March 2005, Issue 40
Contact Us:  apcib@apcity.org
 
 
  Visa-Free Travel Expected Within Southeast Asian Nations by End-2005
ADB And OECD Sign Agreement for Cooperation
EU Sees Better Ties with Southeast Asia as Key to Fighting Terror
Small and Medium Enterprises Encouraged to Form Industry Clusters
Proposed U.N. Changes
 
  CHINA: Top Legislature Passes Criminal Law Amendment
Legislature Passes Renewable Energy Bill
New Law to Guarantee Free Migration
China to Enact First Anti-Sexual Harassment Law
Macro-Controls Continued in 2005
Top Legislature Passes Anti-Secession Law
Rice Says US Remains Committed to One-China Policy
JAPAN: Rights Bill Envisages Media Controls
Gov't Unveils Civil Aviation Security Plan
140 Lawmakers to Submit Daylight Saving Time Bill
Japan Confirms End of Major Yen Loans to China by 2008 Beijing Olympics
Cabinet OKs Bill to Delay M&A Reform
Koizumi Aiming to Submit Postal Bills in April
Cabinet Approves Emergency Guidelines
The Draft of "Japan 21st Century Vision" Diametrically Opposed Futures
Two Koreas Strike Copyright Agreement
SOUTH KOREA: Male-Oriented Family Registry System to Change in 2008
2006 Better Year for Constitutional Ammendment Debate: PM
National Assembly Passes Bill on Construction of 'Administrative' City
Nation Seeks Balanced Development of Army, Navy, Air Force
Ministry Issues Management Criterion to Protect Personal Information
MONGOLIA: Mongolian Laws Compiled
 
  Govt Revives Idea for Tax Amnesty
Govt Finalizing Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Plan
Govt Mulls Idea of Free Education for Children
MALAYSIA: A Guide on How to Enforce Laws
PHILIPPINES: Lawmaker Wants Govt Body to Set Price of Medicines
Senate Acts on Recto¡¯s Version of VAT Law to Raise Revenues
Senate Speeds Up Passage of VAT Law Before Recess
Govt Set to Streamline Use of Issued ID Cards
SINGAPORE: Accounting Bodies Favour Tightening of Rules in Revised Corporate Governance Code
10-Year Masterplan to Chart Singapore's Future in Infocomm Technology
VIETNAM: Enterprise Law Needs Fine-Tuning
Ministry Set to Adopt Five New Audit Standards
Copyright Laws Caught on Web
 
  BHUTAN: Draft Constitution to Be Distributed to All Bhutanese
INDIA: New Delhi Decides Not to Open Up Legal, Financial Services Despite Western Pressure
IMF Sees More Investment Under Gov't Reform Agenda
SRI LANKA: Govt Announces New Measures: Speedy Clearance for Relief, Reconstruction Goods
Govt to Purchase the Highest Amount of Paddy
World Bank Asks Government to Approve Water Policy in a Month
MALDIVES: Gayoom Urges Nation to Pull Together to Restore Economy
Cabinet Discusses Progress in National Recovery Efforts
PAKISTAN: New Bill Seeks to Empower High Courts to Strengthen Foreign Investment
 
  IRAN: MPs Approve Budget Bill Outlines
KAZAKHSTAN: Parliament Passes Law on Government Contractual Social Work
Senate Makes Changes in Draft Law on Chambers of Industry and Commerce
TURKEY: New Rules for Credit Cards
 
  AUSTRALIA: Government Rakes in $5 Billion in Taxes
Temporary Homes to Be Permanent
ACTU Wants Answers to Minimum Wage Plans
Industrial Manslaughter Laws May Go
New Laws to Speed Migration Court Cases
Govt Rejects Labor ATSIC Amendments
Govt Rules Out Road Distance Tax
Govt Examines Insolvency Laws
Govt to Announce Asylum Seeker Changes
NEW ZEALAND: Bill Tightens Foreign Land Sale Rules
Demand for Seabed Law Talks after UN Report
Act Bill Seeks Exemptions to 'PC' Anti-Smoking Law
 
  Roh Limits Role of USFK in Asia
World Bank Praised on Anti-Corruption
Corruption in Construction Bankrupts Countries and Costs Lives, Says TI Report
Tsunami Conference Backs Transparent Mechanism to Track Flow of Aid
ADB and Other International Organizations to Check Corruption in Tsunami Aid
Annan Announces Shortlist Of Six Candidates to Be New UN Development Chief
 
  CHINA: 681 Taxation Officials Punished in 2004
China Closes 147 Blood Collection Agencies
CPPCC Promotes "One Country, Two Systems", Reunification
Senior Official Urges Improvement of Work Style of Party, Gov't
Tung Chee Hwa Elected CPPCC Vice Chairman
Hong Kong Government to Seek Ruling From China's Legislature on New Leader's Term Length
JAPAN: Court Nullifies Election Result for Errors in Electronic Voting
Foreign Ministry Reforms Insufficient: Report
Japan Police Corruption Scrutinized
Koizumi Upset by 'Moral Decay' in Pension Office
SOUTH KOREA: Gov¡¯t Set to Declassify More Documents
Ministry of Gender Equality to Change in June
New Administrative Town Will Break Ground in 2007
Portal Site Displaying Information on Public Servants¡¯ Salaries
Defense Ministry to Strengthen Anti-Corruption Drive
President Roh Vows to Conduct Thorough Probe of Scandal
Home Ministry to Undergo Structural Reform
Prof. Kim Chang-Ho Tapped as GIA Head
Roh Names Top Policy Coordinator
MOFE Adopts New Evaluation System
MONGOLIA: Financial Control Committee to Be Set Up
 
  INDONESIA: Planned Reshuffle at AGO will Affect Senior Officials
Financial Watchdogs Ask for the House for Grater Power
Monitoring Court Officials Could Wipe Out Corruption
Govt Plans Mass Reshuffle in Bureaucracy
Fighting Corruption Through Civil Service Reform
House Urges Govt to Curb Corruption
MYANMAR: Reforms in Myanmar Pushed
MALAYSIA: ACA Offers to Review Government Procedures
Sarawak Gives RM5m to Eight Needy Councils
Intellectual Property Court Proposed
SINGAPORE: MPs Reiterate Call for Single Agency to Promote SMEs
THAILAND: Civic Groups Plan Campaign Rally to Keep Govt in Check
Chuan Warns Against Cabinet Posts for Servile Civil Servants
VIETNAM: Faster Reforms Required to Up Country¡¯s Competitiveness
Government Simplifies All Import Licencing Procedures
 
  BHUTAN: Anti-Corruption Practices Need Tough Measures
SRI LANKA: CTB Resurrection Bill on Way
 
  AFGHANISTAN: First-Ever Female Governor Appointed for Afghan Province
AZERBAIJAN: Public TV Broadcasting Council Members Elected
Top Azerbaijani Police Officials Dismissed
IRAQ: Al-Najaf Governorate Council Elects New Governor
KYRGYZSTAN: Presidential Vote Set
TAJIKISTAN: President Replaces Top Officials, Orders News Conferences
TURKEY: 10,000 New Policemen to Be Employed
TURKMENISTAN: President Appoints Ministers
UZBEKISTAN: Local Government Reform in Uzbekistan
 
  AUSTRALIA: Bracks Dives into PM's Water Plan
Govt Plans National Police Memorial
Offices of Future Must Get Green Light
ATSIC Abolished by Governor-General
NEW ZEALAND: Govt Moves to Plug Gaps in Tsunami Monitoring
Strategy to Cut Gambling Hailed as a World First
Government Staff Warned over Official Information Act Requests
 
  Asian Broadcasters Study Japan's Emergency System at NHK
Maritime Security Exercises for Asian Security Forum Proposed
World's Women See Modest Progress at UN Beijing + 10
Society at a Glance Indicators Spotlight Social Policy Challenges in OECD Countries
Workshop to Assist Developing Economies to Implement New Global Customs Standards
Int'l Environmental Conference Due for March 24-29 in Seoul
Energy Security and Alternative Fuel Sources on EWG Agenda in Hanoi
 
  CHINA: Cut of NPC Procedure a Step Forward to High Efficiency
CPPCC Proposals Have Govts' Ear
HK Govt Sets Up Public Affairs Forum
Environment Counts in Officials' Achievements
Beijing: Common People Have More Say in Legislation
E-Government Spurs Efficiency Drive
China, UNDP Team Up for Well-off Society
Economists Honored for Role in Reform
JAPAN: Women Take Shine to Money Management
UFJ Loan Plan Targets Smaller Firms
Police Seek 'Role Model' Communities to Promote Security
SOUTH KOREA: President Roh Not to Receive Report in Paper
State Public Information System to Be Strengthened
Ministry to Hold Public Discussions on National Policies
President Asks Officialdom to Share Success of Innovation
Gov't to Support Equal-Basis Competition for M&A Market
Ministry Distributes Notebooks on Innovation to Officials
 
  INDONESIA: Civil Service Reform, a Forgotten Agenda
MALAYSIA: Civil Servants Urged to Exercise Regularly
Instill Good Values, PM Tells Schools
Ministry Needs More Enforcement Officers
THAILAND: B4bn Distance Learning Spending Plan Mulled
Mps Get Free Laptops Under B34m Budget
Check on Councilor Selection
 
  BHUTAN: Bhutan to Host SAARCLAW Conference
Local Leaders Learn Planning, Accounting and PR
INDIA: Dell to Expand with Removal of PC Tax; to Hire 1,500 Personnel for 3rd Call Centre
Using Forex Reserves on Public Projects May Have 'Negative Implications' on Ratings
MALDIVES: Government Employees¡¯ Training Programme for 2005 Begins
NEPAL: South Asian Media Watchdog Calls for Restoration of Press Freedom in Nepal
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Conference on Micro-Financing Held in Baku
Conference on Information Systems Security to Be Held
IRAQ: Conference on Federalism Held in Baghdad
KAZAKHSTAN: Ruling Party Pledges Constitutional Reforms
Congress of Kazakhstan¡¯s Entrepreneurs Was Opened in Astana
TAJIKISTAN: Parliament Holds First Session
 
  AUSTRALIA: Workplace Reforms Will Protect Wages
NEW ZEALAND: PSA Targets Pay and Working Conditions
Knowledge Wave Aspirations Can Be Captured by Design
PNG: Promoting Creative Talent
 
  Post-Tsunami Telecommunication Links Strengthened
Geneva Launch for Fund to Cut Digital Divide
Web Voters Oppose Japan's U.N. Bid
Aichi Expo Opens for 185-Day Run Featuring Mammoth, Hi-Tech Robots
Japan's Twisted Textbooks Spark Anger
 
  CHINA: Campaign Aims to Build Energy-Saving Society
China's Regional Ethnic Autonomy Immensely Successful, Says Whitepaper
Hong Kong Financial Secretary Pushes for More E-Govt Services
China to Build Its First "Science City" in Hefei
Steps to Narrow Rich-Poor Gap Needed
Chinese E-Government: Moving on from 'Web-Gloss'?
Cutting-Edge IT Development Strategy Vital
Lite-On Expands R&D Center Across Taiwan Strait
Shanghai Remains Most Competitive City
China's Economy to Grow 8% Annually from 2006 to 2010
Growing Complaints About Chinese E-Government
300 Mln Rural Chinese Lack Clean Drinking Water
Internet Users in China Number 120 million
Narrowing the Digital Divide
JAPAN: Growth in Midsize Cities to Boost CO2 Emissions in 2010, Experts Warn
Japan to Raise Food Self-Sufficiency to 45% by 2015
SOUTH KOREA: KOIS to Set Up Network to Disperse 'Dynamic Korea' as National Brand
Disaster Control Network to Be Established
Korea's Mobile Broadcasting to Help Reduce Disaster Damage
IT Hub to Be Built at Songdo FTZ by 2010
Environment Education Drive Launched
Busan Aims to Become 'Ubiquitous City'
Korea to Allow Portable Internet Service to Start by June 2006
New Japanese Textbook Provokes Strong Reaction
US$300 Million 'Ubiquitous City' Project in South Korea
15 Universities to Be Shut Down by 2007
MONGOLIA: Financial Assistance of Foundations for Promotion of Regional Development for the Government's Efforts
Household Income and Expenditure Survey
Eco Trass Nat`L Program Introduced
 
  PHILIPPINES: GMA Lauds ICT Firm for Expansion Plans
SINGAPORE: Singapore Launches Tender for Downtown District
Government Plans to Make Maritime Industry Key Pillar of Economy
S'pore Tops WEF's Survey on Use of Infocomm Technology
THAILAND: Govt Plans to Install 250,000 Computers in Nation's Schools
VIETNAM: Hanoi Targets to Increase Economic Effectiveness
VN to Boost Service Sector
 
  BHUTAN: Farmers to Reap the Benefits of Internet
INDIA: Broadband on Mobile Will Be a Big Hit in India
MALDIVES: Dhiraagu Reduces Dhivehinet Broadband Service Prices
Dhiraagu Introduces Friends and Family Discount Scheme for Mobile Post-Paid Customers
NEPAL: Aid Suspension May Lead to Crisis
PAKISTAN: National Economic Council Projects 8% GDP Growth Within Five Years
Proper Proposals in IT Sector to Be Supported
IT Ministry to Roll Out Eight E-Government Projects in April
 
  AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan to Open First Military Academy
UZBEKISTAN: ADB to Assist Integrate ICT into Basic Education in Uzbekistan
Television Stations Discuss Programme on Development for 2005
 
  AUSTRALIA: Women's Status Going Backwards: Dems
Australian Government to Outlaw Suicide Websites
Outback IT Dreaming
Call to Ban Sale of Cigarettes by 2050
Spyware: Govt Says No New Laws Needed
NEW ZEALAND: NZ's Child Poverty Rate One of Highest
Internet Banking Quite Secure, Never Been Infiltrated
New Science Equipment a Boon for University
Auckland in Top Ten Cities for Quality of Life
NZTE Gives $560,000 for Technology Exhibition
Poverty Trap Snapping Shut on Children
Internet the Future of Share Trading
 
  PRC Sets Up $20 Million Regional Cooperation and Poverty Reduction Grant Fund at ADB
Asia Needs Trillion Dollars over Five Years to Boost Infrastructure
Funding Shortfall of $4.22 Billion for Tsunami Reconstruction
 
  CHINA: Banks Tighten Grip on Property Loans
Time for Unified Business Tax
China Sets Aside 15b to Mitigate Local Financial Difficulties
Premier Prompts to Build Sound Financial System
Stock Exchanges to Issue Unified Index
JAPAN: Money Supply Growth Slowest in 4 Years
Koizumi Says No Consumption Tax Hike Before Sept 2006
Japan's Parliament Enacts 82 Tril. Yen FY 2005 Budget
SOUTH KOREA: Korean Banks Stand at Crossroads
 
  INDONESIA: BI Mulls Over Formation of Cooperative Bank
Insurance Agents Oppose Bank Negara's Move
Govt Upbeat About Bond Issue Amid Improved Rating
MALAYSIA: Insurance Policy Holders to Get Some Refund on Policies Surrendered After a Year
PHILIPPINES: Budget Leans Heavily Toward Debt Payment
More Bank Mergers, Consolidation Seen This Year
SINGAPORE: Central SME Credit Database to Be Launched on March 21
SINGAPORE: MAS Makes Further Moves to Develop Islamic Banking Sector
VIETNAM: World Bank Foots Bill to Modernise Banks
Banks Want State to Encourage Cards
 
  BANGLADESH: Bangladesh One of Top 10 Markets for StanChart
Currency Devaluation Encourages Remittance Flow
INDIA: Disappointing 2005 Budget May Threaten Indian Growth Miracle
Finance Minister Challenged Over Claims That New Tax for Oil Sector Is 'Revenue Neutral'
HSBC to Add Capital to India Operations
NEPAL: Progress in Tax Reforms Promotes New Economic Vision
PAKISTAN: Banks Can Achieve Lower TCO with Oracle, System Access
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Mortgage Loans to Be Disbursed for 10-15 Years
UZBEKISTAN: Pakhta Bank Launches New Service
Uronbank to Increase Charter Capital
 
  AUSTRALIA: Government to Consider Land Tax Relief
Pressure Props Door Open for Tax Reform in May
Pensions Up, But Extra Cash for Self-funded
NAB Eyes Low-Doc Loans for Self-employed
Bracks Digs Deep to Help the Poor
Costello Remains Firm on State Taxes
NEW ZEALAND: National - We'll Review Kiwibank
Budget to Include Savings Plan
Migration Tax Clampdown
ANZ Forms Strategic Alliance with Vietnam's Sacombank
 
  Asian Governments Rush to Privatize Water Services - At Their Peril
 
  CHINA: Six Trends in Development of Non-Public Economy
Private Economy Demand Pragmatic Support
First Private Airline Starts Maiden Flight
JAPAN: State Finds 49% Support Postal Reform, 68% 'Interested'
Gov't, LDP Agree on Possible Delay in Full Postal Privatization
3 State-Run Firms to Be Relocated by 2010
SOUTH KOREA: Refining Regulation Key to Privatization
 
  Banks to Allocate Rp 60.4t for MSME This Year
Small Indian Firms Flourish With Govt Support
SINGAPORE: Govt to Liberalise Gas Market, Decide on Going LNG Soon
THAILAND: Private Land Eyed for Farmers
VIETNAM: Banks Change Lane, SMEs Grow
 
  BANGLADESH: Performance of Private Universities Under Scrutiny
Govt Plans Regulatory Body for Private Sector Auditing
INDIA: 2005 Budget's Tax Reform Seen to Benefit Private Sector, Households
Private Sector Play a Key Role in the Hi-Tech Manufacture
SRI LANKA: Education Will Not Be Privatized - UGC Chairman
NEPAL: Gov't Stockpiles Essential Supplies for 2 months, Urges Private Sector Cooperation
PAKISTAN: Call for More Private Sector Employment Opportunities
Musharraf Welcomes Launching of AAJ TV
 
  IRAN: Privatization Organization Committed to Share Offer
Private Sector Will Get $8b
KAZAKHSTAN: Government Approves List of Privatised Properties for Sale
 
  AUSTRALIA: Govt Introduces New Telstra Laws
Status Change Flagged for MU Private

Visa-Free Travel Expected Within Southeast Asian Nations by End-2005

Southeast Asian nationals will no longer need to obtain visas when travelling to 10 countries in the region by the end of this year, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in remarks published Wednesday. Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed an agreement in 2002 to allow easier travel in a bid to revive confidence after the bomb attack in Bali that year. The following year, an ASEAN meeting in Hanoi urged member states to work towards visa exemptions for travel within the region. "This will be fully effective by the end of the year," Abdullah was quoted as saying by the Star. "Of course, we cannot downplay the security requirements of the respective member states," he said in a speech read on his behalf by Tourism Minister Leo Michael Toyad at an ASEAN tourism conference on Malaysia's Langkawi island. "However, in the spirit of ASEAN, I believe we can work together to create means by which we can address these concerns and at the same time ensure visa-free intra-regional travel." Many ASEAN countries have bilateral agreements on visa exemption for their respective nationals, but the organization does not have a multilateral visa agreement. ASEAN members are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Former premier Mahathir Mohamad went a step further in his address to the conference Wednesday, proposing a single visa for entry to all ASEAN countries by foreign travellers. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to receive tourists, where we have one visa for Southeast Asian countries. ASEAN countries should consider requiring a single visa for tourists," he said.


From http://www.aseansec.org/ 02/26/2005

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ADB And OECD Sign Agreement for Cooperation

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) today signed a letter of intent to provide a framework for their cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and to enhance their opportunities for collaboration. ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda and OECD Secretary General Donald J. Johnston signed the Letter of Intent on the sidelines of the Second High-Level Forum on Joint Progress Toward Enhanced Aid Effectiveness. ADB and OECD have a mutual interest in achieving relevant and effective policies and programming in international development. The two institutions will explore possibilities for further strengthening collaboration in areas such as aid effectiveness, anti-corruption, governance, economic development and job creation, environmental policy, financial markets, and taxation. With collaboration, the two institutions believe that the effectiveness of their development-related work will increase. The collaboration between ADB and OECD may involve sponsoring joint seminars or conferences, promotion of staff exchanges and participation in capacity building programs, as well as regular exchange of information and knowledge products on their respective regional and country programs and on other areas of common interest. ADB is a major development institution in the Asia and Pacific region that seeks to foster economic growth, good governance, human resource development, and the alleviation of poverty for the benefit of its developing member countries. The OECD plays a prominent role in fostering good governance in the public service and in corporate activity. It helps governments to ensure the responsiveness of key economic areas with sectoral monitoring. 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, with 45 from the region.


From http://www.adb.org/ 03/02/2005


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EU Sees Better Ties with Southeast Asia as Key to Fighting Terror

The European Union says it wants better security ties with Southeast Asia to help strengthen the regional grouping and enable it to tackle terrorism more effectively, a document released here Thursday said. "A strong ASEAN is probably the best guarantee for peace and stability in the region," said the document circulated at a meeting of European and Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministers in Jakarta. It said the fight against terrorism was a paramount concern for the European Union, which will also use the meeting to discuss tsunami reconstruction, trade and crime, including money-laundering and human trafficking. "Many problems -- such as terrorism, environmental degradation, diseases, organised crimes -- are truly global in their nature and can only be addressed effectively through international cooperation," the document said. Southeast Asia has been hit by a series of major extremist attacks in recent years, culminating in the October 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people were killed. That attack and others have been blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group, believed to have ties with Al-Qaeda and other radical Muslim groups in the region. Europe would also drive home a strong message on human rights, making it the "essential element" of any dialogue between the two regions, the statement said. The EU has used its support as a tool to encourage other countries to respect human rights and exercise democratic principles. It has tried to press Myanmar on political reform and the release of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who attended the one-day meeting, said in commentary published by the Jakarta Post that Myanmar remained a major cause for concern. "I am deeply saddened by the situation in Myanmar," she said. "There have been encouraging strides toward deeper democracy across the region, led by the unprecedented, peaceful and democratic elections of 2004 held in Indonesian, but also in Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines. "To my dismay the junta in Myanmar seems content to remain an exception to this trend. I regret that this issue still casts a shadow over EU-ASEAN relations." The EU said it also wanted to focus on revamping judicial systems as well as issues such as migration, piracy, organised crime and drugs. Economically, the EU wants to galvanise trade with the region through an expansion of existing EU-ASEAN trade agreements, the statement said.


From http://www.aseansec.org/ 03/10/2005


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Small and Medium Enterprises Encouraged to Form Industry Clusters

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) can generate substantial rewards if they work together in industrial clusters according to the outcomes of an APEC Seminar in Taipei this week. The "APEC Symposium on Industrial Clustering for SMEs" has released a set of guidelines for use by business operators, governments and trade organizations that are intended to stimulate increased interaction among local businesses. The "APEC Best Practices Guidelines on Industrial Clustering for SMEs" highlights the potential for SMEs to make better use of their geographic location to expand trading opportunities for local businesses in their industry. The guidelines outline operational areas such as the sharing of new technologies, human resource development and utilizing collective local strengths in order to develop overseas markets. In his address to the symposium the Director General of the SME Administration in the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taipei, Sun-Quae Lai, praised Industrial Clustering as a central part of regional economic growth. "Industrial clustering is considered the main drive for innovation and economic growth in the new economic era," Mr. Lai said touching on one of the symposium¡¯s central themes. "I believe that even micro-enterprises can be innovative as long as they can grow in a suitable environment." Developing this environment involves sharing information and practices to develop collective local strength in a changing global economy. The guidelines note that "the ability to innovate under globalization is the key to the competitiveness of an economy." A reliance on local human resources and skills is highlighted in the guidelines as important for SME development. "Human resources are an indispensable ingredient in the formation of an industrial cluster," the guidelines state. "Although part of human resources can be obtained from abroad, the availability of locally-sourced human resources is crucial to the operations of a cluster." The guidelines also note that the development of clusters will be particularly beneficial if markets for local SME products can be identified in other regional areas. "For most developing countries, the major growing markets are often in developed countries, and therefore the ability to export to these markets is critical to the success of an industrial cluster. "Domestic firms have to be a part of the export drive, making their own linkage to the major markets." The Symposium took place on March 8-9 in the Taipei International Convention Center.


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/10/2005


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Proposed U.N. Changes

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed a broad range of changes to the international body that will be taken up at a summit of world leaders in September. The proposal includes: Expanding the Security Council by either adding six new permanent members or eight semi-permanent members from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas; Adopting a resolution establishing a set of principles regarding the use of force; Replacing the Commission on Human Rights with a Human Rights Council that could be on par with the Security Council; Encouraging wealthy countries to increase development aid to 0.7% of their gross national incomes by 2015;Increasing debt relief for developing countries; Completing the Doha round of trade talks by 2006; Creating a Peacebuilding Commission; Developing a comprehensive anti-terror strategy; Increasing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons disarmament; Establishing a Democracy Fund to promote democracy worldwide.


From http://www.washingtonpost.com/ 03/21/2005


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CHINA: Top Legislature Passes Criminal Law Amendment

The Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), or Chinese top legislature, Monday passed the Fifth Amendment to the Criminal Law to curb the increasing credit card crimes. The draft amendment, adding two clauses on credit card crimes and one clause on sabotage of military equipment. was submitted tothe ongoing session from Feb. 25 to 28 for the second deliberation.


From Xinhuanet 02/28/2005


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Legislature Passes Renewable Energy Bill

Non-fossil energy sources, including wind, solar power and thermal power, will make up a bigger share of China's energy resources under a new bill passed yesterday encouraging use of renewable energy. Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) approved the Law on Renewable Sources, which upholds renewable energy as a priority in China's energy strategy. "The development and use of renewable energy has special importance because China is a developing country with severe energy shortages," Standing Committee member Li Congjun said at a discussion on Saturday. The new law, effective next year, provides a host of practices to ensure that renewable energy can be produced, marketed and used. It orders power grid operators to purchase "in full amounts" resources from registered renewable energy producers within their domains. It also encourages oil distribution companies to sell biological liquid fuel on the sidelines. According to the law, power grid operators should buy renewable-source-generated power at directed prices calculated by the government. The extra costs incurred by this will be shared throughout the overall power network. The law also offers financial incentives, such as a national fund to foster renewable energy development, and discounted lending and tax preferences for renewable energy projects. "It requires huge inputs of money and talent to develop renewable energy, especially at the budding stage, so the incentives from public coffers are very necessary," said Chang Jingwen, a law researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. It usually takes three reviews before an act goes to a vote. But this one was passed after the second round, with senior legislators acknowledging the vital need to get the nation on a sustainable energy fast track amid worries about the country's worsening pollution problems, chronic energy shortages and increasing reliance on imported energy sources. Official data show China's per capita possession of oil reserves is about 10 per cent compared to the world average. Power is still unavailable in 20,000 or so remote villages housing about 30 million people. About 60 per cent of China's 768 million rural residents still use open fires to cook on or heat their homes, creating serious pollution and health problems, while damaging vegetation. The NPC Standing Committee also passed a fifth amendment to the criminal law yesterday at its concluding session, altering rules on credit-card-related offenses as well as adding a charge on damaging military facilities. The committee also issued a decision on expert testimony. It ruled that expert testimony agencies should be transformed into independent civil services, rather than subordinate to judicial departments as they are now.


From China Daily 03/01/2005


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New Law to Guarantee Free Migration

China has begun drafting a new law on household registration, which will make its current system applicable to the country's floating population. The China Youth Daily says the new law should guarantee Chinese citizens' freedom of migration within the country. China's current household registration system controls population migration from the countryside to cities by classifying citizens into urban or rural residents. Such a system has led to an increasing gap between cities and the countryside in terms of education, employment, medical services, and living conditions. It also slows the formation of a unified national labour market and balanced labour force, which in turn hinders the development of both cities and rural areas. The paper argues that a country's residential registration system should only have two functions -- proving an individual's identification and calculating the population.


From China Daily 03/03/2005


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China to Enact First Anti-Sexual Harassment Law¡¡

The amendment to the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women (LPRIW) has been included in the new legislative agenda for this year. Lei Nan, the female plaintiff in Beijing's first sexual harassment lawsuit, answers a reporter's questions June 30, 2003. The All-China Women's Federation has finished the draft of the amendment to the LPRIW (the draft for deliberation) at the end of 2004, and has already reported the draft amendment to the State Council for deliberation. It is learned that the draft for deliberation proposes that the principle of equality between men and women should be included in the general provisions of the LPRIW. It puts forth that equality between men and women should be applied to employment, promotion, professional title assessment and retirement, and companies and institutions cannot discriminate against women. In addition, the draft for deliberation proposes gender equality on retirement for the first time. It has also definitely forbidden sexual harassment against women, requiring all institutions to take measures to prevent any sexual harassment in the workplace. This will be the first time China put forward a concept of anti-sexual harassment in its laws.


From China Daily 03/04/2005


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Macro-Controls Continued in 2005

At a press conference held this morning on social development and macro-controls, Minister in Charge of the State Development and Reform Commission, Ma Kai, said that last year's macro-control policy measures have been effective. But the minister went on to say the policy measures will be strengthened rather than phased out in 2005. The health of the Chinese economy has always been a focus of public attention. With a GDP growth rate of 9.5 per cent in last year, the Chinese economy teetered on the edge of over-heating, but still managed to stay under control. Ma Kai, minister of State Development & Reform Commission, said, "China's Macro-economic control policies have proved to be effective in 2004 in 4 specific areas: The declining trend of grain production for 4 consecutive years has been turned back; the strong momentum in fixed assets investment has been slowed down; the money supply has decreased and the misuse of farm land has been regulated." However, Ma Kai said these positive signs do not mean it's the time to put an end to the macro-regulation of the economy. Sustaining a relatively high rate of growth but keeping it on the right track is still the aim for the country's economic policy. But many worry that power shortages could still be a stumbling block for the nation's progress. He added, "There are indeed some unreasonable factors for the increase of power demand. We are going to further address these problems this year. We will make more efforts to improve the economic structure, thus to curb the expansion of power consuming sectors. Increasing our power generating capacity is also one of our main jobs." China's central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan also spoke at the press conference. He said, in 2005, a sound monetary policy will be in place to ensure a prudent macro-control policy.


From cctv.com 03/07/2005


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Top Legislature Passes Anti-Secession Law

The annual session of China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), voted to pass the Anti-Secession Law Monday, setting a legal framework to prevent Taiwan from being seceded from China and promote peaceful national reunification. Of the deputies sitting at Monday's closing session at the Great Hall of the People, 2,896 deputies voted for the law, with no objections and only two abstentions. Chinese President Hu Jintao has signed his name on the bill on March 14, 2005, and the law comes into immediate effect. Using non-peaceful means to stop secession would be the last resort, when all efforts for a peaceful reunification should prove futile, the law says. The act provides that in the event that the "Taiwan independence" forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, says the law. Prior to the deliberation of the draft law, Chinese President Hu Jintao, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Communist Party of China, set forth his four-point guidelines for cross-Straits relations on March 4, stating that the Chinese people will do their best to seek peaceful reunification of the motherland but will never tolerate "Taiwan independence". "We will continue to make our greatest efforts with the utmost sincerity to seek the prospects of peaceful reunification. Meanwhile, we will never tolerate 'Taiwan independence' and never allow the 'Taiwan independence' secessionist forces to make Taiwan secede from the motherland under any name or by any means," said Hu. Evidence has shown that the "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces and their activities are increasingly becoming the "biggest obstacle for the development of cross-Straits relations" and the "biggest real threat to peace and stability in the region around the Taiwan Straits", the president said.Hu urged the "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces to abandon their secessionist stand and stop all "Taiwan independence" activities, saying that "we hope the leader of the Taiwan authorities could earnestly fulfill the 'five no's' commitment he reaffirmed on Feb. 24, as well as his commitment of not seeking ' legalization of Taiwan independence' through the 'Constitutional reform'." "(We hope that he could) show to the world, through (his) own concrete action, that this was not an empty word or mere lip service which can be forsaken at will," Hu added. Hu also emphasized that China is the home to the 1.3 billion Chinese people including the 23 million Taiwan compatriots, and both the mainland and Taiwan belong to the 1.3 billion Chinese people including the 23 million Taiwan compatriots. "Any issue involving China's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be decided collectively by the entire 1.3 billion Chinese people," Hu stressed. Wu Bangguo, chairman of the NPC standing committee, said the adoption of the law demonstrated the "common will and strong resolve" of the entire Chinese people. "The Anti-Secession Law, adopted with such a high support rate, has legalized the policy guideline of the central authorities on Taiwan, and given full expression to China's consistent position of doing the utmost with maximum sincerity for peaceful national reunification," said Wu, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, after the law was ratified. He said the adoption of the law also demonstrated the "common will and strong resolve" of the entire Chinese people to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and never to allow the "Taiwan independence" forces to make Taiwan secede from China under any name or by any means.


From China Daily 03/14/2005


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Rice Says US Remains Committed to One-China Policy

The United States remains absolutely committed to the one-China policy, visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday at a press conference. Referring to her meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders, Rice said, "I reiterated that the United States does in fact have the one-China policy that has been clearly consistent, a policy that is based on the three joint communiques." She expressed hope the status quo of the Taiwan Straits would be maintained, saying "the most useful path ahead is to reduce tension between the two sides." Rice left here for home shortly after the press conference, concluding her 24-hour visit to China that started Sunday afternoon.


From Xinhuanet 03/21/2005


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JAPAN: Rights Bill Envisages Media Controls

TOKYO ¡ª A human rights bill the ruling coalition plans to resubmit to the Diet includes disputed provisions on media controls but they will be initially frozen and may be lifted later if the media make sufficient efforts at resolving rights violations, according to a summary obtained by Kyodo News on Monday. The bill, first submitted to the Diet in 2002 but scrapped in 2003 after drawing criticism of interfering in the media's freedom of expression, was revised to also include a new provision stipulating that it be revised five years after enactment.


From Kyodo News 03/08/2005


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Gov't Unveils Civil Aviation Security Plan

TOKYO ¡ª The government will mobilize the Self-Defense Forces in the event of a terrorist attack involving aircraft or hijacking as part of a civil aviation security program to be implemented from April, sources familiar with the issue said Saturday. The program, compiled by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, also requires airline companies to conduct X-ray screening of in-flight meals, the sources said. The program calls on airline companies, airport administrators and municipalities to position staff at cargo sections to watch for any suspicious individuals or goods.


From Kyodo News 03/14/2005


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140 Lawmakers to Submit Daylight Saving Time Bill

TOKYO ¡ª A group of 140 lawmakers is preparing to submit a bill during the current Diet session to reintroduce daylight saving time in Japan for the first time since 1952, senior lawmakers of the group said Wednesday. The lawmakers said they expect the bill to garner support in view of rising calls for Japan to conserve energy following the February coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol for industrialized countries to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.


From Kyodo News 03/17/2005


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Japan Confirms End of Major Yen Loans to China by 2008 Beijing Olympics

TOKYO: Japan said it would stop extending major yen loans to its neighbor and growing competitor China by 2008 when Beijing is to host the Olympic Games. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said Thursday he and his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing agreed on the matter during a phone conversation this week. "We have been talking to each other about ending yen loans before the Beijing Olympics and overall we have reached an agreement," Machimura told a budget committee of the upper house, confirming a press report. "I believe our aid has contributed to China's development. As China can procure finances on its own, the need for massive financial assistance from Japan has decreased," Machimura said. "Now China has given massive aid to third countries," he said. Yen loans account for some 90 percent of total Japanese aid to China with grants and technical assistance taking the rest. Machimura said Tokyo and Beijing would continue "further talks" over the fate of Japanese grants and technical assistance. China was the biggest recipient of Japanese foreign aid in 1999-2002 but has since been outpaced by other countries including Indonesia and India. Machimura said Japan's fresh yen loans to China in the current fiscal year to March would stand at 85.9 billion yen (823 million dollars), down 11 percent from a year earlier. The aid, which was down some 60 percent from its peak, would go to environmental and educational projects, the minister said. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet is set to approve the aid later this month, a foreign ministry official said. Japanese conservative lawmakers have been increasingly vocal in urging an end to aid to China against a backdrop of cooling bilateral relations as the two countries lock horns over their war-time past and scarce energy resources. Japan issued a protest in November after a Chinese nuclear submarine violated its territorial waters near disputed gas fields, setting off a two-day naval pursuit.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/17/2005


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Cabinet OKs Bill to Delay M&A Reform

The Cabinet approved a set of bills Friday to update Japan's corporate law, with one of them featuring a one-year delay for easing restrictions on foreign companies involved in mergers and acquisitions of Japanese firms. The government wants the Diet to enact the package during the current session, which runs through June. Under the M&A bill, foreign companies would be allowed to use their shares and cash or other assets as compensation in M&A deals. At present, they are only allowed to use the shares of companies established in Japan. But the government decided to put the brakes on loosening M&A rules for a year to 2007 due to pressure from lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who are worried about an increase in hostile takeovers led by foreign entities. The worry was triggered by homegrown Internet firm Livedoor Co., whose hostile takeover bid for Nippon Broadcasting System Inc. is making LDP lawmakers nervous, even though it's a Japanese company led by a Japanese. The bill also provides for new measures to fend off hostile takeover bids. One such measure is the poison pill. Another is a set of stricter rules for M&As under the memorandum of association that are designed to make it difficult for shareholders to approve hostile takeover bids, officials said. The government is also planning a provision that would allow courts to reject shareholder complaints against a company if they are judged to be based on the shareholders' personal interests. The government plans to carry out the other bills in 2006, including one containing a measure that would eliminate the 10 million yen minimum capitalization requirement for joint-stock companies, thus making it possible to start a company with just 1 yen.


From The Japan Times 03/19/2005


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Koizumi Aiming to Submit Postal Bills in April

TOKYO ¡ª Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Wednesday his government will try to submit to parliament during next month a set of bills to privatize Japan's postal system, the centerpiece of his reform agenda, now that the fiscal 2005 state budget has cleared the Diet. Koizumi also told a press conference that he currently has no plans to reshuffle the Cabinet again in September and reiterated his cautious stance on imposing economic sanctions on North Korea, while dismissing views that his administration is deadlocked on the foreign policy front such as in bilateral ties with Russia, South Korea and China.


From Kyodo News 03/24/2005


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Cabinet Approves Emergency Guidelines

The Cabinet on Friday approved basic guidelines to protect the public in the event of a foreign attack, a step toward establishing emergency systems in line with a law enacted last year. The guidelines categorized foreign attacks into four types and stipulated measures to handle each. In addition, measures to respond to attacks using nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons and those launched by terrorists on nuclear power plants also are included. The guidelines will be the basis for actions to be taken in emergencies under the law to protect the lives and assets of the public in a national emergency. Following the Cabinet approval of the guidelines, prefectural governments as well as the relevant ministries and agencies are expected to devise more detailed measures by the end of March 2006. Designated public services, such as broadcasters, telecommunications businesses, transportation and shipping operators, medical services and power firms also are expected to hammer out protective measures. The four categories of attacks under the government's guidelines are: invasion by land; attacks by guerrillas or special forces; missile attacks; and air attacks. Regarding guerrilla attacks, the guidelines referred to specific evacuation steps, advising the public first take refuge inside a building and then evacuate to an appropriate location if it is safe to do so. The guidelines to deal with large-scale terrorist attacks listed: attacks using sarin, smallpox and other NBC weapons; attacks on terminal stations, concert halls and other facilities where a large number of casualties are expected; and suicide bombing attacks against airplanes.


From The Yomiuri Shimbun 03/26/2005


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The Draft of "Japan 21st Century Vision" Diametrically Opposed Futures

People will be living a healthy life up to an average age of 80 in houses twice as large as today's by 2030, according to a scenario presented in the draft of a long-term economic guideline on which the government is working. The draft of "Japan 21st Century Vision," on which the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy has been working since last year, presents the best- and worst-case scenarios for Japan in its dealing with such phenomena as accumulating fiscal deficits, a globalizing economy and a declining birthrate combined with an aging population. The draft, the contents of which were obtained Saturday, also listed such macroeconomic goals as maintaining an annual economic growth rate of 1.5 percent to 2 percent. Creation of an "East Asian Community" as well as a free trade agreement with China also were mentioned as targets for the next 25 years. In the worst-case scenario, a declining population could result in economic disaster as all economic activity could grind to a halt and budget deficits would be left unsolved, the draft warned. It also warned that an increasing number of talented young people will be leaving the country to work if Japan fails to catch up with the globalizing economy. But the rosiest scenario could be realized if Japan overcomes the challenge of a declining population by dramatically improving its social security structure, including the provision of better health care services. With sufficient investment to assist the development of medicine-related technology or health-related services for the ill and the elderly, the draft said the average span of healthy life, in which one does not require support from others, could be extended in 2030 to 80 years from the current 75. As a result, people would be able to enjoy their postretirement life independently for 23 years or more on average, instead of today's average of 21 years or less. The draft also recommends providing better support for young parents raising children, such as by the creation of a government-run insurance system for raising babies. Housing also needs to be improved for people to live longer, healthier lives, the draft says, presenting a goal that the average floor space of a rented house in the Kanto area be increased to 100 square meters, more than twice today's average of 43 square meters. As for macroeconomic goals, the draft said the Japanese economy in 2030 should be growing at the rate of 1.5 percent or more while the growth of gross domestic product per capita should be 2 percent or more. FTAs with China and other East Asian countries should serve to sustain the economic growth as well as keep Japan on track for economic globalization. Setting an inflation target by the government and the Bank of Japan also is recommended as an effective measure to achieve sustainable growth.


