as during evacuation and relief activities. It would be unfortunate, though, if the belated presentation of this all-important bill created the perception that the government may be attaching less importance to public safety than military efficiency. Protection comes with a price: cooperation with the government and the SDF. The bill, while stressing the voluntary nature of cooperation, says people should provide "such cooperation as may be requested." Predictably, it is devoid of strong measures of the kind that characterized the World War II program of total mobilization. Still, a degree of coercion is unavoidable in vital areas of activity, such as use of land and housing as field hospitals, procurement of medicine and food, and recruitment of medical personnel. Some restrictions on basic human rights would also be unavoidable in order to protect citizens' lives and property. It is essential, however, that such restrictions be limited to a necessary minimum lest they exceed the bounds of relevant constitutional provisions. History shows that civil rights and liberties have all too often been ignored in the name of prosecuting a war. Such mistakes must not be repeated. Another important bill -- one that would facilitate U.S. operations -- calls for closer military cooperation between the two countries. Cooperation would include offering private land and housing for building positions, as well as supplying essential goods such as weapons and ammunition. These moves would likely raise further questions about Japanese defense policy and stimulate the debate on constitutional revision. The need for contingency legislation is widely recognized. But opinion is split, as it has been ever since the SDF came into being, over a constitutional clause that explicitly renounces war and the use of force as a means of settling international disputes. There also remain concerns about the possible abuse of human rights in times of security emergencies. The government and the ruling coalition intend to get all seven bills through the Diet during the current ordinary session that ends in June. While approval is a near certainty given the majority held by the ruling parties, it would be unwise to rush action. With the security-policy debate at a crucial juncture, all of these proposals, particularly the one on civilian protection, need to be thoroughly deliberated.

From The Japan Times 03/10/2004

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Cabinet Office to Revoke NPO Licenses for First Time

The Cabinet Office said Friday it will revoke the licenses of five nonprofit organizations that have corporate status because the groups either failed to submit activity reports or because their representatives were arrested in criminal cases. The revocations, effective upon notification reaching the five, will be the first since the NPO law took effect in 1998, the office said. The Cabinet Office said it intervened to act against the rising number of malicious groups operating as NPOs, although the law is meant to minimize administrative involvement in order to respect corporate autonomy. The Cabinet Office will revoke the license of a Tokyo-based research group on consumer affairs because its director was arrested for allegedly extorting 30 million yen in cash from construction company Haseko Corp. The office said it determined that "the illegal behavior damaged the group's credibility." An association on management of septic tanks based in Fukuoka Prefecture will have its license revoked because its director was arrested in November 2002 for allegedly transporting human waste without a permit. The Cabinet Office said it had requested a report on the alleged violation but the group failed to respond. The other three groups, all based in Tokyo, failed to submit activity reports to the Cabinet Office for three years and had no actual operations, the office said. In December, the office considered revoking the licenses of six NPOs, including the five cited above. The groups were given an opportunity to explain themselves, but the office said it did not receive replies of sufficient merit to withdraw the planned revocation. One Kyoto-based group voluntarily disbanded. The groups whose licenses are revoked can apply for new ones, which would be granted if no problems are found, the office said. Incorporated NPOs are independent from the state.

From The Japan Times 03/13/2004

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Monetary Policy Left Unchanged

The Bank of Japan Policy Board on Tuesday left its monetary policy unchanged amid a gradual recovery in the nation's economy. After a two-day meeting, the nine-member Policy Board unanimously decided that the central bank will continuously inject money into the banking system to ensure that the balance of banks' deposits at the BOJ stays between 30 trillion yen and 35 trillion yen. "The current monetary policy is effective to help the private sector to raise funds by supplying a large volume of cash to markets," BOJ Gov. Toshihiko Fukui told a news conference after the policy meeting. The BOJ released its monthly economic assessment the same day, stating that the economy is recovering, backed by strong exports and growing corporate capital expenditure.

From The Japan Times 03/17/2004

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Japan Reconsiders Alien Reporting System

TOKYO, China (UPI) -- Japan's Justice Ministry said Thursday it would review an online service for reporting suspected illegal aliens following protests from rights groups. The service, set up Feb. 16, encourages people to anonymously submit the identity, workplace and address of suspected illegal foreign residents to the Immigration Bureau by e-mail. The ministry had received complaints about the system from groups that support foreign nationals living in Japan, Japan Today reports. The service promotes racial discrimination and stigmatizes foreigners, the groups claimed. Those who provide medical and counseling services to undocumented foreigners said their humanitarian efforts could be hindered. There are an estimated 250,000 illegal aliens in Japan. In 2002, the Immigration Bureau received tips from the public by phone or mail that led to the apprehension of 75,000 foreigners. The e-mail system increased the number of such tips.

From http://washingtontimes.com/ 03/18/2004

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Japan to Ease Up on Currency Intervention

TOKYO - The Japanese monetary authorities have decided to scale down their intervention in the currency markets now that the domestic economy is recovering, a newspaper report said on Friday. With Japan's economy recovery intact and amid growing criticism of its intervention policy from its allies, especially Washington, Tokyo has decided that massive yen-selling is no longer necessary, the Mainichi Shimbun reported. The daily cited an 'international monetary source', usually taken to mean an official at the finance ministry which formulates intervention policy. The newspaper said Tokyo will, however, maintain its policy of intervening in the market to counter any drastic movements or correct exchange rates that deviate from economic fundamentals. Japan has conducted massive intervention in the past year or so to stop the yen's rise against the US dollar from hurting an export-led economic recovery. A higher yen makes Japanese exports more expensive and erodes overseas American dollar income while cutting import prices and contributing to deflationary pressures in the economy.

From http://business-times.asia1.com.sg/ 03/19/2004

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Cabinet OK's Liberalization Plan

A three-year plan to promote regulatory reforms approved Friday by the Cabinet focuses on deregulation in 17 priority areas, including the medical, education and agricultural fields, in which the government plans to allow stock companies to do business. The government also will establish a council on the promotion of regulatory reforms to succeed the Council for Regulatory Reforms, chaired by Orix Corp. Chairman Yoshihiko Miyauchi, which is set to be dissolved at the end of March. The new council, comprising experts from the private sector, will promote the government's policy of letting the private sector take the initiative in carrying out regulatory reforms. The fiscal 2004-06 plan points out that implementation of the regulatory reforms still has a long way to go. It spells out 17 priority areas for deregulation, including a plan to lift a ban on joint-stock companies operating medical institutions and schools, as well as a plan to extend the validity period of automobiles examined under the automobile inspection system. Under the current system, new automobiles have to undergo an inspection three years after they are purchased and be inspected every two years after that. The plan praises the special structural reform zones where regulations are eased, if only in a limited area, saying they point the way for nationwide regulatory reforms. Joint-stock companies already are allowed to operate nursing care homes for elderly people in such zones, a project included in the 17 priority areas, and the government plans to allow firms to operate such homes across the country. The new council, which will comprise a maximum of 13 experts, will be established along with the regulatory reforms promotion headquarters comprising the prime minister and related ministers. The council will be tasked with monitoring progress on deregulation. The headquarters will respect the council's opinions, which will be reflected in the basic policies mapped out in April for the fiscal year. To help the public better understand the achievements of the reforms, the plan stipulates that a regulatory impact analysis be introduced to report savings and other benefits resulting from deregulation.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 03/20/2004

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Gov't to Improve Privacy-Related Laws

The government said Tuesday it will improve the nation's legal system to counter privacy violations by tailoring privacy protection laws according to the types of information ranging from industrial secrets to medical data. The government spelled out its stance in response to questions from House of Representatives member Satoshi Shima of the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan. Under the existing Penal Code, the theft of "information" cannot be penalized because information is not tangible. The government said there is a need to shape privacy protection laws according to the types of information involved, including one's credit record, medical history, resident registry and other personal information. The government said it can better protect personal information by tailoring the laws rather than applying a blanket measure through the criminal code.

From http://asia.news.yahoo.com/ 03/22/2004

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Constitution Change Needed for Japan to Have Army: Koizumi

LONDON: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hinted that he would seek to change the country's outdated constitution to allow for Japan's Self-Defence Forces to be called an army. "Under the Japanese constitution we are not allowed to call the Self-Defence Forces (SDF) an army, but to the eyes of anyone outside the country, they are an army," Koizumi said in an interview with London's Times newspaper. "Several points in the constitution are not quite logical in the light of commonsense," he said. "In the future, when the amendment of the constitution comes up, this question of the naming of the Self-Defence Forces will also become part of the debate," he said. Japan has sent some 550 ground troops to the southern Iraqi city of Samawa as part of the US-led coalition's humanitarian work. The mission is the first by Japanese troops to a country where fighting is going on since World War II, and has caused controversy because of the nation's post-war pacifist constitution, which bans the use of force in settling international disputes. Koizumi told The Times he could give no blanket assurances Japan would not be targeted by terrorists given its commitment of troops to Iraq and following bomb explosions a fortnight ago in Madrid. "There's always a possibility that Japanese interests will be targeted," he said. "I can't say that there will be no terrorist attack. What I can do is to make sure that we are fully prepared against attacks," he said. Koizumi has pledged to keep Japanese troops in Iraq on a humanitarian mission, regardless of Spain's move to withdraw its soldiers from the war-torn country within months.

From AFP 03/25/2004

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WWII Chinese Forced Laborers Win Damages in Landmark Ruling

NIIGATA - In a landmark ruling, the Niigata District Court on Friday ordered the Japanese government to compensate Chinese who were forced to labor in Japan during World War II. Presiding Judge Noriyoshi Katano ordered the government and Niigata-based harbor transport company Rinko Corp to pay 88 million yen in damages to the 12 plaintiffs including 10 former laborers who were forced to work at Niigata port during the war. The government was apparently shocked by the ruling, the first time that a Japanese court has ordered the state to compensate for wartime forced labor. "It was a very severe ruling for the government," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters. The government spokesman did not say whether Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's administration will appeal. But Hosoda said China renounced its demand for war reparations from Japan in the 1972 Joint Communique signed by the two countries. The Niigata court's decision came three days after the Sapporo District Court rejected an 860 million yen damages suit against the Japanese government and six companies filed by 43 Chinese nationals who were forced to work at coal mines and construction sites in Hokkaido during World War II. According to the ruling, the laborers were forcibly brought from China to Japan in 1944 and made to do work such as carrying coal at Niigata port. They received little food, were abused and were not paid. The other two of the 12 plaintiffs are relatives of a deceased forced laborer. The court acknowledged that the Chinese were forced to perform hard labor under poor working conditions for Rinko and that the defendants failed to comply with their obligations to ensure safe working conditions. "Their lives, physical safety and freedom were infringed," Katano said in handing down the ruling. The 12 plaintiffs had demanded that the government and the company pay 275 million yen in redress, claiming that their being forcefully taken from China to Japan was "an illegal act conducted jointly by Japan and the company." The judge on Friday dismissed the defendants' arguments that the statute of limitations for the crimes had passed. The government also claimed that Japanese law of the time exempts the state from compensation demands. Applause filled the court room when the decision was announced Friday, with some plaintiffs and supporters shedding tears over the landmark ruling. "This is a historic decision," said one supporter who attended the court session. One of the plaintiffs, Zhang Wenbin, 83, said earlier, "I want the Japanese government and companies to face history, compensate and apologize." Rinko Corp, previously known as Niigata Koun, was established in 1905, has a capital of 1.95 billion yen and is engaged in harbor transportation and real estate, according to its web site. During the war, about 39,000 Chinese were brought to Japan and forced to work, a report by the Japanese Foreign Ministry says. In a similar lawsuit in 2002, the Fukuoka District Court ruled for the first time that the Japanese government and a mining company both committed a crime in using wartime slave labor. But the court ordered only the company to pay compensation and excluded the state, agreeing with the government's argument that it cannot be held responsible.

From Kyodo News 03/27/2004

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SOUTH KOREA: Revised Laws May Help Businesses

Finance Minister Lee Hun-jai said on Tuesday (Feb. 24) that revisions to existing laws could be implemented to invigorate South Korea's businesses. Speaking to heads of the country's major economic think tanks, the chief economic policymaker said that by achieving greater than 5 percent growth this year, the country could deal with unemployment and other issues. The deputy prime minister for finance and economy also told participants at the meeting held at the Bankers Club that the main focus now was to create jobs, including temporary ones. He reaffirmed the administration's plan including enhancing corporate transparency and re-regulating governance structures to conform to international standards. Also present at the luncheon meeting were Korea Development Institute President Kim Choong-soo, Korea Institute of Public Finance head Song Dae-hee, Korea Labor Institute President Lee Won-duck and Korea Center for International Finance director Kim Chang-lok. LG Economic Research Institute President Lee Youn-ho and Samsung Economic Research Institute chief Jung Ku-hyun were also present along with top economic experts from five other think tanks.

From http://www.korea.net/ 02/25/2004

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Civic Groups to Boycott Protest Law

A coalition of 85 civic organizations including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions declared Thursday that they will wage a campaign to boycott a revised law on assembly and demonstration, calling it a reform for the worse. "Under the revised law on assembly and demonstration, which passed the National Assembly at the end of last year and became effective beginning this month, authorities could ban marches on major Seoul roads for the reason of hampering traffic and prohibit gatherings near foreign diplomatic missions and military facilities," said a member of the coalition. "In addition, as it contains a clause banning possibly violent and noisy rallies, the legislation violates the Constitution by blocking virtually all assemblies and demonstrations." These groups vow that they will wage a campaign to revise the law by boycotting the new law and holding a signature-collecting drive. "We even plan on rallies to protest the law," the member said. About this, police responded that some civic groups misunderstood or distorted the meaning of the law, which they say was enacted on the basis of a national consensus to reform the culture of assembly and demonstration. "The revised law is to guarantee the freedom of expression as much as possible while preventing possible inconvenience to citizens at the same time," said an official. (by Jang Jun-sung)

From http://english.chosun.com/ 03/04/2004

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Special Bill for Engineering/Science Majors Passed

The National Assembly passed a special bill to extend assistance to engineering & science majors. The bill, which passed on March 2, is aimed at strengthening national science and technology competitiveness. The ministry of science and technology said that the passage of the bill would enable the government to actively pursue measures for those specializing in science and engineering fields and improve their current dilemma more comprehensively and efficiently. The ministry said that the act is designed to foster engineering and science workforce more systematically and provide legal basis to arrange a sufficient support system in order to enhance their social status and ensure better treatment. Under the act, the government will provide grants to researchers who have made distinguished achievements during their tenure of office and livelihood subsidies after retirement. Scholarship opportunities for outstanding students will also be greatly expanded. The bill also calls for the establishment of a support center for the engineering and science workforce in provincial cities to expand employment opportunities. The bill will take effect in six months, with its enforcement due in the latter half of this year.

From http://www.kois.go.kr/ 03/04/2004

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New Law Raises Legislators' Number by 26

The National Assembly passed a new Elections Law on Tuesday (Mar. 9), increasing the number of legislators in parliament from 273 to 299. Assembly officials said the increase reflected population shifts ahead of the April 15 general elections. Under the new law, 243 legislators will be chosen by direct voting and there will be 15 more districts. Fifty-five seats will be allotted according to votes each party gets in elections.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/11/2004

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National Assembly Passes Impeachment Bill

The National Assembly passed South Korea's first-ever presidential impeachment motion on Friday (Mar. 12), suspending President Roh Moo-hyun from office. The passage of the opposition-introduced impeachment motion against President Roh Moo-hyun, requiring a two-thirds approval by the 271-member unicameral legislature, was consented by a 193 majority in favor and 2 against. The Constitutional Court has 180 days to preside over the bill and decide whether to indict the president or not. Prime Minister Goh Kun will act as the chief executive until the Constitutional Court makes its verdict. No major changes wil be made in the overal political structure.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/13/2004

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S. Korean Acting President Vetos Bill on Limiting Presidential Power to Grant Special Amnesty

(Xinhua) -- South Korean Prime Minister Goh Kunand acting president vetoed Tuesday a bill on limiting the president's power to grant special amnesties, reported South Korean Yonhap News Agency. Goh took over the constitutional powers of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun immediately after the opposition parties impeached Roh on March 12 for alleged illegal campaigning, corruption and incompetence in managing the economy. In vetoing the bill at a weekly Cabinet meeting held earlier Tuesday, Goh said, "The bill has the potential to encroach upon the Constitution from a legal perspective." While Goh also stressed the need for the government to pay due attention to the criticism that the government has abused the right to grant special amnesties, saying "The government needs to refrain from exercising the right to giving amnesties which in nature infringe on the substance of the power of the judiciary." Goh also pledged that he will not grant special amnesties whilein office as interim leader of the country. Local media said the veto may jeopardize Goh's fragile relationship with the opposition parties, who led the approval forthe revised amnesty bill in the National Assembly. The government sent the bill back to the National Assembly for redeliberation, said Yonhap. In theory, the parliament can pass the bill with a two-thirds majority again and present it to Goh to force the interim leader to sign it. Few, however, believe the opposition parties will be able to convene a National Assembly session to that end with the April 15 general election just around the corner. The two main opposition parties, the Grand National Party (GNP)and Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), led the country's unicameral parliament passed the bill on March 2. The revised bill demands president must to firstly ask parliament opinion before he or she wants to amnesty criminals who spend less than one year in prison. The GNP and the MDP put forward the bill aiming at preventing Roh Moo-hyun to use the amnesty right to pardon some former government officials who involved in illegal 500 billion won (431 million US dollars) remittance to the Democratic People's Republicof Korea (DPRK) in 2000. Those former officials in the former President Kim Dae-jung's government were put into prison in 2003. Before Roh was halted his presidential rights, he expressed his preference of vetoing down the bill for it may infringe his constitutional right to grant special amnesties.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/23/2004

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Ministry Offers Incentives to Boost Birth Rate

In a bid by the government to boost the falling birth rate, South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare on Friday (March 26) disclosed a plan to tackle the social issue of its aging society. According to the latest statistics made available by the National Statistical Office, South Korean women gave birth to an average of 1.17 babies over their lifetime in 2002, compared to 1.3 just a year ago.

From http://www.kois.go.kr/ 03/26/2004

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INDONESIA: House Endorses Judicial Laws Revisions

The House of Representatives put the organization and administration of judicial institutions under the Supreme Court on Monday, ending the control over the judicial system by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. The transfer was made when lawmakers endorsed two bills revising the laws on public courts and state administrative courts. The endorsement of the bills is hoped will bring about an independent judicial system in the country. In a speech, Minister of Justice and Human Right Yusril Ihza Mahendra said the two bills would serve as the legal basis for the creation of an independent judicial system. "We will create a judicial system that is free from extrajudicial interference and corruption," he said during a House plenary meeting. The revisions to the laws move the organization and administration of judicial affairs to the Supreme Court. Despite the importance of the plenary session, which was presided over by House Deputy Speaker A.M. Fatwa of the National Mandate Party (PAN), relatively few legislators attended. During the meeting, Fatwa repeatedly called on faction chairpersons to invite their members to attend. By 11 a.m. just 220 of the ..... legislators in the House had signed the attendance sheet. Fatwa said that by 11:30 a.m. that number had grown to 252 legislators, though only about 90 legislators actually appeared in the meeting room. He said this poor attendance was understandable given the packed schedules of legislators. The chairman of the House's Legislation Body, Zain Badjeber, said that under the revised laws, the Supreme Court would have authority in the improvement of the judicial, administrative and financial affairs of the courts. The Supreme Court also will have the responsibility in the supervision of judges, he said. According to Zain, legislators were able to reach a consensus only after serious discussion of the requirements to become a judge. According to the revised laws, candidates to become judges must be at least 25 years old and have served as civil servants. Judges can be appointed by the heads of district courts only after they have 10 years experience. During the plenary meeting, spokespersons for all the factions expressed hope for the creation of an independent judicial system. Mangara Tunggal Lumban Tobing of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said the country's judicial system had lost the trust of the public. M. Akil Mochtar from Golkar added that the revisions to the two laws would be effective only if they were implemented by professional and qualified judges. He said there must be a better recruitment system to produce qualified and professional judges.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/02/2004

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NGOs Demand Access to Law Making Process

Nearly 100 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) grouped under the Coalition for Participative Policies (KKP) have called for the inclusion of stipulations ensuring public participation in the bill on law and legislation-making procedures. "We urge legislators to use the delay to incorporate articles that will ensure the right of the public to participate in any law-making process," coalition coordinator Afrizal Tjoetra said on Thursday. The demand came one day after the House of Representatives (DPR) and the government decided to delay deliberation of the bill following disagreements over contentious issues. The bill's deliberation will resume in the next session scheduled to start on April 12. The unresolved issues are those of Articles 3, 7, and 58. Article 3 stipulates that the newly amended 1945 Constitution is the fundamental law and superior to all other legislation, while Article 7 deals with the hierarchy of laws and legislations, and Article 58 determines the people's participation in the law-making process. Article 3 has two sections. Supported by Golkar and the Daulatul Ummah Unity (PDU), the first section says that the Constitution is the fundamental law and is superior to all other legislation. The second section says the Constitution is the fundamental law of the state and shall be published in the State Gazette. This section is supported by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the United Development Party (PPP), the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Reform Star Party (PBR), the military and police, the Crescent Star Party (PBB), and the Indonesian Nationhood Unity (KKI). Article 58 of the bill stipulates that the public can give verbal or written inputs during either the preparation or deliberation of legislations. The coalition considers that the stipulation is not powerful enough to compel legislators to accommodate input from the public. Bivitri Susanti, director of the Center for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies (PSHK), said the stipulation should say: "The public has the right" instead of "the public can". "The legislators must revise the bill, otherwise the delay will be useless," she added. Meanwhile, fellow PSHK member Rival G. Ahmad said the bill should thoroughly regulate public participation in every step of deliberation. The coalition proposed that the bill should also include the obligation of the House to provide information on the steps of deliberation, restriction of closed-door deliberation, obligation of the legislators to consult the public, and the chance for the public to request judicial review of any laws which were deliberated without public involvement. "This bill does not guarantee public participation in the deliberation of bills," Afrizal said. KKP members include the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI), the Center for Electoral Reform (CETRO), Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Imparsial, Institute for Press and Development Studies (LSPP), the Jakarta-chapter Legal Aid Institute (LBH), Transparency International, and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/05/2004

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Independent Figures May Have Chance for Presidency

The Constitutional Commission has proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would allow non-partisan candidates a chance to run for the presidency. The commission's deputy chairman Albert Hasibuan said on Tuesday its 31-strong team of experts had supported the proposal, which had been demanded by non-governmental organizations during the deliberation of the presidential election bill in 2002. "Details of the technicalities and requirements will be set out in separate legislation," Albert, a former member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), told the press after an internal meeting here on Tuesday. The proposal looks certain to face strong opposition from the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the institution to which the commission is accountable. Article 6 of the Constitution says presidential and vice presidential candidates must be nominated by a political party or a coalition of political parties. The stipulation has been widely criticized for denying non-partisan and independent candidates the chance to run, despite the fact that the parties are widely distrusted by the public. M. Fadjrul Falaakh, another commission member, said giving independent candidates the chance to run would strengthen democracy and the presidential system itself. Albert and Fadjrul said, however, that strict requirements would be needed so as to limit the number of people nominating themselves as presidential candidates. Apart from accepting the idea of opening up the presidential contest, the commission members also agreed to encourage a one-round presidential election. "We need to have a one-round presidential election to save money and energy," said Fadjrul, a legal science expert from Gadjah Mada University (UGM). The current legislation requires a presidential candidate and his/her running mate to gain more than fifty percent of the votes to be elected president and vice president respectively. If no candidate wins more than fifty percent of the votes in the first round of the election, a second-round election will be held to determine which of the two frontrunners will be elected president. Fadjrul said that the current system could be simplified by asking voters to list their preferences on their ballot papers. Aside from voting for their first choice candidates, the public would also be asked to list the other candidates in their order of preference, starting with their No. 1 choice. "By adopting this system, we would be sure to get a president based on a one-round election. This would save a lot of money and energy," said Fadjrul. The commission is primarily tasked with reviewing the amended Constitution, and is expected to submit its final report to the MPR next month.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/17/2004

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MALAYSIA: Malaysian Cyberlaws Need to Keep Up

Despite being among the first countries in the world to introduce cyberlaws, Malaysia cannot afford to remain at a standstill. New developments in technology, products and services related to wireless content will keep raising new legal and regulatory issues, argued lawyer Wong Shiou Sien. Nor should it be left to the Government alone to drive ongoing change in this area, Wong said at the Third MSC International Cyberlaws Conference yesterday. Keeping up with technology, let alone its economic and social impact, would be difficult enough for the lawmaking and regulatory process. "Industry forums and consumer groups have a role to play in identifying the issues that affect mobile content" and coming up with solutions for them, she said. Wong cited statistics from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) which showed that from 1993 to 2003, the mobile phone penetration rate had grown from 1.7% to 41.3%. The growing importance of mobile phones as a medium for commerce and the rise of new technologies like MMS (multimedia messaging service) and 3G (third-generation cellular technology) would present new challenges to the existing legal environment. Wong noted that the Communications and Multimedia Content Forum, established in 2001, had put together a Content Code which was now awaiting registration by the MCMC so that it could come into force. The Content Code was to provide a flexible, practical framework for self-regulation by content providers that could protect users while letting the providers "innovate and grow." But she also mentioned 11 other laws that could also be brought to bear on multimedia content: The Consumer Protection Act, Copyright Act, Defamation Act, Film Censorship Act, Indecent Advertisements Act, Internal Security Act, Penal Code, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act, Trade Descriptions Act and Trade Marks Act. "This list is by no means exhaustive," she said. Application service providers and content application service providers were required under the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) to have licences, but there was an order that specifies which services were exempt from the licensing requirement. However, Wong said that it was not always a straightforward question whether a particular mobile-content provider should have a licence, or for that matter, which kind of licence. The wording of existing laws and regulations might turn out to be ambiguous in relation to new technologies and wireless applications; or a new technology might bring up a new area that required policy to be made. For instance, location-based services, which provide services to where a user is located -- such as traffic information, restaurants or post offices in his vicinity -- would raise a question as to what the service provider could do with information about a user's whereabouts. "Certain Malaysian laws may govern some aspects of location information and services," Wong said. "It is likely that the Personal Data Protection Act, when introduced, will regulate how location information is collected, used and processed." Some location-based services were available in Europe and the United States, but they had yet to be introduced in Malaysia, Wong noted. Another area of interest was spam, or unsolicited commercial e-mail. Spam had grown in the last decade from a minor nuisance (created by lawyers advertising their services on a bulletin-board service) into a threat to the usefulness of e-mail itself, accounting for three-fifths of all e-mail received in the United States. After years of state-level attempts to regulate spam, the United States passed a law effective Jan 1, 2004 -- the CAN-SPAM Act -- that required commercial e-mailers to identify their e-mail messages as advertising; include valid return mail and e-mail addresses; and let recipients opt out of more unsolicited e-mail, Wong noted. But in Malaysia, she said there was a problem with the corresponding law. Section 233(b) of the CMA prohibited the initiation of communications using any applications service with the "intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass" any person. Most spam was intended to sell a product or service, or sometimes to defraud the recipient, but it was debatable whether it was intended to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass; and this, Wong said, might turn out to be a defence for spammers. She also said that with a lot of spam coming from outside the country, laws and regulations effective only in Malaysia would not be enough. Users should use spam filters, delete spam whenever they got it, and avoid websites that generated mailing lists. Service providers should enforce good content management and customer information protection policies. The public needed to be kept educated on their obligations in this regard, Wong said.

From http://star-techcentral.com/ 03/04/2004

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PHILIPPINES: Arroyo Promulgates 2004 Investment Priorities Plan

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has approved the 2004 Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) granting juicy tax and fiscal incentives to economic activities that pursue globally competitive industries as well as encourage microentrepreneurial activities that would generate jobs and provide basic services. Highlighting this year's IPP is a list of new areas of activities including medical tourism, environmental services, packaging and petrochemicals. Some economic activities from the 2003 IPP that were delisted in this year's IPP because they were deemed competitive even without incentives include export traders, service exporters, ship handling and catering to international airlines, and bio-technology projects not commecially undertaken in the Philippines. Projects with government guarantee, such as build-operate transfer and infrastructure projects were not also granted incentives. The IPP is a list of priority economic activities, which prepared by an interagency committed spearheaded by the Board of Investments, and are eligible for juicy government tax and fiscal incentives including, among others, income tax holiday perks of as long as six years. "We are giving incentives to these sectors to further develop needed industries and install vital facilities," said Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, who is also chair of the BOI. In granting incentives again to upstream (naphtha cracker) and midstream activities (polymerization plant which produces polyethylene, polypropylene), Purisima said, "We want to further develop the country's packaging facilities that uses high technology and brand new equipment which is vital to some sectors especially to the food export industry." With the theme "Sustaining Globally Competitive Industries for a Strong Republic," this year's IPP encourages the participation of micro-entrepreneurial and livelihood activities to widen the economic base and spur countryside development through the industry cluster approach. Under the industry cluster approach, Purisima said that only one IC will be permitted per province and it will be endorsed by the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Council. The preferred areas for investments are listed under the national and regional list. The national list includes export activities, mandatory inclusions and other preferred activities while the regional list accounts for the industry clusters and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The ARMM list covers priority activities which have been independently identified by the BOI-ARMM, which can register and administer investments. The IPP also covers activities that are eligible for government tax perks granted to them through special laws or the so called mandatory inclusions. These mandatory inclusions are activities under the industrial tree plantation (Presidential Decree 705); iron and steel (Republic Act 7103); publication or printing of books or textbooks (RA 8047) and; ecological waste management (RA 9003). In the case of the mining sector, Purisima has instructed the BOI to review the incentives given to this sector and propose amendments to enhance the attractiveness of the sector. The review for mining investments was also an offshoot of the Supreme Court decision declaring full foreign ownership in a mining project unconstitutional. Other preferred activities that are retained in this year's IPP include agriculture/fishery production and processing, energy sources, logistics, drugs and medicine, engineered products, information and communications technology, infrastructure, mass housing projects including development and fabrication of housing components, research and development, social service, tourism-related projects endorsed by the Department of Tourism and, motion picture limited to films with historical and documentary films.

From http://www.mb.com.ph 03/22/2004

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Government Will Not Stand in the Way of Entrepreneurs

The government is trying to shed its overprotective instincts and will get out of the way of entrepreneurs as much as possible. In fact, it admitted it was too quick to say "no" in the past, and it is changing its approach. When it comes to reverse bungee jumping, there is usually plenty of screaming. Urban planners were initially worried that all the noise would disturb residents living nearby. So bungee jumps had to stop at 10.30pm daily. Mr Robert Seabrook, General Manager of Frontier Sports, said "It is very much a night-time form of entertainment, particularly here in Singapore where it is rather hot during the day, people come out at night, Clarke Quay is at its busiest at night. We had to turn a lot of people away at 10.30pm when we were closing." Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "After a thorough investigation, of course they establish that there are hardly any residents within 50 metres radius of the bungee jumping site, so if only three people are screaming at the time, it should be alright!" So now bungee jumps can continue till 1am.For Mr Lee this is a "small victory" in getting the Singapore Civil Service to be more responsive. But that's not all - imagine brewing your own beer at home. Well, an entrepreneur wanted to sell kits to do just that. The only catch - anyone brewing beer needs a licence which costs more than $43,000 a year. But the first question the civil servants asked was not even about waiving the fee, it was whether to allow home brewing at all. Mr Lee said: "Many possible objections, we consulted all the agencies and wrote a staff paper, smell, binge drinking, and social disturbances in the neighbourhood. And from Finance Ministry's parochial point of view, loss of tax revenue!" But in the end, bureaucracy made way for enterprise, and home brewers only need a $100 licence which will last for two years.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/10/2004

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Singapore Government to Introduce New Laws to Protect Subcontractors

The Government is going to introduce new laws to help protect sub-contractors from going bust. Some MPs warned that subcontractors are being taken advantage of by main contractors - who don't pay them on time or at all. This results in delays in public projects, like the stalled upgrading in Marine Terrace last year. So new laws will be tabled later this year to ensure subcontractors get payments in instalments as work progresses, failing which they will have access to fast, no-cost mediation. But the Government stressed this is not a panacea to the problems of the construction industry. Instead, contractors need to look for work abroad as the local construction market has fallen by half, from S$20 billion at its peak, to just S$10 billion last year.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/15/2004

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Manpower Ministry Prefers Compulsory Employment Contracts Between Maids and Employers

The Manpower Ministry has said it prefers to have compulsory employment contracts between maids and their employers. However, it will not mandate what the contract should cover. Dr Ng Eng Hen, Acting Manpower Minister, said: "We will advise that they must have clearly defined areas like the scope of duties, hours of work and rest days so that the basic welfare of maids are addressed and outlined upfront. "Dr Ng also said the Government was not in favour of extending the Employment Act to cover all foreign maids. This is because the rules would be a hurdle to employers and maids reaching agreements that meet the needs of both parties.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/19/2004

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THAILAND: New Legislation: Homeowners Face Property Tax

Residential property and landowners will be required to pay property taxes for the first time if a new bill clears Parliament. The bill requires that all of the Kingdom's land and building owners pay up to 0.1 per cent of their property's value annually. The scheme could generate close to Bt47 billion in tax revenues for local governments. Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang said the bill was aimed at replacing current laws that use median prices from 1978 to 1981 to calculate taxes, which allows property owners to pay very low taxes. Under current laws, only buildings and land used for business purposes are taxed, while owners of private residences are exempt. Chaturon said the old laws are considered out of date and unfair. The new bill would base the tax on the market price of properties. He said the tax ceiling would be 0.1 per cent, but local governments would be authorised to set their own rate, as long as it does not exceed the ceiling. Chaturon said owners of unused land would be charged the same tax rate. People older than 60 and poor property owners would not be subject to the new taxes. He said property owners could pay the taxes in instalments and the deadline to submit tax forms would be March each year. Under the bill's provisions, the first year after the law is enacted property owners would be required to pay 50 per cent of the estimated taxes. The rate would increase to 75 per cent in the second year and 100 per cent in the third year. The deputy prime minister said the bill was discussed during a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday. Chaturon said Thaksin approved the bill and asked government agencies concerned to launch public awareness campaigns to explain the need to collect the taxes. At the rate of 0.1 per cent, an owner of a property worth Bt1 million would be required to pay Bt1,000 in tax. Chaturon said the bill was being reviewed by the Council of State and would be submitted to the Cabinet soon to send it to the House of Representatives.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/09/2004

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Draft Legislation: MCOT Calls for Equal Treatment

The Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand (MCOT) has objected to proposed legislation requiring it to obtain operating permission from a new regulatory body while the Public Relations Department is exempted from having to do so. MCOT argues that as a public agency, it too should also be exempted from the requirement, a source said yesterday. Although the agency will likely be privatised in the future, the government will retain a majority stake and MCOT will continue to serve the public and national security, the agency argued. A Cabinet screening committee that deliberated on the proposed bill yesterday agreed unanimously that MCOT should be exempted, said Deputy Prime Minister Vishanu Kruangam, who chaired the meeting. Vishanu said a working group of the panel would hear further views from relevant agencies and forward them to the Cabinet, along with the draft law. Article 12 of the bill to regulate the industry requires all broadcasters - except the Public Relations Department - to get National Broadcasting Commission permission to operate. The commission is soon to be established. MCOT controls two TV stations and more than 60 radio stations across the country. Its director, Mingkwan Sangsuwan, sent a letter of protest to PM's Office permanent secretary Yongyuth Sarasombat, arguing against the clause in question. MCOT's move comes amid growing opposition to the government's plan to privatise the state enterprise by the middle of the year. Critics say the government appears to be rushing the plan, given the delay in setting up the broadcasting commission. Commenting on the iTV contract dispute, Vishanu yesterday admitted the contract the government signed to establish iTV was flawed but it had nothing to do with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's family business Shin Corp. Vishanu said the contract was signed in 1995 by Siam Infotainment, the original group of iTV shareholders, which eventually sold all its shares to Shin Corp. The contract has never been altered. "I read the contract many times and realise that the contract writers had good intentions and this has nothing to do with the prime minister or Shin Corp,'' he said. He said there were two ways to solve the controversy: either deal with problems which occurred from 1995 to January 30 this year, or tackle issues arising from an arbitration panel's ruling on February 1. "I cannot elaborate because it may give a legal hint to [iTV]. I know that there will be more legal problems in the future and we must prevent them,'' he said. The arbitration panel's ruling reduced iTV's 30year concession fee by Bt17 billion. A fierce backlash over the decision resulted in the Finance Ministry ruling that the panel's decision was "unlawful'', saying it went beyond its authority. Vishanu said that if the government gave a concession to a private company to operate another UHF television station and the company wanted to have advertising, iTV could launch a suit against the government for doing so.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/18/2004

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Regulatory Body for Egat

The Energy Ministry is drafting legislation to transfer several key parts of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to a regulatory body. Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej said those parts of the authority charged with procuring land for laying down transmission lines, expropriating land for generating electricity, constructing power plants, and dam and water management would be handed over to a seven-member panel. The ministry has appointed Viset Choopiban, vice minister for Energy, Paron Israsena and Chaianant Samutravanit to select the members, he said. The regulators should have experience in the electricity and energy industry. The committee will be empowered to forecast power demand, formulate investment plans, set rules and govern competition in the building of new power plants. It will also set tariffs and monitor service quality, protect consumer interests, set and govern licences for power businesses, approve interconnecting and distribution systems, expropriate land for power businesses, and jointly control dam management along with the Irrigation Department. Prommin said the panel would be independent from operators.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/27/2004

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VIETNAM: Personal Income Tax Base Rate Rising

The base rate for personal income taxes imposed on salaried Vietnamese workers would be raised to VND5 million (US$318) from the current VND3 million ($190), said a Ministry of Finance senior official. The ministry's General Taxation Department vice director, Nguyen Thi Cuc, said the ministry had submitted a proposal to the Government for an amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance. If approved, it would be forwarded to the National Assembly's standing committee for consideration. "Given the country's high economic growth rate and the people's improved living conditions over the past few years, the readjustment was needed to help the people increase their accumulation and spending," she said. Under the current scheme, a worker who earns VND5.5 million each month is taxed 10 per cent of VND2.5 million (above the VND3 million baseline), which works out to VND250,000. Under the proposed rate the worker will have to pay only VND50,000, 10 per cent of the VND500,000 above the new baseline of VND5 million. The highest income tax rate is slated for 40 per cent and levied on workers whose monthly income exceeds VND25 million. At present, those who earn more than VND15 million a month are subject to an income tax rate of 50 per cent. The income tax would be divided into four rates (10 - 20 - 30 - 40 per cent) instead of five (10 - 20 - 30 - 40 - 50 per cent) as applied currently. In other words, Cuc said, the wider gap between tax rates would also benefit taxpayers. Cuc said her ministry would also ask the legislature to abolish taxes levied on supplementary personal income. Under the wage reform programme being deployed by the Government, even the best-paid State employees would be exempt from the taxes as their income could not exceed the new tax baseline, she said. The proposal is a bid to narrow the gap between income taxes levied on foreign and local people working in the country and a step forward along the path of integration with the world, she noted. Supplements on the income tax levied on proceeds from the transfer of land-use rights are also under consideration. "The proposed rate is lower than 28 per cent as previously requested by the Government," Cuc said, noting that appropriate tax rates would help spur the property market and encourage assets transactions to abide by law. In this regard, commercial and non-commercial transactions will be distinguished. Lower tax rates will be applied to those who have actual demands for residential relocation and longer use the land plot. Tax waivers would be considered for disadvantaged families but such a priority would be made once only for each household, she added. According to the General Taxation Department, if endorsed, the amendments would cost State coffers up to VND300 billion ($19 million) a year.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/01/2004

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Plan to Control Chaotic Property Market

A comprehensive plan designed to stabilise the country's largely unregulated property market will be submitted to the Prime Minister by June. Minister of Construction Nguyen Hong Quan said a weak legal framework was the major cause for the poorly-managed market. Economists said if the market was better managed, some US$5 trillion could be collected for the State from land transfers. Eighty per cent of property trading is done illegally, or on the so-called underground market, a Ministry of Construction official said. In developed countries, sales of land and houses accounts for 20 to 30 per cent of a country's GDP, he said. Ministry officials blamed the existence of an underground market on the low income of most residents. The illegal market, however, has led to sky-high prices. Under the ministry' plan, the revamped property market would become a legal venue for land transfers, leasing, mortgage and consulting services. Residents who hold land-use rights will not be able to sell the rights separately from the buildings on their land, Quan said. Trinh Huy Thuc, head of the ministry's Housing Management, said this would prevent land speculation and lead to more profitable investment. The plan is expected to help attract more investment, including by foreigners and foreign organisations, he said. Thuc also said a transparent financial system and a single-price policy must be introduced. Dang Hung Vo, deputy minister for Natural Resources and Environment, said the State will set prices according to standard prices in an area and will then regulate prices through supply and demand. Thuc said the Govern-ment will also create policies on low-income housing for the poor. "To reach these targets, State-owned enterprises must take the lead in the property market," he said. To stabilise the property market and land prices in particular, the local property market needs the State's intervention, Thuc said. The amended Land Law and the Construction Law, expected to become effective July 1, are expected to pave the way for a more stable property market.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/04/2004

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National Assembly to Appraise Law to Open Up Energy Sector

The 16th session of the National Assembly's Standing Committee ended on Thursday after four days of debate chaired by assembly chairman Nguyen Van An. Vice President Truong My Hoa and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem attended the session, which discussed draft legislation on subjects including electricity, animal health, crime detection, anti-dumping, national reserve and income tax. The meeting also discussed avian flu, new school text books and the role of the National Assembly in foreign affairs. The industry ministry on Monday submitted to the assembly a draft bill to introduce competition in the electricity sector . "It is very important to build the legal framework that will pave the way for the establishment of the country's competitive electricity market," said industry minister Hoang Trung Hai. The legislation would help attract investment in the energy sector and promote state-owned Electricity of Viet Nam's services and products, he said. But committee members said the proposal failed to tackle several issues. They said electricity was a commodity that was not stored, carried and circulated like other goods, and which played a crucial role in sustainable development, especially in industry. They proposed that state-owned firms be allowed to hold a monopoly on power transmission while private companies, including foreign ones, could provide electricity generation and distribution. Ho Duc Viet, head of the National Assembly's division on sciences, technology and environment, backed these proposals. He said they would help generate capital to fund improvements to the country's energy sector. The State should regulate the activities of the energy sector to ensure a stable, equitable and profitable supply of electricity. State intervention should include control of electricity prices and measures to regulate demand and supply of the market, members said. Hai said the industry ministry would appoint a temporary agency to regulate the energy market in the short term as it would take time to set up a permanent agency. The draft law included a section on electricity prices, but some committee members said it failed to protect consumers as it permitted the power supplier to cut off customers who failed to pay a bill within 15 days, but did not fine a supplier which broke a contract with the customer. After joining AFTA and WTO, Viet Nam may have higher electricity prices, resulting from higher production costs, they warned. This would make Vietnamese commodities less competitive on world markets and make the investment environment less attractive, they said.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/05/2004

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BANGLADESH: Govt Okays Change in Constitution

Yes to 45 women's seats, display of president, PM's portraits; plan to add 100 general seats dropped Rezaul Karim. The cabinet yesterday in principle approved a proposal for the 14th amendment to the constitution with a set of six changes, including 45 women's reserved seats, permanent provision for display of portraits of the president and prime minister and speedy swearing-in of lawmakers-elect by the outgoing speaker. The cabinet allowed the plan of the 45 reserved seats for women in parliament, up from 30, to run 10 years with indirect elections and introduced proportionate distribution of the seats among the parliamentary parties. According to a decision at a cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in the chair, the women's seats will also be effective for the current parliament through an interim measure in one of the changes that came after the 13th amendment in 1996. The government dropped its plan to increase general seats from 300 to 400 in the wake of flak from opposition parties and other quarters. The draft bill on the changes will be placed again at a cabinet meeting on Monday for final approval before it is placed in the current parliament session. The parliamentary standing committee on the law ministry will scrutinise the bill that came up with the changes and send it back to the Jatiya Sangsad with recommendations. "We don't want to amend the constitution in 11 minutes as happened during the introduction of one-party BKSAL (Bangladesh Krishak-Sramik Awami League). We are taking time to go through the changes for perfection," Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moudud Ahmed said.

WOMEN'S SEATS
Moudud told journalists that increasing women's seats was a vital poll pledge of the BNP-led alliance voted into office in 2001. The provision of the 45 seats will be effective for the ninth and 10th parliaments. A party commanding at least eight lawmakers in parliament will have a woman legislator, according to a proposal that changes Article 65 of the constitution. "The government is committed to ensuring women's empowerment and will introduce reserved seats for them with the previous provision of indirect elections. The demand for direct polls to reserved seats is not realistic in current context," Moudud said. The proposed bill allows no constituency for the reserved seats: the elections to women's seats will take place after the elections to 300 general seats. The parties will nominate candidates for the seats up for proportional distribution.

INTERIM MEASURE
The move to introduce the reserved seats for the remaining period of the eighth parliament will amend Article 23 of the fourth schedule of the constitution.

PORTRAITS
The cabinet also approved the proposal to hang the portraits of only president and the prime minister in offices of government, semi-government and autonomous organisations in a new clause under Article 4 of the constitution. The president's portrait will be hung only in the offices of the president, speaker and foreign missions abroad and the prime minister's in all offices, including those of the president, speaker and foreign missions. The law minister hailed the constitutional provision for the portraits as a step to end controversy over hanging portraits of leaders in the wake of political changeover. "We are introducing this provision to end controversy."

LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The cabinet okayed a proposal to frame a law on automatic dissolution of local government bodies to clear way for regular elections every five years. A government administrator will take over on the expiry of local bodies' tenures in a move that makes their next polls mandatory in 90 days since. Moudud said the provision changing Article 59 of the constitution came after many elected local bodies staggered into two to three terms without elections because of legal roadblocks. Under the new law, legal barriers and pending cases will not prevent dissolution of the organisations.

SWEARING-IN
The government also allowed an amendment to Article 123 of the constitution, making it mandatory for the outgoing speaker to swear in lawmakers-elect in three days after elections. In the event of the speaker's failure, the chief election commissioner will swear in the lawmakers in the following three days. Moudud said the law was designed to end repeat of the delay the outgoing speaker of the seventh parliament made in swearing in lawmakers of the eighth parliament. The sixth change is the amendment to Article 82 of the constitution to correct its wrong translation.

MOUDUD ON INDIRECT ELECTIONS
The minister said the government stuck to indirect elections to the reserved seats after long discussions on the issue. He said direct polls have three to four formulas, but over two years of discussions in forums in and outside the government and with civil society members and non-governmental organisations made the direct elections for women look unrealistic at the moment. The minister observed that women in Bangladesh are still not in mainstream politics and the government decided to create an atmosphere for direct elections in 10 years. He said it is difficult for the candidates to seek votes from a huge pool of voters. "The numbers will be 13 to 15 lakh for each woman candidate if we go for direct elections to the reserved seats..."

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 03/09/2004

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BHUTAN: Guidelines for Urban Development Activities

The national environment commission (NEC), together with the ministry of works and human settlement has finalised the draft document of the environmental assessment guidelines to be followed for all urban development activities. Besides the regular guidelines that spell out the requirement of proper information like the project details and the need for an environmental clearance before starting any development work, the guidelines also point out the importance of providing project impacts and formulation of mitigation measures accordingly. Interference with traffic and pedestrians because of the disposal of excavated materials along the roadside was also seen as one of the important issues to be mended. "It is usually noticed that the construction materials are laid everywhere causing inconvenience to the pedestrians," said Karma Nidup. "This is one of the issues that the guidelines will address." Spraying the construction site with water to suppress the dust was one such measure pointed out in the guidelines. "The guidelines have been developed in line with the problems that usually occur at the construction site," said Karma Nidup of NEC. After a series of workshops in consultation with the Asian development bank (ADB), the document was drafted to provide the people with a set of guidelines that need to be followed when an applicant forwards the application for some project's environmental clearance. Meanwhile, the six sectoral guidelines in forestry, highways and roads, hydropower, new and existing industries, mines and mineral processing, and power transmission lines have been revised with assistance from ADB to make it more user-friendly. Besides, NEC has also come up with one for the tourism sector which is to be finalised soon.

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/23/2004

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Capital Punishment Abolished in Bhutan

Thimphu - His Majesty the King, in a kasho (royal decree) issued on March 20, the 30th day of the 1st Bhutanese month, abolished capital punishment in the kingdom of Bhutan. The historical decree is momentous, reflecting a profound blend of spiritualism and pragmatism. The implications of capital punishment, in Bhutanese law, is seen as a contradiction both from a religious and legal perspective. Although capital punishment exists as a written law, it is not being invoked. And if the courts do award capital punishment, His Majesty the King has the legal authority to repeal it. Meanwhile, Bhutan being a Buddhist nation, capital punishment is seen as a contradiction to the basic doctrines of Buddhism. These contradictions are seen as a negation of the written law, thereby, rendering it superfluous. Capital punishment has existed in Bhutanese law since the codification of the Thrimzhung Chhenmo (supreme law) in 1953 and the judiciary has come under criticism, even in the National Assembly, for not invoking the law in the most severe criminal cases. The royal decree has significant historical roots because generations of Bhutanese people have enjoyed peace and prosperity in a unique system of governance that has been founded on the tenets of Buddhism. It comes at a time when the kingdom of Bhutan is going through phenomenal change facing, what many believe, could be an unpredictable future and is, therefore, a message that Bhutan must continue to draw on the strengths of its ancient traditions and on the wisdom of the ancestors. As the kingdom nurtures a unique socio-economic and political system, the decree implies that the essence of government must be the rule of law and that law must reflect the spirituality that characterises the Bhutanese system of governance. The royal decree also symbolises the compassion and enlightened vision of a Buddhist Monarch safeguarding the interests of not just the population of one nation but of all sentient beings. (by Kinley Dorji)

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/27/2004

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INDIA: India Offers Pakistan Expertise on Social Security

India on Monday offered to Pakistan its expertise in the field of social security for the informal sector in view of peace efforts initiated by the country. "We will talk to Pakistan Government if it wanted (advise for the social security scheme)," Labour Minister Sahib Singh Verma told a delegation of Lahore Chambers of Commerce. Highlighting that India's new social security scheme, which was the first of its kind in the developing world, the minister said either Pakistan could send its officials or the Indian officials could go over there to advise on the scheme. Verma said the main idea of coming with a social security scheme for the unorganised sector in India was to enable those 37 crore workers in the sector to be entitled for pension and other benefits including medical insurance and family pension. The scheme, which would have contributions from employers as well as, was part of the "revolution" to be ushered in the unorganised sector, he said. The employees of 18-35 years would have to contribute Rs 50 and those in the age group of 36-50 would have to shell out Rs 100, while there would be contribution from employers, he added. Besides, a monthly pension of Rs 500 would be offered on retirement, permanent or temporary disability or to the widow of a worker. Lahore Chamber President and leader of delegation, Mian Anjum Nisar said "(getting) visa is an hurdle" and there needs to be relaxation for better trade between the two countries." He said there was a scope for joint ventures and it will be "win-win" situation for India and Pakistan if better trade takes place between the two nations.

From http://hindustantimes.com/ 03/01/2004

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Controversial Kashmir Residency Bill Becomes Political Landmine

JAMMU - Battlelines are being drawn between the Congress-PDP government and the Opposition National Conference-and within the ruling coalition itself-over the controversial Bill under which a J&K woman who is a permanent resident of the state loses that status if she marries a non-permanent resident. So far, only permanent residents in J&K have been entitled to political and property rights in the state and can claim preferential treatment in Government jobs and scholarships. Permanent residents alone can vote and contest in elections and have exclusive rights to hold, inherit and acquire immovable property in the state. Significantly, the Congress and the Panthers Party-the two partners in the ruling coalition-had supported the Jammu Kashmir Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Act in the Assembly on March 5. But now they want to stall its passage in the Legislative Council which meets on Thursday. With the screws tightening-Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee spoke to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today and Congress president Sonia Gandhi sent him a ''anguished'' letter-pressure is building on the state government to buy time by referring the Bill to a select committee of the council. In fact, this was formally proposed by senior Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma. Panthers' Party chief Bhim Singh took a more strident line: he has threatened to quit the ruling coalition if the Bill isn't withdrawn by Thursday. The Bill, introduced by Minister for Law & Parliamentary Affairs, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, came as a response to the High Court ruling that there was no provision in existing law dealing with the status of a woman permanent resident who marries a non-permanent resident. Baig, according to a government announcement, had said that although under the Bill, a woman permanent resident would lose her status after marrying an outsider, the Bill ''does not alter the legal position of female descendents of permanent residents in the matter of inheritance.'' This, the government said, will continue to be in accordance with the personal law-Muslim or Hindu-applicable to them. For the National Conference, which has 15 members in the 30-member Legislative Council-plus the support of the lone CPI member-this is what it has been waiting for. It has announced support to the Bill hoping that not only will this help it regain lost ground in Valley but also divide the ruling coalition over a key issue on the eve of polls. ''The NC has issued a whip to all its Legislative Council members to attend the session and whole-heartedly reiterate the party's support to the Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly on March 5,'' said NC's patron and ex-CM Farooq Abdullah. ''The National Conference has always stood for the preservation and protection of Article 370 and shall in future also not allow anybody to dilute it,'' he said. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, too, isn't willing to let the NC run away with the issue. Supporting the Bill, she said: ''As a legislator, I have fulfilled my duty of safeguarding the interests of my people. My younger sister is married to a non-state subject and she will lose her status but my first priority is to see that the rights of our citizens are protected. We have just upheld a 75-year-old law passed by late Maharaja Hari Singh.'' She said the issue was being ''blown up'' by political parties with elections in mind. Claiming that passing of the bill doesn't mean that a woman marrying a non-state subject wouldn't inherit property, she said, '' Even after marrying outside the state, she will inherit property in accordance with the personal law of the religion she belongs to.'' Besides Mehbooba, the other women in the state legislative assembly, Khemlata Wakhloo, criticised the decision as being discriminatory to women. What this means for the NC is anybody's guess: both the Abdullahs, father and son, would stand disqualified.

From http://www.indianexpress.com/ 03/08/2004

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SRI LANKA: PM Calls for Mandate to Lead Peace Process

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday called for a mandate to lead the peace process to a successful end and improve the country's economy. "Only the UNF has a workable plan for a negotiated settlement," he said, while expressing fears that a renewed war is imminent in case of the Freedom Alliance victory given its "contradictory views" on the peace process. "Peace efforts between 1994-2000 ended in disarray, every such effort ended with a renewed war. If things go like this the resumption of war is imminent," the Prime Minister told the United National Front's rally at Warakapola. He said it was only when the Government put the economy back on the right track, that President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga "precipitated an unnecessary crisis" by taking over the three Ministries. "She charged that the LTTE had strengthened its cadres during the truce agreement by three fold. She accused us of allowing for the setting up of the Manirasakulam LTTE camp. She said she is taking over the Defence Ministry to take back the Manirasakulam camp." He said referring to the President's take over. The Prime Minister said the President dissolved Parliament while cohabitation talks between the President and himself were in progress. "The country was not asking for an election, when she dissolved Parliament", he said. The Premier said the challenge before the country was two fold. "Peace is the first and foremost, then the economic growth enabling more employment opportunities". He said his administration secured a ceasefire for the past two years. "People have to decide whether they transform the ceasefire into a permanent peace through a negotiated settlement or reject the truce and return to war," he said. He said the Gross National Income which stood at the US $ 16 billion in 2000 rocketed to $ 18 billion in 2003. "The current economic policies will secure an accelerated economic growth," he said adding: "the elections on April 2 will decide the destiny of the nation". Referring to the Freedom Alliance's pledge to negotiate with the LTTE, the Prime Minister said the FA had hitherto refrained from revealing which conditions it will talk on to the LTTE. Stating that the current peace negotiations are shaped by certain conditions agreed by both parties and endorsed by the international community, the Prime Minister warned that giving away these conditions, "as advocated by certain FA leaders, will cause further chaos". "You can't alter these conditions unilaterally. The LTTE needs to agree with them and the international community should endorse them." Pointing to the JVP's rejection of Federalism, he challenged the Freedom Alliance to reveal their solution to the ethnic problem. He warned that the contradictory views in the Freedom Alliance will cause the peace process to collapse leading the country to an inevitable war.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/01/2004

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NEPAL: Govt. Bans Strikes in Essential Services

The government exercising its powers under the Essential Services Act 2014 has banned strikes in various essential services, one of them being transport services, RSS said, quoting a Home Ministry statement. The services in which the strikes have been prohibited include postal, telegraph and telephone services, transport services by air, land or water for moving passengers and goods, the news agency said. Likewise, strikes are prohibited in works such as guarding of airports and aircraft, the running and repair of such facilities, and services concerning moving, depositing, taking out or storing of goods at government warehouses, airports and railway stations, the agency further said. Similarly, strikes are banned in any government service concerning the mint and government presses, the production, storing or distribution of arms and ammunition or other military equipment, communications services, electricity, drinking water, tourist accommodation, motels, hotels, restaurants and resorts. The other sectors where strikes are prohibited include import and distribution of petroleum products, hospitals and health centres, production and distribution of medical supplies, collection and movement of garbage, construction of processing centres and banking, the agency added.

From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/04/2004

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Govt. Publicizes Action Plan to Safeguard Women Rights

The government on the occasion of Women's Day on Monday publicized the action plan to allocate 33 percent representation of women in local and national level elections, a daily reported Tuesday. Women participation in the previous elections in Nepal are limited to less than 10 percent, it is learnt. According to the Kantipur dainik, the action plan which was drafted in a bid to execute the Convention on the Elimination of all Sorts of Discrimination Against Women will be in effect within three years. Moreover, the action plan aims in increasing women's participation in the government jobs to 33 percent in the next two years. Currently, only 6 percent women are engaged in government jobs in Nepal. In the same vein, the action plan assures compulsory and free primary education to girls, basic health services to women, prevention of women trafficking and formulation of essential policies protecting the women rights in Nepal. In Nepal, only 30 percent women are literate.

From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/08/2004

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Govt. Unveils Communication Policy

The government Wednesday disclosed a new set of policies governing the communication sector. The new policy allows foreign investment up to 80 percent in the telecommunication sector. Minister for Information and Communication Kamal Thapa unveiled it at a press conference organized this afternoon. Minister Thapa informed that new communication policies give equal chance to the private sector to make use of the technologies available in the market. "There is plenty of room for entrepreneurs and the consumers to take advantage of the policy," said Thapa. With the introduction of this policy, the government aims to reach out to the remote areas where no communication facilities are available. Minister Thapa informed that the government has fixed customs rate in the import of communication equipment at only one percent. Thapa also informed that government has decided to convert Nepal Telecommunication Corporation into a company from the 1st of New Year (2061).

From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/10/2004

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PAKISTAN: PM Jamali Warns Against 'Internal Dangers'

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali on Wednesday called for efforts to safeguard national interests and warned against "internal dangers" that had threatened Pakistan's security and hit the roots of society. "Our internal differences provide the enemy with an opportunity to benefit from our weaknesses and we must strive to identify and remove them," said Mr Jamali while addressing the 3rd National Security Workshop at the National Defence College. He said there was an urgent need to inculcate tolerance and accommodation in society to safeguard Pakistan's national interests. Mr Jamali said the concept of good governance implied optimal management of available resources and accountability, transparency and participation of all stakeholders. He hoped that such courses and workshops would help bridge the gap between various sections of society. Parliamentarians, district nazims, senior bureaucrats, ambassadors-designate, industrialists, media representatives, lawyers and officers from the armed forces, attended the workshop. The prime minister said the purpose of inviting parliamentarians and nazims to workshops on security was to raise awareness of the process and methodology to formulate national policies and strategies. He said the participation of a few women parliamentarians in the workshop was very encouraging. The prime minister said the workshop had provided a platform where the participants could discuss national issues without bias. "Security is a broad and multi-faceted term and it should be understood as such. There is no concept of absolute security and it is a relative term, but efforts must continue to safeguard our national interests," the prime minister said. "There may be different opinions on various issues, which is quite understandable, as no two minds think alike," he added. However, he said that after proper deliberation a general consensus could be achieved and added that such a culture once adopted at national level, should help resolve many contentious issues through dialogue. "This particular aspect is badly lacking in Pakistan," he added. " He praised the National Defence College for organising workshops on national security. "Notwithstanding its other engagements, the college has accepted the challenge at my request," he added.

From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 03/25/2004

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IRAQ: Governing Council Signs Interim Constitution

The Iraqi Governing Council signed the Transitional Administrative Law in Baghdad on 8 March, international media reported. The law will serve as Iraq's interim constitution until a permanent constitution is ratified by 31 December 2005. A number of Governing Council members addressed the Iraqi people at the signing ceremony, including Adnan Pachachi, who called the bill of rights outlined in the document one of Iraq's greatest achievements. The document calls for freedom of expression, equality, and movement not afforded under any previous regime in Iraq. The signing of the law was originally slated for 5 March, but was delayed at the last minute after Shi'ite members of the council refused to sign the document due to Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's objection to key clauses. Shi'ite members met with al-Sistani on 5-7 March and announced that they would sign the law without changes. KR

From http://www.rferl.org 03/08/2004

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New Law Governing Central Bank Announced

Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer on 7 March announced a new law governing the Central Bank of Iraq, according to the CPA's official website (http://www.cpa-iraq.org). The law calls for an independent Central Bank "whose objectives are to achieve and maintain domestic price stability and to foster and maintain a market-based financial system" that is in line with international practices, the announcement stated. The bank will also work to promote sustainable growth, employment, and prosperity in Iraq. Under the new law the Central Bank may not lend directly or indirectly to the government, but may lend to government-owned commercial banks on the same terms it would extend to privately owned commercial banks, the CPA website reported. The former law governing the Iraqi Central Bank under the Hussein regime permitted lending to the government. KR

From http://www.rferl.org 03/08/2004

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IRAN: Iran Readies Employment Plan

Rahim Ebadi, who heads Iran's National Youth Organization, told a 6 March seminar in Shiraz that 31 percent of Iranians aged 15-29 are either unemployed or have unsuitable jobs, IRNA reported. The unemployment rate for this age cohort grows at about 13.2 percent annually, Ebadi said. At this rate, he added, 52 percent of the group will be unemployed within three years. Ebadi attributed the phenomenon to the growing population. Sixteen percent of Iranians aged 25-29 are unemployed, Ebadi said, and 34 percent of Iranians aged 15-19 are unemployed. Earlier, Ebadi told a conference at Amir Kabir University that 3 million Iranians are unemployed, IranMania reported on 22 January, citing ISNA. He said a national human-resources development project will be launched in three years. The National Youth Organization, the Management and Planning Organization, the Science, Research, and Technology Ministry, and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry will be involved in that project, but it will be implemented by the private sector. BS

From http://www.rferl.org 03/08/2004

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KYRGYZSTAN: New Tax Legislation to Meet Market Requirements

Bishkek - Kyrgyzstan will adopt new tax laws meeting market requirements, President Askar Akayev told a forum in Bishkek on Friday. The meeting, which addressed ways of countering the shadow economy, took place at the initiative of the country's leading businessmen. "Our Tax Code is not flexible for market economy requirements, and I see no point in amending it further. I have set up a working group responsible for drafting a new Tax Code version which should not create any corruption loopholes for tax and customs officials," the president said. "The country's new tax legislation should give priority to encouraging the development of business and entrepreneurship by simplifying and improving taxation regulations," Akayev said. The shadow sector accounts for 52% of Kyrgyzstan's economy, according to domestic and international estimates, said Marat Tazabekov, director of the Kyrgyz independent economic policy institute.

From http://www.interfax.com 03/19/2004

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KAZAKHSTAN: Parliament Passes Election Bill

A joint session of parliament passed a bill on 15 March amending the country's constitutional law on elections, Kazinform reported the same day. The bill passed in its third reading with 58 votes in the 77-seat Majilis, the lower house of parliament, and 32 votes in the 39-seat Senate. The bill, which has been the focus of intense debate and now awaits President Nursultan Nazarbaev's signature, would introduce transparent ballot boxes and change the way regional electoral commissions are formed. DK

From http://www.rferl.org 03/16/2004

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TURKEY: Parliamentary Committee Adopts Extra Funding Bill

ANKARA - The Parliamentary Planning and Budget Committee yesterday adopted a bill on an additional funding package that aims to meet the burden of recent pension and wage hikes through a 13 percent savings on budget expenditures. The bill cleared the parliamentary committee amid news that economic management had reached an accord with a visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission on a package of measures to cover a TL 7 quadrillion ($5.3 billion) financing gap, Reuters quoted government officials as saying on Wednesday. The financing gap in the 2004 budget resulted largely from above-inflation minimum wage and pension hikes. IMF officials are currently in Ankara reviewing Turkey's $19 billion loan accord with the fund. The bill is expected to be submitted to a vote on the floor of Parliament in the following days. An IMF mission headed by Turkey Desk Chief Reza Moghadam is currently visiting Turkey for the seventh review of the economic program backed by the fund. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said that the new funding package would total TL 7 quadrillion, including the cut in budget spending. A 13 percent cut in budget spending was expected to enable government to save TL 4.5 quadrillion. As part of the package, the government also increased special consumption tax (OTV) rates imposed on fuel oil and tobacco products. The government expects TL 2 quadrillion in revenue from OTV hikes. Unakitan told parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the draft cut TL1 quadrillion funds allocated for investments. "While we made TL 6.8 quadrillion worth investments in 2002, this figure drops to TL 6.4 quadrillion in 2004. This is dangerous for the economy," he added. Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan warned public institutions to use their funds and resources carefully, emphasizing that all institutions should pay attention to fiscal discipline. The current review of Turkey's IMF stand-by arrangement, sealed after a 2001 financial crisis, is linked to payment of a loan tranche valued at $500 million. Some $2.5 billion remains to be disbursed under the deal.