From The Yomiuri Shimbun 03/26/2005


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Two Koreas Strike Copyright Agreement

South Korea will pay royalties for the copyrights of five North Korean literary works and songs as a result of an agreement with the North in Mt. Geumgang March 20, the Foundation of Inter-Korea Cooperation in Seoul said on Thursday (March 24). The royalty agreement, the first of its kind between the two Koreas, became possible as North Korea launched a copyright authority in June 2004 after joining the Berne Convention in April 2003 for the protection of copyright for literary and artistic works. The five works include ¡°Im Kkeok-jeong,¡± the late Hong Myong-hi's novel about a Korean version of Robin Hood, and the songs ¡°Glad to Meet You (Pangapsupnida)¡± and ¡°Whistle (Huiparam).¡± ¡°We are currently negotiating with the North to publish an additional 276 North Korean literary works, including 51 classic novels, in the South,¡± Rep. Im Jong-seok of the ruling Uri Party said at a news conference. Im, vice chairman of the foundation, said the agreement is significant, as it has secured the legal grounds for copyright exchanges between the two Koreas. For the time being, the foundation will work as an agent that will collect royalties from South Korean publishers and broadcasters for the North, Im said. The copyright issue came to the fore in February when Hong's grandson in Pyongyang, Hong Suk-jung, strongly criticized Sakyejul, the South Korean publisher of ¡°Im Kkok-chong,¡± for illegally publishing the best-selling novel. The Seoul publishing house said it would like to sign an agreement with the original copyright holder of the book if it receives a formal request. Hong Suk-jung is a famous writer in North Korea. His book, ¡°Hwang Chin-i,¡± about a legendary hostess of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), is also covered by the royalty agreement. Hong Myong-hi gained popularity in South Korea when his novel was published serially in the Chosun Ilbo in the late 1920s. He defected to the North during the 1950-53 Korean War. As the author chose to live in North Korea, ¡°Im Kkeok-jeong¡± had long been banned by past South Korean governments. The publising company's former president, Kim Young-jong, risked being arrested when he published the novel in 1985, although the story about 'the righteous thief' was popular throughout the Korean Peninsula before Hong wrote the novel.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/25/2005


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SOUTH KOREA: Male-Oriented Family Registry System to Change in 2008

A revised law that allows sons and daughters to inherit their family name from their mother as well as their father will take effect in 2008. A revision of the Civil Law, passed by a National Assembly committee Monday (Feb. 28), preludes a big change in the traditional family concept of Koreans as it abolishes ¡°hojuje,¡± or the patriarchal family registry system. Under the revised law, children will be able to adopt the family name and the ¡°bongwan,¡± or recorded origin of the family, from the mother's side upon the parents' agreement, although it encourage families to follow those of the father's side, in principle. If a woman remarries, her children can also follow the family name of the stepfather with the court's approval. A stipulation that forbids a woman to remarry in six months will also be done away with. Under the current hojuje, all family members are registered under ¡°hoju,¡± which refers to the man that ¡°heads the family.¡± When a woman marries, for example, her name is removed from her father's ¡°hojok,¡± or family registration record, and is trasnferred to that of her husband. The bill is likely to be approved at a plenary Assembly session scheduled for Wednesday as a majority of lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties stand in favor of it. According to the bill, the definition of a ¡®family' is also to be expanded to include spouses of one's direct blood relations such as (grand)parents and (grand)sons and daughters. In addition, the direct blood relations of one's spouse will be included along with the spouse's children who also share living expenses. One's traditional family members of the (grand)parents, spouse, siblings, (grand)sons and daughters, of course, remain in the group. The government had intended not to include a definition of the family in the revision bill, but gave way to criticism that said such a move might result in the end of the traditionalf family.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/01/2005


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2006 Better Year for Constitutional Ammendment Debate: PM

Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan on Thursday (March 3) suggested that the second half of 2006 would be a suitable time to begin discussing a possible constitutional revision on the nation¡¯s presidential term, which is currently five years. The comment came at a debate organized by the Kwanhun Club, a group of senior journalists, held at the Korea Press Center in central Seoul. Noting that the incumbent administration is now starting the third year of its five-year tenure, the prime minister said: ¡°If we start a debate on a constitutional amendment now, we will not be able to focus on strengthening our competitiveness in the international market.¡± The right time to raise the issue may come after the local elections in the first half of 2006, the prime minister said. Lee also stated that the often-mentioned alternative for the current five-year term is a four-year tenure, with a bid for reelection allowed. Under the current system, the president cannot seek re-election. The nation introduced a single five-year presidential term in 1987 as a measure to prevent the abuse of presidential power.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/03/2005


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National Assembly Passes Bill on Construction of 'Administrative' City

The National Assembly on Wednesday (March 2) endorsed a bill that will allow the government to move most of its offices out of Seoul as part of a plan to decentralize the nation's capital. The Assembly passed the special law in a 158-13 vote, with six abstentions at 10:45 p.m. in a strong confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties. The specialy law stipulates that 12 ministries, four agencies and two adminitrations be relocated to Yeongi-Gongju area in South Chungcheong Province, some 130km south of Seoul. Most of the major opposition Grand National Party lawmakers did not participate in the voting. The law is expected to be put into force in mid-March when President Roh Moo-hyun proclaimed the legislation.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/03/2005


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Nation Seeks Balanced Development of Army, Navy, Air Force

A task force in charge of research and development in national defense has recently worked out a plan for balanced development of the Army, Navy and Air Force, under which the Army-centered military faces changes in favor of increased roles for the Navy and the Air Force. The plan for armed services' balanced development came unveiled as change became deemed important to keep up with the evolution of weapons systems and altered security situations surrounding the country. There may also be policy changes regarding the inter-Korean standoff, national security on a larger strategic perspective, the readjustment with respect to U.S. forces in Korea, and development in sophisticated military technologies. To realize military strategic objectives, a concept-based requirements system has to be in place, meaning that weaponry should be reorganized to meet the needs of military capabilities in accordance with a notion of unified theater. In the absence of an appropriate unified theater operations plan, military capabilities have been promoted by each armed service independently, sometimes causing overlapping investments in major strategic objectives and resulting in duplicated applications of defense resources. The South Korean armed forces have developed, centering around ground forces to counter the massive North Korean land troops for the past half century, a policy that caused military capabilities to be reinforced to allow each armed service to strengthen its capability independently of the other services. The plan for the armed services' balanced development, developed as part of the nation's crucial defense reform tasks, calls for coping with the prevailing security situation and unspecific future threats, efficiently developing the three branches of the armed forces to maximize their fighting capabilities, and streamlining the defense system to reflect balanced and rational decision making in the process of management.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/11/2005


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Ministry Issues Management Criterion to Protect Personal Information

Starting October, communication service firms are required to have internal management procedures requiring the approval of an official responsible for personal information management when it comes to printing clients¡¯ personal information or duplicating it onto a diskette. The Ministry of Information and Communication on Thursday (March 24) put on notice a management criterion for the protection of clients¡¯ personal information by communication service providers such as key communication operators, Internet shopping malls and Internet portal sites. After a six-month guidance period, the ministry will enforce the criterion in October, with a fine of up to 10 million won for companies failing to come up with adequate protective arrangements. The essential points of the criterion, which was created to counter the leakage of clients¡¯ information by internal staff, include keeping the number of workers with access to the information to a minimum and restrictions on the information items that staff can look into the individual information treatment system. Apart from the communication service providers, hotels, airlines, cram schools, large discount stores and department stores, where individual information is handled, will be covered by the criterion.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/24/2005


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MONGOLIA: Mongolian Laws Compiled

A compilation of Mongolian laws approved in 2004 by the Parliament and other amended laws has been published. The National Legal Center has issued the compilation. Twelve laws such as the laws on water resource, combating terrorism, insurance, and combating the violence in family were included in the compilation.


From MONTSAME 03/25/2005


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Govt Revives Idea for Tax Amnesty

While the pace of reform of the tax system to prevent corruption is not yet in full swing, the government has revived a controversial idea for providing a tax amnesty for certain tax evaders. There are fears that granting such an amnesty may violate the public's sense of fairness and justice, while it would also be difficult for the tax office to properly determine which taxpayers are indeed eligible for such an amnesty. The source said the amnesty would cover both individual and corporate taxpayers, and they would be able to settle unpaid taxes paying between 10 percent and 20 percent of the total. For corporate taxpayers, the proposed amnesty would cover unpaid taxes between 1995 to 2003. For individual taxpayers, the government is still undecided. The tax amnesty plan is one of the administration's top priorities, initiated by Coordinating Minister for the Economy Aburizal Bakrie, who is a former chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin). Kadin, the country's most powerful business lobby group, has been promoting the idea of a tax amnesty for the past two years as part of its comprehensive tax reform proposal that it submitted to the government. The previous administration rejected the proposal over concerns that recalcitrant taxpayers and corrupt officials would abuse the facility, exacerbated by a lack of transparency and weak law enforcement. Another concern is that it may discourage honest taxpayers in continuing to pay their taxes, in the hope that they too would be granted such a facility sometime in the future. Director General of Taxation Hadi Purnomo is known to be among those who reject the plan, arguing that the current lack of transparency in the tax system may lead to abuse of such a facility. The Tax Office is the nation's most important source of revenue, with the government seeking to ensure fiscal sustainability and reduce its dependency on foreign loans.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/10/2005


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Govt Finalizing Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Plan

The government hopes to finish within a week its final draft of the reconstruction blueprint for the tsunami-stricken Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province, before discussing it further with the House of Representatives, a senior economics minister said. State Minister for National Development Planning Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Monday that the government still needed to consider several aspects of the blueprint, particularly in determining its legal basis, fine tuning spatial planning in the areas concerned, and deciding which infrastructure projects in the blueprint would be prioritized. Sri Mulyani was supposed to hold a consultative meeting with the House of Representatives' finance commission to present the government's final draft of the blueprint. The government had planned to set up a special Aceh Authority (BOA) to manage and carry out the reconstruction phase. The House' approval for the blueprint, Sri added, was also important as the reconstruction phase would be financed out of the state budget. In the meantime, the government has commenced work on minor infrastructure projects, including constructing barracks for the displaced, repairing lightly damaged roads, and reestablishing education and health services during the emergency response period and the reconstruction phase. Elsewhere, Minister of Public Works Djoko Kirmanto told the House's Commission V for public works, housing, transportation and telecommunications that his ministry was still working with the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) on drafting the blueprint. Djoko explained that his ministry still needed Rp 590 billion to clean up rubble and debris, Rp 660 billion for the construction of 1,548 barracks for the displaced, and Rp 100 billion for support facilities for the rehabilitation programs.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/15/2005


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Govt Mulls Idea of Free Education for Children

Despite its policy on fuel price increases not yet getting approval from the House of Representatives, the government has proposed a new scheme to be financed from welfare funds derived from the removal of fuel subsidies, which would provide free elementary education for students throughout the country. Originally, the government had proposed to the House that it would allocate a total of Rp 17.8 trillion (US$1.9 billion) for welfare programs targeting the poor. The programs would be prioritized for education, rice subsidies, rural infrastructure, and health projects. For the education programs, the government had planned to provide direct assistance worth Rp 5.64 trillion for the 9.6 million school students nationwide. The government's policy to increase fuel prices has yet to get official support from the House. The scheduled plenary session on late Wednesday turned into a brawl, and was adjoined until Thursday morning. The government had previously allocated Rp 2.17 trillion for health services for the poor. Without the requirement to show welfare cards, people living slightly above the poverty line could also enjoy the benefits of free school education and medical services, Sudi said. Some people, who are ineligible for welfare cards, would have been burdened by the fuel price increases as they would not entitled to all the privileges provided by the government for the poor. Following the fuel price increases on March 1, averaging 29 percent, prices of basic commodities and transportation have also increased. Unilateral and unjustified price rises have sparked protests from the public, despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono request that vendors and public transportation operators not increase prices by more than 7 percent. The government and the House will recalculate allocations of the welfare funds without changing the total amount of Rp 17.8 trillion already budgeted. Susilo also instructed all governors, mayors and regents to ensure that all primary commodities were available at affordable prices, including cooking fuel supplies. At the same meeting, he also instructed relevant authorities to focus on their investigations into troubled banks, the murder of human rights activist Munir, the Pertamina oil tanker sale case, and rampant illegal logging.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/17/2005


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MALAYSIA: A Guide on How to Enforce Laws

A report on how to enforce existing guidelines and laws against errant developers is being drafted by the Town and Country Planning Department in a move to rectify enforcement weaknesses of local authorities and state governments. Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said the report would be submitted to the National Physical Planning Council, headed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Ong said that among the weaknesses identified were the inefficiency of enforcement units and the inability to determine what was wrong. He said the Town and Country Department was now studying how existing guidelines and the relevant acts could be adhered to, adding that the report would be submitted to the council on April 1. The ministry will also organise intensive courses on how to enforce guidelines, Cabinet decisions and the Government's policies for all local governments, he said after launching the PJ Utara Lifelong Learning Community Campaign here yesterday. The minister said the implementation was not an action following the damage of the ecosystem at the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agriculture Park but a proactive initiative, as local governments had been found to be misinterpreting guidelines since a few years ago. He said a paper on the execution of the directive from the Prime Minister to save and protect the country's environment would also be submitted through the Town and Country Planning Department, which is the secretariat of the council. He will ensure that all the directives from the Prime Minister will be carried out fast, he said. Membership of the council comprises Cabinet ministers, mentris besar and chief ministers. Ong said a report on the investigation on the agriculture park would also be forwarded to the council. On another matter, Ong said Gunung Kenderong in Grik was the only place in the country where peat fires had yet to be put out, while the 780ha land at Ladang Sawit Tebu Hitam in Kuala Rompin, which had been on fire, would still need to be monitored. Only 122 firefighters and 57 officers from several other agencies are still engaged in operations while other firemen have gone back to their normal routine, he said.


From http://thestar.com.my 03/05/2005


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PHILIPPINES: Lawmaker Wants Govt Body to Set Price of Medicines

AN administration lawmaker on Wednesday proposed the creation of a regulatory body to dismantle a drug cartel that he said is to blame for the high price of medicine and for the financial troubles of small drugstores being run out of business by the 20-percent discount given to senior citizens. In a privileged speech, Rep. Ferjenel Biron of Iloilo said the drug cartel of multinational pharmaceutical firms is bleeding the people dry by its ¡°collusive, insidious operations,¡± making the Philippine drug price index among the highest in Asia and the world. ¡°It¡¯s a double whammy for the captive Filipino consumers,¡± Biron said. ¡°The multinational drug companies rob them from behind while the giant drugstore chain that has sprouted in all corners of the archipelago robs them more frontally¡ªin broad daylight.¡± To illustrate his point, Biron said the price of the antibiotic Amoxicillin has a retail price of P12 a tablet but the cost of production is less than P0.50. He noted that a giant drugstore chain is demanding as much as a 30-percent discount as a precondition for selling the drug. Multinational drug companies have jacked up factory prices to make up for the loss of revenues, Biron said. Biron observed that, like the deregulated oil industry, the free market has failed to produce the desired results for consumers but has created a windfall profit of as much as 40 percent for the businesses involved. ¡°This is the reason why the giant drugstore chain can afford to grant the 20-percent discount to senior citizens as mandated by law but the small drugstores could not because of the limited 10-percent retail markup they have to live with,¡± he said. Biron¡¯s bill would create a Drug Price Regulatory Board to impose stricter regulations on the prices of medicines. The board would be tasked to roll back the prices of medicines to realistic and reasonable levels.


From http://www.manilatimes.net 03/03/2005


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Senate Acts on Recto¡¯s Version of VAT Law to Raise Revenues

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Sen. Ralph Recto, on Monday started the sponsorship of the Senate¡¯s version of the value-added tax bill, which is expected to generate P81.8-million new revenues for the government. The Senate bill, fleshed out after nine public hearings, was signed by Senators Juan Flavier, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Ramon B. Magsaysay Jr., Pia Cayetano, Richard Gordon, Manuel Roxas, Bong Revilla, Sergio Osme?a 3rd, Joker Arroyo and Recto. Cayetano, Magsaysay, Gordon, Roxas, Revilla, Osme?a, Arroyo and Pangilinan said they would amend the committee report. Senators Rodolfo Biazon, Juan Ponce Enrile, Panfilo Lacson, Edgardo Angara, Alfredo Lim and Jinggoy Estrada did not sign the committee report. In his sponsorship speech, Recto said the huge public debt is the single biggest reason why Congress should enact the VAT bill, which he described as the ¡°hardest step on our journey to fiscal salvation.¡± ¡°The liberation of our grandchildren from a crushing debt begins when we start living within our means, when we start funding our needs from revenues instead of borrowing,¡± Recto said. The Senate version of the VAT bill retains the 10-percent VAT but lifts previous exemptions on economic activities except those involving staple food and agriculture, health and education, low-cost housing, lease of residential units not exceeding P10,000 a month, and indigenous and renewable energy sources like geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and natural gas.


From http://www.manilatimes.net 03/08/2005


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Senate Speeds Up Passage of VAT Law Before Recess

The Senate is scrambling to pass the amended value-added tax (VAT) bill before it goes on a Lenten recess on Thursday. Senate President Franklin Drilon has called an all-Senate caucus on Monday to determine the consensus of the senators and reduce the time for interpellations. The 11th-hour push for the bill came after the Senate failed to hold the proposed morning and afternoon sessions, Monday to Friday, on VAT. The Senate had held only afternoon sessions, and there were no sessions on Thursday and Friday. Drilon said they would try to clear the Senate calendar to devote full time to the bill. The Senate majority leader, Francis Pangilinan, said that nine senators have made reservations to interpellate Sen. Ralph Recto, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and sponsor of the VAT bill. The big number might make it very difficult to pass the bill, unless the senators could be persuaded to limit their questions. The senators are scheduled would join the floor debates next week are the Senate minority leader, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Luisa Ejercito Estrada, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal, Lito Lapid, Manuel Roxas 2nd and Sergio Osme?a 3rd. Jinggoy, Enrile and Osme?a had already started their interpellations. Osme?a said he would resume his interpellations ¡°after the Holy Week recess.¡± Sen. Edgardo Angara, however, believes that the VAT bill could be approved on third and final reading before the recess and that the only problem is the holding of a bicameral conference to bridge the gaps between the House and Senate bills. He said that if the bill is approved on Tuesday, there is time to convene the bicameral committee the following day.


Adapted From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 03/12/2005


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Govt Set to Streamline Use of Issued ID Cards

The government is drafting an executive order to unify the identification cards issued by government agencies to simplify transactions and to get around the fuss of enacting a law to legalize a national ID system. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is the lead agency drafting the executive order. The draft provides that in the absence of required legislation, ¡°the President, may, meanwhile, issue an executive order directing all government agencies to streamline their existing ID systems and to issue a unified multipurpose card with common data requirements and a common reference numbering system. NEDA said integrating and unifying these systems will reduce costs and make it more convenient to people to establish their identity for transactions with the government. It added that the government also may leave the implementation of a unified ID system to local government units, which can invoke the authority given to barangay secretaries to keep a record of residents in their jurisdiction. Another option, the NEDA said, is to wait for Congress to legislate the adoption of a national ID system. At a meeting on February 28, the committee tasked to draft the executive order agreed that the National Statistics Office will issue the information necessary for the card. The card, which shall veer away from being called a ¡°national ID card,¡± will carry the bearer¡¯s name, home address, gender, date and place of birth, marital status, picture, signature, names of parents, height, weight, two index fingers and two thumbmarks, as well as any distinguishing physical feature like moles. The draft provides for advanced security measures to protect the privacy of the bearer. The government had said it is eyeing the harmonization of government-issued IDs that include the voter¡¯s ID, Social Security System ID card, Government Service Insurance System card, PhilHealth card, Bureau of Internal Revenue ID and the driver¡¯s license.


Adapted From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 03/17/2005


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SINGAPORE: Accounting Bodies Favour Tightening of Rules in Revised Corporate Governance Code

Two professional accountancy bodies, representing both internal and external auditors, have provided their feedback on the proposed revisions to the Singapore Corporate Governance Code. Both the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants have come out in favour of a tightening of rules, particularly with regard to management accountability. This comes at a time when a number of listed firms have been seriously damaged by corporate fraud due to poor accounting controls. The Council of Corporate Disclosure and Governance called for public feedback a few months ago to various proposed amendments to the code of governance. The Institute of Internal Auditors set up a four-man team to respond to the call. Looking at practices elsewhere, the IIA noted that under a new regulation in Japan, the Chief Financial Officer of a listed company is required to certify its financial statements. Over in the US and Australia, both the Chief Executive and the Chief Financial Officer have to sign off the financial statements. In the US, the ruling is legislated under Sarbanes Oxley Act, while in Australia, the requirement is seen as a best practice guideline. The IIA noted that SingTel will be adopting the Australian Stock Exchange guideline in its very next annual report. The Institute has also made representations to the Corporate Governance Council asking that minimum professional standards be set for those who sign off internal audit reports. As for the Institute of Certified Public Accountants, it wants the role of the Chairman of a listed company to be separated from that of the Chief Executive. The Corporate Governance Council is recommending that a lead independent director be appointed in cases where these two roles are carried out by the same person. But ICPAS says this should only be a second best option. And it calls for a study of the Sarbanes Oxley Act to see which elements can be incorporated locally. The deadline for the feedback closed on February 15. The Corporate Governance Council is expected to issue its recommendations to the Finance Ministry by June. Meanwhile, there have been regulatory changes on corporate governance abroad.


Adapted From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/04/2005


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10-Year Masterplan to Chart Singapore's Future in Infocomm Technology

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) will draw up a 10-year masterplan to help Singapore stay ahead of the competition in the information, communications and technology (ICT) game. Called iN2015 (Intelligent Nation 2015), this vision aims to develop a national infocomm infrastructure for the future, develop the local industry and its capabilities, and create innovative systems that will transform the way Singaporeans work, live, learn and play. The roadmap will be released by IDA in the next few weeks. Over the next year, IDA will also work with the infocomm industry, research institutes and organisations to discuss the issues and challenges ahead. Announcing this, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Balaji Sadasivan called on stakeholders in the industry to play an active role and contribute to the masterplan. The ICT industry contributes some 6 percent to Singapore's Gross Domestic Product.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/06/2005


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VIETNAM: Enterprise Law Needs Fine-Tuning

The much-awaited unified Enterprise Law needs further modifications in order to get rid of administrative snags and create a truly level playing field for all businesses, said a conference organised to review the latest draft of the law. Representatives at the conference last Friday, which included members of Viet Nam¡¯s business community and lawyers, acknowledged that the law would create a breakthrough in the country¡¯s business environment. Director of the Trans-Pacific Service Company, Nguyen Minh Phu said the unified law would be a big step for all economic sectors to get on an even keel. "The draft law complies with international rules on business administration, and has satisfied all the demands of the country¡¯s development process," Nguyen Dinh Cung, a member of the committee which drafted the law, said. The law, which merges existing laws, including the State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) Law, Foreign Investment Law, and the Enterprise Law, aims to regulate business activities of the four basic types of enterprises, including limited liability, joint-stock companies, partnership companies, and private enterprises, rather than having separate laws for different models. The new draft allows foreign investors to form a company as per the four models instead of the earlier option of forming only limited liability companies, Cung said. But the draft, according to him, has not yet satisfied the country¡¯s businesses with most of them asking for greater openness. Many businesses expressed their concern about a draft law regulation on granting business licences, which they argued would discourage business activities. Director of the Duc Tien Co Ltd Tran Van Tien said, "When an enterprise is allowed (through registration) to do business in a non-restricted area, it means that it has the permission to do so. But, under the draft, it will also have to get a business licence. This is a legal overlap that can hinder businesses." The Ha Noi¡¯s Trade and Industry Association¡¯s vice president, Vu Duy Thai said: "Most nations use it (business licence) depending on their level of development. The point here is that the law has to be designed to minimise the abuse of it by certain ministries and industries for their benefits." Businesses and lawyers also disagreed with the regulation asking domestic investors to obtain licences from Vietnamese authorities before investing abroad. "It is obvious that this license is redundant," said Lawyer Cao Ba Khoat of the ATYS consultant and training company. He warned that this kind of licence would complicate the business environment in Viet Nam, and should be applicable only in certain business areas. Khoat also called for removing 70 per cent of the existing 250 kinds of licences. Arguing for removing all differences between foreign and domestic enterprises, the lawyer suggested that the law should allow a foreign investor to register their business like their domestic partners instead of having to obtain an investment licence. Representatives also raised objections to the regulation that requires foreign individuals for a security deposit of US$100,000 as a condition to open a business in Viet Nam. Most of the attendees also wanted the law to allow the transfer of unlimited capital from an enterprise to another, as they believed this would increase dynamism, and promote reciprocal supervision by business partners. They also raised concern about the transformation process of SOEs and the time set for them to be subject to the law. SOEs must change into limited liability or joint-stock companies if they are to do business under the Unified Enterprise Law, Nguyen Dinh Cung said.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/07/2005


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Ministry Set to Adopt Five New Audit Standards

The Ministry of Finance will issue five more accounting standards over the next few months, bringing the total number to 27, reported a ministry official. At the start of a two-day training programme in Ha Noi on Monday, Bui Van Mai, the director of the Accounting Policy Department under the ministry, said the ministry would help enterprises apply these standards over the next two years. By 2010, the accounting sector will reach international standards, Mai said. As a result, accountants or auditors with Vietnamese certificates or degrees will be able to work inside or outside the country, he added. "In addition, members of the Viet Nam Accounting Association will become members of the ASEAN and other international accounting associations," Mai said. The ministry organised the two day training programme to explicate six accounting standards promulgated last month as part of Viet Nam¡¯s move towards international integration. The country is expected to sign an agreement on professional accounting and auditing certificates and degrees with ASEAN countries.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/18/2005


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Copyright Laws Caught on Web

Ministry of Culture and Information (MoCI) launched a web site on Viet Nam¡¯s copyright laws on literature and arts in Ha Noi yesterday. The web site www.cov.org.vn designed by the MoCI¡¯s Literature and Arts Copyright Department and Informatic Centre will strengthen copyright protection and state management, and foster better international understanding of the country¡¯s laws. The web site will have information on copyright protection activities in various fields, and will enable writers and authors to secure copyright for their works. The Literature and Arts Copyright Department, established in 1987, has granted copyright to over 15,000 works.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/24/2005


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BHUTAN: Draft Constitution to Be Distributed to All Bhutanese

An auspicious day when the stars and elements converge favourably to create an environment of harmony and success, the Bhutanese people will turn the pages of a new era in history as the draft constitution of the kingdom of Bhutan is simultaneously unveiled around the country. Representatives of the people in the dzongkhag yargye tshogdus and the geog yargye tshogchungs will take part in the traditional ceremonies organised in every dzongkhag to mark the historic occasion. The draft Constitution will be made widely accessible, available to every citizen, as it is distributed to government organisations, schools and training institutions, and the business communities. The draft will also be launched on the Internet and a web site maintained for the Constitution, with a glossary of terms, to ensure clarity within and outside the country. On March 21, at a special session of the lhengye zhungtsho that was charged with a sense of momentous significance, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck shared his views on the Constitution with the members. It was the last formal discussion on the draft before the public distribution. His Majesty reminded the members of the lhengye zhungtsho that the Constitution of the kingdom of Bhutan was drafted with a single-minded focus that attached the highest importance to creating a democratic political system best suited to Bhutan. ¡°The adoption of the Constitution will provide the legal framework for a democratic political system that is best suited for Bhutan and will establish a system of governance that will safeguard the security and sovereignty of the nation and ensure the well being of the Bhutanese people for all time to come,¡± said His Majesty the King. His Majesty shared his perceptions and views on the draft Constitution, which has 34 Articles, explaining their significance and emphasising the need for all Bhutanese people to understand their implications in the right perspective. His Majesty said that Article II, on the institution of Monarchy, aimed to ensure that, if Bhutan had a good and capable King, he would be able to serve the country and the people meaningfully and ensure that the national interests were safeguarded and the aspirations of the people fulfilled. At the same time, if a King did not have the capability or the commitment to discharge this sacred responsibility, he would not be able to compromise the interests of the nation and the people. His Majesty expressed his satisfaction with the comprehensive rights and responsibilities prescribed for the Bhutanese people in the Constitution.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/23/2005



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INDIA: New Delhi Decides Not to Open Up Legal, Financial Services Despite Western Pressure

NEW DELHI: Despite mounting pressure from the developed world for opening up the services sector, India has decided not to make offers in the legal and financial sectors in its revised submission at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiation on services. The revised offers list is to be submitted by the end of May 2005. Commerce ministry officials told FE India was not yet prepared to negotiate multilaterally in these two sectors and had thus decided to keep them out of the offers list. India and other developing countries are facing immense pressure from developed countries including the EU, the US, Japan and Switzerland, for making offers in financial services. Large companies in financial services including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have organised themselves in a grouping called ¡®the financial leaders group¡¯ which is holding seminars and conferences in their attempt to convince developing country members to open up the sector and offer national treatment to foreign finance firms. Financial services include banking, insurance, insurance intermediation, asset management, pension and retirement services, payment systems including credit card, brokerage and securities. India, however, plans to proceed cautiously in opening up these areas. Legal services is another area where India is not keen to make offers. Sources said in this case it was not national interest but strong lobbying from the legal sector in India which was guiding decision-making. In its initial services offers submitted in January 2004, India had included health, telecom, engineering, construction, book-keeping and accounting, travel and tourism, computer-related services and maritime sectors. However, most of the offers have been made in Mode 1 and Mode 4 of supply which cover cross-border supply of services and movement of natural persons, respectively. Developed countries want India to make offers in Mode 2 and Mode 3 which respectively relate to consumption abroad and commercial presence of service supplier in the host country. While India is open to making offers in the two modes in its revised offers, it is waiting to see what other countries bring to the table. ¡°We can make offers in Mode 2 and Mode 3 in a number of sectors including accountancy but we want to see what developed countries offer in Mode 4. Our revised offers will totally depend on what we get in return,¡± an official said. Services that are being negotiated under the general agreement on trade in services (GATS) include accountancy, architecture, audiovisual services, business services, computer and related services, construction and related engineering services, consulting distribution, education, energy, oil and gas services and environmental services. Services which are open to inclusion in the negotiations under the WTO include financial services, legal services, logistics and related services, postal and courier, express delivery, telecommunication and air transport.


From http://financialexpress.com/ 03/07/2005



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IMF Sees More Investment Under Gov't Reform Agenda

NEW DELHI: Lauding the UPA government's reforms agenda, International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo de Rato on Friday said they would result in India attracting more investments, both domestic and foreign. "We think that the reform agenda that the government is putting forward will allow India to benefit from these opportunities," Rato told PTI after a meeting with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Rato had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier in the day. "IMF is certainly willing to collaborate and advice the government in whatever issues the government feels that we can make a difference," he said. "This is a good moment for the Indian economy not only because of the past performance or this year's performance, but because the future has great opportunities not only for keeping up growth but also for making growth being shared by bigger amount of population," Rato said. On the FDI flows into the country, Rato said "there is an amount of foreign investment right now coming into the country, but certainly the reform agenda that will make India more attractive to investment, both domestic and international, will certainly be more important in that respect. "So the projects regarding tax reforms, trade liberalisation and investment in infrastructure and education, we think are areas of great importance," he said. On the issue of use of foreign exchange reserves for infrastructure projects to which the IMF has objected, Ahlulwalia said, "I told him (Rato) infrastructure is a big problem, ideally if we get a lot of money through private sector without increasing fiscal deficit, that would be good, but for that we have to take care of regulatory problems, which is going to take time." He said to put in place a regulatory mechanism would take time, may be 4-5 years, and the question was "do we wait or do we kick-start the process by some public sector financing of infrastructure". "Very often a regulatory weakness can be offset by making public-private partnership," he added.


From http://financialexpress.com/ 03/18/2005



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SRI LANKA: Govt Announces New Measures: Speedy Clearance for Relief, Reconstruction Goods

THE Government yesterday announced a series of measures to expedite the clearance of relief and reconstruction goods entering the country. Under the new terms announced by Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, most items will be cleared duty free for speedy distribution under the relevant government authorities and personnel. The duty concessions will be valid till April 26, 2005. However, items such as rice will not be allowed in duty free to protect the interests of the local farmers. Communications equipment should have prior clearance from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. The following guidelines will be applied: (1) In order to protect domestic rice producers, import of rice will be discouraged. Duty waivers will not be granted for consignments of rice being sent as relief goods. All such consignments of rice imported will be kept in bonded warehouses. (2) New garments and textiles would be cleared free of duty provided they are handed over to the Director/Social Services for use by the tsunami victims. (3) Duties would be charged for used garments and textiles. If duties are not paid (or cargo is abandoned) the Director, Social Services will dispose them in a suitable manner. (4) Tents - provided tents are suitable for local conditions, could be cleared free of duty. Such consignments should be handed over to the Director/Social Services or to the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation or Commissioner General Essential Services. (5) Building materials and building construction machinery/equipment would be cleared free of duties and taxes on the recommendations of the Urban Development Authority. (6) School supplies, pencils, paper and shoes for school children would be cleared free of duty provided consignments are handed over to the Director/Social Services for distribution among schoolchildren in affected areas under their supervision. (7) Medicines and Medical Supplies and Medical and Surgical Equipment which comply with regulatory requirements would be cleared free of duty provided they are consigned to the Director General/Health Services. Alternatively donors may be allowed to hand over these items to any Govt. Hospitals or Medical Camps with the approval of the relevant health authority. (8) Water pumps and water purification equipment would be cleared free of duty subject to equipment to be installed under the relevant District Secretary. (9) Gully Emptiers and Water Bowsers would be cleared free of duty subject to consignments being handed over to the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation for distribution among District Secretaries or local authorities. Generators would be cleared free of duty subject to consignments being handed over to the Director Social Services to be distributed under the supervision of District secretaries and Divisional secretaries or relevant Government agencies. (10) Communication equipment would be cleared only on the recommendations of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Defense. (11) Electrical appliances, consumer durable and computers / computer peripherals should have prior clearance from the Treasury before handing over to the appropriate authorities. (12) All other relief items meant for tsunami victims should be released without duties and taxes on condition that such items will be handed over to the Director, Social Services/Secretary, Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction or to the relevant government authority for distribution among intended beneficiaries.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/05/2005


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Govt to Purchase the Highest Amount of Paddy

Agriculture, Livestock, Land and Irrigation Ministry is ready to purchase nearly two million metric tonnes of paddy as the highest ever in history. Minister Anura Dissanayake at a press briefing held at the Ministry premises last week highlighted that the previous government had spent only Rs. 385 million in 2002 for both seasons to purchase the paddy harvest and it was Rs. 484 million in 2003. Alliance government so far has released Rs. 1000 million to buy Maha Season harvest, enabling the farmers to sell their products at a reasonable price. The Minister also reiterated that the Treasury had agreed to provide any amount the scheme needs to buy the harvest. He also admitted that shortcomings are there while working towards buying a historic harvest. However, he denied the Opposition's allegation that the government's paddy purchasing scheme was a failure. He said the scheme was more satisfactory in Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Hambantota and Ampara districts than they expected. "Dimbulagala, Egodapattuwa and several other places in Polonnaruwa had some problems with sudden rains and transport problems. We will take immediate measurers to avoid the situation", the Minister told the media. However, the Ministry had not received weekly reports on time from the relevant GAs with the details of paddy purchasing and it made the Minister to avoid provision of districtwise paddy purchasing details to the media. Anyhow, he further said that the government would be able to engage directly in controlling the rice price in the market and sometimes would be creating opportunities to export rice to the World Market too. Meanwhile, ministry had also planned to buy over one lakh of quality seed paddy for the use of farmers at the next season cultivations.


From http://www.sundayobserver.lk/ 03/27/2005



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World Bank Asks Government to Approve Water Policy in a Month

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has bound the government to approve National Water policy (NWP) within one month and establish Water Policy Cell in the Water and Power Ministry for extending technical support for the proposed National Water Council (NWC), it is learnt. "The water and Power Ministry has shared the draft policy with the World Bank, and has also agreed to show the final draft once it is prepared for submission to the cabinet", an official quoted the Bank in one of its comments recently submitted to the finance ministry. The World Bank made it mandatory that the water and power ministry would notify the NWC and the PWC (with core funding for next fiscal year) soon after the NWP is approved by the cabinet. The Bank observed that progress was to be made in two important aspects of the irrigation water management, ie the strengthening of Indus Water River System Authority (Irsa) and the development of a Drainage Master Plan (DMP) for the country. It has also discussed the problems being faced by Irsa to implement the Water Accord among the provinces, saying that improvement in Irsa's capacity was necessary so that it could better perform its functions to implement the Water Accord of 1991, the official maintained. Irsa, the official said, has submitted its improvement plans and proposals (PC-II) for review of the water and power ministry, which includes enhancement and strengthening of technical staff of the regulator, including training, acquiring equipment to better monitor and forecast the Indus flows. This also includes technical studies to facilitate its operations and the construction of Irsa's headquarter building which was being reviewed by its parent ministry. In the meantime, Irsa has taken actions that would make the telemetry system fully operational and inter-provincial water distribution more transparent, the World Bank further observed. The government had also prepared a draft of Drainage Master Plan that was reviewed by the panel of experts in September last, which recommended improvements in various parts of the report. The experts also suggested the preparation of drainage development and water management plans for the Kotri Left Bank drainage basin and the Chaj drainage basin in parallel with the implementation of the above recommendations. The final draft is expected to be available in October after the incorporation of experts' recommendations. The World Bank was of the opinion that Pakistan was facing major water-related issues that have serious social, economic and environmental implications. In the domain of irrigated agriculture, these include low efficiency of water use, environmental sustainability, large areas water-logged, saline with low crop yields, depleting ground water resources both in terms of quantity and quality, and lack of Drainage Accord amongst the provinces.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/28/2005


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MALDIVES: Gayoom Urges Nation to Pull Together to Restore Economy

MALE: Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has issued a rallying call to the nation to pull together to restore the economy and living standards of this idyllic Indian Ocean country as it strives to recover from the tsunami. In a speech two months after the devastating Boxing Day tragedy, Gayoom laid out his government¡¯s priorities for the coming year to newly elected members of parliament in the capital, Male. ¡°The government,¡± the Maldivian president said, ¡°will spare no effort to ensure full national recovery from the devastation caused by the tsunami, and reconstruct the social and economic infrastructure of the country.¡± ¡°In economic policy, the emphasis will be on promoting fisheries, tourism and commerce, developing the skills required for the job market, promoting entrepreneurship, increasing access to overseas markets, and enhancing income-generating opportunities for people in the atolls. ¡°I call upon all members of the general public, all sectors of the government and civil society organizations and associations, to work together in this endeavor.¡± The president indicated that recovery was an opportunity to repair but improve on pre-tsunami standards. Rapid restoration of the tourist trade is a vital part of Maldives recovery, alongside the fishing and agriculture sectors in the atolls, the coral banks strewn along the archipelago on which small local communities live and work. ¡°In 2004, the number of tourist arrivals in the country exceeded six hundred thousand, which represents a growth of 9.4 percent. The tsunami disaster caused significant infrastructural and financial damage to the industry," said President Gayoom. "Given the importance of a quick rebound in tourism, the government is working in partnership with the industry, to ensure that tourist arrival numbers pick up as soon as possible. ¡°The government will shortly start a number of projects with donor assistance to help revive the fisheries and agricultural sectors. ¡°The government is fully committed to pursuing national recovery, and attaining a higher standard than before the tsunami,¡± said President Gayoom. He said the Maldives had been greatly encouraged by the generous support it had received from overseas in the immediate emergency, and the interest shown by international political leaders in the Maldives¡¯ recovery. ¡°Visits to the Maldives by world leaders and heads of international institutions and other donors, have brought hope to the people. These also demonstrate the solidarity and support of the international community." Among the leaders who have visited the Maldives in the aftermath of the tsunami are former US Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, Turkish Prime Minister Rece Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, and vice-president of the Asian Development Bank, Liqun Jin, have also visited the country recently.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/09/2005



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Cabinet Discusses Progress in National Recovery Efforts

MALE: The Cabinet on Wednesday discussed the progress in the ongoing efforts to attain full national recovery after the tsunami. During the meeting, members deliberated on the status of the relief and reconstruction programme, in particular the provision of temporary housing for people who were internally-displaced after the tsunami, the renovation of damaged homes, and the construction of new houses. They also spoke on the work of the National Disaster Management Centre. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom briefed members on his recent visit to Shaviyani and Raa atolls. He said that the purpose of these visits was to see first-hand community-level efforts to recover after the tsunami and to inquire about the well-being of the people. He went on to note that he also wanted to identify areas where the people required urgent government support and assistance in this important endeavour. He said that the people were working in partnership with island officials, and that during his tour he had also officially announced the habitation of Shaviyani atoll Milandhoo island. The President also briefed members on his forthcoming official visit to India.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/24/2005



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PAKISTAN: New Bill Seeks to Empower High Courts to Strengthen Foreign Investment

ISLAMABAD: The government is scheduled today (Wednesday) to introduce a bill in the National Assembly (NA) to empower high courts to hear disputes related to or arising from foreign private investment. A copy of the bill, obtained by Daily Times, showed that the government wanted to make necessary amendments in the Foreign Private Investment (Promotion and Protection) (Amendment) Act 2005. ¡°In order to strengthen private investment in Pakistan, certain amendments have to be made. The bill seeks to empower high courts to adjudicate cases arising under the act. Appeal against the judgment of a high court shall be filed with the Supreme Court,¡± an official statement attached to the bill said. Under the amendment, high courts shall exercise exclusive civil jurisdiction to adjudicate and settle all related matters. The court would also adjudicate and settle all matters transferred to it. The high court will not be bound to rehear any witness and may act on the evidence already recorded or produced before the forum, tribunal or court from which the proceedings were transferred. Another amendment said the high court would decide the case before it within a period of six months. Companies Act: The government would introduce another bill to amend the Companies Act 1984, with a view to improve the ordinance for healthy growth of corporate enterprises. An official statement attached to the bill said it (the bill) would remove certain practical difficulties experienced during the period of enforcement of the ordinance.


From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 03/02/2005



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IRAN: MPs Approve Budget Bill Outlines

The Parliament on Monday approved the outlines of the budget bill for the year to March 2006, reported ISNA. The ratification came as 15 proponents and 15 opponents of the bill explained their reasons for supporting or opposing the draft. Hamid Reza Baradaran-Shoraka, who heads the Management and Planning Organization (MPO), also gave his report at the Parliament¡¯s open session debating the bill. The outlines of the bill were passed with 159 votes for, 37 against and 14 abstaining votes. The lawmakers began their debates on the notes of the controversial bill on Sunday. Heydar Mostakhdemin Hosseini, deputy minister of economic affairs and finance, told ISNA on Sunday that the final parliamentary studies on the bill would take 10 days to be completed. The Parliament has been accused of developing a discriminatory outlook on fund allocations while studying the budget bill. However, Hosseini said the executive bodies always complain that they must get a bigger share of the budget. Last week, the MPO chief advised the conservative-dominated Parliament not to discriminate between executive bodies in fund allocation.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 03/01/2005


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KAZAKHSTAN: Parliament Passes Law on Government Contractual Social Work

Deputies of the mazhilis have agreed with amendments introduced by the senate in the draft law "On government contractual social work" at a plenary session of the chamber as of today, 23 March, KZ-today correspondent reports from Astana. Thus, the law is considered to be passed by the parliament and is forwarded to the head of state for signing. Mazhilis deputy Gadilbek Shalakhmetov has explained that the senate amendments have a technical character. The law on government contractual social work has been worked out in order to create basis for wider participation of the non-governmental organisations in the implementation of social projects, programmes, and separate events, financed at the expense of the state budget. Besides, the mazhilis deputies have agreed with amendments introduced by the senate in the draft law "On changes and amendments in the law of RK "On state purchases" at the today's plenary session of the chamber. The amendment to the law aims at legislative regulation of receiving government contractual social work without submitting bid applications.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 03/23/2005



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Senate Makes Changes in Draft Law on Chambers of Industry and Commerce

Deputies of the senate have considered and sent to the mazhilis the draft law "On chambers of industry and commerce" with their changes and amendments today, March 24, at a plenary session of the chamber, KZ-today correspondent reports. Earlier it was reported that the objective of the law was to define the peculiarity of the legal status of the CIC as a separate legal organisational form of a non-lucrative organisation. As per the draft law the main tasks of the CIC are to promote development of business activities in Kazakhstan, provide practical aid to individual entrepreneurs, and juridical persons in RK in new forms of commercial, economic, scientific, and technical co-operation. The changes and amendments made by the senate deputies aim at bringing the draft law norms in compliance with the legislation of RK. The senators have also concretised a number of the draft law norms and excluded several provisions repeating themselves. Also the changes and amendments made by the senate deputies aim at bringing the draft law norms in compliance with the juridical technique.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 03/24/2005



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TURKEY: New Rules for Credit Cards

G¨¹m¨¹?hane deputy Sabri Varan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is currently working on regulations governing credit cards. Varan's proposal for a law on credit card regulations opens the way for the prohibition of credit card issuance without an application and for the card limit not to exceed five times the cardholder's monthly income. The proposal regulates the basic terms and conditions as regards the use of credit cards issued by institutions with the authority to do so and paves the way for the establishment of the Bank Cards and Credit Cards Commission, which will include members from the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), the Industry and Trade Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB), the Consumption Council, the Turkish Tradesmen and Artisans' Confederation (TESK), the Turkish Standards Institute (TSE) and the Union of Free and Certified Public Accountants' Chambers. Commission members will remain in office for two years. A member whose term in office expires will not be reappointed or re-elected. Under the proposal, institutions with the authority to issue credit cards will be responsible for the proper and safe use of cards, for adequately informing cardholders and for establishing a system that will inform cardholders of their debt. Limit on credit cards Credit card limits will not exceed five times the cardholder's income, and the cardholder will have to prove his/her income with documentary evidence. The Bank Cards and Credit Cards Commission will have the power to amend this limit when necessary and shall notify the cardholder of such change. No credit card will be issued and no contract drawn up without an application. Issuing institutions will be able to engage in promotional campaigns such as providing cardholders with extra bonuses, but they will not inform cardholders of the bonus amounts. These institutions will have to insert the cardholder's photo on the credit card and additional cards. Credit card holders will have to show his/her identity card when using the card, if so asked. Also, it will be compulsory for the cardholder to sign the signature strip on the card. Insurance obligation The issuing institution must insure the cardholder in the event the card is lost or stolen. The cardholder will not be responsible for debts arising from use of card as of the time it was lost or stolen on condition that he/she notifies in writing the institution that issued the card. Issuing institutions need to insure the holders of the cards against death or impairment for the upper limit of the card. Under the proposal, the provisions of the contract signed with the cardholder will be clear, comprehensible and easily legible. The color of the letters in the contract will be dark black and the print size of the letters will not be smaller than pica. Issues concerning monetary liabilities and the renewal and cancellation of the contract will be regulated under specific conditions that can easily be comprehended by the parties involved. Interest rates on credit card debt will not exceed the loan interest rate average applied to short-term consumption loans by banks operating in Turkey. This average will be announced on the first day of every month. Administrative penalties imposed by BDDK and recorded as income Those persons who use or attempt to use someone else's credit card and those who obtain someone else's credit card codes through any means will face imprisonment of up to 10 years and will be fined 10 times the amount used. Persons who issue or print cards without legal permission will be fined and forced to pay up to TL 100 billion and will also face imprisonment of up to eight years. Credit cardholders who allow someone else to use their card by claiming that his/her card was stolen or lost will face imprisonment of up to 10 years and ordered to pay 10 times the amount of the damages. Those engaged in forgery when applying for a card will be jailed for up to five years, while those who issue fake cards or who deliberately use them will face up to 10 years' imprisonment. Persons who steal or attempt to steal money from automatic teller machines (ATMs) will be jailed for up to five years while those who use credit cards despite the fact that their card contracts have been cancelled will be jailed for up to three years upon complaints from the issuing institution. As for the institutions with the authority to issue credit cards, if they fail to ensure the secrecy of customer information, they will be ordered to pay up to TL 100 billion. Under the proposal the institutions -- except for banks -- that issue credit cards will have to apply to the BDDK within six months of publication of the regulations to secure permission to issue cards.


From http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/ 03/27/2005



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AUSTRALIA: Government Rakes in $5 Billion in Taxes

The Howard Government has raked in almost $5 billion after introducing or increasing 62 taxes since bringing in its GST, Labor analysis revealed. The taxes have raised almost $5 billion for federal coffers according to Labor analysis provided to The Daily Telegraph, the newspaper reported. The Senate research also recorded 170 new taxes and charges since the coalition was elected in 1996. The figures showed Treasurer Peter Costello took $100 billion more per year than when the government was first elected in 1996, Labor treasury spokesman Wayne Swan said. The federal government had introduced new tax and charges or raised existing taxes at least 62 times since they brought in the GST, he added. The introduction of the GST was supposed to simplify the tax system and replace many hidden taxes, fees and charges.


From http://theage.com.au 03/1/2005


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Temporary Homes to Be Permanent

Rather than sell them, the Government will relocate 20 athletes' village houses for low-income earners. Twenty temporary houses at the Parkville Commonwealth Games athletes' village will be given to the Department of Housing after next year's Games. The State Government confirmed the handover yesterday, despite recently saying the sale of the houses would recoup the expenditure blow-out on the village. "We intend to utilise up to 20 of the largest units as social housing after the Games, relocated to sites across Victoria," a spokeswoman for Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden said yesterday. The 20 temporary houses are larger versions of those revealed in The Age last month. Each will house 14 athletes in six bedrooms during the Games. They will later be converted into three and four-bedroom "housing commission" homes and moved to other areas of the state. Mr Madden said last month that recent increases in spending on the village were justified because the resale value of the temporary houses would be greater and cover the extra costs. Opposition Games spokesman Gordon Rich-Phillips questioned how the Government would now cover the costs, which The Age believes are "tens of millions of dollars". "If the units are to be given to the Department of Housing, Madden must explain how the cost blow-out will be covered," he said. "It is getting harder and harder to believe what the Government is saying about the village, there is a different story every week." Mr Madden's office defended yesterday's revelation that 20 of the largest and best temporary houses would be handed over rather than sold. "The sale of the remaining 95 temporary homes is expected to meet the costs of those minor adjustments to the budget," a spokeswoman said. Of the 95 temporary houses, most are one and two-bedroom units. The Victorian Council of Social Service warned the Government to avoid a repeat of the problems surrounding the 1956 Olympic Games village at Heidelberg, which struggled in the transition to a housing commission estate after the Games. "If temporary homes are to become long-term housing for low-income people, they need to be high-standard, sustainable homes," acting chief executive Bev Kliger said. The Government recently asked architect Paul Zaviska to redesign those houses bound for social housing to ensure they had a traditional pitched roof, amid concerns that their modern look would be unpopular. "They reckon that if they put it in a small town on a block of land somewhere that it might look odd, out of character with the local tradition," Mr Zaviska said. The Government has promised that 200 permanent dwellings on the Parkville site will be reserved for social housing after the Games. A Government spokeswoman confirmed that the temporary houses bound for social housing were "over and above" that initial promise. (by Peter Ker)


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/02/2005


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ACTU Wants Answers to Minimum Wage Plans

The ACTU called on the federal government to guarantee that minimum wages would continue to be set independently of the political process. ACTU secretary Greg Combet made the call following utterings by the government that it is reviewing different options for setting minimum wages, other than through the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). "It is worrying that federal Cabinet is planning to scrap Australia's unique system of setting minimum wages by an independent umpire and bring in a US-style system that would give them political control over minimum wage rates," Mr Combet said in a statement. He said Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews and Treasurer Peter Costello were considering a scheme where they would appoint their own minimum wages expert group and have the final say over the group's recommendations. "The proposal would effectively mean the Liberal Party, when in government, would control the pay packets of the 1.5 million hotel workers, cleaners, waiters, bar attendants, sales assistants and other Australians that are reliant on minimum wages," Mr Combet said. "It would mean that one in six working Australians would either never get a pay rise or would get much less than they do under the current independent umpire system run by the AIRC." He said the coalition government had opposed every increase in minimum wages sought by the ACTU since 1996. "If the government had had its way then workers on the minimum wage would be more than $2,200 a year worse off than they are now."


From http://theage.com.au 03/06/2005


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Industrial Manslaughter Laws May Go

State and territory laws designed to criminalise the role of employers in workplace deaths have been dealt a blow by the federal government. In an Australian first, the ACT last year made industrial manslaughter an offence under the Crimes Act, making employers and senior officers liable for deaths in their workplaces. But the federal government has sought to override the laws in relation to commonwealth departments, agencies and bodies, through the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Amendment (Promoting Safer Workplaces) Bill 2005. Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said industrial manslaughter laws created an unnecessary adversarial culture. "This inhibits their ability to work together to eliminate workplace safety hazards and prevent the unwanted consequence of endangering workplace safety," Mr Andrews told parliament. NSW was considering adopting laws criminalising industrial manslaughter after a government inquiry last year recommended an increase in financial penalties and the prospect of jail. An NSW upper house inquiry in the same year advised the government to criminalise the offence. A campaign by unions and the Greens has pushed for the laws nation-wide after high-profile workplace deaths on construction sites captured public attention. If passed by parliament, the amendment would override all current and future state-based legislation in relation to commonwealth employers only.


From http://theage.com.au 03/09/2005


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New Laws to Speed Migration Court Cases

New laws to speed up migration matters and deter bogus applications were introduced into parliament. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock introduced a bill into the House of Representatives which would put a 28-day uniform time limit on migration cases and strengthen the powers of the courts to deal with unmeritorious matters by broadening the grounds on which federal courts can quash cases that have no hope of succeeding. He said the government wanted to stop lawyers pursuing hopeless matters through he courts to buy their client extra time in Australia. "It is grossly irresponsible to encourage the institution of unmeritorious cases as a means simply to prolong a successful visa applicant's stay in Australia," Mr Ruddock told parliament. "It is equally irresponsible for advisers to frustrate the system by lodging mass-produce applications without considering the actual circumstances of each case." Mr Ruddock said over recent years the government had won more than 90 per cent of all migration cases decided at hearing. He said the government recognised not all unsuccessful cases were unmeritorious but a large proportion of unsuccessful migration cases was a strong indicator that some illegal immigrants were using the courts to prolong their stay in Australia. The proposed law ensures the Federal Magistrates Court has the same jurisdiction under the Migration Act as the High Court. "Identical grounds for relief in the High Court and the Federal Magistrates Court will assist the courts to quickly identify applicants who are seeking to re-litigate matters that have already been the subject of judicial consideration," Mr Ruddock said. "A complementary reform in the Bill requires the disclosure by applicants of any prior judicial review applicants in relation to the same migration decision." Debate on the bill was adjourned.


From http://theage.com.au 03/10/2005


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Govt Rejects Labor ATSIC Amendments

The government rejected Labor plans to keep indigenous regional councils in place until next year as parliament moved closer to abolishing Australia's peak indigenous body. A law to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was amended by Labor to ensure regional councils, which were meant to be abolished mid-year under the government's original plan, remained in place until January 2006. The proposed laws were introduced into parliament last year but delayed while a Senate committee inquired into the changes. The latest bill seeks solely to abolish ATSIC and Multicultural Affairs Minister Peter McGauran said the delay in scrapping the indigenous body had already cost taxpayers about $2 million in ATSIC commissioners' salaries. "We have no intention of repeating the failed ATSIC experiment," he told parliament. "ATSIC elections cost between $7 (million) and $9 million, annual remuneration for commissioners alone costs the taxpayer almost $3 million and a further $1 million for travel expenses. "No one could sensibly argue that there are not far better ways to spend that sort of money to benefit indigenous people." Mr McGauran said the government rejected Labor's amendment to delay the abolition of regional councils until January 1 next year and refused to accept Australian Democrats amendments. The Democrats want to limit the power of the minister to give directions to Indigenous Business Australia and require the environment minister consult with indigenous bodies about plans which could impact on indigenous heritage values. "We cannot accept these amendments because they are contrary to the intent of the bill," Mr McGauran said. Opposition defence spokesman Robert McClelland said Labor agreed with the government that major changes for the representation of indigenous people were required. "But that is where the agreements ends," he said. "We fundamentally disagree with the government's new arrangements and its approach to implementing them." Mr McClelland said Labor had a firm policy in support of a national indigenous representative body and it opposed the government's new National Indigenous Council because it was not chosen by indigenous people. He said the government had used ATSIC as a convenient scapegoat for all the problems in indigenous service delivery. "Indeed, the evidence presented throughout the Senate committee inquiry confirmed that ATSIC has often taken the blame for the broader failure of both commonwealth and state government programs," Mr McClelland said. He said the opposition was being reasonable about its demand to extend the life of regional councils. "You would think that the government would embrace the continuation of a structure which provides certainty and enables consultation at the regional level while the new arrangements are still being bedded down," Mr McClelland said. "A key reason for extending the life of regional councils is to ensure some certainty and stability while regions and communities endeavour to establish new arrangements." Debate on the bill was continuing.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/15/2005


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Govt Rules Out Road Distance Tax

The federal government has ruled out replacing the fuel excise with fees based on the distance individual vehicles travel. A user-pays scheme, which would use global positioning system (GPS) technology to track the distance cars and trucks travel, was flagged following a NSW government proposal to introduce a toll on the Pacific Highway. A per-kilometre tax, used in some European countries for heavy vehicles and trialled in at least one US state, would be more efficient than a fuel levy, the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) at Sydney University said. "I wouldn't want be so bold as to say that we can do away with the fuel tax altogether," ITLS director Professor David Hensher said. "(But) let's seriously think about (a kilometre-based charge) on all roads." Trucking groups, which have responded with alarm to the idea of a toll targeting the trucking industry on the main road linking Sydney and Brisbane, would benefit from a kilometre-based charge, Prof Hensher said. But the federal government has ruled out replacing fuel excises with such a scheme. Although it would consider GPS technology as part of ongoing road funding discussions with the states, it would not replace fuel taxes, a spokesman for Transport Minister John Anderson said. "No ... that's not part of our plan," the spokesman said. Mr Anderson told reporters in Sydney he had recently discussed the idea of a toll for the Pacific Highway with the NSW government. "Practically, this piece of engineering is so big and so complicated and will swallow up so much (of) taxpayers' money that frankly it doesn't seem unreasonable that those who will benefit most from its usage might be given the option of contributing with a toll," Mr Anderson said. Former NSW coroner Kevin Waller, who conducted inquiries into two bus crashes on the highway in 1989 that killed 55 people, said governments should fund the conversion. "They didn't need tollways to build the Hume Highway or to build the bitumen road all around Australia or to create the Snowy Mountains scheme and I don't think they need tollways now," Mr Waller told ABC radio. Labor said the government's support for a tollway was a double standard since it refused to fund a tollway in Victoria this year. "It attacks the Victorian government day in and day out for taking the same approach to the Mitcham-Frankston Road - putting on a toll to prevent a 20-year delay in its construction," opposition roads spokesman Kelvin Thomson said. In three years, fuel excise revenue had risen by $400 million to $7.46 billion, and petrol GST had also increased $400 million to $1.86 billion, Mr Thomson said. The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) - the peak national body for vehicle lobby groups, insurance companies, and road service organisations - said it would support a kilometre-based charge if the fuel excise was scrapped. AAA executive director Lauchlan McIntosh slammed the proposal for a toll on the Pacific Highway. "It's a pity we're jumping to conclusions that tollways is the only way to go," Mr McIntosh told AAP. Long-haul trucks should not be punished under a system that charges them - and not short-haul drivers - a toll, he said.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/21/2005


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Govt Examines Insolvency Laws

The federal government plans to overhaul Australia's insolvency laws to better protect personal injury claimants short-changed by corporate restructures. Parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, Chris Pearce, presented a paper to the Ministerial Council on Corporations outlining the proposed changes, which were sparked by last year's James Hardie Industries scandal. An inquiry found the company was not legally obliged to meet a $1.5 billion shortfall in asbestos compensation, but said the underfunding of its obligations revealed flaws in corporate law. James Hardie agreed to meet the shortfall regardless of legal liability, subject to approval by shareholders later this year. But the company's directors previously said their duty to shareholders prevented them from paying. Mr Pearce said the reforms would not focus simply on James Hardie's behaviour. "It is important that we evaluate the impact of any potential reforms across all 1.3 million Australian companies, rather than focusing exclusively on one example of poor corporate behaviour," Mr Pearce said. "The legal framework governing insolvency has major implications for the performance of the Australian economy." The government plans to release proposals by the end of the year, which would then be open for comment. The paper suggests changes to the Corporations Act to protect damages owed for personal injury or death. The changes would address community concerns by sending a "very clear message to corporate Australia that deliberate avoidance of personal injury obligations is not acceptable", the paper said. Mr Pearce said he would ask the government's key corporate law advisory group to look at the issue of directors' duties. The Companies and Markets Advisory Committee would consider whether the Corporations Act should be amended to require directors to consider the interests of groups other than shareholders when making corporate decisions, he said.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/22/2005


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ovt to Announce Asylum Seeker Changes

The federal government will today announce changes to its asylum seeker policy which could see about 120 long-term detainees released into the community. Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone will make the announcement after federal cabinet discussed the issue yesterday. Prime Minister John Howard said cabinet had looked at the plight of some asylum seekers who had been denied refugee status but could not be returned to their home countries for a variety of reasons. Mr Howard said it was not reasonable that asylum seekers continued to be in detention while in that situation. He said the government would allow some detainees to stay in the community until barriers to their return could be removed. It has been estimated that up to 120 people could be in the situation covered by the policy change. Australia's longest serving immigration detainee Peter Qasim, a Kashmiri national, has been locked up for almost seven years. Mr Howard said that despite the changes the government stood by its policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers and tough line on border protection.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/23/2005


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NEW ZEALAND: Bill Tightens Foreign Land Sale Rules

A bill tightening controls on foreigners buying sensitive land but loosening business investment rules should be rewritten so it's harder for foreigners to buy land and companies, a parliamentary committee has been told. The Overseas Investment Bill abolishes the Overseas Investment Commission and shifts its role to Land Information New Zealand. It also requires non-resident foreign land buyers to show how they would manage historic, heritage, conservation or public access factors. But the bill also increases the threshold for approval of business acquisitions from $50 million to $100 million. Hugh Barr told the finance and expenditure select committee on behalf of the Deerstalkers Association that the back-country was being bought by foreigners as "private game parks" that excluded New Zealanders. Foreigners should be stopped from buying any pastoral or other Crown leases. "Foreigners often have no commitment to New Zealand or New Zealanders. They come to speculate and drive up land prices, to the detriment of New Zealanders." The price of $21.4 million paid last year by Canadian singer Shania Twain for pastoral leases of Wanaka's Motatapu and Mt Soho stations was at least four times higher than any realistic grazing lease cost for the amount of stock the properties had. "These properties are bought as international trophies, because New Zealand is one of the few places that allows foreigners to buy 5000ha to 50,000ha blocks of mountain land. I bet she can't buy such land in Canada," Dr Barr said. The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) called for the bill to be totally revamped. CAFCA's Bill Rosenberg said New Zealand went to great lengths to ensure immigrants had skills and were of good character. "Why do we not do the same for potentially vastly more damaging corporations? "The regime New Zealand has run for the last two decades for corporate investment is one of virtually non-existent control - and the Government is now proposing to reduce that control even further." CAFCA cited 19 examples of overseas purchases of companies and land in the last two years worth between $50 million and $100 million. Many were highly significant for economic, environmental or social reasons, the submission said. Under the new provisions none would require the regulator's approval. The Green Party said the threshold for approval for foreign buy-ups should be reduced to $10 million and all land sales to foreign firms and individuals who are not permanent residents should be prohibited. But Gerald Fitzgerald, a partner in law firm Kensington Swan, said too many controls could "cut off our nose to spite our collective national face". In the bill* Foreigners wanting to buy land but not live here will need to show how they will manage historic, heritage, conservation or public access issues, as well as any economic development planned. * Maximum fines will be increased from $30,000 for individuals and $100,000 for companies to $300,000 for both. * Threshold for approval of business acquisitions doubles from $50 million to $100 million. (by Kevin Taylor)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/10/2005


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Demand for Seabed Law Talks after UN Report

Maori groups have called for a renegotiation of seabed and foreshore legislation after the UN ruled that it was racially discriminatory. Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen has ruled out such a move in reaction to the decision by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Its report says the law extinguishes the possibility of establishing Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed and fails to provide a guaranteed right of redress. It also criticises the "haste with which the legislation was enacted" and the lack of consideration given to alternative plans more acceptable to Pakeha and Maori. The South Island's Ngai Tahu iwi, the Treaty Tribes Coalition which represents most North Island iwi, and the Taranaki Maori Trust Board took the issue to the UN. Their lawyer, Claire Charters, said the Government had "fallen foul of international law" and needed to re-enter negotiations to comply. "Maori protest seemed to fall on deaf ears with the Government. The Government, however, cannot ignore a UN tribunal decision." In its nine-point decision, the committee urged the Government "in accordance with the ideals of the Waitangi Treaty, to resume a dialogue with the Maori community". Ms Charters said that while the decision was not legally binding, the Government's international reputation was at stake. "New Zealand is seen as a world leader in human rights issues. Failing to act on the committee's decision would be a blow to that reputation." The decision re-ignites an issue that raged for most of last year and was the catalyst for a 20,000-strong march on Parliament last May and a key reason for the formation of the Maori Party. Dr Cullen said the report's language was vague, did not say the act was a breach of the international anti-racism convention and was not binding on the Government. He said there were no plans to modify the Foreshore and Seabed Act, but that the Government was "ready to be flexible around discussions with various groups as the committee has asked for". He disagreed with suggestions that the legislation had been rushed. "What is being said is there has not been agreement. That's obviously true. There was never going to be agreement on the appropriate way forward. Many Pakeha believe we gave too much and Maori believe we gave too little." Dr Cullen said the Government had co-operated with the committee's proceedings and would provide an update on the implementation of the Act by the end of the year. "We hope to be in a position by then to include positive information from negotiations with Ngati Porou and Te Whanau-a-Apanui in relation to their customary rights within their traditional rohe [territory]." Treaty Tribes coalition chairman Harry Mikaere said he was disappointed the UN ruling had not come out before the law was passed. (by Jon Stokes)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/14/2005


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Act Bill Seeks Exemptions to 'PC' Anti-Smoking Law

Smokefree laws have turned ordinary Kiwis into criminals, says Act deputy leader Muriel Newman, who yesterday introduced a bill which would give exemptions to the smoking ban. The Smokefree Environments (Exemptions) Bill aims to "roll back the excesses of political correctness" imposed by the legislation which came into effect in December, she said. "Labour's desire for social engineering is increasingly becoming an unwelcome intrusion in people's lives and needs to be kept in check." The bill provided exemptions for groups such as sports clubs and RSAs and for licensed premises where all employees consented. "If the publican doesn't object, employees don't object and the patrons want it, then where is the crime?" Dr Newman said. "Club premises are restricted to voluntary members who are capable of deciding for themselves what rules they wish to have in place." There had been a heavy-handed approach to RSAs, she said. "There are many members who have served this country, risking their lives for the freedoms that the Labour Government is stripping away." Dr Newman was successful in the private members' bill ballot.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/18/2005


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Roh Limits Role of USFK in Asia

Declaring Korea should be able to handle its own defense 10 years from now, President Roh Moo-hyun used a graduation speech yesterday at the Air Force Academy to announce his government would not consent to U.S. troops on the peninsula becoming involved in a conflict elsewhere in Asia." The United States Forces in Korea will continue to play important roles," Mr. Roh said for the graduation ceremony at the academy. "But I clearly say that the USFK should not be involved in disputes in Northeast Asia without Korea's agreement." Mr. Roh's remarks are considered his first official reaction to Washington's new military strategy, known as global repositioning for strategic flexibility. The U.S. plan is aimed at turning American soldiers at bases around the world into rapid deployment forces. As part of the program, the U.S. military is changing the USFK by emphasizing capability over numbers and relying on light, mobile forces rather than Cold War-era massed guns. Some observers, however, have expressed concern the shift may one day lead U.S. forces in Korea into a possible conflict between China and Taiwan. A top aide of Mr. Roh who asked not to be identified clarified the president's statement. "What Mr. Roh said was, for example, that it will be okay for the United States to send the USFK to Iraq," he said. "But the USFK should not interfere with Northeast Asian conflicts that will directly influence the fate of Korean people." Asked how Korea can influence Washington's military decisions in Northeast Asia, the aide said, "What Mr. Roh said was a doctrine-like declaration. Korea's position on the roles of the USFK is not new and the two countries have discussed the issue. Seoul and Washington will discuss the issue further." In the address at the academy, Mr. Roh also spoke about an independent role for Korean forces." The Korean military will develop in 10 years into an independent army which will take over wartime operational control [from the United States]," Mr. Roh said. "Unlike 100 years ago, we have enough power for self-defense. The military of Korea will become a stabilizer in the East Asian region by reforming its military structure and enhancing the efficacy of its defense capability," the president said. (by Min Seong-jae)


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com/ 03/09/2005


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World Bank Praised on Anti-Corruption

The World Bank's release of its annual examination of allegations of fraud and corruption involving the bank was hailed by a leading anti-corruption crusader, Transparency International (TI), as "a welcome step, and an example for other development banks to follow." The "Annual Report on Investigations and Sanctions of Staff Misconduct and Fraud and Corruption in Bank-Financed Projects" was released yesterday, reports The New York Sun. Berlin-based TI also noted that one of the most effective aspects of the World Bank report was its blacklisting of companies that it has identified as paying bribes. Moreover, TI Chairman Peter Eigen said the World Bank did a good job of detailing allegations of corruption within its organization. The World Bank report provides data on the 2,000 cases of alleged mismanagement, bribery, and bid rigging that were brought to its public integrity unit last year. Eigen said the United Nations, which is reeling from the alleged improprieties of the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, could learn from the report. "Lessons drawn from the bank's investigations and their public disclosure should also be learned by the United Nations in its own current internal review of accountability." Reuters further notes that in its first report of an expected annual series, a unit set up by bank president James Wolfensohn to root out abuse of bank funds said it had investigated cases involving bank staff and outsiders. Maarten de Jong, who heads the 50 lawyers, forensic auditors and investigators in the Department of Institutional Integrity, said publication of the report was another step in the bank's increased corruption fight. De Jong, a Dutch criminologist, said he was unable to conclude from the data the scale of the abuse. "What it does show is that the World Bank is doing something about it," he told a news conference. Thursday's report showed that in fiscal 2004, 55 firms and 71 people were barred from doing business with the bank and their names posted on the bank's Web site for fraud and corruption. The report also showed that the largest number of new cases were reported in East Asia and the Pacific, and in Europe and Central Asia regions. The least cases were reported in the Middle East and North Africa. Robert Hindle, a senior bank manager, said it would be "highly speculative" to conclude from the first report overall trends and costs of corruption to the bank. But he said the data showed a steady rise in allegations of corruption outside the bank, which he attributed to increased willingness by people to report abuse. Hindle also noted that more bank staff and consultants were reporting allegations of corruption and fraud in bank-financed projects. More than half of all tip-offs were from bank staff. According to the data, 45 percent of all allegations reported were for procurement fraud and collusion, 30 percent for kickbacks and bribes, and 6 percent for overcharging and misuse of projects assets.


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 02/25/2005


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Corruption in Construction Bankrupts Countries and Costs Lives, Says TI Report

¡°Corruption in large-scale public projects is a daunting obstacle to sustainable development,¡± said Peter Eigen, Chairman of Transparency International (TI), launching the TI Global Corruption Report 2005 today. ¡°Corruption in procurement plagues both developed and developing countries,¡± Eigen added. ¡°When the size of a bribe takes precedence over value for money,¡± he said, ¡°the results are shoddy construction and poor infrastructure management. Corruption wastes money, bankrupts countries, and costs lives.¡± TI is the leading international non-governmental organisation combating corruption worldwide. ¡°Funds being poured into rebuilding countries such as Iraq must be safeguarded against corruption,¡± Eigen said today. ¡°Transparency must also be the watchword as donors pledge massive sums for reconstruction in the countries affected by the Asian tsunami,¡± he added. The Global Corruption Report 2005, with a foreword by Francis Fukuyama, includes a special focus on construction and post-conflict reconstruction, and highlights the urgent need for governments to ensure transparency in public spending and for multinational companies to stop bribing at home and abroad. ¡°The unfolding scandal surrounding the UN sponsored oil-for-food programme in Iraq highlights the urgent need for strict conflict-of-interest rules and transparent and open bidding processes,¡± said Eigen. As Reinoud Leenders and Justin Alexander write in the GCR 2005, much of the anticipated expenditure on building and procurement in Iraq has not yet been spent. ¡°If urgent steps are not taken,¡± they write, Iraq ¡°will become the biggest corruption scandal in history¡±. To mark the publication of the Global Corruption Report 2005, today TI launched its Minimum Standards for Public Contracting, setting out a blueprint for transparent public procurement. According to Juanita Olaya, TI Programme Manager for Public Contracting, ¡°international donors and host governments must do more to ensure transparency in public procurement by introducing effective anti-corruption procedures into all projects. Tough sanctions are needed against companies caught bribing, including forfeiture of the contract and blacklisting from future bidding.¡± The TI Standards call on public contracting authorities to ensure that contracts are subject to open, competitive bidding. Other measures include maintaining a blacklist of companies caught bribing; providing public disclosure of the entire process; and ensuring monitoring by independent oversight agencies and civil society. The TI Standards also advocate the use of a TI Integrity Pact, which commits the authority and bidding companies to refrain from bribery. The Integrity Pact is a tool that has already been successful in reducing corruption and cutting the costs of dozens of procurement procedures around the world, and most recently has been agreed to be deployed in the EUR 2 billion development of the Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport in Germany. TI also urged the private sector to do more to curb bribery. ¡°Companies from OECD countries must fulfil their obligations under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and stop paying bribes at home and abroad,¡± said Eigen. ¡°With the spread of anti-bribery legislation, corporate governance and anti-corruption compliance codes, managers have no excuse for paying bribes,¡± he said. A promising sign, he said, was the addition of a tenth anti-corruption principle to the UN Global Compact, signed by close to 2,000 international companies, and the endorsement of a public anti-corruption pledge by 63 companies from the energy, metals and mining, and engineering and construction sectors at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2005. The challenge now for companies is to enforce tough anti-bribery policies.


From http://www.transparency.org/ 03/16/2005


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Tsunami Conference Backs Transparent Mechanism to Track Flow of Aid

Delegates to a high-level conference on reconstruction of countries devastated by the December 2004 tsunami disaster backed today a mechanism that would allow efficient and transparent tracking of the billions of dollars in assistance planned. The meeting, hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at its Manila Headquarters, proposed developing a consolidated, transparent database in the form of a tracking matrix at the country level. As a next step, the United Nations Development Programme and ADB will work together with the governments to develop a system to allow the data from the country level matrices to be absorbed into a consolidated regional tracking mechanism. The database will capture all forms of assistance including official development assistance, nongovernment organizations, and private sector support. "The tracking mechanism presented today will provide a comprehensive overview of operations on the ground and help ensure efficiency, effectiveness and accountability as we work together in rebuilding hundreds of devastated communities in the affected countries," ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said following the meeting. The one-day event brought together more than 200 participants, including ministers from five tsunami affected countries - India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand - senior officials from donor countries, and representatives of international agencies. Delegates from civil society organizations and the private sector were also attending, as well as local and international media. The meeting aimed to maintain the momentum and build stronger coordination on the rebuilding process for the countries devastated by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami disaster and help keep the overall rebuilding effort on track. Mr. Kuroda said in his opening speech that the size and complexity of the recovery effort, amount of funds coming in, and the large number of agencies involved in the relief and reconstruction efforts make the task ahead highly challenging. "Given the scale of the recovery, even with our best efforts at coordination, the potential for gaps, overlaps and duplications is significant," Mr. Kuroda said. "We need to develop tools that can assist us in identifying gaps, and avoiding duplications." Delegates to the event stressed that the planned tracking mechanism needs to be "owned" at country level, complementing the monitoring system that the countries themselves are establishing and not add another layer of complexity. "The matrix will provide not only a useful tool to track progress, it will help ensure that the world does not lose sight of the development needs of the tsunami affected regions during the critical two to three years of assistance ahead," Mr. Kuroda said. At the event, the tsunami-affected countries outlined coordination mechanisms that are ongoing as well constraints to coordination. They said that they must lead the recovery effort, including setting reconstruction priorities and coordinate support at the ground level. Participants also highlighted the important role that the private sector and NGOs can play during rehabilitation and reconstruction. Private sector representatives indicated their willingness to explore how they might help the economies of communities and regions get back on their feet and work with local government and business leaders in ensuring long-term prospects for economic growth. NGOs have significant resources at their disposal and in many cases have in-depth knowledge of local conditions that will be critical in bringing confidence and social cohesion back to devastated communities, the meeting heard. The meeting also discussed ways to combat corruption in the use of the massive aid planned, including using the tracking matrix, creating oversight committees with representatives of civil society and the international community, use of multidonor trust funds, such ADB's $600 million Asian Tsunami Fund, and independent audit agents. Sending a joint video message to the conference were former US Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, who said they were encouraged by the international coordination effort planned on the tsunami. Mr. Bush added that on their recent travels to tsunami affected areas, they were assured by governments that accountability and transparency would be top priority. "They know that the international community is concerned about the use of funds. And they told us they intend to be good stewards of the money raised for their aid," he said. "We encourage all of you to work as cooperatively as possible to help speed delivery to those in need."


From http://www.adb.org/ 03/18/2005


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ADB and Other International Organizations to Check Corruption in Tsunami Aid

MANILA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Tuesday that it will cooperate with other international organizations to check corruptions in the aid deliveries in tsunami-affected countries. The ADB, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Transparency International will join senior officials and non-governmental organisations from tsunami-affected countries in an expert meeting on April 7 to 8 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to address the risk of corruption in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction aid in relation to the relief efforts, said ADB in a news release. A press conference will be held on Friday, April 8 at Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta, said ADB. During a ministerial level meeting held last week in Manila, the ADB, donor countries and tsunami-affected countries agreed to establish of an international mechanism to closely follow up the delivery of aid and the money flow in rehabilitation and reconstruction in five tsunami affected countries. India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand were stricken by tsunamis on Dec. 26 last year, which killed more than 300,000.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/23/2005


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Annan Announces Shortlist Of Six Candidates to Be New UN Development Chief

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday announced a shortlist of six candidates from Asia, Europe and the Middle East to be the new UN development chief, reports The Associated Press. The six candidates to be called for interviews in the next few weeks are: Fawaz Al Sultan of Kuwait, former president of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development; Baroness Valerie Amos, leader of Britain's House of Lords and former secretary of state for International Development; Kemal Dervis, a member of the Turkish Parliament and former minister for economic affairs and the treasury and former World Bank vice president; Kaoru Ishikawa, director-general of Japan's Economic Affairs Bureau; Hilde Johnson, Norway's minister for international development; and Ad Melkert, former Netherlands minister of social affairs and former Dutch executive director at the World Bank. The candidate selected to be the new administrator of the UN Development Program (UNDP) will replace Mark Malloch Brown, who is Annan's new chief of staff. In a new initiative announced in late January, Annan opened up the search for Malloch Brown's replacement as development chief to "the best qualified candidates in the world," and set three criteria -- that the candidate possess political, fundraising and leadership skills; knowledge of development issues; and management expertise. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced another criteria: a leader who can champion the UN Millennium Development Goals to reduce global poverty "and galvanize the world towards their achievement."


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/23/2005


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CHINA: 681 Taxation Officials Punished in 2004

China has rooted out 681 corrupt officials who breach laws and disciplines of the taxation system last year and 87 of them will face criminal punishment, said an official with the State Administration of Taxation Sunday. The discipline inspection and supervision departments within the national taxation system has accepted 7,026 petition cases in 2004; 488 were filed for investigation. An leading official spoke at a national meeting on anti- corruption work within the system, noting that the prosecution of these officials is the result to the system's tightening control over illegal activities in the past year. This year, the official said, the system will further concentrate on the control and supervision tax collection and " promoting more open operations when dealing daily businesses."


From Xinhuanet 02/28/2005

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China Closes 147 Blood Collection Agencies

China's Health Ministry announced in Beijing Thursday that it has closed 147 illegal blood collection and supply agencies since last May to help ensure blood safety. Ma Xiaowei, deputy health minister, said at a national conference on health supervision that a joint taskforce has been set up by China's Health Ministry, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Food and Drug Administration to conduct a nationwide campaign to eliminate illegal blood collection. In addition to the 147 that were closed, 86 agencies were punished for malpractice in the campaign, Ma said. "Thirty people were arrested and 15 others were jailed. More than 100 people received administrative discipline," he said. China has more than 900 blood collection and supply agencies. In the mid-1990s, illegal blood collection caused the spread of AIDS among rural residents in some localities of central China. Since 1995, China promulgated a series of laws and regulations to secure blood safety, and HIV testing has been adopted at blood stations across the nation. Ma asked local health authorities to increase regular checks of blood collection and supply agencies to prevent illegal operations from reoccurring.


From Xinhuanet 03/25/2005


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CPPCC Promotes "One Country, Two Systems", Reunification

China's top advisory body has enhanced unity and friendship with Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan over the past year and played its due role in implementing "one country, two systems" and promoting reunification of the motherland, Chairman Jia Qinglin said on Thursday. The two special administrative regions (SAR) of Hong Kong and Macao have made some new progress in implementing the basic principle of "one country, two systems" and achieved self administration and high-degree autonomy, Jia said in his work report of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). In 2004, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) gave interpretations of the Hong Kong SAR's Basic Law and outlined Hong Kong's electoral methods in 2007 and 2008 in another important move to resolve issues of constitutional development in Hong Kong. The successful election of the Hong Kong SAR's third legislative council and the inauguration of the second-term government of the Macao SAR have cemented the status of patriotic forces in the political lives of the two special administrative regions, said the CPPCC National Committee chairman. Meanwhile, the CPPCC National Committee also promoted economic, technological and cultural as well as personnel exchanges across the Taiwan Straits to increase the Taiwan compatriots' understanding of the Chinese mainland's policy on Taiwan and dispel their skepticism and misunderstanding on certain issues. It is the common aspiration of various parties, political and ethnic groups and all circles to see the complete reunification of the motherland, he said. "Some non-Communist parties and members of the CPPCC National Committee have, at CPPCC meetings or in proposals, called for the earliest draft of an anit-secession law to fight and curb secessionist activities." In 2004, the CPPCC National Committee sent a total of 29 delegations to visit 44 countries and received 28 groups of visitors from 23 countries and three international organizations. It also clinched friendly relations with six countries and 13 organizations. The 56-year-old advisory body has so far established contacts of amity with 184 institutions from 107 countries and eight international and regional organizations.


From Xinhuanet 03/03/2005


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Senior Official Urges Improvement of Work Style of Party, Gov't

A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official Sunday urged the CPC and government officials to prioritize the improvement of the work style of the Party and government and provide highly efficient and quality services to their people. "The people will not only listen to what we say, but will watch what we do," said Wu Guanzheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Wu, who heads the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said that the improvement of the CPC and government's work style has a direct bearing on the implementation of the scientific outlook on development, the building of a harmonious socialist society and the improvement of the Party's governance capability. "Therefore, we have to intensify our efforts to make achievements in this regard," said Wu when he joined the delegation of lawmakers from Shandong Province, east China, in their discussion about the government work report by Premier Wen Jiabao at the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislature. To this end, Wu called on officials to heed views, suggestions and criticisms of the people and abide by regulations banning the offering and accepting of money bribe, seeking promotion for personal gains, conniving family members and subordinates to gain unlawful benefits, collecting money or goods on major occasions of their family such as marriage and funeral, and gambling. "We should continue to earnestly resolve problems relevant to the fundamental interests of the people and promote social harmony and unity. "We should step up inspection over the implementation of various systems and regulations and correct all errors and mistakes found during the inspection," he said. Wu also called on officials to give full scope to the supervisory role of the people and continue innovating the systems so as to uproot the soil to generate corruption.


From Xinhuanet 03/07/2005


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Tung Chee Hwa Elected CPPCC Vice Chairman

Tung Chee Hwa, chief executive ofthe Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), was elected vice chairman of China's top political advisory body on Saturday. Tung, 67, announced in Hong Kong Thursday that he had officially submitted to the central government his request for resignation from the post as chief executive of the HKSAR for health reasons. At the closing meeting of the third annual full session of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Saturday afternoon, the 2,110 CPPCC National Committee members present elected Tung to the new post by an overwhelming majority. Shortly after the conclusion of the CPPCC National Committee annual session, the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in HKSAR sent a congratulatory message on Tung's election, speaking highly of his contribution to Hong Kong and his"sterling character." A State Council full-member meeting held in Beijing Saturday afternoon, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, discussed and approved Tung's request to resign from the post of HKSAR chief executive.


From www.chinaview.cn 03/13/2005


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Hong Kong Government to Seek Ruling From China's Legislature on New Leader's Term Length

The government will ask Beijing to issue a ruling on Hong Kong's constitution to resolve a dispute over whether the territory's next leader should serve for two years or five, a newspaper reported Wednesday. Critics have voiced fears that such a move would threaten Hong Kong's cherished rule of law and high degree of autonomy _ guaranteed when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The dispute erupted earlier this month when Hong Kong's leader, Tung Chee-hwa, resigned. The government announced that his successor _ due to be elected July 10 _ would finish the two years remaining on his term. But legal experts and pro-democracy lawmakers say the constitution clearly states that any elected chief executive would serve a five-year term. Some lawmakers said earlier that they were considering taking the case to Hong Kong's courts. To resolve the dispute, Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung privately told pro-Beijing politicians Tuesday that the government will seek an interpretation of the constitution from China's top legislative panel, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the South China Morning Post reported. "The government is of the view that an interpretation of the Basic Law can ensure the chief executive election takes place as scheduled and avoid any possible constitutional crisis caused by legal challenges to the term of the next chief executive," the newspaper quoted an unidentified source close to the government as saying. But officials have not yet decided when to seek Beijing's ruling on the territory's constitution, according to the report. A spokeswoman at Leung's office, Patricia Mok, said the report was speculative and would not comment on it. Ma Lik, leader of Hong Kong's top pro-Beijing political party, said Leung has not discussed the issue with him, but that he supports the government's move to seek Beijing's ruling to end the dispute. Critics suspect Beijing favors the two-year option because it gives Chinese officials a chance to see how loyal the new leader will be before deciding whether he should rule for five years.


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com/ 03/23/2005


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JAPAN: Court Nullifies Election Result for Errors in Electronic Voting

NAGOYA ¡ª The Nagoya High Court declared Wednesday the result of a local assembly election held in Gifu Prefecture in 2003 was invalid, supporting a local civic group's claim that there were errors in the electronic ballot system. This was the first ruling in Japan nullifying an election in connection with electronic voting, said the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which oversees local elections.


From Kyodo News 03/10/2005


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Foreign Ministry Reforms Insufficient: Report

TOKYO ¡ª Ongoing efforts by the Foreign Ministry to reform itself in the wake of a series of scandals remain insufficient, the internal affairs ministry said in an assessment report released Thursday. After assessing the progress of the 160-point action plan the Foreign Ministry devised in 2002, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications cited 52 points as needing improvement, including office clerks being "not polite."


From Kyodo News 03/11/2005


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Japan Police Corruption Scrutinized

LONDON (Kyodo) Japan needs to do more to reduce police corruption, an international watchdog said here Wednesday. In its "Global Corruption Report 2005" released Wednesday, Transparency International highlighted a series of scandals involving Japanese police, including embezzling public money, some of which was meant for paying informants. It cites the admission in February by a senior Fukuoka Prefectural Police official that officers diverted between 10 million yen and 20 million yen each year to boost wages, and spend on entertainment and gifts. The report says: "The steps taken to prevent or reduce police corruption deserve credit, but surveillance of police by citizens' groups must continue. Further steps taken include reforming the auditing system so that external auditors are used, but the police authorities have so far refused."


The Japan Times 03/17/2005


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Koizumi Upset by 'Moral Decay' in Pension Office

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi blasted the Social Insurance Agency Thursday after its in-house investigation found that at least 1,500 agency employees nationwide had accessed other people's personal pension records out of curiosity, including those of the prime minister. "Moral decay is a problem," Koizumi told reporters. "They should have a sense of morality as public servants. They should reflect on their duty to protect personal information." The number of peepers, which constitutes 8.5 percent of the agency's full-time workforce, could be higher, as about 1,400 workers have refused to cooperate in the investigation, the agency said Wednesday in a report on its probe. "This is just an interim finding. The numbers may still increase," a senior agency official acknowledged. The report's findings were relayed to the Liberal Democratic Party's panel session on the agency's reforms held Thursday. Of the 1,500, about 600 have accessed information on politicians, including Koizumi and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda. The investigation, covering all 17,500 full-time workers, was conducted following the discovery last February that about 300 workers had accessed the records of Koizumi and actress Makiko Esumi.


From The Japan Times 03/18/2005


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SOUTH KOREA: Gov¡¯t Set to Declassify More Documents

The government is set to declassify more sensitive documents regarding the normalization of diplomatic ties with Japan, a move expected to intensify public antipathy toward Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Monday (Feb. 28) that it will launch a taskforce on March 2 to review 36,000 pages of documents related to the normalization of diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan in 1965. ¡°The nine-member team will be comprised of three government officials, three civilian experts and three assistants,¡± ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said. The team will analyze the documents for six months to decide what will be made public, Lee said. He declined to set an exact date for the disclosure, but indicated that some documents would be released in August.