From http://www.turkishdailynews.com 03/04/2004

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AUSTRALIA: Science First in Line for Budget Cash

March 08, 2004 A MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR injection of funds into science and research, and a $100 million contribution to Melbourne's 2006 Commonwealth Games, will be unveiled in the May budget. Senior government sources have confirmed to The Australian that the federal Government will announce a $100million assistance package for the international sporting event following a request from Victorian Premier Steve Bracks. The Howard Government also remains under political pressure to consider a $70 million boost to national childhood vaccination programs, instead of forcing parents to pay for recommended vaccines for pneumoccocal, polio and chicken pox. Senior ministers this week will get down to the business of putting together the budget when cabinet's Expenditure Review Committee meets for the first time. A strong focus on national security - including new funding for maritime and aviation security - will also be a feature of Peter Costello's ninth budget, to be released on May 12. Federal cabinet must sign off on a new funding deal for research to extend the Backing Australia's Ability program, which expires in 2005-06. Measures to help businesses commercialise research and development will be a feature of a new innovation statement, which will build on the 2001 $2.9 billion Backing Australia's Ability. Senior government figures have confirmed the new research-and-development push will include new funding of at least $1 billion a year, reflecting a strong commitment by John Howard to promote science and innovation. "It could be as much as $4 billion, depending on the time frame," one senior government figure said. But there have also been robust discussions - involving Education Minister Brendan Nelson and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane - over the direction of the new innovation statement. Well-placed sources said Dr Nelson was keen to ensure the statement's primary focus was on "pure" science research, while Mr Macfarlane wanted a greater share to be directed towards commercialisation. It is understood there will be a major focus on helping convert research to commercialisation. Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee executive spokesman John Mullarvey said universities would have to review their research priorities, without a strong injection of funds. "At a minimum, we would be looking at the Government to continue the total funding in the last year of Backing Australia's Ability throughout the next five years," he said. Under Backing Australia's Ability, the program will secure almost half of its five-year $3 billion funding over the next two years. Cabinet's Expenditure Review Committee will begin its work midweek, with a joint meeting with the National Security Committee set down for Thursday. This is expected to discuss a range of national security measures, including better security at regional airports and key ocean ports. Opposition Leader Mark Latham warned yesterday that government pork-barrelling could place pressure on interest rates, but refused to rule out tax increases under a Latham government. "If the Government goes down this path of a spending spree without savings identified at the same time, it's going to place upward pressure on interest rates," he said. "The Government will be making taxation decisions, one assumes, and other than some core commitments and priorities that we've been talking about, I can't rule in and rule out every minute detail." The Treasurer said there was "no doubt" Mr Latham would increase taxes if he won office at the next federal election. "The Government will not be introducing new taxes," he said. "We will not be increasing the existing taxes." (by Steve Lewis, Samantha Maiden)

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/08/2004

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Discriminating to Put More Men in Classroom

SEX discrimination laws will be amended to allow schools to offer male-only teaching scholarships to redress "gender imbalance", under a plan announced yesterday. Education Minister Brendan Nelson said legislation would be introduced to parliament immediately to address the shortage of male teachers. The move defies a plea by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward that Catholic schools offer a 50:50 gender split on scholarships. Previously, Dr Nelson's office had indicated it would not act until Catholic schools lodged an appeal regarding a ruling that ads for male-only positions would breach the act. "Bringing into balance the number of male and female teachers is important in providing students and teachers with both male and female role models in schools," Dr Nelson said. His stance was backed by Perth graduate teacher Emidio Boto, who represents the kind of new blood state and federal governments want. The 21-year-old, who this term has begun teaching at Perth's Hillcrest Primary School, is one of only five men among the school's 26 teachers. Mr Boto received a $10,000 scholarship last year under a state program offered to recruit teachers in areas of need. He supports such affirmative action-style approaches, which are potentially in breach of the act, as a way to encourage more of his peers into the profession. Under the program, Mr Boto was guaranteed a state school job for a minimum two years. Twenty-four male final year primary teaching students were among the 62 scholarship recipients last year. "Kids are lacking that male role model as they go through school without a male teacher," he said. Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the changes were not necessary to increase the number of male teachers. "The evidence shows the real barriers to men becoming teachers and staying in our schools are pay, career structure and status compared with other professions," she said. (by Samantha Maiden, Belinda Hickman)

From http://theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/10/2004

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Law Plan 'Common Sense'

A Labor government would encourage thousands of new male teachers into Australia's schools, Opposition Leader Mark Latham said yesterday. Mr Latham said Labor would continue to oppose a Government plan to change the Sex Discrimination Act to allow the Sydney Catholic Education Office to offer scholarships to 12 male teachers. Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward this week urged the Government not to rush to change the law, saying the amendment would damage the principle of reward for merit. But Prime Minister John Howard disagreed. "This is not some dramatic earth-shattering, dark ages attempt to undermine the Sex Discrimination Act. It is a commonsense response to a problem," he said. Mr Howard said the Catholic Education Office now had to appeal after losing its bid for an exemption to the law in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. "I think in a situation like that, the public interest requires that the Government step in and make sure that the legislation is not denying commonsense outcomes," he said. Shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon said the law already allowed exemptions to cover "special measures". This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited. (by Brendan Nicholson)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/12/2004

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Latham Pledges to Cut Superannuation Tax, Fees

March 16, 2004 Labor has set a bold target to lift retirement incomes to 65 per cent of earnings and promised yesterday it would phase out the 15 per cent superannuation contributions tax to help retirees. Elevating his pitch to sell Labor's superannuation credentials, Opposition Leader Mark Latham said the contributions tax would initially be cut to 13 per cent over four years, costing the budget about $1.4 billion. He said the long-term plan was to scrap the contributions tax, which nets the Government about $4 billion a year. But Mr Latham said the full cut would require co-operation from both major parties and would take between 15 and 20 years. He refused to say how it would be funded. He said super funds would also be stopped from charging excessive entry and exit fees and would be expected to provide regular estimates of people's retirement income. "There are many bad taxes in Canberra, but the contributions tax is among the worst," he said. "It punishes savings and limits the pool of superannuation investment. It's a handbrake on retirement income adequacy and security." Superannuation, ageing and retirement are key election issues, with the Government anxious to hold on to tradi-tional Liberal constituents aged over 50, and Labor keen to win them over. Treasurer Peter Costello last month announced changes that will allow people aged 55 and over to supplement income from part-time work by dipping into their superannuation, claiming there will one day be "no such thing as full-time retirement". Mr Latham accused the Government of dealing with issues created by the ageing population by making people "work till they drop". Cutting the contributions tax to 13 per cent would mean an extra $7128 at retirement for a 20 year-old earning $40,000 for the rest of their career. A 40 year-old earning $60,000 would get an extra $4069. Current estimates suggest most retirees will get a lump sum of about $70,000. Including the age pension, that would be enough to buy an annual income of about $17,000 - well short of the $32,800 a year that the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia says is necessary to provide a single retiree with a comfortable income. Mr Latham conceded that people would need to substantially lift voluntary contributions to achieve his 65 per cent target at age 65. "Individuals earning above $30,000 a year need to save an additional 1 per cent of every $5000 of income they earn," he said. Labor's retirement spokesman, Nick Sherry, the architect of the plan, said the reduction in the contributions tax would help "middle Australians", who had missed out under the Howard Government. He said the new rules forcing funds to provide members with estimates of their retirement incomes would have a powerful impact on savings. Ongoing commissions on superannuation guarantee contributions would also be prohibited. Revenue Minister Helen Coonan said Labor should come clean about how it would pay for its policies, saying if it was serious about superannuation it would have supported the Government's legislation giving people more choice about where their savings are invested. "I challenge Mr Latham to not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to super," she said. But the plan was welcomed by the superannuation and financial services industries. Investment and Financial Services Association chief executive Richard Gilbert said cutting the contributions tax would boost savings, but suggested Labor's claims about high fees had been exaggerated. Association of Superannuation Funds chief executive Philippa Smith was also positive, but warned the contributions tax would need to be phased out more rapidly to lift savings. (by Josh Gordon)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/16/2004

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FIJI: Government to Draft Oil Legislation Soon

There is no legislation which would see benefit indigenous land-holding units benefit if oil is discovered in the Bligh waters, however this is expected to change as the government pushes ahead a law, which has been on hold since the 2000 crisis. Spokesperson at the Mineral Resources Department, Ifereimi Dau revealed the government is concerned and the draft legislation should be ready soon. The concerns come after a research done by the Mineral Department revealed oil potential in the Bligh waters.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/17/2004

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GUAM: Legislature OKs GRT Bill

HAGATNA (Pacific Daily News) --- The decision is now in the hands of the governor. The Legislature Thursday unanimously passed Bill 267, which will reduce the Gross Receipts Tax from 6 percent to 4 percent. The bill reverses last February's decision to increase the tax by 50 percent. The tax cut goes into effect April 1, offering relief to businesses and residents. Gov. Felix Camacho has said he is not opposed to the GRT rollback, but the expected $25 million loss of revenue this fiscal year will adversely affect the government's ability to provide services. The governor has told lawmakers that by cutting government revenues, they will have to identify ways to cut current budget appropriations by a corresponding level.The governor now has 10 days, minus Sundays and holidays, to either sign the bill into law, veto it or take no action and let Bill 267 lapse into law.Simon Sanchez, executive director of the Committee to Get Guam Working, said he was very pleased with lawmakers Thursday but noted there is still concern in the business community about the visible GRT. He did say that the committee has not taken a stance on the issue because the business community is divided -- some are in favor and some are opposed.Speaker Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, said the visible GRT rule will remain in place, but that with the rollback, the visible GRT would be 4 percent.Sanchez, a former Republican senator who observed lawmakers' discussions, described Thursday as "a good day for the taxpayers.""I think they've done the right thing and the taxpayers are very wise and they'll know how to spend this money," he said. "They'll be looking for value from businesses, and businesses are going to be looking to expand and hire more people and all those things are good for the economy and good for Guam."Bill 267 was introduced last month by Democratic lawmakers, with Sen. Toni Sanford, D-Agana Heights, as the primary sponsor. Sen. Joanne Brown Thursday strongly questioned the intent of Democratic lawmakers, noting that Democratic lawmakers repeatedly blocked attempts last year to roll the tax back, including a voter-driven initiative that called for a referendum to revoke the tax increase."The answer was simply no, There were nine no (votes). No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no from the Democratic majority. And what was more insulting, I think, to our people was it was their proposal," said Brown, R-Chalan Pago/Ordot. "But I'm sure there'll be a chorus of 15 yesses in this session hall," Brown said before the unanimous vote. Vice Speaker Frank Aguon Jr. defended his Democratic colleagues' action to increase the tax and refusal to reduce it for a year. He said the tax increase was necessary to ensure the government could continue to function.Aguon, D-Yona, said Democratic senators changed their minds, not because of political pressure from the business community, but because of increased revenue estimates presented by the governor for the current fiscal year and fiscal 2005.Pangelinan warned that questioning lawmakers' intents on introducing a bill during session is against protocol. Sen. Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, said he believes the Gross Receipts Tax increase never should have been used as a solution to the government's declining revenues. The Republican minority leader also said he hopes that should government revenues decline once again, another increase in the GRT is not used. Sen. Randall Cunliffe, D-Tamuning, said that, in hindsight, he agrees that the Gross Receipts Tax was the wrong tax to raise if it was only going to be for a short period. He said he believes the government should keep the higher GRT rate, as the government has millions in debts that it needs to pay.But Cunliffe said he would vote for the rollback because the additional revenue that a 6-percent GRT would provide was earmarked by the governor to increase the size of government instead of to pay off past debts or for Federal Emergency Management Agency matching funds to start federally funded construction projects. "I agree wholeheartedly with the Committee to Get Guam Working and my friends in the business community that it is not incumbent upon the business community to pay taxes for the government to squander," Cunliffe said. "Because the governor has not come up with a plan, Mr. Speaker, to take that money and pay for it where it should be spent and do the right thing and reduce the costs of the outstanding receivables to our people, I am not going to stand in a position to allow him to waste this money on increasing the cost of government."

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/05/2004

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NEW ZEALAND: National Rethinking Its Tax Policy

Fresh from its stunning rise in the polls on the back of a hard line on Maori policy, the National Party has been mulling over moderating some other policies. Sources say that in a caucus discussion on tax policy last month, MPs leaned towards gentler tax cuts than the party promised in the 2002 election. However, firm decisions will not be made until after the May Budget. In the 2002 campaign National promised to cut corporate tax to 30 per cent and the top personal rate to 35 per cent and lower both by 1 per cent a year during its first three-year term (that is, to 27 per cent and 32 per cent), with a 10-year aim of 25 per cent in each case. Leader Don Brash told the party's conference last year that the corporate and two top personal rates should be 30 per cent. Brash said in an interview that the 30 per cent corporate rate would remain official policy for the first term of a National government and the current 33 per cent rate (for incomes up to $38,000) would go to 30 per cent. Sources say MPs are leaning towards keeping the 2002 initial top rate of 35 per cent on incomes above $60,000, a 4 percentage point cut from the present 39 per cent. But they also say that discussion leaned away from a commitment to cut the rates further during the first term of a National government, as in the 2002 policy, and also from a commitment to longer-term cuts. In part, these sources say, that is because MPs favour leaving in place Finance Minister Michael Cullen's planned Budget tax cuts and higher rebates for low- to middle-income earners, though a National government may not carry through Cullen's whole programme if it is uncompleted by the election. Current estimates are that Cullen's programme will be phased in over four years. Why the more cautious line? In part, one MP says, it reflects a lingering influence of the centrist "brat pack" MPs who dominated the leadership after 2001. And a softer stance on tax would make it more difficult for Labour to paint National as a bogey on the economy - and as just promising tax cuts for the rich - to counter its polling success on Maori issues. How far a National government would go towards meeting Brash's challenge to the party conference last year on spending has also yet to be resolved. He challenged the party to "restrain government spending to grow by no more than the rate of inflation and the rate of population growth" which would, he said, reduce the proportion of GDP the government spent by 5 percentage points. Aside from tax, National is reported by some sources to be taking a less aggressive position on selling state assets than some of Brash's early statements implied and reconsidering its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. In any case Brash has been hedging some of his statements on Maori. In his Orewa speech he said the Maori parliamentary electorates would be abolished. He has since moderated that to a promise of a referendum (though a referendum would probably pass). He has backed off his earlier comments about "tangi leave" and about Maori graduates not being seen as equal to non-Maori because of the quota system of entry. (by Colin James)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/02/2004

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Law Change on Way to Help Flood-hit Taxpayers

Legislation to give Inland Revenue more flexibility in dealing with taxpayers affected by the flooding in the lower North Island last month is expected to be passed this week. Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday the Cabinet had approved for enactment this week the Taxation (Disaster Relief) Bill and most other parties had agreed to expedite its passage. The law change will allow Inland Revenue to waive use-of-money interest (at 11.9 per cent) on tax payments which are late as a result of the flooding, either because taxpayers' records have been destroyed, they cannot gain access to their records or they did not have time to make their payments because of higher priorities created by the flooding. It will also be changed to allow Inland Revenue to accept estimates of provisional tax that are late because of the floods. Taxpayers would need to be "significantly" affected by the flooding and would need to apply to the IRD. Clark said two criteria would apply before such relief could be offered. A state of civil emergency had to have been declared, and an order-in-council (in effect a Government declaration) signed by the Governor General that the disaster was serious enough to warrant the measure. The tax laws already allow the Inland Revenue to drop the normal penalties for late payment of tax or late filing of tax returns. The late payment penalty is 1 per cent the day after the tax was due, a further 4 per cent seven days later and 1 per cent a month thereafter. But the IRD has discretion to reduce the penalty if taxpayers make instalment arrangements before the tax is due. The tax pooling company Tax Management New Zealand had already offered a month's worth of relief from use of money interest. "Someone in a flood-affected area with a terminal tax payment coming up on April 7, for example, can just apply to us for an automatic roll-forward to April 29," managing director Ian Kuperus said. There is a limit of $50,000 a taxpayer. (by Brian Fallow)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/16/2004

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Law Commission Wants District Court Axed

A Law Commission review of the courts has recommended axing the District Court and creating several new courts in order to simplify the system and speed up cases. Public submissions to the review in 2002 panned the current courts system as slow, expensive, too complex and at times like a "cattleyards". In its report issued today the commission recommends the Government axe the District Court, because of "considerable shortcomings in the way the court system deals with its 'high volume' criminal workload". "This is where most New Zealanders encounter the court system, yet there are serious deficiencies in the way they are treated," Law Commission president Justice Bruce Robertson said in a statement released with the report. "For many people it is an unnecessarily difficult experience. Our reforms are aimed at simplifying the system and making it more accessible. " T he report says much of the District Court's time is taken up by preliminary appearances for all criminal offences and hearing less serious cases such as drink driving, minor theft, minor fraud and damage to property. Under recommended changes a "community court" would deal with low level criminal cases, while a new "primary criminal court" would deal with more serious cases and a "primary civil court" would deal with cases involving civil claims of up to $500,000. The most serious crimes such as murders and civil claims of over $500,000 would still be dealt with by the High Court. "A critical reason for the current deficiencies is the fact that the District Court is seriously overloaded," the report says. "The breadth of its jurisdiction and its caseload has grown beyond anything envisaged when it was set up in 1980. This has led to pressures that mean the court is not working efficiently or effectively for all New Zealanders." As well as the three new courts, six other courts would exist under the overall title of the "primary courts". These would include the Youth Court, Family Court, Environment Court, Employment Court, Maori Land Court and Coroners' Court. The Family Court and Youth Court, currently divisions of the District Court, would become stand alone courts and would be opened up to the media as long as identifying details in all youth cases and in family cases involving children or domestic violence were not published. The Coroners' Court would also become a stand alone court overseen by a chief coroner. Among other measures the report recommends is restricting jury trials to offences that carry a maximum punishment of over five years, and extending the scope of name suppression. It says once a person is charged, publication of identifying details should be withheld until the "substance of their case" has gone before the court. Suppression of victims' names in criminal cases should also be granted unless it is not in the interests of justice to do so, it says. The report recommends greater administrative support be provided to all courts. It also says there needs to be clearer information and help services for people going through the courts, including information such as which court will deal with a case, how long it will take and how much it might cost. The information should be available in pamphlets, by phone and internet and also at help desks in courts. The review says there needs to be a strengthened system of legal advice and representation, possibly including a stronger duty solicitor scheme and more publicly available legal information written in a form that lay people can understand. The review also recommends: * tightening up the rules around what information lawyers must provide in regard to the likely costs of a case; * the creation of an "umbrella framework" to standardise and govern the operation of the many statutory tribunals that currently exist; * encouraging judges at primary and high court level to specialise more in order to speed up the passage of cases; * creating a framework for cases dealt with outside the court by police diversion, restorative justice, mediation. Under the recommended restructuring the nine primary courts would also have more uniform system of appeals. All appeals would go straight to the High Court, except the Maori Land Court appeals which would first go to the Maori Appellate Court. In order to reduce the number of cases proceeding to the Court of Appeal, the report says provision should be made for a panel of three judges to hear some High Court cases. At present cases are heard by one judge. The report is the third stage of a three-part review which has been conducted over several years.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/16/2004

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Building Law Passes Early Test

Advocates of the new Construction Contracts Act say one of the first cases to go to court has proved the legislation's strength. Building Subcontractors Federation chief executive Peter Degerholm and disputes arbitrator Geoff Bayley said a judgment in a North Shore case had reinforced the need for the act and showed that its provisions worked. In the case, Jim Brennan's TUF Panel Construction sued Robert Capon of Creamala Developments and Newco Construction. The matter was heard in the North Shore District Court last month and Judge David Wilson delivered a reserved judgment last week, finding in favour of Brennan and ordering that Capon pay more than $82,000. The case arose after Capon contracted Brennan to manufacture tilt-up formwork concrete panels for an industrial/residential building project in Albany. Brennan said after the case that TUF manufactured more than 90 per cent of the 30-plus panels and subsequently billed Capon, who had made progress payments of $19,000. When the full bill was unpaid by November, Brennan sought summary judgment under the Construction Contracts Act 2002. The act came into force in April last year. In his defence, Capon claimed Brennan had issued proceedings against the wrong defendant, that he had a counter-claim against Brennan, that the payment claims did not comply with the act, that Brennan did not finish the work and that summary judgment was inappropriate. But the judge did not believe Capon. "The assertions of Mr Capon that his company was the contracting party and that he told Mr Brennan of that fail to pass the threshold of credibility," Judge Wilson wrote. He issued summary judgment against Capon of $82,109.41 plus GST. Capon said after the case that he was investigating his options, which could include a declaration of bankruptcy or filing an appeal. "The implication to the whole building industry are quite serious and people need to know about it," Capon said. "We are being asked to pay for work that has not been done and it will cost me nearly $100,000." But Degerholm said the judgment showed the new act worked. "I believe that the judgment is very important and may have a greater effect on the industry if we can get the message out. It certainly proves that the act gave TUF teeth and should send out a shockwave among payers and speed up the necessary improvement in payment practices. "The judgment also makes some very strong and supportive statements about the act," Degerholm said. Judge Wilson said that under the previous law, the factual background was often complex and the courts were reluctant to deal with such cases by way of summary judgment, "leaving contractors with the prospect of having to carry litigation through to a full hearing, abandon their claim or settle for substantially less than their full entitlement". But the act was brought in to speed up dispute resolutions and ensure regular and timely payments between parties, he noted. "In my judgment," Judge Wilson wrote, "the act was specifically designed to relegate to history losses within the construction industry being borne by those further down the contractual chain who are in the worst position to bear them because there was no effective way to enforce progress claims during the contract". THE ACT * Came into force last year. * Provides processes to enforce timely payment of properly submitted claims for work and materials on construction jobs. * Fast-tracks dispute resolution. * Safeguards against certain practices, particularly the 'pay-if-and-when-paid' clause under which head contractors or builders claim they cannot pay because they have not been paid by developers. Under the new law, money due must be paid, regardless of what happens further up the pecking order. * Applies to small residential jobs as well as larger commercial sites, although home owners are not covered by all provisions of the act. (by Anne Gibson)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/22/2004

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Secrecy Law Could Hamper Inquiry into Police Conduct

Blanket secrecy provisions in the law governing the Police Complaints Authority are threatening to hamper the work of a Commission of Inquiry sparked by allegations of police pack rape. At the commission's first public meeting in Wellington today, John Upton QC representing the PCA, said his client wished to cooperate as fully as it could but legal difficulties were likely. "We do have this legislative blanket," he said. "I'm sorry to be so negative early in these proceedings, but it's a reality we need to recognise." By law neither the PCA nor its office holders can be called to give evidence in any court or any proceedings of a judicial nature in respect of anything coming to their knowledge in the exercise of their PCA functions. Outside today's meeting, Mr Upton said there was a legal difficulty over the extent to which the PCA could provide material to the commission. He expects to have finished an assessment of the secrecy provisions by next week and to then be in position to take instructions from the PCA. Commissioner High Court judge Justice Bruce Robertson said the PCA secrecy provision was one of two issues that could affect the commission's ability to achieve its timetable. A possibility might be for the commission to receive what evidence was available to it, and anyone who felt constrained could find remedies in other places to remove any constraints. The second issue that could affect the commission's timetable was the fact inquiries were under way into whether some present and former members of the police could or should be prosecuted, Justice Robertson said. Clearly there was an ongoing issue that would need careful and sensible attention to ensure nobody's rights were infringed. The commission had a deadline of November 1, which effectively meant it would need to have its report in a final form by mid-September, he said. The Government set up the commission to inquire into police conduct and procedure when receiving and investigating allegations of sexual assault made against members of the police or their associates. Commissioners Justice Robertson and former senior public servant Dame Margaret Bazley are also to inquire into police standards and codes in relation to police personal behaviour, including sexual conduct. The inquiry followed allegations by Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas she was raped in a police house in Rotorua in the 1980s. Ms Nicholas has alleged Clint Rickards, now a police assistant commissioner, and former police officers Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum pack raped her. The men have strongly denied the allegations. Mr Rickards has been stood down from his job as Auckland district police commander. A second allegation before the inquiry is that of Judith Garrett who said she was raped by a constable at Kaitaia Police Station in 1988. Today Justice Robertson emphasised the commission was dealing with incidents where complaints had been made to the police. "Some people have written in drawing to our attention matters where they say they were the subject of inappropriate behaviour, but there was no reference to the police in any form. Those matters would not fall within our terms of reference." By next week the commission expected to have offices opened in Lambton Quay where staff would be available at all times. Staff would include a person or people who would hear the stories of those who had contacted the commission and appeared to fall within the inquiry's terms of reference, Justice Robertson said. In the first instance the commission would be concentrating on the past 25 years, from January 1, 1979. Kristy McDonald QC, representing the police, provided the commission with a list of issues about which the police wanted details or clarification. Among the issues was a request for a definition of sexual assault, and a query as to whether the commission would concern itself with personal conduct that was entirely lawful. She queried what was meant in the terms of reference for the inquiry by the phrase "the general propriety of members of the police in respect of sexual matters", and asked what kind of conduct would be regarded as relevant. The commission is to meet again on April 8 to deal with the issues raised by Ms McDonald. Meanwhile, the police issued a statement today denying reports that the police investigation file into Mrs Nicholas' allegations had been lost. "Police are satisfied that they have secured the relevant historical documentation required for the current investigation," the statement said.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/22/2004

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Terrorism Fears Spark New Passport Laws

Terrorism fears have sparked new legislation giving security agencies increased powers. A proposed bill gives the SIS authority to seize the passport of any New Zealander considered a national security risk, without having to give a reason. The bill is being prepared by Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins. It has been seen by Progressive MP Matt Robson. He says the SIS has been gunning for these powers for a long time. Mr Robson says granting these requests sets a dangerous trend. Matt Robson says the methods being used to fight terrorism are increasingly impinging on our democratic rights. He says it appears the bill is being driven by the SIS, in response to the controversy surrounding the detention of Ahmed Zaoui.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/28/2004

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UN Public Service Awards to Be Presented at Annual Shanghai Forum

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- The United Nations Public Service Awards to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions in local government applications will be presented at Shanghai, sources said here Friday. The awards will be presented by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA) at the fourth Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region (CIAPR IV)to be held in China's largest metropolis Shanghai, from May 20 to 22, 2004, said the sources with the organizing committee. More than 20 international organizations and 50 cities will attend the forum, which would attract about 800 foreign politicians and business leaders and technical professionals worldwide, said Yang Xiong, vice major of Shanghai and also the president of the forum. Titled "Information and Communication Technology for Development: City Information", the CIAPR IV will focus on the global trends of information technology for development and its applications, and the information development strategy of China, said Yang. The CIAPR IV will be composed of a plenary session and a number of parallel sessions and workshops concerning the hot topics as well as knotty problems, such as e-government, e-business, development of information industry and technology and its applications, and information policy and cyber laws, according to Yang. During the forum, an information technology expo will be introduced to provide a wider, freer and more fruitful platform for all stakeholders to jointly face the challenges and the future with shared expertise and experiences. The CIAPR is co-sponsored by the UN organization, Chinese central departments and the Shanghai Municipal People's Government. The CIAPR was an initiative taken by the Shanghai government and the UN/DESA, in response to the call for bridging the digital divide of the UN Millennium Summit. The CIAPR I was held in Shanghai in June of 2000 and the last three annual forums attracted about 2,400 delegates from 108 cities in 105 countries and regions. The objective of CIAPR is to provide a platform for government leaders, decision-makers and policy developers, business leaders and technical professionals worldwide to exchange visions, technologies and products, practices and experiences on city information.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 02/27/2004

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Thailand Says ASEAN Will Back Foreign Minister to Replace UN Chief Annan

BANGKOK : Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra said on Thursday he was confident Southeast Asian nations would support Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai's nomination to replace United Nations chief Kofi Annan. "We have to consult among Asian countries on who will be the candidate but I confident that among ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Surakiart will be a suitable choice," he told reporters. Annan's second and final term does not expire until December 2006, but Thaksin said that lobbying for the vote to choose his successor had already begun and would intensify. "We must recruit a candidate and start campaigning, first in ASEAN and then the ACD (18-member Asia Cooperation Dialogue) before going to the whole Asian continent," he said. Thaksin said Surakiart had proved his credentials by pushing Thailand to the forefront of the international community, and that he was confident he had a good chance of success. Thailand failed in a previous bid to have former foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan succeed Mary Robinson as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position handed to former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers. Before Annan signed up for a second term at the helm of the United Nations, Surin had also been touted as a possible successor for the secretary general's post. Another Thai, former commerce minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, currently heads the World Trade Organisation. Since the UN was established in 1946 Myanmar's U Thant has been the only Asian to hold the top job. - AFP

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/25/2004

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Competing for Government Jobs an Unhealthy Trend

Being a public servant isn't the most glamorous job but many college graduates still regard it as one of their top employment choices. In southwest China's Sichuan Province, for instance, many applicants for public servant positions hold master's degrees and PhDs, and the applicant pool even includes returnees who have studied abroad. A Jiefang Daily article sees this as an unhealthy trend. The article says people with excellent educational backgrounds eye these positions merely because they are considered very stable jobs. This implies that job choices that involve a bit of risk are being passed up. Moreover, public servants receive many welfare benefits. The huge number of people drawn to public servant positions also implies that the country's social security mechanism needs to be improved because people in other professions may not be enjoying their fair share of welfare benefits. (by Xu Fei)

From CRIENGLISH.com 02/25/2004

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CHINA: Appointment of Cadres to Follow Democratic Nominating System in Rui An

According to the central requirement of investigating the appointment right given to prefectual secretaries, Rui An, a city in Zhe Jiang Province, was chosen to be the sample in following democratic nominating system when appointing cadres. The local authority will lay emphasis on standardization and democratization during the period of nomination.

Grace translated from People Daily 02/27/2004

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New Governor Elected for Liaoning Province in NE China

Zhang Wenyue was on Friday elected governor of northeast China's Liaoning Province at the ongoing Second Session of the 10th Liaoning Provincial People's Congress. Zhang was one of the 198 members elected to the 16th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Nov. 14, 2002. Zhang, born in 1944 and a native of Pucheng, Fujian Province, joined the CPC in 1965. He graduated from Beijing Institute of Geology in 1967. Zhang had lengthy experience of the mining industry, serving as senior official in the Sichuan Provincial Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, director of the General Office of the former Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources and director of State Administration of Mineral Reserves. He was promoted to vice-minister of the former Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources in 1990 and became vice-chairman of the National Committee of Mineral Reserves in 1995 and vice-president of the China Mining Industry Association the same year. He was elected deputy secretary of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee in 1996 and served as commander of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps between 1997 and 1999. In Oct. 1999, Zhang was elected vice-chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional government. In Oct. 2001, Zhang was elected deputy secretary and member of the Standing Committee of the 9th CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee. He was delegate to the 13th and 14th CPC National Congresses and member of the 15th CPC Central Committee.

From People's Daily 02/27/2004

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Shenzhen Has New Mayor

SHENZHEN (Xinhua) -- Li Hongzhong was elected Saturday mayor of Shenzhen City, a booming city bordering Hong Kong in south China's Guangdong Province, at the sixth session of the Third Shenzhen City People's Congress that opened on Tuesday. Li won 328 approving votes in the election, which far surpassednine votes of disapproval or abstention. Li was made acting mayor of Shenzhen in June 2003 by the Standing Committee of the Third Shenzhen City People's Congress. According to Chinese law, the standing committee of people's congress at the local level is authorized to appoint local leadinggovernment officials. But only the annual plenary session of the people's congress is entitled to elect the head of local government. Li, born in 1956, was vice governor of Guangdong Province sinceFebruary 2001 before he assumed the post of acting mayor of Shenzhen. He was elected a Standing Committee member of the Communist Party of China Guangdong Provincial Committee in May 2002. Bordering Hong Kong, Shenzhen is one of China's five special economic zones and among China's fastest growing areas after the country's reform and opening-up drive since the late 1970s.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 02/28/2004

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Committeemen Removed from CPPCC for Not Performing Duties in Si Chuan Province

Linshui Prefectural Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Si Chuan Province recently made a decision to remove one member from its Standing Committee while disqualifying 3 other members for not performing duties. It is said that these 4 persons never participate in any activities of CPPCC and rarely play their due roles in the committee.

Grace translated from China Youth Daily 03/03/2004

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Guangdong Reduces Number of Counties

GUANGZHOU: South China's Guangdong Province is making serious efforts at downsizing the large number of counties to build a lean and efficient government. The target, to be met by merging small-size counties or absorbing some of them into urban areas, would reduce the burden on farmers in the form of fees and taxes. Too many counties have a huge local government structure and a large number of officials, particularly in poor and backward areas of the province. People jokingly call the structure "a small society under the control of a large government." Reducing the size of rural governmental organizations and the number of county government officials would help relieve the pressure on local finances as well. According to official statistics, before the reduction exercise began in 2001, there were 1,588 counties in the province, with an average population of 38,000 in each. Nearly half of these counties, or 754, had a population of less than 30,000 each, while another 153 had less than 10,000 each. The Guangdong Civil Affairs Department had asked for a 15 per cent cut in counties by the end of last year, a target that has been achieved. "We fulfilled the quota last year with a rate of 16.6 per cent. That means one county in every six was removed," a department official told China Daily yesterday. Shenzhen and Guangzhou are planning to go even further in this direction - they want to absorb all counties with complete urbanization in the near future. But the task is not being fully implemented in some parts of the province, especially in the poor or backward counties in the western and eastern areas. "Resistance mainly comes from county-level governments," said a Civil Affairs Department official, who did not want to be named. County leaders there are reluctant to implement the reform, complaining that as soon as their counties are removed, a large number of redundant officials would lose jobs; and that they have no way of dealing with unemployed officials or the debt left by the abolished county government. Meanwhile, the Guangdong Personnel Department is reducing the size of staff in government departments in the counties to support the task of removing and merging counties. It has told each city in the province to reduce 20 per cent of staff in county governments. The redundant personnel would mainly be the older officials; they should either be persuaded to leave several years ahead of the legal retirement age; or provided with help in finding new jobs. For those who are too young to retire, work should be arranged in State-owned institutions. However, Huang Huahua, the governor of Guangdong Province, said on Tuesday at a government conference that ensuring social stability should be given priority, too. The reform of municipal and county government organizations cannot be gauged by the reduced number of counties and redundant personnel, but by their working efficiency, he said. (by Liang Qiwen)

From China Daily 03/04/2004

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Premier Vows to Further Transform Government Functions

Premier Wen Jiabao Friday pledged to further transform government functions this year, urging that governments at all levels must fulfill all of their responsibilities. Wen made the remarks in a report on the work of the government delivered at the opening of the Second Session of the Tenth National People's Congress, the top legislature of China. The government bears heavy and demanding responsibilities in the effort to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, he said, adding that governments and leading cadres at all levels need to adapt to new situations and tasks and continually raise their administrative and management ability. The government must pay more attention to social administration and public service work. In particular, he said, "we need to speedup the establishment of emergency response mechanisms and improve the government's ability to deal with public crises." While transforming government functions, efforts will be intensified to adhere to scientific and democratic policy-making, by integrating public participation, expert evaluation and government decision-making to ensure that the government's policies are scientific and correct. Governments at all levels must exercise their power and perform their duties within the scope of their authority defined by law and in accordance with legal procedures, and consciously accept the oversight of the general public, the premier said. "We must improve the government's style of work and improve the overall quality of public servants," he said. "We must work harder to build a clean government and fight more vigorously against corruption." Concrete, prudent efforts to be made in political restructuring. Wen Jiabao said concrete and prudent efforts will be made this year to promote political restructuring, develop socialist democracy and improve the socialist legal system, on the road of strengthening democracy and the legal system and safeguarding national security and social stability. "We will further expand democracy at the lowest levels of government, improve self-governance by villagers and urban residents, and respect the democratic rights of the government authorities and people at the lowest levels of government," Wen said in his report on the government work at the national legislature's annual session. "We will uphold and improve the system of workers' conferences and other systems of democratic management practiced in government institutions and enterprises and protect the legitimate rights and interests of workers," while continuing to carefully carry out work related to ethnic minorities, religious groups and overseas Chinese, he said. In order to promote common prosperity and progress for all our ethnic groups, the state will increase support for economic and social development in ethnic minority areas and intensify training of ethnic minorities in all fields of work. He pledged to fully implement the policy of freedom of religious belief, handle religious affairs in accordance with the law, help religious organizations adhere to the principle of independence and self-governance, and actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society. "We will improve our work concerning overseas Chinese, their relatives in China and returned overseas Chinese, and fully utilize their unique role in promoting the reunification of the motherland and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," said the premier. Priority should be given to legislation for dealing with emergencies, protecting farmers' rights and interests, safeguarding employment and social security and developing social undertakings. "We will work hard to improve the quality of government legislation. We must solicit opinions from all sectors of society when drafting important laws and administrative regulations that affect the vital interests of the people. We will work to improve legal and notary services and carefully carry out legal assistance work," he said. The legitimate rights and interests of women, minors and the handicapped shall be protected as prescribed by law, he said. "We will increase publicity and education concerning the law in order to create a good social environment in which the people study the law, understand the legal system and abide by the law," the premier said.

From People's Daily 03/05/2004

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China's Cabinet Ends Irregular Decision-Making Meetings

China's cabinet, the State Council, has ended the practice of holding irregular decision-making meetings of premier, vice-premiers and related ministers so as to ensure its policy-making to be consistent with processes defined in the law. Such meetings will be replaced by executive or plenary meetings of the State Council presided over by the premier. Under the law, the executive meeting of the State Council is composed of the premier, vice-premiers, state councilors and secretary-general, while the plenary meeting includes all members of the cabinet, including all ministers. "The cancellation of the irregular meetings attended by the a few government officials is intended to strengthen the function of executive meetings of the State Council, which is also a reflection of the reinforcement of rule of law in the executive body," said Mao Shoulong, dean of the political management department of the People's University. Under the constitution, the premier convenes and presides over executive and plenary meetings to discuss major issues of state. The irregular meetings with the premier are set in accordance withthe necessities of work, which played an important role in the past. "The work meeting with the premier was originally set to better communicate with the premier, and does not function as a policy-making meeting," said Professor Wang Yukai, of the state administrative college. "However, it has evolved to become a policy-making meeting." Statistics show that the State Council convened 37 meetings from last March to January, an average of three to four a month, which is sufficient to discuss major state issues. "In his long speech at the state administrative college last year, Premier Wen Jiabao said he would further improve the work procedure of the state council and make it more scientific, democratic and juridical, said Wang. "The cancellation of the irregular work meeting with premier is another step in improving the work of the State Council."

From People's Daily 03/07/2004

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System to Inspect Provincial Senior Officials' Financial Responsibility Starting Soon

Since Supervisory Regulation recently started in the CCP, some monitor measures are to be taken aiming at senior officials at all levels. The system to inspect provincial senior officials' financial responsibility is to be started by the central authority this year.

Grace translated from Guang Zhou Daily 03/08/2004

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Officials to Be Rated on Pollution Control

The central government is planning to introduce a new system to evaluate officials at all levels, with effective environmental protection as an important index. The idea, dubbed the "green GDP (gross domestic product) assessment," has been hailed by top legislators and experts as an effective way to increase local officials' environmental awareness and spur them into action. Pan Yue, deputy director general of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said on Monday that the administration is working with the Organization Department of the Party Central Committee to introduce such a system in some provinces. Under the new system, the performance ranking of local officials in protecting the environment would affect their future promotion. Southwest China's Sichuan Province is one of the pilot provinces where the system was implemented last year, said provincial governor Zhang Zhongwei, who is a deputy to National People's Congress (NPC). He said Tuesday that the system adopted in Sichuan evaluates officials at three grades and officials failing to meet the target on environmental protection are downgraded, no matter how well they perform economically. Zhang hailed the expected nationwide introduction of the system as "good opportunity" for China, which is committing to adopting a "scientific concept of development." The new concept, advocated by top Chinese leaders like President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, stresses sustainable economic and social progress as well as effective protection of natural resources and environment. "Our experience is that such evaluation is effective to mobilize local officials for sustainable development," said Zhang. As for Zhang himself, he has also pledged specific targets in environmental protection to the provincial people's congress, which is responsible for electing him as governor. "My goal is to clear Minjiang River, Tuojiang River and Jialinjiang River in five years," he said. If he fails to meet the announced goals, the governor would face the blame of congress, said Zhang. Sichuan Province has benefited a lot from the system, he said. The favourable ecological situation has laid a good foundation for developing tourism, which is becoming a pillar industry of the province. Zhao Chenggen, professor of the School of Government at Peking University, said such system is a "very good thing'' for China. China has witnessed rapid economic growth in past two decades, while in some areas, the economic achievements were made at the cost of the environment, said Zhao, who described such growth as "unbalanced development." Environmental protection is an important component of balanced development, he said. However, making those evaluation systems open and fair is a very difficult thing to do, he said. "Technically speaking, it is one of a most difficult things to create a specific system to evaluate the performance of officials, such as what kind of indices should be included in the system," said Zhao. And an NPC deputy from a Northwest Province told China Daily on condition of anonymity that it is unfair to include officials in West China in such system. Coastal provinces have made remarkable economic progress in the past two decades at the cost of deteriorating environment, while the economic boom in West China provinces just started in recent years. The deputy complained that the coastal provinces are able to invest more money on environmental protection, while the lack of money will prevent provinces in West China from making more efforts to stop pollution. Zhao said that if the central government should carries out the balanced development strategy across the country, it will give more compensation or financial aid to West China to help them realize healthy and environmentally-friendly development.

From China Daily 03/10/2004

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Six Ministerial Officials Given Guilty Verdicts in 2003

Chinese courts meted out guilty verdicts to six ministerial public servants in 2003, Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court, said Wednesday in Beijing. During his work report of the Supreme People's Court to the ongoing Second session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), he said 73 prefecture-level officials and 458 county-level officials were put on trials and convicted. "The Supreme People's Court supports and respects the independent and fair trial of cases by local courts at various levels last year, and enhanced supervision and guidance of their work," said the president. He noted that local courts also handed down verdicts to a total of 5.687905 million cases of various kinds last year, involving 768.5 billion yuan (93.7 billion US dollars), up 0.78 percent and 8.33 percent year-on-year, respectively. Verdicts were passed last year on a total of 735,535 criminal cases by local courts, giving guilty verdicts to 933,967 defendants, up 1.21 percent and 1.51 percent, respectively, according to the report. Of the criminal cases, 238,949 ones pertained to arson, blast, murder, kidnapping, robbery, mafia-like organized crimes and other offenses, and 308,183 accused were convicted, he said. Chinese courts also concluded over 37,580 cases involving violation of the rights of minors and women with 40,820 people given guilty verdicts, said Xiao. A total of 19,197 people were sentenced last year as Chinese courts concluded 14,775 cases concerning production and marketing of fake and shoddy goods, smuggling and financial fraud, said the president. On human rights protection involved in the judicial field, Chinese courts gave not-guilty verdicts to 2,467 defendants charged with criminal offences, to 2,368 defendants charged by public prosecutors according to the report. Xiao said the Supreme People's Court passed verdicts on 300 cases of death penalty examination and retrials of criminal cases, up 16.28 percent over the previous year. The Supreme People's Court also ruled on 372 civil cases of appeals and cases of business disputes concerning foreign firms or citizens with 13.48 billion yuan involved, he said. Courts at local levels delivered verdicts on 114,896 lawsuits against government departments and institutions, involving urban housing resettlement, expropriation of rural farmland and social security, and ruled on 3,124 State compensation cases, a rise of 18.24 percent over the same period of last year. Courts across China rescinded rulings on 5,805 verdicts, which had been proven to inaccurate in evidence, not strict with trial proceedings, or unfair in their verdicts. Courts to continue "striking hard" on crimes Chinese courts in 2004 will adhere to the principle of "striking hard", or a relentless crackdown, in handling grave criminal offenses to safeguard national security, social stability and the safety of the people'slives and property, the Chief Justice said. "The courts shall help create a social environment of long-termstability for the building of a well-off society in an all-round way," said Xiao. In an apparent response to the proposed Constitutional amendments, which are expected to be approved at the end of the 10-day NPC session, Xiao pledged in his report that the courts would "respect and safeguard human rights" and "protect the citizens' right to private property ownership and right of inheritance according to law" in trial practices in 2004. The draft Constitutional amendments, presented to the national legislature on Monday, include clauses like "The State respects and safeguards human rights" and "Legally-obtained private property rights of the citizens shall not be violated." Special attention should be paid to cases involving disputes caused by the demolition of urban residential housing and expropriation of rural farmland, impairment of workers' interests in the retooling of enterprises, defaulted payment of wages, and pollution of the environment, Xiao noted. The courts shall also play an active role in safeguarding the country's financial security, protecting the growth of non-public economic sectors, maintaining a sound market economic order and ensuring fair market competitions, he added. The top judge also pledged intensified efforts to accelerate the reform of courts and further improve judicial justice in an effort to "raise judicial efficiency" and "maintain judicial authority". In 2004, China will strive to strengthen its judicial ranks, and courts at all levels will carry out activities to foster their"fairness image" with focus placed on the "building of clean courts" and "expel any judges who abuse their judicial power or ask for and take bribes," with severe punishment meted out indiscriminatingly to those judges who violate the laws, said Xiao. Facts & figures in work report of Supreme People's Court Following are facts and figures in a report delivered Wednesday to China's national legislature by Xiao Yang on the judicial work in 2003. -- The Supreme People' Court concluded a total of 300 cases concerning the retrial of crimes and review of cases in which death penalties had peen passed by lower courts, up 16.28 percent from the previous year. And of these cases, the original verdict was upheld in 182 cases. -- The Supreme People's Court concluded the investigation of 372 appeals on civil and foreign-related affairs, which were submitted due to plaintiffs' refusal to accept the verdicts of local higher people's courts, which involved approximately 13.48 billion yuan. The Supreme People's Court also granted retrials to 59 cases pertaining to civil and foreign-related affairs. -- Courts at all levels concluded the investigation of 5,687,905 cases, involving a total of 768.5 billion yuan last year, up 0.78 percent and 8.33 percent respectively from the previous year. -- Courts at all levels concluded the investigation of 735,535 criminal cases and gave sentences to 933,967 criminals in 2003, a rise of 1.21 percent and 1.51 percent respectively from the previous year. -- Courts at all levels tried and concluded 14,775 cases relating to producing and marketing fake and shoddy goods, smuggling, financial fraud and other cases to undermine the marketeconomic order. About 19,197 criminals involved were sentenced and1.5 billion yuan in economic loss was retrieved. -- Courts at all levels concluded the investigation of 22,986 work-related crimes, giving sentences to 458 county-level officials or section chiefs, 73 prefecture-level officials and sixprovincial or ministerial-level officials. -- Courts at all levels tried and concluded 114,896 administrative lawsuits, most of which were the cases relevant to forcible demolition of houses in cities and towns, requisition of land in rural areas and social security. In addition, 3,124 state compensation lawsuits were concluded last year, an increase of 18.24 percent from the previous year. -- Courts at all levels re-examined 1.12 million criminal, civil and administrative cases and redressed 5,805 wrong cases. -- Courts at all levels offered judicial assistance in 228,000 cases, reducing and exempting about 1.057 billion yuan of lawsuit expenses for litigants.

From People's Daily 03/10/2004

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Draft Guideline Adopted to Build Clean Government

A draft guideline to urge the government to administer in line with laws and draft amendments to the Law to Prevent and Control Infections Diseases were passed at an executive meeting of the State Council, China's cabinet, Tuesday. The draft guideline elaborated the principles, goals and measures to push the government to administer in line with laws in the next decade, according to the meeting presided by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. According to the draft guideline, governments of all levels in China should work to establish a scientific and democratic decision-making mechanism, improve the quality of administration and the quality of regulations they will issue. The Chinese Premier had just told a press conference on March 14 that the second goal of the government institutional reform is to administer the country according to laws. "We must prompt the government to administer the country in line with law, build clean and honest government, and pursue the combination of the government's power and responsibility," he said. The meeting also decided to submit the draft amendment to the Law to Prevent and Control Infections Diseases to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, after further amendment. The law, adopted in 1989, needs amending to meet the new situation of disease control in China, the meeting said.

From http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/ 03/16/2004

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Introduction of a Five Year Term of Office Necessary for Government Officials

Four deputy-mayors of Jiaozuo City in Henan Province have resigned without explaining why. Their silence has aroused a great deal of suspicion, since there could be many reasons for their resignations, either personal choice, such as leaving to start their own businesses, or a decision by their superiors to demote them for poor work performance. An article in the China Youth Daily believes this kind of behavior has a bad effect on the public's right to know, and advocates the introduction of a five year term of office for government officials. The author says this would reflect respect for people's rights, and meet the expectations of the public when the officials concerned take up their positions. Secondly, it would avoid frequent changes of officials, and the resulting inefficiency. Lastly, it would make officials take their responsibilities more seriously, in particular, their commitment to serving a full term, rather than quitting at will. (by Xu Fei)

From CRIENGLISH.com 03/16/2004

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Hong Kong Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2003 Passed by Legislative Council

The Legislative Council today passed the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2003 (to be known as the "Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2004" after its enactment) and approved the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 (Amendment) Notice 2004. When the Amendment Ordinance commences operation on September 1, 2004, it will be an offence for a person to possess, for the purpose of or in the course of a profit-making copying service business, an infringing copy of a copyright work as published in a book, magazine or periodical unless the person can successfully invoke one of the statutory defences provided under the Amendment Ordinance. These defences are aimed at ensuring that a person would not be convicted if the infringing copy in question was not made for the purpose of and in the course of the copying service business, or was not made for profit and reward. "Under the existing Copyright Ordinance, making an infringing copy of a copyright work for sale or hire is already an offence. Practically speaking, the newly enacted offence will not change the scope of the existing offence as far as copyshops are concerned; but it will facilitate enforcement action and prosecution work against illicit reproduction of printed works and strengthen copyright protection for such works," a spokesman for the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau said. Originally, the Bill also included provisions that would preserve the effect of the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 ("the Suspension Ordinance") which was due to expire in July this year. Under the Suspension Ordinance, criminal liability for possessing infringing copies in business ("end-user criminal liability") is confined to four categories of works, namely computer programs, movies, musical recordings and television dramas. "However, copyright work owners and users need more time to consider the appropriate scope of end-user criminal liability. To allow more time for continued discussions in this regard, all provisions relating to end-user criminal liability have been deleted from the Bill. We will continue to discuss with copyright work owners and users on the appropriate scope of end-user criminal liability and review certain provisions of the existing Copyright Ordinance, for example the provisions on permitted acts. During this period, the scope of end-user criminal liabilities will continue to be confined to the four categories of works," the spokesman added. The Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 (Amendment) Notice 2004 will extend the effective period of the Suspension Ordinance for two more years until end-July 2006 and will be gazetted on Friday (March 26). The newly enacted Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2004 will be gazetted on April 2.

From http://www.info.gov.hk/ 03/24/2004

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Taiwan Vote Dispute Drags into Fourth Day

It remains unclear how soon the Taiwan election row will be resolved since the island's high court rejected the Kuomintang's (KMT's) move to declare Saturday's election legally invalid. Thousands of protesters continued their vigil Thursday in Taipei, pressing for a recount after a disputed vote they said was marred by "numerous clouds of suspicion." Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu, who were seeking reelection, reportedly led their challengers by a very narrow margin of less than 30,000 votes. According to initial figures, Chen and Lu won 6,471,970 votes, or 50.11 percent of the total, against 49.89 percent of the votes, totaling 6,442,452, for Lien Chan and James Soong of the KMT-People First Party coalition. But immediately after the election Lien and Soong called the result into question, claiming the polling "was an unfair election" marred by voting irregularities and an unexplained election-eve shooting. The opposition suggested that the mysterious shooting that slightly wounded both Chen and Lu one day before the polls seems suspicious. After the attack, Chen activated a national security protocol, which meant that 200,000 military and police could not vote. Also at the heart of the row is the high number of invalid ballots, which totaled 337,297. That is almost triple the 122,278 figure in 2000 and 11 times Chen's margin of victory. The opposition demanded all the ballot boxes be sealed to prepare for a recount and filed a petition to nullify the election. The high court ordered all ballot boxes from some 13,000 polling stations islandwide sealed on Sunday. The Taiwan high court, however, rejected the KMT's lawsuit to invalidate the tightly contested race yesterday. It said the KMT may resubmit its claim at a later date. Nullification of the result would force another election. "The main reason is that the plaintiff is required to file suit within 15 days of the central election commission's announcement of the election result," court spokesman Wen Yao-yuan reportedly said. "The election commission has not yet announced the result, so the court ruled to reject the lawsuit." The election commission is expected to announce the result officially tomorrow. Meanwhile, the ruling and opposition parties appeared to have made little progress in resolving the dispute because they still disagree about how to do a speedy recount.

From China Daily 03/25/2004

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The Central Government Urges to Rectify Official Plurality

Chinese central government has asked local governments to take measures to eliminate double-jobbing by officials before April. Chinese central government has asked local governments to take measures to eliminate double-jobbing by officials before April. It ordered that all officials who have jobs in private enterprises leave their commercial positions, while company bosses that have government posts should be dismissed from office. Meanwhile, it says, approval for government officials to hold part-time jobs should be stopped.

From CRIENGLISH.com 03/25/2004

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JAPAN: Eight Prefectures Now Have Anti-terror Units

Almost a decade after Aum Shinrikyo members released sarin on Tokyo subway trains, police in eight prefectures now have dedicated antiterrorism units to respond to nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. The units have specialized equipment, including decontaminants and special vehicles, to protect them from dangerous biological and chemical substances, the National Police Agency said. The subway attack in 1995 killed 12 and injured more than 5,000. The eight prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, each have an antiterrorism unit. The number of officers involved was not revealed. The Metropolitan Police Department and Osaka Prefectural Police set up the first units in 2000. Prefectural police in Hokkaido, Miyagi, Kanagawa, Aichi, Hiroshima and Fukuoka followed in 2002, when the World Cup soccer finals were held in Japan and South Korea. The NPA said Tokyo and Osaka police will each add another antiterrorism unit by March 2005. Prefectural police riot squads are equipped with hazmat suits and equipment to detect biological and chemical substances. The government has submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the Police Law so that the NPA can directly instruct prefectural police in the case of possible nuclear, biological or chemical attacks. The government has compiled a manual to strengthen cooperation among the ministries and agencies. It addresses issues such as facilitating cooperation between police and fire departments in rescue efforts, conducting decontamination and dealing with requests for dispatching the Self-Defense Forces.

From The Japan Times 02/28/004

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Third of Japan's Local Gov'ts Lack Deputy Mayors, Treasurers

Roughly one in three cash-strapped local governments in Japan have no deputy mayors or treasurers, according to a Mainichi Shimbun survey. The finding has demonstrated that local governments are hard-pressed to reduce personnel expenses in the face of the prolonged recession and as the central government is reducing the amount of local allocation tax grants as part of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's structural reform policies. However, the Ministry of Public Management urges that municipal governments appoint deputy mayors and treasurers. "It's true that a growing number of municipal governments have refrained from appointing deputy mayors or treasurers from the viewpoint of administrative reform," an official of the ministry's Local Administration Division said. "However, deputy mayors and treasurers are indispensable for the management of local administrations, and such positions should not be slashed as part of administrative reform," he added. According to data at the nation's 47 prefectural governments, 1,003 out of 3,170 city, town and village governments throughout the country lack either deputy mayors or treasurers, or both. Of the 1,003, 50 are cities, 713 are towns and 240 are villages. Among them, 97 municipal governments, including six cities, lack both deputy mayors and treasurers. By prefecture, the largest percentage of the municipal governments in Tottori Prefecture -- 82 percent -- lack either deputy mayors or treasurers, or both, followed by Okayama Prefecture at 58 percent. The Local Autonomy Law stipulates that each municipal government must appoint at least one deputy mayor and one treasurer. However, the lack of deputy mayor and treasurer for a long period of time cannot be immediately regarded as illegal because the law does not provide for a deadline for appointing such top-ranking officials. The financial situation of local governments is becoming increasingly serious because of decreases in their tax revenues as a result of the prolonged recession and the slash in local allocation tax grants from the national government. The amount of local allocation tax grants, which peaked in fiscal 2000 at 22 trillion yen, declined to 18 trillion yen in fiscal 2003, and is to be further slashed to 17 trillion yen next fiscal year beginning in April.

From Mainichi Shimbun 03/07/2004

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Security Laws to Give Governors Power to Seize Property

Local governors will be given powers to take control of private property under new security laws designed to prepare the country for foreign or terrorist attacks, it was learned Friday. As part of Japan's first war contingency legislation, governors will be given the authority to use homes and assets in emergency situations even if owners refuse to relinquish them. However, Diet members are now discussing exceptional circumstances in which citizens will be able to refuse such requests from governors. "Citizen can refuse if they face major difficulties in carrying out such requests," a government statement said during Friday's Diet session. The statement, in reply to questions made by a member of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, listed such "exceptional cases" as those in which citizens refuse a local government request to use a vehicle if the vehicle is not in running order. Also in the case of medical and food supplies, people can refuse to sell such goods if those supplies are damaged. In the case of a governor ordering a property owner to provide shelter for people fleeing a disaster area, the owner may only refuse if the building is already filled to capacity with other refugees, the statement said. The national and local governments will be given the authority to judge whether people are in such a position to be able to refuse a governor's request, it said.

From Mainichi and wire stories 03/19/2004

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Law Revision Eyed over Salaries of Pols' Aides

Liberal Democratic Party and Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) officials agreed at a meeting Friday on the key points of a bill to revise the law on salaries for Diet members' secretaries, including prohibiting lawmakers from employing their spouses as state-paid secretaries. At the meeting between the two parties' secretaries general and Diet affairs committee chairmen, officials also agreed to set the mandatory retirement age for such secretaries at 65; to prohibit the secretaries from holding other jobs concurrently; to ensure only secretaries are the recipients of their salaries; and to ensure that the secretaries are not persuaded or forced to make any kind of contributions. Participants in the conference expressed a desire to reach a formal agreement at a meeting of Diet affairs committee chairmen Wednesday, which also would include committee heads from New Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. The committee heads said they planned to submit the reform bill during the current session of the Diet. At Friday's meeting, a Minshuto representative said, "Lawmakers should be prohibited from hiring spouses and close relatives." An LDP representative disagreed, however, saying: "Only the hiring of spouses should be prohibited by law. The hiring of parents and grandparents, however, should be regulated from within the party." Because of this disagreement, the reform bill will include only the clause forbidding lawmakers to employ spouses as secretaries. The LDP and Minshuto agreed that each political party should hold intraparty meetings to discuss party policy on the hiring of relatives by their lawmakers.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 03/21/2004

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Cabinet Office to Get 1st Woman Director General for Econ Assessment

The government has unofficially named Hiroko Ota, a former university professor, to work as a senior economic official at the Cabinet Office in charge of analyzing Japan's economic health, officials said Monday. Ota, 50, who will succeed Mitsuru Taniuchi on April 1, is the first woman to assume the post of director general in charge of analyzing the state of economy and issuing annual government white papers on economic and fiscal issues. Taniuchi, 54, will retire from the government at the end of March and will become a professor at Waseda University. Ota is currently a director at the Cabinet Office. She joined the government in 2002 after working as an associate professor at Saitama University and as a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

From Kyodo News 03/22/2004

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SOUTH KOREA: Government to Allow Civil Servants' Union

The government will this year push for legislation that would allow the nation!¡Âs civil servants to form a trade union, the Ministry of Labor said on Thursday in a report to President Roh Moo-hyun. The Labor Ministry said it has decided to come up with a bill on labor rights of public servants after the April 15 general elections. Labor Minister Kim Dae-hwan reported the legislation plan to the president. The decision comes as the International Labor Organization (ILO) recommended that the South Korean government should guarantee full labor rights for its employees. South Korea is one of two ILO members, and the only country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), that has yet to allow the basic labor rights of government employees, including the rights to organize and to take collective action. A piece of legislation passed in Nov. 2002 under the Kim Dae-jung administration allowed public servants to organize an association to protect their interests. However, government workers are still banned from setting up their own labor union, taking collective action or concluding negotiations. A survey conducted by the Korea Labor Institute of 1,000 civilians also showed that only 24.7 percent of respondents opposed allowing government workers!¡Â union, while more than 57 percent gave the nod to a public servants!¡Â union with limited rights to collective bargaining. ``The decision comes as the Tripartite Commission of labor, government and management agreed Feb. 6, 1998 that the government would consider allowing public servants the right to organize after taking public opinion,!¡Â!¡Â an official at the Labor Ministry said. In addition to the bill on labor rights for government employees, the ministry also decided to push for two different legislations to provide more job security and a pension plan for the nation!¡Âs workers. The government will within the year push to legislate two separate bills on the rights of irregular workers and creation of a national pension program for laborers. The bill on the rights of contract workers would seek to establish an inspection bureau to overlook and prevent discrimination of part-time and day laborers and avert the abuse of such temporary workers by government offices as well as private businesses. Businesses and government offices will be banned from becoming overly dependent on irregular workers for their workforce while forced to provide a written contract to their contract workers. The ministry also said it will work to create more jobs, cut down on average working hours and implement the new work permit system for foreign migrant workers this year. Still, strong opposition is expected from the nation!¡Âs pro-labor organizations, as the ministry!¡Âs plans to create more jobs is largely dependent on creating more temporary job openings in both government and private firms. (by Byun Duk-kun)

From http://times.hankooki.com/ 03/04/2004

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23 New Overseas Mission Heads Appointed

23 new appointments for the heads of Korea's overseas diplomatic missions have been made. Former presidential secretary Ra Jong-il has been named the new ambassador to Japan while another former Cheong Wa Dae official Yim Sung-joon is Seoul's new envoy to Canada. A graduate of Seoul National University, 64-year-old Ra Jong-il formerly served as an ambassador to Great Britain and as presidential National Security Advisor under the current administration. 56-year-old Yim Sung-joon also a graduate of Seoul National University worked as a senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security during the previous Kim Dae-jung administration.