From http://www.korea.net/ 02/28/2005


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Ministry of Gender Equality to Change in June

The Ministry of Gender Equality has received approval to be renamed the Ministry of Women and Family as it is to deal with policies on family as well as women. The National Assembly passed a revision bill on the government organization with 170:52 with five abstentions Wednesday (March 2) enabling the ministry to change its name. The renaming will take effect from June. An official said that the ministry will actively develop policies on family issues, taking over family-related affairs from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and other agencies.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/03/2005


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New Administrative Town Will Break Ground in 2007

The head of an ad hoc committee responsible for creating a new administrative town said Thursday (March 3) that he believes 2007 will be the year in which ground will be broken for the construction of the town in the Yeongi-Gongju, South Chungcheong Province. Committee chairman Choi Byeong-seon, said the relocation plan would start work in 2007 as planned, as no situation had arisen requiring a change in schedule. Choi made the remarks in a KBS radio program in response to controversy in the National Assembly over when to start the work and made it clear that there was no need to approach the matter politically. He said the timing would be decided in the course of implementing the construction project. He forecast that after the ground breaking in 2007 government buildings would be erected the next year. Regarding the project schedule in the foreseeable future, the panel chief said in accordance with the special law governing the new administrative town construction, a presidential committee for the promotion of the project would be set up and an agency devoted to the construction would be established. The two bodies will be responsible for designating zones for urban development and peripheral areas as well, along with launching for land compensation and relevant anti-real estate speculation measures.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/03/2005


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Portal Site Displaying Information on Public Servants¡¯ Salaries

The Civil Service Commission opened a portal site on (http://pay.csc.go.kr) Thursday (March 3) to help both citizens and officials easily get information and data on pay and other benefits. In particular, the commission uses graphs, charts and diagrams to explain the information, in sharp contrast to the difficult words derived from the laws and regulations often used. An analysis of public servants¡¯ pay and other benefits has also been made public. Officials in charge of pay will be able to retrieve special cases and get consultations. The portal site has four manuals _ pay contents knowledge, an information search, pay affairs community and a database.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/03/2005


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Defense Ministry to Strengthen Anti-Corruption Drive

The Ministry of National Defense on Monday (March 7) adopted a number of measures to achieve more transparency in military projects for this year during the first-ever meeting of its officials in charge of audit and inspection. One of the directives immediately conveyed to the military, for example, stipulates that a plan to prevent corruption should be worked out for all military-related business worth more than 50 billion won ($50 million). The ministry will also seek to improve expertise and independence of internal audit and inspection bureaus by expanding information networking between them, the ministry said in a statement. In order to enhance transparency and fairness in the ministry's administrative activities, high-ranking officials in the military will be encouraged to take an oath of honesty, the statement said. When a subordinate is involved in corruption, his or her supervisors and commanders will be held responsible. The ministry promised name protection for inside informants to avoid possible retaliation. But it will not waste time or money on slanderous messages submitted anonymously or using fake names as those might harm innocent officials, according to the statement. ¡°Corruption and unfairness are not just individual moral issues, it is the responsibility of the authorities and those in command,¡± Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung, during the meeting attended by some 170 officials, said. Inspectors said that although the military is becoming cleaner, some irregularities still remain in certain fields, resulting in a lack of public confidence in the military. Vowing to take determined steps to improve the climate and do away with those malpractices, Minister Yoon urged all servicemen to actively participate in the anti-corruption drive under the commanders' initiatives.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/07/2005


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President Roh Vows to Conduct Thorough Probe of Scandal

President Roh Moo-hyun said on Tuesday (March 8) that he has already instructed the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations of speculative investment in real estate involving the wife of former Deputy Prime Minister-Minister of Finance and Economy Lee Hun-jai. A Cheong Wa Dae official said the National Tax Service will conduct the probe into the alleged real estate speculation. In a statement, Roh expressed deep regret over the resignation of Deputy Premier Lee over the case involving his wife. ¡°I am very sorry and feel tormented and ashamed,¡± he said. Lee stepped down Monday amid allegations that his wife had amassed 6.5 billion won ($6.48 million) through illegal land dealing. Roh regretted that he had no choice but to dismiss the ¡°general in the battle¡± as public opinion had already sentenced him. ¡°I feel bad that I had to dismiss him without being able to confirm the case,¡± he added. Roh will name Lee's successor soon to prevent possible negative impact upon the nation's economy caused by Lee's resignation. Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan also said he would ask Roh to name a new finance and economy minister at an early date as the economy, which government officials say, has just begun to show signs of recovery. Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Jong-min said the appointment will be made within this week.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/08/2005


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Home Ministry to Undergo Structural Reform

The government will undergo drastic steps to reform hierarchical and bureaucratic systems that are still in place, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs said on Tuesday (March 15). According to the reform planning, the focus will be on streamlining rigidity and redundancies involving decision-making procedures at various ministries. The core of the planning will be to drastically reduce decision-making steps, which are largely five steps, down to three, the ministry explained. Under the planning, some 200 manager-level civil servants will also be relegated to working-level positions, creating more working-level officials at the ministries. ¡°We should set a good example for various other government organizations. I believe the reform should be initiated from the top, not from the bottom,¡± Government Administration and Home Affairs Minister Oh Young-kyo said in a news conference. ¡°In the past, the budget was the main issue. But, nowadays government officials must provide customer-oriented services to satisfy taxpayers,¡± Oh added. Oh further emphasized that various measures will be introduced to carry out reforms. During the presentation, he showed confidence in the plan by referring to his successful restructuring efforts at the state-run trade and investment promotion agency KOTRA during the last four years. Oh also said that the number of vice ministers should be increased from the current one or two in all ministries, because it is hard to carry out reform measures under the current system. He made the remarks in an interview with Seoul Shinmun, a local daily, last Wednesday. The new legislation to be proposed to the National Assembly in April would add one more vice minister at four ministries, according to the ministry. The four ministries will be the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The government also plans to set up a new military weapons procurement agency under the Ministry of National Defense to root out illegal practices over expensive military supplies by January 2006. The new agency, tentatively named the ¡°Defense Industry Office,¡± will be monitored by civilian experts. President Roh Moo-hyun mentioned the need for reform with regard to the expense of military weapons in December 2003. A special committee has since held several meetings to draw a blueprint for new procurement systems. In addition, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation is considering changing its name to focus on the balanced development of the nation, including the construction of a new administrative town in South Chungcheong Province.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/15/2005


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Prof. Kim Chang-Ho Tapped as GIA Head

President Roh Moo-hyun on Tuesday (March 22) named Kim Chang-ho, 49, professor of Myongji University, as minister of the Government Information Agency, the presidential office announced. Kim replaces Jung Soon-kyun who expressed his intention to resign, citing health problems. Cho Young-taek, 54, senior policy coordinator at the Office for Government Policy Coordination, was promoted to head of the office. The post has been vacant since last Monday when Han Duck-soo was promoted to deputy premier and finance and economy minister. Sun Mi-ra, 48, a lawyer, has been named presidential secretary for foreign press. New GIA Minister Kim Chang-ho has previsouly worked as a reporter and editorial writer for the Korean language daily JoongAng Ilbo. "The incoming GIA head is expected to do a fine job in coordinating promotional efforts of the government, reforming the (state-run) K-television and dealing with other pending GIA issues," presidential spokesman Kim Man-soo said. "We hope Cho will successfully aid the prime minister in coordinating policy issues of government agencies," Kim said. Sun Mi-ra's resume includes a stint as a lecturer at the Law School of City University in New York and senior adviser at the U.S. Information Service in Seoul. Her job reponsibility will include providing news briefings to foreign journalists, analyzing international news and devising promotional strategies for the government.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/22/2005


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Roh Names Top Policy Coordinator

President Roh Moo-hyun named Cho Young-taek, 54, a senior policy coordinator at the Office for Government Policy Coordination, as minister of the office, presidential spokesman Kim Man-soo said Tuesday. Cho replaces Han Duck-soo who became the deputy premier-finance and economy minister last week. Roh also named Myongji University professor Kim Chang-ho, 49, as minister of the Government Information Agency (GIA) to replace Joung Soon-kyun, who expressed his intention to leave the position due to health reasons. Sun Mi-ra, a lawyer at local law firm Hankyul, was appointed as the presidential secretary for foreign media, replacing Yoon Sock-joong, who stepped down, citing personal matters. Regarding Cho¡¯s background, the Chong Wa Dae spokesman said, ``We expect he will efficiently support the prime minister in coordinating government policies based on his affluent experiences in the officialdom.¡¯¡¯ Cho previously worked as vice minister for government administration and home affairs, mayor of Uijongbu and chief of the planning and management bureau of Kyonggi Province. The new GIA minister was a journalist at Joong Ang Ilbo before teaching at Mongji University. ``He is tasked with reforming the state-run K-TV and coordinating the government¡¯s public relations policies, in addition to dealing with the pending issues at the GIA,¡¯¡¯ the presidential spokesman said. Sun¡¯s career includes experience as a lecturer at the City University of New York School of Law and senior advisor at the cultural section of the U.S. Information Service in Seoul. She will be in charge of providing news briefings to foreign journalists, analyzing news reports from abroad and promoting the nation¡¯s image overseas. (by Shim Jae-yun)


From The Korea Times 03/22/2005


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MOFE Adopts New Evaluation System

Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE) officials will face monthly evaluations from their immediate superiors starting this year, the ministry said on Thursday (March 24). As the first step, the ministry said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance-Economy Minister Han Duck-soo on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ranking MOFE officials on a performance-based personnel evaluation system. Lower-ranking officials will sign similar contracts this month, with the evaluation being conducted on a monthly basis, it added. An MOFE official said that the new evaluation system will hold all MOFE officials accountable for their actions and the results will affect individuals¡¯ promotion and incentives.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/24/2005


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MONGOLIA: Financial Control Committee to Be Set Up

A Financial Control Committee will be set up to take control over the activities of the non-banking financial organizations, savings and loan cooperatives, exchanges and insurance companies. The Committee will function under the jurisdiction of the MongolBank of Mongolia. At present, there are over 540 savings and loan cooperatives and more than 100 non-banking financial organizations nationwide. The Committee will report its works to the Parliament Standing Committee on Economy.


From MONTSAME 03/22/2005


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INDONESIA: Planned Reshuffle at AGO will Affect Senior Officials

The government plans to reshuffle senior officials at the Attorney General's Office (AGO) in the near future after growing public complaints about its poor performance, particularly in prosecuting high-profile corruption cases. "This will be done very soon," Attorney General Abdul Rachman Saleh told The Jakarta Post after a Cabinet meeting last week. He acknowledged the growing complaints about the performance of his office but appealed to the public to be patient. It would take time to reform the institution, which for years had been plagued with corruption and bribery, he said. "It (the reshuffle) will be done soon as the TPA has almost completed its examination," Abdul Rachman said, referring to the President's high-powered team that holds the authority to appoint Echelon 1 officials in state institutions. The TPA consists of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, National Intelligence Body (BIN) head Syamsir Siregar and other Cabinet members. Deputy Attorney General for Monitoring Ahmad Lopa, Deputy Attorney General for Intelligence Basrief Arief, Deputy Attorney General for Civil and State Administrative Affairs Harprilleny and Deputy Attorney General for Special Crimes Sudhono Iswahyudhi are Echelon 1 officials at the AGO. The reshuffle at the AGO is part of the government's planned reshuffle in all state institutions and ministries to help boost the performance of the country's bureaucracy. Asep Rahmat Fajar, an expert advisor to the Attorney General, said a reshuffle at the AGO would be crucial to securing public support in prosecuting high-profile corruption cases and other crimes. "It is inevitable. Despite organizational restructuring, the Attorney General must also reform its human resources because there must be the same desire within the office to improve performance," he told the Post. The reshuffle, Asep said, must be initiated from the highest level -- the Echelon 1 -- to the lowest level. He suggested that the reshuffle be based on an assessment mechanism for all officials. "Integrity is the first requirement," he said. The public generally welcomed the decision to appoint Abdul Rahman as the Attorney General last year. Abdul Rahman, a former Supreme Court justice, who is known for his plain life and not for receiving bribes, replaced M.A. Rachman. The latter had been reported to the police by the Civil Servants Wealth Audit Commission for allegedly not being honest in declaring his wealth. In the first 100 days of the new government, however, there were few significant achievements made by the AGO, particularly regarding Susilo's much-vaunted anticorruption drive. Critics have said the poor performance was due to Abdul Rachman's reluctance to launch a reshuffle of the office's senior officials. Abdul Rachman had kept the previous Deputy Attorney Generals in their respective positions, which critics said was like "trying to clean a dirty floor with a dirty broom".


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 02/28/2005

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Financial Watchdogs Ask for the House for Grater Power

Two financial watchdogs -- the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and the Financial Transaction Reports Analysis Center (PPATK) -- have asked the legislature for more power to create better monetary governance. The BPK asked the House of Representatives to amend a 32-year-old law on the agency to give it more independence and authority to carry out audits down to the regional level. Similarly, the PPATK requested a review of the antimoney laundering law to give it the authority to trace and freeze accounts with suspected ties to money laundering. The center also wants the power to sanction uncooperative financial firms. BPK chairman Anwar Nasution said the agency needed more authority to lay out and implement its policies, as well as to determine its own budgetary needs. A recent report on governance by the Asian Development Bank said these funds were particularly prone to corruption. On the issue of regional autonomy, Anwar said the BPK should also have the power to audit regional budgets and regional enterprises. Audits of regional companies and budgets are usually performed by internal auditors from the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP), which has representative offices in every province. In acknowledging that amending the law on the BPK and implementing the changes would take time, Anwar again called for the merger of the BPK and the BPKP. Indonesia was removed from global money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force's list of noncooperative countries and territories last month.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/03/2005

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Monitoring Court Officials Could Wipe Out Corruption

"Thieves for their robbery have authority when judges steal themselves," Shakespeare, the famous English bard, once said. The words, which were expressed by a man who lived more than 400 years ago, still ring true in Indonesia today, with the judicial system widely regarded as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. "The courts have been one of the government institutions that have given rise to the most complaints from the public. The complaints are still coming in thick and fast," Masdar Farid Mas'udi of the National Ombudsman Commission (KON) told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. The recently published Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s Government Assessment Report 2005-Indonesia states that almost 36 percent of the complaints received by the KON in its first year of operation were related to judicial corruption. The KON was established on March 20, 2000, based on Presidential Decree No.44/2000 for the purpose of monitoring the performance of state institutions in providing services to the public. According to the report, the rampant corruption in the country's judicial system involves both judges, the ultimate decision makers in the judicial system, and clerks. Inadequate funding is often cited as the main excuse. The multinational lender said that Indonesia spent only around 0.3 percent of its annual state budget on funding the country's more than 700 courts, 2,910 judges and 10,000 clerks. Many other countries typically devoted about 2 percent of their budgetary spending to the courts. The country's weak and corrupt judicial system has been one of the main factors seen to be hampering badly needed new investment in the country. A young lawyer who requested anonymity confirmed the findings and said that the rampant corruption involved lawyers, prosecutors, and court clerks, collectively known as the "court mafia". The ADB report also mentioned other practices such as the paying off of a court president to influence the selection of the judges who would hear a case. The payoff could take the form, for example, of a payment toward the judge's son's or daughter's wedding or for the purchase of a car or a house. The young lawyer also shared his experiences of paying off clerks to get legal documentation for his client. A clerk in the South Jakarta District Court denied the allegations, arguing that the clerks' duties were only to support the work of the judges and that therefore they had no power to influence decisions. Masdar suggested that effective monitoring should be conducted by the Supreme Court or a Judicial Commission to stop the rampant bribery and that the public should report all incidences of illegal conduct in the courts.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/07/2005

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Govt Plans Mass Reshuffle in Bureaucracy

Around 50 percent of first echelon government officials are facing imminent reshuffle due to their poor performance, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said. Kalla told The Jakarta Post in a special interview on Wednesday that the preparations for the reshuffle would take two or three months to complete. He said the reshuffle was aimed at boosting the performance of the bureaucracy. This lasted between February and September of last year, when political parties were preparing for the legislative and direct presidential elections. Government officials were allowed to take up party jobs during the elections provided they took a leave of absence and did not use state facilities. Kalla said the major reshuffle, the first in over 10 months, was a must for the sake of regeneration. With about 700 first echelon officials in 30 ministries and other state institutions, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono plans to carry out the reshuffle over three years. The President will lead the team that will select the first of the new echelon one officials. The team will also involve the Vice President, the State Minister for Administrative Reform and the National Intelligence Agency chief. The candidates will have to be senior civil servants with excellent track records in their respective fields. Those selected to fill the first echelon posts will be approved by the President through a presidential decree. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is among the ministerial offices that have completed the reshuffle process. On Thursday it will install an expert advisor, Oka Mahendra, as the new director general of legislation, replacing Abdulgani Abdullah Abdulgani will now head the ministry's law supervisory body. Susilo once complained about the slow progress of reform within the bureaucracy. He said the bureaucratic machine was unable to keep up with the Cabinet. The country's bureaucracy has been criticized not only for its poor performance, but its vulnerability to corruption as well. The current situation owes its origin to the New Order era, when the bureaucracy served as the political vehicle of the regime. At that time, the president had the sole authority to replace first echelon officials. Efforts to reform the bureaucracy began with the establishment of the Office of the State Minister for Administrative Reform and the enactment of the Civil Service Law (No. 43/1999).


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/10/2005

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Fighting Corruption Through Civil Service Reform

Indonesia, the top dog in the corruption industry, has again taken out top spot in a list of Asia's most corrupt countries. This time, the rating comes from Hong-Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy. This status as the most corrupt country in Asia has been earned, ironically, at a time when Indonesia's anti-corruption drive is in high gear, with the staging of the first corruption trial spearheaded by the newly-established Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Vice President Jusuf Kalla in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post clearly identified two major sources of corruption in Indonesia: an unreformed bureaucracy and opaque government procurement practices. If indeed this is the case, then the answer to corruption should therefore be to reform the bureaucracy and the government procurement system. Any Indonesian government would be continuously frustrated in attempting to work with a bureaucracy like this. It should be no surprise that any attempt to institute any kind of policy reform is doomed to failure, sabotaged by a conservative and self-seeking bureaucracy. There are a few exceptions, however. One successful attempt at reform was the massive transfer of 2.1 million civil servants from the central to local governments in 2000 and 2001, which surprisingly did not cause much of a furor. This transfer was part of a massive decentralization program that was being pursued by the government of that time -- decentralization could thus probably be counted as one of the most successful reforms ever carried out. Following the end of the transfer program in 2001, there were some 1.3 million civil servants in the center, and 2.6 million in the regions. Local civil servants accounted for some 66.7 percent of civil servants in 2001, compared to a mere 12.2 percent in 1999. Certain local governments have themselves devised retrenchment mechanisms to rid themselves of redundant civil servants following the massive transfer. Many have also successfully restructured their bureaucratic organizations to better serve the people. However, the government of the day did not use this momentum to further reform the civil service, or to allow local governments to go deeper in pursuing a quality civil service for their particular regions. Instead, the central government took back the rights to control civil servants and implemented a unified national career civil service. If necessary, the government should use this opportunity to launch other reforms by opening up all higher echelon positions to outside competition. This way, the government could set performance targets for new officials.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/24/2005

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House Urges Govt to Curb Corruption

The House of Representatives closed its third assembly period on Thursday and went into a month-long recess, with calls for the government to materialize its promise to stamp out widespread corruption in the country. The House said while that promise still stood, efforts to materialize it had resulted in nothing but talk. Addressing House members seated in the half-empty plenary hall, House Speaker Agung Laksono blamed sluggish progress in the eradication of corruption partially on law enforcers' low morals. "Indications of moral degradation are evident in the involvement of law enforcers in criminal acts, such as gambling and illegal logging activities," he lamented. Agung said the government should beef up coordination among pivotal government institutions and take serious action against those found guilty of embezzlement. Indonesia has been ranked by the Berlin-based International Transparency as the fifth most corrupt country in the world. Numerous surveys have shown that leading contributors to the situation are red tape and the weak performance of legal institutions. A number of low and high-profile corruption cases have been exposed and investigated over the past few months, many of those implicating state officials and House members themselves. On the same occasion, the House suggested that the government make an inventory of its islands, and register them with the United Nations before 2007, to avoid more claims by neighboring countries. Indonesia has over 13,000 large and small islands, many of which are still virgin. Indonesia lost the Sipadan and Ligitan islands in 2001 to Malaysia, and is currently in a dispute with Malaysia over an offshore oil field in East Ambalat, Sulawesi. Agung reminded House members to work quickly and efficiently in deliberating bills, particularly as the institution had failed to make any laws during its third assembly period, which started on Jan. 10. According to the National Legislation Program, the House is tasked with deliberating 55 bills this year, including those on the presidential body and disaster mitigation. Nevertheless, Agung stressed the importance of thoroughness in the discussion and consideration of bills, as well as paying attention to public interests and those of related institutions, to prevent the Constitutional Court stepping in to review laws in the future.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/26/2005

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MYANMAR: Reforms in Myanmar Pushed

Malaysia¡¯s government will introduce a motion in parliament to urge the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to block military-ruled Myanmar from becoming its chair in 2006 if Yangon refuses to release prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a news report said Tuesday. ¡°We will ask for Myanmar¡¯s turn to be chairman to be suspended and given to other countries until democratic reforms are carried out,¡± Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nazri Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper. The minister¡¯s office could not be immediately reached for further details. The report did not say when the motion would be debated in parliament. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current junta called elections in 1990, but refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi¡¯s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory. Suu Kyi has been under arrest since May 2003. Asean members maintain a long-standing policy of noninterference. A conference of Asean lawmakers in November said the grouping should reconsider their policy of not interfering in each other¡¯s internal affairs and think about suspending Myanmar if it failed to carry out democratic reforms and release the Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi. Asean¡¯s members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Myanmar is expected to take over from Laos as chairman of the group in 2006.


From http://www.manilatimes.net 03/23/2005

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MALAYSIA: ACA Offers to Review Government Procedures

The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has offered to help government departments and agencies review their work procedures to shut the door on opportunities for corrupt practice. ACA director-general Datuk Seri Zulkipli Mat Noor said that certain departmental systems or work procedures were open to corruption and the agency could assist by reassessing the system. Speaking to reporters after opening the Segamat ACA branch office yesterday, he said that besides embarking on punitive action, the ACA also emphasised the importance of community education to combat corruption. The Segamat branch office is among nine new branch offices approved by the Government in 2002, said Zulkipli. The others are Port Dickson, Kemaman, Bintulu, Seberang Prai, Sungai Petani, Temerloh, Teluk Intan and Kluang. He decided to set up an office here because the Batu Pahat office, which looked after Segamat, Labis, Kluang and Muar, was too far for the people here to visit, he said.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 03/01/2005

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Sarawak Gives RM5m to Eight Needy Councils

The state government has stepped in to help eight local councils in bad financial shape with a special RM5mil grant. State Environment and Public Health Minister Datuk Michael Manyin said the state Cabinet approved the allocation last month as it was sympathetic to these councils, which could not function without the aid. Some of them have little sources of revenue, he told reporters after a dialogue with some 300 district councillors at the Kuching Hilton yesterday. The councillors from 20 district councils were here for a seminar. There are 26 local authorities in the state, including two city councils, three municipal councils and Bintulu Development Authority. Manyin said some 80% of the revenues of most of these councils came from the collection of assessment rates. To help resolve their financial woes, he said the ministry had encouraged councils that had land assets to develop them for commercial purposes. Citing an example, he said the Kuching City South Council had built shophouses on its land to generate income through rental of these premises. On the longstanding proposal to increase the 720 councillors allowances, Manyin said the ministry had carried out a review and would make recommendations to the state Cabinet soon. He said the government would have to spend more than RM4mil a year if it were to give a fixed monthly allowance of RM500 to the councillors. Each councillor is now entitled to a RM50 allowance when attending a council meeting, and the maximum sum he can claim a month is RM350.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 03/09/2005

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Intellectual Property Court Proposed

The Government plans to set up a special court to try intellectual property cases, including disputes on patent rights and trademarks, and to deal with the issue of piracy. Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohamed Shafie Apdal said the draft proposal for the setting up of the Intellectual Property Court had been submitted to the Attorney-General for study. Speaking to Malaysian journalists covering Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's six-day visit here, Mohamed Shafie said disputes involving intellectual property rights and piracy cases were currently heard by ordinary courts in Malaysia. The judges might not have an in-depth knowledge of the technical issues which were sometimes complicated and involved losses worth millions of ringgit, he said. With the special court, the judges would specialise in the field and be able to make fair and accurate decisions, he said after visiting the British patent office here on Thursday. Mohamed Shafie was briefed on the running and management of the office which could help Malaysia open its own patent office back home. He said intellectual property was important in developed states as it involved big businesses and well-known brands with wide international networks. Malaysians, meanwhile, had low awareness on the need to have their products patented and recognised internationally, he said. ¡°Malaysians are not interested in registering their patents, so the producers and country of origin are not getting the benefit from it,¡± he said. Despite this, patent theft and piracy were no longer a serious problem in Malaysia following strict enforcement by the authorities, he said. Mohamed Shafie also said Malaysia would host a regional conference on intellectual property law enforcement this year in collaboration the World Intellectual Property Organisation.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 03/12/2005

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SINGAPORE: MPs Reiterate Call for Single Agency to Promote SMEs

Some MPs have repeated their calls for a single, dedicated agency to promote local small and medium enterprises. Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament that such an agency was not feasible due to the diversity of SMEs here; a single agency could well turn out to be heavily bureaucratic and unwieldy. Still, MPs are asking the government to pay more attention to SMEs. Penny Low, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said, "Isn't it precisely because there are so many SMEs that a robust and SME-centric (agency) is urgently needed to look after these geese that are still laying their eggs, albeit with much labour pain? If SPRING is indeed the agency, then let it be known as the champion of SME and not a Swiss knife that serves multiple masters." Said Gan Kim Yong, MP for Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC, "I would like to suggest that at least a present or existing agency should be nominated, whether it is SPRING or IE Singapore, to take on the promotion of SMEs as its primary mission. "For our efforts to be effective, we need to have someone to champion the cause. He must think about nothing except SMEs and must be passionate and visionary about the SMEs. We need focus and accountability."


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/07/2005

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THAILAND: Civic Groups Plan Campaign Rally to Keep Govt in Check

Civic groups are massing for a campaign rally early next week in a display of a unity to show they will be the ones keeping the new cabinet, expected to be installed in a few days, in check given the enfeebled state of the opposition. The organisations, representing a network of interest and pressure groups, plan to converge outside parliament and Government House on March 15-16, just in time to greet the new cabinet ministers. A source said the campaign would be a reminder to the new government that the people were watching it. The network would also form a people's committee to monitor the government's progress in its pledge to eradicate poverty. The panel is set to be chaired by Hai Khanjantham, the grandmother from Ubon Ratchathani, who successfully fought to regain her land that had been submerged for years after previous governments had turned the area into a dam. The source said the organisations would hold discussions on the best methods to scrutinise the government, debate its performance and anticipate its moves over the next four years. The discussions, to be organised in front of Government House, would touch on matters related to the constitution. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, meanwhile, ended the last cabinet meeting of his first administration yesterday. He said the cabinet ministers had officially served out their duties. Mr Thaksin thanked the outgoing ministers who would not be joining the next cabinet line-up. Among them are deputy prime ministers Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Purachai Piumsombun, both of whom have publicly stated they need time away from politics. Also leaving the government are Deputy Transport Minister Nikorn Chamnong and Culture Minister Anurak Jureemart from Chart Thai, which is now in the opposition. Mr Thaksin, who is scheduled to begin a new four-year term as prime minister when parliament votes today, said the list of new ministers was 80-90% complete and only very a small number of ministers would be assigned the same old posts.


Adapted From http://www.bangkokpost.com 03/09/2005

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Chuan Warns Against Cabinet Posts for Servile Civil Servants

Handing cabinet posts to senior state officials servile to the government may simply be a case of reciprocating political favours, representing a dangerous precedent, said Chuan Leekpai, the Democrat party's chief adviser. Although the government had freedom to choose anyone it saw fit to enter cabinet, it should avoid making ministers out of government officials who had sacrificed their impartiality to serve politicians, he said. The offer of cabinet seats was the quickest way to reward officials, especially those inclined to appease politicians, he said. Mr Chuan said he was worried that the situation could damage the value and integrity of honest state officials who may feel despondent when seeing their colleagues grovel their way to career success. Mr Chuan reserved his comments on cabinet appointees known to enjoy close ties with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and those appointed to the same posts again despite failing to deliver key policies. Pol Gen Chidchai Wannasathit, who has known Mr Thaksin since their years together in university in the US, landed the posts of interior minister and deputy prime minister. Another state official-turned-minister is Sermsak Pongpanit, the former interior permanent secretary who was handed the post of deputy interior minister. Adisai Bodharamik, criticised for foot-dragging on education reform, returns to the education portfolio. Thammarak Isarangkura na Ayudhaya also returns to the post of defence minister despite doubts as to whether he can make any headway in easing the violence in the deep South.Observers said Gen Thammarak served as defence minister in the first Thaksin government and so had already had a go at tackling security woes in the South. His policy on the South, which could be described as ''hawkish'' could create more problems than it solves. Some religious leaders in the southernmost provinces, however, welcomed his return. Mr Chuan said the degree of success in solving the situation in the South did not hinge on who was appointed defence minister. Rather, it was a failed security policy that had fanned the flames, he said.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 03/13/2005

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VIETNAM: Faster Reforms Required to Up Country¡¯s Competitiveness

Senior economists have called on the Government and private enterprise to boost the nation¡¯s competitiveness in a bid to increase the rate at which the country is developing. Introducing a report on the state of competition in Viet Nam yesterday, deputy director of the Central Institute of Economic Management¡¯s (CIEM) Macroeconomics Department Hoang Van Thanh warned that the current situation might hurt economic growth in the long-run. "Though the Government has introduced a number of reforms to improve the situation, competitive growth is still slower than many other regional countries," Thanh warned. "Given the current pace, Viet Nam is likely to be outpaced by even Cambodia in the future." The CIEM¡¯s recent research into the country¡¯s major services such as telecommunications, power, transportation, and finance, unveiled that competition has started to emerge in these important sectors, but remains in a fragile state. Pham Hoang Ha, a CIEM researcher, said: "Competition is more open in telecommunications and financial sectors, but the problem is that most of new enterprises are still too weak to create an actual competition in the market." According to the CIEM¡¯s report, the Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunications Corporation¡¯s (VNPT) affiliated companies seized more than a 95 per cent market share of the country¡¯s lucrative cell phone service market at the end of 2004. The corporation accounted for 49 per cent of the Internet access market and 36 per cent of the emerging VoIP (Voice of Internet Protocol) telephone service, while six other service providers shared the remaining 51 per cent and 64 per cent respectively. Ha said that given the current competition situation, the Ministry of Posts and Telematics goal of raising the telecom market share of new enterprises to 30 per cent this year seemed to be impossible. At present it is only Telecom users that enjoy the benefits of competition, while those using other services such as power, transport and especially air services will have to wait. Ha said that the power sector has started a renovation programme in order to create a more competitive environment through encouraging local private and foreign investors to participate in the sector¡¯s development. But, the programme will be carried out in three phases with each of them lasting for at least ten years. At this rate Ha said that it would take quite a while for Vietnamese customers to benefit from a competitive market. Economist Hoang Van Thanh said that the country¡¯s low competitiveness proved that many flaws remained in the Government¡¯s economic management, and the Government should make greater efforts to better the situation.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/05/2005

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Government Simplifies All Import Licencing Procedures

The application for an import licence has been streamlined following a Government decision to pool resources in just one organisation. The decision was made according to a Prime Ministerial regulation issued in a bid to make the country¡¯s import rules more transparent and simple. However, the new regulation also said there can be a maximum of three licensing bodies to assess organisations who apply for an import licence. The regulation does not allow licensing bodies to reject applications due to small mistakes on the licensing application. The bodies are also required to announce the reasons why a license is refused. To keep importers up to date with new information, the licensing bodies are also required to publish detailed information on any change related to import licensing procedures in its official gazette and website. The new regulation also said customs is not allowed to refuse clearance for imports, which are licensed, because of insignificant differences on volume or value between the physical import and that on paper. The Prime Minister also required relevant bodies to scrutinise the existing legal rules to conform with the new regulation, which will take effect on September 1, 2005.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/05/2005

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BHUTAN: Anti-Corruption Practices Need Tough Measures

Judging by a packed hall for a talk on Thursday on anti-corruption practices in Singapore, Bhutanese officials are worried about corruption in the system. The recipe outlined by the director of the anti corrupt practices and of the Singapore government was a reminder about steps that need to be taken to tackle corruption. Conscious about our external image we have not quite outgrown the tendency to down-play corruption in Bhutanese society. The hard question is, is it really just the beginning as we claim, or is the problem already substantially deep-rooted? Some of us are even asking if it is not too late. But there is a growing sense of urgency and a general agreement that we need to deal with the problem. And in this discussion some of the messages we hear are getting louder and clearer. One is that the theory that corruption is inevitable in a poor society because of the needs created by poverty is not a valid explanation - even less a justification - for corruption. A clean government ensures faster growth for the country. If the system is clean wealth will be equally distributed; if not there will be an unequal and unfair distribution of wealth. We have a major advantage in the fight against corruption. Experts identify political will as a foundation for this fight and, in Bhutan, His Majesty the King himself personifies this will. A resounding message is that, to tackle corruption, it must be taken to the top of the national agenda. The anti corruption drive must be state driven and state owned, inextricably linked to good governance. Another is that rules and laws are not enough. They have to be implemented. In doing this there would have to be punishments and penalties in other words, painful examples. And painful examples are only effective at the higher levels. This is not a new message. It is something we have known all along, a wisdom that is becoming more relevant every day because, with the country undergoing rapid political transformation, the risk is greatest at the higher levels of the governance structure. Our impulsive reaction, again, is how do we do this in a small society where relationships are personalised to a great degree? A mixture of misplaced compassion and the real sensitivities of a small society has prevented tough decisions in the past. The answer is deceptively simple. We need an anti corruption agency manned by people who will do their jobs without bias and, especially, without fear. Interestingly enough the Bhutanese personality is such that a fearless person will be respected in our society. Good decisions will be appreciated in the end and public opinion will support good judgment, no matter how painful they might be. The wisdom of experience dictates that it is better to start with a clean government than to have to root it out because it might not be possible if it is left too long. But for us the concept of a clean government might already be wishful thinking. Do we, therefore, begin the search for the fearless ones?


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/12/2005

 

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SRI LANKA: CTB Resurrection Bill on Way

The Cabinet of Ministers has approved the reestablishment of the Central Transport Board (CTB). The proposal was submitted to the Cabinet by Transport Minister Felix Perera. The bill to be presented in Parliament in this connection is now being drafted and it will be placed before the House as soon as possible, Minister Perera said. With the establishment of the CTB, the present cluster bus companies will be abolished. At present around 4000 cluster bus company buses are in operation and this amounts to only 30 per cent of the public transport service. However, once the CTB is formed the State-run bus services will have at least 7000 buses to serve the commuters. There are around 41,000 workers attached to cluster bus companies and of this only 10,000 are drivers and conductors and the rest belong to other categories like mechanics, labourers, time keepers and clerical staff. The Transport Ministry hopes to reduce the number of workers in the CTB to around 20,000 and would give a golden hand shake to the balance 21,000. The mode of compensation is now being worked out. Meanwhile, to avoid a clash of time schedules with the private buses, a time table would be drawn up in consultation with the private bus operators. A fortnight ago when the latter realised that the reestablishment of the CTB was imminent they demanded that a time table be drawn up for them by the State transport authorities.


From http://www.sundayobserver.lk/ 03/27/2005

 

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AFGHANISTAN: First-Ever Female Governor Appointed for Afghan Province

President Hamid Karzai has approved the appointment of Habiba Sorabi as the governor of Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan Television reported on 2 March. In addition, Karzai appointed Abdul Jabar Naimi as the governor of Wardak Province, west of Kabul. Sorabi, who becomes the first female governor of an Afghan province, served as the minister of women's affairs in the Afghan Transitional Administration. AT


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/03/2005

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AZERBAIJAN: Public TV Broadcasting Council Members Elected

Nine members of the Public TV Broadcasting Council were announced at the Milli Majlis session on Tuesday: Agil Dadashov from the Confederation of Trade Unions, Vagif Abbasov from the National Academy of Sciences, Jahangir Mammadli from the Press Council, Natig Shirinzada from the Entrepreneurs Council, Fuad Muradov from youth organizations, Zarifa Salakhova from women¡¯s societies, Agachan Abiyev from sports federations, Salman Musayev from religious confessions, and Altay Zahidov from creative organizations. 27 candidates submitted their bids for the Broadcasting Council membership. (by AssA-Irada)


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 03/16/2005

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Top Azerbaijani Police Officials Dismissed

At a meeting on 23 March of senior Interior Ministry officials, Azerbaijan's Interior Minister Ramil Usubov dismissed his first deputy, Zakhid Dunyamaliev, Criminal Investigations Department head Zakir Nasibov, and two of Nasibov's deputies, zerkalo.az reported on 24 March. Two senior Baku police officials were also fired, apparently in the wake of the recent arrest on charges of drugs possession of an employee of the Baku police department responsible for combating drug-related crimes. Also on 23 March, the National Security Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office released a joint statement giving details of additional crimes allegedly committed in recent years by a criminal gang headed by former Interior Ministry official Hadji Mamedov, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 14 March 2005). LF


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/24/2005


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IRAQ: Al-Najaf Governorate Council Elects New Governor

The newly elected Al-Najaf Governorate Council has elected Asad Abu Kalal as governor at a 8 March meeting in Al-Najaf, ebaa.net reported on 9 March. Abu Kalal is a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Abd al-Husayn Abtan was elected deputy governor, and Abd al-Husayn al-Musawi, an independent, was elected as chairman of the governorate council, the website reported. Two SCIRI officials were elected as deputies. Interim Governor Adnan al-Zurfi said of the election: "I believe this is a democratic process. I will remain a member in the new council. It is up to my brothers in the council to appoint me to any other position." KR


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/10/2005


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KYRGYZSTAN: Presidential Vote Set

(CNN) -- Kyrgyzstan's parliament has set June 26 as the date for a new presidential election following the ouster of President Askar Akayev. The country's acting president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, said Saturday he would be a candidate in the election, according to news agencies. Meanwhile, Bakiyev and Russian news reports said Akayev was in Russia. "According to my information, he is in Moscow," Bakiyev said. Interfax news agency, quoting informed sources, said Akayev "arrived by plane from Kazakhstan during the night. "Russia's Interfax news agency said the ousted president was being permitted to take refuge in Russia. The Kremlin said Akayev "asked to come to Russia and this opportunity has been granted to him. "Saturday's developments came as a semblance of calm returned to the capital Bishkek after two nights of looting and sporadic gunfire. On Thursday, protesters and opposition forces ousted Akayev's government and assumed leadership of the country. The change of power stems from popular unrest over recent parliamentary elections that many regard as rigged. On Friday, Akayev sent an e-mail to a local news agency condemning what he said was a coup and promising to become a "key political player" in the country because he was "legitimately elected." "Rumors of my resignation are false and intentional," according to the e-mail. CNN could not confirm its authenticity. Akayev called on the opposition to restore constitutional order." There has been a constitutional coup in the republic. A small group of irresponsible plotters and carpet-baggers in a criminal way used force to capture power. An uncontrolled and destructive wave of anarchy and violence overwhelmed the capital and other cities," Akayev said. Following Thursday's takeover, Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court annulled the results of the disputed parliamentary elections, AP said. The previous parliament has been declared still valid, but members of the newly elected parliament also have been meeting. It wasn't immediately clear Saturday whether new parliamentary elections would also be called. Former opposition leaders now in power have suggested a new legislative vote would be held sometime after a presidential election. "After the election of the new president, we'll think about the parliament's fate," opposition figure Roza Otunbayeva told CNN Friday. Overnight Friday, mobs of youths roamed the rain-slicked streets of Bishkek, wielding sticks and throwing stones at cars after dark, AP reported. Streetlights were shut off, and most civilians stayed home because of the tension Iskander Sharshiyev, an opposition leader, said three people he described as "pillagers" were killed overnight amid clashes between police and looters, AP reported. However, Interior Ministry spokesman Nurdin Jangarayev said "everything was normal last night -- better than the previous night. We were working with volunteers all night. We have calmed the people down." The upheaval in Kyrgyzstan, dubbed by some as the Tulip Revolution, is the third major political revolt in the former Soviet Union. Protests catalyzed the ouster of the Georgian government in 2003 and the Ukraine government late last year and early this year. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country facing problems including poverty and drug trafficking and lacking oil riches like its neighbors. It borders Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China and is near Afghanistan. Both the United States and Russia have a military presence in the country, which has a population of 5 million.


From http://www.cnn.com/ 03/26/2005

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TAJIKISTAN: President Replaces Top Officials, Orders News Conferences

Imomali Rakhmonov signed decrees on 4 March replacing a number of ministers and high-ranking officials, RFE/RL's Tajik Service and Tajik Television reported. Transport Minister Abdujalol Salimov was removed and replaced by Abdurahim Ashurov. Education Minister Safarali Rajabov was removed and replaced by Abdujabbor Rahmonov. Munim Kholiqov, head of the State Statistics Committee, was replaced by Mirgand Shahbozov. A number of deputy ministers and district heads were also replaced. The president also signed a decree obligating ministers, department heads, and local officials to give quarterly news conferences, Avesta reported. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/07/2005


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TURKEY: 10,000 New Policemen to Be Employed

Parliament approved a law on Thursday that establishes police education centers and the admission of 10,000 new policemen to the security forces. According to the law, which aims to meet the personnel needs of the police department, every university graduate below the age of 27 for women and 29 for men will be eligible to become police officers. For male candidates, prior completion of military service is compulsory. The training and education of the candidates will last at least six months. Those who are being trained will wear uniforms and live in dormitories during their instruction. The state will pay for the expenses of the trainees, who will be given an allowance equal to that given Police Academy recruits. Those who fail courses or whose conduct or health are deemed to prevent them from becoming policemen will be dismissed. Those who are dismissed for reasons other than death or poor health will be asked to reimburse the state for expenses, with interest. Those who complete the training successfully will be appointed to various localities as trainee policemen. These new officers will not be allowed to change their assigned post for six years, which will be considered compulsory service. Those who are dismissed or resign from the force will be asked to pay compensation for each year not worked. The law also creates 480 new posts, including police education center managers, deputy managers, branch managers, instructors and deputy technicians, in addition to the 10,000 new policemen. According to the law, a 48,000-person limit imposed will not apply to the 2,000 new policemen to be recruited in 2005.


From http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/ 03/26/2005


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TURKMENISTAN: President Appoints Ministers

President Saparmurat Niyazov has signed decrees appointing a number of ministers, Turkmen Television reported on 8 March. The president appointed Jumaniyaz Annaorazov minister of the economy and finance, Asyrgeldi Gulgaraev minister of justice, Magtymguly Akmuradov minister of the environment, and Bibitach Vekilova director of the National Institute of Statistics. Vekilova was also relieved of her post as acting minister of economy and finance. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/09/2005


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UZBEKISTAN: Local Government Reform in Uzbekistan

CER Macroeconomic Modeling Unit has accomplished work on preparing new policy paper "Main directions of local government reform in Uzbekistan". Research activity was implemented under financial support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) by the team of national experts and CER Research Coordinator. Contact information: Ms. Khusnia Muradova, Research Coordinator, Macroeconomic Modeling Unit.


From http://www.cer.uz/ 03/10/2005


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AUSTRALIA: Bracks Dives into PM's Water Plan

Victoria has become the first state to offer an olive branch to the Howard Government over a national water plan. Premier Steve Bracks yesterday wrote to the Federal Government offering his support for the National Water Initiative, which has been stuck in limbo after an election spat between the states and Canberra. The move means that three water projects the State Government describes as "vital" are likely to proceed. They are: the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline, Gippsland's Macalister Irrigation District channel project and the feasibility study on recycling Melbourne's sewage and sending it to Gippsland. Premiers refused to be involved during the federal election campaign when they learnt that $1.6 billion for Mr Howard's $2 billion water conservation plan would come from competition grants due to the states. Yesterday Mr Bracks said his Government recognised the importance of getting these projects under way. The National Water Initiative will set up a national water commission, expand trading in water and address over-allocated systems. Prime Minister John Howard welcomed the news from Victoria yesterday. "He hopes this will encourage the other states to sign on to this important initiative," a spokeswoman said. (by Melissa Fyfe)


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/02/2005

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Govt Plans National Police Memorial

The federal government will announce a competition to design a national police memorial. The memorial will honour Australian Federal Police and state and territory officers killed on duty or who have died as a result of their duties. Justice Minister Chris Ellison will announce the competition at Parliament House. The government last year announced the memorial would be sited in Kings Park near the National Carillon in Canberra. The idea of a national police memorial came out the police ministers' conference in 2001. The estimated $2.4 million cost is expected to be shared between the federal, state and territory governments and police associations, some of which have set up tax-deductible donor schemes. More than 700 police officers have died in the line of duty over the past two centuries.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/02/2005

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Offices of Future Must Get Green Light

The State Government is under fire for ignoring green building standards. As several Melbourne projects, including AXA Asia Pacific's new Southbank base, look to achieve a four-star energy rating with the Green Building Council of Australia, developer Peter Szental says the commercial property industry still needs to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Commercial building emissions will increase from 31 million tonnes in 1990 to an estimated 67 million tonnes by 2010. Mr Szental said the property industry had "an appalling record" of efficiency and emissions abatement. Mr Szental criticised the Victorian Government for failing to set an Australian Building Greenhouse Rating five-star requirement for its buildings, unlike other state governments. "Any developer that wants to attract a government contract is going to have to comply with the ABGR five-star rating," he said. "In Victoria we haven't done that." Mr Szental has started an ambitious refurbishment project on an office block in South Melbourne. He plans to receive the first five-star ABGR rating and six-star Green Building Council rating in Australia for a refurbishment, by transforming the Albert Road building into a showcase of environmental design with a zero emissions target. The building will include motion sensors that control lighting, air-conditioning and security systems, automated louvres to promote natural airflow and rooftop rainwater collection. Sustainable design technology will add almost 50 per cent to the cost of the refurbishment, but Mr Szental expects to recoup the extra costs within five years. Hefty upfront costs discouraged developers from adopting an ecologically efficient approach, said Jones Lang LaSalle's Victorian managing director, David Bowden. "Business is driven very hard by profitability and costs, and if you've got a payback over 15 years for changing the whole lighting system - then it's all too hard and they're not going to go for it," Mr Bowden said. Mr Bowden outlined a greater role for the State Government in promoting sustainable design. A Commonwealth taskforce into energy efficiency recently recommended the mandatory disclosure of private sector building performance, and audits of the 500 largest energy-using corporations. "There will be firms that take the high ground and adopt best practice and others that will need to be dragged kicking and screaming," Mr Szental said.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/23/2005

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ATSIC Abolished by Governor-General

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) has been formally abolished after 15 years of operation. Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone said ATSIC - once headed by such Aboriginal people as Lowitja O'Donoghue and the now-deceased Mr Djerrkura - was officially wound up at midnight on Wednesday. Governor-General Michael Jeffery proclaimed the bill to abolish the nation's peak indigenous body at Executive Council this week. "With the formal abolition of ATSIC, Australia has embarked on a new and historic era in indigenous affairs," Senator Vanstone said. "Of course there are some that regret ATSIC's passing (and) we should acknowledge those elected representatives and officials that committed themselves to make the ATSIC experiment work. "But in the end the majority of indigenous and non-indigenous people believe the ATSIC model failed." ATSIC assets and liabilities have now been transferred to the Commonwealth, with the government-backed Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) now holding over $500 million worth of assets. The government has transferred the $340 million Home Ownership Program and $65 million Business Development Program to IBA, while the statutory Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) will also play a pivotal role in the future of Aboriginal affairs. The final blow for ATSIC came when the government last week rejected a Labor amendment to throw regional councils a six-month lifeline from July this year. The ATSIC board has effectively been without power since mid-2003, when indigenous funding decisions were handed over to its bureaucratic arm, ATSIS, ahead of a shift to mainstream departments. However, the board has still managed to stay in the headlines, determining at its final meeting last month to hand over about $40 million in assets, including $2.7 million worth of artworks, to Aboriginal heritage and cultural organisations. The government has since said it considers the decision to be unlawful. Former ATSIC councillors will receive four months' severance pay, meaning controversial chairman Geoff Clark stands to receive $80,000 - one third of his annual $240,000 salary. Regional councillors are set to get around $36,000. Mr Clark last week said the demise of the national indigenous-elected representative body was a shameful day for Australia. Senator Vanstone said the government would now push ahead with its practical reconciliation agenda and the use of shared responsibility agreements (SRAs) with Aboriginal communities. "The Howard government is committed to ensuring that indigenous Australians have the same opportunities that the rest of us take for granted," she said. "We will talk directly with and respond to indigenous communities, finding flexible solutions through the principle of shared responsibility, to the problems they identify as critical to their future." At Mulan, a community of 150 in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the government will pay more than $170,000 to install a fuel bowser in the town. The nearest petrol pump is 44 km away. In return, the community must agree to ensure children shower every day and wash their faces twice a day, and to maintain proper standards of waste disposal. The government expects to sign up to 80 similar agreements this year.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/24/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt Moves to Plug Gaps in Tsunami Monitoring

The Government has ordered an urgent review of New Zealand's patchy tsunami-readiness systems because of concerns they are not adequate. Cabinet papers issued under the Official Information Act show concern whether there would be enough warning of a tsunami from the Southern Ocean, the southwest Pacific or one generated close to our shores. Officials have been told to report by September on ways to improve managing tsunami risks. One area identified is completing the GeoNet seismic warning project funded by the Earthquake Commission, which has a $25 million shortfall. Another is for a national publicity programme to tell the public what to expect and do if there is a tsunami. The papers were prepared for the January Cabinet meeting that approved $68 million in New Zealand aid for victims of the Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami. That catastrophe alerted the Government to big holes in New Zealand's preparedness for a similar event. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii would pick up tsunamis caused only by quakes or volcanic eruptions in the northeast Pacific and off the South American coast. But tsunamis could also be caused by events close to shore in New Zealand and in the Southern Ocean and the southwest Pacific. On December 24, just two days before the disaster in Southeast Asia, a 20cm tsunami was recorded at Bluff after a magnitude 8.1 quake in the Southern Ocean. That was 2004's biggest until the magnitude 9 quake off Sumatra, but was too far from New Zealand to cause damage. The papers highlight the need to complete the GeoNet system, which provides seismic monitoring to warn the public of volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis. The commission runs it in collaboration with the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. In early January, the commission said it hoped to have considered by now whether to fully fund the GeoNet project to give better warning of tsunamis. But commission general manager David Middleton said last week that the issues were still being discussed, and a decision was likely to take about three months. The Cabinet papers also suggest the need for a national tsunami public education campaign. At present, tsunami readiness is the responsibility of regional and local councils. A national campaign would "add value" to local ones because many New Zealanders spend time at coasts, messages would be better absorbed if consistent nationwide and it would be more cost-effective than lots of local campaigns, the papers say. Local authorities around Wellington and the Wairarapa are distributing a tsunami-preparedness leaflet to households.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/01/2005

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Strategy to Cut Gambling Hailed as a World First

The Government is claiming a world first with its new $54 million strategy to reduce problem gambling. Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said yesterday that the three-year programme would raise public awareness of the risks, boost treatment services and inform communities. New Zealand was the first country to develop a comprehensive approach to gambling-related health issues, he said. The climate had changed dramatically in the past decade with the emergence of problem gambling and its associated social and economic costs, including crime. Mr O'Connor said statistics showed that: * Estimated player losses or profits on non-casino gaming machines rose from $597 million in 2000-2001 to $1 billion in 2003-2004. * During 2003-2004, New Zealanders lost more than $2 billion on all gambling activity. * The number seeking help with gambling problems increased 28 per cent in 2003-2004 compared with the previous year. * More than 78 per cent of people who first received counselling in 2003-2004 sought help as a consequence of gambling on machines in pubs and clubs. * The number of female gamblers accessing help services has increased 309 per cent since 1997, and by 2003-2004 females accounted for 47.4 per cent of new clients. The new strategy is called Strategic Plan for Preventing and Minimising Gambling Harm.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/04/2005

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Government Staff Warned over Official Information Act Requests

The State Services Commission is warning public servants to consider Official Information Act requests in the usual way and not withhold information for political reasons. The warning comes in a guide issued on Friday by State Services Commissioner Mark Prebble about the things public servants need to know during election year. The guide said public servants should look carefully at the grounds for refusal. "The potential for released material to adversely affect the Government’s electoral prospects is not a lawful reason for withholding it." The commission also cited a 1991 Ombudsmen’s report which said public servants had exceeded their mandate and become involved in assessing the political consequences of releasing information. It was "improper" for public servants - expected by the public to be neutral - to use official authority or influence to attempt to interfere with or affect the result of an election. National MP Murray McCully said the strong implication in the guide was that there had been a politicisation of the public service. "The State Services Commission seems to be concerned that that might lead to some embarrassment this year." He said the repeated warning suggested that traditional lines had been blurred. "There has been a trend in recent years to see appointments of people who are politically motivated to important decision-making roles in ministers?offices." (by Kevin Taylor)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/14/2005

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Asian Broadcasters Study Japan's Emergency System at NHK

Representatives of 19 broadcasters from 15 Asian countries and territories attended a workshop Tuesday hosted by Japanese public broadcaster NHK on the development of emergency broadcasting systems in the wake of the Dec 26 tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean. After a visit to the Japan Meteorological Agency in the morning, the participants were briefed by Japanese government officials in the afternoon on Japan's disaster reduction management, as well as how NHK and other broadcasters play a role in promoting disaster prevention and distributing emergency information.


From Kyodo News 03/02/2005

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Maritime Security Exercises for Asian Security Forum Proposed

Singapore proposed on Wednesday that Asia's only security forum move beyond dialogue and hold maritime security exercises to improve its ability to deal with terrorist and other threats. Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said in a speech to a seminar on maritime security cooperation tha Asian militaries and their counterparts outside the region "collectively" address security threats in the region's waters. "It would be useful for the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) to move beyond dialogue on maritime security and work towards conducting an ARF maritime security exercise in the near future," Teo said. ARF groups 24 countries comprising the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 14 dialogue partners, including the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Australia and the European Union. The group meets annually to discuss regional and global security issues as well as "confidence-building measures" aimed at forestalling conflicts. Southeast Asia hosts two of the world's most important commercial shipping lanes -- the Malacca Strait and the Singapore Strait bordered by Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. About half of the world's oil supplies and one fourth of global commerce pass through these narrow waterways. Military officials and security analysts have called for increased patrols in the area amid fears that ships passing through the straits are vulnerable targets for terrorists bent on crippling world trade. Armed piracy is also a major problem in some parts of the Malacca Strait, and the International Maritime Bureau reported on Wednesday that armed assailants had attacked a Malaysian tugboat in the waterway on Monday. The Malaysian captain and the Indonesian chief officer were kidnapped in the incident, according to the bureau. Teo acknowledged that the Five Power Defence Arrangements, an alliance involving Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, had already begun conducting martime security drills last year. Another exercise involving 22 navies in the Western Pacific region will also carry out an exercise on maritime security in May. "These are all very positive developments that build confidence, enhance capabilities, and also create a framework for inter-operability that can be useful for future contingencies," Teo said. However he emphasised that much more could be done through the ARF. Senior officers from the navy, coast guard, port authorities, shipping lines and law enforcement agencies from the ARF member nations are attending the two and half-day conference in Singapore this week, most of which will be held behind closed doors. The head of the ARF unit at ASEAN's Jakarta based secretariat, M.C Abad, who was attending the conference, told AFP the gathering was a positive step in improving regional maritime security. "By bringing the frontline agencies together to tackle and promote maritime security, ARF demonstrates that it has gone beyond being a forum for confidence building into an inter-governmental framework pursuing common security," Abad said. "Activities like this demonstrate ARF's relevance in responding head-on to the current security issues of the day."


From http://www.aseansec.org/ 03/02/2005

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World's Women See Modest Progress at UN Beijing + 10

Ten years after a plan of action for women's rights was passed at a landmark international conference in Beijing, governments and pressure groups participating in the UN sponsored ¡°Beijing + 10¡± conference held until march 11th, say that only modest progress has been made in improving the lives of women, reports Agence France Presse (03/06). In a declaration adopted Friday, participants in the conference welcomed "the progress made thus far towards achieving gender equality," but stressed that "challenges and obstacles remain" in the implementation of the goals set at the Beijing event in 1995. In the statement, participants also emphasized that "the full and effective implementation" of the Beijing action plan "is essential to achieve the internationally agreed development goals." Xinhua (03/07) further reports that a report titled ¡°Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World,¡± released by the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) on Monday states that progress toward gender equality has "much to celebrate", but also "much at risk", a decade after the World Conference on Women in Beijing. Although notable gains have been achieved in political participation, education and labor force participation, women continue to face limits on income, authority and power. "Despite women's greater prominence in political life, they have in many cases yet to translate their visibility into leadership positions and influence over the decision-making progress," according to the report. Economically, free market and deregulation-oriented policies have not largely benefited women, the report says, citing severe financial crises, sluggish economic growth, lower government spending, increasing poverty and the erosion of government public services and social protection. In the area of war and conflict, women have been given more credibility in peacemaking and conflict resolution. At the same time, their roles in providing care and refuge and conducting humanitarian relief programs "have been less widely noticed," the reports says.


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/07/2005

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Society at a Glance Indicators Spotlight Social Policy Challenges in OECD Countries

Should OECD governments spend more on tackling child poverty and less on unemployment benefits? Or focus on pension reform and the need for family-friendly policies to help parents, in particular mothers, balance a career with bringing up a child? These are among the social policy challenges spotlighted in the latest edition of the OECD's Society at a Glance. They will feature on the agenda of a meeting of OECD Social Affairs Ministers in Paris on March 31-April 1 2005.People in OECD countries are living longer and prosperity is rising. But major social issues remain. Child poverty is on the increase, birth rates are dropping, while the proportion of senior citizens in the population will double in many OECD countries in coming years. There are no easy answers to such challenges, and Society at a Glance does not attempt to provide them. Instead, it provides comparative data allowing OECD countries to benchmark themselves against their peers. Among other things, it reveals that, while public spending in the areas traditionally covered by social policies has declined in OECD countries over the last 10 years, private spending has risen, especially in the United States and the Netherlands. This trend is likely to continue. Social Affairs Ministers from OECD countries will discuss many of the topics spotlighted in Society at a Glance at their conference later this month on the theme "Extending opportunities: How active social policy can benefit us all".


From http://www.oecd.org/ 03/08/2005

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Workshop to Assist Developing Economies to Implement New Global Customs Standards

Senior customs delegates from APEC Member Economies have taken part in a workshop intended to strengthen the capacity of developing economies to implement new global customs standards. The new Customs Data Model developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) enables international ports to share information on cargo and identify illegal or dangerous material in transit. The Workshop on the Implementation of the WCO Customs Data Model provided an opportunity for representatives from the WCO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and other leading bodies to provide advice on making the new system operational in participating economies. The WCO Data Model establishes standard procedures and processes at ports so that cargo can be identified as either high or low risk before it arrives at its destination. Low risk cargo can then be processed promptly while high risk and unidentified cargo is further examined. Workshop Convener, Mr. Eric Sunstrum from the Canada Customs and Revenues Agency, said the workshop will ultimately benefit people and businesses in economies by enabling participants to better implement the new data model. "We must ensure that all APEC Member Economies have the human and technical skills to administer and use the WCO Customs Data Model," Mr. Sunstrum said at the conclusion of the workshop. "The processes and systems in the WCO Customs Data Model are designed to make the shipment of goods safer and more efficient. This means that it will be more difficult for terrorists and other criminals to ship illegal goods through ports. "The new system is also better for business as it cuts a lot of red tape by switching from paper to electronic transactions for processing cargo. As ports adopt the WCO Data Model the business community will benefit from enhanced competitiveness in national and international markets as customs procedures are harmonization and simplified. There will be faster movement of goods across borders with minimal bureaucratic intervention and so held the elimination of unnecessary delays at the border." The workshop focused on practical elements in the process of identifying and using data in cross-border trade by Member Economies particularly as this relates to local needs such as the movement of different food and agricultural products of their economy. Following this workshop APEC Member Economies will prepare ongoing work programs that detail follow-up work required to implement the WCO Data Model. The workshop was held on March 7 to 11 at the APEC Secretariat in Singapore.


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/11/2005

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Int'l Environmental Conference Due for March 24-29 in Seoul

Environment ministers from 62 countries will gather in Seoul on March 24-29 to discuss issues at the 5th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development (MCED) in Asia and the Pacific, the Ministry of Enviroment reported Friday (March 11). The conference has been convened every five years since 1985 under the sponsorship of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP). This time it has the theme of ¡°achieving environmentally sustainable economic growth.¡± About 300 participants, including ministers, officials, and environmental experts and representatives from international organizations will discuss strategies for environmentally sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region for the 2006-10 period at the Lotte Hotel. They will adopt the Seoul Initiative at the close of the conference. The Seoul Initiative is a recommendation of the government to other MCED member countries on action plans such as cooperating in pro-environment technology and holding workshops to develop desirable policies. The conference will also deal with other regional issues such as sandstorms and land degradation. ¡°We hope the conference will improve the reputation of Korea as a country leading the way in environmental protection and help gain an advantage for future environmental negotiations such as the climate change accord,¡± said Song Yong-kwon, deputy director of the ministry in charge of planning the conference. Participants will include UNESCAP executive secretary Kim Hak-su, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) executive director Klaus Toepfer, former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Haruhiko Kuroda and South Korean Environment Minister Kwak Kyul-ho.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/12/2005

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Energy Security and Alternative Fuel Sources on EWG Agenda in Hanoi

Energy policy makers from APEC Member Economies are meeting in Hanoi this week to develop solutions to meet the region's growing energy needs. The 29th Meeting of the APEC Energy Working Group (EWG) will cover areas including the implementation of the APEC Energy Security Initiative, ongoing research to develop alternative fuels and ways for the EWG to contribute to planning to deal with major regional emergencies or natural disasters similar to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The outcomes of this meeting from March 14 to 18 will contribute to the Senior Official Meetings leading up to the APEC Leaders' and Ministers' Meetings in November. Ms Vicki Brown said on behalf of the EWG Lead Shepherd that the 29th meeting of the EWG will receive a report on the implementation of the APEC Energy Security Initiative. "The full implementation of the APEC Energy Security Initiative is of vital importance for ensuring the energy needs of our region are not disrupted by human actions or natural disasters," Ms Brown said. "The ongoing threat of terrorist activities, increasing demand for energy and the current high price of oil are all significant factors for regional economic development. "The Energy Security Initiative comprises of both short and long term measures to respond energy supply disruptions and develop policy responses to address the broader challenges facing the region's energy supplies. The Energy Security Initiative requires economies to develop individual emergency preparedness plans, share information on their current reserves and keep other economies informed in the case of an emergency. "Ms Brown said the EWG is undertaking joint efforts with the Industrial Science and Technology Working Group (ISTWG) as part of efforts to assess the feasibility of alternative future fuel sources. "The EWG meeting in Hanoi will receive submissions to better assess future alternative fuel technologies and the impact these would have on the energy market," Ms. Brown said. "The EWG and ISTWG are looking at the feasibility of developing a technology road map that outlines multiple scenarios for plausible energy and fuel development in the APEC region. The EWG had earlier invited a representative from the ISTWG to the previous EWG meeting and sent an EWG representative to an ISTWG workshop. "The meeting will also consider ways for the EWG to contribute to APEC's overall emergency preparedness strategy that was endorsed by Senior Officials at their meeting in Seoul in early March. The APEC Virtual Task Force for Emergency Preparedness is being reactivated to unify resources and skills in the APEC community to deal with future disasters that have the potential to strike the region. The EWG was established in 1990 to develop collaborative solutions to maximize the energy sector's contribution to regional economic and social wellbeing. This includes addressing the potential environmental effects of energy production together with the increasing requirements of energy consumers around the region. It is estimated that this demand for energy in the APEC region is expected to grow at an average 2.1% annually for the next 20 years. This growing demand is expected to increase energy import dependency in the APEC region to around 80% in 2020 from 60% today.


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/14/2005

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CHINA: Cut of NPC Procedure a Step Forward to High Efficiency

Changes are expected in the third session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislative body, to make it more efficient and give it more time to concentrate on legislation. Reports say one of the procedures during the annual session, due to begin in early March, will be scrapped if a proposed change is approved by the NPC's Standing Committee on February 25. The Minister of National Development and Reform Commission and the Finance Minister's routines of delivering oral reports will end if the proposals are accepted. Their delivery of plans for national economic and social development and the fiscal budget report are usually high on the agenda during the NPC's annual meeting. But as these reports are also handed out in written form to deputies asking for comments, there seems to be a case for the oral practice to stop. The dropping of the spoken routine, a time-consuming procedure, would give more time for other more important legislative matters and more time to raise issues of concern. Some say the plan to drop the oral routines is a giant step forward. As the NPC plays an increasingly important role in promoting the rule of law, the organization needs to make adjustments to its working style so it has the time to deal effectively with its legislation work. This often demands an incredible amount of time. Realizing that the NPC has a huge bearing on the country's democratic development, the public is keen to see the law-making body working in a more efficient and professional way. Li Lin, a researcher with the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, recently proposed cutting the number of deputies to half. He also suggested the session meets twice a year instead of just once, and increases the number of days it meets. He said the number of Standing Committee members should be doubled, as this would allow more time for law makers to deliberate on pending legislation. Currently, the 3,000-strong legislature, of which about 160 are Standing Committee members, convenes for about 10 days once a year, usually in March. Considering that the legislative work the NPC will handle is set to surge with the country's efforts to promote the rule of law, the growing calls for reforming the NPC's work procedures and own setup are not without good reason. The proposed cancellation of the routine delivery of some oral reports, initiated by the NPC itself, shows the top legislative body senses the need for reform. The changes should ensure a more efficient legislature.


From cctv.com 02/28/2005

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CPPCC Proposals Have Govts' Ear

Members of China's top advisory body who heeded public opinions about key government policies and social issues of major concern had tabled more than 4,000 proposals for addressing related problems in the past year, said a senior official Thursday. In a report delivered to the Third Session of the Tenth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which opened Thursday afternoon in the national capital, Vice Chairman Zhang Huaixi of the CPPCC National Committee said that National Committee members had presented a total of 4,478 proposals over the past year, the majority of which had been transferred to relevant government departments. "Some 99.15 percent of the proposals had been handled up to Feb.20 this year," he said. Most of the proposals concentrated on major problems arising from social and economic development. "The proposals played an important role in promoting policy making in a scientific and democratic way, boosting the coordinated development of the socialist material civilization, political civilization and spiritual civilization, and building a harmonious socialist society," said Zhang. Of the total proposals, 1,905, or 44.69 percent, were focused on economic issues, and 1,178 were related to development in the fields of science and technology, education, culture, health and sports, he said. Members of the CPPCC National Committee also raised 1,180 proposals for promoting Party building and democracy, improving the social security system, maintaining national security and social stability, and promoting the peaceful reunification of the motherland. This year, Zhang said, the CPPCC National Committee will continue to do a good job in handling the proposals of the members, with emphasis placed on improving the quality of proposals and trying to make sure that the members' proposals and suggestions are taken by related departments earnestly. The CPPCC is a patriotic united front organization of the Chinese people. Its main functions are to conduct political consultation, exercise supervision and participate in the discussion and handling of state affairs, mainly through setting forth proposals and suggestions.


From Xinhuanet 03/04/2005

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HK Govt Sets Up Public Affairs Forum

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government announced Thursday the establishment of the Public Affairs Forum, a consultative forum to advise the government on major public issues in Hong Kong. The Public Affairs Forum Website was launched at the same time, according to a government press release. "This is an initiative flowing from the 2004 Policy Address of the Chief Executive," a Home Affairs Bureau spokesman said. "The setting up of the Public Affairs Forum shows that the government attaches great importance to the middle class, appreciates their values and beliefs, as well as their aspirations to participate in public affairs," the spokesman said. Members of the Forum are mainly salaried employees from the business, professional and academic fields who have attained tertiary education level or obtained professional qualifications. They regard themselves as members of the middle class, and the community in general regard them as such. "The Public Affairs Forum has adopted a new mode of operation through a dedicated Website which provides a platform for exchange of views among Forum members. Such an arrangement allows Forum members maximum flexibility in carrying out discussions. "We plan to appoint about 600 members. In identifying suitable people for appointment to the Forum, regard is given to the need to have a balanced gender composition and a balanced representation from different sectors," he said. So far, about 340 people have agreed to serve as Forum members." We shall continue to identify suitable people for appointment to the Forum," the spokesman said.


From Xinhuanet 03/11/2005

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Environment Counts in Officials' Achievements

The Chinese government will take environmental protection as an important indicator in evaluating local officials' achievements. The State Environmental Protection Administration has proposed taking four factors into account: implementation of laws and regulations on environmental protection, the amount of pollution, changes in environment quality and satisfaction of the general public. The new policy will be tested in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the southwest province of Sichuan and the eastern province of Zhejiang. Experts say the new evaluation system will help to raise local officials' awareness of protecting the environment while maintaining economic development. The Chinese government will take environmental protection as an important indicator in evaluating local officials' achievements. The State Environmental Protection Administration has proposed taking four factors into account: implementation of laws and regulations on environmental protection, the amount of pollution, changes in environment quality and satisfaction of the general public. The new policy will be tested in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the southwest province of Sichuan and the eastern province of Zhejiang. Experts say the new evaluation system will help to raise local officials' awareness of protecting the environment while maintaining economic development.


From Xinhuanet 03/17/2005

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Beijing: Common People Have More Say in Legislation

Beijing municipal legislature will open its law-making process wider to the public this year in order to allow ordinary residents a bigger say in the city's legislative process, said a senior lawmaker yesterday. "The process of drawing up local regulations should allow ordinary people to freely express their opinions and feelings, rather than a closed-door scheme that only a small group of lawmakers can take part in," said Suo Liansheng, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the 12th Beijing Municipal People's Congress. He said the municipal legislative body would continue to hold public hearings on draft regulations this year. The capital held its first-ever legislation hearing last September, something that was regarded as a landmark move in the city's democratic drive. At last year's hearing, 16 citizen representatives had the chance to speak out about the city's regulation for implementing the country's Road Traffic Safety Law. Suo said the local congress would not hold hearings for each of the 11 draft regulations listed on this year's legislative agenda, but only on those that have direct impact on the daily lives of ordinary citizens. "For instance, food safety is a hot topic that everybody is concerned about, and a draft on food safety management is expected to be delivered to the municipal legislature for deliberation in November. We plan to hold a hearing on it," said Suo. He said the municipal people's congress would also set up a legislative think tank involving around 200 legal experts and lawyers next month. "When we encounter a legal problem in drawing up regulations, we can consult the experts," said Suo. Yang Xuedong, a political expert with the China Centre for Comparative Politics and Economics, said it was very encouraging to see that the city's lawmakers are becoming more attentive to public opinion. "Only when public opinions are taken into account can their interests be respected and protected in the regulations. Public participation in the law-making process can help improve the quality of legislation, and the public can have a more comprehensive understanding of the regulations so that they can better follow the clauses," said Yang. Before the first public hearing last year, the municipal people's congress adopted a number of measures to give ordinary people a voice in the law-making process. These moves included publishing draft regulations on websites to solicit public opinion, and inviting citizen representatives to attend regular conferences as observers. "The legislation hearings go deeper, touching the core of the city's legislation process," said Yang. He said he was glad to see that after last year's legislation hearing, more than 60 out of the 108 clauses for the implementation of the Road Traffic Safety Law were revised based on the public's views. "But the city's legislation hearing system still leaves much to be desired, such as the selection of citizen representatives. And the local congress should give representatives enough time to prepare for a hearing," said Yang. China's first legislation hearing was held in 1999 in South China's Guangdong Province about a construction project's bidding process. So far, more than 20 provinces and municipalities around China have held public hearings in legislative process, said Yang.


From China Daily 03/22/2005

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E-Government Spurs Efficiency Drive

The State Council vowed recently to facilitate e-governance, bringing the public and governments closer through the Internet. The move was made following growing complaints and criticisms against governmental websites being user-non-friendly and lacking useful information. Currently, the State Council Informatization Office is working with other central government departments to draft a regulation requiring all governmental organizations to publicize information of concern to the public. The regulation is expected to take effect this year. The office's department director, Zhao Xiaofan, said that people should be able to access information related to administrative affairs on official websites of governmental agencies by then. But in the past, people had no easy access to governmental documents and information because some of them were labelled as classified and hidden in archives. Since China embarked on market-oriented reforms at the end of 1970s, the public has been crying for more government transparency. China's highest leadership has echoed such calls and launched its ambitious e-government initiative in 2000. During previous years, China has made great progress on the initiative and the next step should be focused on enhancing online interactions between the public and government, Hu Xiaoming, vice-president of the National Information Centre told China Daily. Hu said that a law is being drafted to supervise the government's behaviour in the release of information. "If the law is approved by the National People's Congress, government agencies shall be legally bound to publicize information related to government affairs in a timely way," said Hu. The word "Internet" was an alien concept to most Chinese people in the early 1990s. But it has now developed rapidly in the country despite its late introduction. The latest survey by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) indicated that netizens in the country reached 94 million by the end of last year, a year-on-year surge of 18.2 per cent. The figure was only 670,000 when the first such a survey was conducted in 1997. By the end of last year, 41.6 million computers had been connected to the Internet on the Chinese mainland, compared with 330,000 in 1997. "All the progress has resulted from robust economic growth and rising living standards across the nation," said Zhao Xiaofan. He added that with more and more people able to afford computers and having basic know-how to get online, it would be natural to see a rapid growth of netizens. And the situation would lay down a firm foundation for the development of e-governance. Since it first went online in 1998, the Chinese Government has shown great enthusiasm to realize its goal of digital-governments. It is expected to work as a way to propel transparency in governance and political reform. Zhao said that the e-government initiative will promote democracy because it provides channels for citizens to voice their opinions and ideas through digital connections, such as e-mail and online forums. And even some simplified election procedures can be held by, for example, allowing online voting. "It can make administrative work more transparent and efficient by connecting government departments through the Internet," said Zhao. According to a recent report on the development of China's electronic governance, more than 90 per cent of the country's 336 big cities have already created official websites. The municipal government in Wenzhou, a city in East China's Zhejiang Province, has reportedly raised 10.26 billion yuan (US$1.24 billion) to establish a "digital Wenzhou." The city plans to focus on speeding up efficiency and transparency in dealing with government affairs, businesses and public services. At the same time, however, a survey conducted by Zhao's office last year found that only 5.2 per cent of China's government websites were visited frequently. And only 14.8 per cent of the government websites contain English pages. Information contained on most of the websites owned and operated by governmental establishments is found to fail to meet citizens' needs. Meanwhile, only a few of these websites effectively deliver public services as expected, the survey found. Some web pages, for example, www.tongjiang.gov.cn, a county-level government website, was found to be dysfunctional for several months. To find out the real situation of the operation of e-governments, the municipal government of Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, recently published an assessment on local digital governments. According to the report, 14 of its 91 governmental websites scored a zero because of poor accessibility. The report also listed lack of content, updates and interaction as major problems. Zhao Xiaofan said that the Internet has become an important channel for public opinion but in many local governments' websites, only headshots of officials could be found. They don't function as an avenue for listening and responding to the public. "Interaction between government departments and the public is badly needed through the Internet," said Zhao. "And that will be our office's work priority during next five to 10 years."


From China Daily 03/22/2005

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China, UNDP Team Up for Well-off Society

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) launched a scheme Wednesday to build a "xiaokang" society -- or a "well-off society in an all-round way." The program will link the country's commitment to this objective with the principles of the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by world leaders at the UN summit in 2000. Human-centered development goals and targets that include poverty reduction, education, health and environmental protection will be included in the framework of China's comprehensive xiaokang plan. "Given the strong convergence between the two, there is a unique opportunity for China to integrate xiaokang and the MDGs," said Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China. China's leadership has come up with a blueprint to realize xiaokang by 2020. It includes raising per capita gross domestic product to US$3,000 from US$1,000 in 2003, an indicator China regarded as "low-level and unbalanced. "The UNDP is also trying to improve awareness of balanced development among 900 senior Chinese officials by providing training held in China and overseas over the next five years. "We have already entered an agreement with the Chinese Communist Party's Organization Department and this was part of the program," said UNDP program assistant Cui Jing. The officials to be trained are at least at vice ministerial level, said Cui, but she refused to go into further details. With a combined investment of US$10 million by UNDP and the Chinese government, the program is designed to help China develop broader definitions, concepts, goals and indicators of development. "Xiaokang is not only about having wealth. The basic principle is that we protect human health by providing quality environment," said Daniel J. Deduk, chief economist with the US-based Environmental Defense. He suggested that the government look at regional differences in economic and social development when outlining environmental protection targets. NDRC Vice Minister Zhu Zhixin said the program would assist China in establishing its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006¨C2010) for Economic and Social Development. Zhu said that it is vital to share an expanded vision of development that vigorously promotes human development as the key to sustaining social and economic progress in all countries, and recognizes the importance of creating a global partnership for development.


From China Daily 03/24/2005

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Economists Honored for Role in Reform

Xue Muqiao was born in the waning years of the Qing Dynasty (1644¨C1911). In the 1930s, while China was in the grip of civil war, he conducted groundbreaking research into rural poverty. In the '50s he was an economic policy assistant to the country's highest decision-making body and in 1979 he published works widely regarded as the seminal guide to China's market-oriented makeover. On Thursday, the 101-year-old Xue was named one of the first four winners of the China Economics Prize for his creation of the open-door, trade-with-all policy and for suggesting that farmers be allowed to own the land they till and work unfettered in the cities. Xue, together with Ma Hong, 85, Liu Guoguang, 82; and Wu Jinglian, 75, were all key figures in helping China launch its market-oriented reforms. Each of the four was given 300,000 yuan (US$36,000) in prize money at Thursday's ceremony. At the award presentation, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan said that China's breathtaking economic transformation of the past 26 years was in part due to the prizewinners' contributions. He singled Xue out for praise as one of the fathers of China's economic research and as a devoted and creative educator. Ma was cited for his suggestions to restructure China's economy at a stable pace, while Liu was selected for his theories concerning the government's role in the market economy. Wu was honored for giving substance to state-sector reform by "breaking the iron rice bowl," a system that guaranteed lifelong employment and perks like housing but led to inefficiency. He is also known for encouraging private investment and entrepreneurship. "I accept the award as recognition of the efforts made by our generation of economists during China's reform process," said Wu, who still works as a researcher with the State Council Development and Research Center. "We still have a long way to go to perfect the legal system in China's market economy," said Wu. "Only by matching the rule of law with the market economy can we achieve total success." The China Economics Prize, newly established by the China Macroeconomics Institute and China Society of Economic Reform, encourages and rewards scholars who have made outstanding contributions to economic theory, policy and research.


From China Daily, China.org.cn 03/25/2005

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JAPAN: Women Take Shine to Money Management

Banks, brokerages hold female-only classes to boost investment trust sales. Major banks and brokerages are holding seminars on finance and giving priority to sales of investment trusts aimed at women, who are apparently showing an increasing interest in the world of investing. A Resona Bank employee tells a customer about investment trusts that cater to women, at the bank's Shinbashi branch in Tokyo. According to a survey by Nomura Securities Co., men are more interested in shares and foreign exchange than women are, but women have a stronger consciousness to steadily manage their own money than men, an indication that women are beginning to take investment more seriously. In late February, the Resona financial group began selling "Love Me," an investment trust only for women that features less risk and a monthly dividend. The trust is based on mainly foreign stocks, but includes shares of food and underwear manufacturers highly recognized among women. The trust even has a concept, according to Eiji Hosoya, chairman of Resona Holdings Inc. He said the concept is: "to improve myself by getting and studying." On Christmas Day each year, the company will give customers tickets for beauty-treatment clinics, hot spring resorts and correspondence courses on finance, depending on the degree each woman is invested. "We hope the trust will become a starting point for getting familiar with financial commodities for young women, who don't hesitate to buy expensive top-brand articles," said Yoko Muto, an official at the market strategy division of Resona Bank. Major securities companies are starting to hold more women-only finance seminars because the number of women who wish to begin investing and study foreign exchange and economics is sharply increasing.


From The Japan Times 03/18/2005

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UFJ Loan Plan Targets Smaller Firms

The president of the bank acknowledges the folly of focusing mainly on big clients. After its past policy of thinking big ended in failure and scandal, UFJ Bank Ltd. decided to increase the amount of loans to small and medium-sized companies by 500 billion yen, bank officials said. The additional loans, some of which will be unsecured, will come during the six-month period to the end of September. The borrowers will be small-scale companies and individuals who have no transactions with major banks, according to UFJ's plan for fiscal 2005. The plan represents a 7-percent rise from 6.9 trillion yen in such loans at the end of March to about 7.4 trillion yen at the end of September. ``The lesson of the past year is that, through concentrating our loans on major companies, there was a sudden increase in expenses associated with the disposal of nonperforming loans, and we ended up in a situation of substantial losses,'' UFJ Bank President Takamune Okihara said in an interview. ``It is extremely important that we disperse our loans in small lots and expand our dealings with small and medium-sized businesses that provide high earnings capability.'' UFJ plans to merge with the Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group in October. But even after the merger, UFJ will continue to place importance on providing services to a wider customer base, the officials said. UFJ had previously focused on providing large loans to major companies. At one point, the bank's loans to small and medium-sized businesses fell by about 700 billion yen. But amid the sluggish economic conditions, many of the large borrowers could not repay their debts, leading to mountains of bad loans saddling UFJ. The bank's reputation suffered further after officials were found to have concealed the ailing financial health of their large borrowers and the actual state of the bank's bad loan problem during an inspection by the Financial Services Agency in fiscal 2004. The bank has since undergone a major overhaul. Its board of directors was revamped and its financial base became stabilized through the disposal of bad loans to its big clients. UFJ Holdings Inc., which has UFJ Bank at its core, has forecast a loss of about 750 billion yen for fiscal 2004. That would be the fourth straight year of losses. However, it expects to return to profitability in the new fiscal year. The targets of UFJ's loan plan are businesses and entrepreneurs with annual turnovers of about 300 million yen. Creditworthiness will be based on the prospective borrowers' transactions with major companies that have relations with UFJ. If no problems are found and if future stable orders can be projected, UFJ will provide loans on an unsecured basis, officials said. (by Shinichi Maruishi)


From The Asahi Shimbun 03/22/2005

 

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Police Seek 'Role Model' Communities to Promote Security

TOKYO ¡ª The National Police Agency decided Thursday to call on communities across Japan to serve as role models in crime-prevention activities under an NPA project to promote neighborhood security. The NPA will select 100 such role-model communities and support their activities and later use their accomplishments as the basis for a nationwide drive to boost community security, NPA officials said.


From Kyodo News 03/24/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: President Roh Not to Receive Report in Paper

President Roh Moo-hyun recently declared a ¡°paperless Cheong Wa Dae,¡± saying that he will not receive reports from his staff in paper, a presidential secretary said Wednesday (Feb. 23). Instead, President Roh instructed his staff ¡°to report all in the electronic network of Cheong Wa Dae,¡± said secretary Kang Tae-young in charge of office affairs reform. President Roh rejected a report submitted by a secretary in paper, who received a return a statement saying ¡°I will read the report if it is put on the Cheong Wa Dae Intranet _ e-Jiwon.¡± As a result, a new office practice has appeared. President Roh¡¯s instructions are directly handed down to the staff through e-mail with the title ¡°The President¡¯s Instructions.¡± An official said, ¡°I was really embarrassed with the flood of instructions the president sent via e-mail at 2 a.m. Sunday when I opened the Intranet in my office on Monday morning.¡± A staff said, ¡°President Roh is the largest user of the network at Cheong Wa Dae,¡± adding that they have been stressed much in office work due to the system which is operated 24 hours a day. President Roh is reported to be engaged on the Intranet, e-Jiwon, for around four hours a day _ two hours from 5 a.m. till before breakfast and for another two hours after dinner. As a result, Cheong Wa Dae officials have seen their workloads triple. It is frequent that the President Roh puts down his ideas when they first occur to him into the ¡°My Idea¡± slot and sends them to the ¡°itinerary¡± corner on that day, making the ideas turn into policies, according to the presidential office.


From http://www.korea.net/ 02/24/2005

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State Public Information System to Be Strengthened

The government on Thursday (March 3) announced its decision to establish new offices within government agencies to focus on public relations. Public information and policy planning offices will be merged, in the organizational reform move, according to Yang Jung-chul, presidential secretary for policy planning. ¡°The public information and policy planning departments of respective agencies will be combined with the goal of efficiently connecting their roles,¡± Yang said during a media briefing. Cheong Wa Dae will seek to revise the relevant laws to implement an overhaul of the government system by the end of March, he added. Another official explained a new system will be implemented to cope with evolving relations between the government and mass media and to meet the need for more effective public relations activities. ¡°For instance, the current public information system will be abolished as their role has been diminished due to the change in relations between the government and the media,¡± he said. In a bid to promote public relations on state policies, the budget set aside for the Government Information Agency will be raised.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/03/2005

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Ministry to Hold Public Discussions on National Policies

The Ministry of Planning and Budget will hold a series of public discussions on major national policies, such as public rental housing, ways to reduce private education fees and how to cope with an aging society. The goal of the public discussion series is to help better formulate ¡°national financial operation plans for 2005 through 2009¡± and will bring together experts from academia, the media, the private sector, research institutes, civic organizations and the relevant government agencies. The event will be held three times a week between March 10 and April 8 for a total of 12 sessions. Participants will take part as panelists in 11 areas of specialty, including social overhead capital, research and development, the environment and social welfare. The ministry said Thursday that many of the opinions expressed in the sessions will be positively reflected in draft financial operation plans, raising the importance of public participation in government policies and enhancing the efficiency of financial operations.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/04/2005

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President Asks Officialdom to Share Success of Innovation

President Roh Moo-hyun has asked civil servants across the country to take pride in and share the rewards that come from making the government¡¯s ongoing innovation drive a success. Highlighting his deep interest and determination in promoting innovation in officialdom, President Roh personally wrote to public officials Thursday (March 3) to pledge his strong commitment to the drive and encourage them to follow through with him. A bylined column published Wednesday in the daily JoongAng Ilbo has prompted the president to write. It was the second presidential letter to the nation¡¯s officials in recent weeks. On Feb. 18, he wrote to them on a similar theme. The column, under a heading, ¡°Innovation? What¡¯s that?¡± took a swipe at the government campaign. In the letter, the president assured the public that he believes in the goodwill and energies of each public official carrying out innovation, adding that he was convinced that the few sarcastic bureaucrats described in the column did not represent most of the bureaucratic community. He went on to say that the existence of a handful of sneerers, slanderers or party poopers in an organization hardly meant the project was a failure, likening those people to a handful of bad apples in an apple orchard, ¡°it doesn¡¯t mean the harvest is a failure.¡±


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/04/2005

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Gov't to Support Equal-Basis Competition for M&A Market

The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) said it plans to ease rules for local companies, enabling them to compete on an equal basis with foreign rivals in the acquisitions of financial firms, like Woori Financial Holdings. The move comes as local buyout funds and companies have complained that they have been discriminated against in competitions to take over local financial and other heavyweight firms. The government is moving to take steps to remove what is called ¡°reverse discrimination.¡± ¡°Discrimination between domestic and foreign capital is intolerable today. All discrimination should be lifted unless it prevents M&As from functioning,¡± FSC Chairman Yoon Jeung-hyun said. He made the remarks in a report to President Roh Moo-hyun who guaranteed full support in making the local financial sector stronger and more transparent in order to meet global standards. During the session, Roh pointed out that the nation should develop financial industries as part of the moves to develop the country into a financial hub in Northeast Asia. ¡°Development of the finance industry is essential if we're to become a developed nation,¡± Roh said. Korean industries have been restricted in taking over controlling stakes in financial institutions here. This is to prevent industrial capital from using financial firms as manufacturers' private coffers. ¡°Even financial institutions such as banks, insurers and securities firms have to meet fair trade laws and other relevant laws,¡± said Park Dae-dong, director general of the Financial Supervision Policy Bureau of the FSC. Compared to financially advanced countries such as the United States and Japan, Korea's financial history dates back to liberation from Japanese colonial rule (1910-45). ¡°Desperate to recover from the 1997 financial crisis, the government allowed various foreign capitals to operate here under relatively loose restrictions,¡± Park said. In particular, private equity funds (PEFs) such as Bridge Securities, Sovereign Asset Management and Lone Star took away considerable profits from their investments in Korea amid criticism that they seek profits, not reinvestments here. The FSC will come up with concrete measures to minimize the side effects of such foreign equity firms in the first half of the year. Moreover, the measures will allow industrial capital to join the M&A market without restrictions. As part of the efforts, the financial regulator will raise more homegrown PEFs and further encourage pension funds to participate in the funds. ¡°Currently, three PEFs are operating in Korea as of February. We're going to try to promote the funds and ease regulations wherever necessary,¡± Yoon said. Park noted that the Korean economy had slowed down until the beginning of this year when it began to show some signs of recovery in domestic consumption and stock markets. ¡°About 400 trillion won in capital that has been searching for an investment now seems to have a place to go,¡± he added. Up for sale in the financial market include Woori Financial Holdings Company, LG Card, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hynix and Daewoo International.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/11/2005

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Ministry Distributes Notebooks on Innovation to Officials

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has distributed a notebook on innovation to all of its officials. This move is in line with President Roh Moo-hyun¡¯s letter calling public servants to do their best in government innovation. The notebook was intended to encourage ministry officials to get a sense of innovation this year, come up with innovative ideas and check the progress of innovation. In the notebook, Health and Welfare Minister Kim Geun-tae expressed his belief and resolve in innovation, pledging to lay his political career on it and asking ministry officials to do their share. As part of its innovative program, the ministry intends to introduce the conference proceeding technique of ¡°Workout¡± for reform in management, which it hopes will help dismantle the hierarchical walls and ensure rapid decision making.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/21/2005

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INDONESIA: Civil Service Reform, a Forgotten Agenda

Civil service reform is not a new notion here, but has verily been forgotten amid reforms in other sectors following the fall of the New Order government. In fact, civil service reform has been attempted several times since the Soeharto era, but its implementation has been hit-and-miss. The latest attempted reform in the civil service after the fall of Soeharto began in 1999 with the amendment of the civil service law (Law No. 8/1974) by Law No. 43/1999. This attempted reform did not stand alone but was strongly tied to an economic reform program under the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which entered the country following the financial crisis in 1997. Unlike in other countries which were under the tutelage of the IMF, civil service reform in Indonesia, however, has not been part and parcel of the reform package demanded by the IMF. Rather, it was a by-product of the massive decentralization program, which has been pursued vigorously since the passage of the decentralization law, Law No. 22/1999, which has been amended into Law No. 32/2004. In fact, the decentralization law itself lays the grounds for partial civil service reform. Local governments are also responsible for the planning, budgeting and managing of those services. The law also gives the regions the authority to appoint civil servants and to assume a number of personnel management functions in accordance with nationally approved norms and procedures. Implementing regulations issued later elaborated on these devolved functions. On top of the decentralization law, the amended civil service law addresses specifically civil service management issues, encompassing the decisions on norms, standards, procedures, formations, appointments, civil service resources quality development, transfer, salary, allowances, welfare, discharge, rights and obligations. The law mandates the establishment of a Civil Service Commission to assist the President to formulate policies on those management issues. The implementation of the law itself has never been comprehensive. This is understandable due to several changes of government in a relatively short period of time, i.e. four governments have come and gone since the reform era started in 1998. The White Paper places emphasis on increasing the transparency of public services. To achieve this, the White Paper envisages the drafting of a bill on public service, the publication of public service delivery standards and the move toward e-government. The President had in fact issued Presidential Instruction No. 3/2003 on National Policy on the Development of E-Government. Now, hopes are again ignited as Indonesia has a new government, with a strong President -- a President directly elected by the people. We hope this time, the President will be bold enough to set in motion the comprehensive reform of the civil service.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/04/2005

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MALAYSIA: Civil Servants Urged to Exercise Regularly

Staff from all ministries here are encouraged to take part in the weekly aerobics session organised by the Health Ministry¡¯s Healthy Lifestyle Campaign. Parliamentary Secretary Lee Kah Choon said the campaign was important to encourage healthy habits not only among the ministry¡¯s staff but all civil servants based in the Federal administrative capital. ¡°We realise that in order to promote this campaign, the staff here must take part in the exercises held regularly,¡± he said after the first aerobics session at the ministry yesterday. He said the session would be held every Wednesday from 5pm. Lee said the campaign also included efforts to promote healthy eating habits, proper stress management and an anti-smoking drive. Earlier, Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek and Lee took part in the hour-long session with a staff of 200 from the ministry. Lee said the campaign was also to encourage the people to be physically active. ¡°We live in a 'remote control' lifestyle, where every gadget can be turned on with a remote control, requiring minimal movement,¡± he said.