From Arirang TV 03/07/2004

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Korea's Fighting Corruption Not Successful

I read your interview with Domenico Pacitti (Korea Times, Feb. 11) and, besides the Italy-bashing and the flattering remarks of your country spread all over the dialogue, I found the content highly questionable on at least three points. Pacitti says the anti-corruption fight in Italy has been undermined by some laws of the current government; there certainly has been backlash in the last couple years, but the Clean Hands inquisition ended in 1995 by its own failure: more than 90 percent of the politicians concerned have been acquitted. Many politicians?¡Â careers have been definitely interrupted by false accusations. Contrary to Pacitti's declarations, in the large majority of cases there hasn't been any second chance for them. It is said in the interview that unlike Italy's Clean Hands, the Korean anti-corruption action is succeeding. I can hardly agree with this allegedly good outcome after reading The Economist's index of corruption. In 2001, Italy was 29th (the first and supposedly least corrupted country was Finland), while South Korea was 42nd, one of the worst among developed nations. It seems the bright Korean portrait described by Pacitti should be a tad shaded. Pacitti is perhaps too optimistic about Korea!¡Âs capacity of eradicating corruption (an impossible task for Western democracies, according to him) and too negative about the West: the top ten countries in The Economist's ranking are all Western countries; the first Asian nation is Hong Kong, at 14th. I would also like to say to David Aliaga (Letter to the Editor, Feb. 15) that corruption should not be confused with inefficacity. (by Antonio Napoleone)

From http://times.hankooki.com/ 03/08/2004

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Government Committed to Stimulating FDI

Finance and Economy Minister Lee hun-jai assured on Wednesday (Mar. 10) that South Korea and its government were committed to stimulating foreign direct investment (FDI) and to develop itself into a business hub of Northeast Asia. In a gathering of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK), Lee reiterated the government's commitment of raising FDI from 9.2 percent gross domestic product recorded in 2002, up to 14 percent by 2010. Acknowledging possible challenges, Lee said, the central government will follow through on the Business Condition Plan and the Living Condition Plan to create a more friendlier environment for outside investors.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/11/2004

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Public Services Fees Freeze to Contain Inflation

The Korean government will freeze public services fees during the first half of the year to restrain consumer prices gains to the 3 percent level, officials said on Thursday (Mar. 11). The decision comes amid rising consumer prices triggered by a shortage of raw materials due to increasing global demand. Further fueled by soaring crude oil prices, prices for steel and lumber have been climbing steadily since the beginning of this year, giving rise to concerns of a supply shortages at companies using the materials for construction and other manufacturing. At the meeting presided over by Vice Finance Minister Kim Wang-lim, officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and other related ministries agreed to freeze public utilities fees levied by the central government during the first half. Local administrations will soon be asked to follow suit in the provinces, Kim said. As other ways to keep consumer prices in check, the government will seek to lower health care costs and mobile telecommunications fees by June, and also keep closer tabs on the prices of agricultural products. Meanwhile, to prevent rising raw material prices from harming the corporate sector, the ministries said they would crack down on illegal hoarding of scrap metal and steel reinforcing beams used in buildings. The Public Procurement Service will import about 30,000 metric tons of steel to add to the local supply. On Monday, the Commerce Ministry's temporary monitoring on steel exports to restrict their outflow for an initial six months went into effect.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/12/2004

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Prime Minister Goh Serves as Acting President

Prime Minister Goh Kun takes office from the impeached President Roh Moo-hyun. The 66-year-old veteran politician will serve as interim president until the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold the National Assembly's impeachment of Roh. It will be Goh's job to figure out how to keep the country moving. He was not sworn in as president and it is unclear whether he will be called president. However, the Constitution will call on Goh to be supreme commander of the Korean armed forces. He will have the right to declare a state of siege, power to conclude and ratify treaties and appoint diplomats. The married father of three adult sons and two grandsons was quick with his first decision. Shortly after the impeachment, Goh asked Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee Hun-jai to focus on economic stability in order to safeguard Korea's credit rating, the Prime Minister's Secretariat said on Friday (Mar. 12). Goh, a former prime minister and mayor of Seoul, is President Roh's first prime minister. He has experience in many administrative posts, and is often called a "master in administration" for his diverse and extensive experiences working for the central and local governments. Goh, a Christian who likes tennis, served as Seoul mayor twice, held three cabinet posts and was the governor of South Jeolla Province. He was also prime minister under former President Kim Young-sam and has an honorary law doctorate from Syracuse University in New York State. Cheong Wa Dae, meanwhile, is reviewing past records involving former presidents so as to make a smooth transfer of power, since the impeachment move has no precedent in Korea and government officials remain puzzled about what should be done. President Roh's status as the head of the state has changed with the passage of the impeachment bill. He is now unable to appoint government officials, cannot convene a State Council meeting, nor conduct administrative tasks like visiting state-run agencies. President Roh remains to hold his nominal position. He does not need to leave the presidential office and presidential security and other related services will continue uninterrupted. But the President's Security Service will channel a significant part of its manpower and resources to protect Goh. Given that Goh is known for his cautious style, he is expected to stay away from political issues and focus instead on maintaining order in the administration. He also repeatedly vowed to remain neutral ahead of the April 15 general elections. Although government officials said there would not be major disruption in state affairs resulting from the impeachment, Goh may be forced to make decisions on pressing issues like the North Korean nuclear problem, the dispatch of troops to Iraq, credit defaulters and labor unrest.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/13/2004

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S Korea's Main Opposition Elects New Leader

South Korea's main opposition party has elected the daughter of the country's former military dictator as its new leader, hoping to reverse its tumbling popularity three weeks before a crucial parliamentary election. Park Geun-hye is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the man credited with transforming South Korea from a poor, agrarian society into one of Asia's most industrialised economies after seizing power in a 1961 coup. Ms Park's appointment as head of the conservative Grand National party (GNP) added further drama to South Korea's volatile political landscape, less than two weeks after the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun. The GNP risks losing control of the National Assembly in the April 15 poll because of public anger about its role in removing the left-leaning Mr Roh from office on charges of illegal campaigning for the pro-government Uri party. Many people viewed the impeachment as a reckless political stunt by opposition parties that has plunged South Korea into political crisis. The events added to growing disillusionment among voters about rampant corruption and destructive factionalism among the country's warring parties. Opinion polls show that support for the reform-minded Uri party has surged above 45 per cent, while the GNP - associated with South Korea's traditional ruling elite and business community - has fallen to 15 per cent. Ms Park promised to "save" the GNP by breaking away from its image as a "corrupt party with vested interests". She was elected as interim leader until after the election, following the resignation of Choe Byung-yul. The 52-year-old is the subject of widespread public fascination and affection, having seen both her mother and father killed by assassins. She served as First Lady following her mother's execution by a North Korean agent in 1974 until her father's shooting by a close aide in 1979. However, for a party desperate to modernise its image, the choice of Ms Park as leader represents a high-risk strategy. She is likely to galvanise support among traditional GNP supporters - older conservatives who look back fondly on her father's era of rapid economic growth and disciplined social order. But her background could alienate younger liberals who cherish the freedom of South Korea's nearly 17-year-old democracy and view Mr Park's presidency as an era of brutal oppression in which dissidents were imprisoned, tortured and sometimes executed. In an interview with the Financial Times two years ago, Ms Park said her ambition in politics was to complete her father's unfinished business by advancing South Korea's democracy. "Industrialisation and democratisation could not be achieved at the same time. When my father became president, this country was in terrible poverty. The first thing he had to do was save the country through industrialisation and from that followed democratisation," she said. (by Andrew Ward)

From http://news.ft.com/ 03/23/2004

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Uri Party Leads in Key Electoral Battlefields

Candidates of the pro-government Uri Party are leading their competitors by large margins in key electoral battlefields across the country. An opinion poll conducted by The Korea Times and Media Research of 10 key constituencies shows Uri Party candidates leading in seven and the majority opposition Grand National Party (GNP) leading in two, while the Democratic Liberal Party (DLP) holds sway in one key district. The minor opposition Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) was out of the picture. Uri Party candidates led in constituencies in Seoul, Puchon, Taejon and in Cholla Province. The party also came in first in the Yongdo constituency in Pusan. The GNP maintained the upper hand over the Uri Party in Susong A, Taegu, district and Pohang Nam-Ulnung district, recovering its approval rating with Park Geun-hye, hailing from Taegu, taking over as party chairwoman at a national convention March 23. The GNP's candidates are faring poorly even in the party's traditional strongholds in Pusan and South Kyongsang Province. But respondents gave relatively high marks for its candidates in terms of their chances of victory and aptitude. Rep. Chu Mi-ae, leader of the MDP, garnered a 19.7 percent approval rating compared with 39.2 percent for the Uri Party's Kim Heong-joo in Kwangjin B district of Seoul. But she scored 44.7 percent for character fitness and 44.9 percent for her victory possibility, edging past Kim who earned 13.1 percent and 31.8 percent, respectively. The Uri Party's Kim Choon-jin got a 28.4 percent support, outmaneuvering MDP stalwart Chung Kyun-hwan who earned 17.1 percent in Kochang-Puan district in North Cholla Province. The GNP's Kim Moon-soo earned 35.3 percent in a tight contest with the Uri Party's Kim Man-soo, a former associate of President Roh Moo-hyun, who got 39.7 percent in Puchon-Sosa district in Kyonggi Province. Kim, who acted as chief candidacy nominator of the opposition party, maintained the upper hand over the Uri Party candidate in terms of his chances of victory and capability. In the constituencies of Yongdo constituency in Pusan, which has traditionally been the GNP's turf, the Uri Party's Kim Jung-kil recorded 44.5 percent approval rating while rival Kim Hyong-oh of the GNP registered 23.5 percent. This is a stark contrast with the survey conducted by the daily Joongang Ilbo on March 10, which showed the Uri Party candidate lagged far behind Kim. Former GNP floor leader Rep. Hong Sa-duck chalked up only 25.7 percent, behind the 47.9 percent for the Uri Party's Han Myong-sook, who formerly served as environment minister, in Koyang-Ilsan A in Kyonggi Province. The MDP's Park Tae-woo got only 3.1 percent. In the district of Kohung-Posung in South Cholla Province, which had been MDP territory, MDP candidate Park Sang-cheon registered 25.7 percent compared with 35.1 percent for Shin Jung-sik of the Uri Party. The Democratic Labor Party's Kwon Young-ghil earned 45.0 percent support in Changwon B district in South Kyongsang Province, beating the GNP's Lee Ju-young and the Uri Party's Park Moo-yong, who received 21.5 percent and 17.4 percent approval, respectively. In regards to the favored political parties in accordance with the introduction of the proportional representation system, the Uri Party came out at front in all 10 of the key constituencies with approval rates between 36.6 percent and 67.8 percent. The GNP came in second in all areas except for the Cholla provinces where the MDP grasped second place. The former-ruling MDP marked fourth in four areas _ Seoul, Pusan, Kyonggi and South Kyongsang provinces _ trailing behind the pro-labor Democratic Liberal Party. The survey was carried out on 500 voters with a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. The Korea Broadcasting System reported March 20 that Uri Party candidates topped the list in opinion polls in 20 major districts in Seoul. (by Shim Jae-yun)

From http://times.hankooki.com/ 03/26/2004

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Education Ministry, KICE Get 'F' for Unfit Examiners

A student at Ewha Girls' High School concentrates on her exam paper during the first trial college examination, Friday. About 30 unqualified examiners were involved in the process of setting and reviewing questions for the 2003 and 2004 college exams, Korea's top auditing agency said Friday. Among these were educators who were unqualified for the state-administered College Scholastic Ability Test and parents of students who took the tests. The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) examined the Korea Institute of Curriculum & Evaluation (KICE) and the Education Ministry in charge of the test and discovered 30 unqualified examiners including five parents, 12 part-time college lecturers and 13 teachers with less than five years of work experience. The KICE can only qualify those whose children are not taking the test, full-time college lecturers and teachers with more than five years of working experience. The BAI called for disciplinary action on eight KICE officials who gave their tacit consent to the selection of ineligible candidates. Lee Jong-seung, the former director of the institute, resigned from his post last December. Academic and career backgrounds also played a major role in the selection of examiners. According to the BAI, 58 percent of 156 examiners for the 2004 exam were graduates from Seoul National University and 15 percent of 33 teachers were working at schools in Gangnam, southern Seoul. "As KICE officials selected examiners they knew, they tended to select many from a certain college and a certain background," said Kim Jae-son, a BAI director. However, the BAI stated that children of examiner parents did not get noticeably higher scores. BAI officials also said that there was no evidence that the unqualified examiners had offered bribes for their selection. To prevent possible disputes over fallible questions and multiple answers, the BAI recommended that the KICE establish a complaint-filing system and directed the Education Ministry to organize a pool of qualified examiners while maintaining control over the KICE. Meanwhile, KICE officials said they had to include foreign part-time lecturers and students taking doctorate courses because it is difficult to find examiners qualified in such foreign languages as French and German. Under BAI direction, the institute has specifically defined the qualifications for examiners and is now looking for 450 full-time lecturers and high school teachers who will set and review questions for the 2005 college entrance exam. (by Chung Woo-sang)

From http://english.chosun.com/ 03/26/2004

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Ex-President's Daughter Stakes Leadership on Poll

Rep. Park Geun-hye, daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee and the first woman to lead a major political party in nearly four decades, has been called to rescue the embattled Grand National Party before next month's parliamentary elections. But some observers are critical of her political competence, believing that she just has been riding on the coattails of her father, who was assassinated by his intelligence chief in 1979 after 19 years of dictatorial rule. He is still revered by some aged voters for boosting the economic growth during his reign. The new GNP leader must prove that she can be a leader and bring about political reform. Her speedy ascent to the top office and the lingering questions on whether Park can move out of her father's shadow makes her the Herald Person of the Week. So far, her appearance has at least appealed to the political community, sending a big bang-like impact on the world of male-dominated Korean politics. Wary of swaying voter sentiment in favor of Park, the pro-government Uri Party, an opinion poll favorite, is pouring its criticism against Park for her unclear position on the senior Park's persecution of democracy fighters, as well as positioning women candidates to the party's forefront to attract media attention. The collapsing Millennium Democratic Party, the nation's second largest political party, is relying heavily on the fame of a prominent female lawmaker Choo Mi-ae. Though Park is just getting started, she has the daunting task of recovering lost public support following the party's series of bad appearances ahead of the crucial April 15 parliamentary elections. Corruption scandals related to the party's failed 2002 presidential campaign and collaborating with the MDP to pass an unpopular presidential impeachment motion even worried the majority party in parliament of a "President Roh Moo-hyun dictatorship" after the elections. Park, at least, seems to successfully quell internal party dispute over the impeachment vote to strip Roh of his power. In response to Park's determination not to concede to public protests, voices of some party members wanting to void the parliamentary decision have become silent. Park will be judged by voters in the upcoming polls, and then by party members at the next GNP convention slated for June. (by Joo Sang-min)

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 03/27/2004

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INDONESIA: Susilo Asks President of His Duties in Cabinet

Top security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Tuesday he had sent a letter to President Megawati Soekarnoputri seeking clarification over his role in the Cabinet. In the letter delivered to the President earlier in the day, Susilo questioned his function as coordinating minister of political and security affairs because "it seems to me that Ibu has already made her own policies on such issues, which should, of course, be adjusted with my authority". This was the culmination of weeks of tension between Susilo and the President. Susilo said he expected Megawati would respond to the letter immediately, adding that he was waiting for an appropriate time to meet with the President to discuss their differences. "I left it up to the President to decide," he said on the sidelines of a ceremony to commemorate the 43th anniversary of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) in Central Jakarta. The retired four-star general, who graduated in 1973 from the Military Academy, is a former Kostrad member. There has been a great deal of speculation recently that Susilo would resign from the Cabinet, following his complaint to Megawati about not being invited to several important meetings at the State Palace and the President's official residence on Jl. Teuku Umar in Central Jakarta. One meeting that Susilo was not included in two weeks ago was held to discuss preparations for the general election. The meeting was a precursor to visits to several provinces by security authorities to monitor preparation for the elections. The provinces included Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, where the military is waging a campaign to crush the separatist Free Aceh Movement. Earlier this month, the President's husband, Taufik Kiemas, called Susilo childish for discussing with the media what he perceived as his being ostracized from the Cabinet. Taufik, who is also a leader of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said Susilo should have come to the President first before talking to the media. Signs of disquiet first appeared last September when Susilo held an informal meeting with former president B.J. Habibie in Germany on his way to the United States to attend an antiterrorism summit. Susilo's regular appearance in TV spots appealing for a peaceful election in his capacity as the top security minister has only added to the tension between him and Megawati. Observers say Susilo clearly has presidential ambitions. Many believe he could be one of the strongest contenders in the presidential election. Susilo has been proposed as a presidential candidate by the Democratic Party, the party he founded. Susilo was reluctant to say that his letter to the President amounted to a resignation, but promised to clarify the matter on Wednesday after a meeting with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Thomas Ridge. Megawati refused to discuss the possible resignation of her coordinating minister for political and security affairs, saying the minister was free to take whatever step he thought necessary, according to PDI-P deputy secretary-general Pramono Anung. "We did not discuss it, but the President said it is up to him (Susilo) to decide," Pramono said following the party's weekly meeting led by Megawati. Pramono said that as of Tuesday afternoon, Megawati had not received Susilo's letter. A presidential staff member told The Jakarta Post the letter might have gone straight to the President through one of her adjutants, since no members of the presidential secretariat, state secretariat or the staff at Megawati's residence had received the letter. "Maybe one of the adjutants gave the letter to the President," the staff member said.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/10/2004

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Panwaslu Reveals 'Money Politics'

Desperate to win people's hearts and minds, political parties have openly employed dubious tactics to draw indifferent voters to largely deserted campaign sites. The Concern for the Nation Functional Party (PKPB) provided free meals for more than 1,000 people in Medan, North Sumatra, on Friday in an apparent bid to attract people to what it called a "people's fiesta", which the party's presidential candidate Siti Hardijanti "Tutut" Rukmana was supposed to attend. However, once the meals were eaten, the gathering never took place as the vigilant North Sumatra Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) was quick to disperse the crowd on the grounds that the party was not scheduled to campaign that day. Tutut, the youngest daughter of former president Soeharto, did not show up at Maimon Palace, Medan, where the fiesta was to take place. Campaign coordinator Arwin said Tutut decided not to attend after a hearing the Panwaslu had ruled against the activity. "The free meals could be considered money politics. We will consider reporting the violation to the police," the head of local Panwaslu Yulhasni told The Jakarta Post. "The money for the free meals is not Tutut's money. It's from our supporters," Arwin said. On Monday, the PKPB also handed out hundreds of food packages to residents in Central Jakarta while the previous day it gave scholarships to students in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). In Manado, North Sulawesi, Vice President Hamzah Haz's United Development Party (PPP) on Friday doled out watches, umbrellas and head scarves to party supporters. Antara reported from Manado that party mementos were distributed by PPP Manado leader Djafar Alkatiri after addressing over 10,000 people at Tikala field. In Pontianak, West Kalimantan, the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS) distributed Abate powder and medicine for skin irritations and coughs as well as vitamins to party supporters in what it called a "sympathetic campaign". "I don't care if they call it money politics or not, but what is clear is that we registered this sympathetic campaign with the police," PDS Pontianak secretary John Situmorang was quoted by Antara as saying. Meanwhile, Panwaslu central board member Topo Santoso said in Jakarta that all forms of gifts from political parties during the campaign period could be considered vote-buying method and violated Article 77 of Law No. 12/2003 on elections. "Giving money, staple foods and other things, such as free health services can be considered money politics," said Topo, who is also a legal expert at University of Indonesia. Another Panwaslu member, Didik Suprianto, doubted parties would refrain from money politics due to weak sanctions against the practice. Money politics carries a maximum sentence of 12 months and a maximum fine of Rp 10 million (US$1,176). The Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) fears that affluent political parties will buy votes on the April 5 election day given that many of them violated regulations in the first week of the campaign period. ICW deputy coordinator Lucky Djani disclosed that many parties had distributed food and provided free services to the people, activities that could be categorized as money politics. "There is a correlation between affluent parties and violations of campaign rules as well as the practice of money politics," he said here on Friday. ICW monitoring in six cities found money politics conducted by many parties, especially the big and wealthy ones. Lucky said the parties gave money to all attending their campaigns. "In Jakarta, the fee is between Rp 35,000 to Rp 100,000 for each person attending a campaign," Lucky said.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/20/2004

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INDONESIA: Most Ministries Full of Corruptors

Former secretary-general of the Ministry of Forestry Soeripto said here on Sunday that most ministries and state institutions in the country were full of corruptors. "The free movement of corruptors shows that reform in this republic is not working as expected," Soeripto said during a campaign for the Prosperous Justice Party. If only reform had stuck to its original ideals and objectives, the country would surely be free from such corruptors, he said. The fact that corruptors are moving freely "shows that reform is merely lip service", he said. Soeripto stressed that one of the main objectives of reform was to fight against corruptors who have plagued the nation. He cited as an example that when he was the secretary-general of the forestry ministry, at least 11 large-scale corruptors should have been removed from the ministry. Out of these, only Bob Hasan was sent to jail, while Probosutedjo, the younger brother of former president Soeharto, was sentenced to four months in prison -- but he has not yet served out the sentence. The other corruptors, including Tommy Soeharto, SitiHardiyanti Rukmana and Prayogo Pangestu, had not faced charges of corruption, he said. During the Soeharto era, the Ministry of Forestry was known as one of the most corrupt ministries, Soeripto added. The government at that time handed over forest concessions indiscriminately to cronies of the ruler, he said, and consequently, national forests were recklessly harvested for the interests of a handful of the privileged. "We used to clean up these rats from the Ministry of Forestry," he said, adding that such cleaning no longer occurred after his departure.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/28/2004

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MALAYSIA: Opposition Parties Ready for Elections

The country's main opposition parties said they are ready for the polls, albeit last-minute discussions on how to take on the Barisan Nasional in straight fights in possibly all seats at stake. PAS would largely go into Malay-majority areas while its ally Parti Keadilan Nasional would tackle mostly the non-Malay-majority seats. At the same time, Keadilan was also working out details with DAP to avoid any overlapping that would benefit the Barisan. PAS and the DAP are not talking to each other because of differences over its Islamic state plan. PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, the Opposition Leader in the Dewan Rakyat, said his party was 100% ready to face the general election. He said the decision to dissolve Parliament, announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday, was not shocking news to PAS. It had been discussed for nearly a year, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was still prime minister, Hadi told newsmen who broke the news to him at his office at Wisma Darul Iman in Kuala Terengganu. Hadi, who is Terengganu Mentri Besar, said the top leadership in PAS and Keadilan discussed seat allocations between them in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 29. The draft manifesto is ready and can be printed at anytime, he said. Besides the common manifesto, PAS would come out with different manifestos for states where its candidates would be contesting in the majority of seats. Keadilan information chief Khaled Jaafar said the dissolution of Parliament was not a surprise as they had expected it to be announced by tomorrow. He said the party's operation centres were ready in areas it would be contesting, adding that a special committee met yesterday to finalise the candidates list. Keadilan deputy president Abdul Rahman Othman said the party was not in a state of panic as there was still time for more preparations before nomination day. Seventy per cent of the candidates are old faces while the rest would be new ones, he told Bernama, adding that they were selected for their credibility, leadership and integrity as leaders. Keadilan would focus on Selangor, Perak and Penang. DAP secretary-general Kerk Kim Hock said negotiations on seat allocations with Keadilan would fall into place within the next few days. DAP national chairman Lim Kit Siang said it would be a critical test of Abdullah’s political will to clean up corruption, abuse of power, injustices and inequalities after the elections. DAP and all Malaysians want Abdullah to succeed in his pledge for a clean, incorruptible, efficient and people-oriented government, he said. Lim questioned whether, with the power to independently fix its own nomination and polling dates, the Election Commission could conduct free and fair elections and end money politics, media manipulation and abuse of government machinery and resources during the campaigning period.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 03/04/2004

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More Than 1,500 Candidates Contesting Seats

More than 1,500 candidates are in the fray for the 203 parliamentary and 505 state seats in the general election. Of the lot, 434 will vie for parliamentary seats while almost 1,100 contenders are contesting 497 state seats. Fourteen parliamentary seats and eight state seats will not be contested as they were won unopposed when nominations closed yesterday. Of the seats that have been returned without contest, seven were in Sabah, six in Sarawak and one in Johor - all for the Barisan Nasional. The coalition also won seven seats unopposed - four in Sabah and one each in Johor, Selangor and Perak. The eighth uncontested state seat was won by PAS in Johor. Among the opposition, the bulk goes to PAS, which will field 86 candidates. Parti Keadilan Nasional will go for 58 seats while the DAP, 44. The Sarawak Nasional Party will put up seven candidates, while three smaller parties - Setia, State Reform Party and the Malaysian Democratic Party - will each contest in just one parliamentary seat along with 31 independents. Perak and Johor have the most number of aspirants going for Parliament, each with 50 candidates. This is followed by Sabah (49), Selangor (46), Sarawak (39) and Kedah (30). The others include Kelantan (29), Pahang (28), Penang (27), Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (24) and 16 each in Terengganu and Negri Sembilan. The rest of the contenders are in Malacca (12), Perlis (six), and two each in the Federal Territories of Putrajaya and Labuan. In the battle for the 497 state seats in the fray, a total of 1,098 aspirants will fight it out, including 497 from the Barisan and 262 from PAS. The other state candidates are from Keadilan (118), the DAP (106), Setia (14) and Bersekutu (12). There will also be 89 independents, of whom 76 are from Sabah.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 03/14/2004

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Malaysian Vote Hinges on Islam, Cash and Corruption

Malaysia's prime minister called for a resounding victory against Islamic fundamentalists in Sunday's elections, saying only this would ensure security in one of the world's most developed Muslim states. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, riding to a virtually guaranteed victory on a resurgent economy and a stock market which has reached 46 month highs, told voters Saturday to "take the cue from the economic sector". He predicted that another 30 billion ringgit (7.8 billion dollars) in foreign funds would pour into Malaysia, but only on news that the ruling party had won a large mandate against fundamentalists who want to create a hardline Islamic state. "If you are not going to give us a strong mandate, I don't know what is going to happen," Abdullah said on the campaign trail in his northern home state of Penang. "This is not a threat. Why should I threaten? I am just stating a fact. "Ask yourself what do you want. Do you want more politics or do you want a stable, progressive government that can achieve success and is accepted by the business and investment community?" Abdullah told a news conference later that the National Front coalition stood "a good chance of retaining our two thirds majority, based on the support we can see". But in the rural Muslim heartland of this multiracial nation talk of stock markets and billions mean little to poor farmers and fishermen who have long viewed the government as corrupt. Abdullah has painted the election as a contest between "progressive" Islam and backward conservatism, but the votes of the poor may be swayed more by the perception that only the rich get richer than by ideological debates. Acknowledging this, the prime minister, who took over from veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad last October, has made the fight against graft and cronyism a central plank of his administration. In the last elections in 1999, the government suffered a sharp reversal among Muslims, with its share of the vote slipping from 63 percent to 49 percent as the fundamentalist Islamic Party (PAS) made strong gains. The National Front remained in power, as it has since independence from Britain in 1957, partly through the support of parties representing non-Muslim minorities who fear PAS's plans to create a hardline Islamic state. Ethnic Chinese and Indians make up more than a third of the population of 25 million and are expected to again ensure victory for the coalition of 14 parties led by Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).But Western governments and investors are watching closely for any signs that the majority Muslims have moved further towards fundamentalism and away from the policies which have put Malaysia among the world's top 20 trading nations. The key to the outcome lies in the rural northern states of Kelantan and Terrenganu, where PAS already controls the state governments, and neighbouring Kedah and Perlis which it hopes to seize Sunday. Abdullah has concentrated his campaigning in these states, where PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat has been telling voters that they will go to heaven if they support the Islamists and to hell if they back anybody else. Abdullah's message has been that voters should care as much about their welfare in this world as they do about the afterlife, and therefore vote for the development policies of the ruling party. Apart from a rebounding economy, Abdullah also has on his side the fact that anger over one of the major issues in the last election -- the sacking and jailing of popular former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim -- has faded.Some 10.3 million people are eligible to vote in Sunday's elections, with results expected within hours of the polls closing.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/20/2004

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Malaysian PM Unveils New Cabinet After Election Landslide

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi unveiled an enlarged cabinet with 14 new faces in a major overhaul after his landslide election victory. He said three ministries -- home, education, culture, arts and tourism -- would be split up, five ministries renamed to reflect new focus and two new ones formed. Abdullah kept the key finance and internal security portfolios. There are 34 ministers in the new line-up, up from 29, and Abdullah said 14 of the ministers were new faces. There was also an increase of women representatives and younger people. "This is a major restructuring of the government," he told a news conference broadcast live on national television. "All these changes are made to ensure effective and efficient government service... to provide more specific focus and to streamline the administration. The economy will benefit from the changes." The opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) described the new cabinet as "bloated and flabby." "His first cabinet is as flawed as the 2004 elections which gave him a landslide victory. He has failed his first acid test," DAP chairman Lim Kit Siang told AFP. The multi-racial National Front coalition won 90 percent of parliamentary seats on Sunday but opposition parties had said there were irregularities in the electoral roll that kept thousands of voters from the ballot box. Lim said it was disappointing that Abdullah kept the key finance and internal security posts which he inherited from former premier Mahathir Mohamad. "Why is he holding the two ministries? Are there no qualified or trustworthy person to lead the two ministries," he said. Abdullah defended the bigger cabinet, saying it would allow ministers to focus on specific duties and cut bureaucracy. "These changes are made to enable ministers to focus (on their jobs)," he told reporters. Abdullah said the new line-up would enhance the nation's competitiveness and boost Malaysia's aim to become a developed country by 2020. "The changes in the new administration are made to fulfil our promises... a government that supports the people and that will work to ensure a better, peaceful and prosperous future," he added. Abdullah named Azmi Khalid as new home affairs minister. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak retained his defence portfolio while Hishamuddin Hussein was was promoted to education minister. Newcomer and Abdullah loyalist Azalina Othman is the youth and sports minister. Veteran Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz retained her post, as did Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar. Abdullah created two new ministries for natural resources and environment, and federal territory. The national unity, and women and family development ministries were merged to become women, families and social development. Five ministries were renamed as plantation enterprises and commodities; science and technology; power, water and telecommunications; rural and regional development; and agriculture and agro-based industries. Abdullah also abolished the 10-year rotation system for the chief minister of Sabah state on Borneo island. The post has been rotated every two years among leaders of the three major communities since the ruling coalition won power in 1994. The ministers are expected to be sworn in Tuesday, a day before the weekly cabinet meeting.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/27/2004

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PHILIPPINES: VP Slams Cabinet Members for Pushing for GMA Bid

Vice President Teofisto Guingona on Tuesday lam-basted members of the Arroyo Cabinet for hoisting economic stability as reason to keep President Arroyo in power. Guingona, who broke away from the administration Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) Party late last year because of the President's decision to seek a fresh mandate and her failure to bring much-needed reforms, said Cabinet members are conditioning the minds of the Filipino voters to elect the President because changes in the political environment may have adverse effects on fiscal and monetary policies. He said that these statements were "self-serving," as they were obviously meant to persuade the Filipinos that voting for the President would ensure economic stability. He said the Cabinet members cannot speak for the International Monetary Fund and that it was improper for them to issue statements that were obviously meant to influence the people to vote for President Arroyo in the coming election. Guingona said Cabinet members must not issue statements that seem to warn succeeding governments not to go against the wishes of the IMF. He said that only the next leaders of the country are fit to determine whether to conform to the rules of the IMF or choose public interest over it. "It is not the province of political appointees who are alter egos of the incumbent President to say that the IMF is worried about the 'feasibility or continuity of economic policies' in case President Arroyo does not win a new six-year term. It is for the Filipino electorate, and no one else, to determine who will next hold the reins of government in our country," Guingona said. He continued: "[These statements are] not only misplaced but ominously sound like warnings to our next leaders not to review or change economic policies favored by the IMF. The matter of setting and implementing economic policies and of running the day-to-day affairs of government rests with the duly elected and popularly mandated leaders of the country, whoever they may be."

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 03/03/2004

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Arroyo Manipulating Election Surveys Roco Spokesman

The Alyansa ng Pag-asa coalition on Friday accused President Arroyo of manipulating the surveys to jack up her poll numbers. Jaime Galvez Tan, Alyansa ng Pag-asas campaign manager, said an analysis by Tomas Africa, director of the United Nations Statistical Institute, explains how the President has been able to fare well in recent surveys. In an e-mail to Tan, Africa said Mrs. Arroyo and her camp have been influencing the survey results by first determining the areas where the voting population is heavy, the same areas favored by statisticians and pollsters to sample respondents. Once these areas are identified, the President would distribute dole-outs to residents there so that during the survey, the people would have been so persuaded as to give the President a high ranking. Tan added that this focused distribution of government largess including the controversial PhilHealth cards is a deliberate strategy of the administration to rate better in public-opinion surveys. Africa, in his e-mail, said the vote-rich cities of Manila, Quezon City and Caloocan are the domains of Pulse Asia, but the Social Weather Stations (SWS) areas will not vary significantly. Chances are the rallies of the administration were held in these places first. Now they have caught up, they would either work on the remaining provinces, if the government still has the money, or simply run FPJ's reputation to the ground, Africa said. Tan pointed to Africa's credentials as a former director general of the National Statistics Office and the director of the UN Statistical Institute in Tokyo. This is an opinion from one of the world experts on statistics and electoral surveys. This guy is very qualified and responsible. He has been involved in statistics all his professional life, Tan said. For his part, Roco urged his supporters here not to vote for President Arroyo, calling her a political swindler who has been torpedoing the surveys.

From http://www.manilatimes.net 03/13/2004

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'Sor Por Khor' Controversy: Land Reform 'Under Threat'

The Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) will next week request a ministerial review of its draft bill aimed at lifting a restriction on land-sharing rights and making agricultural plots available to non-farmers. Under the draft rules, farmers would be empowered to transfer land-reform (Sor Por Khor) plots to non-farming purposes after switching to other professions. Critics said the bill, if approved by the government, would undermine the essence of land reform, exacerbating already-lopsided land holdings. ALRO secretary-general Adi-sak Sreesunpagit vowed, however, to push the draft through and face any resulting criticism head-on. "I wholeheartedly support the draft and I am willing to stick my neck out for it because I want the land-reform law to keep up with changes and be practical," he said. Adisak said existing rules on land reform were outdated and had led to the under-utilisation of many plots. "When farmers were allocated with land-reform plots 10 years ago, they were faced with an entirely different situation from today's," he said. "Then they wanted to farm. Now they want to change profession but their hands are tied by outdated rules." Restricting the passing of land rights among farmers is impractical, he said, arguing that many land-reform plots lie unutilised because owners and their descendants have been unwilling to farm them. Land-rights advocates say the bill has the short-term goal of expediting the government's asset-conversion scheme, which is aimed at stimulating the economy, but neglects to address the longer-term impact on land distribution. Land-reform plots cannot currently be used as collateral for loans because of ownership restrictions. "If the government allows the transfer of land-reform plots to non-farmers, developers would surely benefit at the expense of landless farmers," said land-rights advocate Pairoj Pholphet. Pairoj said the land-reform programme was meant to help the landless and should the ownership restriction be lifted, the poor would never be able to outbid developers.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/05/2004

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THAILAND: Financial Sector Reform: 'No Need to Look for an Outside Partner'

Kiatnakin Finance insists there is no need for it to merge with another financial institution in upgrading to bank status in line with the government's financial sector master plan. An internal merger with its subsidiary, Radanatun Finance, will allow the company to meet Bank of Thailand criteria, Kiatnakin managing director Tawatchai Sudtikitpisan said yesterday. Kiatnakin took over Radanatun several years ago and has been running it as a separate entity. It now plans to consolidate the subsidiary under the Kiatnakin banner. The central bank's criteria state that an institution applying for a banking licence must consolidate with at least one financial institution and have a minimum registered capital of Bt5 billion. Under the government's master plan for the sector, the financial service licences of finance companies and other small institutions will be eliminated, forcing them to merge into their banking parents or recapitalise to obtain a new full-service or retail banking licence. Kiatnakin is the country's third-largest finance company in terms of assets. Its main businesses are hire purchase, leasing and lending to the property sector. As of end-December, its total assets amounted to Bt41.14 billion. "We're drafting a plan to become a full-service bank. It will be submitted [to the central bank] by July. After upgrading as a bank, we will maintain our business strengths, including hire purchase and bad-debt management," said Tawatchai. Kiatnakin is gearing up for a risk-management system, and cheque, deposit and foreign-exchange services to customers, he added. "All this needs time in terms of developing systems. However, we have about a year before commencing these operations," he said. Bank of Thailand regulations stipulate that any institution granted a banking licence must start its banking operations within one year, otherwise the licence will be revoked. Kiatnakin expects its net credit extension to rise by Bt20 billion this year, lifting its total loan portfolio to Bt50 billion. One-half of overall lending will be hire purchase, Bt15 billion will be for property firms, and the remainder loans acquired from the Legal Execution Department. Kiatnakin's board recently approved a plan to issue up to Bt10 billion of debentures, with a maximum maturity of 10 years. Tawatchai said all the debentures would be issued within 18 months, with about Bt3 billion to Bt3.5 billion to be issued this year.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/05/2004

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VIETNAM: Corruption Fight Key to Sustaining Renewal

The campaign to fight corruption, waste and authoritarian bureaucracy have fallen short of expectations, a senior Party official has admitted. Speaking at a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday, Phan Dien, member of the Party Central Committee (PCC) 's Political Bureau and Secretariat, said they have only slightly deterred, not stopped, such social ills. "[This has] not only worried the public but also hindered the political and economic reforms pursued by the Party and State," he told the meeting to review the implementtation of the PCC's resolutions on Party-building and rectification. "Some positive changes have taken place in the country's political and economic life," Diem noted. He said that political and economic institutions have been reinforced, inspection and supervision strengthened and the Party's prestige heightened with due penalties handed down to corrupt Party and State officials. He lauded the strenuous efforts of the Party at all levels to carry out the resolution. "Party officials have gone through a rotation of assignments to improve their management abilities while people's complaints and denunciations have been heeded more promptly," he said. These moves have helped reduce and handle "hot beds" of land-related grievances in both rural and urban areas, he added. "The achievements are noteworthy but still fall short of expectations," Diem said. He urged the conference to review experiences of the past two years and discuss measures to achieve the campaign targets in the second half of the ninth Central Committee's tenure. "Fighting corruption, waste and other wrongdoings requires practical action rather than mere words. Only by doing so could the resolution on Party-building yield satisfactory results," he pointed out. The meeting heard reports from provincial Party Committee secretaries and various ministries, central offices and mass organisations on the Party-building and rectification campaign. Other delegates emphasised the need to step up criticism and self-criticism as well as regular monitoring and oversight of Party organisations at different levels. They suggested that heads of Party and State bodies, whose subordinates were found guilty of corruption or other offences, be held partially responsible. They agreed that the legal system had to be overhauled to forge a State governed by the rule of law and Party regulations amended to suit the latest developments in the country and world. The two-day conference closed yesterday and was attended by Tran Dinh Hoan, member of the PCC's Political Bureau and Secretariat and chairman of its Organisation Com-mission, Truong Vinh Trong, member of the PCC's Secretariat and chairman of its Internal Affairs Commission besides other senior central and local officials.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/13/2004

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Party Leader Calls for Party Cells to Be Strengthened

Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh has called on the Party to strengthen itself and stamp out corruption at the annual Party review in Ha Noi on Wednesday. "We should boost Party-building within organisations and fortify them against any obstacles. We should also overcome idleness among many Party cells," Manh said at the Party Central Committee's (PCC) Organisation and Personnel Commission conference. The meeting was held to review last year's Party activities and prepare for next year's. The people should have the right to supervise the activities of cadres and Party members to prevent problems. Corruption should be overcome, Manh said. The leader ordered a crackdown on other negativity that could threaten the Party. "False accusations and the victimisation of those who criticise should be strictly banned," he said. Manh emphasised that if a Party member engages in unethical behaviour, he must be treated as fairly as anyone else under the law. He said Party-building activities among cells should co-ordinate with the efforts of local governments, Fatherland fronts and other organisations. The Party leader also said Party cells should follow democratic principles and encourage their members to be straightforward in discussions. Once the cell issued a resolution, however, all members should strictly follow it. Conference participants worked out new tasks for this year, including evaluation and rotation of cadres and leaders into different positions. Participants agreed a reasonable ratio be ensured among young, middle-aged and older cadres, as well as women and ethnic minority cadres. Young cadres should be more of a priority for promotion, the conference heard. Personnel affairs could decide a revolution's victory or failure, Manh said. He said in the past, personnel affairs had assured the Party and the Government had cadres who could fulfil their duties, overcome challenges and boost development of the country. Under the Politburo's Resolution on Cadre Rotation, nearly 2,300 cadres across the country have been rotated into different posts. So far, the Politburo and the Party Secretariat have rotated 23 cadres who are managed by the PCC, including six PCC members and 17 deputy ministers. Ministries and sectors have rotated more than 200 cadres. Provincial and municipal Party Committees have also rotated more than 2,000 cadres.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/25/2004

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BANGLADESH: 45 Reserved Seats for Women Proposed - 14th Constitution Amendment Bill Introduced

The government on Wednesday introduced a constitution amendment bill seeking to introduce a provision of 45 reserved seats for women in parliament, reports UNB. With the passage of the bill, the provision will be made effective for the residual period of the present Parliament increasing its strength to 345 from the existing 300 members. The women members will be elected by 300 MPs based on proportional representation in Parliament, as proposed by Law Minister Barrister Maudud Ahmed in his 14th constitutional amendment bill. The bill seeks to amend Articles 4, 59, 82, 65, 148 and the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. Although the provision for women reserved seats has been made for 10 years from the first sitting of next Parliament, but it will come into effect for the residual period of present Parliament under a temporary provision of the Amendment bill. Earlier, there were 30 reserved seats for women, but the relevant constitutional provision expired with the dissolution of last Parliament in July 2001. The Law Minister briefly explained different amendments proposed in the bill, as Bangabir Qader Siddiqui of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Janata League opposed certain provisions. On the pressing demand from women rights organizations for direct election to the women reserved seats, Maudud said there were varieties of demands about the number of reserved seats and direct election, but they could not precisely say about any practical mechanism of direct election. He said if women want they can contest in the direct election for all 300 parliamentary seats. The Law Minister criticized the "double standard" of Awami League on the number of women reserved seats and the procedure of election. He, however, invited the Awami League to return to Parliament and make their suggestions about the bill. Maudud said a major election commitment of the present Government was to amend the Constitution to preserve the women seats in Parliament and ensure women empowerment. The House sent the bill to the parliamentary standing committee on the Law Ministry for further scrutiny and to submit its report within two weeks on the proposal of the Law Minister. The constitutional provision of 15 women reserved seats was introduced in the constitution in 1972 for 15 years. In 1978, the number was increased to 30 and in 1990, the provision was extended for another 10 years till 2000. The 14th constitutional amendment has also sought to amend or introduce certain other provisions regarding the portrait of the President and the Prime Minister, administering oath to the newly elected MPs and local government institutions. On displaying the portraits, it said the portrait of the President must be preserved and displayed at the offices of the President, the Speaker and all Bangladesh missions abroad while only the Prime Minister's portrait would be displayed at the office of the President and the Speaker, and in head and branch offices of all Government, semi-government, autonomous bodies, statutory public authorities, government educational institutions and Bangladesh missions abroad. Barrister Maudud said the Government brought the amendment to settle the dispute over displaying of portraits following bitter experiences of the past. The previous Government (AL) issued an administrative order regarding the display of portrait, but it was later scrapped. The amendment of the Constitution, he said, would bring about a permanent institutional solution to it. The amendment bill sought to make a new constitutional provision empowering the Chief Election Commissioner to administer the oath to the newly elected members of Parliament within next three days if the designated person under the Constitution fails to conduct the oath after three days of the publication of official results of the general election. Regarding the Local Government bodies, Maudud said the elected person of the Local Government bodies like Union Council, Municipality and City Corporation, shall not continue in office after the expiry of their terms and the election must be held within 90 days of such expiry to reconstitute those bodies. During the interim period, a public officer to be appointed by the Government would take care of that Local Government unit.

From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 03/18/2004

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INDIA: Congress Disgraced the Nation

PATIALA - Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Thursday launched a frontal attack on the Congress, accusing it of "disgracing" the nation for the sake of gaining power and said his government has done more work during the last five years than Congress in the past 50 years. "Congress has claimed that our coalition government has ruined the country. How have we ruined the country? Are rapid progress in agriculture, industrial growth, touching new horizons in science and technology, making primary education compulsory for children and increasing medical facility signs of ruining the country," he said at an election meeting here. Congress, he said, has not been able to accept defeat in the elections and to regain power was saying things which "disgrace the honour of the country." "We also fought election but never have we tried to disgrace the nation," he said adding the BJP-led coalition of 17 parties in the Centre has brought about a sea-change in the country which has been recognised the world over. The green revolution has made the country surplus in foodgrain and reversed its dependence on imports. "Today we are exporting foodgrain to various countries", he said. Vajpayee said his government wants a second green revolution for this a Rs 50,000 crore policy is being formed to double the per capita income of farmers by 2011. Twenty two states have implemented the agriculture insurance scheme under which claims worth Rs 2,000 crore have been sanctioned. Farmers have taken credit to the tune of Rs 83,000 crore through the credit cards launched for them. "We are setting up 48 export units in 14 states with an investment of Rs 1325 crore that will facilitate Rs 10,300 crore worth of additional exports," Vajpayee said. The Congress, he said, has alleged deaths of farmers under NDA rule but some deaths took place in Congress-ruled states which were provided sufficient foodgrains by the Centre but did nothing to distribute them. Vajpayee, addressing his first election meeting in Punjab, said his party BJP's alliance with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was not for power but to give an alternative to Congress. "People who used to criticise coalitions are today running bare-foot seeking alliances." "Congress lost election but did not accept defeat. It did not want to sit in Opposition and serve the nation. We were in Opposition for 40 years but never raised any wrong step. Congress could not tolerate that it will have to sit in Opposition. Congress without power is like a fish out of water," he said recalling that the country's oldest party pulled down two governments for its "lust for power". From self-sufficiency in foodgrains to providing quality infrastructure like roads which are essential to make rural economies progress, the country's landscape has undergone a drastic change. "I am surprised when Congress to win elections talks of things which bring dishonour to the country. They are away from reality."

From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ 03/18/2004

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Digvijay Alleges Vajpayee of Backtracking

Guna (MP): Senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh has said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is readying himself to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls backtracking from his announcement five years ago that he would no more contest elections. "During last general elections, Vajpayeeji had announced that he will not contest next Lok Sabha polls ... but he has failed to stick to his words and backtracked," Singh said yesterday at a party meeting at Maksudangarh, 70 km from here. Referring to his own announcement of not contesting any elections for 10 years, Singh said "I am firmly going by my words and there is no question of my contesting polls from my home turf Rajgarh or any other constituency." The senior Congress leader also ruled out the likelihood of his wife Asha Singh contesting the Lok Sabha election from Rajgarh and said the party would field a local candidate. Singh, who also addressed a meeting at Rajgarh, said the plight of the people, especially farmers, had worsenesed due to steep increase in the prices of essential commodities and low procurement prices. He said an agitation would be launched at Beaora tehsil of the district on April five in protest against price rise and to demand hike in procurement prices of foodgrains. "If the BJP comes to power again, prices of commodities including kerosene, edible oils and urea would sky-rocket and put enormous burden on the common man," Singh warned.

From http://www.hindu.com/ 03/18/2004

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SRI LANKA: A New Govt. Under President's Leadership to Alleviate Hardships of the Masses Will Be Set Up

"I took over the Provincial Council of the Western Province when there was a majority of Members of the Opposition, but due to the co-operation extended by the members I was able to continue as the Chief Minister for three years and during my tenure of office. I have rendered a valuable service in the field of education." This was stated by the Chief Minister of the Western Province Reginold Cooray addressing the local correspondents of Kalutara District at Kalutara. M. J. Somasiri the Leader of the Opposition of Kalutara PS welcomed the gathering. Addressing the media, he stressed that the Western Province is the most important Province in the island with 1,390 schools and the school going population is about ten lakhs of children and 37,000 teachers. Among the three districts in the Western Province Kalutara District records the lowest population and also in development. "I have given special preference for the development of Kalutara District as it has been backward when compared with other two districts, I have allocated Rs. 360,867,114 specially for education in Kalutara District and completed 733 projects in the year 2002/2003. The over-crowding in schools have been minimised and I have provided new buildings to almost all the schools, sports materials and other school equipment. A massive amount of Rs. 1,631,705,000 have been spent for road development projects, too." He said further that special attention has been paid to develop the schools in Agalawatta, Bulathsinhala and Matugama electorates as there are many undeveloped schools. He also stated there is a problem of closing some of the undeveloped schools due to urbanisation, lack of facilities and decrease of population but he has taken steps to reduce the number of Year 1 classes in popular schools and also to upgrade the standard of surrounding schools. The new method has greatly benefitted to admit children to surrounding schools where there are teaching equipment. Speaking about the forthcoming general election he assured that under the leadership of President a new government would be set up to alleviate the hardships face by the ordinary masses and the government was dissolved at the request of the masses. He also assured that the problems faced by the local correspondents, who are the backbone of any newspaper would be solved and their status would be upgraded and recognition given to their national service.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/02/2004

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President Dissolved Parliament Considering the Request of the Masses

The Freedom Alliance Government to be formed with a great majority under the leadership of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga will not allow anyone to engage in any arbitrary acts and it will reactivate the local economy by ensuring justice to the working class, the government servants and the former community, said Gampaha district Freedom Alliance, candidate and former MP Reggie Ranatunga at propaganda meeting held at Asgiriya organized by the Asgiriya SLFP branch. Ranatunga further said President dissolved Parliament considering the request made by all masses dissatisfied by past two years of UNF administration. Rapidly increasing corruption, cost of living, broken promises given to the farmers, the working class, and the government servants by their bogus budget were the hardships for the people to request for a new government. Prior to the dissolution of Parliament some UNF Ministers demanded to dissolve the Parliament. But now they blame, because they know that a large number of their supporters in rural areas are rallying round the Freedom Alliance. The UNP should know that the 2001 general election was not requested by the people. The country had to face the polls due to a conspiracy by certain extremists politicians with the support of the business racketeers, who crossed over to UNP for money an personal gain. The forthcoming election is a good opportunity for the voters to defeat such opportunists. Ranatunga said the UNF politicians make various allegations to cover up their defeat at the forthcoming election. Today the people of the country are politically and socially well advanced. It would be a hard task for anyone to mislead the people. Ranatunga called upon the people to defeat the UNF and bring the Freedom Alliance to power to create a prosperous Sri Lanka under the leadership of the President. Western Provincial Councillors Prasanna Ranatunga, Lionel Jayasingha, former Pradesiya Sabha member Nimal Shanta and several others addressed the meeting.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/02/2004

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Rid Country of Corrupt Politicians, Says President

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga yesterday said it was the crying need of the hour to rid the country of corrupt politicians. "Since 1977, politics has become a money spinning business and honest and educated people who can serve the country immensely are not willing to enter politics", she said addressing teachers and Government officials at President's House. It was tragic that the country's highest governing institution had converted itself into a marketplace to earn commission for some of its members. If the country is to move onwards in the 21st century as a developed Nation, the attitude of both public servants and politicians should be changed, the President said. In the event of forming a new Government, the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) will take firm action to prevent bribery and corruption which has become an incurable epidemic in Sri Lankan politics. It has grown to such an extent that politicians have become a mere commodity, up for sale in forming governments, kicking the franchise of the voters who elected them, she said. The President said: "We are expecting an honest service from public servants. We will introduce a new formula to encourage workers. "In this process, incentives and promotions will be granted to officials for their efficiency ignoring the number of years in service." "During the period of the PA government, we gave a 100 per cent salary increase to teachers and 70 per cent to other Government officials. On the other hand we managed to maintain the cost of living at low levels", the President said. However, under the UNP regime during the last two years the cost of living has gone up by 300 per cent. Veteran economist of the UNP regime promised to offer a five figure salary, but finally granted an increment of only Rs. 1,000, the President added. (by Anura Maitipe)

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/05/2004

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Democracy Very Much Alive in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has had a vibrant democratic tradition since the 1930s when the first national elections based on universal suffrage took place and, in spite of the rise in election-related violence in recent years, democracy is very much alive in the island, Chief of the European Union Election Observation Mission, John Cushnahan told a media conference last week in Colombo. The Mission was in Sri Lanka at the request of the Commissioner of Elections. This is their third visit in four years to observe Parliamentary polls. There was some reflection on their part before a decision was taken to visit the island, Cushnahan said. The EU strongly supported efforts to strengthen democracy and to improve human rights throughout the world. They were willing to respond positively to requests for election observers in countries which required their assistance, he said. "We were very much impressed by the way in which voters cherished their votes. It is the bounden duty of political parties to ensure that citizens can exercise their franchise free of violence. Political parties should not only condemn violence, but also take positive steps to end it," he said. Cushnahan said they were disappointed that key recommendations they had made after observing the 2000 and 2001 elections have not been implemented. The appointment of a multi-member Elections Commission and a Code of Conduct for political parties were among them. Sixty five EU observers are to visit Sri Lanka. Twenty observers have already arrived in Colombo while the others will arrive a week ahead of the elections, he said. EU observers will be in the island for three weeks after the elections to submit a comprehensive report and recommendations. (by P. Krishnaswamy)

From http://www.sundayobserver.lk/ 03/14/2004

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President Abolishes 13 Non-Cabinet Ministries to Save Public Funds

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga with a view to rationalising and saving public funds, has abolished 13 non-Cabinet Ministries earlier taken over by her with immediate effect. The special gazette notification in this regard was released on March 17, the Presidential Secretariat said last night. The President has also amalgamated two non-Cabinet Ministries to two other Cabinet Ministries. Accordingly, the non-Cabinet Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has been amalgamated with the Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry. The non Cabinet Ministry of Urban and Public Utilities Ministry has been amalgamated with the Western Region Development Ministry. According to the special gazette notification, the non- Cabinet Ministries of Water Management, Housing Development, Ministry Assisting Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Provincial Councils and Local Government, Samurdhi, Irrigation, Tourism Development, Agriculture Technology and Crop Productivity, Paddy Cultivation, Land Registration and Science and Technology have been totally abolished, by the President. The President, following the dissolution of Parliament, removed all the non-Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers in a bid to restructure all the Ministries. The objective of removing those Ministers was to minimise the number of Ministries and to reduce and save administration and maintenance costs, the Presidential Secretariat stated. The abolishing of non-Cabinet Ministries was also another step towards saving public funds, the Secretariat added. Accordingly, the number of non-Cabinet Ministries has now been reduced from 24 to 13 following the March 17 gazette notification. The Presidential Secretariat stated that procedures in the Government Service will be followed with regard to the Secretaries of those non-Cabinet Ministries. Meanwhile, President Kumaratunga has appointed former Secretary to State Transport Ministry, P. Weerahannady and former Secretary to the Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, P. M. Leelaratne as Secretaries to the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry and Samurdhi Ministry.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/19/2004

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MALDIVES: 3 Atoll Chiefs Appointed

MALE - President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has appointed Atoll Chiefs to three atolls. The new appointments were Abdul Hameed Mohamed, Farhath Ali and Abdul Rahman Mohamed, as the Atoll Chiefs of Haa Dhaalu atoll, Noonu atoll and Gaafu Alifu atoll, respectively. The three were sworn in as Atoll Chiefs in the presence of the President at a ceremony held at the President's Office on Sunday morning. The oath of office was administered by the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Mohamed Rasheed Ibrahim. The Minister of Atolls Administration Abdulla Hameed and the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Mohamed Hussain were also present at the ceremony. Abdul Hameed was earlier serving as the Director General at the Regional Development Projects Office, North while Farhath Ali's previous posting was as the Atoll Chief of Gaafu Alifu atoll. Abdul Rahman Mohamed was serving as the Fuvahmulaku Atoll Chief before his appointment as the new Atoll Chief of Gaafu Alifu atoll.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/15/2004

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NEPAL: King Appoints Dr. Thapa as FM

His Majesty King Gyanendra Wednesday appointed Dr. Bhek Bahadur Thapa as Foreign Minister and Health Minister on the recommendation of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa in accord with constitutional clause 127. Likewise, the King has appointed Minister for Information and Communication Kamal Thapa to the post of Home Minister, the Royal Press Secretariat said.

From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/04/2004

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CIAA Wins 90 pc of Corruption Cases

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has won 90 percent of the corruption cases filed at the Kathmandu Special Court in the last one and half year, a report said Friday. According to a report on Annapurna Post, in the first year, 96 of 110 cases were settled in favor of the CIAA while in the first six month of the current year, CIAA had won 43 cases out of 55 cases receiving partial success in five other cases. When the Appellate Court used to look after the corruption cases earlier, the CIAA won only 5 percent of the cases, the report said. "The success achieved by the CIAA after the establishment of the Special Court is encouraging," the report quoted CIAA chief, Surya Nath Upadhaya, as saying. "The success is the evidence that the CIAA is becoming powerful gradually," he said. He also gave the credit of the success to all the staff of CIAA, saying that the success was possible because of the genuine effort, dedication and courage of the CIAA officials. Assistant Attorney General, Yuvaraj Subedi said the success of CIAA was historic, according to the daily.

From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/05/2004

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Aryal Appointed Secretary of Rajparishad

His Majesty the King appointed Madan Prashad Aryal as the Secretary of Rajparishad in accordance with the Constitution of Nepal. A notice issued by the press secretariat of His Majesty the King on Thursday stated that Aryal was appointed as the Secretary for four years.

From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/12/2004

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PAKISTAN: Ijaz and Ghauri Join Federal Cabinet

ISLAMABAD - Two new ministers have been inducted in the Federal Cabinet. They are MNA Ijaz-ul-Haq and Senator Babar Khan Ghauri. President Pervez Musharraf administered the oath of the office to the two new ministers on Tuesday. Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali was present on the occasion. Others present included federal ministers and senior officials. Later, talking to newsmen, Ijaz said that the country "is facing numerous challenges" and he would try to do his best to further make his inputs into the policies of the President and the Prime Minister for the unity and progress of the country. Babar said he and his party would endeavour to create congenial atmosphere in the country and would work for the betterment of the masses.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/24/2004

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AFGHANISTAN: Six New Provincial Governors Appointed

Six new provincial governors were appointed on 10 March at the initiative of the Interior Ministry and with the approval of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai, the official Afghan Bakhtar News Agency reported. They are, in the north and northeast: Sayyed Mohammad Akram in Badakhshan; Faqir Mohammad Mamozai in Baghlan; Mohammad Omar in Konduz; Amer Latif in Samangan; and Abdul Kabir Marzban in Takhtar. Mohammad Aman Hamimi was appointed to head a provincial government in Logar, south of Kabul. Reports in February suggested that the Afghan Transitional Administration had plans to transfer or replace about 10 provincial governors in order to increase the influence of the central government, and two gubernatorial appointments were made that same month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2004). AT

From http://www.rferl.org 03/11/2004

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TAJIKISTAN: Former Interior Minister in Dushanbe to Face Trial for Treason

Former Tajik Interior Minister Yakub Salimov returned home for the first time in more than six years last month -- in handcuffs. Considered a kingmaker during the dark days following Tajikistan's independence, Salimov had been detained since July at Moscow's Lefortovo prison. On 24 February, he was extradited to Tajikistan and put on a plane for Dushanbe. The head of the Tajik Interior Ministry's investigations department, Bahodur Khomidov, told reporters that Salimov will be tried on charges of treason, banditry, and leading an armed attempt to overthrow the government. "We are investigating [Salimov] on the basis of previous accusations when he was wanted and on the loose," he said. "And now, the accusations have been read to him in the presence of lawyers, and we will inform you about any developments in this case." Salimov was one of the most powerful figures in Tajik politics after civil war broke out in the spring of 1992. He was one of the top field commanders in the Popular Front, a paramilitary group that supported the government during the five-year conflict. In interviews with Russian newspapers after his flight from Tajikistan in 1997, Salimov claimed he and other Popular Front field commanders are the ones who decided to install the speaker of the Supreme Soviet as the country's new president. As Salimov recalled, the parliament and Popular Front accepted the resignation of acting President Akbarsho Iskandarov at a meeting in Khujand on 19 November 1992. He says they gave the post of head of state to a man whom Salimov would remember later as "the nondescript speaker of the Supreme Soviet, Imomali Rakhmonov." He says they felt Rakhmonov could easily be disposed of "when he had served his purpose." Salimov was appointed interior minister days later. Rakhmonov is still president of Tajikistan. As the civil war worsened, Salimov built up an Interior Ministry police force that was nearly double the size of the Defense Ministry's forces -- 19,000 troops versus 11,000.Salimov found a new ally in another Popular Front field commander, Colonel Mahmud Khudaiberdiev. Khudaiberdiev became commander of the Tajik Army's 1st Brigade, one of the best-equipped and most capable units to fight in the civil war. Reportedly unnerved by Salimov's growing power, Rakhmonov named him ambassador to Turkey in 1995. But Salimov returned to Tajikistan in 1996, this time as chairman of the country's Customs Committee, just as the government was preparing to make peace with the opposition. A peace deal was signed in June 1997 over the objections of Salimov and Khudaiberdiev. By August, units loyal to the two men engaged government troops. One of the key government allies in those days was the commander of the presidential guard, Ghafur Mirzoev. In comments to RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Mirzoev, who is still working in the government, indicated he bears his onetime battlefield opponent no ill will. He admitted that many people still living in Tajikistan committed crimes during that time. Mirzoev said Salimov's fate is now in the hands of the court. "I want to say that it is only the court that can determine whether [Salimov] is guilty or not," he said. "Only the court has the right to find him guilty or not guilty." Defeated in the summer of 1997, Salimov fled, eventually to Saudi Arabia with his family. Khudaiberdiev vanished, only to return in November 1998 to invade Tajikistan's northern Sogd Oblast. The battle for Sogd lasted several days and left some 200 people dead. Khudaiberdiev escaped. Salimov and another figure from the civil-war days, a former Tajik prime minister and head of the opposition National Revival Movement, Abdullajon Abdullojonov, were both implicated in the planning of the Sogd insurrection, which was called an attempted coup by the government. Abdullojonov fled the country. His whereabouts are unknown. Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojon Bobokhonov told RFE/RL that the influence Salimov once enjoyed is gone. "He will answer for his alleged crimes before Tajikistan's law," Bobokhonov said. "He is not such a big person that the people would support him now." It remains unclear when Salimov's trial will start and whether it will be open to the press and public. Bobokhonov says part of the extradition deal with Russia included a pledge not to execute Salimov. Rakhmonov has been purging the ranks of the government for several months now, including many former members of the Tajik opposition. By bringing Salimov before the law, Rakhmonov may be hoping to convey an air of impartiality that will allow him to remove even more former opponents and unwanted old allies.

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 03/11/2004

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IRAN: Newly Elected Legislator Resigns

Meghdad Najaf-Nejad, a parliamentarian-elect from Mazandaran Province, has resigned, ISNA reported on 17 March. The provincial election headquarters said that by-elections will take place in the Babolsar and Fereidunkenar constituency. Najaf-Nejad won his seat after the Guardians Council changed the election results, and this led to several days of violence and unrest in the area (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 2004). BS

From http://www.rferl.org 03/17/2004

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KAZAKHSTAN: President Names New Administration Head

Nursultan Nazarbaev on 10 March appointed Imanghali Tasmaghambetov head of the presidential administration, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. The move comes amid a general reshuffling that has seen Nazarbaev loyalist Nurtay Abyqaev, former head of the presidential administration, become the speaker of the Senate, and Oralbay Abdykarymov, former speaker of the Senate, become Kazakhstan's state secretary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 2004). Tasmaghambetov has served as state secretary since June 2003. The 47-year-old Tasmaghambetov was also prime minister in 2002-03. The 59-year-old Abdykarymov was speaker of the Senate since December 1999. The weekly "Republika Assandi Times" on 27 February predicted that Nazarbaev would soon initiate a major staff reshuffle, from which Abyqaev and first deputy presidential administration head Marat Tazhin would benefit. The paper further suggested that Nazarbaev might try to wrong-foot the opposition by bringing forward to the late spring the parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall. DK/LF

From http://www.rferl.org 03/11/2004

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IRAQ: Civil Servants Awarded Certificates for Completion of First World Bank Training on Managing Projects

Seventy-five Iraqi civil servants from twelve ministries attended a graduation ceremony in Amman, Jordan yesterday for completing the first of a series of training programs financed through the World Bank's Iraq Trust Fund. The training on managing development projects, which complements earlier training provided by the World Bank, paves the way for the effective planning and implementation of reconstruction and development activities in Iraq. Financed through the European Union's contribution to the Iraq Trust Fund, the three-week training program was launched late February in Amman where staff from Iraq's Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation and other ministries such as Health, Education and Municipalities and Public Works, participated. The program provided an overview of the project cycle and included special sessions on procurement, financial management and project management. "The Capacity-Building Program builds on the lessons learned in other post-conflict countries where procurement and fiduciary skills were critical to effective reconstruction," says Joseph Saba, World Bank Country Director for Iraq. "The knowledge and skills acquired for managing internationally financed development, will help facilitate successful implementation of emergency projects financed by the World Bank Iraq Trust Fund-these skills will be equally applicable to managing Iraqi-financed projects in the future." Additional training for the Iraqi civil service and private sector is slated for the coming months to address environmental and social impact of development projects as well as infrastructure regulation, restructuring of state-owned enterprises, investment climate and financial sector reform. In January, the Board of Executive Directors authorized the Bank to administer the Iraq Trust Fund on behalf of donors to finance a program of emergency projects and technical assistance based on an interim strategy. In addition to training and technical assistance, the Trust Fund will finance three emergency projects in the next six to nine months in education, community-based rural infrastructure and reconstruction of infrastructure. The European Union contributed €3 million to the Trust Fund for the training and technical assistance component.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/11/2004

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TURKEY: Revolution in the Structure of the Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court is preparing for great changes in its structure and functioning. The new draft law will change the structure of the court and give individuals the right to apply directly to the court and four members of the court will be elected by Parliament. The members are currently elected by the President of the republic directly or from the Court of Cassation and Council of State. A commission under the presidency of Hasim Kilic, deputy president of the court, three months ago submitted the draft law to Prime Minister Erdogan and Deniz Baykal, head of Republican People's Party (CHP), for fundamental changes. Kilic told TDN that the new reforms in the Constitution regarding the structure of the court will aim to serve the needs arising from Turkey's new social, economic and legal changes. "What we have proposed to the government is already implemented in many countries in Europe and in the United States. In most of these countries, the Parliament selects or appoints the majority of the members of the Constitutional Court. We proposed to have two chambers in the Constitutional Court same as in many European countries in order the decrease the heavy case back log of the court," said Kilic. "The commission thought of making the changes a long time ago, so there is not any political meaning or considerations behind these changes. The CHP particularly stuck with Parliament's right to select the four members and forgot about the real reason behind changes. We were inspired by the 1961 Turkish constitution, European constitutions and other draft constitutions prepared by Turkish Union of Bar Associations and the other institutions in Turkey," said Kilic. According to the draft law, Turkish citizens will have the right of direct individual application to the Constitutional Court, as they do with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The individual right to apply directly to the court is meant to help solve human rights violations in Turkey and to decrease the numbers of application lodged to the ECHR in Strasbourg. Applying directly to the Constitutional Court is not possible with the current Turkish constitution. The draft law also envisages that a constitutional screening commission will first verify the claims of human rights violations and decide on the admissibility of the applications. The draft law aims to amend Article 104, 146, 147, 148, 149, 152 and 153 of the Constitution. New draft law envisaged the court to be composed of two chambers and one general board. The members of the court also will be increased from 11 to 17. The retirement age will be raised to 67 from 65. Four members of the court will be selected by the Parliament among the lawyers, professors of the universities, two members by the president of the state, five by the Court of Cassation, four by the Council of State, one by the Military Court of Appeals and one by the Supreme Military Administrative Court, according to the draft. The draft law also limits the duration of membership of the court with 12 years. The draft envisages that the general board will convene with one president and 12 members and each chamber will convene with one president and six members and the decision will be held with simple majority. However, five-thirds majority will be required within the general board of the Constitutional Court for amendments to be made in the Constitution, or while acting as Supreme State Council (Yuce Divan) and for the closure of the political parties. The rest of the cases will be distributed equally between the two chambers. According to experts, if the draft law is enacted the Constitutional Court will contribute greatly to the enlargement of basic freedoms and rights of the citizens. "Turkey has long needed reform in the Constitutional Court and changes to the structure of the court," stated Prof. Mustafa Erdogan from Hacettepe University. "I think the main point of the changes should be made in the election of the members to the court. The Parliament should have more right in the election of the members. This is a must in a democracy. Otherwise, the elected representatives will be halted by the appointed ones, which should not be possible in real democracy," said Erdogan. "In western countries the Parliament has great rights over the election of the members of the Constitutional Courts. In Germany, Hungary and Poland the Parliament elects all of the members of the Constitutional Court; the Parliament in Portugal elects 10 out of 13 members, in France it elects two-third (6 members), in Italy it elects one-third of the members of the Constitutional Court," said Erdogan.

From http://www.turkishdailynews.com 03/04/2004

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Reform Package Reduces Ankara to Mere Capital

ANKARA - A local administrative reform package has been submitted to Parliament by the government that includes a Municipalities Law proposal, a Greater Municipalities Law proposal and a City Special Administrations Law proposal. The parliamentary Planning and Budgetary Commission has formed a sub-committee to examine the three proposals after the March 28 local elections. The proposals submitted to Parliament consist of the following changes. 1. Municipalities Law proposal: The minimum population to establish a municipality is raised from 2,000 to 5,000. The concept of "compatriots" is introduced. In this way, citizens will be able to participate in the activities and services of the municipalities, obtain information and have the right to utilize municipality benefits. All local duties and services not given to state institutions by law will be performed by municipal governments. Registration of hygienic and public facilities, vehicle and engine inspections, emission measurements will be done by municipalities. The establishment of an inspection commission for municipalities with a population of more than 10,000 and a planning and budgetary commission for municipalities of more than 50,000 is made mandatory. Personnel affairs, hiring and firing, organizational structure and finance of the municipal governments are left to municipal assemblies. Employment in municipal government is restructured. Top officials and occupational positions, such as doctors, lawyers and technical experts will be employed by the municipalities. A binding rule limits employee expenses to 40 percent of the municipal budget for municipalities of more than 10,000 and 30 percent for municipalities more than 50,000. Successful public servants working in municipalities will be given two bonuses per year. The Audits Office will inspect the financial performance of the municipalities, while the Interior Ministry will inspect all other affairs. Interior will issue warnings if a lack of municipality services causes a threat to public health. If the services are not provided within a suitable period of time, the Interior Ministry will ask the Governor's Office to take over the services. City councils, formed by civil society organizations, will be established. Treasury land will be transferred to municipal governments for public housing. 2. Greater Municipality Governments Law proposal Cities with a population of at least 1 million and a minimum of three municipalities will be considered greater municipalities. Greater municipality governments will be authorized to inspect the building practices of the municipal government. Occupational organizations, relevant departments of the universities, unions and nongovernmental organizations will be allowed to attend municipal assembly meetings. At most 10 mayorial advisors for greater municipalities with more than 2 million in population and five for greater municipalities with more than 1 million will be appointed. The advisors will have to be at least university graduates. City Special Administrations Law proposal. The governor will no longer be the City Assembly speaker. The assembly will select a speaker from among its members. Assembly meetings will take place the first week of every month. The schedule and the issues to be discussed in the assembly will be chosen by the assembly speaker after consulting with the governor. The name "Permanent City Council" will be changed to "City Council." The council will consist of five city assembly members, one financial manager and four other managers.

From http://www.turkishdailynews.com 03/06/2004

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UZBEKISTAN: President Forms Council on Reformation of Legislative System

Over the past years the government of Uzbekistan has carried out a significant work directed at democratic renovation and liberalisation of all spheres of public, political and socioeconomic development of the country, creation of an effective legislative base of the pursued reforms. President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in his report at the first session of Uzbek Parliament of the second convocation determined priority directions of this work, which have been reflected in the programmes on liberalisation and deepening of democratic reforms in political sphere, in the field of state construction and governance, economic, spiritual, judicial and legal, foreign political spheres, as well as security maintenance. Realisation of the mentioned programmes, approved by the presidential decree on 2 July 2000, required adoption of a number of laws, normative and legal acts, aimed at ensuring consecutive movement of the country on the way of formation of democratic state and strong civil society. The adopted laws on formation of a two-chamber parliament and amendments to the Constitution of Uzbekistan have created a legislative base for further improvement of the government system, principles of its formation, deep reforming of law-making activity. In order to further deepen reforms in the sphere of social development, state and legal, judicial activity, on 13 March 2004 the head of the state issued the Order "On creation of a Council on reformation of legislative bases of state and social construction, judicial and legal system under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan". Speaking at the session of the Cabinet of Ministers on 7 February 2004, Islam Karimov noted: "Reforms cannot be successful in the economy, if they are not directly connected with deep reforms in political sphere, state structure and judicial and legal system." Therefore the Council's most important task is coordination of activity, unification of efforts of state and representative bodies having the right of legislative initiative, organisations and institutions, as well as scientific community in the sphere of law-making activity and normative and legal regulation of state and social construction, judicial and legal system. One of the Council's key tasks is also determination of gaps in the sphere of legal provision of reforms, development of recommendations on adoption of laws, other normative and legal acts necessary for solving concrete problems in the field of state and social construction, as well as in ensuring systematic consecution in the law-making activity, excluding reduplication of adopted laws. The Council has been entrusted with realisation of monitoring over full implementation of norms and regulations of the Constitution of Uzbekistan in laws and other normative and legal acts, elaboration of recommendations on adoption of laws necessary for full realisation of new regulations of the Constitution, on ensuring priority of universally recognised norms of international law and primacy of human rights in the country's legislation. The Council will work out offers on adoption of laws ensuring further development and improvement of institutes of civil society, increasing social and political activity of citizens, their active participation in state and public governance, real independence of mass media, develop and implement measures on raising citizens' legal culture. At that the Council will prepare motions on use in Uzbek law-making activity of experience of developed countries on improvement of legislation in the sphere of state and social construction, judicial and legal system. In order to further increase the level of law-making work, the Council has been entrusted to work out measures on increasing effectiveness of scientific researches in the field of law, concentration of efforts of scientific collectives on solution of problems of improvement of state, legal and judicial system, provide support to effective use of results of scientific achievements in legislative and law applicable practice, form the national school of law. It is necessary to note that in order to ensure all-round and complex elaboration of the Council's decisions, its structure includes representatives not only of state bodies having the right of legislative initiative and representative bodies, but also those of public associations, bodies of citizens' self-governance, as well as outstanding scientists and specialists. The Council is a consultative body. Its decisions bear recommendatory character. The Council will work in close interaction with the Service of State Advisor of the President on issues of development and improvement of legal base of reforming and modernisation of the country.

From http://www.uzreport.com 03/22/2004

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AUSTRALIA: Howard Opens Election War-chest

THE Howard Government is preparing to outlay hundreds of millions of dollars on aged care, defence and health in an election-year spending blitz to win over key sectional interests. Buoyed by an improving budgetary position - and determined to fight off a resurgent Labor Party - John Howard confirmed yesterday that the powerful veterans lobby had won an additional $267 million in benefits. And struggling sugar farmers received a $21 million downpayment on a larger election-year bailout, just weeks after they were completely excised from Australia's trade pact with the US. Health Minister Tony Abbott is also prepared to offer recalcitrant senators up to $400 million extra in a last-ditch effort to win legislative backing for the new Medicare safety net. This would boost the overall health package to $2.8 billion over four years. Holding a slender eight-seat margin over the Labor Party, the Government is willing to emulate its big-spending program before the 2001 election. It should be able to rely on a better-than-forecast budgetary position powered by a surge in company profits. Access Economics director Chris Richardson predicts an "election-year cushion" built on company tax receipts, with corporate profits running 14 per cent higher than last June. The mid-year economic statement released last November forecast a lift in the Government's surplus for 2003-04 from $2.2 billion to $4.6 billion after recording an estimated 10 per cent rise in company tax revenue. As revealed by The Australian yesterday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government was almost tripling the size of its earlier $100 million benefits package for veterans and war widows. "This does represent a very significant package of enhancements and fresh support to Australia's veterans community," he told reporters. In a big win for veterans groups, the Government has agreed to index pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated (TPI) veterans to a more generous benchmark, based on average male earnings. Costing $66 million alone, the move will help 45,000 veterans. The other big winners were more than 11,000 war widows who will receive rent assistance, costing taxpayers $73 million. The package was welcomed by government MPs, who just two weeks ago forced Mr Howard to completely rethink the original $100 million package. Most veterans groups also welcomed the announcement, although the main lobby organisation representing TPI pensioners claimed the Government had not fully delivered on an earlier promise. Just days after announcing a $362 million funding increase for Catholic schools, Mr Howard flagged further election-year spending on defence and aged care during a briefing to government MPs. In a more upbeat assessment, Mr Howard said politics was returning to normal - reflecting the government view that Mark Latham's honeymoon period was over. He also flagged a big-ticket bailout for the sugar industry, which he said was in a "parlous" state due to a corrupt world market. "We do recognise the difficulties facing the sugar industry." Struggling sugar farmers, many of them in marginal Coalition-held seats, will be able to receive the Newstart Allowance or dole. As negotiations continued over Medicare, Health Minister Tony Abbott said he was willing to compromise on a Democrats demand for a flat $500 safety net threshold for everyone. The move would mean every family would get extra taxpayer subsidies once their medical bills hit $500 in a year. "I'd prefer to stick with the Government's policy, but on the other hand I'd also like to get the legislation through," Mr Abbott told Sydney radio. He hopes to have a deal within the week. He is also negotiating with independent senators. The Australian understands that shifting the safety net threshold to $500 for everyone - rather than having it at $1000 for some - would cost taxpayers about $175 million on top of the Government's current $2.4 billion Medicare package. The Government is also considering two other Democrats demands: an extension of the new $5 incentive for bulk-billing, and more taxpayer funds for "allied health" services such as physiotherapy for incontinence sufferers or podiatry for diabetics. (by Steve Lewis, Misha Schubert)

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/03/2004

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Nation's 'Worst' Police Force Riddled with Corruption

SIGNIFICANT, sustained corruption has infected the West Australian police service for the past 20 years, a royal commission concluded yesterday in a damning report that calls for a complete transformation of the "mediocre" force. Commissioner Geoffrey Kennedy denounced the West Australian force as the nation's poorest performer, blaming a lack of leadership and internal scrutiny for corrupt behaviour that included verballing witnesses, perjury, forgery and stealing. After hearings spanning two years, costing $28million and implicating about 500 officers, Commissioner Kennedy found the extent of corruption was similar to that identified in the 1987 Queensland Fitzgerald inquiry and the 1997 NSW Wood inquiry. He concluded the evidence of widespread graft, verballing and perjury outlined by the supergrass officer codenamed L5 was generally reliable, and that it "demonstrated a continuing pattern of police misconduct throughout the period that proceeded largely unimpeded and unpunished by the investigative practices". Premier Geoff Gallop said he was shocked and disappointed at the report's findings, which represented a "savage indictment" of the service. "This behaviour is utterly unacceptable to the Government and the people of Western Australia and it has now been fully investigated and exposed," Dr Gallop said. His Government would immediately start to implement a "total transformation" of the force, including the creation of a new deputy commissioner for standards and reform, and legislative change. "The commission not only exposed corruption, it also exposed a system manifestly inadequate to deal with corrupt conduct," he said. "The royal commission has once and for all disposed of the rotten apple theory." Only two of the 121 officers investigated by the commission have been charged with criminal offences, and Commissioner Kennedy indicated further charges were unlikely. Four officers have been stood down, two disciplined, 16 are facing disciplinary charges and five have resigned. Commissioner Kennedy said he was concerned that many of the officers implicated had refused to accept any wrongdoing. "The state of denial, including as it does a number of officers who are still in the police force, is a matter of serious concern," he said. Commissioner Kennedy noted the West Australian service had the second highest ratio of police to public in Australia but one of the lowest rates of community confidence. Police Commissioner Barry Matthews said the findings of corruption in the West Australian force came as no surprise because the nature of modern policing meant corrupt practices could be found worldwide. He welcomed the recommended reforms, but said many of them would not work unless the state Government provided the service with additional funding. State Opposition Leader Colin Barnett accused the Government of squandering $28 million on a royal commission that had not found endemic corruption within the police service. Mr Barnett said the inquiry had produced only two prosecutions, and recommendations based largely on the NSW Wood royal commission. (by Kathryn Shine, Roger Martin)

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/03/2004

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Canberra Taps into a Register for Water

March 10, 2004 THE federal Government is planning a radical overhaul of Australia's splintered water rights system, replacing it with a central register. Under the proposal to be presented to the next Council of Australian Governments meeting, water rights would carry a title, similar to the Torrens land title system. According to Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, the system would provide a much greater certainty "because it would track all of the interests in a title on a single piece of paper or computer record". Traditionally water titles have been linked to land. The states, as part of the COAG water reform agenda, are committed to separate land and water titles. "Torrens-based lands titles are an Australian invention, they go back to the 1860s," Mr Anderson said. "If we get it right with water, you will get a trading system that really does ensure that water flows to the areas where it can go to the greatest good, including the environment." He said security was critical to investment, citing a recent department report that found the level of investment in agriculture in areas with highly reliable water supplies was seven times higher than areas of low reliability, while the level of associated manufacturing was 29 times higher. Yesterday, NSW Natural Resources Minister Craig Knowles said farmers would soon have perpetual water rights following a state government commitment to end uncertainty for users. He said it was "inevitable" that farmers achieved perpetual rights as the current system provided no security. Mr Knowles said the Government had, in theory, the power to withdraw water licences "without compensation and without notice", even though this was rarely, if ever, done. "There has been little if any bankable security associated with licences over the last 100 years," he told parliament. The minister said that while the status of some water licences would take time to determine because they were "still probably in great grandpa's name", a register of all licences would be established. He also said irrigators and farmers would be bound by water-sharing rules to ensure waterways were protected. Col Thomson, the president of the country's biggest irrigator group, NSW Irrigators Council, supported the move to a Torrens-style system. "It gives people security," he said. "Water is just another input; we should be able to buy and sell it as freely and easily as possible." (by Asa Wahlquist)

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/10/2004

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NOIE Gives Way to AGIMO

THE federal Government has finally sounded the long expected death knell for NOIE, pushing it aside to make way for a new Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), headed a new government chief information officer. AGIMO would "focus on promoting and coordinating the use of new information and communications technology" for delivery of Australian Government programs and services, federal IT and Communications Minister Daryl Williams said. The Office will be headed by an Australian Government Chief Information Officer. This is "a new position created to reflect the Government determination to promote excellence in the way that ICT is used to develop and deliver Government policies, information, programs and services". Mr Williams said the position would be advertised shortly, and would be filled by NOIE chief executive John Grant in the interim. While the chief information officer position has been newly created, the position itself is not a new one. Dr Andy McDonald held the position of Australian Chief Government Information Officer as the head of NOIE's forerunner, the Office of Government Information Technology, formed in 1995. The National Office for the Information Economy, better known as NOIE, was established in 1997. In recent times, the organisation's future has been under a cloud, with Labor saying it would do away with NOIE if it won government. As late as last week, Mr Williams' office refused to comment on possible changes to the organisation, saying the "speculation" was rumour that it would not respond to. NOIE responsibilities relating to broad policy, research and programs would be transferred to a new Office for the Information Economy within the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Mr Williams said. AGIMO, meanwhile, will take control of IT and internet projects applying across multiple agencies, and co-ordinate the use of IT within government. It will also provide strategic IT advice for government programs and services, and manage online initiatives. The new arrangements come into effect on April 8. "Current funding for NOIE will be reallocated between the Department and the AGIMO," Mr Williams said. "Both agencies will continue to be funded to deliver all existing programs." NOIE staff will be assigned between the AGIMO and the Department on the basis of existing job functions, he said. (by Chris Jenkins)

From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 03/10/2004

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New Medicare Is Working: Minister

Thousands of ill Australians are already collecting higher Medicare rebates in the first days of the Federal Government's safety net, the Government says. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday 1400 people with out-of-pocket costs over $700 went into Medicare offices in the first few hours after the safety net began operating on Friday. The Government would pay 80 per cent of these patients' out-of-pocket costs after the first $700, he said. So if a GP charged them $40 for a visit, they would get back $37 from Medicare instead of the usual $25 rebate, the Health Minister said. But Opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard said a Labor government would scrap the safety net, which was a wasteful way of dealing with the rising cost of specialists and medical procedures outside hospitals. "Specialist fees have escalated in recent years, and so we do need to do something about that," she said. Ms Gillard said 95 per cent would not get near the safety net threshold, and of those who did, half would have been better off under a little-known existing safety net. "So, you don't spend over $400 million to fix a problem for 2.5 per cent of the population," Ms Gillard said. The rebate starts at $300 for most families and all patients with concession cards. Mr Abbott's spokeswoman said thousands of these patients would already have qualified. The Government estimates that about 450,000 families and individuals will reach the safety net each year. The big doctor groups have backed the safety net, but yesterday Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson gave both political parties a cold shower. "Julia Gillard has got a lot more work to do on her package, and she will, there is no doubt, on the back of what Abbott has come out with this week," Dr Glasson said. Labor has promised to get bulk billing rates back up to 80 per cent, where they sat when Labor last in government, before plunging to 66.5 per cent under the Coalition. Dr Glasson also criticised as too bureaucratic the Government's scheme to allow chronically ill patients to claim some visits to dentists, physiotherapists, psychologists and other allied health specialists on Medicare. "The red tape, the bureaucracy around particularly the allied health referrals, are such that a lot of GPs probably won't take them up, because they are sick of filling out forms, and sick of being the handmaiden to... bureaucrats," he said. Under the scheme, GPs would draw up "care plans" for chronically ill patients, which could include up to three annual visits to dentists, with a $220 rebate each time. Chronic patients - those whose illnesses are expected to last more than six months - would also be entitled to one allied health visit with an $80 rebate and four subsequent visits with $35 rebates. Australian Physiotherapy Association president Katie Mickel said the scheme had great potential but GPs should not be the only gatekeepers. Physiotherapists were well qualified to create care plans. This could enhance the availability of the program, she said. This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited. (by David Wroe)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/15/2004

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Income Tax Overhaul Urged

THE accounting profession has called on the federal Government to tackle serious reform of personal income tax, including lowering the top marginal rate, rather than delivering a short-term tax cut as an election ploy. Both CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia issued discussion papers yesterday canvassing options for simplifying the system, and lowering marginal tax rates for both high- and low-income earners. They said Australia had completed major reform of indirect tax with GST, of business tax and international taxation but personal tax reform had not yet been tackled. "We don't want personal tax to be treated just as an election football," said ICAA tax counsel Ali Noroozi. The accounting organisations said that New Zealand and Britain had reduced the number of tax scales and abolished business expenses deductions. This gives them much simpler systems, with tax returns now optional in Britain. CPA Australia has modelled a wide range of personal tax structures and concluded that instead of the current five marginal tax rates, there should only be three, set at 16, 29 and 42 cents in the dollar. The cost of financing this would mostly be covered by abolishing the tax-free threshold. Low-income earners, for whom the tax-free threshold is important, should be compensated by lifting the low-income rebate from its current $150 to $800. The remaining cost of about $3 billion a year could be covered by returning "bracket creep" to taxpayers. The effect of inflation lifting people into higher tax brackets generates about $3 billion in revenue now. The modelling was based on a principle that 90 per cent of Australians should never pay more than 30 per cent of their income in tax, including the Medicare levy. The ICAA argues that the tax brackets should be indexed, and that there should be a long-term program to reduce marginal tax rates towards the 30 per cent company tax rate. "Australia has one of the highest levels of reliance on personal income taxes in the OECD with a disproportionate tax burden falling on the middle-income earner," ICAA chief executive Stephen Harrison said. "We would like to see the commencement of a process whereby the top personal tax rate, currently at 47 per cent, is gradually more aligned with the corporate tax rate of 30 per cent." The ICAA commissioned a Newspoll showing that 65 per cent felt that the personal tax system was too complex, while 80 per cent believed there should be a family tax return. (by David Uren)

From http://theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/18/2004

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Red Tape Frenzy Fear

A REGULATION frenzy is slowly strangling corporate Australia, business heavyweight Hugh Morgan warned yesterday. Governments are involved in a "slow, insidious, piece-meal expansion of regulatory intervention over every aspect of our lives". Mr Morgan, president of the Business Council of Australia, said people were becoming desensitised to the avalanche of paperwork. But the real danger of legislation overload is to the business world, where it would stifle creativity and entrepreneurship and cost the country security and jobs, Mr Morgan said. In a big picture speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Mr Morgan said governments were flippant when concerns were raised about the growing number of regulations and regulators. "When we suggest, in the most deferential language, that we do not like what is being done and that we will campaign against it, the amused response (of governments) is 'Make my day'," he said. Mr Morgan, whose BCA represents Australia's top 100 companies, said businesses needed to lift the reputation of "the corporation" with the community to give it the moral power to fight back against regulation. There were few examples in the speech but Mr Morgan referred to some recent legislation which has drastically increased red tape for business, including the Financial Services Reform Act, tax acts which now number 13,500 pages and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US. Mr Morgan did cite one example from his former life as chief of mining giant WMC. He said a Western Australian nickel mine the company started in 1966 required discussion with two government departments and was up and running within 18 months. When the group discovered the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in 1975, it took 13 years and 54 government departments to get a go-ahead. "I didn't even know Australia had 54 government departments. "It is obvious that political leaders are responding, in their current bout of re-regulation frenzy, to what they perceive to be public perceptions about corporations." "In many instances, at least up till now, any one regulation might have seemed innocuous and reasonable. "But when we have an ever growing accumulation of regulations and regulators, we are like a person who feels sort of all right, but not really brimming with energy, but who in fact has an unrecognised and certainly undiagnosed malignant cancer," he said. Mr Morgan also said the BCA would not be playing politics in the current federal election year, despite disagreements with both sides of politics. He said the BCA certainly had issues with Labor leader Mark Latham's plans to give more power to the Industrial Relations Commission and to scrap Australian workplace agreements. (by Bruce Brammall)

From http://theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/23/2004

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Corrupt Officers 'Threat to Inquiries'

SENIOR Victorian police fear sensitive investigations, including the Purana investigation into Melbourne's vicious gangland war, have been compromised by corrupt officers. The Australian has learned that two officers - one a sergeant in day-to-day charge of Victoria Police's phone tap monitoring and the other an Australian Federal Police officer who liaised between the AFP and the state police - have been suspended from duty and are under investigation. The Australian understands the men are suspected of selling information to a figure who operates on the fringes of Melbourne's underworld and possibly other corrupt officers. Before the Victoria Police officer was suspended, concern about his integrity forced the diversion of Operation Purana phone taps from the Special Projects Unit for fear the investigation could be compromised. Assistant Commissioner Simon Overland told The Australian last night the new corruption allegations were not directly linked to Purana detectives, but he would not say if the diversion of the taskforce's taps had been sufficient to protect Purana's integrity. "It is not our policy to comment on allegations or confirm names," Mr Overland said. The Victorian sergeant worked in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton for many years before moving to the crime squads and taking charge of day-to-day monitoring of the force's phone taps in the Special Projects Unit. Victoria Police's Ethical Standards Department is understood to have prepared a brief of evidence against both officers and the Office of Public Prosecutions is considering criminal charges. These revelations will increase pressure on the Bracks Government and Commissioner Christine Nixon for a royal commission into police corruption or some other form of independent judicial inquiry. The Victorian Ombudsman's office yesterday confirmed reports in The Australian that it would investigate possible links between corruption within the state's disgraced and disbanded drug squad and Melbourne's 22 unsolved underworld murders in the past six years, many of which are linked to battles for control of the city's lucrative methamphetamines racket. The latest crime under investigation by Purana detectives is the lunchtime slaying of suspected hitman Andrew "Benji" Veniamin in a Carlton restaurant on Tuesday. Carlton-based criminal identity Domenic "Mick" Gatto has been charged with the murder. Acting Ombudsman Bob Seamer, who is overseeing the police's Ceja Taskforce into corruption within the Victoria force, told ABC Radio yesterday it was possible there were links between the underworld killings and the corruption of the former drug squad. "Members of the drug squad would have contact with various people in the underworld as part of their normal duties," Mr Seamer said. "(There is) always (the) possibility of some links between issues in the drug squad and issues in the underworld killing investigation." But Mr Overland has denied any current link between the former drug squad and the killings. "It has been suggested by other people that there is a connection between the corruption that existed in the drug squad and this spate of homicides," Mr Overland said yesterday. "But there is no evidential connection between the corruption and the activities of the drug squad and this series of murders." The man police say is most likely to be the next victim of the underworld war, Carl Williams, is believed to be considering applying to have his passport returned so he can travel overseas. "We would like to take a holiday overseas," his wife Roberta said. Mr Williams, who is bailed on charges of drug trafficking and threats to kill, employed Veniamin as a bodyguard. (by Padraic Murphy)

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/26/2004

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NEW ZEALAND: Latest Government Advisory Panel Keen to Shake 'Talking Shop' Tag

First there was a GIAB, then an SBAG. Now the latest addition to the family of Government advisory groups has hatched - a WPWG. The workplace productivity working group, a mixture of people from academic, human resources, business and union backgrounds, has been set the challenging task of finding ways to improve the country's productivity performance. The group was formed by Margaret Wilson when she was Labour Minister, and despite reports of a positive first meeting last Thursday, it has already attracted the inevitable criticism of being "yet another talkfest". Not because critics don't acknowledge that lifting the country's productivity is a desirable, even necessary, task. But they do question whether the latest group will have any impact if it comes up with ideas that do not align with the Government's core policies or values. There have already been murmurings of dissatisfaction from members of another group, the Growth and Innovation Advisory Board, with some of the Government's policy directions. The Small Business Advisory Group is a newer model, but it has already had most of its advice about holidays and annual leave changes ignored. "This is more about trying to make the Government look as if it is listening, but really not intended to make significant changes," National's deputy finance spokesman John Key said of the WPWG. "They don't have a capacity to challenge things that are most likely, and have been identified as having, a significant influence on productivity." But new Labour Minister Paul Swain is determined to make sure the group comes up with practical ideas. "There is a bit of scepticism. Are we just going to get another talk group? That's my concern as well. I think the people we have chosen are practically oriented. The proof is always in the pudding with these things." There is no question that the country's productivity growth could be better. But it is a slippery thing to measure. A Ministry of Economic Development benchmark indicators' report last year said most OECD countries had labour productivity growth of 2 to 3 per cent between 1998 and 2002, compared with 1.5 per cent in New Zealand. Work by Treasury economists has shown that over the decade to 2002, overall productivity growth measured on a like-for-like basis showed little difference between Australia and New Zealand. But the make-up of that growth was very different - labour productivity was stronger in Australia than New Zealand. The Employment Contracts Act's introduction in 1991 has been cited by some commentators as a pivotal factor in that, and welfare reforms in the 1990s are also mentioned. Productivity growth over the past decade has picked up, but it still lags behind that of other developed countries. One of the WPWG's tasks is to raise awareness and debate on workplace productivity. That is because, say Swain and some of the group's members, many employees will be suspicious about words like productivity. "Most won't even understand what the word means," Swain said. For the record, he defined labour productivity as the value of what employees produce for each hour worked. He noted that when productivity growth was achieved over the past 20 years, it was at a time when the economy was tight and staff were being shed - therefore productivity was rising. "A lot of workers will probably remember it meaning doing more for less, or ultimately being laid off. That's the remnants of the 1980s and 1990s." Council of Trade Unions economist and WPWG member Peter Conway said convincing workers would be a big hurdle. The CTU could see the benefits of improved productivity if it could deliver better pay, more secure employment, better skills and the economic benefits that flowed from that. But overcoming the hurdle of worker negativity would be a challenge for the CTU, because it had to be accountable to the people it represented. The CTU has been having discussions with Business New Zealand already on the productivity issue. Which raised the question - how could the new group come up with ideas that haven't already been canvassed by others? "The ideas might not be new, but the application could be new and relevant for what we need now," Conway said. Another WPWG member, Owen Harvey, of Innovation & Systems Ltd, said he felt the way in which people work had been a missing dimension in the Government's Growth and Innovation Framework. "I'm really pleased to see that an attempt has been made to address that. I think this is a starting point." The group, with support from the Department of Labour, will look at case studies of successful local and international businesses. Its terms of reference include requirements to look at managerial capability, human resource development, the adoption and adaption of technology by firms, and employment relations. The group is aware that it should focus on building on the existing principles of the employment relations framework rather than try to change them. The WPWG will report by the end of July to a group of high-profile ministers - Swain, Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton and Finance Minister Michael Cullen. National's Key said comparisons made between the group and Australia's Productivity Commission were "quite unfounded". "The commission in Australia is a large group, and it produces very high-quality, significant policy work. I don't see this group producing policy work. If it is, then with all due respect to the members, they've probably got the wrong people." Asked whether there would be any future for the group after it had reported, or any support for the formation of an Australia-type organisation, Swain said he was open to all ideas. "My first port of call is not necessarily to set up new institutional structures. That often can be an excuse for inaction. "We want the recommendations from the group to be actioned. I'm going to making sure that we do them the honour of making sure those recommendations are implemented." Members The Workplace Productivity Working Group members * A representative from Business New Zealand * Peter Conway, NZ Council of Trade Unions * Owen Harvey, director, Innovation & Systems Ltd * George Lafferty, professor of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations, Victoria University * Jan Mottram, human resources director, Vodafone * Katherine Percy, chief executive, Workbase * Craig Ellison, deputy chairman, Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission * Greg Miller, chief executive, TranzLink (by Paula Oliver)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/15/2004

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: 601 Servicemen to Be Retrenched

THE Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) will retrench 601 servicemen under the second phase of its downsizing exercise?expected to be completed within eight months. The Australian government has provided K20 million to fund the scheme. Chief Secretary Joshua Kalinoe and Australian High Commissioner Michael Potts signed the agreement for the funding on Friday. Kalinoe said the funds were sanctioned because the PNGDF has lived up to the expectation of the Australian government by completing the first retrenchment exercise successfully. He said the retrenchment and the repatriation of ex-servicemen under the first phase was slow, but they have now learnt where the shortcomings and are confident of handling the exercise more effectively. He said the funds would be used to send retrenched servicemen and their families home and help resettle them. We will not leave the ex-servicemen and their families stranded in Port Moresby,?he said. Potts said Australia was supporting the exercise because it was a home-grown initiative?and the restructuring of the force to 2000 soldiers would improve the sustainability of the force in the long run. He said the Australia government assistance also include the refurbishment of the Moem Barracks in Wewak. PNGDF Commander Commodore Peter Ilau said the exercise would begun next week and would be completed by June 2005.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/08/2004

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SOLOMON IS: Second Deputy Police Commissioner Charged

A second Solomon Islands Deputy Police Commissioner, Wilfred Akao, has been arrested in Honiara. He was detained by regional assistance mission police working with Professional Standards Investigators. Akao, who has been charged with abduction, intimidation and making false claims as an official, appeared in court in Honiara over the weekend and has been granted bail. His arrest follow that of?Deputy Police Commissioner, John Homelo, was arrested and charged last week with one count of abuse of office and five of falsifying claims.-

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/08/2004

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SOLOMON IS: Anti-Corruption Institutions Not Functioning

Transparency Solomon Islands has found that three of the anti-corruption institutions in the country have been unable to perform their work adequately because of a lack of resources ranging from Staffing and funding to equipment. This followed a study done on the Ombudsman's Office, the Leadership Code Commission and the Auditor General's Office. Presenting its findings at the Transparency Solomon Islands Annual General Meeting in Honiara, the Secretary of the organization, Francis Waleanisia, said the Auditor General's Office was affected the worst. Waleanisia said the last time the Auditor General's Office presented a report to National Parliament was in 1995. The Auditors General Office has also not been able to complete interim audits of the Central and provincial governments and has been unable to provide reports for parliament as a result of lack of response from responsible institutions. Transparency Solomon Islands found that the Auditor General's Office currently only has four staff members including the Auditor General. The study found that the current workload is just too great and complex for the present officers to handle. The recent ethnic conflict had also added another dimension to the problems with certain provinces holding onto revenue collected and authorizing payment of expenses on their own in open ignorance of the role of the Auditor General's Office. But the study pointed out that the?problems if the Auditor General's Office are being addressed with a promised total budget of 2 million dollars for this year, an increase of 1-point-7 million dollars from the previous year. The study by Transparency Solomon Islands also found the same problems in the Ombudsman's Office and the Leadership Code Commission, with the Ombudsman Office having 700 complaints still to be attended to. There is also a backlog of cases in the Leadership Code Commission with 45 cases still outstanding since 2001. The Transparency Solomon Islands study has recommended that more resources should be allocated to these anti-corruption institutions and that they should be given the appropriate priority by the Government.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/12/2004

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TONGA: Top Civil Servants to Sign Work Contracts

Starting in July heads of Tonga's government departments will be required to sign a working contract with government, setting out the duration of their service and their salaries. Afu'alo Matoto, the Chairman of the government's Higher Salaries Review committee said that the contract is part of the Civil Service Reform Program that government introduced in June 2002. The Higher Salaries Review Committee was established in November 2003 with a tall order from government of what is to be completed before May 1, 2004, when government finalises the draft of its annual budget for the 2004-2005 financial year. The Committee was to review and to make recommendations on the remuneration of the Chief Justice and Judge and Magistrates, Heads of Government Departments, the Commissioner for Public Relations, the Commander of the Tonga Defence Services, the Commander of the Tonga Police Force; and the Superintendent of Prisons. The committee was also to make recommendations on the pay, pensions and the allowances of Cabinet ministers, nobles, and the Members of Parliament if requested by the Speaker of the House. Since November 2003, the former chairman of the committee, Taniela Tufui resigned for health reasons, and the committee became inactive until the appointment of Afu'alo Matoto as the new chairman on January 20. Afu said that there was pressure on the committee to meet its May 1 deadline, and to achieve that they had prioritised their work and were focusing only on the salaries of the Chief Justice and Judge and Magistrates; Heads of Government Departments; the Commissioner for Public Relations; the Commander of the Tonga Defence Services; the Commander of the Tonga Police Force; and the Superintendent of Prisons. Afu said that a revision of the upper echelon of the public service had been done a number times in the past, but it was different this time because it was a requirement under the Public Service Reform Program that was introduced by government in June 2002, and the people whose salaries they were reviewing were outside the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. He said that the salaries of these people are either being subsidised from overseas or are being set by other people, and not by the Public Service Commission, "for example the salary of the Commander of the Tonga Defence Services is set by their own Board. "Under the Public Service Reform Program Heads of Government Departments will be working under working contract starting in July and therefore their salaries will be set separately from the rest of the public service." Afu said that some of the things they must take into consideration were that the salary level they would recommend would make it easy for the Commission to recruit staff, to get the skilled people that government needs and to keep them in the service. Afu said that the Civil Service was now facing competition from both the Public companies and the Private Sector, which are offering high salaries, retirement benefits and job security, "things that used to attract people into the Civil Service." Afu said that other matters they would take into consideration included, "the salaries which are offered by regional organisations and by companies in New Zealand and Australia. Affordability will be the bottom line, what government can really afford to pay." The other two members of the Higher Salaries Review Committee are Christine 'Uta'atu, a public accountant, the wife of the Commander of the Tonga Defence Services; and 'Uhila Liava'a, an accountant and the financial controller of the Janful International Dateline Hotel.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/25/2004

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Internet Governance Issues Discussed at ITU Workshop

Geneva - The Workshop on Internet Governance, organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and held on 26-27 February was a follow-up to the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, 10-12 December), where Internet governance had been one of the most complex and contentious issues. Roberto Blois, Deputy Secretary-General of ITU, opened the workshop by stressing that the Internet "can play an important role in reaching many of the goals expressed in the United Nations Millennium Declaration," adding that the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society had placed the issue of information and communication technologies on the agenda of world leaders and produced consensus on the importance of shaping the information society in a manner beneficial to all. At the Summit, governments asked United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set up a multi-stakeholder working group on Internet governance to investigate and make proposals for action by the Summit's second phase (Tunis, 16-18 November 2005). The task of the working group is to develop a working definition of Internet governance; identify public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance; and develop a common understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders. The working group is to include governments, intergovernmental and international organizations, as well as the private sector and civil society, from both developed and developing countries. In order to contribute to a process by which the ITU and its members may prepare their inputs to the working group, ITU, the United Nations telecommunication agency, organized the Geneva workshop, which was attended by some 140 participants from government, industry, international organizations and civil society including root server operators, Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), and ICANN staff and former board members and those responsible for country code top-level domain names (ccTLD). Participants expressed a broad range of opinions, but also a willingness to find common ground and to stress the complementarities of efforts. Several speakers stressed the problem of articulating the character and scope of governance activities in a neutral, non-ideological and systematic way. In formulating a common understanding of what constitutes governance, some made the case for differentiating between "hard" forms of governance, which involve laws, regulations or standards, and "soft" forms, which include cooperation and coordination. These definitions would map across big-picture issues such as development of technology for equitable and sustainable global development, to narrow-focus issues such as the use of common resources and the exchange of specific services and products between nations. There was significant support for the architectural maxim that "form should follow function". In other words, the governance tools chosen to address a particular issue, and the decision-making structures designed to apply these tools to specific problems, should reflect and fully represent the balance of interests, capabilities and needs that exist in the 'real world' - there should be sufficient flexibility to adapt as this balance changes. The history of global ICT governance has demonstrated that some things are best left to the private sector, some are best left to governments, and that satisfactory arrangements have yet to be devised for including developing countries and civil society in either the public or private domains of governance. This experience has also shown that it is difficult, if not impossible, to become truly inclusive without fundamental recognition of the separate and complementary functions of public and private governance structures, the legitimate roles of different actors, and the need to create dynamic linkages between them. To address current gaps in governance, some speakers said, many developing countries would like to see a "one stop shop" like ITU to help them adjust to the new governance universe, since they lacked the financial, technical and policy resources to pursue their interests effectively across multiple forums. Others felt that multiple forums allowed faster adaptation to technological changes and more flexibility. Significant components of governance issues that were highlighted included information and network security, protection of citizens' rights and consumer interests, support for cultural and linguistic diversity, and measures to deal with spam. Modalities for reaching consensus were also discussed. The chairman of the workshop, Shyamal Ghosh, of India's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, said that after the first phase of the Summit many felt that drafting in big plenary meetings was not the best way to forge consensus, but also that small committees were too exclusive and did not adequately reflect the views of many Member States. One recommendation was thus to hold open-ended meetings for all stakeholders, which would still be intergovernmental in character but more inclusive. The workshop sounded out ideas that would feed into the efforts of the various bodies involved in the process. The ITU Workshop was the first of a series of meetings to tackle the issue of Internet governance.

From http://www.itu.int/ 03/03/2004

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ADB to Set Up Japan Fund for Public Policy Training

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved the establishment of a Japan Fund for Public Policy Training (JFPPT) to enhance capacity building. The Fund's main goal is to assist institutions of ADB's developing member countries (DMCs) to build capacity for public policy management, initially concentrating on economies in transition. It will help set up partnerships with local training and research institutions and will enable DMCs to acquire assistance from foreign academics to jointly develop and conduct training programs, primarily in local languages. The training program in each country will be tailored according to its specific needs. Each training program will be targeted at mid-career to senior level government officials engaged in economic management at national and subnational level. The curricula will cover a range of public policy issues, including analytical skills in planning and implementing public economic policy. The Government of Japan will provide Y900 million as an initial contribution to the JFPPT. The contribution will finance, on a grant basis, support to DMC-based public policy training institutions and/or capacity building activities. The ADB Institute, based in Tokyo, will manage the Fund and implement the programs. The program will be initiated in Viet Nam on a pilot basis. The Fund will: Produce and use practical case studies so that realistic cases for deeper understanding of in-country political economic situations will be presented in the program through local languages; Target groups in central, provincial, and municipal governments and mid- to high-level officials and leaders to create synergies on public policy formulation. The program will help government officials to share a common framework of problem solving; Use multi-disciplinary and holistic action-oriented teaching methods, covering economics, finance, law, and public administration. To ensure high quality, the program will seek medium-term academic partnerships with world-class public policy institutions; Focus on institution building for long-term sustainability. Partnerships with local training/research institutions will be set up and main responsibility for designing course materials and providing lectures will be gradually shifted from foreign to local professionals; and Make materials freely available in local languages on the Internet. ADB is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Established in 1966, it is owned by 63 members - 45 from the region. In 2003, it approved loans and technical assistance amounting to US$6.1 billion and US$177 million, respectively.

From http://www.adb.org/ 03/12/2004

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ASEAN Holds Clean Development Mechanism Workshop

Jakarta - The Skill-share Workshop on Regional Institutional Capacity Building in the Implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in ASEAN Member Countries is being held from 18-19 March 2004 at the ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta. The Indonesia's Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat, EC-ASEAN Energy Facility, Institute of Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) are co-hosting the event. The objectives of the Workshop include facilitating the exchange of experience on CDM project development, institutional mechanisms, and policy instruments; and also exploring possible modes for regional co-operation. During the Opening Ceremony on 18 March 2004, Mr. Arief Yuwono, the Executive Secretary to the Indonesia's Minister of Environment, delivered H.E. Mr. Nabiel Makarim's Opening Speech (click here to download the speech). The Minister underlined the importance of increasing ASEAN bargaining position against trading partners from the industrialized countries, with a strong coordination and willingness of the strong ones to assist the weak ones among Member Countries. Thus, Member Countries' capacity needed to be greatly developed in all aspects of the CDM. He indicated that some of the capacity that could be developed was a need to establish local Operational Entity (OE) within ASEAN region, instead of always relying on foreign OE. The Speech was then followed by Opening Remarks by ASEAN Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong. In his Remarks, Mr. Ong stated that the impact of development on the environment in the region had a negative effect, and, he felt that ASEAN needed to put a concerted effort to balance economic development with the environment. Mr. Ong pointed out that it is important to promote local solutions to environmental problem, however, ASEAN countries should not negate the necessity to work with the international community to come up with innovative solutions. In his closing stage, he promoted the concept of ACTS, which stands for: Avoid hard line positions on problem solving; Communicate good ideas; Tackle the problem in a consultative manner and; Share things.

From http://www.aseansec.org/ 03/18/2004

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World Bank Announces Global Learning Conference to Accelerate Large-Scale Poverty Reduction

Beijing/Washington DC - As part of a global learning process that aims to accelerate efforts in reducing poverty by assessing best practices and sharing valuable knowledge among developing countries, officials from the World Bank and the Government of China today announced a conference to be held in Shanghai next May 25-27. The World Bank, along with its partners, is sponsoring this conference because it is critical to "unlock" knowledge in order to expand or "scale-up" development results across regions and countries. For the first time developing country practitioners and policymakers from around the world will share their expertise about what works, what doesn't, and why, analyzing 70 cases of poverty reduction, and identifying key success factors throughout those efforts. "As the world economy becomes increasingly globalized and interdependent, the negative impacts of poverty go beyond national boundaries and affect other nearby or faraway economies. Globalization brings both opportunities and challenges to poverty reduction," says Jin Renqing, Chinese Minister of Finance. "China is contributing its own experiences in poverty alleviation and joining hands with the international community to implement the Monterrey Consensus and achieve the Millennium Development Goals." The Bank is promoting this global South-South dialogue to help reduce poverty on a large scale, calling on heads of state and multilateral donors to accelerate the fight against world poverty and find appropriate and sustainable solutions for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, a set of common objectives that contain eight Millennium Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education. "More than half the people in developing countries-2.8 billion-live in poverty, on less than $2 a day. And more than a billion live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day. How can we possibly achieve the Millennium Development Goal of cutting this number in half by the year 2015, without large-scale solutions that can be widely reproduced?" points out World Bank President, James D. Wolfensohn, from headquarters in Washington D.C. The main goals of the Conference are to uncover the economic, social, and governance components that enabled some countries to reduce poverty on a large scale; to share these lessons across regions and countries; and to disseminate them widely to policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/24/2004

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Employment System to Be Carried Out in Public Institutions in Chongqing

Employment system is to be holistically carried out in public institutions in Chongqing this year. Section chiefs and Bureau chiefs turn to be called employees. Their administrative ranks are simultaneously abolished.

Grace translated from Chong Qing Evening Paper 02/18/2004

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CHINA: China to Start Innovating Instead of Copying as Research Strategy

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- Chinese Science and Technology Minister Xu Guanhua said here Sunday that China has to change its research strategy from copying advanced lab work to stimulating innovation by Chinese scientists themselves. While expanding international exchange and cooperation in the field, Xu said at a work conference, Chinese scientists need to sharpen their creativity in scheming new ideas and blazing new paths. "Technological innovation and integration are especially important," Xu said. The ability to innovate is a decisive factors for any country to win competition. "China cannot borrow all core or key high technologies from other countries," said Xu, citing that any country could not rely on foreign technologies for long time. Innovating is vital to our modernization drive," the minister said. The history of industrialized countries in the latest decades showed that scientific and technological advances were unceasing engine for economic and social development, he said. He acknowledged that the current situation in innovation was unsatisfactory and scientific development lagged far behind economic growth.

From www.chinaview.cn 02/22/2004

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Innovative Policy Entertains Public Complaints

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- Ou Weidong, an official at the Statistics Bureau of Guangdong Province, has recently been promoted to the level of deputy director - but before he settles into his new office, he will take a detour. Ou has been posted to the government's Bureau for Complaints for a three-month stint along with nine other newly-promoted officials as part of an innovative new policy. The 10 officials have been assigned to the complaints bureau from February 16 to work as supervisors dealing with public complaints filed by mail, phone, or personal visits. In China, complaint-lodging is called xinfang, literally letters sent, and visits made, to the authorities. On February 8, Guangdong decided that newly-appointed officials of deputy-director level will work as supervisors at the Bureau for Complaints for three months to strengthen the bureau and handle complaints lodged against governments at various levels in the province. Supervisors are required to meet visitors from the public and assist in the investigation of important cases arising from the complaints. Learning from complaints "I am going to handle specific cases individually after studying the working rules for a week," says Ou. Ou's first week will be spent perusing the concept of "four 80-per-cents," known as the bible of the bureau. First, 80 per cent of the appeals are reasonable; second, 80 per cent of the cases can be settled if sufficient attention is paid; third, in 80 per cent of the cases, problems are usually intensified because the local government did not take the right approach in the first place; and finally, 80 per cent of the cases reflect the most serious concerns of society. After one-and-half months, Ou and fellow supervisors will be dispatched to the places where their cases originate to handle them alone. But two of Ou's colleagues clearly did not want to wait that long - Zheng Renhao from the Guangdong Provincial Civil Affairs Administration, and Zheng Hong from the Guangdong People's Congress Standing Committee, have started their investigation trips only four days after they joined the bureau. One went to Zhanjiang, and the other to Wuchuan, says Zuo Mengxin, an official with the organization department at the provincial committee of the Communist Party of China. Li Hongjun, one of the first batch of supervisors, a deputy director from the General Office of the Guangdong Provincial People's Government, tells China Daily that the system allows for a better understanding of the people lodging complaints. "Xinfang reflects the increasing awareness of law among people. Generally speaking, more advanced regions produce more complaint letters and calls," he says, "which, in turn, helps gather experience in problem-solving." "Being considerate to the people who lodge complaints is the first lesson we learn here," he adds. "The experience will give these officials first-hand information about different aspects of the society," says Zuo, adding that the officials' performance during the three months will be counted for future promotion. After Ou's group finishes their three months, another group of 10 will take their positions. Sources close to the organization department say another five deputy directors are being considered to be added to the supervisors' list; and the current three-month secondment would most probably be extended to six months or even one year. Supportive voices "It's an innovative policy," says Guo Xiaocong, a professor with the School of Government at Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-Sen University. "Xinfang is a reliable channel to reflect the problems of grassroots society to both the government and the Party; and serves a bridge between policy-makers and common people," Guo says. The new regulation provides supervisors an opportunity to have a good knowledge of social problems in a short period, which, in turn, will be of help in policy-making. Handling complaints every day would help the officials feel the pressure of governance, and enhance social responsibility, Guo says. He suggests that all high-ranking officials in the province also be encouraged to attend the programme. "If more officials have the experience of dealing with complaints, things will be better," Guo proposes. "It demonstrates the government's commitment to solving social problems," says Wu Qinghua, an expert on human resource research at Sun Yat-sen University. However, he thinks that three months is too short to sharpen these officials' ability in dealing with problems involving people's livelihood. While applauding the new policy, Wu says that the ultimate way to deal with the public's complaints should be the setting up of an allied dynamic mechanism, with the complaints bureau as the core complemented by other functional sectors. Last year, complaints to the provincial xinfang bureau were far disproportionate with settled cases - it received 8,584 letters and 12,670 visits. Among the issues raised, labour disputes ranked first, with 7.8 per cent complaining about employers' failure to pay salaries, medical insurance or pension. Next was issue arising from land requisitions, while the third was of difficulties in executing court orders. Chen Ruihua, a professor at the Law School at Peking University, attributes the huge number of complaints at the provincial level partly to the low efficiency at local offices. "They, some time, push up small disputes, which can be easily solved by the local government, to higher authorities," Chen is quoted as saying by Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald. Wu also notes the lack of involvement of NGOs (non-government organizations) in addressing social concerns. However, a maturing xinfang mechanism could alleviate social pressure.

From China Daily 03/01/2004

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Grassroots Ideas Merit Gov't Action

Jiang Xiaoqin, a member of China's highest advisory body, was ecstatic to see one of her proposals put forward last March got the attention of top government and Communist Party leaders and from the Ministry of Finance. "I raised a proposal during the last session, calling on the government to enhance the management of foreign debts as well as to avoid debt risks," Jiang explained yesterday when attending the ongoing Second Session of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing. To Jiang's joy, her proposal was soon listed as an "important proposal" by the CPPCC National Committee and she received written comments from the Central Communist Party leadership. After three months' study, the Ministry of Finance wrote back, saying the ministry has adopted initial solutions to the problem, and it would further improve regulations and management systems to prevent debt risks, said Jiang. Jiang's story is just like those that many CPPCC members have experienced. In a report on proposals, Li Meng, vice-chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, said that members have put 3,819 proposals on the table in the past year, most of which have been transferred to appropriate government departments for handling. "Some 98.8 per cent of the proposals were handled up to February 20," he said. In recent years, CPPCC members have increasingly focused their attention and studies on important government policies and issues of major social concerns and their suggestions have received positive feedback from government departments. For CPPCC member Qiu Wenbao, this year is the seventh time he has attended the annual meeting of China's top advisory body. Qiu, from Northeast China's Liaoning Province,brought five proposals, mainly about the revitalization of the old Northeast China industrial base and ecological protection in the region. "In Northeast China, the State-owned enterprises (SOEs) take up a predominant percentage of the economy. The reforms introduced to the sector have resulted in a large number of laid-off workers," said Qiu. As a scientific research fellow, Qiu was also concerned with the clean production at factories and was going to propose several projects to address the issue. "Many citizens in my city have entrusted me with the responsibilities to reflect their everyday problems," he said. His proposal on tackling the problem of a local coal mine pollution during the last session has already been put on the government's agenda. "It makes me more confident about my present proposals," Qiu said. Yang Zhifu, also a CPPCC member and professor with China Agricultural University, has drafted a proposal on food safety. "I am trying to look at the issue from the angle of agricultural resources," he said. Yang proposes raising the quality of farmland, protecting water resources, and developing water-efficient agriculture. "In the long run, water shortage will definitely hinder the development of Chinese agriculture," Yang warned. He believed that improving the per unit area yield through applying modern technologies would be of vital importance to Chinese food safety. Jiang, the woman CPPCC member, told China Daily she would raise at least two proposals this year. "One is about measures to revitalize Northeast China's old industrial bases," she said. "The other sounds interesting. I proposed popularizing knowledge on the so-called 'commerce quotient' (just like the intelligence quotient) among pupils and middle school students in China." (by Jiang Zhuqing and Chen Zhiyong)

From China Daily 03/04/2004

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SOUTH KOREA: Ministry Sponsors Conference on Finance Evaluation Systems

In cooperation with the Korea Policy Analysis Evaluation Association, the Ministry of Planning and Budget (MOPB) sponsored a conference on reforming the nation's finance-related evaluation systems at the Conference Hall of the Federation of Korean Industries on Friday (February 27), the ministry reported. Government officials and civilian finance experts attended the conference and focused discussion on four major areas: the "performance-management system", modernizing of evaluation systems for government subsidiaries, expansion of feasibility surveys, and improving individual evaluation methods for government subsidiaries. Regarding the "performance-management system," participants agreed on the importance of a systematic draw up of "performance-management" plans by ministries and developing objective methods to review the resulting performances. As for the evaluations of government subsidiaries, the participants agreed that such evaluations were crucial in efforts to reform the public sector and therefore should continue. In his keynote speech at the conference, Byun Yang-gyun, MOPB Deputy Minister, emphasized that the streamlining of the nation's "frameworks" for effective finance operations was well under way as the Participatory Government's three new reform-oriented programs, the "National Fiscal Management Plan," the "Preliminary Resource Allocation System" ("top-down") and the "Performance-Management System," were to go into force this year. As part of the government-level reform campaign, the government will expedite the process to establish the so-called "Digital Budgeting and Accounting System" and start reflecting "performance-management system" plans drawn by individual ministries in the 2005 budget allocations, the deputy minister said. Beginning this April, the government will specifically select subsidiaries and apply more strict evaluation systems to them in an effort to improve their levels of management transparency, he added.

From http://www.kois.go.kr/ 03/04/2004

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Institutional Innovation Vital to Fighting Against Corruption

A number of major corruption cases were uncovered before the NPC and CPPCC sessions, netting quite a number of corrupted officials to the satisfaction of the people. The move reflects the determination of the government and the result of institutional innovation over the past few years. All the cases revealed institutional flaws and a strong interest chains behind the money-power trade-off, said NPC deputies from Northeast China. Without smashing the interest chains and removing the institutional flaws, it would be impossible to curb corruption that has assumed an almost endemic proportion. The Chinese government is on the right track when it has decided to curb corruption institutionally, said Zuo Lianbi, an inspector of the Central Disciplinary Commission of the CPC central committee and CPPCC member, adding that the promulgation of the intra-Party supervision regulations is a case in point. The accelerated reforms of the financial and administrative systems, redefinition of the government roles in social and economic development and the evolution of a more scientific approach to development that places people above everything else --all these constitute part of the efforts by the country to fight corruption. These reforms have minimized the space for the survival of corruption, said Xie Yong, a CPPCC member and deputy president of the Higher People's Court of Hunan Province. The future political stability depends on the ability of the ruling party to strike a complicated and delicate balance among people groups with conflicting interests, said Zuo Lianbi. It would be too pessimistic or too optimistic to place hopes of eliminating corruption on political reform only. It is not realistic to put an immediate end to corruption as soon as a sound political system is put in place. The fight against corruption requires a breakthrough in political reform and the support of economic measures and the coordination of social reforms, Zuo added.

From People's Daily 03/05/2004

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HK Govt Launches Learning Program for Women

HONG KONG (Xinhuanet) -- To celebrate International Women's Day, the Women's Commission of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government launched on Monday a large scale tailor-made learning program for women. Speaking at a reception to celebrate the International Women's Day and the launching of the "Capacity Building Mileage Program," the chairperson of the Women's Commission, Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun, said women have to embark on capacity building and self improvement all the time to meet the new challenges and grasp new opportunities of the new century. Leung noted an important objective of the program is to equip women with a positive mindset and values which would help them in facing different life challenges and coping with adversities. The convenor of the Steering Committee on Capacity Building Mileage Program, Agnes Yeung Law Koon-chui, said the program caters for the interests and needs of women, and the contents are highly relevant to their daily lives. "We are glad that 35 non-governmental organizations have agreedto organize supplementary learning activities, such as tutorial classes and peer group activities," she said.

From www.chinaview.cn 03/08/2004

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New Official Rating System Stresses Enviroment

Environmental protection will soon become a key factor in the rating of Beijing officials' political performance, as part of the implementation of China's new sustainable development strategy. According to the State Environmental Protection Administration, officials who simply stress economic growth but turn a blind eye to environmental protection will suffer reduced promotion chances. Vice-director Pan Yue said the practice is aimed at changing the decades-old rating method, which stresses economic growth but ignores "environmental profits". "One of our urgent tasks now is to carry out research work on new measuring methods for environmental pollution, ecological loss and environmental protection benefits," said Pan. The administration is also expected to put forward preferential tax and investment policies for waste recycling and rules on waste recycling to be observed by different trades. The administration also said it will continue to close wasteful and high-pollution enterprises and encourage governments at all levels to recycle.

From chinaview.cn 03/09/2004

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KCS to Innovate in Bid for Business Hub Plan

Korea Customs Service (KCS) said on Thursday (Mar. 18) it plans to innovate logistics processing at transportation centers and set up e-customs system in a bid to support the country's aim of becoming a business hub for Northeast Asia. Making a policy directive report for 2004, the agency said customs clearance time for materials will be cut from 9.6 days to 5 days, and its office at Incheon International Airport is to operate on a 24-hour basis.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/19/2004

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Transparency Tops Shareholders' Interests

The key words at this year's annual shareholders' meeting at many Korean companies are management transparency and respect for minority shareholders. The theme reflects the tougher corporate regulations and pressure that investors are putting on businesses to improve their governance structures and protect the interests of minority shareholders. At a number of the meetings, several major companies have increased the presence of outside directors on their boards to monitor and keep a check on possible negligence by corporate executives or members of founding families. The moves are in line with a new law that requires publicly traded companies to fill more than half of their board seats with independents. POSCO, Korea's biggest steelmaker, gave nine of its 15 board seats to outside directors at this year's annual shareholders meeting, up from eight. The steelmaker, in which foreign investors hold more than a 60 percent stake, added Jeffrey D. Jones, an international lawyer and former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, to its board of directors to increase the representation of foreign outside directors from one to two. It has also set up a committee that will monitor cross-unit transactions between the steelmaker and its affiliates. Hyundai Motor Co., the nation's top automaker, increased the number of seats on its board by two, one insider and the other outsider. The company and its auto parts affiliate, Hyundai Mobis Co., also decided to amend their articles of incorporation at next year's shareholders' meeting to fill more than half of the board seats with outsiders. The board of SK Corp., the country's largest oil refiner, decided to increase the percentage of outside directors on its board to 70 percent or more over the next several years. LG Electronics Inc. appointed Jin Nyun, a former finance and economy minister, as an outside director at its annual meeting earlier this month. The initiatives to boost the representation and authority of outside directors has created considerable demand for qualified figures, with many companies courting only a handful of renowned personalties. For instance, POSCO's Jones was also elected by Doosan Corp. shareholders to a seat on its board. Many companies also announced a series of measures to promote shareholder interests during their annual general meetings. POSCO raised its dividend payout ratio to 120 percent this year from 70 percent in 2003, while Samsung Electronics Co., the world's biggest maker of memory chips, more than doubled its dividend to 5,000 won per share for common stock and 5,500 won for preferred. Hyundai Motor also increased its dividend payout ratio from 15 percent last year to 17 percent in 2004, and Daelim Industrial Co.'s payout will rise from 10 percent to 14 percent. Kia Motors Corp., Samsung Heavy Industries Co. and Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. decided to pay their first dividends in five to seven years. In addition, Samsung Electronics plans to spend 1 trillion won on a local share buyback program to increase shareholder value by reducing the number of outstanding shares. LG Industrial Systems decided to cancel 19.6 million shares, or 15 percent of all shares issued, this year.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/22/2004

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China Adopts IPMA-HR Certification Program

China will adopt an international senior human resources (HR) certification program into its HR talents training system, so as to create more internationalized HR experts for the country. An agreement on adopting the certification program was signed here Wednesday between the Chinese Training Center of the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) and the United States International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR). According to the agreement, the SAFEA Training Center will be the only agency in China to operate the IPMA-HR certification program across the country, including the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions. Zhang Jianguo, deputy director of the SAFEA, said the adoption and promotion of the IPMA-HR certification program will greatly advance the development of China's human resources management, and help improve China's HR evaluation system and management level. Neil Reichenberg, executive director of the IPMA-HR, said the core of the IPMA-HR certification program is a human resources competency model which contains 22 competencies focusing on the new and emerging roles for human resource professionals. Reichenberg said the certification program includes two designations -- certified professional (IPMA-CP) and certified specialist (IPMA-CS). The program contains two components -- a behavioral component based on the IPMA-HR competency model and a technical component that is based on the human resource management experience of an applicant, said Reichenberg, adding that there is a written examination that needs to be passed in order to obtain certification. Qian Zheng, training center director of the SAFEA, said currently the center is working to open some training and test branches for the certification program across the country, and for a better operation, the center will set unified criterion for teachers, teaching materials and tuition fees at all training branches.

From Xinhua 03/24/2004

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Improving Minimum Living Subsidy Mechanism

The Ministry of Civil Affairs Thursday pledged to further improve the minimum living subsidy mechanism to ensure poor urban residents receive necessary help under new circumstances, such as price fluctuations. Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju urged local civil affairs departments to keep a close watch on the impact of price fluctuations on the lives of registered recipients for the minimum living allowance. Li made the remarks at a national video-conference on how to improve the urban minimum living subsidy mechanism. The minimum living subsidy programme, a new system differing from the traditional social welfare measures in the old planned economy era, was first launched in Shanghai in 1993 to help needy urban people on a regular basis with fixed assistance funds. It soon swept across urban areas during the late 1990s when large numbers of workers were laid off from State-owned enterprises. Over 22.4 million Chinese urban residents were registered as recipients of the minimum living allowance last year. The payments of subsidies across China totalled 15.1 billion yuan (US$1.83 billion) last year, according to the final accounting of revenue and expenditures. The ministry urged local civil affairs departments to raise the allowances standard appropriately in accordance with local economic development, price jumps and changes in consumption levels to ensure that basic living standards for poor urban residents do not fall. An urgent notice issued by the General Office of the State Council earlier this month on food supply also urged local governments to "appropriately adjust the standard of the urban minimum living subsidy under necessary conditions.'' The ministry asked local departments to form a flexible standard of minimum living subsidy, so that State funds can go to people who really need help. The poorest citizens or laid-off workers and their relatives constitute the majority of urban recipients, most of them in provinces in northeast, central and west China, the old industrial bases and mining bases where resources have been exhausted. The number of recipients exceeded 1 million in each of the provinces, according to a report from the ministry. The criteria for the rural minimum living allowance vary from region to region in China in line with local economic development. For example, childless and elderly subjects can receive annual per capita allowances of 1,000 yuan (US$120) in Guangdong, one of the richest provinces. The figure becomes 240 yuan (US$29) to 600 yuan (US$72) in the hinterland, especially in the western regions. The ministry required local departments to properly link up the allowance mechanism with other social security mechanisms and re-employment efforts. It also demanded local officials to streamline management and enhance supervision on the allocation of the subsidy, with requirements for strict procedures in every step from application for the subsidy, investigation and approval until the final provision of allowances.

From China Daily 03/26/2004

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JAPAN: Gov't to Improve Response to Human Rights Complaints

TOKYO - The Justice Ministry will introduce new procedures next week to speed up response to cases of human rights violations and to inform victims of the results of administrative action taken, according to a directive issued by the justice minister on Friday. The revision places emphasis on assistance for victims and adds new categories, such as Internet privacy violations, domestic violence and sexual harassment, to the list of special cases required to be reported to the head of the ministry's Civil Liberties Bureau.

From Kyodo News 03/26/2004

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THAILAND: Help for Overworked Anti-Graft Agency

The Justice Ministry is pushing for new legislation aimed at lessening the workload of the anti-graft agency. A draft amendment to the Corruption Prevention and Suppression Act and a bill on anti-corruption measures for the public sector would set up a new committee to handle graft charges involving mid-level public officials (ranks 6 to 8), said Wisit Wisitsora-at, who chairs the law-drafting committee. The National Counter Corruption Commission, meanwhile, would focus on cases involving politicians and senior officials (ranks 9 to 11), Wisit said. Cases involving junior officials would be taken up by police, he added. The new laws, however, would allow the anti-graft agency to retain its power to investigate any case it views as important, Wisit said. At present the commission must investigate corruption charges against all public officials, which has led to a pileup in its workload. Wisit, who is also director-general of the Justice Ministry's Office of Justice Affairs, said a Cabinet screening committee had agreed to the proposed legislation. The drafting committee would discuss the details of the legislation with the commission and other relevant agencies before submitting the drafts to the House of Representatives. "We expect to submit the drafts within the current House session," Wisit said. The session ends in late May.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/07/2004

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VIETNAM: PM Praises Country's 'Vital' Entrepreneurs

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai lauded a contingent of young businesspeople as a "vital force" last Saturday, asking them to keep applying their entrepreneurial and creative energies towards the nation's growth. "You deserve the trust and affection of the people for your significant contributions to promoting economic growth and narrowing the gap between Viet Nam and more developed nations," said Khai. Khai was addressing a meeting to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Red Star Awards, which are presented annually to 10 of the country's most successful young entrepreneurs by the Viet Nam Association of Young Entrepeneurs. The PM said 2004 was an important year in the execution of the 2001-05 five-year plan, which is focused on creating economic breakthroughs to raise GDP growth to more than 8 per cent. He said central and local State bodies were instructed to further improve the production and trade environment for enterprises of different economic sectors and create favourable conditions for them to raise their efficiency and competitiveness. "The Government is resolved to step up the administrative reform, prevent unnecessary bureaucracy and corruption, and phase out State subsidies and monopolies," Khai said. He said State spending would focus on major socio-economic infrastructure projects, and make their progress public and transparent through constant monitoring and inspections, as well as promptly addressing problems in education, health care and other fields. "The Government will do all it can to expand economic and commercial relations with other countries and accelerate its bid for the country's admission to the World Trade Organisation, as part of our international integration," Khai said. He noted Viet Nam had won national independence and freedom after protracted wars of resistance but said "our pride will be lost if we fail to fight hunger and poverty and speed up economic growth." According to Khai, the country's young businesspeople should be at the vanguard of applying high technology and the latest expertise to production and trade, as they blend their own interests with those of the community. "Young entrepreneurs have to work harder to obtain valuable knowledge and experience from developed countries, especially in production and trade management in the market economy. "They must improve the quality and competitiveness of their product and services as well as the country's international status," he said. The PM urged young businesspeople to share their experiences and enhance their co-operation in production and trade transactions to strive for industrialisation and modernisation targets. Aside from this year's 10 recipients of the Red Star Awards, seven others were awarded the third-class Labour Order on Saturday evening. In the past five years, award winners have come from the State, private and foreign invested sectors. The meeting was also attended by vice president Truong My Hoa, president of the Fatherland Front Central Committee's Presidium, Pham The Duyet, and first secretary of the HCM Communist Youth Union's Central Committee, Hoang Binh Quan.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/08/2004

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SINGAPORE: Government to Launch SME Loan Securitisation Project by Year-End

The Government is kicking off the much sought after SME Loan Securitisation project before the year is out. The project, worth at least S$300 million, will be a boost for start-ups without track records and small and medium-sized enterprises lacking collateral. This is a major ingredient in a slew of measures to help SMEs, which were unveiled by the Minister of State in charge of entrepreneurship Raymond Lim in Parliament on Friday. The loan securitisation scheme basically involves combining loans to small and medium-sized enterprises and packaging them into tradeable securities. Raymond Lim, Minister of State, Trade and Industry, said: "It will leverage on the bond markets to reduce the credit risks for lending banks...The government has already been in extensive discussions with banks on this." Another helping hand for SMEs is the Loan Insurance Scheme, which will be expanded to provide S$500 million of loans over five years. Trading firms will now qualify for the scheme. It will be launched in the next few months and companies planning to go global can apply for its loans too. Also unveiled by Mr Raymond Lim is a pilot run of a Technology Credit Programme later this year. This will provide loans to technology start-ups, based not on collateral but on the strength of their business models, intellectual capital and potential. Meanwhile, the government is studying whether to extend Local Enterprise Financing Scheme to include trading firms and to introduce variable interest rates into the scheme. The study will be completed within the next few months. And for SMEs that are simply overwhelmed by the bewildering range of assistance schemes, help is on the way in the form of an SME One-Stop centre by next fiscal year.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/12/2004

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New Unocal Chief: Tara To Focus on Innovation, Staff

TTara Tiradnakorn, who this month became the first Thai president of Unocal Thailand in its 42-year history, said he would focus on promoting innovation and developing human resources. "I want to promote the company as a leader in introducing new techniques which are applicable and beneficial. The organisation will also promote initiatives allowing people to make some mistakes and learn from them and have set out goals to encourage our staff to generate new ideas," he said. Tara said Unocal would continue to emphasise personal development in its mission to stay ahead of the industry in Thailand. "As a foreign oil company we have to justify our presence here," he said. "We have to offer greater value than other companies. We have to answer the question, 'Why Unocal?' Why should Thailand choose Unocal to operate in the country?" "I'm always telling my staff that our challenge is that we can't stop, we have to continue developing," he added. Thailand's natural-gas supply will face constraints until PTT Plc finishes construction of the third pipeline in the Gulf of Thailand in 2006. Tara said Unocal was looking for an opportunity to increase its daily gas delivery from 1,100 million cubic feet (mmcf) to 1,600 mmcf after the completion of the pipeline. "It's out of our hands how soon we can fulfil the 1,600 mmcf goal, since it depends on demand and our customers. Our challenge is to reach the target efficiently," he said. "Information technology and innovation will play a crucial role in helping Unocal meet its gas production target, while maintaining costs. Despite a planned 50-per-cent rise in production volume, newly discovered gas fields tend to be smaller, which usually means higher recovery costs." To promote innovation, Unocal gives awards to staff members at every level and every occasion for above-target achievements and contributions that add value to the organisation. Tara's rise to the top of Unocal Thailand reflects the localisation of the American company's Thai subsidiary, where 92 per cent of the staff are now Thai nationals. He began working in Bangkok at the same time that Unocal gave birth to the local natural-gas industry in 1981. "There were almost 100 per cent farangs [Caucasians] at the office. At the fields, there were only a few Thais at supervisory and lead technician levels," said Tara, recalling his early days with Unocal. After obtaining a master's degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University in the United States, Tara started his working life in Silicon Valley with National Semiconductor Corp for about 18 months. He then returned to Bangkok to work with Unocal in September 1981. "My first assignment was to start up the Erawan gas field," he said. The discovery of the Erawan gas field by Unocal gave birth to the natural-gas industry in Thailand and a new phase of economic development. With more discoveries and production today, Unocal supplies indigenous natural gas to generate 30 per cent of the nation's energy. Tara is a health-conscious executive and tries to run at least three times a week. Among his regular reading materials are the Harvard Business Review, Technology, a magazine on innovations by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a selection of oil and gas industry publications. He is married with two sons. His elder son is studying at the engineering faculty of the King Mongkut Institute of Technology Lat Krabang. The US, Thailand and Indonesia are currently the three largest Unocal operations worldwide.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/23/2004

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MALAYSIA: Widen Knowledge, IGP Tells Cops

Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Omar has urged all police officers and men to widen their knowledge in order to be more efficient. He said police personnel could act swiftly when they are equipped with more knowledge. "Sincere services alone is insufficient. They must be opened to life long learning," he said in when addressing police personnel at the 197th Police Day here Thursday. Mohd Bakri said police personnel must have the mental and emotional strength, ability to network and pro-active. His speech was also read out by all State Police Chiefs to police personnel at the respective Police Contingent Headquarters nationwide.