From http://thestar.com.my 03/03/2005

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Instill Good Values, PM Tells Schools

The nation¡¯s focus in developing its human capital must start in schools with the instilling of right values among young children, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said. The Prime Minister said schools could impart more than just knowledge through community based activities like gotong royong which would teach children values such as working hard and cooperating. ¡°We have to mould our children into adults of good character with a sense of social and civic consciousness while being responsible to the community,¡± he said after joining Barisan Nasional backbenchers in sprucing up the SK Pengiran Siti Hafsah primary school at Karambunai near here yesterday. The gotong royong involving more than 100 MPs, Senators and also Sabah state assemblymen was among the programmes of a three-day retreat of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club led by Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad. Abdullah said instilling these values among young children would require them to do some community work towards the upkeep of their schools. ¡°If children are involved in keeping their schools orderly, they will develop a sense of belonging and they will learn to appreciate public property,¡± he said, adding that parents should not criticise teachers if their children were asked to do such work in school. Similarly, he said if children were taught to appreciate their books and not to scribble or damage them, they would learn to take care of the tools of their trade when they become adults. Abdullah said community projects like gotong royong were part of the nation¡¯s culture and through such efforts the people could assist the poor. The Prime Minister also reminded school authorities to repair any damage immediately as, if it was left unattended, it could only worsen the condition. ¡°If there is one piece of floorboard to be replaced, it's just a matter of buying one board and a few nails. Don¡¯t wait until the damage becomes worse as the costs will escalate,¡± Abdullah said.


From http://thestar.com.my 03/07/2005

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Ministry Needs More Enforcement Officers

The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry needs to more than triple the size of its enforcement division to be truly effective, said minister Datuk Shafie Apdal. To fully enforce all the nine Acts under the ministry¡¯s purview, he said, the division should have 5,000 officers, compared with the present 1,600. This is more so now that the ministry has taken over the task of monitoring the production and distribution of food items bearing the halal logo from the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), he said yesterday. He was speaking after attending the opening of Malaysia¡¯s seventh Tesco store here by the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah. Shafie said the ministry would only get 500 new staff members this year although it had written to the Public Services Department appealing for more. To make up for the manpower shortage, he said the ministry would get assistance from the police and Rela. On the case of two local sausage manufacturers being hauled up on suspicion of using pig intestines as casing for their products carrying the halal logo, Shafie said his ministry would liase with Jakim on the matter. The ministry will take action only when it has been confirmed by Jakim that the products are indeed not halal, he said. Asked if the cases reflected a trend or were merely isolated cases, Shafie said the ministry had also received reports of duplicated and forged halal certificates. Besides enforcement of the law, a good way to ensure the integrity of the halal food sector is to increase the number of Muslim manufacturers, he added.


From http://thestar.com.my 03/20/2005

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THAILAND: B4bn Distance Learning Spending Plan Mulled

The government may invest four billion baht to develop the distance learning system as part of education reforms, according to its spokesman. Jakrapob Penkair said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra felt development of distance learning would allow new concepts and theories to reach a wider range of people and help the government communicate with people at village level. The investment would include development of a fibre-optic system and nationwide internet and wireless network, and would also support the government's policy of internet connections in every tambon to improve communication in the country.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 03/04/2005

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Mps Get Free Laptops Under B34m Budget

The secretary-general of parliament says the free top-of-the-range laptop computers being given to all 500 MPs is to encourage the spirit of globalisation and not just a waste of taxpayers' money. ''It is time politicians rid parliament of excess paper and cardboard, and make way for digital word processing,'' Pitoon Pumhiran said. Mr Pitoon said at every meeting of both the upper and lower houses, plastic charts and cardboard cutouts remained the standard choice. ''Frankly, it is hard to make out the writing let alone understand the interpretations,'' he said. ''Now MPs can hook up their computers straight to a projecter.'' Courtesy of the house committee on information and communication, the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Compaq Tablet TC1100 was handed free of charge to the 399 MPs who attended the opening day of the new session of parliament. The committee approved the budget of 34 million baht _ 68,000 baht apiece _ after an e-auction was conducted between three major international distributors: HP Compaq, Fujitsu and Toshiba. The e-auction was Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's idea. ''We were able to obtain the notebooks at 20,000 baht cheaper than the selling market price,'' said Mr Pitoon. The laptop distribution, however, is not a new venture. In the last couple of parliament inaugurations, computer laptops were handed out too, in a bid to upgrade the politicians' learning curve. Critics dubbed the scheme a flop, saying it was a waste of time and money as the computers were seldom used or seen, with some MPs even admitting to leaving it at home so their children could play computer games. ''I assure you that it is a move in the right direction. In order that politicians may get the hang of it, we have arranged an orientation course for those who do not know how to use the laptops,'' Mr Pitoon said.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 03/08/2005

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Check on Councilor Selection

The National Economic and Social Advisory Council yesterday formed a fact-finding panel to look into the alleged lack of transparency in the screening of the new councillors, which was ordered delayed by the Administrative Court last Friday pending investigation. Members of the council, chaired by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, met yesterday to acknowledge the Administration Court's March 11 order postponing the selection of the new councillors from 900 shortlisted candidates, following a complaint by a councillor about the screening panel's alleged discriminatory practice. The selection was to have taken place on March 13.Councillor Sombat Premprapa told the meeting he had had to appeal to the Administrative Court because the screening panel chairman was discriminatory in selecting candidates representing labour groups. The councillors, whose term would end in about six months, agreed that the accusation tainted the reputation of the council, so the council's secretariat handling the selection and the screening committee, chaired by Commerce Minister Thanong Bidaya, must take responsibility. They resolved to set up a fact-finding panel by appointing Sitthichok Sricharoen chairman, to work with the council's committee for amending the National Economic and Social Advisory Council Act. After the meeting, councillor Sungsidh Piriyarangsan said the council wanted the new panel to work with the law amending committee to investigate the alleged irregularities in the screening process.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 03/18/2005

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BHUTAN: Bhutan to Host SAARCLAW Conference

The chief justices and a large gathering of judges, lawyers, academicians and government and public servants from the member countries will attend the 8th SAARC chief justices conference and the SAARCLAW international conference to be hosted by Bhutan in June. Danida agreed to provide Nu. 3.5 million to the Bhutan Chapter of SAARCLAW in hosting the conferences according to the Department of Aid and Debt Management (DADM). An agreement was signed by the director general of DADM, Nima Wangdi and the resident coordinator of the liaison office of Denmark, Mr. Torben Bellers on March 16. The conference aims to develop the agenda of social justice for the purpose of transforming south Asia into a zone of peace and development and achieve the goal of happiness including harmonisation of national legal system of the region, law and legal remedies on anti-corruption and case management with the use of information technology. Talking on how Bhutan will gain from the conferences the chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye said that the distinguished lawyers and judges coming together would create a fraternal bond and instill in them a sense of respect for different legal systems prevailing in the region. ¡°The SAARCLAW is very unique and unaffected by any of the political differences,¡± said the chief justice who added that despite all the problems the conference has always been conducted. On Bhutan hosting the conferences he said that despite the fact that Bhutan has been very visible in the SAARCLAW and other related conferences it is a important that lawyers and judges from other countries come to Bhutan to see things in action, what they have read and heard about the Bhutanese legal system. ¡°Most countries have hosted the conference and it is most opportune time to host the conference here,¡± said the chief justice adding that it was also a demand from lawyers, juries and judges who had attended a miniature conference held in Bhutan a few years back to hold a conference here in Bhutan. The previous conference were hosted by Pakistan last year.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/19/2005

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Local Leaders Learn Planning, Accounting and PR

Villagers often have a list of things all of which seem important says the Orong gup, Dozang. ¡°It becomes difficult to prioritise one over the other.¡± Sometimes an entire section of the community is infuriated because of what is given priority and sometimes by the blunt dealing of the geog leaders. The Orong gup and 131 other Geog Yargay Tshogchung (GYT) members including 66 geog clerks of the eastern dzongkhags hope to learn to deal with these issues as well as maintaining books of accounts in a week-long regional workshop in Mongar which began on March 17. Resource persons from various departments and ministries will brief the elected leaders and their clerks during the workshop conducted by a ¡°local governance and decentralisation¡± project funded by JICA. The aim, according to the officials from the ministry of home and cultural affairs (MoHCA), was to strengthen and enhance the local leader¡¯s institutional capacity. The minister for home and cultural affairs, Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley, who spoke to the GYT members at the opening of the conference reminded them that they had important and immense responsibilities to shoulder as the representatives of the people. ¡°You are the voice and the minds of the people and must to be able to understand the difficulties and needs of the people,¡± said Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley. The minister said that the gups should be able to prioritise the important projects that would benefit to the whole village and should be implemented correctly so that the people are not dissappointed. Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley said that it was also important for the local leaders to learn to maintain books of accounts. ¡°You might do a good job in developing your geog but if the people find any shortages in the geog money, they will point their fingers at you,¡± he said. A home ministry official told Kuensel that the village leaders knew what they needed and what their villages needed but they didn¡¯t know how to go about achieving it. ¡°They don¡¯t know the proper procedures involved in carrying out activities in their geogs,¡± said the ministry¡¯s project manager, Karma Doma Tshering. ¡°They can draw up plans on priority basis but they cannot start on their own, which is why we need to educate them through interactive forums like this.¡± She added that the gups and their clerks would be taught to fill up various forms, deal better with their people and maintain books of accounts. ¡°The topics of discussion are those they picked themselves,¡± said the project manager. The gups and their clerks told Kuensel that they expected to return to their villages learning something as plain as filling up forms to maintaining books of accounts during the weeklong workshop. The Urung gup¡¯s clerk, Dechen Zangmo, said it was important that they learn to keep good connections with the villagers because the entire village was interdependent. But learning to maintain books of account was more important for her. ¡°We have maintained accounts so far but they are inconsistent,¡± said Dechen Zangmo. ¡°That is because we keep the accounts only when the government stressed on it and reminded us every once in a while.¡±


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/19/2005

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INDIA: Dell to Expand with Removal of PC Tax; to Hire 1,500 Personnel for 3rd Call Centre

NEW DELHI: Michael Dell, who runs the world's largest personal computer maker, is preparing for expansion in India's PC market after the removal of import taxes that have made his company an also-ran in Asia's second-largest market outside Japan. The 40-year-old founder of Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. opened a third call center in India on Monday and is visiting clients in the country for the second time in as many years. The company's growth in 2005 will come from ``new products, services, geographies,'' Dell said at the new facility in Mohali. Dell also expects to hire 1,500 people at its third call centre in India in the next 12 months. "We expect to have 1,500 employees when it grows to full capacity in a year," Dell told reporters. The company has already hired 300 workers in Mohali. ``India represents a great market opportunity for us,'' he said. ``Business is expanding at a very rapid pace'' in the country. Dell's strategy of importing PCs rather than making them in India made its products more expensive in a market where PC shipments surged 34 per cent last year, outpacing the 14 per cent increase in Asia, according to data from researcher Gartner Inc. Dell's 3.5 per cent market share in India last year trailed the 13 per cent of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 7.1 per cent of International Business Machines Corp., Gartner said. India's government has proposed removing its 10 per cent import tax on computers on April 1.


From http://financialexpress.com/ 03/21/2005

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Using Forex Reserves on Public Projects May Have 'Negative Implications' on Ratings

MUMBAI: Governments such as India and Thailand that have suggested they may use foreign-exchange reserves to fund public infrastructure projects risk 'negative implications' for their ratings, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said in a report released in Singapore on Tuesday . "While modest fiscal use of foreign-exchange reserves will not necessarily result in a sovereign credit rating downgrade, governments will need to access such reserves in a transparent manner," S&P's credit analyst Agost Benard was cited as saying in the report. Officials in India and Thailand have suggested they may use their reserves, or currency holdings at the central bank, to build roads, bridges and power plants. China may use its reserves to buy crude oil, the China Business Post reported on March 13. "We view the use of foreign-exchange reserves for domestic purposes as no different from deficit spending," Benard wrote. Thailand may use about a third of its reserves to build subways, Pansak Vinyaratn, a top adviser to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said on Feb. 10. The reserves, which rose to a record $49.8 billion this year, should ideally be about $32 billion, he added. Pridiyathorn Devakula, the chief of Thailand's central bank, denied the plan later that day. India has proposed spending $5 billion a year from the country's $140 billion in reserves for infrastructure projects, according to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, which sets growth and investment targets, reiterated Jan 13.


From http://www.financialexpress.com/ 03/22/2005

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MALDIVES: Government Employees¡¯ Training Programme for 2005 Begins

MALE: The training programmes for Government employees for 2005, has begun on the 20th of this month. The first programme for the year focuses on work planning. The programmes are being conducted by the members of the Public Service Training Group formed jointly by the Public Service Division at the President¡¯s Office and the Faculty of Management and Computing of the Maldives College of Higher Education. This year¡¯s programmes have been divided into three categories. They are administrative, managerial and technical skills. Fourteen different programmes will be held throughout the year, under all three categories. A handbook outlining details of the programmes has also been published. The training programmes are aimed at enhancing and expediting the standards of public service delivery in government offices, and encouraging employees to follow relevant government regulations. To create awareness and for easy access, the government employee regulations can be viewed on the official website of the President¡¯s Office, under the pages on the Public Service Division.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/27/2005

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NEPAL: South Asian Media Watchdog Calls for Restoration of Press Freedom in Nepal

KATHMANDU: Regional media watchdog SAFMA called Monday for the restoration of press freedom and the right to information in Nepal, where King Gyanendra seized power last month and imposed emergency rule. The Pakistan-headquartered South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) said in a statement after a five-day fact-finding mission to the Himalayan country that the imposition of emergency rule was "symptomatic of the failure of state ... and breakdown of constitutional structures and rule of law." "The sword of uncertainty is hanging on the media community and houses and safety of journalists has become more critical, especially those living and working outside the Kathmandu valley and zones of conflict," it said in a statement here. "A blanket censorship has been imposed by invoking clauses or sub-clauses under the Print, Publication and Broadcasting Act," SAFMA said. It demanded the restoration of constitutional clauses regarding freedom of speech, of association, the right to know and to a free press. It also called for the "immediate and unconditional" release of detained journalists. So far, nine journalists have been detained by the government since the king February 1 sacked the government, which he accused of failing to hold elections or control the Maoist rebels. The king said he had to take such steps to control the ongoing insurgency which has claimed more than 11,000 lives since it was launched in 1996. The five-member SAFMA mission, headed by its secretary general Imtiaz Alam, arrived March 17 in Nepal to evaluate the state of the media, speech and press freedom since the power grab, and left Monday. During their mission, they met with the vice chairmen of the king's appointed Council of Ministers, Tulsi Giri and Kirti Nidhi Bista, army spokesman Dipak Gurung, other government officials and a large number of civil society representatives, the statement said. SAFMA, which has its head office in Lahore, is South Asia's main media rights watchdog with five national chapters. It aims to promote the free flow of information across the borders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/24/2005

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AZERBAIJAN: Conference on Micro-Financing Held in Baku

A conference, ¡°Micro-financing in Azerbaijan: current situation and development prospects¡±, was held at the Hyatt Regency of Baku on Wednesday. Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliyev said that the National Coordination Committee was set up in Azerbaijan last year, as 2005 was announced the ¡°International micro-financing year¡± by the UN General Assembly. Emphasizing the role of micro-financing for the implementation of small projects, the Minister noted that 16 non-bank crediting organizations are operating in the country, he said. The Micro Finance Bank of Azerbaijan (MFBA) was established in 2002 and has allocated micro-credits totaling $21 million so far, Aliyev said, adding that a number of projects will be implemented by international financial institutions in the country. The National Coordination Committee chairman Gadir Huseynov, the UN representative in Azerbaijan Marco Borsotti, head of the EBRD Baku office Raymond Conway and of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) office Mathew Westfall said that micro-financing serves drawing low-income people to business, creation of jobs and other important objectives. (by AssA-Irada)


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 03/03/2005

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Conference on Information Systems Security to Be Held

A conference on information systems security will be held in Baku on Friday. The event is organized as part of the ¡°Internet access and infrastructure development for research, educational and civil society development purposes¡± (AZNET) project, according to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies (MCIT). The goal of the conference organized by the MCIT, the UN Development Programme, Azerbaijan Research and Educational Network Association and Open Society Institute - is to exchange views on ensuring information systems security and to increase the participants¡¯ awareness on existing security systems. Representatives of foreign companies specializing in information systems security will deliver reports at the conference, which will focus on security of computer networks and personal computers. The participants will hear reports on the system of disclosing attacks on computer networks, security of postal systems and web services, systems of protecting office and corporate networks, encryption of data and antivirus programs. Representatives of the President¡¯s Office, the Ministries of National Security, Foreign Affairs and Communications and Information Technologies, the National Bank, educational institutions and business people will attend the conference. (by AssA-Irada)


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 03/11/2005

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IRAQ: Conference on Federalism Held in Baghdad

A national conference on federalism was held in Baghdad on 13 March, Al-Arabiyah television reported. The meeting focused on the definition of federalism, which State Minister for Governorate Affairs Wa'il Abd al-Latif described as achieving equilibrium between power sharing and territorial integrity. Participants examined the political, administrative, financial, and social aspects of the federal model. "Federalism today is synonymous with preserving Iraq's unity and territorial integrity, ensuring the legitimate rights of its people and their cohesion, and guaranteeing their adoption of democracy," Communist Party head Hamid Majid Musa told Al-Arabiyah. Iraqis List member Husayn al-Sadr reportedly lent his support for a regional grouping in southern Iraq under federalism at the conference. Several Iraqi cabinet members and newly elected transitional National Assembly members attended the event. KR


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/14/2005

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KAZAKHSTAN: Ruling Party Pledges Constitutional Reforms

Following a meeting of its parliamentary deputies, ruling Otan party Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Pavlov announced on 16 March that the party will introduce a package of constitutional reforms, Khabar TV reported. The constitutional amendments are to focus on several new measures designed to enhance the powers of the legislature and to strengthen local government. Pavlov added that the party will seek to ensure democratic elections for "regional governors, town mayors, and heads of districts and villages." RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/17/2005

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Congress of Kazakhstan¡¯s Entrepreneurs Was Opened in Astana

Representatives of business circles of the country plan to change the work experience, to plan perspectives concerning the tasks that were expressed at the President¡¯s message. One of the main topics is improvement of relations between state and business. in particular, it is suggested to found in the ministries, departments and akimats the expert councils with participation of entrepreneurs in order no one normative act concerning the interests of businessmen was adopted without their participation. The constituent conference was held in the framework of the conference during of which the branch-wise associations of entrepreneurs united into one organization ¨C National Union. It is supposed that this structure will be the main representative of business circles in dialogue with the authorities. The coordination council of 29 members with Serik Akhmetov being its head, will lead this Union. On Friday the head of the state will participate in work of the Congress.


From http://www.khabar.kz/ 03/25/2005

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TAJIKISTAN: Parliament Holds First Session

The lower chamber of Tajikistan's newly elected parliament held its first session on 17 March, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The session took place behind closed doors with no journalists present. Sixty-two of 63 delegates attended, with only Muhammadsharif Himmatzoda of the Islamic Renaissance Party absent. Saydullo Khayrulloev of the ruling People's Democratic Party was elected speaker. Representatives of the ruling party, which garnered an overwhelming majority in recent elections, will also head all parliamentary committees; in the previous parliament, delegates from the Communist Party chaired two committees. In an address, President Imomali Rakhmonov called on legislators to "focus on creating the legal foundation for economic development," Tajik Television reported. He also stressed the importance of foreign investment and entrepreneurship. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/18/2005

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AUSTRALIA: Workplace Reforms Will Protect Wages

The federal government's workplace reforms would protect workers' hip pockets, Prime Minister John Howard said. Mr Howard said federal cabinet had made progress on its package of workplace changes and would announce them within the next few weeks. But he said the government was determined to ensure real wage levels were not eroded. "It will be an important and interesting announcement, but there is one thing that won't come out of the decision that we take - we won't be adopting policies that lead to a reduction in the real level of wages in Australia," Mr Howard told reporters. "In fact, we are very proud of the fact that under my government real wages have gone up." The ACTU accused the government of planning to strip back workplace regulation by cutting the number of employment conditions prescribed by industrial awards from 20 allowable matters to just eight or 10. ACTU secretary Greg Combet said workers could lose conditions such as work-related allowances, bonus payments, higher pay rates for more difficult or skilled work, jury service leave, public holidays, notice of termination, superannuation and possibly parental leave. "I think the community should be very concerned about the federal government's plans for Australian workplaces," Mr Combet said. "For over 100 years, Australia has had a system that has kept our workplaces decent, safe and fair. "It has made sure that working families are not left behind. "This is the system the government now wants to get rid of." Cabinet was also reportedly considering the establishment of an independent panel, to be known as the Fair Pay Commission, to deliberate on increases to the minimum wage. Opposition industrial relations spokesman Stephen Smith said such a commission would only lead to a reduced minimum wage. "Whether they remove the setting of the minimum wage from the Industrial Relations Commission, whether they set up a different division within the commission, or whether they support the commission with additional expert economic advice from the Reserve Bank or from the Treasury, it's all code for an attack on the minimum wage," he said. "It's all code - not for fair pay, but for unfair pay." Mr Smith said workers on low to middle incomes would be the worst affected by the government's reforms.


From http://theage.com.au 03/22/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: PSA Targets Pay and Working Conditions

Public Service Association members across the country are being briefed this week on the union's plan to secure better pay and working conditions across the public sector. A pay case has already been submitted for health sector workers and the PSA is currently developing an approach for local government workers. PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said workers in the public sector were making a big contribution to the success of the New Zealand economy, and to improved public services, and it was time their efforts were better recognised. "Luck has not driven New Zealand's economic success. Public servants have played a major role realising government policies which are helping to secure continued prosperity." Mr Wagstaff said the Partnership for Quality agreement the PSA renewed with the government in 2003 had pushed welcome change in the public sector. Public services had improved and better and more rewarding career pathways were being developed, but more progress was needed. "We want the public sector to be an employer of choice offering diverse and rewarding career pathways." Among the PSA's objectives are higher pay, improved employment standards, workplace safety and manageable workloads "so that public servants can balance home and work life". "We are not seeking unified across-the-board improvements because the current terms and conditions of employment differ from organisation to organisation," said Mr Wagstaff. "As each collective agreement comes up for negotiation PSA members at those workplaces will determine how to use the framework we have launched today." The PSA is New Zealand's largest union of public sector workers, as well as local government employees and a large number of workers in the health sector.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/07/2005

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Knowledge Wave Aspirations Can Be Captured by Design

The 2003 Knowledge Wave Conference promoted a vision of the economy transformed by smart thinking. While one of that vision's advocates believes a big gap remains between that aspiration and what's been achieved so far, success may be achieved - by design. David Skilling, now chief executive of privately funded think-tank the New Zealand Institute, was among those talking up New Zealand's future as a high-value design and research driven economy at 2003's Knowledge Wave conference. Then a principal adviser at Treasury, he told the conference New Zealand would by 2020 be known for creative, innovative work with back office or manufacturing work being done offshore. Since then, manufacturing has gone overseas -- particularly to China -- and while Mr Skilling says the "aggressive aspirations" of Knowledge Wave remain, sufficient means to achieve them have yet to be put into place. "There's probably still a bit of daylight between the size of those aspirations and where we're likely to get to under current course and speed," he told NZPA . The economy was currently doing well -- but that was due more to strong commodity prices rather than new industry and products. "We're probably moving to encourage better design and research and development... But if people are serious about New Zealand becoming a knowledge economy and hoping to see a large and sustained increase in our economic growth rates, then I don't think we have much evidence to suggest that that's happened or is imminent." While there were some high profile successful individual companies, "I think the challenge is really about materiality," Mr Skilling said. "When you talk about success stories you often resort to the same 10 or 15 companies and talk about how wonderful they are. But when you add up their sales as a share of GDP it's still not a very significant proportion." The stars include whiteware manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Appliances, merino clothing manufacturer Icebreaker and vodka maker 42 Below. A significant element of those companies' success has been smart design as well as clever marketing and brand development. Government supported schemes such as New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's Better by Design programme are intended to help more companies achieve similar success. Better by Design aims to raise awareness of the importance of design in mainstream commerce and its architects hope it will generate an additional $500 million in export earnings over the next five years. Wellington based design consultant Ray Labone -- who led the initial Design Taskforce that preceded Better by Design -- believed New Zealand's continued reliance on commodity exports was "a big concern". Like Mr Skilling, Mr Labone said New Zealand's small to medium-sized design-led enterprises were making relatively little contribution to GDP. "We need to leverage that up and make them so much more of a force." This will be addressed at Better by Design's three day conference in Auckland later this month. The conference starting on March 29 in Auckland is aimed at providing practical design-led business advice to up-and-coming exporters and will be headlined by international business guru Tom Peters and chief executive of leading global design agency IDEO Tim Brown. Mr Labone said Better by Design was working on initiatives to foster collaboration between designers and business people. "There's too much evidence and talk coming from overseas now about design being a critical value driver to be ignored any longer." Better by Design offers audits, design mentoring, funding of up to $50,000 for design-related projects and executive design education. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise creative industries sector director Dame Cheryll Sotheran said design represented "a huge opportunity" that was as yet "pretty much unrealised for New Zealand's businesses and industry". "We're good at innovation and we're good at design what we're not good at is commercialising it." "This whole programme is a process that's designed to accelerate that commercialisation."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 03/16/2005

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PNG: Promoting Creative Talent

Poets and a budding artists took time off on Saturday to display their bares at the French Alliance facilities in Port Moresby. Artist Hillary Miria of Central and Gulf parentage exhibited his acrylic paintings which he is selling for between K1, 000 and K3, 000. Miria, who started painting in 2003, said his paintings try to depict social changes in life. Society is always changing and my paintings try to depict these changes said Miria. He said 10 % of the proceeds from his paintings will go to the Cheshire Homes. Young poet Milton Kwaipo also sold his newly published poetry book. Meanwhile, Director of French Alliance Nicolas Garnier said the Alliance aims to help young artists and poets develop their talent.


From http://www.pacificislands.cc/ 03/14/2005

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Post-Tsunami Telecommunication Links Strengthened

The second Preparatory Meeting for Phase Two of the World Summit on the Information Society included a special session on Telecoms for Disaster Relief. The session focused on key elements of the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations, which came into effect on 8 January. Until now, regulatory barriers that make it extremely difficult to import and rapidly deploy telecommunications equipment for emergencies often impeded the trans-border use of telecommunication equipment by humanitarian organizations. In the absence of an agreed multilateral framework that temporarily waived formalities, delays meant the loss of lives. "In emergency situations, telecommunication saves lives," said Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations specialized agency for telecommunications, which, along with the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has been a driving force in drafting and promoting the Convention.


From http://www.itu.int/ 02/23/2005


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Geneva Launch for Fund to Cut Digital Divide

A "digital solidarity fund" to help bridge the technology divide between rich and poor countries was launched in Geneva yesterday by President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, chairman of the African Union, reports The Financial Times. The voluntary fund, whose main financial backing comes from more than 120 city councils around the world, will focus on community-based projects aimed at the most disadvantaged. The fund has had a controversial history since it was proposed by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal at a UN information society summit in December 2003. Poor countries initially pushed for a multilateral fund to finance telecommunications infrastructure projects in the developing world, but this ran into opposition from rich nations. Governments meeting in Geneva last month instead decided to make better use of existing financial mechanisms to fund large-scale telecoms development, leaving the digital solidarity fund to tap new sources of finance for local projects. Its city council contributors, for instance, are implementing a scheme under which successful bidders for public telecoms contracts are required to pay one percent of the contract value to the fund. This is called the ¡°Geneva Principle.¡± In return they will be granted a "digital solidarity" label. Managed as a non-profit foundation under Swiss law, the fund has earmarked 60 percent of its future resources for least-developed countries, 30 percent for other developing countries and 10 percent for economies in transition. Le Temps (Switzerland) reports that donations to the Fund so far amount to EUR1.6 million. The money will be redistributed through an international agency to be created and based in Lyon (France). Funds will go to projects aiming at overcoming the delay that developing countries are experiencing in the domain of new technologies when compared to Western nations. So far, Geneva is the only city to have agreed to apply the Geneva principle. The city of Delemont and Lyon have signaled the imminence of their participation, and the 200 members of the Association of Francophone Mayors could also apply the principle. At the moment, the Fund is only a financial mechanism. For projects to materialize, the international agency will first have to be created in Lyon, which is planned for the beginning of 2006, at the earliest. Until then, the Fund will assist other institutions in dealing with technology projects. According to Alain Clerc, the Fund¡¯s secretary-general, contact has already been established with the World Bank. Some fear that the Fund will duplicate pre-existing initiatives, including the ones by the UN.


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/15/2005


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Web Voters Oppose Japan's U.N. Bid

More than 400,000 Chinese have signed an on-line petition opposing Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, one of the organisers said on Wednesday. The signature drive, launched by several Chinese overseas and domestic groups critical of Japan's World War II past, began last month with the goal of collecting at least one million signatures, said Wu Zukang, running a Web site in Shanghai. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appeared to back Japan on Monday for a permanent council seat as part of the most wide-ranging reforms to the world body since its creation in 1945."We are soliciting the signatures to oppose Japan's bid because Japan does not qualify as a normal country and it does not deserve the seat on the U.N. Security Council," Wu told Reuters by telephone. Many Chinese harbour deep resentment of Japan's past and what they see as its failure to own up to atrocities. Beijing estimates up to 35 million Chinese were killed or wounded by invading Japanese troops from 1931 to 1945.The initiator of the online campaign, the U.S.-based Alliance for Preserving the Truth of the Sino-Japanese War, planned to present the petition to the United Nations later this year, the official People's Daily said on its web site www.people.com.cn. "Our first step is to solicit 1 million signatures... I hope we can get 10 million," Wu said. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, asked to comment on Annan's remarks, told a news conference on Tuesday that China proposed adding permanent seats for developing countries on an expanded Security Council. About 95 percent of Chinese who took part in an online poll last year opposed Japan's bid for the permanent council seat, reflecting residual anger over Japan's wartime aggression. In 2003, more than 1 million Chinese signed an online petition damanding that Japan compensate victims poisoned by unearthed World War Two-era chemical weapons and apologise. Most U.N. members consider the organization's structure outdated and unrepresentative of a world that has undergone vast changes since World War II. Any changes need the approval of two-thirds of the 191-nation General Assembly, and no veto from any of the five permanent council members. Last year, Japan, Germany, Brazil and India formed a lobbying group for permanent council seats, pledging to support one another's candidacy for new slots. But North and South Korea have doubts about Japan, Italy opposes Germany for a seat, Pakistan is against India's candidacy and Mexico and Argentina frown on Brazil.


From http://edition.cnn.com/ 03/23/2005


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Aichi Expo Opens for 185-Day Run Featuring Mammoth, Hi-Tech Robots

The 2005 World Exposition began its six-month run on Friday in Aichi Prefecture, with humanoid robots, futuristic transport systems and a frozen mammoth from Siberia awaiting the more than 100,000 visitors expected on opening day. Shoichiro Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Association for the 2005 World Exposition, announced the opening at around 9:15 a.m. and the gates were opened to crowds who had waited in line for hours, some all through the night, braving light snow and chilly winds.


From Kyodo News 03/25/2005


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Japan's Twisted Textbooks Spark Anger

Drafts of a new edition of a history textbook used in Japanese schools have again sparked waves of criticism. Japan's Asian neighbours including China and the Republic of Korea say they have been "deeply hurt" by the "twisted history" in the school books which "again" fail to mention the atrocities the Japanese committed during World War II. The People's Daily, one of the largest circulated newspapers in China, published an article on Friday, saying the books "greatly hurt the feeling of the Asian people" and expressed outrage in an editorial. The paper cited ROK's decision to internationalize the Japanese history textbook issue as "a very necessary measure," saying "it is a powerful counter blow to Japanese right wing's aggressive action." The paper said the current situation indicated that it is hard to resolve the textbook issue within the bilateral jurisdiction and it would be a smart choice to go to the international level. It noted that 2005 is the 60th anniversary of World War II "an anti-fascist war" and said it would be "very significant to let the international community learn more about the truth of Japanese invasion history." Overseas Chinese are also planning to buy an entire page advertisement in New York Times, opposing Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, reported another popular Chinese newspaper, China Youth Daily. Hundreds of thousands of people have been arguing in recent days against Japan's bid on the Internet, demanding Japan heed its past atrocities first. The ROK Government said it will raise a proposal about the textbooks at international conferences, including the conference of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It has said it will take other measures to force Japan to correct the wrongs. The textbooks are inspected every four years in April by the Japanese Government. They are used during history lessons at all middle schools in Japan. The latest edition of the disputed textbook, which was written by a group of "right-wing" Japanese academics, was approved in 2001 for use in high schools - despite strong protests from neighbouring countries. ROK non-governmental organizations vowed to work together with its counterparts in Japan as well as the international community to prevent the approval of the new textbook. There are media reports from the ROK detailing the controversy. US representative Lane Evans said on Thursday that he and 13 other representatives are working hard to push forward the resolution calling on Japan to apologize for the sexual enslavement of young women in Asia who were used as "comfort women" by Japanese troops during World War II. In the press briefing held in congress the same day, which was also witnessed by some former "comfort women," Evans said Japan is one of the leading countries that has not shown any sincerity in taking the responsibility for its historical actions. He said it was quite shocking to see the Japanese Government has not fully apologized and compensated the "comfort women" 60 years after World War II.


From China Daily 03/26/2005

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CHINA: Campaign Aims to Build Energy-Saving Society

Buildings in China are to become more energy-efficient to help save resources so China can continue to develop at a pace of knots. So says the Vice-Minister of Construction, Qiu Baoxing. There are plans for an energy-saving campaign amidst the background of a worsening energy and resources shortage in the country. It is hoped that such a campaign will mean ordinary people will understand more about where energy comes from and how it can stretch further. Most people are not aware that the production of solid clay bricks, a widely-used building material but one that is not prone to being energy-saving in buildings, destroys 8,000 hectares of arable land every year in China. Nor do they know that the average energy consumption in a residential home in Beijing is three times that of a home in the north of Germany, although the two places have a similar climate. Most of the buildings in China, be they houses or offices, use more resources than their counterparts in developed countries. More electricity, heat and water are used in the buildings than are used in similar buildings in developed countries. As Qiu said at a press conference on Wednesday, about 95 per cent of the existing buildings in China are "high energy-consuming" buildings. To make things worse, more than 80 per cent of new buildings are also "high energy-consuming," despite the Ministry of Construction issuing standards for energy-efficient buildings in 1986 and updating them three times after that. Although the authorities have been promoting the idea of energy efficiency for two decades, remarkable changes have not been seen. Many attribute this to a lack of awareness among local officials, businesses and residents. Although saving energy has multiple benefits for society in economic and financial terms, its final goal is to save resources to sustain current development for the interests of society and future generations. Therefore, it is actually serving the public interest, which means the government is the agent responsible to promote it. The Chinese Government seems to have realized this responsibility quite early on. However, it is impossible for the government to finish this task alone, especially when the country is striding towards a market economy. More efforts are needed to promote saving energy. Every member of society is responsible for the project. An effective way would be to offer economic incentives, establish legal overseeing and begin deregulation instantly in this field. Unfortunately, these points were rarely stressed by the authorities when they preached time and time again for the public to save energy and resources. It is clear that saving energy in buildings is of the utmost importance and standards for energy-efficient buildings should be implemented. But if the forthcoming campaign to promote energy-saving buildings does not involve market-orientated means, it may not be as good an idea as it sounds.


From China Daily 02/25/2005

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China's Regional Ethnic Autonomy Immensely Successful, Says Whitepaper

The practice of more than half a century has proved that the system and practice of China's regional ethnic autonomy have been immensely successful, says a white paper issued by the Information Office of the State Council Monday. Regional ethnic autonomy is a correct solution to the issue of ethnic groups in China, and is in keeping with China's actual conditions and the common interests of all ethnic groups, says the white paper entitled Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China. It says that in the process of reform, opening-up and national modernization, the state and the ethnic autonomous areas have adopted various measures to promote the economic and social development in the latter, but limited and influenced by historical, geographical and other conditions, the economic and social development level of western China, where the populations of ethnic minorities are more concentrated, is still low compared with the more developed eastern areas. Some remote areas, in particular, are still pretty backward, says the white paper. To build a well-off society in an all-round way in the new century, China has to make an effort to solve such issues as adherence to and improvement of regional ethnic autonomy, giving full play to the advantages of the system, and continuously raising the economic and social development level in ethnic minority areas. Acting in line with the actual conditions of China, the Chinese government will adhere to the scientific concept of human-oriented, all-round, coordinated, sustainable development, further explore and strengthen specific forms of implementation of the system of regional ethnic autonomy, improve the supporting laws and regulations for the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, continuously strengthen the material basis for implementation of the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and promote the all-round economic and social development of ethnic minorities and their areas. The white paper says that since the founding of New China, and especially since the introduction of the reform and opening-up policies, the people of various ethnic groups in the autonomous areas have exploited their own advantages, relied on their own efforts, worked with stamina and diligence, and continuously enhanced their self-development ability with energetic assistance and aid from the state and the more-developed areas. As a result of over half a century's efforts, in the ethnic autonomous areas the people's living conditions and environments have conspicuously improved, and the local economy and various public services have developed rapidly. Together with the people of the other parts of China, they share the achievements of development brought about by the modernization construction of the country, says the white paper.

From Xinhuanet 02/28/2005
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Hong Kong Financial Secretary Pushes for More E-Govt Services

Hong Kong's Financial Secretary, Henry Tang, lauds the achievements of the government's current range of e-services, and heralds a further extension of e-government. The Hong Kong government's Intellectual Property Department (IPD) had successfully upgraded its customer-oriented e-services to the community, Tang [pictured] said yesterday at an event to commemorate the achievement. Citing the implementation as a success story of partnership between the government, private sector service providers and customers from the legal services industry, Tang was keen to emphasise that Hong Kong would push more service through the 'e-channel'." The vision and determination of these pioneers have provided encouragement and inspiration to the government in further developing and delivering e-government," said Tang. According to Tang, the next wave of e-government would go beyond putting information online and would offer e-options to the delivery of government services.


From http://www.pstm.net/ 03/01/2005



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China to Build Its First "Science City" in Hefei

Hefei, capital of Central China's Anhui Province, is dedicating itself to science. The city is actively seeking new technological industries and striving for efficient use of energy and raw materials, low pollution and high added value yields. Authorized by the central government on Nov. 12, 2004, the reform of the city will be guided by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the local government for the next five to 15 years. "Our object is to build Hefei into a city boasting beautiful environment, advanced information sharing, a strong cultural atmosphere and scientific creation capability that could attract scientific talent from around the world," said Guo Wanqing, mayor of Hefei. The disconnection between scientific and technological research fruits and their industrialization has been a weakness for the development of China's economy, said Guo. "It is a great move for the Chinese government to promote its innovation ability by building a city gathering scientific and technological research centers and high and new technological industries, just like the Silicon Valley of the US," said Cheng Biding, an expert in regional development. "As a test, the successful reform of Hefei will be a good example for China to develop its regional innovation system," said Chen Zhili, State Councilor in charge of the country's science and technology affairs. The first group of 25 projects were selected in 2004. With an estimated investment of 13.85 billion yuan (1.67 billion US dollars), those projects cover a variety of fields including scientific research, industrialization, education, commerce and infrastructure construction. From 2004 on, the Anhui Provincial government will appropriate 50 million yuan (6 million US dollars) and the Hefei Municipal government will invest 100 million yuan (12.1 million US dollars) each year in the construction of the "Science City." Four projects are currently underway. With a cost of more 300 million yuan (36.2 million US dollars), the four projects involve fields such as cyclical economy, new material and new and high technology. Some large overseas projects such as the sixth global technological center of Microsoft have decided to be move to the city. As a middle-sized city of a permanent population of two million, Hefei boasts the largest group of scientific and technological talent in Central China. With 200 thousand scientific and technological personnel gathering, Hefei boasts more than 200 scientific research institutions, 24 academicians and more than 50 colleges including the famous University of Science and Technology of China. "In addition to a beautiful environment and advanced traffic network, Hefei boasts the best conditions to become a world-famous science city," said Guo.


From Xinhuanet 03/04/2005




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Steps to Narrow Rich-Poor Gap Needed

A means to rationally and justly address income distribution to narrow the gap between the poor and rich needs to be formulated. A rural woman enjoys a moment of happiness after getting some 30 yuan (US$3.6) for her day's collection of rubbish just sold at a garbage collecting spot amid a backdrop of highrise apartments in the Guizhou provincial capital of Guiyang. The growing gap between rich and poor in China has drawn considerable attention from deputies to the 10th NPC and members of the 10th National Committee of the CPPCC, who are meeting in Beijing for their annual plenary session. [newsphoto] "The time is right to harmonize the distorted income distribution system, which has aroused widespread resentment among people from all walks of life," Jing Tiankui told the 2,000-strong political advisers yesterday at a plenary meeting of the 10th National Committee of the CPPCC. The income disparity between rural and urban areas continued to grow during the 18 years between 1985 and 2003 and the de facto ratio reached 1:6 in 2004, said Jing, also the Director of the Sociology Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Investigations indicate the income distribution gap between the 10 per cent richest and poorest families was more than eight fold in 2004, echoed CPPCC National Committee member Suo Lisheng, adding that the Gini Index which measures the degrees of income inequality was approaching 0.47, higher than the international alert line of 0.4. "With China's gross domestic product surpassing US$1,200 per capita, the nation is better able than ever to adjust its unbalanced income distribution system," said Jing. Considering the complexity of income distribution, Jing suggested the government select some "cut-in points" that have been well discussed and are easy to operate. For example, the nation could adopt reliable measures to gradually realize a unified salary system for its public servants. By drawing lessons from overseas, China could enhance reforms of its taxation system to adjust income disparity and also alleviate possible social unrest, he said. Systems must be set up to arrest the deluge of random distribution of income in the public service sectors, such as the judiciary, civil service and health workers, he said. "Besides, the establishment of various adjustment mechanisms, in the current market economic situation, it is crucial to guarantee the realization of a fair and just income distribution," said the director. Such mechanisms can be found in companies whose employees are able to reach agreements on wage claims with employers through negotiation, he explained. CPPCC National Committee member Suo said that a scientific evaluation system must be urgently established in China to appraise local governments. "Such a system not only focuses on the economic growth and financial income, but also pays attention to the livelihood changes of moderate and low-income citizens," he said. Jing also suggested to speed up reform and improve the social security system, another move that would work towards a more equitable income distribution system. (by Jiang Xuezhou)


From China Daily 03/11/2005



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Chinese E-Government: Moving on from 'Web-Gloss'?