From http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/ 03/26/2004

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BHUTAN: GYT and DYT Members Receive Management Training

How do you teach modern concepts of time management to elected village leaders enstrusted with the responsibility of local governance? One way is by referring to the wisdom of traditional Bhutanese proverbs related to time - "to draw the knife after the bear is gone" is an example. "It helps to localise content and allow the trainees to relate to the concepts," said the head of the centre for local governance Phuntsho Namgyel of the royal institute of management (RIM) which concluded a two day training of mangmis and chimis and DYT members in Paro today. Apart from time management, the trainees were also introduced to other concepts on adressing local issues and concerns, how to conduct effective meetings, problem solving and conflict resolution. But at the crux of the training was planning, how to plan, to plan ahead "because they are now the ones who will decide on everything - on when a project should start and finish," said Phuntsho Namgyel. The trainees also learnt about management based on Buddhism which basically links all the different concepts together and can be translated on day to day handling of issues effectively. According to the RIM, the feedback on the training from the trainees so far has been positive. "Most of them tell us that that similiar trainings should be given to the dzongkhag sector heads and also the GYT members so "that all involved in the development process at the geogs and dzongkhags are at the same level. How effective the RIM trainings have been is yet to be gauged. The Paro training was the fourth in the series for GYT and DYT members. In 2003, 125 chimis and mangmis of 11 geogs dzongkhags completed the training.

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/12/2004

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Change in School Management

Thimphu - Convenience, loyalty, quality, and several other factors came into play for parents of children in three private nursery and primary schools in Thimphu which saw dramatic changes in management and location during the winter vacation. With the schools re-opened for the new academic session the schools have seen a shift of both students and teachers from one school to the next and in some cases to newly established schools. Some parents are reportedly still running around trying to make last minute changes in admissions after weighing the pros and cons floating around in the air. Conflict of interest and entry of new players in the private school system are some of the reasons that brought about a sudden change in the three private schools. One private school which was having a hard time reportedly sold its private school licence for little under Nu 2 million to a new management. Some of the parents who spoke to Kuensel said that they found the re-located schools a little too far for their children from where they were staying. "I had no other choice but to shift my daughter to another school because her previous one has been re-located and is quite far from where we live," said Ugyen Dema adding that her work schedule did not permit her to fetch her 5 year-old at 3 in the afternoon when the school closes. Other parents said they shifted schools because it was close to their homes. And still others shifted because "all the friends and classmates shifted". Some stayed put to keep brothers or sisters together. But the quality of education is one thing that parents don't want to compromise on. For Karma Dorji, the change in the management was the key reason for moving his children to a different school. This means good teachers, a good environment and infrastructure. "When there is a change in the ownership, it is bound to have some effect in the overall management," said Wangchuk, concluding that he could not compromise with his children's education at a high cost. "After all, we are paying a sizable fee and our expectations will be high," he said. Rinzin, however, welcomes the change. "I feel that a positive change might be for the betterment of the school," he said. Some parents said that they would shift their children to another school if the quality of education was not good enough under the new management. (by Karma Choden)

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/15/2004

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Financial Institutions Discuss Credit Bureau

Thimphu - Work has begun to study the feasibility of establishing a credit bureau to create a common information platform for both clients and financial institutions in the country that will eventually lead to better customer services. A credit bureau would provide vital information of clients, their credit history, whether a particular client is regular in clearing loans or is a defaulter. This information when sought by any financial institution from a client for processing further loan application or for other necessary formalities to be completed, would be provided by the bureau for a fee. The practise at the moment is that the clients have to produce a clearance certificate from other financial institutions while applying for a loan. This is usually a long drawn process that can drag on for weeks with the head offices of the financial institutions in different places. In a meeting between financial institutions and the royal monetary authority (RMA) last week in Phuentsholing, the financial institutions agreed to form a task force to determine the feasibility of setting up such a bureau. The study is expected to take a few months but the RMA which is pushing for such an establishment is not sure when it can be set up. The bureau would firstly need an automated system and a computer programming software that is compatible with all the financial institutions. Without the IT expertise within the country the software would have to be developed by people outside Bhutan. Moreover, all the financial institutions were either in the process of updating their system or altogether switching to a different software. "We have to first synchronise the platform of sharing information with an integrated system before we can set up the credit bureau," the RMA managing director told Kuensel. No one knows how long will this take. When it does and if it does come up, getting a loan could be much easier.

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/22/2004

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SRI LANKA: Seminar for Judicial Officers

A seminar on Victims of Crime for Judicial Officers islandwide on the Rights of Victims will be held at the BMICH Committee Room A, on March 13. This seminar is organised by the National Centre for Victims of Crime of the Legal Aid Foundation of the BASL jointly with the Judges Institute and Judicial Services Commission. Sri Lanka Judges Institute Director Justice J. F. A. Soza will moderate at the seminar. Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, PC, will deliver the keynote address on Protection for Victims of Crime within the present legal framework. Attorney General K. C. Kamalasabeyson PC, will address on Pro Active Role of the Attorney General's Department towards Victims of Crime. Legal Aid Foundation Chairman S. S. Wijeratne will speak on the International Aspect of Protection of Victims of crime. Dr. Maya Gunasekera will make a presentation on DNA Profiling in Criminal Cases. The National Centre for Victims of crime of the Legal Aid Foundation of the BASL will hold a Training Workshop for Police Officers and Probation Officers on Prevention of Child Abuse and Juvenile Justice at SLFI on March 14, 2004. The program would cover the areas on International Standards on Right of Child by Legal Aid Foundation Chairman S. S. Wijeratne, Human Rights and Child Rights by Attorney-at-Law Ms. Ramani Thotagamuwa, Successful Investigation by Senior State Counsel Sarath Jayamanne, Forensic Aspect of Child Abuse by Dr. Jean Perera, Victim Psychology by Dr. Ruwan Jayatunga and DNA Profiling in Child Abuse Cases by Dr. Maya Gunasekera.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/08/2004

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INDIA: Health Systems Project to Improve Quality of and Access to Health in the Indian State of Rajasthan

WASHINGTON - The public health system in Rajasthan, India's eighth largest state, will expand access to an expected three million outpatients and another 34,000 inpatients annually with the support of a US$ 89 million credit approved by the World Bank today. The Rajasthan Health Systems Project will benefit the entire state's population but special emphasis will be placed on poor and underserved communities, reaching the remotest areas of this largely desert state. "The project's goal is to improve the health status of the population, in particular the poor and other disadvantaged groups," says Sadia Chowdhury, a World Bank Senior Public Health Specialist. "The project aims to improve the state's health service quality and efficiency at the primary and secondary levels, and increase access of the poor, specially those below the poverty line and tribal households to health care." According to Chowdhury, a high proportion of poor people in Rajasthan continue to suffer and die from preventable infections, pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, and malnutrition. The situation is even more acute in those regions and communities that are the poorest. The project will promote increased access to health services for the poor, by focusing its resources in the areas with the lowest health outcomes, and by giving priority to targeting communicable diseases and health problems related to maternal and child health. The project has three main components. While the first two components will benefit the entire population of the state, the third component focuses mainly on the poor and tribal populations. 1. Project Management, Policy Development, and Capacity Building (US$ 19.97 million): This component will support the improvement of the state's institutional capacity for health policy planning and development. It will improve the state's capacity for implementing health sector programs through improved health management information systems, better procurement systems for drugs, equipment, and services training on health management, clinical aspects, waste management, equipment maintenance and behavior change communication. In addition, this component will support the management of the implementation of the project. 2. Development of Primary and Secondary Health Care Services in the Public Sector (US$ 52.70 million): This component will enhance the capacity of district hospitals and sub-divisional hospitals to provide quality health care by refurbishing existing facilities, introducing improved norms for service delivery, staffing, equipment and quality improvement guidelines, improving drug management and referral mechanisms and implementation of health care waste management services at these facilities. Renovations will take place in 28 district hospitals, 23 sub-divisional hospitals, 185 Community Health Centers, and two Block Community Health Centers. 3. Health Care Innovations for the Disadvantaged (US$33.31 million): This component will contribute to the reduction of geographical and financial barriers to health care through refurbishing of selected community health centers and block primary health centers in the poorer areas of Rajasthan. It also focuses on strengthening and increasing access to existing programs by the poor, and in fostering public-private partnership for increased private involvement in health service delivery. Non-governmental organizations and other groups and individuals will be contracted for provision of clinical and non-clinical services. The Rajasthan Health Systems Project is consistent with the Country Assistance Strategy objectives of supporting interventions of special benefit to the poor and disadvantaged. The credit, from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's concessionary lending arm, has a 35-year maturity, with a 10-year grace period, and a 0.75 percent service charge.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/11/2004

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MALDIVES: Commission Asks Ministry to Include Human Rights Education in School Curriculum

MALE - Maldives Human Rights Commission has proposed to the Education Ministry to include human rights education in school curriculum. The proposal was made on Dec 29, an official said Sunday. Such a move can ensure that growing up children are aware of their rights. This will also pave way for dissemination of information on human rights, the official said. "Some countries have come up with plans on human rights education. Such a move will also benefit Maldives," the official told Haveeru, asking not to be named. Many preparations have to be made in order to facilitate the integration of human rights education in the education system of Maldives, the official said, adding that a special curriculum have to be compiled while teachers also have to be trained specifically to teach human rights. "We are hoping that after discussions with the Education Ministry, this measure will immediately come into force," the official said.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/08/2004

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Family Conferences Introduced in Island Courts

MALE - The Justice Ministry has introduced family conferences in island courts to address issues concerning child offenders. The measure is already taken in the capital Male, an official said. In addition to the island courts, family conferences will be introduced in atoll courts as well, the official said. The law regarding court proceedings in child offences have been amended to facilitate rehabilitation of child offenders back into society. These reforms have been implemented from the first of this month, the Justice Ministry said. Some of the clauses regarding the law were dropped, while others were amended in order to streamline investigation and trial procedures with the times.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/14/2004

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FET Starts Compiling BA in Education Course

MALE - The Faculty of Education has started compiling a First Degree course in education. Dean Ahmed Shareef said that he expected the compilation of the Bachelor of Arts in Education course to be completed by mid-2004. "We are trying to start the course in 2005. As soon as the course is compiled, we will forward it to the Accreditation Board," Shareef said. The four-year degree course is compiled with assistance from the Edith Cown University of Australia. Participants to the course should at least have GCE Advanced Level standard. This course will be of higher standard than the Bachelor of Arts in Teaching Secondary course presently conducted by FET. Modules taught under the BA in Education will be more, along with the extended duration of the course. The objective of the BA in Education course is to train local teachers to international standards. Thirty placements will be initially offered at the start of the course.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/14/2004

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Ministry to Find Ways to Integrate School Dropouts in Labor Market

MALE - The Labor Ministry will soon sit down with concerned authorities to come up with ways on tapping talents of school dropouts and paving way for them to get employment. Discussions will be held among concerned government authorities, private sector parties and training institutes, Labor Ministry's Senior Administrative Officer Thoriq Ali Latheef said. "There are many dropouts who have exceptional talents. We need to train them to tap these skills," Thoriq said. Integrating of dropouts into the labor market is included in the five-year Action Plan the Labor Ministry is drafting.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/16/2004

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AZERBAIJAN: Azeris Open Road for Economic Development

Alat-Kazimammad automobile road, which is the part of a grand silk road project for providing Azerbaijan's access to international market, was opened on February 28, 2004. Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev and other senior governmental officials attended the opening ceremony. Pointing at economic benefit of the road president Aliyev said, in his speech, the road will serve developing economic ties among the regions of Azerbaijan that are located across the road. Aliyev said, the road will create new jobs for Azerbaijanis. Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has invested $ 17,553 million in the construction of the road. Islamic Development Bank's investment share is estimated at $12, 942 million. Azeri government which is represented in the project by the ministry of transport of Azerbaijan has contributed $4,912 to the construction. Turkish Khazinadaroglu company has constructed the road. The roads length is 45, 6 kilometers.

From http://www.bakutoday.net 03/01/2004

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KAZAKHSTAN: Initiative for "Socially Responsible Business Forum"

A round table dedicated to the subject of "Socially responsible business in Kazakhstan" has taken place today, on 17 March in Almaty, KZ-today correspondent reports. It has been organised by the Kazakhstani press club and Eurasia Foundation. The objective of the event is to present and broaden the notion of "business social responsibility", to discuss the socially responsible business praxis and approaches by various companies operating on the Kazakhstani market. This event, according to the round table organisers must become fundamental for elaborating a common understanding and joint actions for the promotion of socially responsible business standards in Kazakhstan by international and local companies. Assel Karaulova, president of Kazakhstani press club, has observed that "it is a first step in the search for a way how to balance the business development interests and wider interests of the whole society." Besides, the round table organisers have brought forward an initiative to establish a permanent "Socially responsible business forum", which according to them, "must become a constant and authoritative ground for discussing the corporate social responsibility issues." Aida Dossayeva, director of Eurasia Foundation office in Kazakhstan, has said that, "in Kazakhstan the notion of social responsibility functions mainly in the level of single social projects that usually have only advertising or PR effects, whilst in the economically developed countries the corporate social responsibility is a much wider notion." "Corporations in Kazakhstan must take an integrated approach towards the social reality to correspond with the world standards," - A. Dossayeva believes.

From http://www.gazeta.kz 03/17/2004

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AFGHANISTAN: Conference in Berlin to Expedite Reform Process

The third international Afghanistan conference, due to take place on March 31 and April 1 in Berlin, is to press ahead with the reform-and reconstruction process in the war-ravaged country, DPA said Thursday. The conference is to give Afghanistan "realistic political and financial perspectives" for the next four years, according to German Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. Berlin will reportedly raise its financial aid to Afghanistan by 320 million euros from 2005 until 2008. Participants at the Afghanistan conference include German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as representatives of Afghanistan`s neighboring nations, the EU, NATO, World Bank and IMF. During the first Afghanistan conference in late 2001 in Bonn, a provisional government and political roadmap were agreed upon, while the follow-up conference in December 2002 focused on reconstructing the Afghan national army.

From http://www.myafghan.com 03/18/2004

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UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek Reform to Spur Economy

Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov, who is also chairman of the Administrative Reform Commission, told a 17 March briefing that administrative reform will "become an important factor in accelerating our country's economic development," Interfax reported. Uzbekistan is gearing up to downsize more than 40,000 officials. "These measures will save more than 40.5 billion soms [$40 million] each year," Azimov told journalists on 16 March, according to regions.ru the next day. "This will create the most compact and modest management apparatus in the entire CIS." The reforms will get rid of 20 managers equal in status to ministers and more than one-half of the country's 1,270 deputy hokims, or regional administrative heads. The slimmed-down state bureaucracy will comprise 13 ministries, 11 state committees, nine agencies, three committees, seven centers, and seven inspectorates. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/18/2004

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Australian Target within Reach for Waste Management

Waste Management is expanding its Australian business and closing in on its goal of earning 25 per cent of revenue across the Tasman. In deals announced yesterday, the company will buy two properties for a new landfill and a transfer station in South Australia to open by January 1 next year. "We might have to raise that [25 per cent] threshold in the next 12 months to give ourselves a bit of a challenge," managing director Kim Ellis said, announcing a raft of new Adelaide operations. The total investment is expected to be $37.25 million in the first year and will be funded through debt. "We have succeeded in putting together a collection, materials recovery, transfer and landfill business that overnight has put us on an equal status with other major players in this market," Ellis said. "This signals the extent of our resolve to substantially grow our earnings in Australia." The Adelaide operations are expected to produce revenues of around A$22 million ($24.6 million) in their first full year of operation. Project Australia started in mid-2001 when small operations were established in Melbourne and Brisbane. Since then, further operations, including two more in Melbourne, have been added to the Waste Management stable. Now, three years after venturing across the Tasman, the company is targeting Adelaide. The city's new landfill will be at Inkerman, 85km north of Adelaide, and has a total capacity of 17 million cubic metres. It will open by the end of the year, coinciding with the closure of a local authority-operated landfill. The company expects it to have an annual throughput of 300,000 tonnes and already has long-term contracts for half this amount. Ellis said the landfill startup cost was estimated at A$20 million. Construction of the A$11 million transfer station, which will service the North Adelaide market, will be paid for by the local authority. In other South Australian plans, Ellis said Waste Management would buy the dry waste collection and landfill businesses of family-owned Remove All for about A$16 million. As part of the deal, which is yet to be finalised, Waste Management will acquire the small Nuriootpa landfill 70km north-east of Adelaide. The company's shares closed down 9c at $4.20 yesterday. The company will brief analysts today. (by Ellen Read)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/02/2004

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Banks Get Good Marks for Basel II

AUSTRALIAN banks have received a big red tick on their progress towards Basel II compliance in a global survey. The KPMG survey of 294 financial institutions in 38 countries found Australian banks were progressing their Basel initiatives faster than banks globally. Over 55 per cent of Australian credit risk projects are currently at the design and build or implementation stages, compared to 38 per cent globally. Similarly, 44 per cent of operational risk projects for Australian banks are at the same stage compared to 29 per cent overall. All banks must comply with the new Basel Accord by 2007. Work on the latest version, which stresses the need for banks to improve their risk management processes, began in late 1990. The survey results for Australian banks also suggest they are using more sophisticated risk management approaches, in both credit and operational risk, than other respondents from around the globe. On credit risk, 36 per cent of local banks are developing an advanced internal ratings based approach, compared to 27 per cent of banks globally. About 40 per cent of Australian banks are targeting the advanced measurement approach in operational risk, versus 23 per cent of global banks. Head of KPMG Australia's financial risk management practice John Somerville said while it was pleasing Australian banks were moving faster than their global counterparts, there was still a lot of work to be done to ensure they were ready by 2007. "It is concerning to see that so many banks are still at relatively early stages of their Basel programs," he said. "The implementation date may be three years away, but many banks really need to be making more progress." The most widely cited concerns by respondents in meeting the deadline were lack of time, lack of data for operational losses, inflexibility of existing IT systems and in the Asia Pacific regional primarily, a shortage of Basel experts. (by Kelly Mills)

From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 03/03/2004

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NEW ZEALAND: Bus-stop Banking: Westpac's New Image

Westpac has set up shop in a Ponsonby bus stop. Not that times are tough in the banking sector. This is what they call an experimental marketing concept. To promote the launch of an update of its Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide, Westpac yesterday transformed a Three Lamps, Ponsonby, bus stop into a makeshift living room, complete with cushioned seats, a magazine rack and lamp. But commuters be warned - the comforts of home come with a price - a Westpac representative will be hovering with information about the guide, which offers advice and tips on the real estate process. The lounge bus stop will be in place until Sunday. Michelle van Gaalen, Westpac general manager, marketing and products, said the objective was to bring the bank to the public by taking it to the streets. The stunt follows an overhaul of Westpac's transtasman advertising late last year. Saatchi & Saatchi held on to the account after pitches from other agencies were solicited. It has since spearheaded a shake-up of Westpac's image aimed at better promoting its products and services using doodled cartoon characters. Van Gaalen said that, although it was early days, the new advertising was finding favour with customers. "We are getting lots of positive comments regarding the subtle humour, the appeal of the characters and that the ads actually tell you something about what Westpac is doing for its customers."

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/04/2004

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Swiftt System Upgrade to Be Undertaken Slowly

The Ministry of Social Development has ruled out an expensive "big bang" replacement of its complex benefit and debt management systems and will reveal its future IT plans for the systems in two weeks. The ministry's chief information officer Christine Stevenson said the Social Welfare Information for Tomorrow Today (Swiftt) system had "never ever missed a payment" and was in no need of immediate upgrade or replacement. "There is no crisis. We want to take our time and make careful and prudent decisions," said Stevenson adding that she felt "bitter" about adverse publicity around the ministry's IT projects. She rejected stories in the computer trade press quoting unnamed sources who speculate that the total cost of upgrading Swiftt and Trace may spiral to as much as $500 million. Stevenson said the $78 million to $180 million range outlined in Government documents back in 2002 was still accurate but that the total would be reached gradually over five or more years. The first of that spend came with the purchase in December of two Unisys Libra 185 mainframe computers, which the ministry has revealed to National's welfare spokeswoman Katherine Rich cost $12.1 million including installation and GST. The servers sell for millions more new in the US, but Stevenson had won a good deal after getting a trade-in discount from EDS on old servers and taking advantage of a strong New Zealand dollar. The old servers were decommissioned over the weekend without any problems. The ministry would build a "proof of concept" IT system before going ahead with any deployment. "We think about evolving Swiftt or gradually transforming it. Parts of the engine could be used for years to come," said Stevenson. (by Peter Griffin)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/09/2004

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R&D Starts to Move Offshore: The Asia Connection

MARCH 01, 2004 (COMPUTERWORLD) - As corporate America becomes increasingly comfortable with offshore development, it's sending substantially more sophisticated IT work overseas. Companies such as Google Inc. are turning to foreign workers not for their willingness to work for lower wages but for their technological prowess. Google is advertising for highly skilled IT help at its recently opened research and development facility in Bangalore, India. These employees will be involved in all aspects of Google's computer engineering work: conception, research, implementation and deployment. "Bangalore is the so-called Silicon Valley of India, and there is a large pool of talented software engineers there," said Krishna Bharat, Google's principal scientist. R&D is core to most companies. They guard it carefully, and their brightest people work on it. But as offshoring becomes increasingly commonplace, companies are moving up the value chain, using foreign workers in ways that make them a more integral part of the corporate identity. Silicon Valley venture capital firms are encouraging start-ups to send their product development work overseas, said Marc Hebert, a vice president at Sierra Atlantic Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based outsourcing firm that specializes in R&D. While Google was explicit about talent rather than cost being the driver of its offshore move, most companies are equally keen to tap the lower wages, which enable them to hire more people to bring products to market faster. Hebert said that although idea generation and funding are still coming from the U.S., more and more of the R&D work needed to actually bring a product to market is being done offshore. "That's the really interesting trend," he said. What that means for the future of Silicon Valley and IT development in the U.S. is unclear. But while overseas firms are hiring, the IEEE-USA said last week that the 2003 U.S. jobless rate for computer scientists and systems analysts has reached an all-time high of 5.2%.

The Asia Connection
Although the number of R&D jobs that have moved to Asia doesn't yet approach the number of low-end IT jobs that have moved, such as those in programming, the gap is bound to narrow, said Bob Hayward, an Australia-based senior vice president at Gartner Inc. "There's a certain amount of inevitability about it," Hayward said, noting that the highly skilled Asian workforce and the leading role taken by those countries in developing cutting-edge services and technologies, such as broadband Internet access and flat-panel technology, have attracted the attention of U.S. IT vendors. Just in the past three to four years, U.S.-backed investments in Asian R&D operations have increased dramatically, Hayward said. He noted that those investments have soared while IT vendors, faced with a global slowdown in demand for their products, have held back investments in other areas. Several of the largest U.S. IT vendors started building R&D centers in China in 1998. Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have opened facilities in Beijing. Intel has 40 researchers; Microsoft has 200 Ph.D. candidate interns and 170 researchers. Some governments provide economic incentives to attract U.S. companies to invest in R&D operations in their countries. In Taiwan, for example, foreign firms can deduct 35% of their R&D investments from the income tax owed by their profit-making operations. Still, some IT development work can be done only in the U.S., said Richard Brown, associate vice president of marketing at Via Technologies Inc. in Taipei, Taiwan. For example, the design and development of Via's PC chip-set products is done in Taiwan, but the company's CPU and graphics-chips products are designed by teams in the U.S., reflecting the dominance of the U.S. in those product areas, he said.

'Big Picture' Question
But the trend is clear. About half of the IT R&D done by Stratex Networks Inc. takes place overseas, some at its New Zealand subsidiary, and some in India. That has included development of a network configuration tool, said B. Lee Jones, vice president of IT and CIO at the San Jose-based company. Jones has eight data centers to run on five continents and offices across 22 time zones. Like many U.S. IT executives, he wonders about the big picture: the long-term impact on the U.S. as more work is shifted offshore. But Jones said he believes the U.S. will remain dominant in IT. Though he has some hesitancy about moving high-level work offshore, along with a desire to keep core development in the U.S., Jones said that "as the comfort level goes up and we are able to take advantage of having comparable quality for smaller prices, people will naturally migrate there." (by Patrick Thibodeau and Sumner Lemon)

From http://www.computerworld.com/ 03/01/2004

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IT Companies Focus on Asia to Expand Jobs: Tech Leaders See Increased Hiring in India and China, But Not the U.S.

FEBRUARY 27, 2004 (REUTERS) - Technology companies are seeing a rebound in business, but top executives this week said any jobs added to meet growing demand will likely be in countries where labor is cheaper than in the U.S. Executives speaking at the Reuters Technology, Media and Telecommunications Summit in New York said they see increased hiring in countries like India and China, but few jobs will be added in the U.S. Michael Jordan, CEO of technology services provider Electronic Data Systems Corp., said the number of people that EDS employs in low-cost locations like India will rise from 9,000 today to 20,000 by 2006. Bruce Claflin, CEO of network products maker 3Com Corp., said his company's joint venture with China's Huawei Technologies will add 1,000 engineers, all supplied by Huawei. In the future, he said, customers "won't know where the technology comes from." Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox Corp., which has about 40% of its 60,000 employees outside the U.S., expects little hiring. "I don't really think we'll be adding people the way we used to," she said. Xerox has already handed over manufacturing of most printers to Flextronics International Ltd. in Singapore. Only a few companies, such as IBM, have announced plans to add jobs this year. But IBM, which derives most of its sales from abroad, plans to shift jobs overseas to remain competitive. U.S. technology employment fell 4% last year to just below 6 million, the American Electronics Association estimates, the lowest level since 1999. The unemployment rate for electrical and electronics engineers rose to a record 6.2% , Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. said. Ron Hira, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who analyzes manpower for the IEEE, said a recent decrease in the U.S. government's outlook for employment growth reflects the move to send U.S. technology jobs abroad. Non-U.S. technology companies had a banner year in 2003. Jim Thomas, U.S. marketing vice president for Tata Consultancy Services, said Tata had double-digit growth in the U.S., and he estimated that overall U.S. business reached almost $1 billion, up from $880 million in fiscal 2002. Tata, India's largest technology services company, saw across-the-board gains in many U.S. sectors, Thomas said. Tata, which is privately held, as well as publicly traded Indian service companies such as the Wipro Technologies unit of Wipro Ltd. and Infosys Technologies Ltd., have ramped up U.S. sales. In response to the loss of U.S. jobs, more than a dozen states are considering legislation to ban hiring non-U.S. workers to handle government contracts, although none has passed yet. Indiana's Senate this month passed such a law, but its House hasn't acted, said state Sen. Jeff Drozda, the legislation's Republican sponsor. In New Jersey, Sen. Shirley Turner has sponsored a similar bill. "We are shooting ourselves in the head if we don't adopt protective laws," she said. But EDS's Jordan said such moves are ill-advised, adding that he prefers federal programs that could invoke existing trade-adjustment laws. "There are lots of ways to skin the productivity cat," Jordan said. "India's only one of them." Michael Turner, president of the Information Technology Institute, an industry study group, said European countries that have laws prohibiting the transfer of personal data abroad may be better protected against offshoring. Some institutional shareholders also plan to take a stand. Dan Steininger, CEO of Catholic Knights, a Milwaukee-based mutual funds group with assets of around $1 billion, said he plans to introduce resolutions to deal with offshoring this year. "CEOs never think of reducing their own pay," Steininger said. "Why do they always think the pain must start out at the bottom?" (by David Zielenziger)

From http://www.computerworld.com/ 02/27/2004

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Worldwide IT Skills Shortage and Sustainable Development - High on APEC Science Ministers' Meeting Agenda

APEC Science and Technology Ministers will look at solutions to the worldwide shortage of information technology skills when they meet in Christchurch, New Zealand, this week. Other issues before the 4th APEC Ministers' Meeting on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation relate to ensuring scientific and technological advancement is sustainable for all economies in the region. The New Zealand Minister for Research, Science and Technology, Hon. Pete Hodgson, said while advances in science and technology are creating new opportunities, there is concern to ensure that requirements that come with these advances are sustainable for all APEC Member Economies. "Scientific and technological discovery is moving at a dramatic pace and this has numerous implications for the global economy," Mr. Hodgson said. "On the one hand we have new opportunities to develop increasingly effective medicines, improve living standards and develop products that are more environmentally friendly. "At the same time breakthroughs in the science and technology sector require a much more highly skilled and specialized workforce to make the most of these opportunities. "The problem for many developing areas is how they develop the skill base to fully compete in the new digital economy and not be left behind. "Investment in human capacity building initiatives and ongoing education programs are essential if all APEC Member Economies are to fully compete in the modern global economy. "Ministers at this meeting will have the opportunity to look at capacity building initiatives and ways to improve the scientific and information technology skills of people throughout the Asia-Pacific." The theme of the Science Ministers' Meeting is "Enhancing the capacity of science, technology and innovation to deliver sustainable growth across the APEC region." Mr. Hodgson said the City of Christchurch had welcomed delegates from APEC Member Economies and he expects the series of working visits by delegates to New Zealand smart industries would build firmer science and IT links around the APEC region. Ministers will be greeted by a traditional Maori greeting tonight at the Christchurch Town Hall before the formal opening of the meeting by Mr. Hodgson, on Thursday Morning.

From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/10/2004

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Asian Countries Join US-Led Coalition Against Spam

SINGAPORE - Fed up with unsolicited emails offering everything from enhanced penises to instant college degrees, Asia-Pacific countries are joining the US-led war against a new world scourge: spam. The flood of annoying emails has become a serious problem for Internet users who do not wish to purchase Viagra or get cheap mortgages online, but experts say little can be done unless spam is attacked at the source. The United States, whose email users receive more spam than anyone else and is also the source of most spam received worldwide, has fired the opening salvo in the war with the 'Can-Spam Act.' Last week, four of the largest Internet service providers (ISPs) in the United States - Microsoft, Yahoo, America Online and Earthlink - jointly filed six lawsuits against more than 100 suspected spam offenders. This move has spurred governments and companies in the Asia-Pacific region into action. In Singapore, the government is working with the three local ISPs to review several measures to curb spam, including legislation. 'Given that spam is a complex and multi-faceted issue, we believe that legislation alone will not solve the spam email problem,' a spokesperson for leading ISP SingNet said. 'We do not expect a quick and easy solution as any legislation will have to address issues such as definition of spam, invasion of privacy, etc.' Australia will see the implementation of new laws in April under which senders of unsolicited emails will face fines as high as US$810,000 (S$1.39 million). However, the government has acknowledged it is a global problem and legislation alone would not stem the tide. 'We need to be looking at other means of dealing with the issue, particularly from overseas sources,' Australian Communications Minister Daryl Williams said. Japan already has anti-spam legislation in place, which requires online advertisers to identify themselves, state their physical addresses and mark their email messages as unsolicited advertising, or face a US$4,500 fine. But the government admitted such measures can only go so far. 'We realise these government measures alone cannot stop people from sending spam messages,' said Toshihiko Shibuya, deputy chief of consumers policies at the telecommunications ministry. 'We are urging individual Internet users to take self-protective measures against spam mail.' Malaysia is taking a similar stand. The government is not leaning towards legislation, favouring instead education and action by the ISPs themselves, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said. Nonetheless, many agree that legislation, although not the ultimate cure, will at least help to stem the flow of junk mail. 'We won't rule it out and we will continue to look at all available options. But we think that more definitive legislation is the way forward to deter spammers in Singapore,' said Michael Sim, a spokesman for another Singaporean ISP, StarHub. In Hong Kong, spokesperson Diana Fu of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority said the government was 'very concerned about the problems caused to the Hong Kong people' not only by spamming but also junk faxes or messages to mobile phones. 'We are currently doing a comprehensive review and will hold a public consultation on the issue in order to find the best ways to solve the problems,' she added. But the lack of confidence in the power of laws has ISPs and software companies turning to technology to rid the virtual world of the menace. Technology giant Microsoft recently unveiled a Coordinated Spam Reduction Initiative (Csri), which it describes as a 'roadmap for policy and technology infrastructure changes that can help stop the scourge of spam.' One of the technical recommendations suggested is 'caller ID for email', which helps legitimate email senders protect their domain name by making it very difficult for others to spoof their domain, a popular practice among spammers. Microsoft will be moving ahead with plans for a pilot implementation of this caller ID technology in Hotmail, its popular free email service. But technology too is not without its shortcomings. 'We recognise that no single technology will make the spam problem go away entirely. And while we hope Caller ID will serve as a deterrent, it doesn't actually prevent spam from being sent,' said the general manager of Microsoft's Anti-Spam Technology and Strategy Group, Ryan Hamlin. Mr Hamlin said on the company website that Microsoft was working with technology vendors and ISPs to work towards a solution, but spam could only be eradicated through cooperation and the implementation of 'solid approaches'. 'Overall, we're encouraged with the progress that's been made to date, but we also recognise that the industry as a whole has miles to go before spam is eradicated.'

From http://business-times.asia1.com.sg/ 03/16/2004

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Managing Decentralization in East Asia Concept Note

This note proposes a flagship study of decentralization in the East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) region. The purpose is to employ global knowledge to assist EAP borrowers in managing their decentralization programs as well as to guide the formulation of an internal Bank approach on how best to support this process in the region. For details, click: http://www.worldbank.org.cn/English/Content/Decentralization.pdf .

From http://www.worldbank.org.cn/ 03/17/2004

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The Press Conference on the 4th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region Successful Held in Beijing

The 4th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region (CIAPR IV) will be held in Shanghai, China from May 20th to 22nd, 2004. The following information was issued by the 4th CIAPR Organizing Committee on 27 February in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The CIAPR IV is co-sponsored by the Shanghai Municipal People's government and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA), The CIAPR IV is also co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Communication Union (ITU), the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force (UN ICT TF), the State Council Informatization Office of China, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, the Ministry of Information Industry of China, the Ministry of Commerce of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shanghai Municipal People's Government. At the time ushering into new Millennium, the CIAPR initiated in 2000 by the United Nations and relevant departments of Chinese Government, in response to the call for bridging the digital divide of the ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration and the United Nations Millennium Summit. The 1st CIAPR was held in June 2000. Up to now it has been successfully held for three consecutive years. The number of co-sponsors increased in each year. More than 2,400 participants, from 180 cities of 105 countries, attended these Forums, and raised new concepts such as: "city informatization" and "bridging the digital divide of the world", have given great impetus to the progress of city informatization, while having reached consensus on the uninterrupted expansion of multi-lateral cooperation. The 4th CIAPR Forums, with its core notion of "ICT for Development: the Role of Local Government", will be held in Shanghai, China from May 20th to 22nd. It will discuss "Global ICT trend for Development", "Global trend of ICT development and its use" and "China's ICT strategy for development and its use", etc. Under Secretary-General of UN and high level officer of UN, Government leaders, more than 800 participants from 50 cities covering 5 continents and 20 international organizations, will be present at the that time in Shanghai.

From http://www.apcity.org/ 03/17/2004

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Int'l Conference on Mdgs to Be Held in Beijing

An international conference on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to be held from March 25 to 27 in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan announced in Beijing Thursday. The conference will be jointly held by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and offices of UN organizations in China. Kong said Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan will attend the opening of the conference and deliver a speech. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will send a representative to the meeting, Kong said. Participants will include representatives from the Chinese and foreign governments, international organizations, academic organizations and business communities from home and overseas, Kong said. Participants will share experience involving the millennium development goals and explore ways for cooperation, Kong said. The MDGs grew out of a gathering of 189 world leaders at the United Nations in September 2000, when attendees proclaimed the Millennium Declaration. This statement gave voice to the values shared by all member nations and resulted in a commitment by those nations to halve global poverty by 2015. The eight MDGs are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve material health, combat HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/19/2004

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Asia's Old Myths and New Realities

HONG KONG - The amazing news out of Asia prompts serious reflection. The President of South Korea is impeached, apparently; the President of Taiwan is re-elected, apparently, but only after an apparent assassination attempt. In both Taiwan and South Korea, these political controversies have been dumped on their legal systems for resolution. It may take months for the dust to clear. Amid all this political uncertainty, Americans would profit from stepping back and reassessing the Asia-Pacific region, now more important than ever, more politically energised than ever and, in some respects, more like the West than ever. The old cliches and pat assumptions about the world's most populated region no longer apply. For instance:

Asians are generally non-political and just want to make money. Sure, Asians like wealth, just as the rest of us. And, by and large, they work hard to get it. It sometimes seems that the average adult - especially here in Hong Kong - is working two jobs, at least. Economic preoccupations notwithstanding, Asia has suddenly become more politically alive. Just look at all the activity that preceded the Taiwan presidential election and at the amazing political churn here in this Special Administrative Region of China. Last June, half a million took to the streets to protest against the local government; today, the territory is a beehive of activity, some for the government (though fewer each week) and many against it. Throughout the region, elections of one sort or another loom: in Indonesia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, India and so on. Even in predominantly one-party democracies such as Singapore, Members of Parliament and Cabinet ministers constantly take the pulse of the people. Without a measure of public consensus, however obtained, it's virtually impossible to govern efficiently.

Asia has accepted that democracy is the preferred system. Not quite yet. People in the Asia-Pacific region (to greatly generalise) want to participate in the political process, absolutely; but they want that process, whatever it is called and however structured, to be effective in its governance. People want results. They want Big Daddy (parliament, the president, the prime minister, the military dictator) to deliver the economic goods. It would be hard, for example, to make the case that Pakistan was better off before President Pervez Musharraf. The prior parliamentary democracy was more corrupt than a town council of a sleepy United States village in Mississippi during America's racist 1950s. And would Chinese people on the mainland vote for a multi-party democratic system tomorrow if that were to run the risk of, one, triggering instability (for which China has a rich history), and two, putting a brake on economic growth (so much better over the past 15 years)? Don't bet on it! And are the people of Japan so thrilled with their own parliamentary system, which during the 1990s all but deadlocked the world's second largest economy in a morass of non-action? Asians are more pragmatic than ideological, and they want results. But, on the whole, they want to be counted in, not counted out, by their political system. That's what's behind all the churn here in this former British colony.

Even so, Asians have a near monopoly on corruption, lack of transparency and other ills. Hold on a second! Transparency International, the respected global non-profit organisation in Berlin that rates worldwide corruption levels, regularly places a handful of countries in this region higher up than the US on its cleanliness list. The latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index awards high marks to New Zealand, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. Indeed, they are among the top 15 (of 133) countries listed as relatively clean places to do business. The US was only 18th last year, in the wake of Enron, Arthur Andersen and mutual funds scandals. In Europe, the Netherlands and Britain invariably crack the select top 15, but they now have a whopper on their hands with the Shell oil scandal. It seems that this Europe-based global group of energy and petrochemical companies was cooking its Nigerian oil-field books to bulk up reports about its reserves. In the 1990s, annual bonuses for some top executives soared on reports of ever-larger reserves. Turns out the bonuses were real, but not the reserves. The US Security and Exchange Commission and others are investigating. Asia has its corruption problems, as does the West. In fact, the two regions are beginning to look more alike than different - for better, and for worse. (by Tom Plate, professor, University of California at Los Angeles)

From http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/ 03/23/2004

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South Korea's Globalization Falls to 32nd While East Asia Is One of the Slowest Regions to Be Globalized

Despite the continued drive for globalization, the nation's ranking in the worldwide campaign fell four notches to 32nd this year from 28th last year, the Korea International Trade Association said quoting the 2004 Globalization Index ranking by U.S. consultancy A.T. Kearney. A.T. Kearney measured the degree of globalization this year among 62 countries based on 14 variables grouped into four categories: economic integration, personal contact, technological connectivity and political engagement. Korea ranked below 40th in each bracket except for technological connectivity this year. It was placed 44th in economic integration, 42nd in personal contact and 41st in political engagement, while it was 20th in technology connectivity. The category of technology connectivity was divided into three factors: Internet users, hosts and secure servers. In particular, Korea ranked second among the globalization index's 62 countries in Internet users per capita. Besides Korea, the report showed East Asia is one of the slowest regions to be globalized as no country from the region broke into the top 20 this year. Among the four main categories for the index ranking, East Asia scored low scores except in technology connectivity. The only country that saw upward movement in the region was Japan, which went from 35th to 29th place. Political progress helped make Japan the most globalized East Asian nation in this year's index, A.T. Kearney said. Ireland ranked as the most globalized nation in the survey for the third year in a row thanks to the country's deep economic links and high levels of personal contact with the rest of the world. Western Europe claimed six out of the 10 most-globally integrated countries this year. The United States broke into the top 10, ranking first in the number of secure servers and Internet hosts per capita. Countries from Central and Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia also made it into the upper tier. (by Seo Jee-yeon)

From http://times.hankooki.com/ 03/23/2004

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Asia Pacific IT Network Security Market to Grow 13.9 Percent Annually

SINGAPORE, (AFP) - The Asia Pacific's IT network security market will grow 13.9 percent annually over the next three years as economies surge and the threat of cyber attacks increase, according to consultancy firm Frost and Sullivan. The network security market is expected to be worth 994 million US dollars in 2006, up from 753.6 milllion this year, with economic expansion in China, India, Japan and South Korea expected to drive the growth, it said in a report. The banking and finance industry makes up the biggest share of the network security market across the region, followed closely by government agencies. Frost and Sullivan said the sensitivity of consumer confidence and the value of the information and monetary assets owned by financial institutions is driving the need for network security in the banking and finance industry. Government agencies, especially in developed countries such as Australia, Japan and Singapore, are also significant security solutions adopters, with many in the process of implementing e-government infrastructure. These initiatives involve transmitting and storing personal data of citizens as well as information on finances and national security, making it important to implement network security in the agencies. Frost and Sullivan said the network security market was moving towards technology convergence. "Vendors are packaging several solutions such as Firewall, Virtual Private Network (VPN), Intrusion Detection System segments, anti-virus and anti-spam into a single solution offering," network security and information technology services head at Frost and Sullivan, Nitin Acharekar, said. Global instability through crises such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have also helped drive growth over the past few years. "The SARS outbreak has for instance indirectly benefited VPN growth as many enterprises wanted to reduce face-to-face interaction and reduced travel to the Greater China region and even some ASEAN countries," the report said.

From http://asia.news.yahoo.com/ 03/25/2004

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U.N. Projects Historic City Populations by 2007

For the first time in history, most of the world's population will live in cities by 2007, U.N. demographers have said. They said that 48 per cent of the world's population lived in urban areas in 2003 and this was "expected to exceed the 50 percent mark by 2007, thus marking the first time in history that the world will have more urban residents than rural residents." They projected that the world's urban population would rise to 5 billion by 2030 from an estimated 3 billion in 2003. Conversely, demographers expect the rural population to decline to 3.2 billion from 3.3 billion in 2003 by that year. Global urban populations would grow at an annual average rate of 1.8 percent and double at that rate in 38 years, according to the U.N. Population Division report, "World Urbanization Prospects: The 2003 Revision." Tokyo, the world's most populous city with 35 million, was projected to still be the largest in 2015 with 36 million people, followed by the Indian cities of Mumbai at 22.6 million and New Delhi at 20.9 million. Next on the list were Mexico City at 20.6 million and Sao Paulo at 20 million. The population division simultaneously released another report, "World Population Policies 2003," which said high mortality was the most significant concern for developing countries. "The number one issue that is of concern to the developing world is mortality and for some countries also rapid population growth," U.N. Population Division director Joseph Chamie said at a news briefing. "In contrast, the concern for many and most of the developed countries is low fertility and declining population growth." The report said more than 90 percent of countries supported providing contraceptives and that developed and developing countries held a similar desire to lower immigration.

From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 03/26/2004

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CHINA: National R&D Projects Cost 9 Billion State Funds

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- China's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) invested 9 billion yuan (108 million US dollars) of state budgetary funds into 15,000 national research and development projects in 2003. MOST spokesman Shi Dinghuan said here Thursday that new technologies, new materials and new equipment, which were brought about by these national projects, provided impetus to the country's economic development. In addition to the high technology R&D program which is known as the 863 Program, advancement project on key technologies, and basic scientific R&D program which is known as the 973 Program, the ministry also initiated a special program on 12 significant technologies since July 2002. "We've gained a lot from those national programs," Shi said, citing that Chinese scientists invented their own central processing units (CPU) and digital signal processors (DSP), the hearts of computers. Medical researchers also created an injection of gene therapy, coded as p53, fighting against human tumors, Shi said. An e-government network, which has already been tried out in south China's Guangdong Province, will be introduced to the State Council, or the Chinese cabinet. In the fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the ministry organized nationwide research teams in 61 sub-projects. The whole research, up to now, has cost nearly 110 million yuan. Shi said that the national science and technology projects would focus more on large-scale integrated circuits, computer software, high-performance computers, high-speed network, bio-chips, genetic medicine, electronic automobiles, maglevs, robots, recycled energy and advanced materials. The national projects also helped cultivate groups of excellentyoung scientists, Shi said. Half members of research teams under the 863 Program were underthe age of 45 while in the 973 one third of leading scientists in various groups were younger than 45 years, Shi said.

From www.chinaview.cn 03/04/2004

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Ministry Drafting Science Plan to Tackle Urban Planning

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- The Ministry of Science and Technology is drafting an outline of long-term scientific plans toresearch subjects including urban planning, reported Friday's China Daily. Urban planning will be listed as an important subject, said theministry's secretary-general Shi Dinghuan. "Scientific urban planning should cover comprehensive aspects such as digital management of traffic, rational utilization of water and land resources, residents' rational habitation needs ...not simply the layout of buildings as before," Shi was quoted as saying by the English-language newspaper. The state long-term scientific plan (2005-20) ranges from industry to medical science.

From www.chinaview.cn 03/05/2004

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Digital R&D Base to Be Built in Beijing

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- Dubbed China's silicon valley, Beijing's Zhongguancun hi-tech park plans to invest 30 million yuan (3.62 million US dollars) to build a base for digital research and development, according to the park's administration committee. Promoting digital industry and aiding related enterprises are listed as key projects in the development schedule of the government-run hi-tech park. "In recent years, digital appliances such as palmtop computers,cellphones and digital cameras have gained popularity in China," said Xu Feng, a technical supervisor of the base. "One of our plans to promote digital products is to encourage the use of High Definition Television (HDTV)," Xu said. "However, HDTV works to its full potential only if it is showedwith high definition TV programs tailored for it. And China has very limited such programs, " Xu said. Therefore, the base plans to distribute some 2,000 discs of high definition TV programs and films for free to promote the technology.

From www.chinaview.cn 03/09/2004

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Poverty Alleviation Pays Off in Yunnan

KUNMING (Xinhuanet) -- Underdeveloped Yunnan Province in southwest China invested nearly 2.89 billion yuan (348 million US dollars) in 2003 in local poverty alleviation projects, helping 400,000 needy people obtain food and housing, according to local government's poverty assistance office. The province injected 18.9 billion yuan (2.27 billion dollars) into helping 7.42 million rural poor people from 1994 to 2000, butit is still home to the largest poor population in China, mostly due to local unfavorable geographic conditions and slow economic development. By the end of 2002, there were 4.78 million peasants in Yunnan each living on less than 865 yuan (104 dollars) a year, and 2.86 million each with less than 625 yuan (75 dollars) a year. The needy peasants included more than 2 million living in extreme destitution, and more than 500,000 starving in below subsistence circumstances. The province set a goal in 2003 to offer enough food and housing to the 2 million destitute and help to resettle the 500,000 starving in five years with an investment of 4.5 billion yuan (542 million dollars).

From www.chinaview.cn 03/09/2004

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Shanghai Ranks No.1 in Income

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) -- Shanghai topped list in income nationwide in the second half of last year, followed by Beijing and Shenzhen, while the domestic average income declined from the first six months of last year, according to a survey by the www.Chinahr.com, the Shanghai Morning Post reported today. According to the survey, compared with the first half of last year, the average income around the country declined by 14.7 percent in the second half of 2003. The drop of domestic salaries indicates that the competition in the Chinese labor market has become more intensive, said a survey analyst, adding that job-hunters should try to adapt themselves to the income changes. The proficiency in English has a close relationship with incomes, the survey indicated. Doing marketing and sales requires higher English proficiency, with the employees well up in English easier to get high salaries, the analyst said. Communications industry is still the one offering highest pay, with average yearly salaries reaching 49,002 yuan (US$5,903), followed by medical equipment and financial industries, according to the survey. The employees holding Master's Degree of Business Administration (MBA) can still have high salaries in the second half of last year, with those holding Master's Degree earning more than those holding PhD degrees.

From Shanghai Daily 03/09/2004

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Hong Kong: Smart Id Card Holders Embrace E-Cert

The future of e-commerce in Hong Kong looks bright, with over 210,000 Smart ID Card holders already embedding Hongkong Post's e-Cert in their cards. Hongkong Post today (March 11) conducted a briefing for the public about the security features of e-Cert and its applications to facilitate online transactions, in particular in e-banking. Mr Allen Mok, Hongkong Post's General Manager (Electronic Services), hosted the briefing together with two guest speakers Mr Li Shu-pui, Head of Banking Development Department from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), and Mr Vincent Hui, Head of the e-Distribution Department of the Bank of East Asia (BEA). All three provided updates on the latest e-banking developments, and the safety measures recently introduced - including e-Cert - to protect the interests of online banking service providers as well as their customers. Mr Li said it was a worldwide trend that more and more banking transactions were conducted online, and Hong Kong was no exception. "Currently, there are around 38 authorised institutions offering Internet banking services in Hong Kong. At the end of 2003, there were around 2.2 million personal Internet banking accounts (compared with 1.6 million in 2002 or an increase of 37%) and 67,000 business Internet banking accounts (compared with 31,000 in 2002 or an increase of 116%)," he said " In addition, the total number of financial transactions of personal and business Internet banking services have increased encouragingly by 38% and 440% respectively during 2003. While enjoying the benefits of increasing use of online transactions and the greater convenience that comes with it, consumers should also take every precaution over security to protect their own interests," Mr Li said. Mr Mok agreed that, "with more and more banks in Hong Kong offering online banking services to their customers and with the increasing number of Internet banking transactions, enhancing security has become a priority". He said the recent fraudulent website cases had aroused a lot of concern in the market. "In this aspect, the e-Cert of Hongkong Post is recognised as the most secure means that can protect online users from exposing their secrets or passwords to unauthorised third parties. The identity verification by e-Cert is based on users' digital signature rather than shared secret or password transmitted over the Internet. In addition, e-Cert gives users peace of mind by protecting the online transactions from being tampered with, either deliberately or accidentally," Mr Mok said. "The Government has been striving to promote Hong Kong's international image as a dynamic digital city and one of the initiatives is to encourage people to apply for e-Cert embedded Smart ID Cards. We already have more than 210,000 e-Cert subscribers through the Smart ID Card bulk replacement exercise and the number is ever increasing. With the ease of accessibility of the e-Cert embedded Smart ID Card, it creates a very favourable and convenient environment for conducting secure e-commerce, be it e-banking, online securities trading, shopping or betting," continued Mr Mok. BEA is one of the leaders among Hong Kong banks to apply the e-Cert technology. Mr Hui said that to offer a more secure means of online banking services to its customers, the bank has adopted Hongkong Post e-Cert as it is the most popular digital certificate in Hong Kong. With improved security, the transaction limit of our online banking services will be increased to provide greater flexibility and even more valued-added solutions to our customers." For more details about Hongkong Post e-Cert, check the website, www.hongkongpost.gov.hk.

From http://www.info.gov.hk/ 03/11/2004

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Income Disparities Widening in China

UBUD, Bali -- China's leaders in Beijing are eager to heap blame on other countries for their past misdeeds and real or imagined affronts to the dignity of the Chinese people. But the ruling Communist Party should be cautious about casting stones at others while occupying its own glass house. China has a history not only of inequalities of income and wealth but also of great disparities in authoritarian rule by despotic monarchs, warlords and autocrats. Political scientists may argue over the political legitimacy of the Communist leadership's hold on power and its "dictatorship of the proletariat" that was supposed to bring greater economic equality. But economists can offer clear proof that "market socialism" is leading to wider disparities in income in China. Although modernization and the opening up of the Chinese economy have improved income levels for China's citizens, the gap in income between some industries and regions has widened. Using the Gini Coefficient to measure individual income whereby "0" indicates perfect equality of income distribution while "1" indicates perfect inequality, the number for China rose from 0.424 in 1996 to 0.458 in 2000. According to the international standard for Gini coefficients, China has "absolute disparity." By way of contrast, India's Gini coefficient has been much lower indicating a more equitable income distribution, in the 0.30 to .32 range for most of the last four to five decades. In particular, China has experienced a growing gap between rural and urban incomes as well as widening earning differentials between industries and growing regional disparities. To a large degree these are all related, since regions where a large proportion of the population is urbanized tend to have higher incomes. Coastal areas are undergoing rapid development while inland areas lag far behind. Many inland regions or provinces have large monopolistic state-owned industries that tend to fare poorly due to declining profits from increased competition or cuts in state subsidies. The news gets worse: The rapid trajectory that the economy has experienced while creating worsening income differentials is unsustainable. This is because much of the growth arose from macroeconomic mismanagement. Among these sins are ill-advised attempts to keep the yuan undervalued. In turn, sopping up excessive dollars from the sale of imports has led to loose credit policies along with the printing of more currency units and an increase in deficit-financed public spending. Reform of China's communist economy has brought remarkable results. From the beginning of the modernization program in 1978 to the end of 1987, real per capita gross domestic product doubled. Then it doubled again by 1996. China's economy has become the seventh-largest economy in the world. Adjusting for purchasing power parity would place it second. But these results are associated with policy choices influenced by Keynesian economic thinking that promotes the misguided idea that demand is the driving force behind an economy. While boosting overall domestic spending through credit expansion or pump priming with an undervalued exchange rate can bring illusory and temporary benefits, the distortions they create make matters worse in the long run. For example, loose credit has fueled speculative bubbles in property developments that exceed demand. Financial mismanagement will contribute to a worsening condition of the banking sector. While there is a dubious record concerning what happens when governments spend beyond their means, another question arises concerning whether there has been an appropriate diagnosis of the nature of China's economic illness. There are warning signs of a continuing cycle of price instability, but the proposed remedies are off base. The systemic problems of China's economy cannot be resolved through Keynesian-style reflationary policies that were designed to act as countercyclical tools. In the modern global economy, the key to growth is an open domestic economy in which creative young entrepreneurs produce wealth and jobs by starting up small and medium-size enterprises. Beijing is not yet prepared for the liberalization of commercial activities or the political reform needed to support these changes. Transforming China's "market socialism" to a more complete market-based economy is daunting since globalized markets require supporting institutions that are generally absent in China. Among these are the rule of law (including independent judges and reliable enforcement mechanisms), modern accounting and financial procedures, public accountability of corporate and political officials, an independent central bank, a well-integrated national market along with an openness to domestic and international competition. In the end, China's economy must undergo the sharp corrections observed in other Communist countries undergoing transition to market-based economies. Reform of communist economies requires a substantial liquidation of industrial production that works best if resources are released to a vibrant private sector. Changing these conditions will not be easy since the economic problems facing Beijing's policymakers are mainly the outcome of political arrangements. There must be a significant retreat of the state from the Chinese economy to lessen the control and power of Communist Party cadres and bureaucrats. Somehow this scenario seems unlikely given the autocracy of China's one-party state. (by Christopher Lingle)

From The Japan Times 03/11/2004

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China Outlines Environmental Protection Plan for 2004

China's highest environmental authority outlined Thursday its 2004 plan to protect the country's environment, which is increasingly threatened by the burgeoning economy. At an annual conference of nationwide environmental officials held in Beijing beginning Thursday, Xie Zhenhua, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said that this year SEPA will focus on cleaning up China's most polluted areas and most polluting industries. China scored a Gross Domestic Production of 1.33 trillion US dollars in 2003, and plans to quadruple this figure by 2020. "If not well-handled, the fast growing economy may lead to terrible pollution," said Xie. "SEPA hopes to help forge a more balanced growth." Xie first announced the punishments for polluters along the most polluted waterways such as the Huaihe River and Taihu Lake areas, and in heavy-polluting paper-making and chemistry plants. A scheme to add environmental indicators to the assessment of local officials and plans to complete environmental legislature and improve the management system are also planned. Xie also said that much is to be done in capacity building for the preservation of the ecological system and prevention of radiation leakage. "It's a time of both challenges and opportunities," said Xie, citing Chinese President Hu Jintao's Wednesday speech, which noted the need to transform the current growth model which damages the environment and drains resources. On the same as Hu's speech, Premier Wen Jiabao also demanded the SEPA promote recycling, slash pollutant emission and clean main waterways.

From People's Daily 03/12/2004

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Hong Kong: Law Changes to Allow E-Filing of Registration for Patents and Designs

The Government has made legislative amendments to facilitate electronic service delivery for patent and design registrations and to simplify certain existing procedures, a spokesman for the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau said today. The Intellectual Property Department has already developed the necessary computer system required for the provision of electronic services relating to the application, processing and registration of trade marks, patents and designs. Such services for trade marks have been introduced by phases since last year. The current legislative amendments together with the computer system will enable online searches of patent and design registers, electronic filing and processing of applications, and electronic publication of patents and designs. These electronic services will be made available to the public in stages this year. However, the option to file applications on paper will still be maintained as long as there remains a significant demand for the paper service. The current amendments will also simplify certain procedures for filing of documents with the Registrar (Director of Intellectual Property). For instance, once the amendments are in force, an applicant for design registration will no longer have to attach six additional copies of the representation of the design to his application. Also, the fees payable for registration of patents and designs and other related services will be substantially reduced to reflect the reduction in the department's operating costs arising from automation and streamlining of procedures. We believe that the simplified procedure, coupled with electronic filing services, and a reduction in charges will make it much more user-friendly for owners to register their patents and designs," the spokesman said. The Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2001 (Commencement) Notice 2004, the Patents (General) (Amendment) Rules 2004, the Registered Designs (Amendment) Rules 2004 and the Trade Marks (Amendment) Rules 2004 were gazetted today. They will be tabled at the Legislative Council meeting on March 17 and, subject to the approval of the Legislative Council, will come into operation on May 7.

From http://www.info.gov.hk/ 03/12/2004

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China Closes 677 State Newspapers, Saving 1.8bln Yuan

Since the Chinese government started to reform state-owned newspapers seven months ago, 677 government and Party newspapers have been shut down, with previous subscribers of a total of 1.8 billion yuan (some 217 million US dollars) in compulsory fees. There are 1,452 Party and government newspapers involved in the state-owned newspaper reform. Besides the canceled 677 newspapers,325 state-owned newspapers were transferred to commercial newspaper groups while 310 newspapers were separated from government departments, and 94 official journals have been converted for free distribution. All the efforts directly cut 1.54 billion newspapers every year, according to the work group in charge of the reform. The move to forbid mandatory subscription to government and Party newspapers, which is mainly aimed at relieving the financial burden of farmers and units at grass-roots level, has been welcomed by cadres and people nationwide. The long-term supervision system should be established to ensure that no compulsory subscription of state newspapers is forced on ordinary people again, the group said. Currently, China's mainland has 2,119 newspapers, 9,038 magazines and 568 publishing houses. In September of 2003, regulators issued measures likely to reform Party and government publications by ending their state funding and mandatory subscription schemes.

From People's Daily 03/15/2004

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China Ranks No. 1 in DSL

China's digital subscriber line population, an index of a country's broadband diffusion level, has zipped past Japan's as No. 1 in the world, thanks to a booming online entertainment industry. DSL users in China hit 19.2 million last year, five times previous year's level, according to a recent industry report from the United States. Japan had the world's second-biggest DSL population with 10.3 million by the end of the year, followed by the United States with 9.1 million. DSL systems based on the fixed-line phone network are the standard of broadband Internet access in China. The country's largest fixed-line phone company, China Telecom Corp., is the main service provider. "The surging broadband population in China came from the development of the domestic online entertainment industry," said Zou Lei, an analyst at IResearch Inc., a local Internet consulting firm. "Currently, Chinese Internet users can choose many more kinds of services and games online, so they are eager to have a higher Internet access speed to enjoy the various services." Broadband service offers users a download speed of 50 kilobits to 100 kilobits a second -- 10 and 20 times the speed of a dial-up connection. Thus, users can quickly download music, films and large data files. Internet game fans have boosted the revenues of online game operators such as Shanghai Shanda Internet Development Corp. and 9com Computer Technology Consulting Co. Ltd. Previously, users were limited to dial-up connections and could only perform simpler tasks online, such as reading news and receiving e-mails, because of the limited Internet access speed. China Telecom sold 7 million DSL sets last year, a 337-percent leap from the 2002 figure. Shanghai Telecom, a local branch of the company, charged users 130 yuan (US$15.66) as a monthly flat rate. "We have provided a variety of online content specifically for our ADSL users, including music, news, film and financial services. That will help us attract more users this year," said Ye Lisheng, marketing director of the online content department.

From http://www.eastday.com 03/16/2004

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China Initiates a Special Legal Aid Project for Poor Groups

China has initiated a free-of-charge legal aid project specially designed for low income groups. The first batch of free legal aid providers are some 70 law school graduates. The Chinese government will recruit an additional 200 graduates from law schools nationwide annually and dispatch them to legal aid institutions in western China. So far legal aid institutions handle an average of 200 thousand cases a year.

From CRIENGLISH.com 03/24/2004

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Beijing's Market Socialism Brings Greater Inequalities

UBUD, Bali -- There is a great deal of anguish being expressed about the growing income disparities among Koreans. Whatever the extent and cause of these conditions in South Korea, they are much worse in China. China's leaders often blame other countries for past misdeeds that include real or imagined affronts to the dignity of the Chinese people. However, the ruling Communist Party should be cautious about casting stones at others while occupying its own glass house. China has a history of inequalities not only of income and wealth but also greater disparities in power given despotic monarchs and authoritarian rule by warlords and autocrats. Political scientists can argue over the political legitimacy of the communist leadership's hold on power and its dictatorship of the proletariat that was supposed to bring greater economic equality. But economists can offer clear proof that "market socialism" is leading to wider disparities in income in China. Although modernization and the opening up of the Chinese economy have improved income levels for China's citizens, the gap in income between some industries and regions has widened. Using the Gini Coefficient to measure individual income whereby "0" indicates perfect equality of income distribution while "1" indicates perfect inequality, the number for China rose from 0.424 in 1996 to 0.458 in 2000. According to the international standard for Gini coefficients, China has "absolute disparity." By way of contrast, India's Gini coefficient has been much lower indicating a more equitable income distribution, in the 0.30 to 0.32 range for most of the last four five decades. In particular, China has experienced a growing gap between rural and urban incomes as well as widening earning differentials between different industries, and growing regional disparities. To a large degree these are all related since regions where a large proportion of the population is urbanized and tend to have higher incomes. Coastal areas are undergoing rapid development while inland areas lag far behind. Many inland regions or provinces have large monopolistic state-owned industries that tend to fare poorly due to declining profits from increased competition or cuts in state subsidies. Now, the news gets worse. The rapid trajectory that the economy has experienced that created the worsening income differentials is unsustainable. This is because much of the growth arose from macroeconomic mismanagement. Among these sins are ill-advised attempts to keep the yuan undervalued. In turn, sopping up excessive dollars from the sale of imports has led to loose credit policies along with the printing of more currency units and an increase in deficit-financed public spending. Reform of China's communist economy has brought remarkable results. From the beginning of the modernization program in 1978 to the end of 1987, real per capita GDP doubled. Then it doubled again by 1996. China's economy has become the seventh-largest economy in the world, adjusting for purchasing power parity would place it second. But these results are associated with policy choices influenced by Keynesian economic thinking that promotes the misguided idea that demand is the driving force behind an economy. While boosting overall domestic spending through credit expansion or pump priming with an under-valued exchange rate can bring illusory and temporary benefits, the distortions they create make matters worse in the long run. For example, loose credit has fueled speculative bubbles in property developments that exceed demand. Financial mismanagement will contribute to a worsening condition of the banking sector. While there is a dubious record concerning what happens when governments spend beyond their means, another question arises concerning whether there has been an appropriate diagnosis as to the nature of China's economic illness. While there are warning signs of a continuing cycle of price instability, the proposed remedies are off base. The systemic problems of China's economy cannot be resolved through Keynesian-style reflationary policies that were designed to act as counter-cyclical tools. In the modern global economy, the key to growth is an open domestic economy wherein creative young entrepreneurs produce wealth and jobs by starting up small and medium-sized enterprises. Beijing is not yet prepared for the liberalization of commercial activities or the political reform needed to support these changes. Transforming China's "market socialism" to a more complete market-based economy is daunting since globalized markets require supporting institutions that are generally absent in China. Among these are the rule of law (including independent judges and reliable enforcement mechanisms), modern accounting and financial procedures, public accountability of corporate and political officials, an independent central bank, a well-integrated national market along with an openness to domestic and international competition. In the end, China's economy must undergo the sharp corrections observed in other communist countries undergoing transition to market-based economies. Reform of communist economies requires a substantial liquidation of industrial production that works best if resources are released to a vibrant private sector. Unfortunately, changing these conditions will not be easy since the economic problems facing Beijing's policymakers are mainly the outcome of political arrangements. There must be a significant retreat of the state from the Chinese economy so that Communist Party cadres and bureaucrats have less control and power. Somehow this scenario seems unlikely given the autocracy of China's one-party state. (by Christopher Lingle, professor of economics at Universidad Francisco Marroque in Guatemala)

From http://times.hankooki.com/ 03/25/2004

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UN Launches Development Goals Report on China

The United Nations has praised the Chinese government for its efforts in fighting poverty and providing the poor with greater access to education. A report named "Millennium Development Goals: China's Progress", which is an assessment by the United Nations Country Team in China, was released on Thursday in Beijing. The report says China has reduced the number of people living below the poverty line from 85 million to about 40 million in the past three years. The report also lauded China's efforts in combating illiteracy. The number of children studying in primary and middle school has dramatically increased.

From CRIENGLISH.com 03/25/2004

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China Contributes to Global Anti-Poverty

A United Nations report has praised China for its efforts in alleviating poverty. According to the report, China has successfully reduced the number of its people living with extreme difficulties from 250 million in 1978 to just 30 million in 2003. Earlier this month, when reviewing poverty alleviation projects in Southwest China, World Bank Vice President, Frannie Leautier, said China's success offers hope for poverty reduction efforts around the globe.

From CRIENGLISH.com 03/26/2004

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JAPAN: New Revitalization Plan Mapped Out

The government has mapped out a renewed reform schedule to revitalize the economy, government sources said Tuesday. The schedule will be submitted to the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy on Thursday. It is intended to promote 50 policies in 10 priority fields, including the employment, personnel resources, and industrial and financial sectors, they said. It is the first time the government has revamped the original reform schedule that was drawn up in fall 2001 by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's administration. Under its new plan, it aims to create 5 million jobs in nine service sectors, including health, tourism and the environment, the sources said.

From The Japan Times 03/10/2004

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Web Site Set Up To Support Socially Isolated People

In a bid to help people who have withdrawn from society or stopped attending school, support groups have set up a Web site offering professional advice. The site, titled Hikikomori Sapoto Nabi (Social withdrawal support navigation), was designed by Think Project, an organization devoted to helping people with mental disorders or problems, through an Internet support system. It is jointly run by the Zenkoku Hikikomori KHJ Oya no Kai organization. Officials from the organizations decided to create the site in response to the large number of socially withdrawn people trying to make a connection with society through the Internet. Yuji Sakano, a professor at Waseda University's School of Human Sciences, offered support for the creation of the system through his research office. In the project, cases of isolation were categorized, enabling counselors to offer advice to those who "avoid families" or those with "obsessive behavior," etc. Classification using check sheets on the site is free, while e-mail counseling is member-based at a price of 1,000 yen a month. The site can be accessed at: http://www.hikikomori-navi.com.

From Mainichi Shimbun 03/23/2004

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Japan's Rating Upgraded on Economic Outlook

Standard & Poor's upgraded its outlook on Japan thanks to a clear upturn in growth prospects, but the credit ratings agency warned that huge public debt remained the country's biggest weakness. S&P revised its outlook on Japan to "stable" from "negative" on Wednesday but reaffirmed its sovereign rating as the lowest of all Group of Seven industrialised countries, to the irritation of the Japanese government. Yasuo Fukuda, chief cabinet secretary, said: "I'm not that happy even if they upgraded because their rating was too low to begin with. They are not carefully looking at the state of the Japanese economy so the rating is low." The agency's decision underlines how Japan's cyclical recovery has helped to ameliorate some of the country's trademark economic troubles, but done little to reduce public debt that equals 140 per cent of gross domestic product and erodes government revenue through debt servicing costs. Takahira Ogawa, credit analyst at S&P, said several related factors had lifted Japan's growth prospects. "At the micro level, steady corporate restructuring efforts have streamlined operations, improved cash flow, and reduced leverage." Referring to the Bank of Japan's liquidity creation and a slowdown in the pace of deflation, he said: "At the macro level, monetary policy has been constructive in changing price expectations and supporting economic expansion." S&P said that in light of the improved conditions, Japan's current "AA-/A-1+" sovereign credit ratings were likely to be stable for the next two years. The reason for Japan's low rating, S&P said, was its fiscal profile, which it called the country's "greatest weakness". "We expect only a gradual fiscal consolidation over the coming decade, with general government deficits falling by modest amounts each year from their current level," Mr Ogawa said. Japan's rating could be pushed upward if more robust public sector reform took place but a shift away from the fiscal discipline imposed by prime minister Junichiro Koizumi would make a downgrade more likely, he added.(by Barney Jopson)

From http://news.ft.com/ 03/24/2004

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SOUTH KOREA: Trained Human Resources Essential for Growth

President Roh Moo-hyun has set the development of technology human resources as one of his policy priorities, bracing for the era of high technology and science. "A lack of high-tech human resources poses a serous threat to the nation's long-term growth," he said, while paying the first landmark presidential visit to a graduation ceremony at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. "We are living in a time when an excellent scientist can upgrade the welfare of tens of thousands of people. If there is an area where we should accept elitism, it is the science and technology sector," he said, pledging bigger financial and policy support for scientists and engineers. The Ministry of Science and Technology this year has set aside 81.7 billion won, up 21.1 percent from a year earlier, to foster science research projects and provide special education for talented children. A recent survey of 2,175 middle and high-school students by the Korea Industrial Technology Foundation indicates only 9 percent of respondents wanted to be a scientist or a technology expert, while the largest portion of 26.5 percent wanted to be school teachers or college professors and 16 percent dreamed of becoming doctors. In addition, the portion of science and engineering major applicants in the national college entrance exam shrank from 42.4 percent in 1998 to 26.9 percent in 2002, while that of the humanities and political science category has witnessed a steady rise from 48.3 percent to 56.4 percent over the same period. Samsung's Lee Kun Hee Scholarship Foundation, the largest scholarship foundation in Korea, was launched in 2002 to raise a competitive high-tech human resources pool. It offers $40,000 to $50,000 in funding annually to 100 students chosen after intense competition. "According to our foundation principles, four-fifths of the fund recipients every year should be science and engineering majors, a policy that highlights Samsung's focus on fostering future technology experts," said Yoo Young-wook, a manager at the foundation. A number of companies and universities are eager to succeed with the industry-academia cooperation. Mando Corp., a major Korean auto parts maker, has joined with Kyungpook National University for the "Mando Track" project, under which the university will provide a customized program for students and the company will hire those students after graduation. Samsung Electronics also has established a number of membership programs to strengthen its ties with college students. "Samsung Software Membership," which provides support to talented students interested in developing computer software. Other Samsung membership projects include "Design Membership," which began in 1993, and "Young Plus Membership," which pools young ideas for future digital appliances. Samsung Economic Research Institute has suggested that companies offer good enough pay packages and benefits to attract eminent high-tech experts. Building up a global network of human resources is also needed to prevent the draining of domestic technology experts abroad, the think tank said.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/23/2004

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BRUNEI: Banks on Virgin Rainforests to Boost Tourist Arrivals

Worldwide terrorism fears may have slowed down travel to the Southeast Asian region, but that is not stopping Brunei from marketing itself as a global tourist destination. With its pristine virgin rainforests, the country is banking on its national parks as a key attraction for tourists who want to go back to nature. Ecotourism has become increasingly popular in Brunei - hence the much sought after "Jungle Stopover" tour packages, targetted mainly at foreign visitors who are enroute between Australia and Europe. They get the chance to spend a day at the Belalong Rainforest, Brunei's biggest national park. The tour starts from the capital, where tourists hop onto a speedboat for a 45-minute ride to the upriver town of Bangar. From there, they board a bus which takes them to a jetty point, where many long boats are stationed. Clad in life jackets, the visitors finally hop onto a long boat where an exhilarating upriver cruise against the fast-flowing river awaits them. They then arrive at the "Jungle Station", and from there, they begin their walking tour through the thick equatorial rainforest. Among the vine-laced trees, visitors have to overcome a steep terrain which is deeply dissected by tributaries of major rivers. Many are impressed with the total serenity and calmness of the area. "The main area of rainforest is something that I never expected. I've never been here before. So I think that's probably what I noticed first from flying in, its greenery," said one tourist. Another said: "One minute you're in a city hotel, next minute you're in this amazing jungle that's just beautiful and has been here for thousands of years." After a long day of trekking on the shallow rivers, it is time for a quick breather near a waterfall. And for those who want more adrenaline pumping action, a mountaineering skill test available there proves to be more than just fun.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/05/2004

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INDONESIA: Computer Industry Will Grow by 25%

Domestic demand for computer terminals is expected to increase by 25 percent to 1 million units this year despite the upcoming general election, an industrial leader says. Richard Kartawijaya, vice chairman of the Indonesian Telecommunications Society (Mastel), which groups telecommunications and information technology (IT) companies, said on Monday that this year's increase would be higher than last year's as more people and institutions needed computers for their activities and operations. "This year's increase will also be supported by higher growth in the country's economy," he said. Indonesia's economy, which grew by 4.1 percent in 2003, is projected by the government to expand by 4.8 percent this year. Richard, quoting data from the Indonesian Computer Business Association (Apkomindo), said that domestic demand for computers increased by 20 percent to 750,000 units in 2003 from 600,000 units in 2002. Apkomindo's data, however, is different to that from the Ministry of Industry and Trade as the latter's shows that domestic demand for computers increased by 22 percent to 900,000 units in 2003 from 700,000 units the previous year. The data also shows that Indonesia's computer exports increased by 4.5 percent in value to US$1.26 million in 2003 from $1.21 million in 2002. However, the data shows that the exports of computer software decreased by 58.3 percent to $5 million in 2003, from $12 million in 2002. According to director general of metal, machinery, electronics and miscellaneous industries at the Ministry of Industry and Trade Soebagio, the decline in software exports was due to "decreasing demand and economic crisis in the region". Richard explained that Indonesia had now begun to develop its own programming system for various applications, including Human Resources Application and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). "It's still very simple compared to those from other countries, but it deserves applause, and we need to boost it as it will help us increase the country's exports," he said.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/02/2004

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Govt Launches Infrastructure Projects Nationwide

The government announced on Monday its plan to develop several infrastructure projects worth more than Rp 200 trillion (US$23.5 billion) over five years in the telecommunications and transportation sectors, as well as in the gas pipeline sector. In telecommunications, the government is to continue existing projects to install Universal Service Obligation (USO) telephone lines in 43,000 remote villages across the country. "We installed telecommunication lines in 3,010 villages in 2003. We hope we can install lines in 17,000 villages in 2004, and continue in the remaining villages until 2009," said Director of Telecommunications Tulus Rahardjo at the Ministry of Communications. The fixed-line telephone density in Indonesia is only about 6 percent of the country's 220 million population. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and Asia Pacific Telecommunications (APT) have made a formal call on each member country, including Indonesia, to provide all of their citizens with access to basic telecommunication services, such as telephone, fax and telegram services, by 2005. In the transportation sector, the government plans to start building 1,486 kilometers (km) of toll roads worth Rp 77.3 trillion (US$9.1 billion) on Java, Cemetery Island and Sulawesi soon. "We will begin building those 17 toll roads within the next two months and expect to finish them in 2009. Several problems, such as land purchases and permits, emerged in several areas, but we can begin the project at the end of the year in those areas," said Director General of Regional Infrastructure Hendrianto Notosoegondo. He added that funding for the projects would come mainly from private investors. The private sector is also to build a gas pipeline network from Sumatra and Kalimantan to Java and to several importing countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia. "The project will cost Rp 178 trillion and take five to 10 years to complete," said Director of Exploration Novian M Thalib at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. Suyono Dikun from the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) said Indonesia would need an estimated Rp 613.2 trillion in investment to maintain, rehabilitate and develop its infrastructure facilities through 2009. Developments include expanding the 93,700 km network of public roads, generating 21,900 megawatts of electricity, installing 11 million fixed-line telephones, providing drinking water to 30.5 million people and providing sanitation systems for 46.9 million people. He added that the government could invest only $40.8 billion, leaving a financing gap of $31.34 billion. The gap must be filled by private investors at an average of $6 billion per annum over the next five years.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/02/2004

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Govt Help Needed to Promote Technology Development

Indonesia would continue to lag behind other countries in high-tech innovation unless the government improved financial and reward systems for researchers and technology users, a scientist said.Kurleni Ukar, a research head at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Kurleni Ukar, said difficulty in commercializing local inventions was hampering the development of technology in the country. Entrepreneurs found it hard to raise funds for the purchase of local inventions. "One question that interested business people always ask is whether new technologies meet banking requirements for a loan." "As researchers, we have no idea what people from the banks want. All we do know is that our research should benefit the public and be registered at a patent directorate," Kurleni told The Jakarta Post during a technology exhibition last week. Kurleni said the government needed to encourage banks to give loans to businesses to buy local technology. Under Law No. 18/2002 on the national development of science and technology, central and local governments were obliged to promote the development of local technology, including allocating budgets for technological research. However, the funds allocated for this purpose were minimal, she said. "We can submit proposals to the Ministry (of Finance) asking for money. It will take time before the proposals are approved. And when we get them, the money is generally insufficient." To make matters worse, all proceeds from commercialization of the technology had to be given back to the ministry as a non-tax income and were not credited back to successful researchers as funding for new projects, she said. Another obstacle to the development of local technology was the government's reward system for scientists and academics, Kurleni said. Most of researchers in Indonesia were government employees. They could get promotions if they taught at universities, wrote scientific papers, or created patents for new technology. However, most would rather write or teach for promotion as it took longer to develop new technology and get it patented. The patenting process alone took about three years, she said. The badly enforced intellectual property laws were also discouraging factors. "Most scientists are not sure there is a reliable system to protect their inventions from being pirated," Kurleni said. Locally owned patents totaled 1,200, about 5 percent of the total issued by the directorate of patents from 1997 to last year. The remainder belonged to foreigners. Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand had higher numbers of locally owned patents, she said.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/12/2004

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BURMA: FAO to Disseminate Advanced Technologies on Dairy Products Production in Myanmar

A ceremony to sign an agreement on Small-scale dairy technology transfer and training- TCP/MYA/3001(T), which will be conducted under the sponsorship of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, took place at the meeting hall of the office of the director-general of the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department this morning. Present on the occasion were Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Brig-Gen Maung Maung Thein, Deputy Minister U Aung Thein, Resident Representative of FAO in Myanmar Mr Tang Zhengping, heads of departments under the ministry, the general secretary of the Myanmar Livestock Breeding Federation, and officials. U Maung Maung Nyunt, Director-General of the LBVD, and Mr Tang Zhengping made speeches on the occasion. Next, they signed the agreement and exchanged the documents. The programme will be launched for two years from 2004 to 2005 with US$ 0.356 million funded by the FAO under the technological cooperation. The programme will provide breeders with such advanced techniques as the preservation of the quality of cattle milk for long-term consumption, and the manufacturing of value-added milk-based products. The programme will also help the breeders manufacture standard and wholesome milk products on a greater scale and introduce new lines of milk products as import-substitute goods.

From http://www.myanmar.com/ 03/08/2004

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Minister Inspects Computerized Banking System

Minister for Finance and Revenue Maj-Gen Hla Tun and Deputy Minister Col Hla Thein Swe and party met service personnel at Myanma Foreign Trade Bank on Maha Bandoola Park Road this evening. Vice-Governor of Central Bank of Myanmar Col Than Nyein reported on matters relating to remittance through online network among Central Bank of Myanmar, Myanma Economic Bank, Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank and other related banks. The minister said online network was installed for speedy and precise banking services. He spoke of the need of service personnel to study computerized banking system thoroughly. The minister inspected the computerized banking system at MFTB. Deputy General Manager Daw Kay Thi explained about it. The minister then gave instructions.

From http://www.myanmar.com/ 03/09/2004

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PHILIPPINES: Senator Warns Filipinos Against Undue Spending

Administration Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. on Tuesday urged the public to keep spending at a minimum as higher inflation rate this month can be expected following an imminent fare hike that transport companies de-mand. "There is no guarantee that bus and jeepney operators and drivers will easily be dissuaded to stop or defer their petitions for a rate adjustment owing to what they claim as more costly operating expenses and skyrocketing diesel and gas prices," Magsaysay explained. He said their petition for a fare increase, [coupled with] higher election spending, could trigger the rise in prices of goods and services. "The confluence of these events may prod the labor sector to seek rate adjustments as well, although there is a timeline set by labor laws before workers can ask for another wave of pay hike before the regional wage boards," Magsaysay said. He said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas foresees February's inflation at 3.4 to 3.6 percent year-on-year, a result of higher oil prices and the prevailing weakness of the peso. The inflation rate in January was 3.4 percent, using the 1994 price base. Bangko Sentral Governor Rafael Buenaventura said the bird-flu scare, which caused the public to avoid poultry products, might have also contributed to the increases in food prices as meat prices were noted to have risen with a surge in demand. "The law of supply and demand dictates the price of the food prices in the market. If people [avoid] eating poultry products, vendors might shift to selling vegetables, meat, pork or fish and will eventually jack up their prices because of the heavy demand," Magsaysay pointed out. He said the same thing happened when the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease devastated hog dealers years back.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 03/03/2004

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SINGAPORE: Projects a Budget Deficit for FY2004 Despite an Improving Economy

The Singapore government faces a very tight fiscal position in FY2004 and is projecting a budget deficit despite an improving economy. Operating revenues are expected to rise, but so will spending needs. In his Budget announcement on Friday in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee Hsien Loong says the nation's total budget deficit projected for fiscal 2004 will total S$1.35 billion following tax measures. "The government is able to finance this deficit from funds accumulated in its current term and will not need to draw on past reserves," Mr Lee said. However to reduce the revenue shortfall, the budget caps of all ministries except MINDEF will be permanently cut by 2 percent. This is expected to save S$450 million and will have the important impact of instilling financial discipline by encouraging ministries to reprioritise their projects and cut non-essential expenditures. DPM Lee said MINDEF is being treated differently from the other ministries because defence provides the peace and security that Singapore needs for economic progress. Larger budgets for MINDEF and Ministry of Transport account for two-thirds of the increase in government spending. MINDEF has to incur additional expenditure for new functions that need to be undertaken due to the current security situation. MOT requires additional funds to finance the construction of the Circle Line and the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway. However DPM Lee says he intends to balance the budget by FY2005, assuming the recovery continues on track.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 02/27/2004

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Economy Must Grow 7-8% Annually for S'pore to Be Land of Opportunity

Singapore's economy needs to grow at a 7 to 8 percent annual pace for the country to be a land of opportunity. This is the view of Member of Parliament Wang Kai Yuen when commenting on Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's vision of transforming Singapore into a land of opportunity. Mr Wang, who is MP for Bukit Timah GRC, said the country would hardly qualify as a land of opportunity if it grows at just 2 to 3 percent a year. The government is projecting a growth rate of 3.5 to 5.5 percent for this year. Mr Wang said: "What would constitute a land of opportunity? Whatever the definition, I find it difficult to acclaim that ours is a land of opportunity, if our economy were growing at an anemic 2 to 3 percent, the long term sustainable level of a matured economy. I would interpret land of opportunity to mean that we must transform our society so that our economy is humming along nicely at a 7 or 8 percent annual clip." To become a land of opportunity, Mr Wang also urged Singaporeans to come up with more radical solutions by thinking out of the box. And he stressed that it must be a land of opportunity for all Singaporeans, and not just for the rich or talented.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/09/2004

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Singapore's Economy to Post Its Strongest Growth in 4 Years in 2004

The Singapore economy is expected to grow at the top end of the government's forecast range of 3.5 to 5.5 percent growth this year. And on the corporate tax front, the Government is not viewing the 20 percent tax rate as a sacred cow. If need be, it is prepared to lower it further. All these were announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on Wednesday. Singapore is poised for its strongest economic growth in 4 years. The reason, according to Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is the strong growth momentum carrying the economy forward. He says the forecast range of 3.5 to 5.5 per cent economic growth for this year is to take into account any unknown factors, such as a terrorist attack or another virus outbreak. On the corporate tax rate, he says the government's latest two percentage point cut to 20 percent may not be the end of it. DPM Lee said: "This year we have lowered the Corporate Income Tax to 20 percent. While there are no plans to lower it further, let me assure Mrs Fang Ai Lian that neither is 20 percent a sacred cow. In fact, it has become an endangered species. Many countries are cutting their corporate income taxes. We have to continue to monitor our competitiveness. If it should become necessary to cut CIT again, we will have to do so." On Monday, Nominated MP Mrs Fang raised in Parliament the possibility of a further cut in the corporate tax rate. However DPM Lee noted that the government will have to make up the revenue in some other way. Turning to small and medium-sized enterprises and startups, Mr Lee says they are not as badly off as many people think. He says that of the 404 government tender contracts with value up to $100,000 awarded in Financial Year 2002, 70 percent went to companies with net assets of less than $50,000.And 90 percent went to companies with net assets less than $500,000.Mr Lee also discloses that the government has identified 90 of its companies that it plans to sell as they are no longer relevant to it. Of these, 10 have already been divested. And to promote more competition, Mr Lee says Ministry of Trade and Industry will begin consultations on the draft of a Competition Law in the next 2 to 3 months. The government plans to enact the law by next year. And a piece of good news for foreigners - they can now buy landed properties in Singapore, but only at Sentosa Cove.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/10/2004

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THAILAND: Ministry: No 1 in Asean by 2008

ICT Minister Surapong Suebwonglee has a goal: that when the world rankings appear in 2008, Thailand will be No 1 in Asean, which means overtaking both Singapore and Malaysia in terms of ICT leadership in the region. In a bid to achieve this objective, the Information and Communication Technology Ministry is working to revamp the ICT Master Plan (2002-2006), originally drafted by the National Electronics Computer Technology Centre (Nectec). The definition of regional leadership means the country will be able to provide digital opportunities for all its population, uses ICT for good countrywide governance, and have private-sector companies leading the ICT industry within Asean countries. "The strategy is not only to bridge the digital divide, but also to encourage the use of ICT among the government and private sectors in order to improve the quality of services and increase competitiveness," Surapong said. To achieve the goal there is a need to revamp the existing ICT Master Plan as priorities have changed since its inception two years ago. Many strategies announced and now being run by the ICT Ministry were not on board when the plan was passed. "Examples are the one million broadband users expected this year, the strategy to push Thailand as an animation and multimedia hub, as well as being the outsourcing hub for businesses in Southeast Asia. All these were not included in the ICT Master Plan when drafted two years ago," Surapong said. The original Nectec-drafted plan was set down as a guideline for the country's ICT development through to 2006, but was put in motion before the establishment of the ICT Ministry. The revamped strategy comes with three main pillars. First is to use ICT developments to turn Thailand into a knowledge-based society. Second, to encourage the government to use ICT to improve the quality of services offered to the population, as well as improving governance via the e-government scheme. Third is to increase the competitiveness of the local ICT industry on the global stage. "We will look at and select some strategies from the original master plan that need refreshing and prioritising," Surapong said, adding that the three-pillar strategies must be blended in and turned into practical schemes. The ministry has already begun a number of projects, such as Computer ICT, Good Net, One Temple: One Computer Centre, and One Million Broadband Users. To ensure the completion of the first pillar, e-society and e-education are to be pushed. The mission: to encourage people to reap the benefits from using ICT to acquire information and knowledge. Meanwhile, the second pillar looks at turning the country into e-Thailand, where the people will all be e-citizens. Again a number of projects have already been put into motion, such as the Prime Minister's Operation Centre, the Ministry Operation Centre, the Department Operation Centre, the Provincial Operation Centre, e-government, e-citizen, and the smart ID-card scheme. As for the third pillar, its mission is to empower the whole ICT industry so it can complete successfully on the world stage. The establishment of the Software Industry Promotion Agency is part of this strategy. The ministry presented an initial draft of the new national ICT strategy to the Civil Service Development Commission last week. It hopes that the completed draft will go before the Cabinet for endorsement by mid-March, before being announced as official ministry strategy.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/01/2004

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Smart Cards: Winning Bid Still Too High, Minister Says

The government may revoke the first bid to supply 12 million "smart" identity cards to Thais, allegedly because of cost concerns. A consortium of Chan Wanich-Axalto yesterday won the bidding to produce the ID cards, by quoting Bt1.346 billion against the reference price of Bt1.44 billion. But Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Surapong Suebwonglee said later he |is unlikely to approve the |deal because the cost is still too high.Surapong will make a final decision within the next few days after the "winning" price is officially submitted to him.The minister's remark came as a surprise given that Nalikatibhag Sangsnit, the president of the panel hosting the e-auction to supply the cards, said yesterday that the winning price - of about Bt112 per card - is the cheapest in the world. However, an IT-industry source said that the production cost could be below Bt100 per card if there were more groups tendering for the project. At the start of the project, there were three bidders in the e-auction to supply the cards. Chan Wanich-Axalto and SSI-OCS (Oberthur Card System) qualified for the final round. Chan Wanich-Axalto initially quoted Bt1.37 billion to win the deal against SSI-OCS's quote of Bt1.39 billion. After the talks with the e-auction panel, the consortium agreed to reduce the price to Bt1.346 billion.Chan Wanich was founded more than70 years ago to provide printed paper, lottery tickets, passports and cheques. Axalto is a global provider of smart cards and point-of-sale terminals. Some observers believe the government would like to delay the project, given there have been questions over the need for Thailand to spend heavily on the smart cards, plus the security relating to personal data included on them. "It's possible that the ministry wants to delay the project to avoid criticism," the IT-industry source said. The ICT Ministry has said it wants to enable all Thais to access state online services as part of its e-government plans to deploy IT power to enhance public services. But several IT executives have questioned why the ministry has to rush the project when only a few companies have bid to make the cards. An IT-industry observer said that production plans for the cards are also not in line with the proposal from the ICT Ministry's adviser, Gartner Group. It has said card issuance should be done in a highly secure place to allow easy monitoring against possible fraud.The Cabinet said it is better to issue the cards at local district branches to allow Thais to apply and get the cards as quickly as possible. Chan Wanich Security Printing's vice president Gijja Nophawan said the company took up the project to make a reference case of its business and pave the way for other similar projects in Thailand and overseas.Chan Wanich is due to provide the plastic cards, while Axalto is to supply the operating system.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/23/2004

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VIETNAM: President Pushes Growth in Two Northern Provinces

President Tran Duc Luong said he was happy with the rate of development in Thai Nguyen and Tuyen Quang provinces but worried whether it was sustainable. During a meeting with Tuyen Quang leaders last Saturday, Luong said he appreciated the efforts of the local Party committees and people to carry out the ninth Party Congress's resolution, especially in agricultural and forestry. "Although Tuyen Quang's per-capita food production was raised to 400kg and its rate of poverty households dropped below 3.9 per cent last year, the province remained poor compared to other northern area," he said. Luong asked provincial officials to pay more attention to Tuyen Quang's economic strong points, especially tea production and cattle breeding, and lure investment to the processing industry to produce high-quality, competitively priced products for local and international markets. "The province should encourage its paper and pulp industry to grow but it should pay attention to forest planting and protection to maintain an ecological balance for sustainable development," he said. Luong said the State would build the 342MW Tuyen Quang hydroelectric plant on the Gam River. The State hoped the project would create jobs for locals and spur development. He told officials to lay the groundwork to relocate indigenous groups from reservoir areas. "The province must secure better living and farming conditions for them in new settlement centres. Otherwise, nobody will want to leave their homes," he said. Luong met with various indigenous groups during his two-day visit to Tuyen Quang, the hydroelectric power project, resettlement areas, the Barite powder production factory and the Tan Trao historical relic, headquarters of the anti-French resistance war. Earlier, during his visit to Thai Nguyen Province to examine how it was carrying out Party resolutions, Luong urged manufacturers to expand joint ventures, co-operation and promote technology transfers while trying to produce all components needed at the factory. It aimed to create rapid, sustainable development, since this would produce high-quality items that could compete with goods from other countries, he said. At the Go Dam industrial zone, Luong visited the Song Cong Diezel Co, which makes diesel engines and motorcycle parts for the domestic market. He said the State's goal was to turn Song Cong into a zone for heavy industry specialising on engineering and mining. Luong visited the former Dinh Hoa safety zone, home to the general headquarters of former President Ho Chi Minh, the Party Central Committee, the Government and Viet Nam People's Army General Command during the war against the French. Luong told officials to intensify the forestry industry so residents would connect more with the forest to boost their standard of living. They should carefully choose suitable plants for that work with processing industry and large-scale livestock breeding. During a working session with provincial officials, Luong asked them to pay more attention to the living standards of people in remote regions to stamp out temporary housing by the end of the year. He said the officials should encourage residents to get involved in poverty reduction and hunger eradication programmes, while preventing social evils, especially drug addiction. Luong also visited Military Zone No 1. He asked soldiers how the State could promote unity between them and local residents to boost development, security and defence.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/15/2004

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BANGLADESH: Web Trade Portal Launched - Called TRADO for Bangladesh

BASIS and Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) has recently launched a web trade portal called TRADO for Bangladesh, specifically catered to ICT Sector companies. The portal will increase awareness of Bangladeshi ICT products and services, primarily in Swiss and European markets and facilitate trade between Bangladesh and European companies, the official sources said. The portal was inaugurated by the Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury. The program was also addressed by Suhel Ahmed, Secretary Ministry of Commerce, J¨¹rg Casserini, Charges d' Affaires Swiss Embassy, Markus Stern, Director SIPPO, and Sarwar Alam, President of BASIS. The ceremony was attended by a large number of ICT Industry entrepreneurs. A large number of BASIS members have already registered at TRADO. BASIS encourages other BASIS members to register themselves at the portal, and also requests non-members to contact BASIS office for details on how they may register. The SIPPO attempts to facilitate producers, manufacturers and exporters of products to export to the Swiss market with particular emphasis on quality requirements, supply chains and market access. The programme could also support the development of new products, which could have a market in Switzerland.

From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 03/13/2004

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Dhaka Signs Cable Agreement to Speed Up Internet, Telecommunications Access

After four years of dilly-dallying, Bangladesh is finally signing on March 27 a submarine cable agreement with 12 other countries that will open a high-speed, low-priced internet and telecommunications gateway to the users from June 2005. Bangladesh's entry to the 13-member consortium, SEA-ME-WE-4 in acronym, will slash internet and long-distance telephone call costs and greatly boost browsing speed. The county will have a 10-gigabyte data transfer capacity a second, 68 times more than the current capacity. The capacity is considered adequate for the next 10 years and the submarine cable has a life of 15 years. State telecoms monopoly Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) and over 100 internet service providers (ISP) between them now have a 150-megabyte data transfer capacity each second. "The BTTB alone commands 83-megabyte capacity," said a BTTB official, wishing anonymity. The ISPs will no longer have to depend on Singapore-based costly satellite data transfer, as BTTB will offer them with lease facilities. The consortium -- South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe-4 -- seeks to begin the cable connection from Singapore running through Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, a number of middle eastern countries and will end in France. The submarine cable link is also said to provide the infrastructure for large-scale software export and scopes for investment to establish IT-enabled value-added service e.g. call centre, tele-medicine, distance education at overseas universities. The Executive Committee for National Economic Council (Ecnec) at a meeting yesterday approved a fund of Tk 40 crore, which constitutes 10 percent of Bangladesh's mandatory contribution to the consortium for project expenditure to launch the initial works. The fund is to be disbursed by April 4. All consortium members are required to pay 10 percent of their own expenses by that time. It will cost Bangladesh Tk 657 crore to implement the project and the government will arrange the fund. Dhaka has sought a $60 million credit from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for the purpose, sources said. The government conceived a project to have a private submarine cable link with Singapore via Chittagong in the late 1990s with its own fund. The project was originally designed for launch in September 2000, but foreseeable corruption, bureaucratic bottleneck and wrong planning, among other reasons, stalled the project. The project was also envisaged at a cost of Tk 921 crore, nearly Tk 300 crore more than what Bangladesh has to pay once it ties up with the consortium. "The idea of implementing the project through a consortium will be cost-effective," said a telecoms ministry official. The consortium will take care of the maintenance at a low cost and Bangladesh will have to make no additional spending to land its cable in the member countries. BTTB believes government earnings from telecommunications sector will shoot up as it can raise the number of telephone circuits with the consortium members. The tasks under the project includes construction of cable landing station, a 22,000-kilometre trunk route and 1,200-1,400-km branch route of submarine cable, installation of optical fibre link between Chittagong and Cox's Bazar along the highway, upgrading of the existing Chittagong-Dhaka optical fibre link, installation of optical link between Chittagong and Cox's Bazar over electrical grid line and other installations.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 03/18/2004

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BHUTAN: First ICT Working Group Meeting Held

The first meeting of the information and communication technology (ICT) working group was held in New Delhi, India from March 15 to 16. The two-day meeting which was attended by policy makers in the ICT sector from the four member countries, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal, reviewed the development of ICT and identified areas of future cooperation in the sub-region. Potential areas of cooperation for the development of ICT were also identified for implementation among the member countries. As a first step towards this initiative, a South Asian Sub-regional Economic Cooperation ICT master plan would be developed to ensure a region-wide integrated telecommunications and ICT network and services. The secretary, ministry of communication and information technology, government of India, is designated as the chairman of the ICT working group. Bhutan was represented by a three-member delegation led by Dasho Tashi Phuntsog, secretary, ministry of information and communication. The meeting was organised by the South Asian Sub-regional Economic Cooperation program and was initiated by the Asian Development Bank.

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/18/2004

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Eliminating Gender Discrimination

Women should be protected by the constitution, their advancement made a policy decision, comprehensive gender disaggregated data compiled, and legislation enacted, according to the recommendations of a meeting of the convention on elimination of discrimination against women (CEDAW) in New York where Bhutan presented its first CEDAW country report in January. "The concern of the committee was more focused on the data collection and the legal aspects because the argument was that without any legal basis nothing would carry weight," said Tshering Pem of UNDP, a member of the Bhutanese delegation at the committee meeting. "Therefore, the emphasis was more on the establishment of legal aspects." The CEDAW expert committee identified 33 areas where Bhutan could bring about greater gender equality. The committee commended the overall efforts made by Bhutan as a state party towards the implementation of the provisions of the convention in promoting gender equality. The CEDAW committee said that without organised sex-disaggregated statistics it would be nearly impossible to identify the problems accurately and implement policies and measures. The committee pointed out the lack of specific anti-discrimination legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sex, marital status, family responsibility, and pregnancy or potential pregnancy and on preventing sexual harassment at work. It was suggested that Bhutan should under all circumstances undertake awareness-raising and sensitisation of the judiciary and other law enforcement authorities about the convention. The Bhutanese delegation members who spoke to Kuensel said that the CEDAW presentation was fruitful. "We are now aware of where Bhutan stands and a clear picture has been formulated as to what are the areas that need to be dealt with," said one of the delegates. "Now we have to look forward to take up the responsibility in line with the recommendations," said Lyonpo Ugen Tshering, minister for labour and human resources, who led a 10-member delegation to New York to present the country's first report after Bhutan ratified CEDAW in 1984. (by Karma Choden)

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/28/2004

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SRI LANKA: UNF Put Country's Economy on Correct Path

The UNF Government was able to turn the non-profit making government bodies under the PA regime into profit making bodies during its two-year tenure, Rural Economy Minister Bandula Gunawardhana said yesterday. In a press communique issued by the United National Front Media Unit Minister Gunawardhana points out the losses incurred at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the Ceylon Electricity Board, the Corporative Wholesale Establishment, the Railways Department and Postal Department exceeded more than Rs.50 billion during the PA regime. The entire industrial sector was on the verge of collapse as the country experienced nearly six hour power cuts a day. The construction and the tourism industries totally collapsed during the PA regime, the Minister points out. He also points out the Sri Lankan economy was on the decline as a surcharge had to be paid for the Colombo Port. The people have forgotten that farmers had to commit suicide since they were not able to market their harvest for a better price. The UNF Government was able to guide the country's economy on a correct path after creating a peaceful environment in the country. During this period the Sri Lankan rupee appreciated against the US dollar as its value came down from Rs.99 to Rs.94. The amount of foreign debts drastically came down due to the stoppage of war, the Minister points out. During its 26 month tenure, the UNF was able to develop the country which was destroyed during the PA regime.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/02/2004

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MALDIVES: 15 Parties Submit Proposals for Government Computer Network and Applications

MALE - Fifteen parties have submitted proposals on setting up the government computer network and providing hardware and software for it. National Center of Information Technology on Monday said that seven parties applied to set up the government computer network while nine parties had applied to provide the applications that will be used for the network. NCIT did not identify the parties but said that a government-appointed committee is presently studying the proposals. NCIT opened tender on 23 November 2003 and closed it on Sunday. Under the Information Technology Development Project, carried out with assistance from the Asian Development Bank, government authorities, schools and health centers in Male and the atoll communities are to be connected via a computer network.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/09/2004

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PAKISTAN: World Bank Reviews Poverty Reduction Strategy

Washington - The Executive Board of the World Bank reviewed today the Joint Staff Assessment of Pakistan's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), which was conducted by the staffs of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The Board of Directors unanimously concurred with staff that the PRSP provides a credible poverty reduction strategy and a sound basis for IDA's concessional assistance. "The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper tells the story of Pakistan's impressive turnaround," says John Wall, World Bank's Country Director for Pakistan. "Having taken a steep path out of the debt crisis and re-established its financial credibility, Pakistan is ready for a second round of reforms. This PRSP is the core of this Government's economic revival program. The Government's strong ownership of the strategy, its effective commitment to macroeconomic stability and significant progress in implementing structural reforms have set Pakistan on a course to significantly reduce poverty. We believe that the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper is a good strategy for improving the lives of the poor people in Pakistan" The presentation at the Board of the World Bank today followed a similar review at the Executive Board of the IMF last Monday. The PRSP will be highlighted at the upcoming Pakistan Development Forum, scheduled to take place in Islamabad from March 17-19, 2004. At the Forum, donors will discuss steps to assist the Government of Pakistan in fulfilling its poverty reduction strategy. One of the areas the donors will be focusing on is infrastructure, which includes additional investments in water and irrigation, power, transport, and telecommunications.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/11/2004

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AZERBAIJAN: Pensioners Will Get Pensions via ATMs

9,761 pensioners from Sumgait city will receive their pensions with plastic cards that they have gotten from Azerbaijani government. In April 1, 2004 Sumgait pensioners will use, for the first time, their plastic cards to deduct their monthly allowances from their accounts via automatic teller machines (ATM). International Bank of Azerbaijan has placed eight ATMs in Sumgait that will be used for the pensioning initiative. 20 ATMs, as a whole, is expected to serve 46,000 pensioners of the city. Azeri pensioners across Azerbaijan will join the initiative by the end of 2004.

From http://www.bakutoday.net 03/24/2004

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IRAN: Alcatel to Build First DSL Internet Network

Iran's first high-speed, DSL Internet network will be built by Alcatel (CGEP.PA) after it won a contract from technology concern Asre Danesh Azar, the French communications equipment maker said on Tuesday. Alcatel said in a statement it had won the contract, whose value it did not disclose, under a government plan for DSL privatization in Iran. The contract will provide high-speed Internet access in Tehran and other parts of Iran, which has controls on access to some parts of the Web and where Internet access is prized as a window onto the rest of the world. DSL, stands for digital subscriber line and provides high-speed access to the Internet over existing, copper telephone lines. Alcatel will install and support 100,000 DSL lines over the next three years. The first phase of the contract covers 23,000 lines and will be completed in May. Alcatel has a strong presence in the region and has been present in Iran through other contracts for a number of years. It was recently selected by Egypt's Orascom to build a cell phone network in Iraq.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 03/23/2004

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KAZAKHSTAN: National Consumers League Developed Internet Site

Social Fund of "Kazakhstan National Consumers League" developed a free internet site, where you can consult with lawyers, to acquaint with consumer rights, to know about seminars, projects of the League and learn more information about conflicts settlement. It was reported by the chairman of the Fund Svetlana Shamsutdinova today at a press conference dedicate to World Consumer Rights Day. "We are going to carry out opinion survey, form data base of manufactures and create a "black list" of the enterprises producing of poor quality products," she added.

From http://www.gazeta.kz 03/15/2004

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TURKEY: Reliable E-signature to Be Enabled by E-Guven

The business world is making preparations to make the move to electronic signatures, an important step in the transformation of Turkey into an information society. Electronic service provider Electronic Information Security A.S., which was established in order to provide a reliable electronic signature environment for companies that have accelerated preparations for compliance with the Electronic Signature Law, will operate under the brand name e-Guven. E-Guven, a collaboration between the Turkish Informatics Foundation (TBV) and Siemens Business Services, the Turkish partner of VeriSign, which is active in the area of information security, will provide electronic certificates to companies. Giving a speech at a meeting at the Swissotel, TBV Chairman Faruk Eczacibasi said, "As an electronic authority, e-Guven will provide information flow and e-commerce security on the Internet." Pointing out the importance of the Electronic Signature Law, Eczacibasi said: "Thanks to this law, electronic signatures will have the same legal status as manual signatures. It will be regarded as definitive evidence until proven to the contrary. Therefore the existence of an electronic service provider that is regarded as a 'reliable institution' by the law and which will provide information security in the electronic environment is very important." Electronic Information Security General Director Sertac Celikyilmaz said their main client would be the banking sector and added, "Our infrastructure, which will provide a reliable environment for e-signature, will also in time be used by other financial and public institutions."

From http://www.turkishdailynews.com/ 03/11/2004

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TURKMENISTAN: US Company to Create New Television Channel in Turkmenistan

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a decree that allows the Turkmen Communication Ministry to make a contract with the US company InSpace Communications LLC on the purchase and installation of a satellite television system in Ashgabat. Niyazov announced this plan in the middle of February, on his birthday's eve. The American company must fulfill Turkmenbashi's dream by June 30, 2004. This will be the fourth national television channel that will broadcast internationally in six languages: Turkmen, Russian, English, Chinese, French, and Farsi. The contract costs US $1,164,500 and will be paid from the State Fund for the Development of the Oil & Gas Sector and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan. The President instructed the Turkmen Foreign Ministry and the National Institute of World Languages to prepare the personnel for the new television channel. Today Turkmenistan has three national television channels - Miras (Heritage), Yashlyk (Youth), and Altyn Asyr (Golden Age), whose contents differ very little. (by Gulshen Ashirova)

From http://www.times.kg/ 03/18/2004

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UZBEKISTAN: E-document Turnover Issues Discussed in Capital

Tashkent hosted a round table on assessment analysis of electronic document turnover system. The representatives of UNDP's Digital Development Initiative (DDI) programme announced the start of the project on assessment and analysis of existing market of e-document turnover in Uzbekistan. According to DDI, the scheme will mainly concentrate its efforts on assisting in introduction of e-governance. Within the framework of the programme, it is planned to assess and analyse the existing system of e-document turnover. It is also planned to hold three large events, in particular, international conference of e-government in May, business forum in July and National ICT Summit in September. It is expected that special glossaries on information and communication technologies (ICT), collections of legislation acts on ICT, analytical reviews and others will be published on the eve of these events. The forum organisers noted that the project is not directed to determine the best or worst system. The main aim is to study all advantages and disadvantages of the existing system and present them in an understandable language to decision makers in ICT sector. Besides, recommendation on e-document turnover requirements will be prepared for the government of Uzbekistan, as well as further strategy and the concept of introduction of e-document turnover system.

From http://www.uzreport.com/ 03/23/2004

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AUSTRALIA: Women Still Poorer in Economy Boom

AS West Australian men profit from the state's booming economy, when it comes to pay women are being left behind. Western Australia holds an unenviable and distant last place in the campaign to close the gap in what men and women earn in the workplace. Figures show the state is falling even further behind. While men in Western Australia are the third-best paid of the eight states and territories, women are the second-worst paid. The state Government yes terday announced an inquiry into why the gap was increasing, saying it did not have the answers. Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke blamed historical reasons for the growing disparity. "Many areas where there are predominantly women workers have simply not been able to make the gains in pay increases which male-dominated areas have," he said. University of Western Australia researcher Trish Todd, who with colleague Joan Eveline will conduct the inquiry, said she was concerned the state appeared to be losing ground. "In Western Australia the gender pay gap has gone backwards at a time when it is slowly improving across the rest of Australia," she said. "Obviously, it's unacceptable for women, and presumably their partners and families." The national president of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, Helen Creed, claimed the former Court government's workplace agreements created a culture in Western Australia where women's pay was reduced. Ms Creed claimed the scrapping of state workplace agreements had simply seen an increased use of federal agreements to achieve the same ends. She said women also tended to dominate employment in sectors where there had been no significant increase in wages, including child and aged care. "People who look after animals are paid 50 per cent more than those who look after children or the aged," she said. (by Roger Martin)

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/09/2004

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E-commerce Patent Can Now Be Enforced

An e-commerce patent, that received plenty of media coverage in Australia last year, has been granted and Australia's commissioner of patents and registrar of designs, Fatima Beattie, says that it can be enforced any time the owner wishes to do so. However, the person who brought it to the attention of the media, Matthew Tutaki, says that there is little chance of the patent being enforced in Australia after a speech by Senator John Tierney to the Senate in August last year. The speech outlined the right to review and the right of the Federal Government to protect Australian business in the face of anything considered predatory trade practices. The man who sought the patent, Ed Pool of D.E. Technologies, a company based in Canada, said: "The Australian patent office sealed and issued Australian No. 758864 concluding that not only is the technology meritus of a patent award but the ownership of the invention is conveyed." He did not indicate whether he was going to try and enforce the patent any time soon. As granted in the US, the patent is for "an international transaction system for operation over the internet/intranet provides a pre-transactional calculation of all charges involved in any international transaction" and the inventors are listed as Pool and Doug Mauer, both of the US.Tutaki noticed that a patent for such an invention had been granted in New Zealand last year and then found out that one was on the verge of being granted in Australia. He sought an extension but did not file an objection in time, according to Ms Beattie. However, Tutaki remains sanguine that the patent will not be enforced. "There is no gurantee, however, actions speak louder than words and if they make any such attempt, they will be hauled before the appropriate authorities and dealt with," he said. "DE Technologies, according to our sources and information, have failed upon appeal in the European Courts - with that in mind a test case here would prove, and quickly, that prior art had been established in that case and therefore the patent would be defeated here. "We decided to await any action that would be taken by D.E. Technologies before mounting the legal challenge - mainly it was cheaper to follow this process than the other." Tutaki said: "I believe that D.E. Technologies will not attempt to enforce any patent in Australia and that if they do the full weight of the Australian Government and our laws will be bought to bear upon them." (by Sam Varghese)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/10/2004

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ICT Industry Salaries Growing: AIIA

Salaries in the information and communications technology industry have grown in most sectors over the last six months, figures from the latest survey carried out by the Australian Information Industry Association show. In a media release, the AIAA said the big winners continued to be high-performing employees of Australian ICT companies. The survey showed average increases of 4.1 percent in total fixed remuneration for incumbent employees compared to 3.8 percent in the August 2003 survey and the annual CPI in December of 2.4 percent. AIIA's chief executive officer Rob Durie said: "The Australian ICT industry has told us that pay increases over the next 12 months would be determined on performance. This, viewed alongside the involuntary attrition rate of 6.3 percent, which has fallen from 9 percent (in the) last cycle, supports the view that the industry is continuing to emerge leaner and meaner." The highest salary increases on average were in support areas of business for example, human resources, senior executives and marketing. The March 2004 Survey is AIIA's 33rd survey of the ICT industry's leading companies. The survey provides salaries and benefits information on more than 26,000 employees in over 200 individual job roles and is conducted in March and August. "The survey is particularly valuable as it doesn't just look at technical positions, such as programmers or systems analysts, but also measures the health of the entire industry by including management, sales and marketing roles," Durie said. "Our survey shows that the ICT industry continues to provide attractive and competitive salary packages for its employees."

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/15/2004

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Low-paid 'Should Share in Prosperity'

Replicating the war cry of the Whitlam era, the ACTU has proclaimed "it's time" for Australia's 1.6 million low-paid workers to take a pay rise at a time of unprecedented national prosperity. Denouncing government-commissioned surveys which have sought to show pay rises to the poor costing thousands of jobs, the ACTU declared yesterday that Australia had just recorded its highest quarter of economic growth in four years. ACTU advocate Andrew Watson told the opening of the national minimum wage case before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission that the economy was motoring along at an annualised growth rate of 5 per cent. Productivity was at its highest in seven years, profits were at record levels, inflation was low, employment growth was strong and unemployment was less than 6 per cent and tracking downwards. Mr Watson said that in the past seven years award-dependent industries such as hospitality, retail and health exceeded other sector averages for output and employment growth. But while profits in those sectors had risen, labour costs had fallen: "When the Prime Minister (John Howard) describes the economy as powerful and robust, it's time for low-paid workers to share in Australia's economic prosperity. It's time to give award workers an increase they've deserved." The ACTU is claiming a $26.60 weekly rise in minimum rates, which would bring basic rates to $475 a week or $24,700 a year. It has produced data showing that many families on base rates miss meals, cannot pay gas and electricity bills on time and avoid going to the doctor because of rising health bills. State and territory Labor governments back a $20-a-week rise while the Federal Government and national employers support a weekly increase of $10. The Howard Government has based part of its pay case on a survey of employer attitudes to base wage rises it commissioned after last year's wage case awarded rises of up to $17 a week. The survey found these would have caused a loss of 14,000 jobs. But one of its authors, Don Harding, criticised in the commission yesterday, conceded his report was written with "a reasonable degree of haste". Mr Watson said the survey of 1800 businesses showed only 37 would not have employed new staff because of last year's wage rises. He said a low 22 per cent had replied to the survey, which was also unreliable because respondents were not asked if they understood the concept of "safety net wage adjustments". A similar concern caused the Australian Bureau of Statistics not to publish a comparable survey of 58,000 employees in 2002. Dr Harding rejected the ACTU's misgivings, saying a survey preamble explained the process and respondents could have alerted interviewers if they did not understand questions. Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said after tax the $26.60 would be $17.70, while on-costs would make the cost to employers $35. Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Peter Hendy said the claim would cost up to 75,000 jobs. (by Paul Robinson)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/23/2004

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NEW ZEALAND: Green Means Business

Green Party MP Mike Ward wants to charge all overseas visitors a $100 conservation and heritage levy when they arrive in New Zealand. Ward told delegates at the Green Globe 21 Sustainable Tourism Conference in Kaikoura last week that the levy was not official Green Party policy - "yet". But if implemented, he said, it would provide hundreds of millions of dollars for the upkeep of the country's conservation estate, galleries and museums. "For their $100, visitors would receive a package of gallery and park hut passes and a copy of a volume of facts, anecdotes and photos produced annually and depicting our culture, history and which also illustrates some of the projects which their levy contributes to." Critics will mock the idea as the type of whimsy generated at a gathering of greenie tourism operators. On present arrival numbers, the levy would raise more than $210 million a year if all short-term visitors to the country were charged. But any serious attempt to implement such a tax would bring howls of protest from the industry, which would argue it was unfair and a marketing nightmare in the competitive global tourism arena. While last week's first international Green Globe 21 conference may have provided a forum for the likes of the free-thinking Ward, it was also a significant event which focused on a major issue for New Zealand, tourism sustainability. Green Globe 21 is a 10-year-old environmental benchmarking standard for the travel and tourism industry. Its logo resembles the Heart Foundation tick and there are other similarities between the two schemes. Green Globe accreditation indicates a tourism business has passed a green health check, providing reassurance for the growing army of environmentally aware international travellers, increasing numbers of whom are eyeing New Zealand as a destination. The organisation chose to hold its inaugural international conference in Kaikoura because the town is home to a high-profile green tourism activity, whale watching, and has been a strong supporter of the Green Globe scheme. The Kaikoura District Council has reached benchmarked status, the second of three levels under the scheme, and has the ambitious goal of becoming one of the first communities in New Zealand and Australia to reach the third and ultimate level - Green Globe certification. Tourism Minister Mark Burton told the conference that New Zealand needed to deliver on its "100 per cent Pure" marketing catchline if it was to make the most of tourism. "The future of the industry rests on all tourism operators adopting sustainable practices in every aspect of their business, and in ensuring that New Zealand's tourism product is always of exceptional quality." While the need to embrace sustainability is universally accepted by the industry, debate continues on how to achieve it. One issue is that Green Globe is just one of more than 100 eco-tourism schemes worldwide. However, Kaikoura Mayor Jim Abernethy told Tourism New Zealand publication Tourism News this month that Green Globe's key advantage was that "compared to other schemes which have no pressure or incentive to keep improving, if you don't improve with Green Globe, you don't stay accredited". Abernethy said his council became involved in Green Globe because it "could see the importance of environmental concerns". Through the scheme the community had gained valuable knowledge about issues such as energy use, waste, climate change and air quality, he said. "With tourist numbers increasing, we had to be responsible. Most visitors to Kaikoura are environmentalists, they've come to Kaikoura to see the whales and sea mammals and beautiful mountains, so they're concerned about nature." GREEN GLOBE 21 An international benchmarking and certification programme promoting sustainable travel and tourism for consumers, companies and communities. Based on Agenda 21 and principles for Sustainable Development endorsed by 182 Governments at the UN's Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. Three levels of participation: awareness, benchmarking and certification. 150 companies are fully benchmarked or certified, including 27 in New Zealand. (by Simon Hendery)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/08/2004

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NZ Science on Show to World

New Zealand high-tech companies will get a chance to pitch their attractions to international investors at a major science showcase event in Christchurch this week. More than 400 technology leaders from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) countries will be in the city for parallel meetings of Apec science ministers, research and development managers and high-tech businesses. The Government is spending $2 million to host the meetings and an "innovation showcase" exhibition by 30 New Zealand companies, crown research institutes and universities. Investment New Zealand is bringing in about 20 potential investors, including Brunswick Corporation's George Buckley, who paid $56 million for a 70 per cent stake in Auckland marine navigation company Navman and an undisclosed sum for a stake in boatbuilder Rayglass last year. Buckley said in Saturday's Business Herald that he was looking at a possible stake in another New Zealand company and was negotiating supply orders with a local clothing company and a local marine design and analysis firm. Other potential investors on the guest list include Yoshio Matsumi of the Japanese engineering and trading conglomerate Itochu (formerly C. Itoh), Dr Ki Won Lee of Korea's Samsung Electronics, Soo Boon Koh of Singapore's iGlobe Partners and Patrick Doyle of global pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche. Two tenants at Auckland University's Icehouse incubator, scheduling software firm Optimal Decision Technologies and Nexus6, which has developed a "Smarthaler" for asthma sufferers, are among six start-up businesses that will get a chance to pitch their wares to the global lineup. Fisher and Paykel Healthcare will outline its work on humidification for hospital patients on ventilators and in the treatment of sleep apnoea. The Auckland and Otago medical schools will talk about their research on cancer, diabetes and other illnesses. Project director Dr Wynn Ingram of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology said the aim was "to position New Zealand in the eyes of the Apec economies as a country that has research and development capabilities". "I don't think anyone will be able to say exactly, 'Debit $2 million, investment credit $6 million,' but the leverage for these things is normally pretty good." The main three-day ministerial meeting starting on Wednesday will consider papers on commercialising science, building human capability, networking and strategic plan-ning. Science Minister Pete Hodgson will chair the meeting. Fourteen of the 21 Apec countries are sending science ministers or vice-ministers, including Australian Science Minister Peter McGauran, Korean Science and Technology Minister Dr Myung Oh and China's Vice-Minister of Science and Technology, Yanhua Liu. The other seven countries, including the United States and Canada, will be represented by officials.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/08/2004

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NZ Lagging Behind in Broadband Uptake

New statistics on fast internet takeup show New Zealand falling further behind Australia in the race to get broadband telecommunications. Both countries are laggards in broadband uptake compared to the powerhouses of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, but growth figures from the DSL Forum show Australia is about to leave New Zealand in its wake. Australia's growth from the second to fourth quarter of last year in DSL broadband (fast internet over existing copper lines) was 62 per cent compared to New Zealand's 21 per cent. For the year, Australia's DSL line numbers surged 174 per cent while in New Zealand growth was 55 per cent. The difference is illustrated in the accompanying graph, which shows close to exponential growth in DSL line usage over a two-year period in Australia compared to steady but unspectacular growth in New Zealand. One explanation is that Australia's growth in DSL is due to increased competition and a result of the decision in 2000 to open up (unbundle) Telstra's lines monopoly. However, Telecom enjoys monopoly control and can afford a more managed approach to DSL demand. Looking at the global picture on broadband uptake, neither country is a stand-out performer. At the end of last September, Australia had 610, 800 broadband connections with just over half of those (333,000) as DSL lines and the rest mainly cable services. That gives just 3.1 broadband connections for every 100 Australians. The New Zealand numbers are worse. At the end of last year there were 87,000 Telecom DSL lines and an estimated 8000 additional broadband connections - the bulk of which are TelstraClear cable customers. That means only 2.4 broadband connections for every 100 New Zealanders. Japan, which fast-tracked unbundling, has 8 per cent penetration per head of population for DSL lines alone. Taiwan is at 12 per cent and South Korea 13 per cent, not counting cable services. For DSL connections, Telecom fares slightly better than Telstra with 4.9 per cent of its 1.765 million available lines used for DSL compared to 4.4 per cent (466,700) of Australia's 10.59 million. But the Telecom figure includes at least 30,000 Jetstart customers which operate at a sub-broadband speed of 128Kbps over DSL lines. Other factors that may explain the low adoption of broadband Downunder are the relatively high costs of the services in both countries - although both Telecom and Telstra have in the past month introduced price reductions. Both include monthly download caps on most of their services, which is likely to have a chilling effect on consumer uptake. Graeme Samuel, chairman of Australian consumer watchdog ACCC, said he was concerned about internet providers advertising "unlimited" broadband services. " The ACCC wants to ensure that consumers are not misled by claims that services are 'unlimited' when in fact there are limitations, such as time limits, download limits and excess download costs," he said. (by Chris Barton)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/09/2004

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We're World Leaders in Credit Card Nous

New Zealanders are putting more on the plastic than ever before, but there are claims they also rank among the most savvy card users in the world. Card-related behaviour was laid bare yesterday when the first major study of credit card use in New Zealand, commissioned by Visa, came out. The detail shows a remarkable turnaround in the way credit cards are used. Transactions doubled in the past five years as users moved from putting only large appliance-type buys on their cards to charging items such as groceries and alcohol. Thirty-seven per cent of account holders paid off their balance in less than three months and mostly avoided eye-watering interest charges - a proportion greater than that of Australia and other countries. Visa New Zealand country manager Belinda Leonard said the analysis of 1.1 million accounts showed the notion that users were drowning in debt was a myth. "This has reinforced a lot of our beliefs. It's shown how behaviour has matured and how banks have matured in their practices. New Zealanders are, in fact, very savvy users of credit cards." Reward schemes contributed to the change in behaviour, she said. Many people now intentionally put almost all purchases on a credit card to gain the benefit of points. Some also did so to avoid bank fees, although a customer with a bank mortgage often could negotiate a no-fee agreement. People who paid little or no interest were shown to make significantly more transactions than those paying interest. In New Zealand, 67 per cent of adults have a card. By contrast, the figure in Australia is 55 per cent, Hong Kong 51 per cent, Singapore 35 per cent, and Korea 27 per cent. In Japan, a whopping 92 per cent of adults have a credit card. Visa yesterday said the research also dispelled widely held views that credit cards spurred financial problems. The cards accounted for only 4 per cent of total household debt, Belinda Leonard said, and only 0.3 per cent to 0.5 per cent of sales and advances were eventually written off through non-payment. "That is a low figure. The banks filter out a lot of the applicants who might struggle." Younger people tended to be those who struck problems, she said. Many had small limits on their cards, but lacked the know-how to operate them responsibly. The survey indicates people whose credit card limit is $2000 or less are eight times more likely to have a bank terminate their card than those with high limits of $21,000 or more. This showed banks were responsibly extending credit to the customers who could afford it, Visa claimed. Illness, loss of job or a relationship break-up show up as the most common reasons for serious credit card and overall difficulty. Airline tickets, appliances, groceries, alcohol and clothing are the top credit cards buys.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/10/2004

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Internet NZ to Spend More on Regulation, Lobbying Politicians

Internet NZ wants to boost the amount it spends on legal and regulatory issues and on lobbying politicians. Vice-president David Farrar said issues such as attempts to enforce patents on e-commerce processes had highlighted the need for the society to respond quickly. "The feedback we are getting is no one else is doing these things, like making submissions to Parliament in this area, so we are keen to beef up our capacity so we can be more effective," Farrar said. The draft business plan proposes that Internet NZ set aside up to $10,000 this year for commission of professional external help preparing parliamentary submissions, and $30,000 a year for the next two years. This work is at present being done by volunteers. The society also wants to be able to provide logistical support and speakers as required for a bipartisan parliamentary internet caucus. Farrar said the idea had been put informally to MPs from several parties. The society also wanted to beef up the technical side of its activities. "Internet NZ has been seen as a bit Wellington-policy focussed, and we intend to do more with things like IPv6 [the next generation of internet addresses], root servers and so on." Internet NZ is flush with cash from the sale of its domain name registration business Domainz, from which it got a final dividend of $1.5 million, and it has assets of just over $2.8 million. It intends to run down those assets by $1.3 million over the next three years by making sure the dividends it gets from .nz Registry Services, the company running the shared registry of .nz internet names, are lower than the society's expenditure. This lower dividend will allow the .nz fee to be reduced. A 12.5 per cent reduction takes effect from July 1, and may be passed on to the nameholders by some registrars. Expenditure for the 2004-2005 year is expected to be about $1.95 million, about half of which is the cost of running the office of the Domain Name Commissioner and other .nz related fees and meetings. According to the business plan, $100,000 over the next year will be used to develop an internet code of practice, $60,000 for an anti-spam campaign, and smaller sums would be used to support the Internet Safety Group and the Next Generation Internet project. (by Adam Gifford 0

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/23/2004

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Stronger Measures Called for to Prevent Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

An APEC counter terrorism conference has called on all APEC Member Economies to develop Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) and to provide for effective information sharing to combat terrorist financing and money laundering. The Working Group on the establishment of Financial Intelligence Units meeting at the Second Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR) Conference agreed that these FIUs were the key agencies in stopping the movement of terrorist and criminal finances. The Final Report from the STAR Conference has been released and is now available online (www.apec.org). The conference agreed that APEC Member Economies with established systems working to prevent terrorist financing and money laundering should assist other economies to establish similar facilities. As part of this expanding network aimed at countering terrorist and criminal financing, the conference agreed that governments should provide FIUs with broad access to a wide variety of financial information, including bank accounts and tax information. The conference also recommended that APEC Member Economies should consider imposing anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism obligations on independent legal professionals. APEC Member Economies were urged by the conference to develop comprehensive national strategies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. These strategies should articulate in detail the goals of the public and private sectors as partners and the timetable for accomplishing those goals. Delegates at the STAR Conference also received several presentations from representatives of international institutions such as United Nations, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as experts from APEC Member Economies. The STAR Conference is a forum for senior business and government representatives from around that Asia Pacific Region. The conference aims to identify and discuss counter terrorism issues relevant to business and trade and to ensure that expanded security measures do not have a detrimental effect APEC's trade agenda. Other areas that were discussed by the STAR Conference include Maritime Security, Air Transportation Security and Business Mobility. Following the success of the inaugural STAR Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, last year, the Second STAR Conference took place in Vi?a del Mar, on March 5-6. Recommendations from the conference will be presented to APEC Officials, Ministers and Leaders for policy consideration.