The good news is that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao seems determined to use technology as a mechanism to support administrative reform, says James Smith. Blink and you may have missed it, but China's political leadership gave a strong endorsement to the role of IT-enabled government in the country. Speaking during the delivery of the Draft Report on the Work of the Government at the third session of the 10th National People's Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao explicitly linked the central authorities' ongoing campaign against bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption with moves to "energetically strengthen" e-government programmes. Pledging to "increase the transparency of government work and boost popular confidence in government", Premier Wen focused attention on the need to harness technology to build greater citizen participation in and awareness of the public policy process. More of the same? In the short term this looks like a green light to more web sites: there are now more than 10,000 government web sites in the country, according to research firm IDC. A government report from Henan province recently underlined the general failure of this web-gloss approach to governance reform, describing e-government spending as too often "a political assignment and not a tool to better serve the people". When Premier Wen spoke he was acknowledging that citizen demand for better governance currently exceeds supply - and he clearly had more than new web sites in mind as a solution. Even a small increase in citizen access to government services will place tremendous strain on the existing bureaucratic process. One good example of this is in Shanghai, where the municipal authorities are close to offering 470 services online. This required root-and-branch reform of existing under-networked, manual and frequently paper-based processes. The bottom line is simply that many of China's existing governance practices are not scalable to meet future demands. Premier Wen articulated this in his clear appraisal of the limits of reform to date, and the ongoing need to harness technology to strengthen government and the administrative process. His comments represent a 'course correction' for e-government efforts at the local level, and underline that the central authorities are playing close attention to the use of IT to underpin the country's next great wave of administrative modernisation.


From http://www.pstm.net/ 03/14/2005

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Cutting-Edge IT Development Strategy Vital

Five years have passed since the bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000 and the subsequent recession in the information technology industry. But for those of us engaged in the business, it is vital that we look to future opportunities for growth. Last year, China consumed about 40 per cent of the world's oil and 40 per cent of its steel and coal, but what was the proportion of our IT industry? It was less than 5 per cent of the world's total. Obviously, our customers remain tightfisted when it comes to investment in IT systems. Despite this, we should never have any doubts about the global position of the Chinese IT industry. CCID Consulting believes that the average annual growth of China's IT industry will be 15.8 per cent over the next five years. This year, the industry will witness growth of approximately 20 per cent in total revenue, which will amount to 480 billion yuan (US$57.97 billion). In the next five years, IT spending in China will exceed 3.3 trillion yuan (US$399 billion), about twice the 1.7 trillion yuan (US$205 billion) spent over the past 10 years. This is a very encouraging estimate. Out of the total IT spending, although we will see average annual growth rates of 19.8 per cent and 23 per cent in the software and IT services and their proportion in the whole industry will grow to 40 per cent in 2009, we should recognize that this proportion remains quite small compared with the international level. This will remain the most important factor that places a constraint on the industry and its efficiency. Of course, the acceleration of the growth of software and IT services will continue to improve our total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI), raise the marginal effects of IT systems, and let us enjoy more entertainment brought by information technology. If we break up the industry into different segments, we can see digital products will witness the fastest growth with an annual average of 33.8 per cent in the coming five years, and its proportion out of the whole market will rise from 4.8 per cent in last year to 10 per cent in 2009. The growth of new applications will also be exciting, including network products with an average annual growth rate of 17.6 per cent over the next five years. The personal computer (PC) market will only grow in single digits with an average annual rate of 9.9 per cent over the next five years, reaching 200 billion yuan (US$24 billion). Shipments of PCs will reach 33 million units in 2009, about the same level as TV set shipments at present. Almost no one can make money from it, but it remains a focus of competition. We expect the sales of notebook computers will account for 31.7 per cent of total PC sales in 2009, meaning that no one can afford to ignore this business any longer. Shipments of desktop computers will reach 15 million units and those of notebook computers will exceed 17 million. In the server market, Intel Architecture servers will remain dominant. In this fiercely competitive market, a differentiation strategy, brand awareness, customer loyalty, and integrated innovation in computing, communications and consumer electronics (3C) will become core areas of competence. In the back-end services and solutions areas, integration and professional capabilities will be the key to success. The PC market accounts for about 30 per cent of the total IT market, but this figure will fall to 23 per cent in 2009. Another segment is the peripheral market. Its growth will rise to 13 per cent after two years of single-digit growth. What are the reasons for the recovery? It comes from liquefied crystal display (LCD) monitors, multi-function printers, and storage systems. In the coming five years, this market will grow at an annual average of 10.7 per cent. The replacement of cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors by LCD monitors starting from 2004 will accelerate, and the growth of LCD monitor shipments will be above an annual average of 46 per cent over the next five years, while that of CRT monitors will see an average annual decline of 17 per cent. In 2006, exports of LCD monitors will overtake that of CRT monitors and become a dominant display device in the market. I think the digitalization is not only a fad, but a fundamental part of our daily lives. The popularity of digital products proves this point and sales of digital devices including digital cameras and flash memory products will maintain high growth. Shipments of digital cameras will exceed 256 million in 2009. Obviously, since digital products are concentrated on consumer markets, so wireless, mobile and 3C-integrated products will have an advantage in the overall digital product market. The life cycle of digital products will be further shortened, so enterprises competing in this market must have the latest technologies, patents, standards, as well as fashionable designs.


From China Daily 03/16/2005
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Lite-On Expands R&D Center Across Taiwan Strait

Lite-On Technology Corp., one of Taiwan¡¯s leading makers of information technology products, will accelerate the deployment of technology research and development center (TRDC) across the Taiwan Strait this year. With R&D branches in Guangzhou of Guangdong Province, Beijing and Tianjin municipalities in the mainland, Lite-On is studying the feasibility of setting up an institute of technology in Nanjing municipality. The company said it would increase the employment of R&D specialists to 1,000 in the foreseeable future from hundreds at present by utilizing mainland R&D specialists while keeping decision-making process in Taiwan. With the expansion in scale, the company¡¯s TRDC will concentrate on the development of state-of-the-art technologies and the design of innovative products. Lite-On chief technology officer C.C. Lo said his company, with most production facilities located in the mainland, is actively seeking the support of R&D personnel there. At present, Lite-On employs 300 R&D specialists in Guangzhou branch and 30-strong software technicians in Beijing branch. Recently the company further set up a LED (light emitting diode) R&D center in Tianjin. More recently the company is considering set up an institute of technology in Nanjing to facilitate telecommunication technology development. The company noted it would adopt a training system from Taiwan to cultivate mainland R&D personnel. Lite-On said it has set aside a budget of NT$100 million (US$3.3 million at US$1:NT$30.8) to meet the expansion of the TRDC this year, up 60% from last year¡¯s NT$60 million (US$1.9 million).T.M. Tang, vice president of the company¡¯s TRDC, said the expansion of the R&D branches will help his company develop such technologies and products as solar energy, fuel cell, energy management, video, imaging components, and basic materials. The company will also establish a software platform to develop software intellectual properties and compressed audio/video technologies. The company said its TRDC up has obtained 50-strong patents so far. Some of the patents have been commercialized, including the soon-to-be-launched USB (universal serial bus)-enabled plug-in TV tuners. Lite-on said it has planned to invest in NT$30 billion (US$980 million) to develop advanced technologies when the TRDC was established a year ago. To encourage the involvement in advanced technologies, Lite-on has held five sessions of innovation competition activities with participants coming from the global Chinese community. In the foreseeable future, the company will launch a design competition activity for designers the world over.


From http://news.cens.com/ 03/17/2005

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Shanghai Remains Most Competitive City

Shanghai was again rated as the most competitive city on the Chinese mainland in a ranking released Thursday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), one of China's top think tanks. CASS issued the result in the Blue Book on China's City Competitiveness in 2005, written by 100 experts from dozens of Chinese colleges and research institutes. It had taken 200 cities on Chinese mainland into account. All the listed cities recorded an annual gross domestic product growth rate of more than eight percent in 2003. Shenzhen ranked the second place in general competitiveness, followed by Guangzhou, Beijing, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Wuxi, Xiamen and Tianjin, Friday's China Youth Daily reported. Environmental resource costs were added as a key index during the reviewing of the cities' competitiveness in general and in special items in 2004, the paper said. According to CASS, 17 of the country's 20 most competitive cities are located in the country's eastern coast. Those ranking 31 to 184 are mainly in central and western China. "The positions of major cities in northeast, central and western China have risen considerably in the new ranking, which shows that the country's policies on industrial shift and regional development have born fruit," the report said.


From www.chinaview.cn 03/18/2005
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China's Economy to Grow 8% Annually from 2006 to 2010

The Chinese economy is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8 per cent during the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10). State Council Development Research Centre Deputy Director Sun Xiaoyu made this remark at the opening ceremony of the China Development Forum 2005, which opened yesterday at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. "That means China will achieve its goal of quadrupling its gross domestic product (GDP) from 2000 to 2020 ahead of schedule," he said. Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Mundell speaks during the China Development Forum 2005 in Beijing March 20, 2005. The annual high level forum focusing on China in world economics is held in the national guest house with the attendance of more than 40 representatives of multilateral organizations, international scholars and foreign government officials. [Reuters] Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan said China's economy has been on an upward growth trend. Market forces are strong and companies' vitality has increased, he said. Barry Naughton, a professor from the University of California at San Diego, said China enjoys far greater growth potential than other economies. "The Chinese economy is facing an unprecedented combination of factors that build on the high investment rate and reinforce each other to create rapid productivity growth in a broad range of economic sectors," he said. Speaking before the formal opening of the forum, National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Zheng Jingping said China's economy is capable of maintaining an annual growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent over the next five to 10 years. The nation's future economic development will continue to be fuelled by the rapid growth of fixed asset investment, backed by the high savings rate and a major inflow of foreign direct investment. Political and social stability, improvements in labour productivity due to increased opening and reform, and technological advances, will also play an important role in the economy, he said. (by Xu Dashan)


From China Daily 03/21/2005

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Growing Complaints About Chinese E-Government

Following an increase in complaints China's, State Council has declared that it will draft regulations to spur all government agencies to push citizen content online by the end of this year. The State Council Informatisation Office is working with other central government departments to draft a regulation requiring all governmental organizations to publicise information of concern to the public. This follows complaints concerning the navigability and content of China's 10,000+ government web sites. According to Zhao Xiaofan, Director of State Council Informatisation Office, citizens should be able to access information related to administrative affairs on official web sites of governmental agencies by the end of 2005.A survey conducted by Zhao's office last year found that only 5.2 per cent of China's government web sites were visited frequently. Information contained on most of the web sites owned and operated by governmental establishments was found to fail to meet citizens' needs. To find out the real situation of the operation of e-governments, the municipal government of Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, recently published an assessment on local digital governments. According to the report, 14 of its 91 governmental websites scored a zero because of poor accessibility. The report also listed lack of content, updates and interaction as major problems. Zhao said that the e-government initiative will promote democracy because it provides channels for citizens to voice their opinions and ideas through digital connections, such as e-mail and online forums: "Interaction between government departments and the public is badly needed through the internet. And that will be our office's work priority during next five to 10 years."


From http://www.pstm.net/ 03/22/2005
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300 Mln Rural Chinese Lack Clean Drinking Water

China suffers greater harm from water pollution than from floods, as more than 300 million people in rural areas do not have adequate clean drinking water, experts said at a seminar here Tuesday, World Water Day. "Hundreds of thousands Chinese are afflicted with various diseases from drinking water that contains too much fluorine, arsenic, sodium sulfate or bitter salt," said Wang Shucheng, minister of Water Resources. China has followed a tradition of "water control equals running the country" since ancient times. But today, the country is challenged by water-related problems as it faces water shortage, heavy water pollution and an unbalance of its water ecosystem. "Enjoying safe water should not be luxurious consumption but a basic right," said Feng Guangzhi, president of China Irrigation Area Association. Data collected from 345 sections in 175 mainstream rivers by the ministry in January show only 46.7 percent of the country's water is drinkable. A survey of water quality of 52 lakes across the country conducted at the same time shows water in half number of the lakes was heavily polluted and 35 percent of ground water was undrinkable due to pollution. Chinese President Hu Jintao instructed local and provincial governments to put drinking water resources protection on the priority of their agendas. Thanks to a plan aimed to resolve difficulties in drinking water supply, 57 million rural people have begun to enjoy safe water. The government launched the plan five years ago and has invested 18 billion yuan (2.1 billion US dollars). China has set up more than 30,000 township water supply projects, from which more than 200 million locals have benefited. China has said it would lower the population faced with drinking water problems to a third by 2010 and ensure safe drinking water for everyone by 2020. "To hit the target, the government will provide a layout and guarantee investment for project construction," Wang said. "The ministry will map a comprehensive plan and put it into practice this year." Wang also appealed for an improvement or enactment of related policies, laws and regulations on water protection to prevent use of harmful fertilizer and pesticides. Experts called for increased publicity for the importance of drinking water safety. Mao Zhi, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences called the activities leading to water pollution "contrived poisoning" and "committing a crime."


From Xinhuanet 03/23/2005

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Internet Users in China Number 120 million

China's Internet Association says the country's Internet population is expected to reach 120 million this year. China's Internet Association says the country's Internet population is expected to reach 120 million this year. This is a rise of 28 percent on last year's figure. The number of online users in China has soared in recent years. In 2004 there were 94 million users.


From CRIENGLISH.com 03/23/2005


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Narrowing the Digital Divide

Recent government efforts to prevent children from being addicted to the Internet remind us of the problem of the digital divide. Some children become "mouse potatoes," while others have never even seen a computer. Although the Internet was introduced into China in the early 1990s, only 7.2 per cent of the Chinese population have access to it - around 94 million people. Not knowing how to use computers and the Internet or not having equipment to get online are the two main reasons why the other 92.8 per cent remain in the dark about the Net, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CINIC) in January. The possession of domain names and websites also shows a digital divide between developed and developing areas in the country. Take websites as an example. More than 88 per cent of websites have their offices in North China, East China and South China where the economy is developing better. However, Northeast China, Southwest China and Northwest China only have 11.2 per cent of China's websites. It has become a cliche to say the Internet has made the world smaller by making communication between people around the world easier and instantaneous. But actually, the Internet continues to be the domain of a privileged minority. The digital disparity should arouse our immediate attention and efforts should be made to address it. Government efforts to achieve a universal service are absolutely necessary. A universal service is a process of eliminating barriers so everyone has the opportunity to use communication systems for meaningful and effective participation in all aspects of society, from the economy to culture, from policy decision-making to community life. Achieving a universal service requires providing a connection for everyone who wants to get online, no matter where they live or work. The government should ensure it gives enough cash to build the information infrastructure in less developed areas and should enact laws to encourage Internet service providers to "go west." In April 2003, the Ministry of Science and Technology launched a 200-million-yuan (US$24 million) project called "Narrow the Digital Divide - the Western Action." Two years later, great progress has been achieved. In the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, for example, multimedia online classrooms and rural information websites have been set up in more than 100 primary and middle schools. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, a full-scale information platform was established in July last year to provide online technology for Tibetans. These are encouraging steps for western areas but far from enough. Training and support are also very important. As the CINIC survey indicates, if people do not know how to use computers and the Internet then they cannot get online. An easy way to popularize the Internet in less-developed area is to encourage university student volunteers, who are among the most frequent users of the Internet, to help people in their hometowns during holidays. However, giving people equipment, offering training and helping them feel comfortable with the online culture does not automatically mean an effective and meaningful use of the Internet. Both the government and Internet service providers should co-operate to provide healthy and meaningful information for netizens. Otherwise, violence and other unhealthy and dirty content will enter households. Some Tsinghua University research at the end of last year found that using the Internet has a negative impact on people's feelings of satisfaction in daily life; the longer people use computers and go online, the less satisfaction they feel. However, when people use the Internet in a constructive way, for example, for the e-commerce, study and work, they feel more satisfied and fulfilled. By publicizing the good uses of the Internet in the media and educating young people at school, we can then call on them to use the Internet to accomplish personally and socially meaningful tasks. Affordability is another problem that needs to be addressed. Policies should be set to encourage the use of the Internet, including a reduction of fees for getting wired up. The government should provide subsidies to companies providing Internet services in less developed areas. Also, by inviting competition among Internet service providers, the government can thus bring the price down and help the information-poor to get online. To narrow the digital divide in cities, the government should build community Internet posts to provide free access for the poor. Guangzhou has set a good example. According to a recent Xinhua report, the Guangzhou municipal government and some businesses have co-operated to provide a free Internet service and training for farmers in rural areas and people on low incomes in the city starting this year.


From China Daily 03/25/2005

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JAPAN: Growth in Midsize Cities to Boost CO2 Emissions in 2010, Experts Warn

A faster rise in the population of midsize cities will cause carbon dioxide emissions in those areas to rise more rapidly than in larger cities in 2010, according to researchers at a nonprofit organization. "The government should focus on midsize cities when taking measures to deal with global warming," said Takahiro Nakaguchi, who heads the Research Institute for Local Initiative of Environmental Policies. The increase will also stem from the rise of bigger office buildings and commercial complexes, even though the population is expected to decline, the researchers said. According to the organization, about 40 percent of all cities with populations over 1 million are expected to see carbon dioxide emissions rise more than 25 percent by 2010 compared with 2000. The amount will probably expand by the same percentage in more than 60 percent of all cities with populations between 300,000 and 1 million. About 70 percent of cities with populations between 100,000 and 300,000 will probably experience the same rate of increase. The increase is remarkable, especially in the suburbs of main metropolitan centers, and is believed to result from rising demand for air conditioners and other factors that accompany growth in urban populations.


The Japan Times 03/11/2005

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Japan to Raise Food Self-Sufficiency to 45% by 2015

TOKYO ¡ª The government adopted a new 10-year basic agriculture policy plan on Friday that sets Japan's food self-sufficiency rate target at 45 percent for fiscal 2015. The plan also calls for introducing new subsidies focusing on productive farmers in fiscal 2007, abolishing the existing subsidies provided to farmers regardless of their capacity.


From Kyodo News 03/25/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: KOIS to Set Up Network to Disperse 'Dynamic Korea' as National Brand

The government will set up a cooperative network with the private sector and other organizations to globally publicize "Dynamic Korea" as Korea's national brand. The Korean Overseas Information Service (KOIS) convened a working-level consultative meeting on external publicity Thursday (Feb. 24) for talks on ways to disperse Korea's national brand, "Dynamic Korea," in the presence of representatives from 10 government ministries and six relevant agencies. Opening the meeting, KOIS director Yoo Jae-woong asked for active participation from each government ministry and agency for Dynamic Korea to be sold at a premium, not at a discount, across the world and emphasized the need for developing tangible projects to drive the slogan home. The participant from the Ministry of Finance and Economy pledged to launch a publicity program with the vision of an advanced Korea, featuring dynamic economic development. The delegate from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development made it clear that his ministry will use the logo of Dynamic Korea in publicity events and publications of overseas educational institutes for Korean nationals. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs intends to publicize Dynamic Korea in a series of international events, such as Governors & Mayors and Ministerial Roundtables that it will host in May on the occasion of the Sixth Global Forum, and to encourage local autonomous governments to spread the national brand. The Ministries of Commerce, Industry and Energy and Information and Communication, for their part, will actively use the Dynamic Korea logo in overseas Korean goods exhibitions, international fairs, IT exhibitions and when producing publicity materials. In addition, the Overseas Koreans Foundation will make the most of the Korea brand when it organizes the World Korean Business Convention and the World Korean Leaders Convention in the future. Arirang TV, an English-language Korean broadcasting service, will continue airing spots featuring Dynamic Korea. The Office for Government Policy Coordination and the Government Information Agency will form a joint team to check the progress of the national brand to evaluate and complement the effort regularly.


From http://www.korea.net/ 02/25/2005

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Disaster Control Network to Be Established

Korea will set up a pan-governmental disaster control network in five years so that 71 ministries and agencies involved can better share information on disasters, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Wednesday (March 2). The agency said it will report the plan for redesigning the system at a conference for national disaster management to be held on Thursday. According to the plan, the pan-governmental disaster control network will be set up at 21 agencies such as the Construction and Transportation and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries ministries, which have real-time information on disasters, by the end of 2006. Nineteen ministries, including the Commerce, Industry and Energy and the Agriculture and Forestry ministries, and another 31 organizations such as the Cultural Properties Administration will also gradually have the network. A database and geographic information system (GIS) for disaster control will also be established. The 119 emergency number for fire, rescue and relief work, will also deal with natural disasters, electrical accidents, ocean pollution accidents and emergency medical consultation. For effective control and management of disasters, satellite news gathering (SNG) facilities will be introduced in large cities in preparation for interruptions in wire or wireless communication. SNG equipment is currently used in Gyeonggi Province, and the emergency management agency plans to adopt two facilities at its headquarters by the end of this year. The government also plans to establish a Web site and information center on disasters to help netizens use the system. ¡°With the information system for national safety control, authorities will effectively share disaster information in real time, and their abilities coping with disasters will be greatly improved,¡± an NEMA official said. ¡°After the preparation-oriented system is set up, we expect we can reduce the 106 billion won of property damages from disasters per year and loss of lives from the current 16.5 people per 1 million to 11.1 people,¡± the official added.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/02/2005

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Korea¡¯s Mobile Broadcasting to Help Reduce Disaster Damage

South Korea¡¯s cutting-edge technology looks set to play an important role in disaster prevention in the Asian area. The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) said on Wednesday (March 2) that it had recommended Asian countries adopt terrestrial digital multimedia broadcasting (T-DMB) as their disaster warning system. ¡°During an ongoing preparatory meeting for the 2007 World Radio-Communication Conference in Bangkok, we demonstrated the T-DMB services and it attracted a lot of attention from Asian nations,¡± MIC manager Kim Dong-seok said. T-DMB is a promising cross between telecom and broadcasting, enabling people to enjoy crystal-clear video, CD-quality audio and data on the move via mobile handsets. Korea looks to start the mobility-specific services from May and the government will release six DMB licenses, three for terrestrial broadcasters and the remaining three for other players. When an early warning system is established in relation to T-DMB, it would warn users of imminent disasters through the T-DMB terminals. ¡°We are developing a system that can alarm T-DMB terminal owners even when the power is turned off. When the owners watch T-DMB programs, an emergency sign will appear,¡± Kim said. Kim added that with the introduction of the T-DMB warning system, it will be possible for people to be evacuated and rescued from danger before a situation like the recent South Asian tsunami occurs. At least 172,000 people across Asia died in the tsunami, and 125,000 are missing, presumed dead. The tidal wave hit Southeast Asian nations last December without any warning.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/02/2005

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IT Hub to Be Built at Songdo FTZ by 2010

The Ministry of Information and Communication plans to spend a total of 790 billion won ($783 million) by 2010 to build an information technology hub in a planned multi-billion dollar free trade zone, Minister Chin Dae-je reported to President Roh Moo-hyun Friday (March 4). The investment is in line with President Roh's aim of developing the so-called Songdo free trade zone in Incheon, west of Seoul, into a regional business hub, Chin said in an annual policy report. The ministry also plans to build a contents complex in Sangam, western Seoul, a special R&D zone in Daejeon and Chungcheong area, the zone of BT+IT zone in Wonju and Gangwon Province, built-in SW and mechatronics in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, optical cable in Gwangju and Jeolla Provinces, intelligent logistics in Busan and South Gyeongsang Province and telematics in Jeju. These will make Korea the hub in Northeast Asia, Minister Chin said. Last November, South Korea, Asia's third-largest economy, began construction of the free trade zone, aimed at luring research labs or regional headquarters of foreign businesses which have manufacturing plants in China. The minister said that the IT hub in Songdo will be equipped with the department of engineering, the clean room, the measurement room and the test room which are needed to the companies with radio frequency identification (RFID)/ USN. It will also be assisted in management and technology consultation, becoming the u-IT cluster, Chin said. South Korea is home to the world's leading mobile phones, flat-panel screens and computer memory chips such as those of Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. The nation has the world's highest broadband Internet usage rate with 11.5 million out of 15 million households having the high-speed Internet access, the ministry said. According to the Inchon Free Economic Zone Authority, which is building the ambitious trade zone, major domestic and overseas IT firms such as Microsoft Corp. and KT Corp. had also signed preliminary agreements to set up facilities in the zone.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/04/2005

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Environment Education Drive Launched

South Korea will launch an ISO 14000 program for schoolchildren this year as part of efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) said on Monday (March 7). ISO 14000, the globally recognized environmental management standard, is suited to the level of elementary school students, the ministry said. It will run through a ¡°plan-do-check-action¡± cycle. Under the program, children will plan what they can do to cut the production of greenhouse gases in their homes and communities and then carry out the required tasks. The government will inject 1 billion won until 2007 to get the project started. In the first phase, two primary schools in Seoul will be selected, followed by schools in all major cities in 2006.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/07/2005

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Busan Aims to Become ¡®Ubiquitous City'

Busan, the nation's largest port city, will emerge as the world's first city with a ubiquitous wireless network in five years as the city plans to invest about 1 trillion won to hook the city up to telecom and computer networks, Busan Metropolitan Government said on Wednesday (March 9). Under the ambitious plan, Busan citizens will be able to get ubiquitous net access in every corner of the city. ¡°This is the first time a whole city will have made itself wirelessly connected. Until now, some parts of a city or specific areas have been subject to the state-of-the-art technology,¡± Lee Gang-heon at the city's innovation direction team said. In partnership with KT, Korea's dominant telecom company, the southeastern city will invest a total of 1 trillion won ($1 billion) in transforming it into a whole new ¡°Ubiquitous City¡± or U-City by 2010. To launch the mega project, Mayor Hur Nam-sik and KT president Lee Young-kyoung signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to invest 3 billion won in a joint venture by August. The two parties will come up with a comprehensive master plan by August before they start installing the software to change Busan into a ¡°ubiquitous city.¡± Backed by its geographical significance, Busan, located on the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula, was selected as the final winner out of the 16 contested cities after assessment by McKinsey, a global consulting firm, for three months to last December. The city government will put logistics before other sectors such as transport, roads, industries, tourism and convention centers and daily lives. The government is pushing forward a plan to make the city a logistics hub of Northeast Asia. About 70 percent of the total investment, or 690 billion won, will go to logistics. ¡°By applying the up-to-date technology in every nook and corner of the city, we will not only revive the moribund local economy but also develop the city into a logistics hub of Northeast Asia,¡± the mayor said. The city will try to invite as much private capital, at home and abroad, to the ambitious plan, especially to the sectors which yield profits. ¡°In fact, Busan prospered in manufacturing until several years ago but now the boom years in the sector are gone. So a new growth engine is badly needed for the city,¡± Lee said. He went on to say that the nation's largest fixed-line carrier must have searched for a new source of income. That's because KT has been concentrating on the already saturated network market. ¡°As well as the mass-market network service, we will develop more new business models like U-City and some based on information and communication technology (ICT),¡± Yun Hae-jong, vice president of U-City Planning Department of KT, said. KT hopes to make business ties with interested parties from among foreign IT giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard and Fujitsu. They are in contact with KT over whether this world-first project will work, he added.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/09/2005

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Korea to Allow Portable Internet Service to Start by June 2006

The Ministry of Information and Communication will allow Wibro (Wide Broad Internet) service to start by June next year, taking into consideration the situation of the three designated operators and looking ahead to the arrival of the portable Internet service. The decision was made in the ministry¡¯s 81st meeting for the deliberation of information and communication policies on Monday (March 7) after opinions from experts and service operators KT, SK Telecom and Hanaro Telecom. Failure to meet the June 2006 deadline will require prior approval from the information and communication minister to delay the launch of the service. Participants in the panel meeting also finalized basic guidelines on the introduction of mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) to the country. Its introduction will be timed at three years after the launch of Wibro, when the number of subscribers passes the 5 million mark. Mobile network operators (MNO) are required to provide 30 percent of their capacity to MVNOs. An MVNO is a mobile service operator that does not own its licensed spectrum and usually does not have the infrastructure to provide mobile service to its customers, i.e., it lacks a network on which its voice and data traffic is carried. Instead, MVNOs have business arrangements with traditional mobile operators and buy minutes from them to sell to their own customers.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/09/2005

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New Japanese Textbook Provokes Strong Reaction

The new edition of a social studies textbook for Japanese middle schools, written by a group of nationalist scholars, contains statements that say the Tokto islands between the Korean Peninsula and Japan are a part of Japanese territory. The disclosure that the texts claim the islands as Japanese provoked a strong reaction yesterday in Korea. The Tokto islands, located about 90 kilometers (56 miles) southeast of the South Korea's Ulleungdo island in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), have been at the center of a long-running territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan. The Japanese call the islands Takeshima. The textbook, published by Fusosha and written by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, said the islands are "Japan's inherent territory, historically and under international law." The 2001 version of the same textbook had only claimed that the islands historically belonged to Japan. The name Tokto stems from Korean words for rocky islands. Takeshima, in Japanese, means bamboo island. The Asia Peace and History Education Network, an alliance of 90 South Korean civic groups, released proposed passages from the textbook at a press conference yesterday in Seoul. The civic network, formed in 2000 to confront Japanese nationalism in its history textbooks, made public the new material on Tokto.The same materials were also made public by Nobuyoshi Takashima, a professor at Ryukyu University, and Satoshi Uesugi, a historian at Kansai University. At a press conference in Tokyo, the Japanese historians said Japanese Education Ministry officials have been showing favoritism to nationalist writers of the textbooks. The Japanese government has yet to approve the textbook revisions. A decision on the sensitive issue is expected next month. On page 128 of the text, a passage refers to Japan's territorial disputes with neighboring countries. It reads: "Northern territories such as Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and Habomai, Takeshima in the Sea of Japan, and Senkaku in the East China Sea are claimed and partially controlled by Russia, South Korea and China respectively, but they are part of Japan's inherent territory historically and under international law." A caption with a photograph of Tokto in the textbook says, "Takeshima, which is at the center of a South Korean-Japanese territorial dispute." According to the Asia Peace and History Education Network, the proposed revision of the history text glosses over Japan's colonial rule of its Asian neighbors. The textbook says Korea was a dependency of China in the 19th century. It also provides a separate chapter, titled "Japan, a helping hand for Joseon's modernization," and claims the Japanese government believed that annexation of Korea was needed to protect Japan's stability and its interests in Manchuria. The Joseon Dynasty controlled the Korean Peninsula from 1392 until 1910 when Japan annexed the Korean peninsula. The textbook, like its original 2001 version, makes no mention of the issues associated with "comfort women," sex slaves from Japan's colonies forcibly drafted by the Japanese Imperial Army during the World War II. "It is saddening that the proposed textbooks of Fusosha rationalize Japan's wrongdoing and look down on the history of its neighboring countries," Lee Kyu-hyung, spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said. "The government will take any necessary measures through a task-force team." Controversies already erupted in 2001 when the nationalistic history textbook was planned and authorized in Japan. Tokyo rejected request from authorities in Seoul and Beijing to change parts of the textbook at the time. (by Ser Myo-ja, Yeh Young-june)


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com/ 03/11/2005

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US$300 Million 'Ubiquitous City' Project in South Korea

The investment will provide pervasive wireless access, and is to complement a US$700 million investment in the port city's logistics infrastructure. The city of Busan has unveiled an ambitious plan to become the world's first 'Ubiquitous City' (U-City). Working in partnership with Korea Telecom, the metropolitan government plans to invest US$1 billion to extend wireless internet access to every part of the city by 2010, and to integrate this with the IT infrastructure of municipal administration and the port. According to municipal government officials, they are currently discussing potential opportunities for involvement in the project with IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.


From http://www.pstm.net/ 03/17/2005

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15 Universities to Be Shut Down by 2007

Fifteen of 50 national universities will be shut down through mergers and restructuring by 2007 with a 10 percent cut in their student quota. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development reported the plan Friday to President Roh Moo-hyun. Education Minister Kim Jin-pyo said in the report that the ministry will set aside about 80 billion won ($80 million) for the university restructuring project this year. The ministry will also earmark 300 billion won for universities seeking mergers from next year. Among them, about 20 billion won will be given annually for universities actively pushing for integration for two to five years. National universities are also required to cut the student quota by 10 percent by 2007 and 15 percent by 2009. The authority will also help about 10-15 private universities pushing the restructuring move with incentives such as tax reductions and administrative advantages along with 2 to 8 billion won in aid. However, universities that fail to meet the qualifications such as the required number of faculty, will be excluded from the incentives. In line with the plan, the ministry will also launch the second round of the ``Brain Korea (BK) 21 Project'' by increasing the current 200 billion won to 400 billion won annually from 2006 to 2012. BK 21, an educational reform project in 1999-2005, was created to establish an effective system for cultivating high-skilled labor to meet the demands of the 21st century. The second phase of BK 21 is designed to enhance the quality of research to help at least 15 universities join the ranks of the world's most prestigious educational institutions. It also plans to implement a ``Star Faculty Project,'' which is designed to provide an annual 200 million won to about 50 selected ``star professors'' to cultivate smart students to win Nobel laureates for about 10 years. The ministry will make efforts to increase the number of foreign students in Korea from the current 16,832 in 2004 to 50,000 by 2010 as part of its ``Study Korea Project.'' The ministry will also award government scholarships to about 500 foreign students by the end of 2010. The Presidential Committee on Education Innovation and the ministry are discussing ways to boost the popularity of vocational high schools such as with full scholarships or by not charging tuition or fees. Currently there are about 460,000 students in a total of 729 vocational high schools nationwide. (by Chung Ah-young)


From The Korea Times 03/25/2005

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MONGOLIA: Financial Assistance of Foundations for Promotion of Regional Development for the Government¡¯s Efforts

A resolution was issued passing regulations governing establishment of foundations for promotion of regional development, and concentration, expenditure, and monitoring of funds for such foundation. As provided in the resolution chairs of regional councils were assigned tasks of publicizing the purpose and dimensions of the foundation domestically and overseas and endeavor to concentrate funds on the foundation. Apart from a comparative study conducted on methods of providing financial assistance being used for intensification of regional development in some highly developed market economies such as France, Germany, Sweden, and Canada, experience and achievements of ¡°Ulaanbaatar Foundation¡± for Promotion of the Capital¡¯s Development were considered in developing documents and regulation governing establishment of the foundation. The mission statement of foundations for promotion of regional development is to create supplementary sources of funds essential for implementation of develop projects and activities in regions at national, aimags (province), regional, and sector levels and provide financial assistance in support of the Government¡¯s efforts to accelerate economic growth in regions.


From http://www.open-government.mn/ 03/10/2005

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Household Income and Expenditure Survey

A total of 2808 households were surveyed for the 4th quarter of 2004 in Ulaanbaatar city and 21 aimags. According to survey report of the 4th quarter 2004, a household monthly average expenditure was 205.4 thousand togrogs of which monetary expenditure was 141.6 thousand togrogs. Household monthly total expenditure increased by 24.7 % of which monetary expenditure increased by 14.9 % compared to the same period of the previous year. Household monthly average income was 202.2 thousand togrogs of which monetary income was 138.3 thousand togrogs. Household total income increased by 18.2 % of which monetary expenditure increased by 6.7 % compared to the same period of the previous year.


From MONTSAME 03/15/2005

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Eco Trass Nat`L Program Introduced

The Minister of Environment Mr. U. Barsbold has received the officials of donor organizations and foreign embassies in Mongolia. The meeting was attended by Mr. T. Toda, the Japanese Ambassador to Mongolia; Mr. B. Hichkok, the Resident Representative of the Asian Development Bank in Mongolia, Mr. Mr. Han Miyung Jae, the Advisor of the South Korean Ambassador to Mongolia, and Mr. Tsai Ven Ri, the Political Advisor of the Chinese Ambassador to Mongolia. At the meeting, Mr. Barsbold introduced in detail the officials about the term and needed financing for the implementation of the Eco Trass National Program to be carried out by the Mongolian Government. The Minister appealed them to contribute to the Program implementation. The officials expressed their support to the Program for the nature protection and the reduction of sand movement, and noted that they will invest for the Program implementation.


From MONTSAME 03/26/2005

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PHILIPPINES: GMA Lauds ICT Firm for Expansion Plans

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lauded today the top executives of SPI Technologies, Inc., an international journal and book publishing services company, for their continued confidence and decision to expand their investment in Central Visayas. The President made the commendation after Ian Bellord, executive vice president of SPI Technologies, Inc. informed her the company is now aggressively pursuing its P3-billion expansion program in the Philippines. The Chief Executive flew here from her an unscheduled side trip to Bohol where she visited the families of the victims of the food poisoning tragedy at the San Jose Elementary School in Mabini town this morning. Her visit to Dumaguete is part of her 3-day sortie in Central Visayas to inspect and inaugurate priority digital and transportation infrastructure projects by the government. Upon her arrival here, the President was briefed by Bellord on the operations of the company. Bellord told the President that with the government¡¯s active support of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry, SPI is confident of competing in the global scholarly, scientific, technical and medical (SSTM) journal and book publishing market. "We are looking forward to the rest of 2005 as we build on our customer service, production, and project management capabilities around the world," Ernest Cu, president and CEO of SPI Technologies said in a statement. He said the Metro Dumaguete facility is SPI's newest delivery center for publisher services and considered one of the first business process outsourcing (BPO) firms in Central Visayas. Cu informed the President that SPI is growing rapidly across all of its target markets. He added that the additional 450 seats in Metro Dumaguete would boost SPI's copy editing capacity, which currently supports the production of over 550 journal titles for some SSTM publishers. Cu disclosed that last week, SPI signed an agreement to buy the medical transcription business of India-based KG Information Services Private Limited (KGMT). The KGMT acquisition, he said, will enable SPI to quickly expand its delivery capacity to meet the increasing demand of US healthcare providers for medical transcription services. The KGMT facility is located in Coimbatore, the second largest city in South India, and the education center of the region. In addition to the India facility, SPI will launch its second major medical transcription center in the Philippines located at the Asiatown IT Park in Lahug, Cebu with a capacity of some 500 employes. Founded in 1980, SPI Technologies provides IT-enabled outsourcing solutions that support customers in the management of large-scale, complex content and data requirements. SPI specializes in providing content outsourcing solutions in the areas of content capture, conversion and enrichment, financial and transactional business process outsourcing, litigation support, electronic data discovery, editorial and content production, healthcare documentation, and enterprise content lifecycle management. The Dumaguete facility, located at Km 7 in Bacong, Negros Oriental, under the SPI Publisher Services, has 114 staff at present and will be increased to 250 by the end of the year. Earlier, the President motored to Foundation University and visited the 60-seater medical transcription facility of Entheos IT, Inc., at the 3rd Floor of the L.G. Sinco IT building inside the campus. Victor Vicente Sinco, president of Entheos IT, and Mira Sinco, president of the Foundation University briefed the President about the operations and services of the medical transcription facility. Entheos IT, the first medical transcription facility in Central Visayas, offers international-standard transcription services to healthcare professionals around the world.


From http://www.gov.ph 03/10/2005

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SINGAPORE: Singapore Launches Tender for Downtown District

Singapore launched on Tuesday a tender to sell harbour-front land for a new downtown financial centre, the government's first sale of land in three years. The government hopes to turn the 3.55 hectare (8.9 acre) plot of reclaimed land -- about six-and-a-half times the size of a football field -- into a towering business and financial centre partly modelled on Britain's Canary Wharf and overlooking Singapore's Marina Bay. The development would sit adjacent to the current central business district (CBD) of Raffles Place.


From http://sg.news.yahoo.com 03/01/2005

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Government Plans to Make Maritime Industry Key Pillar of Economy

The Singapore government is keen to develop the maritime industry into another important pillar of economy. Currently, the sector contributes some 7% to Singapore's GDP. Among the key services that are being looked at include vessel registration, ship broking, financing and management, as well as maritime insurance, legal and arbitration services. The government is also eyeing newer services such as freight derivatives and other risk management activities, and all these could lead to the creation of new jobs. Minister of State for Transport and Finance Lim Hwee Hua said, "The Government is working very closely with industry players, and industry associations to grow these sectors. At the same time, the Government actively consults with international players to better understand global trends in shipping-related developments so as to meet evolving needs. The need to track developments closely is underpinned by a few major trends - Firstly, the emergence of economic powers in the fast-growing China and India markets. Secondly, the increasing shift in the centre of gravity of shipping activity towards Asia . Singapore is indeed well-placed to tap these trends and the growth of these services sectors will create many high value-add and exciting jobs for Singaporeans."


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/03/2005

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S'pore Tops WEF's Survey on Use of Infocomm Technology

Singapore has been ranked the world's most successful economy in exploiting infocomm developments. In its latest technology survey, the World Economic Forum placed Singapore ahead of 104 other nations in its Networked Readiness Index. This is a step up for Singapore which reached as high as number two last year. The accomplishments are impressive. Today, 74 percent of all households in Singapore own one or more personal computers and 65 percent have Internet access. 83 percent of all companies here use a computer. Mobile penetration is at 92 percent and 1,600 government services are provided online. All these factors together have won Singapore the top spot in the WEF survey. The WEF report also placed Singapore as the top performer in the quality of science and maths education, affordability of telephone connections and the government's prioritisation of infocomm technology. But there is one area in which Singapore lagged behind - it is ranked 11th in broadband adoption. This is one issue that the Infocomm Development Authority is already addressing. Chan Yeng Kit, Chief Executive, Infocomm Development Authority, said, "For broadband penetration, in fact one of the areas that we have worked on is to provide more choices and more alternatives. "So we would be releasing additional spectrum for wireless broadband in 1 or 2 months' time and when that becomes available, then in addition to ADSL and cable modem, consumers will have one additional choice, and we believe that ultimately competition in choices would give boost to broadband adoption." Meanwhile, the world's top-ranked IT solutions provider Cisco Systems also placed Singapore business as among the best in the world in terms of readiness to accept new technology. Craig Gledhill, Managing Director, Singapore and Brunei, Cisco Systems, said, "Technologies like RFID...already Singapore is being seen as one of the leading countries, and this is just an emerging technology. "And when I see that - that's a true indication of the spirit and the focus that here we have in Singapore, with business and government driving into new realms and new technologies." Cisco says infocomm technology investment and productivity go hand in hand and Singapore stands high in global competitiveness because of its readiness to be proactive in this area.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/09/2005

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THAILAND: Govt Plans to Install 250,000 Computers in Nation's Schools

The government will install 250,000 computers and broadband internet at schools nationwide in two years in a project estimated to cost five billion baht. Surapong Suebwonglee, the information and communications technology minister, said yesterday the project the government had assigned to his ministry and the Education Ministry was aimed at providing every 100 students with five computers. The government would pay for the installation, try to obtain minimum prices from suppliers and let state vocational schools take part in assembling the computers, he said. Dr Surapong admitted the ratio of one computer for 20 students was too low. In the long run, the ratio would rise to one computer for 15 students. The long-term goal will see 500,000 computers installed in schools nationwide. The government will also seek sponsorship from giant computer companies via computer rooms in schools and install computers in temples for monks to teach villagers how to use them. In addition, the government will spend four billion baht to offer broadband internet access to schools. The government will rent existing broadband internet networks from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the Provincial Electricity Authority, TOT Corp and CAT Telecom, he said. The leasing would be cheaper than building a whole new internet network for schools, Dr Surapong said. The ministry will also study the possibility of using optical fibre and wireless networks for providing broadband internet services. It is now installing ordinary internet connections at schools nationwide with work scheduled for completion in three months.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 03/03/2005

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VIETNAM: Hanoi Targets to Increase Economic Effectiveness

Agricultural production value per hectare of cultivation land increased sharply. Certain key industrial products of high competitiveness on domestic and foreign markets were defined. These are the initial achievements in the carrying out of the ¡°Increasing economic effectiveness¡± project initiated by Hanoi Party Committee for the period of 2004 and 2005. To improve business and investment environment and build comprehensive policies to support businesses, the city¡¯s authorities have focused on streamlining administrative procedures at State management agencies of the city. The ¡°one-door¡± policy has been well followed in all departments, sectors and districts. The city¡¯s authorities organised meetings with businessmen to exchange opinions, settle their troubles, thereby creating more favourable conditions for them to increase their competitiveness as well as production and business effectiveness. The city also had working sessions with 11 ministries and sectors as well as asked for the Prime Minister¡¯s instruction to build the city¡¯s mechanism of co-operation to build and develop the capital. Various regulations which are aimed at helping businesses to develop were issued and received a warm welcome by businessmen. Efforts were also paid into reorganising and increasing the effectiveness of State-run enterprises. Four corporations for transport, tourism, trade and infrastructure development investment were established. At the same time, two others were allowed to go bankrupt. In 2004, 64 State-owned businesses in Hanoi were equitised. Six others were dissolved. After one year of implementing the project to increasing economic effectiveness in Hanoi, the capital¡¯s economy has make high and stable growth, thus contributing to the general growth of the country. Most notably, industrial production value was up 15.8% against the same period last year. Agricultural-forestry and fisheries production value was also up 0.7%. the production value on one hectares of cultivation land was up 10% thanks to the correct shifting of production structure. Trade and service activities were quite busy. The service sector marked a 11% growth. Export turnover was up 19%. Tourism revenue earned VND 5.3 trillion. As many as 3.5 million tourists, of which 1 million are foreigners, visited Hanoi. Last year, 95 investment projects were licensed and allowed to increase capital with a total investment capital of US $1.01 billion, up 526%. As many as 7,000 businesses were licensed with a total registered capital of nearly VND 16 trillion. The city also paid attention to the establishment of markets which contributes to attracting capital for the city¡¯s economic development such as the stock market, the labour and technology markets and the real estate market. Many new urban areas were set up. Fifty five skyscrapers were built, contributing 1.418 million square metres more of accommodation, up 41.8% against the targeted figure. Thorough preparations for the construction of key projects such as Vinh Tuy bridge, Nhat Tan bridge were made. These achievements have affirmed the effectiveness of the project initiated by the city¡¯s Party Committee. The capital will mobilise all its resources to well implement the project, contributing to the capital¡¯s sustainable economic development.