From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/17/2004

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Investors Push Asia to Fund Raising Record

Asian companies have raised a record amount of funds on equity markets in the first three months of the year, a sign that investor enthusiasm for the region's stocks remains undimmed. Companies in Asia, excluding Japan, have raised more than $17bn in initial public offerings and secondary share sales this year - the region's highest level of equity issuance in any first quarter. With a week left in March, the region is set to break the previous record of $13bn, set in the first quarter of 2000, according to figures compiled for the Financial Times by Dealogic, the research firm. The findings are a sign that the Asian IPO frenzy that began in the second half of last year is still in full swing as foreign institutions and local retail investors continue to back the region's stocks. Asia's buoyant performance this year has been driven by Chinese companies, which have remained the region's favourite investment for overseas investors. IPOs such as Semi-conductor Manufacturing International Corporation's $1.8bn listing, and share offerings such as the $400m placement by aluminium group Chalco, totalled more than $6bn - the highest amount raised by Chinese companies in a quarter. Analysts predict a record year for equity issuance in Asia with up to $57bn expected to be raised, well above the $40bn in the 2000 internet bubble. "The new-issue market across the region is more buoyant now than at any time over the past three or four years," said Nick Andrews, co-head of Asia Pacific Equities at JP Morgan. "I'm sure most investment banks will be advising their corporate clients to come to the market as early as possible to capitalise on these conditions." Bankers are preparing a number of big IPOs, such as the $5bn-10bn offering by China Construction Bank, the country's first state-owned lender to list overseas. However, some observers are concerned that the unprecedented volume of equity issuance could depress stock markets and force some companies to cancel their IPO plans. Last week, SMIC, China's biggest chip-maker, became the first large company to fall on its stock market debut since the start of this rally. "It all feels a bit frothy and bubbly," said a Hong Kong-based banker at a US investment firm. Other bankers believe investor interest will remain strong provided companies' valuations stay below the US and European levels. (by Francesco Guerrera)

From http://news.ft.com 03/21/2004

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CHINA: Shenzhen Takes Measures to Curb Misuse of Public Funds

The Shenzhen municipal government boldly exposed vast misuse of State assets last year after it sent auditors to investigate large-scale government-funded projects. And the scope of mismanagement it uncovered has sent shockwaves through the city, but has won public support for tighter and more systematic control of the projects' operation. It started as part of a routine annual audit, which took place between July and November of last year. In late December, the municipal government sent an audit report to the municipal people's congress, detailing the performance of four massive projects: Seaside Rural Tourism Park, the city's waste water treatment plants, Shenzhen Economic Co-operation and Development Fund and the Shenzhen Welfare Lottery Public Fund.

Massive waste The seaside project went wrong even before it was started. The idea came from a city government official who, around 1997, was on a visit to Shajing Town of Bao'an District in a Shenzhen suburb when he suggested: "This place should be reserved for tourism projects." But Shajing is hardly an ideal location for sightseeing, according to Chen Tangyi, director of the Planning and Budget Commission of the Shenzhen People's Congress. There are power plants and an airport in its neighbourhood, with poor air and water quality and considerable noise. Worse, the swampy soil that is definitely not fit for building roads or facilities. But still, roads were built, and at exorbitant prices. By the end of June last year, the 1.61-square-kilometre park had cost 938 million yuan (US$113 million), of which 667 million was directly invested by the government, and has suffered a net loss of 35 million yuan (US$4.2 million) - excluding depreciation and loan interest - since it started operation in September 2001. However, as Chen says, the project was first mentioned in 1998 in a city budget as "just a couple of million yuan." But one year later, hundreds of millions had already been poured into it, mostly on the road leading to the area. If there had been serious and impartial research, and if there had been checks and balances, the project might have been vetoed before it was launched. As a matter of fact, the auditors found that it had no pre-construction study, nor any construction plan or its own budget. It took only 13 months to break ground, while the normal time for researching a project of this magnitude would have taken two to three years, according to the audit report. "If we had stopped it earlier, there might have been less losses," Chen said. From 1982 to 2003, the city government invested 1.3 billion yuan (US$156.6 million) in four sewage plants designed to treat 1.12 million tons of waste water daily. However, the operators of the plants used the investment funds for redundant buildings, such as 228 apartment suites for its 108 staff members. The other two projects involve public funds that are either for poverty relief for neighbouring cities or welfare for Shenzhen citizens. But it was found that 77.19 million yuan (US$9.33 million) of the first fund had been diverted to constructing new buildings and part of the welfare fund has also found its way to places it was not supposed to go.

Public outcry The revelation has sparked widespread criticism from the public. "Even though I expect a certain degree of mishandling and corruption in these government-funded projects, I still find it hard to get over my distress. How could they waste so much of our hard-earned money and feel easy about it?" asked David Yang, an employee of a shipping firm, who pays around 400 yuan(US$50), or 8 per cent of his 5,000 yuan(US$600) monthly salary, in taxes. "I'm in the private sector," says Huang Shaoliang, executive of a local petrochemical firm. "If I lost 100 million of my company's money, I would kill myself." "Some people are squandering government funds, they spend it like there's no tomorrow," Huang Liman, Party secretary and chairman of the Shenzhen People's Congress, said bluntly in her speech at a representative seesion on the day the report was received. Then acting Mayor Li Hongzhong pledged that every government-invested project or fund should be well-managed. Those agencies in charge should remember that this is taxpayers' money. The story about the four projects became front-page news in Shenzhen. The Shenzhen Daily carried an editorial which read: Some of our government agencies seem to have the idea that they can squander all the money at their disposal, regardless of financial returns. While expressing their indignation over the scale of wasterful spending, the public and media have also shown their appreciation for the government's courage in publicizing the scandals. This kind of auditing amounts to the city government's scrutinizing itself, says an article on Southern Metropolis News. Dong Guoqiang, deputy director of the planning and budget commission of the Shenzhen People's Congress, attended the preliminary evaluation of the audit report. He says he did not expect at that time that the city government would lay bare its mistakes to the public. "The unprecedented amount of media exposure has shown the determination of the city government in tackling this problem," a media insider was quoted as commenting.

Remedy and system-building Huang Liman said on the same occasion that further investigation was being conducted into the four projects, and whoever is responsible would be dealt with accordingly. The four projects were started many years ago, approved by predecessors of the current leadership. It will be a sensitive subject about who will be made accountable, said Southern Weekend. Gao Xingwen of the Shenzhen Supervision and Inspection Bureau admits that his department is currently involved in the investigation, but he cannot clarify what the next step will be, adding that there is no timetable for it. A year ago, the 2002 annual audit uncovered large amounts of waste at 12 city-owned hospitals, where roughly 600 million yuan worth of medical equipment was sitting idle. An internal shakeup has taken place inside the hospital system. In 2003, the audit bureau examined 783 projects, revealing various cases of misconduct which have resulted in a total loss of 280 million yuan, and reduced all investment by 1.2 billion yuan. This year, auditing on the efficiency of government department will be expanded to at least six major projects, which will take up to 30 per cent of the agency's business, said Chen Zhigang, director of the audit bureau. In the past 20 years, the Shenzhen Audit Bureau has inspected a total of 9,663 organizations, uncovering roughly 42.7 billion yuan worth of misdirected funds, and transferred 20 cases to judicial departments for criminal prosecution. Mayor Li cited an example: Once, a government agency submitted a budget of 75 million yuan, of which 56 million turned out to be unnecessary. "All of the city's finance and State coffers should be transparent enough so that the citizens have a clear idea of what is going on," he emphasized., To make that happen, the city will soon promulgate a new regulation to allow the audit bureau to start supervision over large-scale government-funded projects from their very beginning, rather than conducting postmortem, Dong Guoqiang, deputy director of the project budget committee of the city Congress, told China Daily. "Large-scale project" means those with over 100 million yuan in investment, according to sources with the audit bureau. "The new regulation will empower audit authorities to trace the whole project and take necessary actions against violators in a timely manner," Dong said. "It will be easier to fight corruption, cut down costs and make government investment more efficient." "We are going to connect the computer system of the Finance Bureau with that of the city People's Congress, so that supervisors can know every budget expenditure just like they know their own hands," Mayor Li said. Shenzhen's bold move has been applauded by scholars, but they suggest that, in the long run, an independent audit department must be installed to ensure fairness and impartiality. "Since the government is in charge of the audit bureau, its independence will inevitably be eroded," said Yang Xiaojun, an expert in administrative law. "The audit bureau should not be affiliated with any local administrative body, but must be accountable to a higher-level audit agency," argued Yang Lixun, a researcher at Shenzhen Academy of Social Sciences. On another front, China pledged last year to make all auditing and investigation reports public by 2007, except for those involving State secrets, business secrets and other content unsuitable for publishing. "Publishing the audit report was the best we could do," said an official with the audit bureau. But if this incident could at least help make it a norm to publish all audit results, decision-making at the whims of leaders will happen less frequently, he said. (by Chen Hong)

From China Daily 03/01/2004

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China Races Against Time in State-Owned Banks Reform

China vowed on March 6 to get its major State-owned commercial banks ready for challenges from their overseas rivals before 2006, in what experts described as a move vital to the country's development in coming two decades. Delivering the government's budget report to the country's top legislature, Chinese Finance Minister Jin Renqing said Saturday China would in 2004 continue the reform of the financial system to prevent and reduce financial risks, focusing on introducing a shareholding system in the State-owned banks. The remarks follow Friday's declaration by Premier Wen Jiabao in his annual state-of-the-nation address that China needs to "accelerate the reform of the wholly state-owned commercial banks". The reform aims to set up a sound corporate governance system for its banks. The Bank of China and the China Construction Bank (CCB), which are preparing for overseas listing, were ordered to have all necessary elements of a standard joint-stock bank, for example, the general meeting of shareholders, board of directors and board of supervisors. China has promised to open its banking business -- in all places and all currencies -- to foreign banks in 2006. However, China's major banks are still beleaguered by lack of corporate governance, high non-performing loan ratios and low capital adequacy ratio. Chen Yaoxian, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and former vice-chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission, said the banking reform is a major step in right direction, since China's debt-ridden banking sector is not competitive with serious hidden risks. International experience shows the biggest risk for a developing nation is financial crisis, which may trigger social and political crisis, said Chen. Premier Wen has said financial security is an issue with a vital bearing on the overall situation since finance constitutes the core of modern economy and an important lever in regulating the macro-economy. The Chinese government gave each of the two banks 22.5 billion US dollars late last year from its foreign exchange reserves to boost their balance sheets in preparation for stock market listing, ordering them to clean up their tattered loan books and improve lending practices to become internationally competitive banking firms. Zhou Xiaochuan, another CPPCC member and governor of China's central bank, said the move indicates China has accelerated reform of State-owned commercial banks. The country's four biggest State-owned commercial banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Bank of China, CCB, and China Agricultural Bank, have a combined non-performing loans (NPL) of 1.9 trillion yuan (231.7 billion US dollars) by January of this year. They account for about 75 percent of loans and capital offered or owned by the country's banking institutions. Zhao Peng, a deputy to the country's National People's Congress and governor of Gansu Provincial Branch of ICBC, said the bank has launched package of reforms to improve its corporate governance, reduce non-performing financial assets in a bid to become a modern financial firm and strive for stock market listing. The bank, the country's biggest bank which has as much as the combined asset of both Bank of China and CCB, said ICBC has a larger share of the non-performing loans owed by State-owned firms, and it is understandable for the choice of Bank of China and CCB that have less non-performing loans for the pilot reform. CCB Governor Zhang Enzhao said his bank aims to become a stockholding banking firm that will create the biggest value for its shareholders among China's banks, and become a leader in the Asian market in this regard. Wang Shuguang, professor with School of Economics of prestigious Beijing University, said that the full market access would enable overseas banking giants to vie with their Chinese rivals for high-end clients, the most valuable clients for banks, and for a large part of Chinese currency deposit market, high-calibre banking professionals, and for such lucrative services as intermediate service, international settlement and foreign exchange service. Massive losses of domestic banking deposits to overseas banks may trigger monetary crisis if holders of the deposits lost trust of the domestic banks, he warned. China's overhaul of its State-owned commercial banks has attracted attention of the international business community. The plans and other government initiatives have been described by the Business Weekly of the United States as "smart moves" in its March 8th edition, saying that Chinese "authorities seem genuinely determined to create a real financial system, one that raises capital efficiently and directs it to the best companies." Nicholas R. Lardy of the Washington-based Institute for International Economics noted that China's financial reform, particularly the reform of the banking sector, will determine its development in the coming two decades, according to the Beijing-based News Weekly Outlook.

From Xinhua 03/07/2004

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Companies Sue People's Bank of China

More than 40 Chinese companies are suing the People's Bank of China, the central bank, accusing it of administrative misconduct in handling the collapse of a high-profile venture capital company in the late 1990s. The lawsuit, filed to a Beijing court in January, is an unusual challenge to the regulator of China's vast financial system. It is also a test of the regulator's willingness to justify its conduct in court amid what appears to be judicial reluctance to deal with the suit. Managers of companies involved say the central bank wrongly excluded them from the process of winding up the affairs of China Venturetech Investment, which the bank closed in 1998 because of "serious business irregularities" and inability to pay its debts. Venturetech had senior executives with close family ties to Communist party and government leaders and was backed by the finance and technology ministries. It foundered after forays into real estate and stock market investment. Managers of some of the hundreds of state-owned and private domestic companies that deposited more than Rmb3bn ($362m) with Venturetech at the time of its collapse say the central bank told them last year they could expect to recover only 30 per cent over a period of years. A senior manager at a state-owned company involved in the lawsuit said: "It seems the real amount of assets [retained by Venturetech] is much greater than this number. If we can't get back the money we should get back, that means it has been squandered or wasted and that someone has broken the law - and we absolutely cannot let them get away with it." The lawsuit alleges the central bank broke state rules by failing to share information about Venturetech's assets with local creditors. The bank late last year suggested the companies accept its recovery plan or put Venturetech into formal bankruptcy. The manager said: "If we are not allowed to know what is going on, how can we make a correct judgment? That is the focus of our lawsuit." The central bank declined requests to comment. The Beijing Number One Intermediate Court has yet to respond to the suit even though it is required by law to either accept the case or reject it with reasons within seven days. A court official confirmed it had not made a decision on whether to accept the case with the required seven days, but declined to give details, saying "it may be that the situation is somewhat special". The anger of local companies with deposits at Venturetech at the time of its collapse has been increased by the central bank's early decision to ensure overseas creditors were paid in full. (by Mure Dickie)

From http://news.ft.com/ 03/21/2004

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China Regulator Opts to Close B-Share Markets

China has decided its foreign-currency B-share markets, launched in 1991 to attract funding for industrial development, should be closed at some unspecified date, officials said. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the market regulator, is studying a range of options on how to close the B-share markets in a way that will protect the interests of listed companies and investors, said one CSRC official. "We have not yet decided when the market will be closed down. It is quite complicated," added the official. "We need to ensure it is done in a way that does not cause excessive speculation or loss of confidence. Merging B-shares with another market is a possibility, but it is only one possibility." The role of the B-share markets in Shanghai and the southern city of Shenzhen has been superseded by the introduction of a scheme under which selected foreign institutions can buy domestic renminbi-denominated A-shares. That scheme, introduced last year, has proved quite popular with foreign investors and is expected to be expanded gradually in coming years. At the same time foreigners have largely shunned the B-share market since the 1997 Asian financial crisis because of the poor quality of the listed companies and thin liquidity. Instead, they have preferred to "buy China" by purchasing overseas-listed companies, especially in Hong Kong, where the quality of the Chinese enterprises is usually better than on mainland bourses. China tried to revive the B-share market in 2001 by opening it to individual Chinese investors but since an initial surge in prices and turnover the market has struggled. The shares of nearly all companies on the B-share market which have dual domestic listings trade at a large discount to their A-share prices. In Shanghai the average discount is 46 per cent and in Shenzhen, 39 per cent - further evidence of investors' lack of interest in buying B-shares. More than 80 companies have dual listings. Separately, the CSRC has approved new measures to spur the five-month long revival in A-share prices, with a plan announced on Friday to allow banks to lend to securities companies for investment. The announcement surprised some analysts, who said the poor management record of the state-owned securities companies did not warrant such support, even if such funds were lent according to strict guidelines. "If you give money back to the brokers, then you are diluting all the good work that has been done recently [to regulate the market]," said Fraser Howie, the author of two books on Chinese stocks. Regulators have recently launched an aggressive effort to clean up the many indebted brokerages. Citic Securities will issue $121m (?99m, ¡ê66m) in bonds next week under an initiative by the CSRC that will allow brokerages to pay down debts and increase their working capital. (by James Kynge and Richard McGregor)

From http://news.ft.com/ 03/22/2004

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Banking Watchdog Tightens Loan Supervision

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) yesterday announced measures to enhance the supervision of non-performing assets at the four State-owned commercial banks. It also published new rules, effective immediately, on monitoring non-performing assets at Chinese commercial banks and an appraisal of their efforts to reduce problem loans. The new rules require commercial banks to report their non-performing loans on a monthly basis, and their overall non-performing assets at each quarter, to the CBRC, it said. The commission said it will soon send resident representatives to the headquarters of the four State-owned commercial banks to get "first-hand" information on their management and reforms. Within the commission, special posts will be set up to supervise the four banks' loans and non-credit assets and evaluate their overall levels of risk. China's four State-owned commercial banks - the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China - hold more than half of the nation's total loans, which stood at 17 trillion yuan (US$2 trillion) at the end of last year. Substantial progress has been achieved in their campaign to reduce bad loans in recent years, as banking reform accelerated to prepare them for intensifying competition after the local market fully opens up to foreign banks in 2007, as required by the nation's World Trade Organization commitments. Their non-performing loans totalled 1.9 trillion yuan (US$229 billion) at the end of last year, accounting for 20.36 per cent of their total lending, down 5.85 percentage points from one year earlier. And the government has stepped up support for reforms within the four banks, which all have plans to launch initial public offerings (IPOs). Late last year, the central government injected US$45 billion of foreign exchange reserves into the Bank of China and China Construction Bank, which were chosen for a pilot joint-stock restructuring. They are reportedly targeting IPOs this year of the next. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest of the four in terms of assets, said last month it plans to complete its joint-stock restructuring and prepare for a stock offering by the end of 2006. The CBRC said earlier this year it has set targets using seven benchmark indicators, such as the net return on equity (ROE) and cost/revenue ratio, for the two pilot banks' to meet before 2007. The criteria was calibrated in accordance with the average level of the world's top 100 banks. Their non-performing loan ratios will both drop to around a healthy 4 per cent after the ongoing restructuring ends, but the commission did not specify when. (by Xiao Zhang)

From China Daily 03/26/2004

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JAPAN: Lower House Passes 738 Billion Dollar Budget for FY 2004

Japan's powerful lower house passed a 738 billion dollar draft budget for the fiscal year from April, with rising social security and debt-servicing costs pushing up planned bond issues to a record high. The national budget for the year to March 2005 will total 82.11 trillion yen (738 billion dollars), up 0.4 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year. "The lower house passed next year's budget bill this afternoon with the support of the ruling coalition and sent it to the upper house immediately," a lower house official said. The bill automatically becomes law in 30 days even if the upper house fails to approve it. It calls for government borrowing to rise 0.4 percent to 36.59 trillion yen, or 44.6 percent of spending, topping the previous record hit this year. The budget is based on the government's forecast of 1.8 percent economic growth, down slightly from the 2.0 percent expected for the current fiscal year. Japan plans to turn its "primary balance" -- under which expenditures are covered by revenues -- to a surplus from deficit early next decade. Japan has run a fiscal deficit since 1993 as the economy stagnated. Falling tax revenues and massive pump-priming in the 1990s have led to a deterioration in Japan's fiscal health, with the outstanding debt now forecast at 483 trillion yen, or 12 years' worth of tax revenues on the country's general account, according to finance ministry figures. The deficit will narrow slightly in the 2004 fiscal year but it is still projected at 19 trillion yen. Public works spending, a key target of reform under the Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will be pruned by 3.5 percent to 7.82 trillion yen. Overall spending will still rise, primarily because of a 4.2 percent increase to 19.8 trillion yen in social security programmes for Japan's fast growing population of elderly people.

From http://sg.biz.yahoo.com/ 03/05/2004

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Koizumi Aims to Maintain 1 Trillion Yen Subsidy Cut in 2005

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will retain 1 trillion yen in cuts in national subsidies for fiscal 2005, government sources said. The move is designed to demonstrate Koizumi's initiative by setting a numerical target for a three-pronged fiscal and tax reform effort to make local governments more financially independent. The reforms consist of cuts in subsidies and tax grants from the national government to local authorities and a transfer of taxation authority to local governments from the national government. Koizumi has pledged to slash 4 trillion yen in subsidies in three years, beginning in fiscal 2004, in exchange for a transfer of tax collection power to local governments. But how to implement such reductions and which tax authorities should be transferred remain undecided for fiscal 2005 and 2006. Under the fiscal 2004 budget, the national government is to cut subsidies to local governments to 20.4 trillion yen from 21.4 trillion yen. Government ministries are wrangling over how to reduce subsidies under the fiscal 2004 budget.

From The Japan Times 03/16/2004

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Outstanding Gov't Debt Hits Record at End of 2003

The Japanese government's outstanding debt totaled 670.12 trillion yen at the end of December 2003, the highest on record, according to data released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday. The figure was up 14.44 trillion yen from the end of September, and translates into about 5.25 million yen for each Japanese citizen, according to the data. The central government's debt, data on which is released every quarter, combines government bonds, non-bond borrowing, and financing bills outstanding. Since the government plans to issue 36.59 trillion yen in fresh government bonds in the fiscal 2004 budget expected to be approved by the Diet on Friday, the total outstanding debt is expected to surpass the 700 trillion yen mark in the next fiscal year beginning April 1. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said this massive debt would eventually be brought under control. "If economic management continues its current course, it will be reduced," the top government spokesman said at a press conference. "It will reach its peak at some point, and if we pursue sound fiscal policies after that, it will decrease." According to the data, outstanding government bonds at the end of December 2003 totaled 539.82 trillion yen, up 9.65 trillion yen from three months earlier. Short-term debt-financing bills reached 70.34 trillion yen, the highest on record, as the government issued them to finance monetary authorities' massive intervention in the foreign exchange market to stem the yen's rise. The government's non-bond borrowings totaled 59.97 trillion yen, according to the data.

From Kyodo News 03/25/2004

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SOUTH KOREA: BOK Signals Measures Against Inflation

The Bank of Korea on Thursday (Mar. 11) left the key interest rate untouched, but signaled a change could be coming, given the runaway price of imported raw materials that is fuelling inflationary pressures. Citing still weak consumption and investment, the central bank's policy board froze its call rate target at a record low of 3.75 percent for the eighth straight month. "If the current upswing of raw material prices continues through the year, however, a countermeasure must be sought for price stability," said Gov. Park Seung, head of the BOK's seven-member monetary committee, during a press briefing. With China's booming economy creating an insatiable demand for global commodities, the cost of imported crude oil and other raw materials has soared recently, squeezing local manufacturers. Thursday's BOK statement showed the price of Brent crude oil, the benchmark for Korea, rose 11.5 percent in February alone, while that of copper jumped 28.2 percent during the first two months. Higher import prices translated to accelerating inflation here, with producer prices showing their biggest rally for more than five years in February. Park said the inflationary pressure should be contained through the combination of monetary, tax and trade policies in order to meet this year's inflation target of 2.5 to 3.5 percent. "The price rise is a cost-pushed inflation, not demand-pushed one. Monetary policy alone would have only a minimal effect," the governor said. The financial market response to the rate decision was muted, as the benchmark stock index fell for a fifth consecutive session, bond yields stayed on downward path and the Korean won gained for two days in a row. "The rate freeze has widely been anticipated, there were also few other factors that could move the market," said B.M. Joe of LG Investment & Securities. After growing at about half the previous year's 6.3 percent pace in 2003, the Korean economy is showing glimmers of improvement this year. "Several signs of improvement emerged in February," Gov. Park said. "(We) are expecting cautiously that people's sentiment toward the economy would pick up beginning in the second quarter." The manufacturing industry is using 80.5 percent of its capacity as of January, up from last year's average of 78.3 percent. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate sank for a second month to 3.3 percent in January. Driving domestic industrial output, Korea's exports had their biggest gain in nearly 16 years last month. Still, a major turnaround has yet to come. Corporate investment in plant and machinery declined an estimated 3.1 percent in January on-year, while wholesale and retail sales, a gauge of private spending, shrank for a 11th month. Separate figures from the National Statistical Office on Thursday revealed that consumer confidence in February slid for the first time in five months, suggesting consumers would tighten their purse strings in the months to come. "It will be not until consumer spending and business investment begin positive growth that the BOK lifts interest rates. Probably this will happen as early as at the end of first half or in the third quarter," forecast Kwon Soon-woo, a senior economist with Samsung Economic Research Institute.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/12/2004

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Throwing Good Money After Bad

It is an open question whether a ``bad bank'' can make good on Korea's credit crunch. The path to Korea's economic prosperity this year and beyond will be paved in large measure by consumer spending but two roadblocks are standing in the way. The first is unemployment, because if people aren't working, they're not spending. The second is the high level of household debt and credit delinquencies. Much has been made of the 9.1 percent unemployment rate for Koreans aged 15-29, but taken as a whole, the job situation isn't that bad. Cut the teens out of the picture and the rate drops to 8.7 percent. Skip to the 30s, and the figure plummets to 2.9 percent and continues to go down as the age bracket goes up. The overall rate in February after seasonal adjustments was only 3.3 percent. The more vexing problem _ and the one the government hopes to solve with the bad debt bank _ is that four million Koreans are currently unable to pay their bills and have been defaulting on debt payments. According to the government plan, the solution is to extend more credit. For many of those people who cannot pay their bills, access to credit has been cut off. They were placed on a credit blacklist because of their inability to repay what has already been lent to them. It makes no sense whatsoever to lend them more money, right? In fact, the government has decided that the best way to spark spending is to rehabilitate those defaulters by helping to clean up their finances and get them off the list so they can regain access to credit. This is the concept behind what has unfortunately become known as the ``bad bank'' (it has a more appropriate name in Korean). At first glance, the plan seems almost laughable, particularly when you consider that many of the defaulters are low-income earners who had no business getting access to lines of credit in the first place. But there's more to it than that. The bank will not help out every debtor who is three months in arrears. It's designed as a solution for people who owe money to more than one institution, comprising a much more manageable 1.5 million. These people have been in limbo because, while most banks have developed work-out programs for single-bank debtors, there has been no consensus between them on how to deal with individuals owing to multiple-banks. Defaulters will be enticed with access to a debt restructuring program that includes new loans at low interest rates that can be paid back over 8 years. To join, they have to pay back 3 percent of the outstanding principle upfront. The scheme will be managed by the Korea Asset Management Corporation, the state-run company that was set up to deal with distressed corporate assets. The government would prefer to sit back and hope for a private-sector resolution, but who knows when that will happen? Earlier this month, Lee Hun-jai, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy, gave a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club here in Seoul during which he talked about the pressing need for a soft landing to the consumer debt problem. He drew a clear line between recent reductions in the amount of money banks have been doling out in personal loans and the general health of the economy. What the government is most concerned about is the overdependence on exports to power economic growth. Any slowdown in the export machine _ which has to be expected at some point given the rising won and raw materials prices _ needs to be balanced by increased consumer spending. Its solution is to get people to ramp up spending by opening the credit spigot for those who have had it turned off. The key word in Mr. Lee's speech is ``soft'' because the plan's success or failure depends on the ability of the government to carry it off with a light touch. It cannot intervene too heavily because, as the minister correctly pointed out, the danger for moral hazard is great. The mistake would be to simply start writing off bad loans. The question is, does the ``bad bank'' plan too easily absolve people of their responsibility to borrow and repay. Won't it just encourage others to rack up bigger debts with the expectation that someone else will take care of it? We've saw this behavior leading up to the financial crisis in 1997. If those people aren't able to repay their debts in the first place, what's going to be different this time around? Many of the borrowers were burned by their own immaturity in dealing with sudden and easy access to a lot of credit and the government and banks are clearly pinning their hopes on the ability of these people to learn their lesson. Enhanced education about the perils of credit will help, as will more stringent risk management procedures to maintain access to credit for individuals at more appropriate levels. The government has also included other incentives for defaulters to repay, such as cuts on the principle and interest payments, and will extend tax write-downs to debtors at the lowest end of the spectrum. For those who pay their debts and taxes on time, you'll just have to wait and see if the government and the banks are once again throwing good money after bad. (by Mike Weisbart)

From http://times.hankooki.com/ 03/21/2004

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Korean Banks Report Sharp Loss in Net Profit for 2003

SEOUL - Domestic banks posted sharp drops in net profit last year as a result of the LG Card (KSE:032710) liquidity crisis and the need to allocate more funds for bad debt allowances, the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) said. It said negative factors caused the size of net profits for 19 domestic banks to drop to 1.85 trillion won (US$1.59 billion) in 2002 from 3.22 trillion won in the previous year, a drop of a 63.4 per cent.

From http://www.asiapulse.com/ 03/22/2004

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Seoul Seeks More Stable Asia Bond Market

Vice Finance Minister Kim Gwang-lim yesterday called for stable bond market development in the Asia-Pacific region to narrow the gap between capital markets in advanced and emerging regional economies. Delivering a speech at a meeting of finance officials from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation members, Kim said strong bond markets will enhance the efficiency of financial markets and provide secure capital in the region. "We should not forget that deeper and better-balanced capital markets offer a shared benefit to all regional economies by facilitating deeper and more stable sources of financing," he said. Kim stressed the need to restructure finance sectors and harmonize related regulations between member countries. "We must set up sound financial institutions to minimize financial market vulnerability, in chorus with regional efforts," he said. "Second, we should seek advancement and harmonization in the regulatory and supervisory systems among member economies." He also pledged Korea's full support to establish more stable financial systems based on its experience with asset-backed securities markets in the wake of the 1997-98 financial crisis. "Fully utilizing our experiences in developing ABS and bond markets after the financial crisis, Korea could play an important part in this," Kim said. The meeting on the development of securitization and credit guarantee markets was held in Hong Kong for a second time since it was proposed by Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand at the annual APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in 2002. The first meeting took place in Seoul last year. (by Sim Sung-tae)

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 03/23/2004

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INDONESIA: Indonesia Launches US$1b Global Int'l Bond

The government launched a US$1 billion international bond, more than double the initial plan of $400 million, following overwhelming demand from global investors. The 10-year bond was launched with a yield of 6.85 percent, Dow Jones reported from New York late on Wednesday Jakarta time where a government team had been conducting a final roadshow for the offering. The yield was lower than the 7 percent target set earlier by the government. Government officials could not be reached for confirmation, although the increase in the size of the offer had been expected as Minister of Finance Boediono had hinted earlier in the day. "There is a possibility it will be more than $400 million, as we see room for it," Boediono told reporters before the announcement late on Wednesday, Jakarta time. Demand for the bonds has topped $4 billion, more than 10 times larger than the $400 million initially planned. The upcoming issue, jointly managed by JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank, will be the first since the 1997-1998 financial crisis after the government issued its maiden sovereign bond issue in 1996 worth $400 million, due to mature in 2006. In the 2004 state budget, the government plans to issue a total of Rp 32.5 trillion in bonds throughout the year -- both international and domestic -- to help plug the deficit. The issue is seen as timely because Indonesia's profile among investors has been improved thanks to improved macroeconomic performance, as evidenced by a relatively stable rupiah, benign inflation, declining central bank interest rate and continued fiscal consolidation. The country's economy is forecast to grow 4.8 percent this year, from 4.1 percent in 2003. The economy contracted by 13.1 percent in 1998. Annualized inflation last month fell to a four-year low of 4.6 percent, compared to a high of 77.6 percent in 1998 following the financial crisis. State budget deficit is forecast to narrow to 1.2 percent of gross domestic product this year, down from 1.9 percent last year. All of which helps boost the country's markets among various international ratings services and subsequently helps suppress the yield. The rupiah's long-term rating is a B according to Standard & Poor's, a B2 by Moody's Investors Service and B+ from Fitch. The government is pushing to seek sources of funds to fill the deficit gap this year, as the government has ended its special lending program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Exiting the program means the country is ineligible for further debt rescheduling from the Paris Club of creditor nations and the London Club of private creditors, so the government has to fully repay maturing sovereign debts, which will put heavy pressure on the budget. Additional pressure will also come from maturing government domestic debts, which for this year were estimated at Rp 24.7 trillion. Earlier, Bank Indonesia governor Burhanuddin Abdullah said demands from investors had skyrocketed to $4.2 billion, in what he claimed as a vote of confidence from the international community on Indonesia's economy. "Demands received from Asia, Europe and the U.S. have reached $4.1 billion. This is a warm welcome to our economy," he said. The demands were booked during a week-long roadshow ending on Wednesday by a government team to a number of the world's major financial centers, including Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Boston and Los Angeles.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/04/2004

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IMF Hails Rising Confidence in RI, But Seeks Further Reform

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Friday that the government had succeeded in retaining market confidence three months after the expiration of the Fund-backed special lending program. But the IMF also urged the government to press ahead with key reform programs, particularly in the areas of taxation, labor legislation and the legal system so as to further improve the business and investment climate in the country. The Fund cited the current macroeconomic stability and the successful launching of the government's US$1 billion international bond on Wednesday as evidence of improving market confidence in the economy. "The successful sovereign bond issue just concluded is testimony to Indonesia's successful fiscal performance over the past couple of years," the IMF said in a statement issued after the completion of its first review on the country's economy since the expiration of the IMF lending program late last year. A special team led by visiting IMF Senior Advisor for Asia Pacific Department Daniel Citrin has been conducting a 10-day review and consultation with the government, under a post-program monitoring (PPM) arrangement, a mandatory requirement for a member country having just graduated from an IMF loan program. Despite its non-binding nature, the review and assessment by the team is of major importance for the country as it represents a crucial indicator for measuring market sentiment on Indonesia's economy. Meanwhile, Citrin told a press conference that going forward the government should push ahead with various reform programs, particularly in the areas of tax, law reform and labor law. "Policy efforts should concentrate on these areas ... which are important for improving the business climate and laying the foundation for sustainable growth at a level that would reduce unemployment. "Because Indonesia's GDP growth and export performance as compared with other nations in the region have lagged behind," Citrin told journalists. During the visit, Citrin said the team discussed a wide range of economic issues with government officials and civil society organizations including labor unions, business people and academics. Lack of investment has been the main factor stalling the country's economic growth, which has only managed to grow at a modest level of around 4 percent -- insufficient to absorb the some 2.5 million fresh job-seekers coming on the market every year. The government is targeting economic growth this year of 4.8 percent. Citrin cited the first of three priorities, namely tax administration and enforcement, as the main area of uncertainty to business people. "This covers everything from tax arbitration, the system and procedures, to inefficiency in the refund mechanism on VAT. There are many complaints over these." As for labor legislation, Citrin emphasized that it must be a balance between protecting labor and providing flexibility for employers. He did not elaborate on whether this meant the government should revise the existing labor law, which was enacted last year. The IMF said in a statement that at present the country's total outstanding debt to the Fund amounted to $10 billion. The current PPM program will expire when Indonesia's outstanding debt falls below $3 billion -- the lending quota for an IMF member country. Indonesia asked the IMF to bail it out in 1999 after the country was rocked by the regional financial crisis.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/06/2004

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Indonesian Banking Sector Remains Shaky

Banking reform in the country is still far from complete despite the closure of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), according to a new survey. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a global agency that reviews risk ratings of 100 emerging and indebted markets on a monthly basis, said the setting up of other government agencies to complete the IBRA's unfinished business confirmed the huge challenge ahead. "Much still needs to be done to restore the banking sector to health and many of the IBRA's duties will be taken up and quietly continued by other bodies, probably for at least another 12 months," the study, released on Tuesday, said. The IBRA was set up in 1998 to restructure Rp 600 trillion (about US$70 billion) worth of assets it took over from indebted banks. It was dissolved last month and three state bodies have been established to take over its unfinished work. They are a department in the Office of the State Minister of State Enterprises, who will restructure some Rp 60 trillion worth of unsold assets; a body under the Ministry of Finance, which will continue the blanket guarantees program; and a new trouble-shooting team, which will oversee legal battles with recalcitrant debtors. The government had already found selling distressed unsold assets had proved a headache, and dealing with large debtors in the future would not be any easier, the study said. "On the legal front, only three bad debtors have been taken to court, seven other cases have been filed, and a further eight are still being completed. And all of the three tycoons who were prosecuted were acquitted," it said. While consolidation of the banking system had taken place -- seen in the improvements of many banks' balance sheets and in successful mergers and sell offs -- about two-thirds of the banking system remained in the government's control. While acknowledging bank borrowing had started to improve, the EIU raised concerns over the quality of due diligence on the loans, saying: "While credit risk assessment has undoubtedly improved, many question marks remain." It cited high-profile banking scams involving officials from Bank Negara Indonesia and Bank Rakyat Indonesia -- both state-owned -- amounting to Rp 1.7 trillion and Rp 294 billion, respectively. EIU warned of similar occurrences if banking fraud was not dealt with properly. "Combined with Indonesia's endemic corruption, short-term lending buoyancy could in fact develop into a medium-term bubble that will burst into another, albeit smaller, banking scandal," the study said. In a related development, the Supreme Audit Agency said on Tuesday it would complete its audit of IBRA's bank restructuring performance on April 30.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/10/2004

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Central Bank Renews Calls for Domestic Banks to Merge

Bank Indonesia Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah renewed calls for local banks to merge in a bid to create a stronger and healthier banking industry. "A merger is a way of strengthening and consolidating the national banking structure. We therefore urge national banks to do that," Burhanuddin said on the sidelines of a seminar on Thursday. The seminar was promoting the central bank's recently launched program, the Indonesian Banking Architecture (API), which contains a set of measures to gradually consolidate the banking sector. The program was the latest measure introduced by the central bank to help improve the financial health of local banks, many still suffering from the devastating impact of the late 1990s financial crisis. Under API, in the next seven years, banks will have to boost their minimum capital requirement from the current Rp 10 billion (about US$1.2 million) to Rp 100 billion. The central bank wants to see two or three local banks become an international operation able to compete in the region. As many banks operating in the country still face problems in bolstering their capital to the desired level, API encourages banks to merge. At present, there are 138 banks operating in the country, of which 55 have capital below the new requirement. However, in order to ensure the best results from the merger, Burhanuddin added, banks would need to improve their financial condition first before rushing to merge with others. As the past crisis clearly exposed the vulnerability of the banking system to external shocks, mergers -- along with other measures -- could be the answer to minimize the negative impact of any future crises. Also, a resilient banking system should form a key element in promoting economic growth and supporting stability in the financial system. Krisna Wijaya, a director of Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) who was also present at the seminar, while acknowledging the positive impact of mergers on the banking system, said bankers needed incentives to push them to merge.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/19/2004

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MALAYSIA: Bonds Still Good Option for Firms

BONDS are still an attractive investment for corporates to raise funds, given the current low interest rates, coupled with an accommodative monetary environment. "Bonds still represent an attractive investment, depending where one is on the credit/yield curve," Aseambankers said in its Fixed Income Research. It said the advent of more structured debt products in the market such as asset-backed securities (ABS) would continue to buoy the local bond market, coupled with the prospect of a recovering economy which would drive demand for high coupon bearing AA and single A names. In 2003, the amount of outstanding bonds in the primary market increased 15% to RM307.6bil compared with the previous year's RM267.5bil. Of this, private debt securities (PDS) comprised 43.1% or RM132.6bil (up 16.1% from 2002) while Malaysian Government Securities made up a further 42.5%, followed by Cagamas, 8.3% and Danaharta, 2.8%. Islamic PDS accounted for RM52.5bil (excluding Islamic ABS transactions) of the total outstanding PDS, up 12.7% on RM46.6bil in 2002. Meanwhile, ABS (including Islamic-based securities deals) more than doubled to RM6.4bil, Aseambankers said. It said the PDS market was expected to see selective play moving into 2004 mainly due to the substitution effect of investments vying for higher yield return given dynamic economic numbers. "Lately, the PDS market has led to erosion of capital invested; hence little upside to zero coupon paying bonds. We expect high coupon paying bonds to dominate buy-side interests," it added. Nevertheless, Aseambankers said that in a recovering economy, the PDS market would generally benefit from credit play as companies' cashflow improved, leading to potential upgrades rather than downgrades. Aseambankers also hopes to see yields on corporate bonds tighten in the first quarter 2004 with long-term buy-hold investors such as insurance companies continuing to bargain hunt in the longer-end of the curve. It said the bond markets in developing Asia were also likely to continue their recent strong showing in 2004, after a healthy run up in the second half 2003, although many would be watching the interest rate play. "What is allowing Asia's markets to develop so quickly is the huge liquidity that underpins most of them, and awash with cash, the region's financial systems are searching for high yield returns," it added.

From http://thestar.com.my 03/13/2004

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Big BN Win Will Herald Funds Inflow

FUNDS are poised to be poured into the local stock market next week, with government-linked institutions like the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Valuecap Sdn Bhd expected to be among the big players. The trigger would be a convincing win by the Barisan Nasional in tomorrow's general election, analysts said. From the way some research house reports were written this week' sounding more like political manifestos for the ruling coalition profit-motivated voters are being left in no doubt which horse to back tomorrow if they want to see the prices of their shares go up on Monday. Without exception, analysts' trying to outdo each other in bullishness are anticipating a post-election rally on the Malaysia Securities Exchange if BN gains an even bigger majority this time. The KLSE Composite Index (CI) closed 2.98 points higher at 904.45 yesterday after breaching the 900 mark on Thursday for the first time since 2000. The local bourse is already the best performer in the region so far this year, but analysts believe it could do even better in the weeks ahead, with some saying that breaking the next psychological barrier of 1,000 points is achievable in a liquidity-driven market. In such market conditions, it seems, valuations take a back seat. Some analysts suggested that government-linked companies could be beneficiaries, with the government likely to continue the restructuring of these entities, and selling down strategic stakes should it be returned to power with a stronger majority. Most firms are also bullish on Malaysia's economy ahead of the release of the government's gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimate on Wednesday. It is widely expected that this year's growth estimate would be upgraded beyond the previous forecast's upper limit of 6%. Deutsche Bank is among those most bullish on the country. It said those who were bearish on Malaysia had run out of excuses. There are now fewer and fewer reasons: the economy is well on track for a firm recovery, the Government is tackling corruption, free-float in the market is gradually improving, domestic demand has picked up sharply, and capital controls no longer exist for foreigners, and valuations are undemanding, it said, leading to the predictable conclusion: remain upbeat on the market. In a note to clients yesterday, CLSA Asia Pacific Markets said it had received news believed to be reliable from member of the inner circle that liquidity rally was on the cards. According to CLSA, the EPF has mandated more money to local fund managers beyond the RM1bil it handed out to its 12 external fund managers last week (which raised the total funds managed externally to RM8bil). Valuecap, meanwhile, had been constructed to participate actively in the market and is buying key index stocks, the research house said. Affin Research, too, thinks more funds would be pumped into the market with the EPF expected to mandate a further RM2bil to fund managers during the course of the year. At the end of 2003, about 68% of the funds managed externally on behalf of the EPF went into equities, compared with 62% in June 2003. That is more pertinent is that total funds managed jumped 17% from RM68bil in June 2003 to about RM79bil at end-2003. As such, what has been placed in equities is really new money that has flowed into the system, Affin Research said. This apparently is just a start ahead of the elections on Sunday, CLSA added, predicting that big-cap stocks like Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) could be among the prime movers soon after. Right after the elections, if the government wins with a bigger than two-thirds majority, the market will rally as a vote of confidence, it added. As the market had run ahead of valuations, the focus of investors should be big liquid and beta stocks such as banks, property and government-linked companies, CLSA said. With the government's focus on restructuring its entities to unlock values with a view to selling down its stake to institutional investors and strategic partners, the likes of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Sime Darby Bhd are attractive. TNB is looking more interesting post-election on expectations that there will be a tariff adjustment, it added. Affin Research said the successful placement by Khazanah Nasional Bhd of 300 million shares in Telekom (and the purchase of a 5% stake in the telco by Singapore's Temasek Holdings) recently could spur other government agencies, like the Minister of Finance Inc (MOF) and Bank Negara, to follow suit. Further developments on this front would undoubtedly be positive, in that they would raise the country's overall ratings on the MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International) indices, for which one of the criteria is the free float of the component stocks, it said. Khazanah owns substantial stakes in a number of corporations, including Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd, TNB and UEM World Bhd, while the MOF has large holdings in MAS, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and Bintulu Port Holdings Bhd. Deutsche Bank said it favoured consumption, economic recovery and commodity themes. It has positive views on TNB as well as banking, palm oil and property stocks. The EPF is also believed to be particularly bullish on the property market, for which it has allocated some RM11bil or 5% of its total investments

From http://thestar.com.my/ 03/20/2004

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PHILIPPINES: Govt Junks T-Bond Bids

Government is junking its fortnightly auction of Treasury bills and bonds in favor of weekly issuances of shorter term debt papers after investors continued to show little appetite for government securities of longer maturity. At Tuesday's auction, the Bureau of Treasury rejected all bids for two-year bonds following investors' failure to put up the volume deemed commensurate to the high yields they were asking for. Investors were willing to buy only P3.620 billion out of government's P4.5- billion offering of debt papers maturing in two years. In return, they were demanding an 11.106-percent premium before parting with their money. This represents a 275-basis points increase over the 8.637-percent premium given investors in October 28, which was when government last issued two-year bonds. The national government, through the BTr, sells three-month, nine-month, and one-year T-bills as well as bonds of longer maturity every other week. The proceeds of these debt issuances, which comprise government's domestic borrowing program, are used to finance the state's operations. In exchange for lending government their money, investors are paid a premium representing a percentage of the face value of the Treasury paper. Shorter-term debt papers normally pay a lower premium than longer-term securities. At the close of yesterday's auction, National Treasurer Mina Figueroa told reporters that government is "temporarily canceling" auctions for T-bills and bonds. "Its obvious-since its another undersubscription-that banks don't want to invest in long term bonds considering the political uncertainty," the BTr chief said. "The feedback we're getting from banks is that they're still adjusting to the liquidity reserve hike imposed by the central bank," she said, with regards a February 5 order by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for banks to raise their liquidity reserves to 10 percent. Liquidity reserves pertain to a portion of a bank's peso deposits held in the form of government securities or debt papers bought from the BSP. As a form of reserves, they represent assets that banks cannot use for generating income through their regular lending activity. In place of the fortnightly auction, government is "seriously considering" the issuance of so-called cash management bills (CMBs), which are debt papers that mature in less than three months. The BTr chief has called for a meeting with banks today to determine market interest in the shorter term CMBs, which were last issued under the Estrada administration. Government is eyeing the weekly sale of P10-billion worth of CMBs as replacement for the monthly issuance of P22 billion and P18 billion in T-bills and bonds, respectively. The sale of CMBs however doesn't mean that government is hard up in terms of cash, according to Figueroa. "Government still has a healthy cash position. That's why we've been rejecting bids," she said. The BTr chief said government likewise would be conferring with insurance companies, which earlier expressed interest in buying 10-year bonds that were scheduled for issuance in the second quarter. Insurance companies had prepared for the 10-year bond issue, but government plans would depend on how much they would be demanding as premium for lending their money, Figueroa said. If the rates prove too high for the volumes offered, then government would have to put off selling the 10-year bonds, she said. "We don't want to be locked in at very high rates," the BTr chief said, adding this would result in higher borrowing costs.

From http://www.manilatimes.net 03/03/2004

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Govt Borrows Short-Term Money Despite High Rates

THE government on Monday borrowed very short-term money from banks and institutional investors despite the high premiums they demanded in return. The borrowing came as a surprise after the government rejected two previous offers by banks because lenders were asking for too high a price for their money. At yesterday's auction, the Bureau of Treasury partially accepted bids for 42-day Treasury bills, the first sale of so-called cash management bills since the Estrada administration. The issue was oversubscribed, as investors were willing to buy as much as P5.045 billion, or a quarter more than government's P4-billion offering. The BTr however sold only P2.06 billion of the very short-term debt papers, as investors demanded a 7.312-percent premium on the money they lent the government. At this level, the yield on the 42-day T-bill is 33.1-basis points higher than the 6.981-percent premium that investors were asking for the 91-day T-bill during the last auction on March 1. The government had rejected all bids for the three-month debt paper at the time, thus holders of those papers would still be paid 6.435-percent of the bill's face value upon maturity. Despite accepting bids for the more expensive 42-day T-bills, the government isn't short of cash, according to National Treasurer Mina Figueroa, who described government's cash position as very healthy. It would have been an act of desperation if we awarded the full P4-billion, she said. The BTr chief said government also considered the amount of maturing loans in the coming month to ensure it won't be cash-strapped after repaying obligations. Figueroa explained that the government was ready to accept rates higher than what the central bank charges banks for overnight loans provided the premium didn't breach a 7.5-percent ceiling. The Bangko Sentral's overnight borrowing or reverse repurchase rate stands at 6.75 percent. There's demand but at rates higher than what we expected, the BTr chief said, citing the feedback government received during a meeting with banks last week. Figueroa however dispelled concern that interest rates would be rising from hereon. Just because we accepted doesn't mean we'll allow rates to rise the next time around, she said, adding the 91-day T-bill rate is unlikely to reach eight percent. Banks use the yield on the three-month debt paper as benchmark when pricing their loans. Based on a meeting she held with banks last week, Figueroa said banks are comfortable lending at prevailing rates. The BTr chief admitted that the country is paying a premium for the political noise generated by the upcoming May presidential elections. The 42-day T-bill could have fetched a lower rate of between 6.78 percent and seven percent without the political noise, she said. These are not normal times, she added. That is a reality we'll have to deal with.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 03/09/2004

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Govt Issues $500-M Bonds to Cover Budget Demands

THE national government has borrowed some $500 million anew, thus allowing it to raise nearly the whole amount it earlier planned to borrow from the international market to finance this year's operations. In a statement, Finance Undersecretary Eric Recto said government has issued global bonds that are set to mature in 11 years, or on March 17, 2015. The debt instruments carry a coupon rate of 8.875 percent, and would yield nine percent upon maturity. We are pleased with the outcome of the transaction as it clearly demonstrated the continuing appeal of [Republic of the Philippines] credit with investors despite the current market volatility, Recto said. Furthermore, through this transactions, we have been able to substantially cover our budgetary requirements for 2004 ahead of the upcoming elections and helped to lengthen our debt maturity profile, he said. Monetary authorities have been urging the national government to secure funds from the international market at this time since spreads have tightened. A tightening of spreads means that government could borrow money on relatively more affordable terms. Foreign borrowing would be timely since domestic investors lately have not been willing to lend cheap money to government, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Under its borrowing program for this year, the government is supposed to source $1.9 billion from abroad, of which it already raised $1 billion last year. Although close to completing its programmed foreign borrowing for this year, the government still has to raise from the local financial market some $1.6 billion to enable it to pay its foreign denominated obligations by yearend. This foreign exchange gap is seen rising to as much as $2 billion if expected dollar inflows from multilateral and bilateral project loans are not forthcoming. Government has to pay down some $3.9 billion in debt this year, including $2.2 billion in principal and $1.7 billion in interest payments. It plans to borrow some $7.6 billion, of which $5.3 billion, or 70 percent, would be sourced from the local financial market. Monetary authorities however, have been urging government to rethink its borrowing mix and raise more than 30 percent of its financing needs from abroad. The BSP is amenable to accommodating the national government's dollar requirements on condition that the Arroyo administration borrows more than the planned $1.9-billion external borrowing this year. The central bank is worried that limiting foreign borrowings this year to just 30 percent of government's requirements could erode the country's dollar hoard, especially if dollar inflows from exports and overseas Filipino worker remittances turn out lower than expected. Monetary authorities are aiming for a $15-billion dollar hoard by the end of the year. If the country's dollar reserves dip below this level, the peso could drop further and the cost of bank loans could rise. More expensive imports and bank loans could discourage business expansion and job-generation. On top of the national government's funding needs, the National Power Corp. also requires some $2.4 billion this year. Of this amount, $400 million would be used for principal payments, $500 million for interest, and $1.5 billion goes to the state-run power firm's independent power producers.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 03/12/2004

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Securities Registry to Include Agrarian Bonds

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will include in the planned securities registry the agrarian reform bonds to block any double sale of the government's IOUs that are reportedly being sold in the secondary market at a deep discount. BSP Governor Rafael Carlos B. Buenaventura said the inclusion of the agrarian reform bonds will address possible leakage in its sale at the secondary market. "It will serve as a check and balance for government's CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program). Its inclusion should not be a problem," Buenaventura said. At the onset, the BSP Chief lamented there might be no need for the agrarian reform bonds to be covered since "it is not being traded" actively in the market. However, it was learned banks are buying the agrarian reform bonds through third-party intermediaries for compliance to the mandatory 10 percent agrarian lending. While there is no existing benchmark for these special IOUs, the going formula uses the remaining life of the securities to compute the price. The final price is derive after deducting a discount of 12 percent to as high as 15 percent of the face value. But, the arrangement with the intermediary revolves around the purchase the bonds from the landowners at the highest discount of 15 percent. The broker then sells it down to the bank at the lowest of seven percent then splits the spread with the bank officer. Some bank treasurers fear that the brisk transactions involving the agrarian reform bonds may be a prelude to another scandal in the securities market, reminiscent of the early 1990s BanCap Scam, hurting several lenders in the country through a double sale of Treasury Bills. It was learned that Land Bank management has ordered and check on the outstanding transactions involving the purchase of banks from third-party intermediaries of the agrarian reform bonds to determine whether or not the holdings of banks are being transferred under the lender's name from the landowners. The Bank also would like to know whether the transactions were legitimate and were covered with underlying agrarian reform bonds. Agrarian reform bonds are receivables of landowners from the government in exchange for their farmlands that have been declared as covered by CARP. Landowners are paid 30 percent cash as outright payment and the balance of 70 percent comes in the form of agrarian reform bonds.

From http://www.mb.com.ph 03/22/2004

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THAILAND: Bird-Flu Aftermath: Loans, Free Land for Chicken Farms

The government yesterday unveiled its latest project to deal with the aftermath of the bird-flu crisis. The project will give registered landless farmers soft loans of up to Bt5 million and a five-rai plot of land as start-up capital for chicken farms. Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob said the project should be ready to kick off by May 9. Newin yesterday also declared that 27 provinces were now classified as being in the green zone, signifying that there was no recurrence of bird-flu 21 days after mass culling was completed. The soft loans and land allocation for chicken farmers is the latest project under the government's Ua Athorn umbrella. Only those who registered with the government's poverty-registration campaign earlier this year will be considered. "We will implement the project in six pivotal provinces first," Newin said yesterday. The six are Buri Ram, Surin, Nakhon Ratchasima, Saraburi, Chaiyaphum and Lop Buri. These were chosen because each has ample underground water, relatively dry weather and is located close to chicken-processing factories. The plan calls for 20 chicken-farming estates to be established, with each estate consisting of about 160 households. Each household would be allocated five rai of land. Newin said the Agriculture Land Reform Office (ALRO) was assigned to conduct a survey aimed at identifying appropriate land for the farms. Along with the ALRO, the Livestock Development Department, Assets Capitalisation Bureau, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives have been enlisted to the project. "The soft loans for each household will range between Bt3 million and Bt5 million," Newin said. "Their monthly income should be over Bt10,000." The chicken farmers will be required to repay the loans within 10 years. In the first two years the interest rate will be 2 per cent with no repayment of principal. The rate will then be 5 per cent for the remaining years. Newin downplayed any concerns about the possibility of bad debts, saying that new chicken farmers could immediately take over if any problems occurred. Although the country's poultry business suffered during the crisis, Newin was upbeat. He noted that Japan had already approved imports of heat-treated chicken Bt50 million a day from 22 factories. "South Korea is also considering partially lifting the ban, as Japan has done," he said. Seoul has asked to see the list of factories passing Japan's standard tests. He said Thailand should be able to resume poultry exports to South Korea next month. Thailand put 51 of its 76 provinces under watch during the bird-flu outbreak. Following the mass culling, 27 provinces were declared flu-free green zones. The remaining 24 provinces were under yellow zones. Provinces under the yellow zone will receive green-zone status if there is no further reports of the disease 21 days after the mass culling. Newin said the 24 provinces under the yellow zone could be divided into two groups. The first group, consisting of 13 provinces, did not detect any avian-influenza cases after the mass culling was completed. The remaining 11 provinces did see a recurrences and carried out further culling. "The latest culling was completed Saturday," Newin said. Newin said he was informed that some farmers intentionally |let chickens die in the hopes of |getting compensation from the government. "If we find who did this, we will take legal actions," he said. The government would not pay compensation for chickens dying of causes other than bird flu.In a related development, a chicken farmer in Uttaradit admitted that she fed her chickens with feed taken from her relative's farm at the time the flu hit her relative's area. "I never thought it would spread the disease," Jintana Yimyanyong said. Her chickens were found infected with bird flu and were ordered destroyed. Jintana said her relative's farm did not detect any infection at the time.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/15/2004

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BOT Tells Potential Banks to Do Their Homework

The Bank of Thailand has warned firms looking to enter retail banking to analyse the business thoroughly rather than follow the practices of existing players. Deputy Governor Tarisa Wattanagase said yesterday that the retail banking business here would offer both opportunities as well as risks over the next three years. The financial institutions development plan allows finance companies to merge and upgrade into community banks. They would be provided with incentives as well as more channels to do retail banking, but they would also face stronger competition from foreign banks, non-banks and other entities, she said. "Banks must have a real understanding of retail banking rather than go into this business because others are doing it," she told a three-day seminar on "Retail Finance Asia-Pacific 2004 Conference and Expo". Banks must manage their credit risks by using risk management tools and carefully identifying their customers. Retail loans to total loans of all financial institutions surged from 10 per cent in 1998 to 16.6 per cent last September, she said. Six years after the 1997 financial crisis, credit card loans have increased as much as 40 per cent, and auto leases by 50 per cent. Experts have suggested that one key success factor for the retail banking business in the future is discarding manual systems for high technology. This is a global trend and the country's banking industry should prepare to tackle it to maintain customers and generate more profits, Mike Stephen, of Hewlett-Packard Far East, said on the sidelines of the seminar. "Bank services, particularly at branches, will change with staff becoming more advisers than tellers, able to provide information on all kinds of services, products and investments to customers. This will bring more income to banks. As well, customers will get higher returns. Those which do not improve technology may risk losing customers and profits," he said. The customer is the most important thing in retail banking, therefore, banks should know all about their customer base to provide the right products and services to the right people. If banks are able to do this, they will maintain accounts longer. Atipat Yangyuenpong, also from HP, said the company has sold mobility banking, branch innovation and mobile payment services to some of the largest local banks. These services involve print-on-demand kiosks, mobile insurance, home loans and card management systems. However, full mobile banking services here are likely to be over a year away as the large local banks are improving their systems infrastructure.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/19/2004

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VIETNAM: PM Sets Bold Targets for Bank of the Poor

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai wants the Viet Nam Bank for Social Policies (VBSP) to ensure that the number of poor households in isolated regions is less than 10 per cent by 2005. He suggests that this can be done if the bank, together with the provinces, do more to raise capital to provide soft loans to the needy, poor students and labourers who want to work outside Viet Nam. "The establishment of the VBSP means that such soft loans are confined to it while commercial State owned banks do business only with enterprises," he told a conference to review the bank's first year of operation. "We ought to reduce the proportion of needy households as fast as we can, as well as helping them escape from poverty," he said. The prime minister emphasised that VBSP loans were crucial to the poor people living in remote regions. He asked the Finance and Investment and Planning Ministries and the State Bank of Viet Nam to devise ways of raising its statutory capital so it could meet the demand for credit from its clients. "Provincial People's Committees had to reserve capital from their budgets to supplement their VBSP's branches," he said. "The Finance and Planning and Investment Ministries should help the VBSP raise capital from international organisation and ensure it had more soft credit. In addition, the VBSP has to seek preferential low or non-interest capital," he said. He also asked the VBSP to be more prudent about managing its capital and to use it more effectively. "The VBSP has to think about its new credit regulations for the management of credit," he said. "The Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Ministry and others should prepare plans for a fund to support the creation of jobs so as to enhance VBSP's operations, and submit it to the Government for approval. "The Finance Ministry should check all provincial administrative offices and if they have unused premises, they must not lease them but allow them to be used for local VBSP branches." He suggested that VBSP offices should be standardised to avoid waste. The Government and relevant ministries had several of measures to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty during the next two years, he said. "Associations such as the Womens, Farmers, Veterans, and Youth Unions have key roles in helping needy households borrow loans from the VBSP," the prime minister said. "They also help poor households improve their agricultural produce and livestock breeding." The prime minister listed Viet Nam's spectacular achievements in eradicating hunger and alleviating poverty, which he said, had won international praise. "It seems to be a successful model for eliminating hunger and reducing poverty," he said. "But Viet Nam's standard of measuring was five times less than the international standard. Therefore, we should both reduce the proportion of poor households to less than 10 per cent by 2005 and raise the measure of needy households between 2006-10," he said. VBSP general director Ha Thi Hanh said the bank's capital totalled VND10.5 trillion at the end of 2003, an increase of VND 3.4 trillion compared with 2002. Outstanding loans were VND10.3 trillion - VND 3.3 trillion higher than 2002 with loans to poor households at VND 8.2 trillion. The bank had co-operated with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the Japan Bank for International Co-operation. It was managing 11 projects with the total capital of VND470 billion. Of these, loans from OPEC totalled VND158 billion. Hanh said the bank would increase its capital by 20 per cent this year and that outstanding loans would increase by 18-20 per cent against 2003.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 02/28/2004

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Local Banks Want to Increase Capital to Compete Globally

Viet Nam's integration into the global economy will bring global financial players to the country and local institutions need to have more muscle to cope with the invasion, a leading Vietnamese banker has warned. Pham Van Thiet, general director of the Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), said that when foreign rivals come to Viet Nam "domestic banks will have to increase their capital or else see their market share shrink." A debate has begun among stake-holders about how much capital is required in the changing environment and ways to raise funds for the purpose. According to director of the State Bank's Departments for Banks, Kieu Huu Dung, plans are underway to push up legal capitals though to what levels is still under discussion. The current minimum legal capital required for a bank in Ha Noi or HCM City is VND70 billion, in other cities VND50 billion and in rural areas, VND5 billion. As for raising funds to recapitalise, Thiet said, "the stock market is the most appropriate channel for a healthy business to raise a large sum of money in a short time." ACB now has a legal capital of more than VND450 billion (US$28.85 million) and plans to increase it to VND557 billion ($35.7 million) this year. However, increasing capital seems to cut both ways as many banks find the pressure of making dividend payments too great as East Asia Bank (EAB) discovered. The bank wanted to raise its capital by VND50 billion ($3.2 million) to around VND300 billion ($19.23 million) in 2003 but then cancelled the plan. It would rather do without the additional money than grapple with the dividend burden, it said. But, it is now awaiting a decision at its AGM this Saturday on going ahead after all. Mergers are also popular methods chosen by some including EAB and Phuong Nam Bank. While EAB took over several small banks, Phuong Nam was formed as a result of a merger. Mergers offer the advantage of expanding, besides capital, also the branch network. On the other hand, when a bigger institution takes over a smaller one, it faces the cost of absorbing new staff and upgrading technology at the smaller bank to meet its own standards. Phuong Nam Bank deputy general director Nguyen Ngoc Thinh announced that the bank registered last week its enlarged capital of VND200 billion ($12.82 million) and that he expected it to increase further to VND260-300 billion ($16.7-19.23 million) by year-end. The Sai Gon Thuong Tin Commercial Bank (Sacombank) also plans to recapitalise to around VND650 billion ($41.7 million) this year, from the current level of VND505 billion ($32.37 million). It is already the largest of the country's 36 joint stock commercial banks, according to its general director Hoang Khanh Sinh.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/04/2004

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Finance Ministry Wages Fiscal War

The Ministry of Finance has co-operated with other related authorities to fight loss and waste in economic management and the State budget. According to Finance Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung, the ministry has been working with law-makers to issue laws for State budget spending to come into effect late this year. The law will allow organisations, offices and private enterprises more freedom to decide what they want to do with their money, but will also require more accountability when spending it. "In 2003, the ministry submitted reforms to outline more clearly what percentage of State money will go to localities, government vehicles, office space, supplies and general administration." The ministry also wants agencies to become more financially independent. "These enterprises shouldn't receive money directly from State budget, they must learn to live by themselves," Hung adds. "We are determined to reduce financial losses with better investigation and auditing practices. In addition, we will strictly punish anyone, including managers, who try to thwart the new system," Hung said. The Ministry of Finance also plays an important role in setting up and managing a complete market oriented economy which includes real estate, labour, science and technology. The stock market is another vital link in the Ministry's financial redesign. Still in its nascence, trading on the Vietnamese stock market is small, around VND2 - 3 billion (US$100,000 - 200,000) per session. The ministry wants to help it grow. "We will try to promote the stock market as a way to mobilise medium and long-term capital for our economy," Nguyen Sinh Hung said. The ministry calls for expansion of the stock market by offering foreign investors a bigger role to play.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/22/2004

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Major Cities to Issue Bonds to Raise Infrastructure Cash

The Government has given greater financial powers to the country's two largest cities, acknowledging their role as engines of national economic growth. Ha Noi and HCM City would be allowed to raise funds through municipal bonds and official development assistance (ODA), chairman of the National Assembly (NA) Committee for Economics and Budget, Nguyen Duc Kien, said. As the country's leading economic centres, the two cities would get priority in raising capital through municipal bonds to help pay for new infrastructure, he noted. However, the capital they raise from bonds and other sources should not exceed the annual budgetary allocation made to them and plans to raise the funds should be submitted to People's Councils for consideration, the chairman said. They could receive ODA, including non-refundable grants and preferential loans, directly from international organisations, with approval from the Ministries of Planning and Investment and Finance. Finance minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said the cities' strong economic growth justified major investment. HCM City plans to raise at least VND2.5 trillion (US$160 million) through bonds this year, with Hung saying that it sought to borrow from overseas sources to build roads and sewerage treatment plants and expand electricity supply. However, before submitting project proposals for government appraisal, the city should seek the opinion of the State Bank and the finance and planning and investment ministries, he pointed out. HCM City also plans to raise funds for BOT (build-operate-transfer) projects and BT (build - transfer) projects in areas where investors could eventually recover their capital, he said. Both HCM City and Ha Noi hope to auction more unused land to raise capital with the southern hub expecting to collect at least VND2 trillion ($128 million) this year. The two cities would also be allowed greater leeway to decide wage levels of State employees. Ha Noi and HCM City could choose to pay higher salaries than other cities due to their high living costs, Kien said, though they must submit detailed reports about their plans to the Government. But he also called on the Government to fix wage ceilings for its employees in the two cities. The two also asked the NA for permission to receive capital in advance from the Government budget for infrastructure projects. Besides, they said they should be returned all the surplus taxes they send to the Government each year, above the targets fixed for them.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/23/2004

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BANGLADESH: Major Crackdown on Money Launderers

The Bureau of Anti-Corruption on Thursday sued eight persons including four bank officials and a director of National Credit and Commerce Bank Limited. The government has launched a major crackdown on money launderers to stop currency racketing. The Bureau of Anti-Corruption on Thursday sued eight persons including four bank officials and a director of National Credit and Commerce Bank Limited. It was alleged that these people were involved for siphoning off 706 million taka from their bank accounts. Earlier, the second Metropolitan Special Tribunal framed charges against 31 people including a former lawmaker and Awami League leader Dr HBM Iqbal and a business tycoon Musa Bin Shamser for smuggling 1,000 million taka to foreign countries. A ruling party lawmaker was also involved in this case. But hearing of charge framing against him could not take place, as he was not present in the court during the charge-framing hearing. Very recently, the Customs authority in the Zia International Airport (ZIA) had foiled another bid to smuggle foreign currency worth Taka 40 million. In this incident, two Civil Aviation officials were involved, but the police failed to nab them till today. Both the Customs and the police authorities have accused each other of failing to trace out the accused. BSS adds: Five separate cases have been filed under Money Laundering Prevention Act against those officials and clients who took away the money from four bank braches-two in the capital and the rest in Chittagong-under different shadow accounts. The officials implicated in the cases include BCCBL director Mohammad Ali, manager of its Islampur branch SM Zahangir Hossain, manager of Motijheel Head Office branch GM Fakaruddin, manager of Chittagong Majirghat branch Moktar Ahmed and manager of Agrabad branch PJ Barua. Barua is an official of Mercantile Bank of Agrabad branch who has been charged in the case for facilitating the transfer of money from the NCCBL, the case dossiers said. The three individuals charged in the cases include Azizul Haque, a client of the Islampur branch of the bank, Shah Alam, a client of the bank branches at Motijheel, Majirghat and Mercantile Bank at Agrabad and Kurshed Alam, a client of the Motijheel branch. The bank officials have been implicated for not maintaining formal records of the bank accounts, said BAC inspector Mir Mohammad Joynal Abedin Shibli who filed cases with Kotwali and Motijheel police stations in the capital and at Doublemooring police station in Chittagong. NCCBL director Mohammad Ali and Shah Alam, out of three clients, have been identified as the central figure in all these siphoning cases, BAC officials said. Referring to how the incidents took place, the BAC official said the bank officials opened five separate accounts acting on applications from Azizul Haque, Shah Alam and Khorshed Alam to facilitate the transfer of funds. During the investigation, the anti-corruption official found the bank officials did not mention the source of the money, the account numbers and names of the depositors in the money vouchers and slips. This kind of offence is punishable under the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2002, said the BAC official.

From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 03/18/2004

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INDIA: Reserve Bank Likely to Ease Cap on Unsecured Advances

MUMBAI - The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is inclined to ease the cap on banks' unsecured advances. It has been gathered that an easing of the norm will be counter-balanced by a huge increase in the provisioning norms on such advances, a classic central bank carrot-and-stick approach. As of now, all unsecured advances plus 20 per cent of unsecured guarantees of a bank cannot exceed 15 per cent of its total advances. It is not clear at this point in time whether the 15 per cent cap will be altogether removed - there are whispers it will be eased to 20 per cent - but what is definite is that the provisioning sequence on such advances will be hugely tightened. For instance, on a sub-standard advance in this category up to one-and-half-years, the present provisioning requirement is 10 per cent. It, subsequently, moves up to 20 per cent (for the next one year), 30 per cent (up to three years) and 50 per cent (after that). "We will be in a position to go public on this in the April policy. We are examining the proposal and the issue of higher provisioning, say hiking the initial 10 per cent to as much as 50 per cent," a central bank source told FE. "Some topline corporates cannot be insisted that they give a security for a guarantee. That apart, it also affects businesses like credit cards and personal loans which are booming now. Therefore, the rethink," the source added. While the above cap applies to all banks, foreign and private banks, including a few aggressive state-run banks (most though are not affected as they have the luxury of a huge balance-sheet) on the retail front, have been seeking a rethink on this issue from the central bank. Furthermore, given the carrot-and-stick approach, which is likely to be adopted by the RBI, there is also no reason to think why the relaxation should be a blanket one. The rethink on the unsecured exposure front is part of a larger exercise on banks' single and group exposure limits. These limits are at 15 per cent and forty per cent of a bank's local capital. Some foreign banks have lobbied with RBI that their global balance-sheets should be reckoned for this purpose as their local operations are a "branch" one. The central bank, it has been gathered, does not subscribe to this argument.

From http://financialexpress.com/ 03/18/2004

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SRI LANKA: SMB Group Post Tax Profit Up 344% to Rs. 50.29 Million

The Seylan Merchant Bank (SMB) Group has reported significant growth in key financial performance indicators for the year ended December 31, 2003, maintaining the trend of profitability. In unaudited results released recently, the SMB Group reported a post tax profit of Rs 50.29 million, up 344 per cent from the Rs 11.3 million reported in 2002. This is the best-ever consolidated profit reported by SMB in its eleven-year history. The Net Income of the Group rose by 22 per cent to Rs 668 million from Rs 546 million in the corresponding period in 2002. Meanwhile, the Bank's post tax profit increased from Rs 2.2 million to Rs 9.9 million, a growth of 339 per cent. The Bank reported Net Income growth of 18 per cent to Rs 565 million for the year ended December 31, 2003, compared to the Rs 478 million achieved in 2002. Group Net Interest Income was up 20 per cent to Rs 111 million, while the Bank's Net Interest Income grew 44 per cent to Rs 91 million, during the period under review. "We are pleased that SMB has been able to significantly improve on the trend of profitability set in 2002," SMB's Director/Deputy General Manager Sheanath De Soysa said. "Improvements in capital gains from bonds as well as in net interest margins contributed significantly to the profits achieved." He said other factors that contributed to 2003 profits were good recovery of monies, improvements in productivity and efficiency among employees as well as increases in returns from the branch network. Five of the Bank's branches have now been networked with the aim of providing customers with a more efficient service. "As further benefits to customers, we have set up a call centre, enabling customers to call in and check their account status. We also introduced a monthly statement for leasing and loan customers," de Soysa said. If the political and economic situation of the country remains favourable, the SMB Group is confident of improving on this trend of profitability, he said. "We hope to upgrade our IT System to a sophisticated state-of-the-art system, increase productivity of employees through training and HR programs and thereby grow our business volumes." SMB Group subsidiaries Seylan Merchant Leasing Limited (SMLL) and SMB Real Estate Limited also reported a profitable 2003, with SMLL reporting a profit of Rs 25 million and SMB Real Estate Limited reporting a profit of Rs 12 million. SMB recently became one the first institutions to receive a licence from the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) to operate on the debt securities exchange (DEX) of CSE, which is a new automated debt securities trading platform. This system would create an opportunity for the public to easily buy or sell government treasury bills or bonds, paving the way for more people to invest in zero risk instruments. SMB conducted the first-ever transaction on the DEX platform of the CSE in January 2004. The Bank also entered into a joint venture agreement with OpenArc Systems Management (Pvt) Limited, through which a new company, OpenArc Global Solutions (Pvt) Limited would market software solutions locally as well as regionally. A member of Ceylinco Consolidated, Seylan Merchant Bank Limited was incorporated in September 1992 and is registered by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka as a Registered Finance Leasing Establishment under the Finance Leasing Act No. 56 of 2000.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/02/2004

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NEPAL: Nepal to Receive Support for Financial Sector Reform

Washington - The World Bank approved yesterday a US$75.5 million credit to Nepal to support the country's ongoing efforts at improving its financial sector. A healthier financial sector is one of the key structural reforms that Nepal has been pursuing to reduce poverty by stimulating more equitable and inclusive growth for all its citizens. The Financial Sector Restructuring Project is a follow-on to the Financial Sector Technical Assistance credit, approved by the World Bank in 2002 in an attempt to address the critical situation of the banking system in the country. The first credit strengthened the supervisory functions of the central bank, Nepal Rastra Bank. Further, management teams were brought in to stem the losses at the two largest Nepalese commercial banks, Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB) and Nepal Bank Limited (NBL). This follow-on operation will provide further financial support to make these two banks commercially viable for privatization. "In view of the slow progress in commercial banks' debt recovery, some Executive Directors questioned whether the government is fully committed to taking tough reform actions, and hence the reluctance to support this project by several of them," said Ken Ohashi, World Bank Country Director for Nepal. "The high cost of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme also caused concerns about the rigidities in the labor laws, which not only make it expensive for the government to rationalize state-owned enterprises, but also raise the cost of investment in Nepal and hence hold back healthy private sector growth." The project has four main components. These are Voluntary Retirement Schemes, Hiring of Sales Advisors, Ongoing Nepal Rastra Bank Re-engineering, and Management Team Support. "Our engagement in the financial sector will continue to test the collective will of Nepalis to put the poor and voiceless at the center of reforms to overcome resistance from narrow vested interests," says Ohashi. "The underlying message in the approval of this new credit is that the Bank stands ready to support these difficult reforms, but only to the extent that the authorities do their part, including the pursuit of large, willful defaulters with the utmost vigor. Should commitment to do this falter, the Bank will certainly have to rethink its assistance." Ohashi also said that a healthy financial sector is one in which funds can flow to their most productive economic use. In so doing, these funds can benefit the entire economy in terms of more rational investment decisions, more sustained employment opportunities, increased production and exports, and, ultimately, enhanced growth. Consequently, he added, the ongoing bank reform process has many important indirect poverty alleviation implications for Nepal. The project is to be supported through the International Development Association, the World Bank's concessionary lending arm, with a US$68.5 million credit and US$7 million grant. As institutional and implementation arrangements for the predecessor project have already been developed with Nepal Rastra Bank, these will continue to be used to oversee the implementation of the current operation.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/10/2004

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PAKISTAN: Pakistan's First Cross Currency Swap Transaction: NBP and Citibank Arrange Rs 4.4b Swap for PARCO

KARACHI - National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and Citibank Thursday arranged and executed the country's first "cross currency swap transaction" of Rs 4.4 billion with Pak-Arab Refinery Company (PARCO). Syed Ali Raza, president, NBP, Zubyr Soomro, country officer, Citigroup, and Dr Shahid Haq, chairman, PARACO, signed the execution and arrangement papers. Under the cross currency coupon swap transaction, PARCO has managed to perfectly hedge its interest rate exposure on both its assets and corresponding liabilities to the extent of the amount of this transaction. PARCO's local currency interest rates will be assumed by National Bank and Citibank will assume the US currency rates. Addressing the signing ceremony of arrangement and execution, Mr Raza said that the transaction has provided Pakistan's largest oil refinery with a hedge against interest rate movements. "This transaction has involved a combination of different financial derivative products and manifests the continuing maturity in country's financial markets," Mr Raza said, and added that this transaction would eliminate interest rate risk between the two different currencies. "This is second generation banking product and introduced for the first time in Pakistan," Mr Raza said. The banking industry of the country was now faced with challenges of a very low interest rate environment, much lower spreads and greater competition, he said. "The financial markets in Pakistan are in the infancy stage," Mr Raza said and added that it is high time for banks to introduce specialized products or import products from the global markets to be afloat in the current competitive financial markets. The transaction has been booked in Pakistan in its entirely execution involved not only appropriate regulatory approvals but also a detailed work on the tax issues. Financial derivatives are used all over the world to help hedge interest and exchange rate exposures. Derivates are usually off balance sheet transactions and derive their value from other underlying instruments. "These products are used by corporate sector companies to effectively manage and control their balance sheets by hedging their exposures against future uncertainties," said Mr Soomro. "Such derivates are useful tools to minimise interest rate risk for corporate sector entities," he said and added that the key advantage of this arrangement and execution is to separate out risk from balance sheet. "Now PRACO is independent to negotiate interest rate with any other bank to obtain further loans for its development projects, he said. More than the provision of an effective hedge, this transaction has added value to the domestic financial market, Mr Soomro said. The swap has been executed in Pakistan and all concerned parties have executed International Swap Dealers Association documentation, which is the global standard for such transactions.

From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 03/05/2004

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AZERBAIJAN: Azerbaijan May Issue First Eurobonds in 2006

Azerbaijan may place its first sovereign securities on the European market in 2006, a source in the government told Interfax. Azerbaijan has been discussing possible bond issues, aimed at expanding large-scale investment in the real sector, for several years, the source said. However, the government believes this will only become possible in 18 months time. "A realistic basis for implementing this idea is being formed, considering the current trend for the European Central Bank to lower the discount rate." Azerbaijan has not yet decided what form the bonds would take. "As to the name of the future securities, that is not the main issue: the main thing is that Azerbaijan will receive the chance to raise additional funds from the European market, with the strengthening economy able to guarantee repayment," the source said. The bonds will be at least mid-term instruments.

From http://www.interfax.com 03/18/2004

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KYRGYZSTAN: IMF Recommends Single Tax for Small Enterprises

The International Monetary Fund recommends Kyrgyzstan to introduce a single tax for small enterprises. The Head of the IMF mission in Kyrgyzstan Tapio Saavalainen said the introduction of the new tax is necessary as a result of the Tax Code reform. The IMF proposed Kyrgyzstan to reject the current scheme of collecting the value-added tax [VAT], according to which the companies with a revenue of up to 500,000 soms pay one rate, while the companies with a revenue of up to three million soms pay another rate. Saavalainen thinks that both VAT thresholds should be unified into one rate, which will take into account general income of the company and the level of incomes in the country. The IMF mission expects that the new tax will be introduced in the beginning of 2005. (by Justin Burke )

From http://www.eurasianet.org 03/12/2004

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KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhtelecom Redeems Domestic Bonds

Kazakh national telecommunications operator AO Kazakhtelecom has refinanced a first issue of three-year domestic bonds amounting to $25 million, a source in the company's press service told Interfax. "Redemption at face value in the equivalent of $25 million and the payment of the last coupon amounting to the equivalent of $1.25 million was carried out at the exchange rate of the National Bank of Kazakhstan of 138.93 tenge to the dollar on the payment day - March 15," the source said. Kazakhtelecom placed $25 million worth of three-year bonds on the Kazakh Stock Exchange in 2001. The bonds had six semi-annual coupons and a fixed yield of 10% per annum. The Kazakh government owns 50% plus one share in the company, Central Asian Industrial Holdings N.V. - 30.05% and the Bank of New York - 6.73%.

From http://www.interfax.com 03/19/2004

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TURKEY: S&P Raises Currency Rating

Standard & Poor's ratings agency said late on Monday it raised its long-term local currency rating on Turkey to "BB-" from "B+." S&P also affirmed Turkey's "B+" long-term foreign currency ratings and its "B" short-term foreign and local currency ratings. The agency said it revised Turkey's local and foreign currency outlooks to positive from stable. "The improvement in Turkey's credit-worthiness reflects the progress that the government is making on both the economic and political fronts toward restoring durable macroeconomic stability," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Ala'a Al-Yousuf. S&P said Turkey's real GDP growth should be close to the target of five percent in 2003 and 2004.

From http://www.turkishdailynews.com 03/10/2004

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AUSTRALIA: Bank Boss Damns 'Dishonest' Traders

The new chief executive of the National Australia Bank yesterday slammed the complacent and incompetent corporate culture that had led to $360 million in currency trading losses. John Stewart also announced that the nation's largest lender had sacked the four traders at the centre of the losses, their supervisor and either dismissed or censured several other top managers. Mr Stewart, who was delivering the findings of a report into the losses, said he had also launched the biggest shake-up in the bank's history to create a "new organisation that is positive, transparent and outward-looking". The damning PricewaterhouseCoopers report revealed the cover-ups and compliance failures that allowed traders to exploit loopholes and hide losses to protect their annual bonuses. "These people were dishonest. They were also very clever. They found loopholes and they exploited them," Mr Stewart said. But the bank still faces inquiries from Australian and US authorities, the Australian Tax Office and the Federal Police that could further erode customer and investor confidence. Federal police said yesterday that the homes of three of the traders had been searched by officers. (by Duncan Hughes)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/13/2004

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Senate Probe May Focus on Regulator's NAB Role

How many times the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority tried to alert National Australia Bank to its foreign exchange problems - and who was warned - could become the focus of a federal inquiry after APRA delivers its report shortly. "We want to find out how much rope the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority gave NAB," a spokesman for Senate Estimates Committee member Stephen Conroy said yesterday. "We want to find out whether APRA had agreed to a NAB timetable for reforms." This comes amid new calls for NAB director Catherine Walter to be held accountable for the failure of the bank's audit committee, which she chaired, to discover unauthorised trading at the foreign exchange options desk that cost the bank $360 million. "She should resign," said John Curry, chairman of the Australian Shareholders Association. Institutional investors contacted claim to be relaxed about Ms Walter's ongoing board role despite her coming under pressure from the NAB board to quit. The role of other senior bank officials in failing to alert top management about the seriousness of the APRA concerns is likely to come under renewed scrutiny when the Senate Estimates Committee meets in May. The spokesman from Senator Conroy's office said that previous statements by APRA chairman John Laker had raised concerns that communications by the regulator might have been more frequent than suggested by PricewaterhouseCoopers' report on the trading scandal. In a February hearing, Mr Laker told the committee that "we had - during the past 12 months - been in constant dialogue on these issues and they (NAB) were responding to those concerns when this particular episode was identified". The committee will also investigate whether the bank had agreed to a timetable to correct the problems. The bank yesterday declined to comment on whether it would follow the PwC report precedent and publicly issue the APRA recommendations being reviewed by APRA's top management that could be finalised this week. The six-member APRA investigative team, led by general manager David Lewis, will be joined by Mr Laker to make the presentation to the NAB board. Pressure on NAB to disclose APRA's findings will be intensified by the Senate Estimates Committee's claim it can ask APRA to make the report public. (by Duncan Hughes)

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/23/2004

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Upbeat Reserve Boosts Bourse

THE Australian stock market dragged itself into positive territory at the end of trading yesterday with banks, apart from NAB, leading the way after an upbeat assessment of the economy and banking system by the Reserve Bank. The all ordinaries index closed 10.5 points higher at 3395.7 while the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 13 points to 3399.8. On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the June share price index contract was 21 points stronger at 3411 - an 11.2-point premium to the underlying index - on a volume of 3411 contracts. "The market has broken the recent downtrend, mainly thanks to heavy action in the banks in the afternoon session. "It was super strong after comments from the RBA sank home," ABN Amro Morgans private client adviser Kylie Harding said. In the first edition of its twice-yearly Financial Stability Review, the Reserve Bank of Australia said the nation's financial system was in good shape overall, although there was a risk low interest rates could fuel excessive borrowing. Bendigo Bank added 6c to $10.61, while Commonwealth Bank rose 50c to $33, ANZ leapt 35c to $19.20 and Westpac jumped 30c to $17.99. Only National Australia Bank suffered, losing 22c to $31.14. Bionic earmaker Cochlear leapt 65c to $19.55 and winemaker Southcorp 10c to $2.96. Rio Tinto closed 51c lower at $33.90. Other resources stocks did not fare well either, with Alumina drifting 7c to $5.25 and BHP Billiton closing steady at $11.95. Telstra was down 4c at $4.58 while rival telco and Optus parent Singapore Telecommunications slipped 1c to $1.83. The News Corporation Ltd managed to put on 1c to $11.50 as its preferred scrip rose 7c to $10.19 by the close. Kerry Packer's PBL added 5c to $11.73 and Fairfax was up 2c at $3.32. Coles Myer was 4c higher at $8.06, while Woolworths charged 19c ahead to $11.85 by the close. After its recent charge on bumper results, profit-taking in David Jones pulled it back 3c to $1.58. Gold miner Sons of Gwalia firmed 6c to $2.74, Newcrest closed flat at $12.50, Newmont Mining dropped 2c to $5.90 and Lihir Gold shaved off 1c to $1.11. Suncorp Metway added 9c to $14.29 after saying it expected to record a pre-tax profit of about $30 million in the half year to June from the sale of its 15.4 per cent holding in Cashcard. Shares in Novogen shot up a further 15 per cent following an 8 per cent rise on Wednesday amid speculation of positive results from trials in the US on the use of anti-cancer drug phenoxodiol in the treatment of ovarian cancer. The shares added 90c to $7.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 03/26/2004

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YAP, FSM: Credit Union Opens Doors

COLONIA, Yap --- Breaking a monopoly created by the 2002 Bank of Hawaii branch closure, a community credit union opened its doors last week during the island state's annual cultural celebration."An hour ago there was only one bank in Yap," said Jesse Gajdusek, board member of the credit union named AYUW, the Yapese word for helping hand. "This is an opportunity to break a monopoly and give our people a choice."Yap is one of four states in the Federated States of Micronesia and was served only by the Bank of the FSM after Bank of Hawaii closed down branches throughout the FSM and in the Marshall Islands. Yap residents complained the Bank of the FSM was out-of-tune with local needs and could not give the service Yap needs as it develops."Decisions were being made in Pohnpei and they did not have our people's interest in mind," said Gajdusek.The credit union will provide all the basic functions a bank would, including wire transfers and loans, said Tim Taunton, president of the Pacific Savings Bank in Palau. Taunton led a group called Officers Management Corp. out of Palau that provided technical expertise for AYUW founders. The credit union starts with $500,000 in capital, Taunton said.The bank received strong support from the community, as well as elected officials and traditional leaders. Tony Ganngiyan, speaker of the Yap Legislature, said the government amended Yap laws that enable credit unions about a year ago to clear the way for a venture such as AYUW. "This is the very spirit of the Compact," said Ganngiyan, referring to an agreement with the United States that gives the FSM and Yap aid to develop private sectors.

From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/09/2004

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NEW ZEALAND: Government Considering Controversial Tax on Investments

The Government is looking at a controversial taxation regime for domestic savings, Finance Minister Michael Cullen said today. Laying out his tax policy programme until the end of 2005, Dr Cullen said officials who had been looking at taxing international investments on the risk-free rate of return method were now looking to see if it could apply to domestic saving entities as well. A Government official told NZPA the risk-free rate of return method took the opening value of an asset and applied a risk-free rate for that, which had been outlined in a discussion document as 4 per cent. That gave investors their taxable income to which normal marginal tax rates were applied. "So really what the risk-free rate of return is doing is it's calculating the amount of income to which normal tax rates are applied." Dr Cullen hedged on whether he was keen on the approach saying it raised "very complex issues". "Such an approach is worth exploring because it has the potential to provide improved consistency to the taxation of savings." In his speech to the International Fiscal Association conference in Christchurch, Dr Cullen did not mention the political difficulties in explaining how people would react to paying taxes even when they had lost money on their investment. Because the Government was now looking at implementing the risk-free rate of return domestically, it meant revamping the current "perverse" international investment regime would also be put on hold until after the 2005/2006 year. In the meantime officials would be working to plug the Australian unit tax loophole as soon as "practicable". "I am advised that a significant and growing amount of investment is now flowing into these structures, giving rise to a serious base maintenance concern," Dr Cullen said. Legislation to give a tax holiday on overseas income to foreigners and expatriates who had been away ten years and were coming to New Zealand as employees is also to be postponed until later in the year. Dr Cullen said the delay until the second tax bill was due to seeing whether the proposal could be extended beyond employees. The Government would from April 1 give tax breaks to venture capital profits that some non-residents made in New Zealand. Other areas highlighted in the work programme by Dr Cullen included: * Setting up a work programme to design ways to increase work-based retirement savings; * Negotiations with Australia on a double tax agreement, concluding the agreement with South Africa and giving effect to the agreements with Chile and the United Arab Emirates * Studying what drives capital investment in New Zealand including a review of tax depreciation rules; * Allowing deductibility for costs associated with patent and resource management consents and a wider review of other capital expenditure that can not currently be depreciated; and * Streamlining fringe benefit taxation. (by Ian Llewellyn)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/05/2004

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ANZ Learning How to Please Customers from National Bank Acquisition

The ANZ Bank says the National Bank of New Zealand is teaching it how to improve its relationship with customers. The ANZ bought the National Bank from Britain's Lloyds TSB last year for $6.27 billion. The deal got Reserve Bank approval on the condition it would run two banks in tandem, with separate boards and brands. In recent years, ANZ New Zealand has suffered from poor ratings in banking customer satisfaction surveys while the National Bank has been consistently highly placed. At a presentation to analysts this morning in Auckland, ANZ chief financial officer Peter Marriott said the ANZ in both New Zealand and Australia had learned much from the National Bank's operations. "It's brought with it an understanding about how to be successful in the consumer stakes," Mr Marriott said. "We've already seen the Australian consumer business leaders starting to learn some of the lessons of how the National Bank of New Zealand has been so successful and how that can be leveraged back into Australia." ANZ New Zealand/National Bank managing director Sir John Anderson, who has previously overseen bank mergers, said neither bank had seen any decline in customer numbers since the acquisition. "We are already seeing how well the dual brand and integration strategy is working with momentum in lending, new customers and high levels of staff satisfaction," Sir John, the former National Bank chief executive said. The integration of ANZ New Zealand and the National Bank was expected to be completed by the end of 2005, the bank said. It said the National Bank had enjoyed a strong underlying performance in the year ended December 2003 with net profit up 12.3 per cent excluding pro-forma and acquisition adjustments. The bank told analysts that momentum in New Zealand lending in 2003 had continued into early 2004 following the removal of uncertainty regarding the acquisition and management actions to rebuild and grow market share. It said the National Bank had continued to experience growth in net customer numbers in January and February 2004, reflecting a positive staff and customer reaction to the dual-branding strategy. "In the three months since completion overall customer attrition has been negligible, there have been no material financial or risk surprises and we have continued to be impressed by the quality of the business," Mr Marriott said. Sir John said the bank was working though integration planning and the next step was to commence detailed discussions on technology with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Meanwhile, ANZ reaffirmed its guidance of nine per cent cash earnings per share growth over the 2004 financial year across the entire group. "Credit quality is continuing to improve assisted by lower specific provisions in the group's offshore portfolio," the bank said in a statement. ANZ reaffirmed the forecasts made late last month. The bank is set to report its profit for the six months to March 31, 2004 on April 27.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/11/2004

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Reserve Bank No Backstop for Business

The Reserve Bank is emphasising that its new currency market intervention policy does not mean it will be doing businesses' hedging for them. In a paper released yesterday, the bank said it would not seek to smooth out the day-to-day, week-to-week or even year-to-year movements in the exchange rate. "Such volatility is clearly a nuisance, but businesses can and do deal with that by hedging their currency positions," the paper said. "What businesses can't deal easily with are the swings over several years from extremely high to extremely low exchange rates, swings that are out of keeping with changes in the economic situation." The kind of intervention it proposes would be limited to the extremes of the cycle, when the exchange rate was "clearly unjustifiable" in relation to the underlying economy. It would be opportunistic, rather than a "come what may" stand in the market against the odds. Finance Minister Michael Cullen, who has been hinting about the prospect of currency intervention since last November, has qualified these hints by expressing concerns about the "moral hazard" - that abandoning the bank's hands-off policy of the past 20 years would weaken firms' incentive to hedge against swings in the exchange rate. Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard, appearing before Parliament's finance and expenditure committee yesterday, cited a comment by Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier. Ferrier said it would be good for the Reserve Bank to have this capability but that businesses should not expect that it would replace their own hedging. "I absolutely agree with him on that," said Bollard. He also moved to correct the impression left by a comment last Thursday. Asked then if he could 2004-4-2think of a time in recent years when intervention might have been necessary he said: "No. We haven't taken the view that that would have been necessary, looking back in the past." Yesterday he said: "We don't know. It's hypothetical." (by Brian Fallow)

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/18/2004

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CHINA: Favorable Policies Boost Private Economic Development in Xinjiang

URUMQI (Xinhuanet) -- Private economy has rapidly developed in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region due to local government's favorable policies. In 2003, around 8,700 private enterprises were opened in Xinjiang, with a total registered capital of 15.6 billion yuan (about 1.9 billion US dollars), a year-on-year growth of 31.1 percent, said an official with the Xinjiang Industry and Commerce Administration. The regional government had adopted a series of favorable policies encouraging private economic development, said the official. The endeavor in infrastructure projects like water conservancy, communications and railway and highway construction would attract more foreign investment, the official said. The local government has simplified the approval procedures forprivate enterprises and canceled 34 charges, ensuring the healthy and rapid development of Xinjiang's private economy, said he.

From www.chinaview.cn 02/27/2004

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CPPCC Members on Developing Non State-Owned Sector

The non state-owned sectors have been playing an increasingly vital role in driving China's economic growth. And the country's top legislature is working to include provisions on protecting legitimate private property into its Constitution, and on supporting and guiding the growth of the non-state-owned sectors. At a press conference held today in Beijing by China's top advisory body, the CPPCC, members said that the inclusion of these provisions would serve as a catalyst, as well as provide positive guidance for the development of the non-state sectors. The amendments on protecting private property to be enshrined in the Constitution specify clearly the protection of "privately-owned" production and living materials. The amendments signal for the first time in China that the legislature has put private property on an equal footing with state-owned property. The amendments are sending a very positive sign to China's private entrepreneurs. Their legal interests and rights, as well as their endeavors to grow their businesses, will be fully protected by law. And these proactive efforts will be encouraged by the State. According to Liu Jiachen, member of CPPCC National Committee, "The protection of private property will benefit private investment, and encourage people to accumulate wealth, and increase input to expand production. They will serve to promote the economy and help the State to become wealthier and stronger." The CPPCC members also said the growth of the non state-owned sector would benefit the overall national economy. Another CPPCC member Li Yining said, ?¡ãThe entry of non state sectors into market competition will give state-owned enterprises a sense of urgency, and force them to rely on technical innovation and reform to improve their performance. In the long run, this will be good for the growth of the state-owned sector. " At the ongoing NPC and CPPCC sessions, many delegates also held that the Constitutional amendments on protecting private property would also serve as an effective check on the behavior of a few overly aggressive or unscrupulous government employees, and others. Especially those that may attempt to abuse their authority, encroaching upon the legal interests of small, privately owned businesses. Overall, the CPPCC members promoted the idea that the constitutional protection of private property would help create a safe environment for the healthy development of private businesses in China.

From CCTV News 03/09/2004

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Private Firm to Enter Auto Industry

Hejia Group, a Sichuan-based private enterprise, is entering the lucrative auto parts and components industry and plans to list its business in the United States, according to its President Xia Chaojia. The move makes Hejia another auto-related Sichuan enterprise, following China's top liquor producer Wuliangye Group, gearing up to enter the bullish car industry. "We have started to establish our own auto parts industrial park since last year, and we are preparing to list the business in the United States this year," Xia said. Hejia, with agriculture and valve production as its traditional mainstays, has invested a total of 500 million yuan (US$60.5 million) into establishing a 20-hectare industrial park in the province's Xindu area. "This is only the initial investment," said Xia, who is also a deputy to the 10th National People's Congress, although no further details were made available for the time being Hejia seemingly has long been prepared to elbow its way into the auto market and develop it into a new profit engine. It has already been engaged in vehicle repairs for some time, and the ambitious firm also set up a distribution centre for Chinese auto parts in the United States last September. This will make it easier for Chinese auto parts to be imported into the United States. Analysts say Hejia's bold entry into the profitable auto sector is a "good" attempt, but they cautioned the company should be wary of the challenges ahead to ensure that the investment is truly "worthwhile." "China's car sector has become a new magnet (for investors)," said Jia Xinguang, a leading auto market analyst with the China National Automotive Industry Consulting and Development Corp. China produced a total of 4.4 million cars in 2003, and became the world's fourth-largest car producer. The average profit rate of the sector could stand at 20-30 per cent, according to observers. Auto parts supply is also expected to surge in 2004 to cater to rising domestic and international demand. "(So) it's easy to understand why Hejia is elbowing its way in," Jia said. However, as a newcomer, Hejia will find it difficult to stand out among thousands of auto parts makers on the world's fastest-growing market, Jia cautioned. "The low-end market is competitive and delivers low profits, so Hejia should stick to a high-end approach," Jia said. "To beat veterans, a newcomer should start at a higher technological level." Seeking partnership with international car giants could be a good way to enhance Hejia's technological capacity, helping it win a better position. Jia also advised the fledgling player to conduct acquisitions and mergers when the time is right. "This will help the firm mature and shape its sales network. It's better than establishing such a network from scratch," he said. Hejia has been making efforts to diversify its business scope since it gained the leading position in valve manufacturing. Before making inroads into the auto parts sector, the company has explored such sectors as pharmaceuticals, transportation and aviation, real estate, information technology and trading. "Great achievements have been made in all these sectors," said a proud Xia.

From China Daily 03/10/2004

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JAPAN: Koizumi Clears Road to Highway Privatization

National and local governments are likely to hold "more than one third of shares" in new privatized toll road operators despite officials pressing the government to take a majority stake, it was learned Friday. Officials had been hoping for the government to hold more than 50 percent of shares in new expressway operators to replace four public corporations. This was based on plans to help new concerns secure operational funds easily and to prevent foreign businesses from buying excessive amounts of their shares. But Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has told officials in charge that the national government's share holdings in the new enterprises should be as small as possible, a move that could pave the way for the new operators to be fully privatized, sources said. Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Nobuteru Ishihara will approve the final draft of the bill to partially sell-off the organizations early next week, the sources said.

From Mainichi Shimbun 02/27/2004

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Furor over Postal Reform Minister Rumbles on

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi went on the defensive Friday after posts minister Taro Aso voiced anger at being bypassed in a decision to appoint a postal privatization minister. "I only answered (that such a post would be formed) because you reporters asked whether I would," the prime minister told reporters Friday night, stressing that it was not an official announcement. "And I didn't explain it to anybody else." On Tuesday, Koizumi told reporters of his plans to appoint a special minister in charge of privatizing the nation's postal services, although Aso is the minister who oversees mail delivery, postal savings and postal insurance operations. At a regular news conference Friday morning, Aso indicated he was displeased at the plan, saying, "Nothing has been explained to me yet." Koizumi rushed to patch things up, noting that Aso himself is now a reformist who advocates the postal privatization initiative. "Mr. Aso realizes well the importance of this reform," he said. "So he now is willing to cooperate with us." But Aso, a former policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, is widely considered to be reluctant to overhaul the nation's postal services. Aso has argued that the mail, savings and insurance services should be kept intact under a new privatized body, not divided or abolished through privatization. Despite his comments Friday, Koizumi has already bypassed Aso in launching postal reform discussions. Koizumi has tasked Financial Services Minister Heizo Takenaka to draw up the framework of the privatization plan by the fall at the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, an advisory body that operates under the prime minister. "I think (Koizumi) may come to need a fair judge to coordinate (the interests of) the financial and postal sectors," one senior government official said, asking not to be named. (by Reiji Yoshida)

From The Japan Times 03/06/2004

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Competition Heats Up for Japan's Private Equity Pie

Emboldened by the successful exit of U.S. fund Ripplewood Holdings from Shinsei Bank, foreign private equity firms in Japan have high hopes for 2004 but they face growing competition for a limited number of potential deals. The float in February of a 33 percent stake in Shinsei, which raised $2.35 billion, netted big gains for shareholders including Deutsche Bank and General Electric Co's GE Capital division. The Ripplewood consortium, which had paid $1.09 billion to the government for the bank, realised gains of just over $1 billion and the value of their remaining shares has since soared over 60 percent above the initial public offering price. The IPO, Japan's biggest in six years, is expected to spur more deals involving foreign funds such as Lone Star and the Carlyle Group. "People now know you can do it in Japan," said Mitsubishi Research Institute analyst Motoya Kitamura. "People know you can make money." But foreign funds hoping to emulate Ripplewood's success are likely to face increased competition from domestic funds such as Unison Capital and JAFCO for a shrinking pool of investment prospects as Japan shakes off its decade-long recession and corporate health improves. Japan's Phoenix Capital Co, founded in January 2002, launched its third fund in mid-February, raising its committed investment to around 100 billion yen ($906 million). "There is too much money chasing after too few deals," said Tetsuya Fukagawa, managing director of Warburg Pincus Japan, who declined to disclose how much his fund has invested in Japan. Japan's unique mix of prolonged economic stagnation, low interest rates, languishing stocks and mountains of bad loans has long drawn the bulk of private equity funds invested in Asia. According to Asian Venture Capital Journal, Japan attracted $7.3 billion in new investment last year compared with $2.38 billion in 2002. Investment in Japan dwarfed the $3.3 billion notched up by South Korea, the second most popular destination for private equity capital. Australia drew $2.8 billion and China $1.28 billion. Deals in Japan included U.S. firm Colony Capital's $915 million investment in troubled retailer Daiei as well as Ripplewood's purchase of Japan Telecom's fixed-line operations from Britain's Vodafone Group Plc for $2.4 billion. The vast majority of deals sealed by foreign funds have been on the back of bankruptcies, but the number of such cases has been dropping as the economy improves. The number of corporate bankruptcies fell for a 14th consecutive month in February, dropping 24 percent from a year earlier, according to research firm Teikoku Databank. Many analysts also also say that Shinsei, which received over $72 billion to clear up bad loans before being handed over by a government desperate for its rescue, was a special case and that the available pool of potential deals is shrinking. Analysts say most deals -- which fall below $100 million -- are snapped up by domestic funds, which do not have to make the minimum returns of 25-30 percent required by some foreign funds. "There isn't a shortage of money now," said Ross Kerley, managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers Japan Financial Advisory Services. "It's about finding the opportunities which will satisfy their investment requirements." With an estimated 50 private equity firms grappling for a smaller deal pool, bid prices have a lot of room to rise, slowing restructuring efforts and eventual exits. And IPO exits such as Shinsei are still hard to come by in a market with only a short history of private equity activity. "This market has been expanding rapidly but is still limited," said BNP Paribas Japan President Keishi Fujii. "Investors are still cautious and few have clear investment policies." But the ranks of private equity bankers headed for Japan continues to swell. With executives vying for pricey apartments in upscale Roppongi Hills, home to the Japanese headquarters of Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers, once-familiar faces have become a blur to industry veteran Kitamura. "Five years ago, everybody knew everybody," he said. "Nowadays, people are asking me, 'I saw this guy in the newspaper, can you tell me who he is?'" (by Chawadee Nualkhair)

From http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ 03/16/2004

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Toyota Ranks 8th on Forbes' Corporate Rankings in 2004

Toyota Motor Corp. was the highest-ranked Japanese company in Forbes magazine's 2004 corporate rankings, moving up to the eighth spot from 10th in 2003, the U.S. business magazine said Thursday. U.S. banking giant Citigroup was in top place on the Forbes 2,000 list of the world's leading companies based on sales, assets, profits and market value. General Electric Co. came second, followed by American International Group Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., BP Plc, the Bank of America and HSBC Group, Toyota, Fannie Mae and Wall-Mart Stores Inc. Five other Japanese companies appear in the top 100. They are Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. at 30th, Honda Motor Co. at 49th, Nissan Motor Co. at 51st, Tokyo Electric Power Co. at 72nd and Sony Corp. at 82nd. The Forbes 2,000 list appears in the April 12 issue.

From http://asia.news.yahoo.com/ 03/26/2004

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SOUTH KOREA: Private Tutoring Expenses Doubled in 5 Years

Spending on extra education increased to 10 trillion won,central bank says. Despite government efforts to improve the public education system and ease the burden for households of bearing supplemental education costs, spending on private tutoring has doubled over the past five years to 10 trillion won, according to a report by the Bank of Korea. The 2003 National Account Statistical Report released by the BOK yesterday also found that the amount spent simply on private tutoring fees grew two-fold to 4.2 trillion won over the last three years. Statistics from the report revealed that households cited the following reasons for spending on supplemental education: preparation for college entrance exams, extracurricular education and building foreign-language skills. Spending amounted to 9.4 trillion won last year, a 14.6 percent jump from 8.2 trillion won recorded in 2002. The report shows that education costs per household have been steadily climbing for the past five years since the Asian currency crisis in 1998. Supplemental education costs that year amounted to 4.7 trillion won. The figure rose to 5.1 trillion won in 1999, 6 trillion won in 2000, 7.4 trillion won in 2001, and then expanded two-fold by 2003. Excluding academic institutes, spending on private tutoring, group lessons and online programs last year totaled 4.2 trillion won, a 27 percent rise from 3.3 trillion won recorded in 2002. The BOK says its statistics on enrollment fees at academic institutes were based on information provided by the National Tax Service and the National Statistical Office. Figures for more home-based private and group lessons, and online courses were based on material provided by the Ministry of Education. To take a clearer approach in compiling statistics for its latest report, the BOK said that it included private, group and online lessons in assessing each household's education spending. (by Yoo Soh-jung)

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/ 03/25/2004

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INDONESIAN: Govt Proposes Privatization of Merpati Airlines

The Indonesian government has submitted a proposal to the parliament for the privatization of PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines through an initial public offering, the airlines' president director, Hotasi Nababan, said. "The pattern will be an initial public offering to a maximum of 51 per cent, meaning it could be 20, 30 or 40 per cent," Hotasi said. The plan to privatize the airline has been discussed by related ministries, Hotasi said. However, Hotasi could not give a deadline for the privatization, saying that it might begin in 2005 or 2006.

From http://www.asiapulse.com 03/16/2004

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INDONESIA: Private Oil Firm EMP to Sell 25-30% Stake

The country's second largest privately owned oil and gas company PT Energi Mega Persada (EMP) plans to sell a large portion of its shares to the public next month via an initial public offering (IPO) to raise cash for development of its hydrocarbon resources. EMP finance director Nazamudin Latief told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the company planned to offer 25 percent to 30 percent of its shares to the public at the initial price of around Rp 100 per share. "We expect between Rp 425 billion (US$50 million) and Rp 510 billion in cash from the IPO, which will be used partly to finance the development of our new onshore oil and gas fields in East Java and Kondur Island (in the Strait of Malacca)," said Nazamudin. The company also plans to use some of the proceeds to seek new gas and oil resources, he said. The company has appointed PT Danatama Sekuritas as the lead underwriter for the IPO. EMP shares are expected to be listed on the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX) in May. EMP is the parent company of Panama-registered oil firm Kondur Petroleum S.A. and gas producer Lapindo Brantas Inc. Kondur produced 10,500 barrels of oil per day (bpd) last year from its production sharing contract (PSC) block in the Riau archipelago's Kondur island, which is believed to contain an oil reserve of 61 million barrels. Nazamudin said that this year, EMP had projected an increase in its oil production to around 12,000 bpd from Kondur. As for its gas business, EMP expected Lapindo Brantas, which operates PSC block in Brantas, East Java, to be able to produce 80 million cubic feet per day by the end of this year, up from the current 68 million to 70 million cubic feet per day, he said. Lapindo has a contract to sell gas to PT Perusahaan Gas Negara until 2008. According to Nazamudin, EMP recorded an operating revenue of around Rp 613 billion last year, with a profit of about Rp 115.8 billion. For this year, the company has estimated its revenue to surge to around Rp 623 billion with a profit of around Rp 190 billion, he said. EMP will be the country's second oil and gas company listed on the JSX after PT Medco Energi Internasional.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/20/2004

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SINGAPORE: Law Society to Check Law Firms

Plans are being drawn up to check law firms in Singapore, Law Society president Philip Jeyaretnam has revealed in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia. It is going to conduct more frequent inspections to make sure law firms obey the new rules to stop lawyers from running away from their clients' money. The Law Society is cleaning up the profession's image. It does not want to see any more cases of lawyers running away with their clients' money. So apart from a new set of rules on how to handle client's accounts, the Law Society is also planning to keep a closer eye on law firms. A panel of accountants will be tasked to check their books. "We have in the past done something called interventions into law firms but that tends to be in a situation when the problem has already occurred. By relying on inspections as opposed to interventions we can then have an impact at a much earlier stage," Mr Jeyaretnam said. "Of course that means you will inspect a law firm where there is nothing wrong at all. But that's a price to pay for the greater vigilance," he said. Did it really take an ultimatum from the Chief Justice to get these changes going? "The whole profession has been very much behind the need for tighter controls. The Chief Justice's aim all along has been to try and facilitate that and make sure that lawyers were properly focused and understood how seriously this was taken -- not so much within the legal community but outside it," said Mr Jeyaretnam. Changes to the solicitors accounts rules come into effect from 1 April. That is also the date when lawyers have to renew their practicing certificates. So what are the trends like? Is the Law Society seeing more lawyers not renewing their certificates and leaving the profession? "There are some distinct trends we have seen, particularly there have been opportunities for Singapore trained lawyers in other niches, like in-house counsel for multi-nationals -- not just Singapore but elsewhere in the region," Mr Jeyaretnam said. As for the spate of resignations at a top law firm recently, the Law Society says there has always been turnover soon after bonuses are paid, but that there isn't an industry-wide exodus.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/09/2004

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Protection of Minority Shareholders Enhances Company's Value

The value of a company goes up when minority shareholders' interests are well protected, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said. In its findings of a staff paper on corporate governance, the MAS said better investor protection leads to higher liquidity for a company's shares. It said although giving top managers a stake in a company encourages them to enhance firm value, their control of the company becomes strong and entrenched beyond a certain level of managerial ownership. When that happens, they may not always act in the interest of other minority shareholders. The MAS staff paper said Asian companies tended to select board members to help them develop their business, rather than to perform more of the role of monitoring and controlling the management.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/19/2004

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THAILAND: Privatisation: Battle Shifts To MCOT

Democracy and press freedom advocates along with consumer-protection activists yesterday added momentum to the campaign against the privatisation of state firms. The Campaign for Popular Democracy, the Campaign for Media Reform, and the Federation of Consumer Protection Organi-sations held a joint press conference to denounce privatisation, focussing their attack on the plan to privatise the Mass Commu-nication Organisation of Thailand (MCOT). MCOT was next in line to be privatised, following the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat). However, the government's privatisation plans have been set back by a protest by Egat employees. The Egat protest forced the government to postpone indefinitely its privatisation. Egat employees continue to rally at the state enterprises' head office, demanding the government cancel the plan for its listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The three groups said they would fight the government's plan to privatise state enterprises, especially MCOT. They said privatising MCOT would violate Article 40 of the Constitution. Article 40 required the establishment of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to regulate and distribute broadcast frequencies. But the government was trying to rush MCOT's privatisation so that business tycoons could take control of it before the NBC was established, they said. Cabinet approved MCOT's privatisation on January 20 and planned to carry out the privatisation by the end of the third quarter, ignoring the public's opposition, said the secretary-general of the Campaign for Media Reform, Supinya Klangnarong. The government has no right to sell MCOT market because that was the task of the yet-to-be formed NBC, Supinya said. If MCOT was listed on the stock exchange, businessmen could monopolise broadcasting media to serve their own interests and not the public's, she said. MCOT should serve the public not business interests, she added. The government's policies to privatise MCOT and other state firms were not transparent, she said. Sairung Thongplon, president of the Federation of Consumer Protection Organisations, said the rush to privatise MCOT indicated that the government wanted to hand it over to business interests before the NBC was formed to protect the public's interest. Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the Campaign for the Popular Democracy, said he would call on senators to seek a ruling from the Constitution Court as to whether the government would violate Article 40 by listing the MCOT on the stock market before the NBC is formed.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/15/2004

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VIETNAM: Conference Pushes Up Equitisation Programme

The State should expand the list of State-owned businesses preparing for equitisation and speed up the process, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said. He attended a two-day national conference reviewing the slow progress of restructuring State-owned businesses and searching for measures to fast-track the process in 2004-05. The Government would allow some businesses to issue shares to mobilise capital this year; these corporations could list on the stock market and sell shares to foreign investors. It would issue suitable priority policies to encourage individuals and multi-economic sectors to invest and produce items and services allowed by laws and needed by society, said Dung. Under a master plan approved by the Prime Minister for 2004-05, more State-owned businesses must be restructured in accordance with the Ninth National Party Congress' resolutions, he said. State-owned businesses operating in the electricity, generation, metallurgy, engineering, chemicals, fertilisers, cement, construction, road and water transportation, airlines, maritime communications, telecommunications, banking and insurance sectors would be equitised by 2005. By the year end, restructuring activities would include the Import-Export Corporation issuing bonds to mobilise capital investment; the Vietnam Machinery Installation Corporation (Lilama) selling part of the corporation's State-held capital along with issuing bonds; the Corporation for Trade and Transport Construction and the Sai Gon Tourism Corporation selling part of their State capital. Businesses earmarked for restructuring include Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank), the Cuu Long Housing Development Bank, and Song Hinh, Vinh Son, Thac Ba, and Ninh Binh electricity plants. Companies, with less than VND5 billion ($319,000) capital that can not be restructured, will be transferred, sold or leased, as already allowed by the PM. For disbanded or bankrupt enterprises, Dung said more attention must be paid to their redundant workers and creditors to avoid the situation of making a loss on State property. Dung also advocated the restructure of suitable State-owned businesses into the parent-subsidiary model, and trialling the formation of economic groups in telecommunications, power, oil and gas and construction industries.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/17/2004

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BANGLADESH: On-line Facilities of ONE Bank at Ctg Port

ONE Bank Limited has acquired the rare privilege of becoming the first private sector commercial bank to be accorded the permission by the Chittagong Port Authority to collect port charges and fees through its booth located in the Port's Terminal Building. Chittagong Port has also formally opened an account with ONE Bank Limited for smooth transfer of funds from shipping companies towards settlement of their dues. The event has paved the way for all licenced port users to do away with cash transactions and deposit the port dues with any of ONE Bank's branches in Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong through the Bank's On-line banking channel and clear their consignments. The eligibility of ONE Bank to collect port dues has ushered in the days of e-banking within the port and fulfills the long felt need of the different port users for modem banking services to conduct their day to day financial transactions.

From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 03/16/2004

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Petrobangla Being Turned into Holding Company Soon

In a major development in the country's energy turf under the current wave of restructuring, the government is going to turn the state-run oil-gas-mineral corporation Petrobangla into a holding company, reports UNB. Although the move had begun in the form of paperwork in 1995, officials said the government now moved decisively to corporatize the functionary of the corporation as part of ongoing reforms in the sector, as also in other fields. The move is concomitant with another to make Power Development Board a holding company after donors promised US$2 billion in investment in the power sector for this restructuring of the PDB. Although functions of the PDB and the Petrobangla are not similar, the officials said the conversion of Petrobangla to a holding company would make it more transparent and accountable as in case of the PDB. They said the need for change in the approach to Petrobangla function intensified after the companies under the corporation got autonomy to work under the Company Act. This was the key agenda that dominated the second meeting of the Energy Advisory Committee on Wednesday with its Chairman and State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources AKM Mosharraf Hossain in the chair. Committee members, both from public and private sectors, came up with observations that Petrobangla cannot continue its function as in the past following the changes made to its companies. After the companies got the status to run under the Company Act, now the boards are independent to take decisions and implement those, keeping Petrobangla virtually at bay from direct commercial operations. Basically the present tasks of the Petrobangla are coordination, adopting future plans and development activities and evaluating the performances of the companies. When contacted, State Minister for Energy AKM Mosharraf Hossain said certain changes are needed after the companies started acting under the Company Act, but there has not been any decision finalised. "Either we need to make Petrobangla a holding company or corporatize it. We will review the observations of the Energy Advisory Committee and chalk out future plans," he told UNB after the meeting. He said following the reforms in the sector, the Petrobangla should now function as a true owner. "Since Petrobangla owns the government shares in the companies, it should work as a true shareholder." He dismissed speculations that it's all a bid to curtail power of the Petrobangla. Rather, he said, it is necessary to bring more dynamism in operations of the Petrobangla companies. Meanwhile, the Energy Advisory Committee in its meeting decided to put the draft of the amended National Energy Policy (NEP) on website to elicit opinions from all concerned quarters before its finalisation. The NEP is being amended as, the experts said, in many cases it simply became mere statement without specific guidelines. The mended NEP will now show the ways of carrying out necessary tasks in the energy sector. The meeting suggested that the officials of Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (BAPEX) who have no specific job in the highly technical organisation be transferred elsewhere. The Advisory Committee praised the government for trying to strengthen the lone national exploration company and the government's decision to give the BAPEX a free hand in making necessary appointments. Among others present at the meeting were committee members Prof M Nurul Islam and Prof M Tamim of BUET, Energy Association Vice-Chairman Azam J Chowdhury and Energy Division Secretary Nazrul Islam.

From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 03/18/2004

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BHUTAN: Private Sector Requests Excise Refund

The Bhutan chamber of commerce and industry (BCCI) has requested the government to "explore possibilities" of refunding the excise duty refunded by the government of India, on certain goods, to the importers directly. BCCI, which represents the private sector, made the request on the grounds that the excise refund was the rightful revenue of the importers. "There had been great pressure from the business community to request the refund to be paid back to the traders," said the BCCI general secretary, Tshering Dorji. "We are requesting it on the grounds that the refund would be an incentive to establish new industries and improve price competitiveness. "With many educated people joining the business line, there has been a lot of pressure from the business community." Excise refund is the money paid by the government of India to the Bhutanese government after verifying the excise duty imposed on goods imported to Bhutan. The Indian government levies excise duty on almost all manufactured goods purchased by Bhutanese importers."It is a standard practice worldwide to refund the money to the importers, besides we would have already paid the duty at the time of the purchase," the secretary added. A private sector representative said that refunding the money to the businessmen would generate competitiveness in the product of the manufacturers and factories in Bhutan. "These would reduce the cost of the raw materials and lower the cost of production," he said. "Duty on Import of capital goods and raw materials should be considered since they make the cost considerably higher." It would be unreasonable to ask for a total refund on all the goods, another said. But refund on capital goods and raw materials with proper invoice and documentation should be looked into, he added. "The mechanism of refund at the government level does not at all benefit the private sector and the industrial projects," he said. The issue was discussed several times in the executive and annual meetings of the committee for private sector development before putting up in the finance ministry. The latest excise duty refund (2002) payable by the government of India amounted to about Nu 471 million. The deputy secretary of policy and planning division of the finance ministry, Karma Tshiteem, said that the government was looking into the issue of reimbursing excise duty to private buyers. "The excise duty refund should not be a disadvantage to the business firms which import raw materials and then export the intermediated products back to India," he said. "We need to study the proposal properly in order to strike a balance between loss of revenue and the interest of the businessmen." (by Ugyen Penjor)

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/27/2004

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INDIA: Govt Hikes FDI Ceiling in Private Banks to 74%

Government on Friday hiked foreign investment ceiling in private banks from 49 to 74 per cent and allowed foreign banks to set up subsidiaries in the country. A Government notification said the overall foreign holding of 74 per cent will include foreign direct investment (FDI), foreign institutional investments (FII), NRI investments, initial public offers, private placements and ADRs/GDRs. Individual FII holding cannot exceed 10 per cent while the aggregate FII limit would be restricted to 26 per cent, which can go up to 49 per cent through the approval of the bank's board. Government also allowed foreign banks to open subsidiary in the country or operate through branches or a private bank with a maximum holding of 74 per cent stake. This assumes importance for foreign banks like HSBC, ABN AMRO Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Nova Scotia which are eyeing subsidiaries in India following the relaxation of FDI norms. A foreign bank can set up a subsidiary either through conversion of existing branches into a subsidiary or through a fresh licence from RBI. The FDI hike in banking sector was first suggested by the NK Singh panel but the Finance Ministry and RBI have added a slew of stringent conditionalities to prevent ownership of banks going into wrong hands. The FDI ceiling will not be applicable for PSU banks while the limit remains at 26 per cent for insurance companies.

From http://hindustantimes.com/ 03/05/2004

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NEPAL: Govt. to Privatize NTC

The government on Monday has formulated a policy to open the telecom services to the private sector and to change government owned Nepal Telecommunications Corporation (NTC) into a company, a daily said Wednesday. According to Kantipur dainik, the decision will be executed only after the announcement is publicized through a government gazette. According to the report, the government has also decided to reduce telecom taxes as the communications costs in Nepal are relatively expensive in the region. With the view to make telecommunications services available and affordable in the rural areas, the government has also decided to establish a Rural Telecommunications Fund. In addition, formulation of cyber law is stressed in the policy. Sushil Ghimire, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), said that the government's decision to change NTC into a company will improve the service of the NTC. "It is very positive. The telecommunications service will be more accessible and also cheaper," Ghimire said. "First, NTC's property must be evaluated and then shares will be issued to general public," he added. Talking to the Nepalnews, Sabat Ratna Kansakar, Deputy General Manager (DGM) of the NTC, commented the decision as 'wise and positive'. "The decision encourages competition. It will accelerate the expansion and improve the quality of telecom services in Nepal." "The decision is not a new concept in Nepal, United telecom Limited (UTL) has been already permitted in Nepal for telephones," Kansakar added. After the decision comes into effect, NTC's monopoly in mobile-phone services will terminate. According to the report, the NTC will be privatized by next year.

From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/10/2004

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PAKISTAN: Pakistan to Seek Backing for Utility Reform

Pakistan will seek fresh support from its main donors' meeting today for a planned reform of its biggest power company, whose continuing losses are a drain on government revenues. The government-owned Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), which provides electricity to almost 90 per cent of Pakistani consumers, has been running at a loss for years. A general from the military's engineers corps who was heading Wapda was withdrawn late last year after a five-year effort to cut losses. The government has appointed a business executive to run the company. "Our aim is to reform and privatise Wapda," said Shaukat Aziz, the finance minister, told the FT. Details of the plan are to be presented at a special session of the donors' conference. Western economists say at least a quarter of the electricity generated is lost either because of poor maintenance of transmission lines or because corrupt company officials give users illegal connections. Wapda is forecast to lose at least Rs25bn ($452m, $369m, ¡ê250m) in the financial year to June 30. Mr Aziz said Wapda's loss was expected to be significantly lower than last years' Rs39.8bn but agreed that the company had to make a more vigorous effort to become profitable. At the donors' meeting Pakistan will also discuss other reforms made possible by the country's recent economic recovery. Mr Aziz said the economy was set to grow by 5.5-6 per cent this year, up from the government's target of 5.3 per cent. Prospects for the economy have been helped by higher than expected agricultural growth of 4.3 per cent following improved monsoon rains, and industrial growth of about 8.8 per cent. Exports rose 14 per cent to $7.9bn during the first eight months of the financial year while imports rose 17 per cent to $9.1bn in the same period. But western economists attending the donors' meeting warned that Pakistan faced a significant challenge in tackling widespread poverty. "Almost a third of Pakistan's population of 145m is below the poverty line. Economic recovery cannot be for real unless it begins to improve lives of the poor," said one. (by Farhan Bokhari)

From http://news.ft.com/ 03/17/2004

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PTCL Privatisation: Company Bosses Asked to Give Opinion Within Three Months

ISLAMABAD - The Board of Directors and the management of Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Limited have been asked to draw up a restructuring plan to move the monopoly entity towards privatisation, it is reliably learnt. This decision was taken at a meeting chaired by President General Pervez Musharraf on Thursday, where proposals for selling the company as an integrated entity were presented as well as strong arguments in favour of restructuring the country's telecommunication sector, mainly stressing that the break-up of PTCL would enhance competition, result in tariff reduction and give the consumers a choice to link with efficient operators. However, it was felt that as the government had recently placed a new chairman, Zafar A. Khan, and Managing Director Junaid Khan at the helm, it would be fit and proper that they be given an opportunity to carry out an in-depth review of the proposals from both sides and give their professional views to the government on the contentious issues. There is no dispute about selling off Paknet Limited, Carrier Telephone Industries, Telephone Industries of Pakistan as a single manufacturing entity. Siemens of Germany are already partners with PTCL in these entities and are said to be interested in acquiring the government stakes. There is, however, disagreement over the sale of the non-core asset Pakistan Telecom Mobile Limited (Ufone) as a spin-off, and later breaking the national and international infrastructure into local loop companies and a long distance backbone company and then privatising them in smaller parcels. Adoption of this methodology, it is claimed, would reduce monopoly power, increase competition and teledensity. On the other hand, it is argued that if 26 percent of integrated PTCL is sold to a strategic investor the government could earn Rs 70 billion or $1.2 billion. PTCL currently trades at price to earnings multiple of 8.5 times. Comparable companies such as Singtel, Singapore, are trading at a price to earnings multiple of 12 times. Even if PTCL's multiple rises to 10 times within a period of two to three years ie from Rs 4.50 per share to Rs 6.00 per share (around Rs 70), the 62 percent of PTCL owned by the government would be worth Rs 234 billion or $4.1 billion as against Rs 130 billion or $2.3 billion currently. Furthermore, it is said that a more efficient and profitable PTCL would generate greater taxes as well as higher dividends for the government. From the other side, it is forcefully argued that the ability of a regulator such as PTA to regulate a private monopoly will be substantially weaker than its ability to regulate a public sector monopoly and the assumption that new licence holders would be able to enter and compete with regional monopolies within the country for the benefit of telecom users would not materialise as seen in a lot of countries. PTCL big guns have been given 90 days to give their recommendations on whether to sell it as an integrated entity or restructure the company and sell it in smaller parcels.

From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/26/2004

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AZERBAIJAN: Azercell to Be Privatized by Year-End

A 51% government-owned stake in Azerbaijani mobile phone operator Azercell will be sold before the end of 2004, Economic Development Minister Farkhad Aliev predicted. Earlier Telecommunications Minister Ali Abbasov said the sale might not take place in 2004. "The Azercell privatization process is proceeding normally," Aliev told the press on Thursday. "It is difficult to say now how much the state stake will go for." Azerbaijan hopes to receive from $12 million to $15 million. CA IB Corporate Finance Beratungs GMbH and OMNI are the consultants for the privatization. Fintur Holdings BV owns the other 49% of the company, which has operated on Azerbaijan's mobile phone market since 1996.

From http://www.interfax.com 03/26/2004

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IRAN: 5 Power Plants on Privatization List

Following the recent parliamentary approval to privatize 10 power plants, the shares of five state-controlled power plants will be ceded to private ownership in the next Iranian year, beginning March 20. Bahman Masoudi, deputy head of the Tavanir (Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution) Company, told ISNA that the total power generation capacity of these five power plants stands at 1,000 megawatts. He stressed that these power plants are located in Tehran, Sistan-Baluchestan, Kerman and Khorasan provinces, adding it is possible to have some 'public institutions' among the bidders. He said the contract to cede the shares of Zargan Power Plant to the Mostazafan and Janbazan Foundation (MJF) has now been finalized and that the plant will be taken over by the MJF by late March. Masoudi also said that talks are underway with Astan-e Qods-e Razavi to cede the shares of a power plant in the northeastern Khorasan province. "Since private investors have not undertaken deals in power plants in the past and this is a new thing in the national economy, ceding the shares of these plants will be time-consuming," he maintained, stressing that all related government institutions must join hands in this regard.

From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 03/07/2004

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State-run Companies to Be Privatized, Reinsurance to Be Developed

Amending the insurance rules and regulations, strengthening the supervisory role of the Central Insurance Department, increasing the efficiency of the insurance industry, observing international standards, establishing reinsurance companies, and developing the practice of reinsurance are among the main goals in the field of insurance in the Fourth National Economic Development Plan (2005-2010). A Central Insurance Department official told the Mehr News Agency that observing the fundamentals of providing services, increasing oversight of insurance activities, and privatization of state-run insurance companies are some of the necessary steps which will be taken during the Fourth Development Plan. Gholamali Sobat added that there are also plans to support the private sector and facilitate the activities of foreign insurance companies in order to improve the efficiency of the country’s insurance companies. After amending and improving the regulations and structure of state-run insurance companies, they are to be privatized according to a cabinet plan that will be drawn up in the near future, he said. He added that the privatization of state-run insurance companies will follow a specific schedule. He also expressed hope that the regulatory and executive problems pertaining to privatization of state-run companies would soon be resolved.

From http://www.tehrantimes.com/ 03/07/2004

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KAZAKHSTAN: Pension Fund to be Privatized in 2004

Kazakhstan's Economic Policy Council, which functions under the country's cabinet, decided on 5 March that the State Pension Fund will be privatized this year, Kazinform reported. According to National Bank Chairman Anvar Saidenov, the privatization will take place with the help of strategic investors and international financial institutions. Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov chaired the meeting, which approved the council's 2004 agenda. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/08/2004

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AUSTRALIA: T3 Bill Passes Reps

THE House of Representatives has passed legislation paving the way for the full privatisation of telecommunications giant Telstra. The government will now face an uphill battle getting the bill through the Senate, which rejected a similar piece of legislation last year. If the bill is rejected a second time it adds to a raft of double dissolution triggers available to the government. Rebel Liberal backbencher Alby Schultz abstained from the vote, while Nationals MP Kay Hulls, who voiced reservations about privatisation last time, was absent in hospital. The bill was passed 75 votes to 62, with independents Tony Windsor and Peter Andren, as well as Australian Greens MP Michael Organ voting with Labor against the legislation. Queensland independent Bob Katter was not in the chamber. Australian Progressive Alliance Senator Meg Lees told reporters this morning the government had not yet attempted to begin negotiations with the independent senators over the Telstra bill. The government would need the support of either the Australian Democrats or the four independents including Senator Lees to sell the last 51.05 per cent public share of the telco. Australian Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett ruled out supporting the sale.

From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 03/11/2004

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Medibank Continues Turnaround

Australia's biggest private health fund Medibank Private continued its financial turnaround as it reported a profit of $11.2 million for the first half of 2003/04. The government-owned insurer produced an $8.4 million improvement on its six-month result from a year ago, when it reported a profit of $2.8 million. The improving fortunes of Medibank contrast with its $175.5 million loss for 2001/02, which it blamed on a huge increase in claims and poor investment returns. Last month the government gave health funds permission to increase their premiums by an average 7.5 per cent, which will take effect from April. In a statement, Medibank said its market share slipped slightly from a year ago to 29.4 per cent from 30 per cent. It said revenue from contributions grew to $1.18 billion from $1.08 billion at the same time last year. The insurer paid out benefits of $1.09 billion to members, up from $1.01 billion last year. Medibank managing director George Savvides said the fund had continued its strategy to restore and maintain profitability, while aiming to keep premiums at a sustainable level. "Medibank has achieved a sound financial result at the half-year mark against the challenging backdrop of cost increases in the provision of health services and the rising benefit payments being made on behalf of members," he said. Mr Savvides said Medibank's financial turnaround remained firmly on track. "But there is clearly still more to be done, in particular in better managing member benefit outlay growth and fostering e-commerce initiatives to obtain core business efficiencies," he said.

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 03/16/2004

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