From http://vietnamgateway.org/ 03/04/2005

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VN to Boost Service Sector

Viet Nam will have to work hard to paint a brighter picture of its service industry if it wants to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) later this year, trade experts warned last week. The industries¡¯ deficiencies became a worry this week as newly released Government figures showed that the service sector¡¯s contribution to Viet Nam¡¯s gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen by roughly 6 per cent since 1996. There has been an increase in foreign investment in the service sector, as Viet Nam has opened up its market to telecommunications, banking and finance firms. The Government set an ambitious target to expand the service sector by at least 7-8 per cent every year, and increase the sector¡¯s GDP contribution to 42-43 per cent by 2010. Last year, the sector¡¯s contribution to the nation¡¯s GDP was only 38.2 per cent, growing 5.1 per cent over last year. Experts say this is slow because it is even lower than the world average of 60 per cent and the developing worlds¡¯ average of 50 per cent. As part of the Viet Nam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement, Viet Nam has also expanded the scope of its liberalised services to cover transport, environment and culture. Trade experts warned that joining the WTO will create access to a large market for Viet Nam, but that competition will get tougher and China will be a forceful rival in a range of services. Experts also said that Vietnamese enterprises may lose their market shares, and will have to consider joint ventures with foreign businesses. Services ranging from market research to on-line accounting need to be given priority so as to further develop the economic sector, or else foreign companies will occupy these positions. Investment and State policies still focus on traditional services, including trade, restaurants, hotels and road transport. Viet Nam¡¯s opening of its service sector will help the country diversify and improve the quality of services, thus contributing to the country¡¯s economy and improving the competitiveness of Vietnamese goods. At the same time, growth and development of the service industry will create opportunities for Viet Nam to increase its attraction of foreign direct investment into other economic industries.


Adapted From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/05/2005

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BHUTAN: Farmers to Reap the Benefits of Internet

If all things go well, by March 2006, Bhutanese farmers could begin reaping the benefits of the Internet that has so far eluded them, mainly in the access to relevant and timely information on agriculture research and markets. The government and the Food Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) has signed an agreement, on March 2, to establish an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project called the Virtual Extension, Research and Communication Network (VERCON). The project is aimed at improving the speed and reach of the advisory services of the agriculture ministry to the farmers in matters of research and farming through the use of Internet. It is to help Bhutanese farmers produce more and achieve food security in the long run. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, VERCON would begin as a pilot project in 12 identified geogs, three each from four regions of the country. Geogs with telephone connection facility and the presence of more agriculture activity were chosen. Phobjikha, Dob Shari, Trong, Bhur, Kabjisa, Tangsibi, Kanglung and Yangtse are some of the identified geogs. The programme director of the Information and Communications Services of the agriculture ministry, Pema Lhamo, told Kuensel that the present system of link between agriculture research and extension agents was largely ineffective. The agriculture extension network was comprised of two to three extension officials with their responsibility largely limited to on-farm trials and pilot demonstrations without the access to new, relevant and updated information and methodologies. Weak communication network had, therefore, resulted in information bottlenecks and limited the effectiveness of research to contribute to agricultural development. VERCON will use Internet-based ICT to improve the link between research and extension systems through networking. And improve the chances of effectively communicating to farmers the knowledge and information of the agricultural research, according to the agriculture ministry. VERCON uses Internet standards and is accessed either through the Internet, or using a combination of CD-ROM and Internet, depending on specific situations (example the reliability of the Internet connection). It is also a tool which allows members of the network to communicate and develop, share, store and retrieve information. These capabilities allow network members to inform, address problems, discuss solutions and coordinate local, regional and national agricultural activities. It can also access the vast information resources available on the Internet. The project is scheduled to begin in March with financial aid of US$ 282,000 from the FAO and another US$ 70,000 from the International Agriculture Fund. The money will be used for, among others, software development and training of the officials responsible, and also for computers and networking equipment.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 03/14/2005

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INDIA: Broadband on Mobile Will Be a Big Hit in India

GOA: India's wireless services industry is likely to push into 3G services this year as carriers roll out broadband access in big cities and move deeper into untapped rural areas, the head of Ericsson India said. Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson is the largest supplier of telecom gear in India, the world's fastest growing major mobile phone market. "The broad themes for the Indian market in 2005 would be that Indian carriers will take their first steps towards 3G services, broadband on mobile will be a big hit this year and there will be huge expansion in rural areas," Jan Campbell, managing director of Ericsson India, told Reuters in an interview. "To start with 3G will be deployed in some hotspots in metros." 3G networks, which are winning customers across Europe and Japan, offer faster Internet speeds on mobiles, enable music and video downloads and also improve voice quality. These value-added services help operators to improve profitability in the fiercely competitive market where voice services are commoditised. "There is a demand for 3G services in India. We already see entertainment services picking up in the metros," Campbell said. Carriers such as Hutchison Max Telecom Ltd. already offer TV channels, picture messaging and video downloads. Hindi movie song-based ring tones are a rage and mobile gaming is also getting popular. "Almost 50 per cent of users in metro cities are looking for services beyond voice and texting," Campbell added. Analysts expect India to auction licenses for 3G services in the third and fourth quarters of 2005.


From http://financialexpress.com/ 03/07/2005
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MALDIVES: Dhiraagu Reduces Dhivehinet Broadband Service Prices

MALE: Dhiraagu on Tuesday announced major reductions in DhivehiNet Broadband
ADSL prices effective this billing month. These price reductions, which will vary for the different broadband packages, include:
- Additional bundled megabytes for all existing ADSL customers
- 100 percent more bundled megabytes for the Solo (single user) package users
- Up to 25 percent reduction in the monthly fees for the Multi user packages
- Up to 89 percent reduction in the charges for usage exceeding the package allowance
DhivehiNet broadband service, especially designed for home users and small businesses in Male, is becoming increasingly popular as more and more customers experience the high speed, reliability and quality of the service, the local telecoms company said in a press release. ¡°These major price reductions, based on customer feedback, will offer significant saving opportunities for our existing customers and make high speed Internet access affordable to hundreds of customers who currently use relatively slow dial-up access to the Internet,¡± the press release read.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/09/2005

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Dhiraagu Introduces Friends and Family Discount Scheme for Mobile Post-Paid Customers

MALE: Dhiraagu on Sunday announced The Friends and Family Discount Scheme for DhiMobile Post-Paid customers. This scheme offers discounts on calls to five customer-nominated numbers as follows:
? International: 25% discount on all voice calls made during off-peak hours.
? National : 15% discount on all voice calls throughout the day.
Customers can nominate any Dhiraagu fixed or mobile numbers, and can include
up to a maximum of two overseas numbers. The Friends and Family discount scheme will offer significant savings for customers, especially for those customers whose majority of calls are to a few numbers, usually of their friends and family members, Dhiraagu said in a press release. As a promotional offer, for the first three months from launch of this service the international call discount will be applicable during both peak and off-peak periods. There is no setup or monthly fee charged for this scheme. Post-Paid customers can apply via SMS to 444 or by submitting a completed DhiMobile Post-Paid Service application form, the telecoms company said.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 03/22/2005

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NEPAL: Aid Suspension May Lead to Crisis

Economists Monday said the decisions of some of the major donor countries to suspend their aid to Nepal in the wake of the new political turn would seriously affect the economic and development activities here. Expressing worries over the suspension of aid by some donor countries, speakers of a face-to-face program organised by the Reporters Club Nepal in Kathmandu today urged the government to be serious on how the donors could be convinced to resume their assistance to Nepal. Economist Dr Bishwombhar Pyakurel said, ¡°At a time when the country is not capable of managing administrative costs from internal sources, the recent decisions of the major donors to block assistance will lead to grave economic problem in the country.¡± Even though the country needs to gradually do way with dependency on foreign aid, it should not shrug off the decisions to suspend aid at the moment, he said. Expressing similar views, economist Prithivi Raj Legal said the country needed foreign assistance to cope with the present situation. He said the government should be proactive in wining the support of the donors while trying to build up inter-dependability. Former finance minister Dr Badri Shrestha reasoned that the decision of some major donors to suspend assistance was not a wise move ¡°If they want Nepal to fight terrorism they must continue their support,¡± said he. He was of the view that some of the donor countries were trying to go out their way to meddle into Nepal¡¯s internal matters.


From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/01/2005

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PAKISTAN: National Economic Council Projects 8% GDP Growth Within Five Years

ISLAMABAD: The National Economic Council (NEC) on Thursday projected 8 percent growth in the GDP against the existing 6.6 percent, besides enhancement of Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) to Rs 604 billion in 2009-10 against the current volume of Rs 202 billion. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz chaired the meeting. The Planning Commission presented Medium Term Development Framework 2005-10 before the council, which is likely to be finalised in its meeting in May after incorporating suggestions of the provinces and other stakeholders. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Akram Sheikh, while unveiling the MTDF, said that the government has set 34 targets. He said work on 30 targets would be ahead of schedule or as per the laid down framework, while special attention would be given to achieve the remaining four targets, which the government believes were difficult. The objective of MTDF is to establish a just and sustainable economic system for reducing poverty and achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Pakistan through rapid and sustainable development in a resource constraint economy by deploying knowledge inputs, while the objective was a just economic society and efficient and competitive economy. The Planning Commission deputy chairman said that despite participation by the chief ministers of three provinces and finance ministers of all the four provinces issues of much-talked about National Finance Commission (NFC) Award and most controversial Kalabagh Dam did not come up for discussion rather the meeting discussed future strategy, which can make Pakistan prosperous and stable. Dr Akram Sheikh after the meeting told newsmen that the Planning Commission has chalked out a comprehensive plan under the proposed working paper of MTDF for 2005-10 to provide strong foundation for sustainable economic growth. The meeting discussed future strategy to increase GDP growth, develop infrastructure, increase energy and water resources. According to the draft MTDF the GDP growth is likely to rise to 8 percent by 2009-10. Total investment would go up from Rs 1.2 trillion in 2004-05 to Rs 8.8 trillion in 2009-10, while the national savings would jump from Rs 1.1 trillion to Rs 8 trillion. Private investment will go up from 13.5 percent of the GDP to 16.5 percent. The PSDP would rise from Rs 202 billion (3.3 percent of the GDP) to Rs 2,094 billion (7 percent of the GDP). PSDP priorities: 54 percent for infrastructure, 31 percent for social sectors and 11 percent for regional development. Tax revenue would go up from 10.7 percent of the GDP to 11.8 percent of the GDP. Fiscal deficit would decline from 3.7 percent to 3.2 percent. Current account deficit would rise from 1.19 percent of the GDP to 1.99 percent of the GDP. Inflation to be kept around 6 percent. About energy sector, Dr Akram Sheikh said that the current energy mix includes 30 percent oil, 50 percent natural gas, 6.5 percent coal, and 12.7 percent hydro and 0.8 percent nuclear. By 2010, the share of oil and gas is targeted to be reduced to 26 percent and 49 percent, respectively with corresponding increase in the share of coal to 9 percent, hydro to 13.9 percent, renewable energy to 1 percent and nuclear to 0.9 percent.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/04/2005

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Proper Proposals in IT Sector to Be Supported

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Secretary Muhammad Aslam Sanjrani has said the government will support the institutes and the industries if they come-up with proper proposals. He stated this while speaking as the chief guest at "Software engineering practices in Pakistan-present and future," in the IT conference 2005, and organised by the Institute of Business Management (IBM) here on Thursday. He said the software industry needed skilled and well-trained experts who excelled in knowledge and committed to their goals, adding the foundation of education had been destroyed in the country, especially in the metropolis. He said there were possibilities for the IT sector and the student should explore such opportunities in that field. Those services were not restricted to the big cities only, but the small towns had also been connected through network and the people there were availing of all the current facilities and information on their fingertips, he added. Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) President Jehan Ara, while expressing concern over the enrolment in the computer science and engineering programs, which had been going down, said it was a dangerous trend for the software sector in the country. Jehan Ara said the information technology and the IT enabled services sector in Pakistan were more or less stagnant during 2001-03, but it had shown a consistent growth of 50 percent year-on-year basis since 2003. The employment in the IT sector had gone up to 40 percent since last two years, she said, adding that we needed the good human resource not only today but also in the next two to five years. "We expect the IT growth to accelerate in the coming years, as our economy continues on the positive side," she said adding, "We also need the good business graduate and entrepreneurs." "Our human capital gives us the strength, and with the help of human resource we go after business domestically and internationally. However, this human resource has to be dedicated to those who are committed to the hard work, having clear concepts of engineering, she added. Earlier, CCSIS Dean, Dr Ahmer S. Karim, in his welcome address at the IBM said the initiative would help promoting the best software development practices in Pakistan. In addition to provide legitimacy of professional practices in the corporate sector, the CCSIS initiatives were expected to bridge the gap between industry and the academia for mutual benefits, he added. Professor of Computer Science at the CCSIS, Dr Abu Turab Alam said in fact our aim was to minimise the gap between what we taught and practiced, adding that the seminar would also help to identify the major issues which kept us behind in the IT growth in the country.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/19/2005

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IT Ministry to Roll Out Eight E-Government Projects in April

KARACHI: The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is going to roll out eight e-government projects, in the next three weeks, which will cost over Rs 600 million. The government will acquire expertise of local software houses for software development and services, hardware, networking, training and operating costs. In this connection, the Federal Cabinet has approved PC-1 of all eight projects which would be initiated under its 'e-government plan'. Sources told Business Recorder on Friday that all eight projects would be awarded to local industry "and if one software firm cannot bid in the project, the government would allow formation of consortium for bidding in the projects. These projects would help the local software industry to enter into e-government's project and help generate more employment for software related services in the country. The projects include: 'e-Enablement of Islamabad Police' at an estimated to cost Rs 100 million; 'e-Services to Citizens in Food, Agriculture & Livestock Sector', estimated to cost over Rs 100 million; 'e-Services at Chief and Deputy Commissioner's Office in Islamabad (Capital Territory)' to cost over Rs 100 million; 'Provision of e-Services at Capital Development Authority (CDA)' at an estimated cost of over 50 million; 'e-hospital project of Pakistan Institute of Medical Science (PIMS), and same project for CDA hospital; 'Online Processing of Haj Applications and Status Tracking of arrangements for Hujjaj' at an estimated cost of over Rs50 million; and 'Automation of Patent Office in Karachi' at an estimated cost of over Rs 12 million. This will also include software development and services, hardware, networking, training and operating costs. These projects have been initiated and monitored by Electronic Government Directorate of Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/26/2005

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AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan to Open First Military Academy

Afghanistan plans to open the country's first post-Taliban military academy on 23 March, dpa reported 22 March. Sitting on the outskirts of Kabul, the academy's campus dates back to the 1920s, when Afghanistan used the site for military training during the rule of King Nadir Shah. "From now on, all military educational institutions will operate under the supervision of this academy," said General Zahir Azemi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry. The United States is the chief underwriter for the academy, which hopes initially to train 150 Afghan National Army officers. The United States and coalition allies in Afghanistan want to see Afghan forces eventually assume responsibility for security in the country, which remains troubled by an insurgency. Currently, the Afghan National Army numbers about 25,000 troops, many of whom are poorly trained and illiterate. U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan hope to raise the number of troops serving in the Afghan army to 70,000 in the next two years. MR


From http://www.rferl.org/ 03/22/2005

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UZBEKISTAN: ADB to Assist Integrate ICT into Basic Education in Uzbekistan

Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help prepare a project to integrate information and communications technology (ICT) into basic education in Uzbekistan through a technical assistance (TA) grant approved for US$600,000. The TA will prepare an ICT development strategy for basic education and a feasibility study for a project that will introduce an ICT-based approach to teaching and learning in certain grade levels and subjects in basic education based on this strategy. Lan Wu, an ADB Senior Social Economist, said: "ICT should be used not only to improve computer literacy but also, more importantly, to improve the quality and relevance of basic education in general." "International experience shows that appropriate use of ICT helps students score high on achievement tests, learn more in less time, and develop positive attitudes toward their classes and learning. ICT also has a potentially important role in ensuring access to education for students in remote rural areas." While Uzbekistan scores high on education-related Millennium Development Goals, with a net enrolment rate at 99% and no major gender differentials, basic education is often of low quality and relevance. A recent United Nations Development Programme report shows that Uzbekistan is still at a very early stage of ICT development. More than 80% of equipment is outdated, and there are insufficient computers even for computer classes, let alone for broader integration of ICT into the curriculum. Only half of schools offer computer classes, and many have no access to computer equipment. A national ICT strategy, developed in 2002, aims to increase the computer-student ratio from 1:110 to 1:20 and provide Internet access to 63% of all schools by 2010, from only 0.2% now. The ICT development strategy to be prepared by the TA will help define how these goals will be reached. The TA will take a participatory approach to build consensus among stakeholders on key challenges facing ICT development in basic education, and focus on developing targeted policies and mechanisms to help bridge the internal digital divide between urban and rural areas. It will also explore ways to promote public and private sector partnerships in ICT development. "An information- and knowledge-based economy will enable Uzbekistan to benefit fully from a global economy that is becoming ever more integrated," adds Mr Wu. "Such an economy will enhance Uzbekistan's competitiveness within the Central Asia region." The government of Uzbekistan will contribute US$150,000 equivalent toward the TA's total cost of US$750,000. The Ministry of Public Education is the executing agency for the TA, which will be carried out over 12 months to about February 2006.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 03/10/2005
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Television Stations Discuss Programme on Development for 2005

Members of National Association of Electronic Mass Media of Uzbekistan discussed programme on development of nongovernmental broadcasting in the country for 2005. Participants of the workshop oted that effective work of television network, created by 24 regional nongovernmental television stations, envisages development of separate regional station. They also considered projects on strengthening role of nongovernmental television stations in construction of civil society, improve skills of journalists, managers and technical personnel. The special group will be created to implement each project. At the meeting, it was also announced that Internwes Network¡¯s office in Uzbekistan will assist nongovernmental televisions with trainings for staff, creation of information programmes and talk shows. Heads of 25 nongovernmental television stations of Uzbekistan signed request to Internews Networks to realize projects through Public Fund on Development and Support of nongovernmental electronic mass media, created in 2004.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 03/10/2005
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AUSTRALIA: Women's Status Going Backwards: Dems

Women's rights were being ground down under the Howard government, Australian Democrats Leader Senator Lyn Allison said. Senator Allison made the comment in a speech on the run up to International Women's Day later this week. Prime Minister John Howard's conservative government was steadily grinding down women's rights and its upcoming control of both houses of parliament later this year augured ill, Senator Allison said in her first public speech since she was elected leader. The Democrats will launch Women's Rights Watch on the party website, a day ahead of International Women's Day on Tuesday. "The Howard government has orchestrated a steady grinding down of women's rights and government responsibilities," she said. "The PM wants single mothers forced back to the workforce once their kids turn six years old. A lack of affordable childcare is closing options for thousands of women wanting to return to the workforce and women more than ever are shouldering the burden of care. "The conservative hammer just keeps tapping away at rights won we thought were rock solid. "After June, when the government takes control of the Senate we face another, different country. "The Australian people gave the government the keys to the Senate but not permission to trash the place." Senator Allison cited as examples of government bias Mr Howard's decision to revert to the title 'chairman' in official use whatever the gender of the person, and the downgrading of the Office of Status of Women, which, she said, had effectively put it into the context of women's role in the family. The Women's Statistics Unit within the Australian Bureau of Statistics had also been abolished. The ongoing abortion debate also threatened the right of women to have control over their own bodies, she said. Senator Allison said she had chosen to give the speech in SA because of its historical place in the struggle for women's rights in Australia, pioneering women's right to vote and stand for parliament more than 100 years ago.


From http://theage.com.au 03/06/2005

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Australian Government to Outlaw Suicide Websites

CANBERRA - Australia's government plans to outlaw inciting, promoting or teaching people how to commit suicide on the Internet, but Justice Minister Chris Ellison said on Tuesday the laws were not a bid to spark a euthanasia debate. Use of the Internet to organise suicide pacts has emerged as a grim new problem for Japan, where at least 54 people killed themselves in 2004 in Internet-linked group suicides. Police say the real number was probably higher. Ellison said people convicted of the offences would face fines of up to $A110,000 ($NZ119,800) for individuals and $A550,000 for corporations. "These offences are intended to protect vulnerable individuals from people who use the Internet with destructive intent to counsel or incite others to kill themselves," Ellison said in a statement.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/09/2005

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Outback IT Dreaming

Cape York's remote Aboriginal settlement of Injinoo in far north Queensland is one of 41 communities scattered across the nation that should benefit from a Federal Government scheme to improve telecommunications for indigenous Australians. A tender will be issued soon to buy public access PCs and broadband access for the communities that range from Mt Isa in north-west Queensland to the small settlement of Djugarargyn on the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberleys. The second phase of the $8.3 million, three-year Telecommunications Action Plan for Remote Indigenous Communities will give each community a PC, printer, web camera and uninterruptible power supply. The Government's Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme will provide fast internet access. Injinoo already has the internet but the new package will improve accessibility, says Darryl Wilds, community services manager for the Injinoo Community Council. He says such government schemes are vital for remote communities like his with limited facilities. "State and federal funding for numerous projects, including internet access, allow residents to keep pace with the other, more populated areas of Australia," he says. He says the public access terminals are used extensively for research and give the community, especially younger members, a connection to the outside world. They also improve access to government services as Australian governments at all levels push to deliver these online. Vince Jerrard, chairman of the Mrangalli Aboriginal Corporation in Tingha, NSW, says people in his region travel 27 kilometres to access the internet. He says the action plan package will be a big asset even though the community, with fewer than 800 people, only has dial-up access. There has been talk of a broadband connection, he says, but nothing has come of it, and getting a high-speed connection will depend on how many people use the internet. Mr Jerrard says the package will be used for many pursuits, including email, preparing letters and general internet access. Last year the action plan gave PCs to 135 remote indigenous communities. Internet access was provided by Telstra through two-way satellite connections. Of the 41 communities covered by the new round, 16 are in the Northern Territory, eight in NSW, three in South Australia and seven each in Queensland and WA. Another 13 grants give online services to local communities, a community phones program is being negotiated with Telstra, and training has begun in some of the communities. Multi-language resources are also being developed. The department says the Anmatjere Community Government Council has aided seven Northern Territory communities to establish public internet access computers in Alyuen, Nturiya, Pmara-Jutunta, Ti Tree, Wilora, Engawala and Laramba. They now have a fast broadband connection to give them access to correspondence coursework, banking and Centrelink. The council also provides community supervisors and technical help. The action plan was launched to recognise that remote indigenous communities were the most disadvantaged in the country and other government programs, such as the Networking the Nation scheme, were not effective. Labor's shadow minister for indigenous affairs and reconciliation, Senator Kim Carr, describes the scheme as a "terrific initiative" but says power supply is still an issue. (by Rob O'Neill)


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/15/2005

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Call to Ban Sale of Cigarettes by 2050

Senior public health campaigner has called on the Federal Government to phase in a total ban on the open sale of cigarettes and make them available only by prescription. Mike Daube, professor of health policy at Curtin University and a former director-general of the WA Health Department said yesterday tobacco control in Australia needed a shake-up. Speaking at the scientific meeting of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand in Perth, he said cigarettes were lethal and should be put in the same category as illicit drugs. Professor Daube, a strong anti-tobacco campaigner before his Health Department post, criticised the amount - less than $25 million a year - that the Federal Government spent on curbing smoking. He described the amount as "mere lip service" given the $5 billion it received in tobacco tax. The Government needed to spend at least five times as much on education campaigns and to help plan the tobacco product phase-out, he said. Professor Daube said under his proposal commercial sales of cigarettes would be phased out gradually by 2050. After that only addicted people would be able to get cigarettes, requiring a doctor's prescription. Planning for the end of tobacco sales should begin now. "Within 45 years, most of the people who smoke will be dead and those who are still alive would be able to access cigarettes through doctors but all commercial sales would stop," he said. He said there was a need to "re-demonise" the tobacco industry and put it on notice that its days of profiteering at the expense of the health of others were over. "We have become complacent about smoking even though 20 per cent of adults and 18 per cent of teenagers are still smoking and it has led to the deaths of 900,000 Australians." (by Cathy O'Leary)


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/22/2005

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Spyware: Govt Says No New Laws Needed

The Federal Government has rejected the need for new laws governing the use of spyware. Spyware is software used by hackers to steal passwords and personal banking information, shut down computer systems and stalk internet users. It operates by secretly collecting information from a computer and sending it elsewhere or remotely changing settings on a computer. Communications Minister Helen Coonan said yesterday a review had concluded that the most serious and malicious uses of spyware were already covered by existing laws. But Senator Coonan said despite the review's finding she had directed her department to work with industry to find better ways to tackle spyware. "Spyware is a complex issue and the government will work closely with stakeholders to ensure a measured and practical response," Senator Coonan said in a statement. She said a discussion paper would be drafted for public consultation starting in May.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/23/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: NZ's Child Poverty Rate One of Highest

An international report has found that a sixth of New Zealand children are being raised in poverty - a higher rate than in all but three of the world's 26 rich nations. The Innocenti Research Centre, established by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), says 16.3 per cent of New Zealand children in 2001 lived in homes that earned less than half the national median income. Only Mexico, the United States and Italy had higher rates of child poverty. The "child poverty league table", which includes New Zealand for the first time, was published in Italy last night, just six months before Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark is due to face a general election. Before the last election in 2002, her Government promised to eliminate child poverty, but did not set a deadline. Social Development Minister Steve Maharey said yesterday that the "Working for Families" package in last year's Budget, including higher family support and a new "in-work payment", would slash child poverty by 70 per cent when fully implemented in 2007. His ministry estimated last year that the package would reduce the proportion of children in homes earning under half the median income from 14.7 per cent this year to just 4.3 per cent by 2007. If no other country reduces its poverty rate, that would place New Zealand's child poverty fifth-lowest in the world by 2007, better than in all countries except the Scandinavian nations of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Unicef New Zealand spokeswoman Beth Wood accepted the ministry's estimate and said the Budget "represents a significant move to reduce child poverty for some families". But she said the package would still leave many children of beneficiaries living in poverty because their parents would not get the new in-work payment. Both the ministry's estimates and the Unicef report, which uses the ministry's figures for New Zealand, show the proportion of children living in poverty rose during the 1990s, from about 5.5 per cent in 1990 to about 14 per cent this month, reflecting the 1991 benefit cuts and a freeze in family support rates from 1998 until the beginning of next month. The Unicef report also shows that in 2001 New Zealand was second only to Mexico in the proportion of children living in homes earning less than half the median income before taxes and family support were taken into account - a measure of inequality in "market" earnings. New Zealand's more generous family support system improved its ranking slightly after bringing in taxes and support payment. The US slipped down the ranks on this score because of its more restrictive child support system. The report found that the proportion of children growing up in poverty rose during the 1990s in 17 out of 24 countries for which long-term figures were available. In contrast, the biggest improvement in the decade was in Britain, where Unicef estimates that Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair's pledge to cut child poverty by a quarter by this year "is likely to have been met". Mr Blair has also pledged to halve child poverty by 2010 and to eliminate it by 2020. New Zealand was one of seven countries that cut its welfare spending during the 1990s as a proportion of the national income, from 21.9 per cent in 1990 to 19.2 per cent in 2000. (by Simon Collins )


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/02/2005

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Internet Banking Quite Secure, Never Been Infiltrated

New Zealand internet banking systems were secure and had never been infiltrated by hackers, a Westpac spokesman said yesterday. Paul Gregory said no one had successfully hacked in to an internet banking system, but instead had to rely on tricking bank customers, or stealing information from them. His comments came after reports claiming internet banking security could easily be undone by hackers. Gregory said Westpac was aware of the problem and was looking at moving to two-step authentication procedures. However, financial losses from internet fraud were "a fraction" the size of older scams, such as cheque fraud. Having money stolen by a hacker in another country was impossible, as cash transfers from New Zealand bank accounts to overseas ones could not be performed over the internet in this country. Gregory also believed internet banking customers might reject added security if it meant more inconvenience. BNZ spokesman Zaman Toleafoa agreed. Toleafoa said the BNZ had surveyed customers in an attempt to find a web-based banking system that was "safe for all, but easy for people". "What [customers] have told us is that the power in internet banking is that it is easy ... they recognise the security is important, but if it becomes too hard, they might just choose not to use it any more." However, he said the problem was increasing as authorities in other countries tightened security, forcing hackers to focus their attentions on more out-of-the-way places. The BNZ is looking at several options for beefing up internet banking security, including moving to a two-step customer authentication process or modifying its existing one-password system. One idea being considered is to have customers key in their passwords and PIN numbers via an on-screen keyboard, using a mouse. This would defeat keystroke recording programmes. Until a foolproof internet banking system was in place, said Toleafoa, customers should use their common sense. Basic precautions included steering clear of public computers such as those in internet cafes, and ensuring personal computers were running the latest anti-virus software. Installing a firewall on a personal computer was also a good idea. The Opposition yesterday called on the Government to help ensure the integrity of internet banking. National commerce spokesman Brian Connell said New Zealand 1.3 million internet bankers would be alarmed at the ease with which their accounts could be compromised. The Government needed to take immediate action to see two-password security features became standard for internet-based transactions. Information Technology minister David Cunliffe said the problem lay more with businesses such as internet cafes needing tighter security on their computers, rather than with the banks. "In the first place, this is an area where you would expect banks to have a strong commercial imperative to get it right," he said. The Government would keep an eye on the situation. (by David Eames)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/08/2005

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New Science Equipment a Boon for University

Two million dollars worth of new technology at Auckland University will enhance New Zealand's ability to attract and retain leading researchers, Research, Science and Technology Minister Steve Maharey said yesterday. Two new instruments ?an X-ray photoelectron spectroscope (XPS) and an Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM) ?have been purchased by the Research Centre for Surface and Materials Science at the university's Faculty of Engineering. Speaking at the launch of the new equipment, Mr Maharey said science and technology will drive New Zealand's future development. "Being competitive in the 21st century global economy will mean being at the cutting-edge of technological innovation," Mr Maharey said. "The instruments we're launching today will contribute greatly to New Zealand's research capacity with benefits spread across all areas of our economy and society." The XPS will provide a range of insights including a better understanding of how things like paint and glue bond to metals. The ESEM will allow researchers to study a number of areas, including how cartilage is affected by osteoarthritis.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/12/2005

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Auckland in Top Ten Cities for Quality of Life

A worldwide survey of quality of life has rated Auckland eighth equal, tied with Sydney, Bern and Copenhagen. Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland remain the world's top-scoring cities while other highly-rated places to live include Vancouver and Vienna in joint third place. The analysis, by human resources consultants, Mercer was based on an evaluation of 39 quality of life criteria for each city, including political, social, economic, and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport, and other public services. Auckland fell three places from the 2004 survey. Bern, Copenhagen, and Sydney were also down slightly compared with last year. Wellington was in 14th place, one up on last year. Munich and Daseldorf both move up the rankings, from 10th and 12th place respectively, to share joint 5th place with Frankfurt. Munich's rise is due to more efficient waste removal systems and better housing for expatriates, while Daseldorf's transport and standards of international schooling have improved. In the US, Honolulu and San Francisco rank highest in joint 25th, mainly because they have lower crime levels than other US cities. Baghdad remains the world's least attractive city for expatriates. Its low score is due to the recurrent threat of attacks against people, multinational organisations, and government institutions in the area, Mercer said. Other poor-scoring cities for overall quality of life include Bangui in the Central African Republic, Brazzaville in Congo, and Khartoum in Sudan.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/15/2005

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NZTE Gives $560,000 for Technology Exhibition

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is spending $560,000 to give the country¡¯s ICT industry a strong presence at the CeBIT computer expo in Germany. NZTE¡¯s acting director of ICT, Hans Frauenlob, said a professional and cutting-edge pavilion had been built to show off 16 leading Kiwi companies. "A combination of ARL¡¯s America¡¯s Cup technology and Next Window giant touch screen is stopping people in their tracks in the aisles and blowing them away," said Frauenlob from Hanover, where the expo finishes tomorrow. Frauenlob said NZTE outlay on the expo was evidence of a huge ramping up of commitment to the industry. "Almost every company here has reported serious and solid leads and they are all positive about the experience so far." CeBIT 2005 marked the launch of the "New Zealand New Thinking" campaign, aimed at helping New Zealand businesses compete globally. "One of NZTE¡¯s key objectives is to help high-growth, export-orientated companies establish strong commercial positions in targeted offshore markets and CeBIT fits extremely well with this," Frauenlob said. Rod Drury, chief executive of email archiving and management developer and exhibitor AfterMail, said Kiwi exhibitors worked together to make sure New Zealand stood out. The trade show has 6270 exhibitors on 309,000sq m of floor space in 36 halls and pavilions. Drury said the NZTE stand had been actively searched out by distributors and resellers interested in Kiwi innovation. He had about 30 "great leads" to follow up when he returned. "On a New Zealand scale it¡¯s enormous. The category we’re working in, which is a combination of navigation, telematics and fleet tracking, has grown significantly." Macdonald said at the same event a year ago there were a handful of exhibitors in each of those product groups, whereas now a hall was dedicated to the category. "That¡¯s part of the focus here - looking for distributors." Exhibiting at CeBIT was not cheap, he said. "It is a substantial investment. It¡¯s a sum of money that a small company would find it difficult to do alone. "But that¡¯s where New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has been useful to some of the small companies coming here. They’re able to take advantage of that bigger New Zealand picture and piggy-back on it. "We¡¯re partnering with NZTE - so we’re present on their stand and also have our own Navman stand." Small companies might also find a larger company to partner with. Companies of the scale of Vodafone and Intel might take an entire hall, whereas Navman¡¯s stand, with about 35 staff, is 100 sq m. Kiwi representatives at CeBIT 2005: * Animation Research: Computer graphics production facility. * AfterMail: Email archiving and management developer. * EMS-Cortex: Produces a secure application provisioning platform for managed services. * Endace: Developer of network interface technology. * The Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand: Human-computer interaction research centre. * i-lign: Project, portfolio, workload, decision and risk-management integration specialist. * Navman: Manufacturer of consumer and commercial electronics using the global positioning system. * NextWindow: Specialist in high-quality touch screen technology. * Information Edge: Developer of enterprise performance management software. * Investment New Zealand: New Zealand Government’s national investment promotion agency. * New Zealand Supercomputing Centre: Telecom New Zealand and Weta Digital joint venture. * Outsource2NewZealand: Outsourcing organisation for software development projects. * Prolificx: Electronics designer and manufacturer for telematics and mobile data applications. * Right Hemisphere: Provider of enterprise software for visual communication. * Talkingtech: Computer telephony and interactive voice response solutions developer. * Terralink International: Geographic information system and mapping solutions provider.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/15/2005
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Poverty Trap Snapping Shut on Children

Children are the new face of poverty in New Zealand. Children and their parents now make up seven out of every 10 people living in homes earning below the level of basic welfare benefits recommended by the Royal Commission on Social Security in 1972, adjusted for inflation and the number of mouths to feed. Some 39 per cent of sole parents and 18 per cent of two-parent families fell below that basic level in a 2002 report. Only 6 per cent of households without children fell below the same level, again adjusted for the number of people in each home. After adjusting for housing costs as well, households with children accounted for 82 per cent of all homes falling below the basic level. A generation ago, the opposite was true, says the lobby group Child Poverty Action. "In the 1960s and early 1970s, poverty was associated mainly with the elderly, as families and children were well supported, while pensions were low," it said. "The situation is now reversed." After a seven-year freeze, family support payments finally increase next Friday, for the first time since the Labour Government took office. The Working for Families package, unveiled in last year's Budget, will lift family support payments by $25 a week for the first child and $15 for every extra child, for families earning less than about $400 a week. The changes will help all two-child families on incomes of up to $940 a week to some extent, and larger families up to even higher incomes. Child Poverty Action economist Susan St John says the increases are long overdue. "Imagine the catch-up in dollar terms if the pension had not been inflation-adjusted for the same period and then caught up in one fell swoop," she said. But there has been no outcry, because many doubt that "child poverty" exists here. "If poor Kiwi kids are just missing the latest iPod or sports shoes, that's too bad, but I won't lose much sleep," wrote Stuart Feigin, of Viaduct Harbour, in the Herald on March 11. As always, the reality is complicated. People are "poor" for a variety of reasons. Many single parents feel they cannot work while their children are young. Gloria Chan (not her real name), of Glen Innes, stays home to look after her daughters, aged 8 and 11. "If you work part-time you get tired and grumpy, and who gets it? It's the children," she said. "I want to be with my children until they don't need me to cook for them and prepare their lunches." Mrs Chan lives on the domestic purposes benefit of $256.52 a week plus family support, which is $47 a week for her first child and $32 for her second. She has not yet tried to get an accommodation supplement, but she has recently moved into a rental house costing $330 a week and will probably qualify for a supplement of about $177 a week. Fortunately for her, Friday's changes will include lifting the maximum supplement in Auckland from $150 to $225 a week. But options are limited. "My daughter loves ballet but I can't afford it," she said. "My daughter's intermediate school wants her to read the newspaper but I can't afford it. "My fridge is always too warm because I can't afford to replace it." Karen Tawa (also not her real name), a mother of three living on the widows' benefit in Glen Eden, says her two sons, aged 11 and 13, play no sports and cannot go to school camps because of the cost. Her 11-year-old is supposed to drink a lot of high-calcium milk to help with a serious health condition, but it's too expensive: "I substitute multivitamins because they're cheaper." And she is battling to get a nebuliser for her 16-month-old baby, who has asthma, but Work and Income only lends up to $200 for major items and it's not enough. Her car registration has lapsed and she has sold all her jewellery except for the wedding ring from her late husband. "I'm not coping," she says. "As a New Zealander, it's beyond a joke." From Friday, she will be $45 a week better off. Family support payments will go up by $55, offset by a cut in the widows' benefit from $256.52 to $241.47. Social Development Ministry officials say the changes will slash "child poverty". The proportion of children living in homes earning less than half the average wage will plunge from 14.7 per cent to just 4.3 per cent, shifting New Zealand's status from the fourth-highest rate of child poverty among developed countries to the fifth-lowest by 2007. But the changes are controversial. A Herald-DigiPoll after last year's Budget found 60 per cent of New Zealanders would prefer tax cuts to state handouts for families. However, Child Poverty Action says the increased handouts are not targeted enough at reducing poverty, because they give more to working families than they would to the same families on benefits. Monday: Winners and losers Working for families Changes to family assistance and other subsidies include: * Family Support up $25 a week for first child and $15 for each other child. * Main welfare benefits for most families down $17-$21 a week. * Special benefit top-ups down by an average of $13.50 a week. * Higher accommodation supplements in urban areas. * Further changes on April 1 next year and in 2007. (by Simon Collins)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 03/26/2005
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Internet the Future of Share Trading

More people will trade shares online in future as private stockbroker numbers dwindle but most investors will still need professional help with their portfolio, one of Australia's fastest-growing trading service providers has warned. An unprecedented wealth of independent investment information, new laws on self-managed superannuation and a desire among investors for greater control are boosting the use of online broking, said Otto Buttula, executive director of broking service and technology group IWL Ltd. Another factor which will have an effect in coming years, though, is a decline in the number of stockbrokers offering individual service to investors. "The retail stockbroking business in Australia is far and few between realistically now - there's already been huge consolidation and rationalisation," Mr Buttula said. Mr Buttula said there was still a role for direct retail brokers but "the industry has become far less attractive". "You're not going to make a living basically churning people's portfolios and getting brokerage commission," he said. "A lot of the old timers, the experienced brokers, have retired (and) a lot of the kids who have joined have not had experience in markets and I'd argue that some of the people taking advice off them have more experience than the people they're getting it from." IWL has invested heavily in the online trading environment and is banking on continuing growth in the sector. The company has two retail online broking services, Sanford and Avcol Stockbroking (formerly the online broking service of Rivkin Financial Services, the acquisition of Avcol is still subject to RFS shareholder approval) and also operates the back-of-house system for National Australia Bank's internet broking. If a current takeover bid for wholesale service provider JDV Ltd succeeds it will also be responsible for the online trading services of Westpac. Mr Buttula said direct online retail share trades already account for up to half the volume of shares traded in Australia and the trend towards people directly managing some of their share portfolio is growing. Investment information has become increasingly independent and "democratised", Mr Buttula said, evidenced in the popularity of stock research services such as Fat Prophets and IWL's own InvestorWeb. Two distinct groups are now trading online - the "daytrader" buying and selling quickly to capitalise on price moves, often in low-value stocks, and increasingly investors trading their own portfolio of high value shares. "But should people have a proportion of their portfolio professionally managed? For the great majority of people I'd regard that as true," Mr Buttula said. "The great majority of people are working every day, do not have the time and should have a proportion of their portfolio professionally managed."


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/27/2005

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PRC Sets Up $20 Million Regional Cooperation and Poverty Reduction Grant Fund at ADB

The People's Republic of China (PRC) is contributing US$20 million to set up a technical assistance fund approved by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to promote regional cooperation and poverty reduction among the countries of developing Asia. The Regional Cooperation and Poverty Reduction Fund is the first such fund to be set up by a developing member country of ADB and the first financed by the PRC at any international institution. The fund aims to promote faster economic and social development in Asia by financing regional cooperation and poverty reduction initiatives. All ADB's developing member countries will be eligible for grants supporting regional cooperation under the fund, although priority will be given to members of the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS) and Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program. For country specific projects, all Asia Development Fund eligible countries can apply to the fund for support. "The fund will encourage innovation and learning in support of research, policy-related studies, capacity building and institutional development in DMCs, and will pilot innovative approaches to knowledge dissemination and networking," says Philip Erquiaga, Principal Director of ADB's Office of Cofinancing Operations. Over the next five years, to 2009, the fund will encourage greater sharing of knowledge and experience on regional cooperation and poverty reduction across developing Asia. It will support countries in professionally managed, comprehensive benchmarking of their regional cooperation and poverty reduction efforts, learning from those that have achieved excellence in these areas, and helping to set appropriate performance measures and realistic targets for improvement. 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, with 45 from the region.


From http://www.adb.org/ 03/11/2005

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Asia Needs Trillion Dollars over Five Years to Boost Infrastructure

Asia-Pacific developing economies led by China need to invest more than one trillion dollars over the next five years to upgrade their infrastructure and sustain growth, Agence France Presse notes a report said Wednesday. China alone is estimated to account for 80 percent of the total amount needed, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) said after a joint study. The 21 economies covered in the report face a massive funding challenge with more than $200 billion required annually from public and private sources for roads, power plants, communications, water and sanitation systems during the five-year period. The report noted that some of the poorest economies such as Laos and Cambodia have little or no infrastructure investment while the 1997-98 Asian crisis forced others like Indonesia and the Philippines to spend less in this area. "The economic crisis is now over, most countries have resumed high level growth levels and private investment in general is beginning to recover but private investment in infrastructure is returning only very cautiously and governments are sometimes tentative in their response," it said. The three lending institutions, however, noted important developments since the regional financial meltdown in the late 1990s. The countries affected now have more open governments, allowing vigorous debate on policy and spending issues, as well as stronger state institutions capable of handling large transactions and investments more efficiently. "And significantly, while it is hard to say that there is less corruption, there is less tolerance of it and fewer illusions about its hidden costs on business and the poor," they said. The report covered Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, East Timor, Tonga, Vanuatu and Vietnam. Reuters explains that the study said 65 percent of the required funds was needed for new investment and the remainder for maintenance of roads, power plants, communications, water and sanitation systems. Infrastructure was particularly important at a time when the region was "increasingly interconnected through supply chain production networks and expanding cross-border trade, fuelled by China, which has served as a magnet for regional growth", they said. For China, total needs account for almost 7 percent of GDP, the study estimated. ADB Vice-President Geert van der Linden told Reuters in an interview that China's rapid rate of growth requires an expansion in infrastructure as the economy demands more power generation and transmission networks. Refocusing on infrastructure was important for boosting both economic and social linkage within the region and reminding the donor community of the "essential part of development", which he said had been somewhat forgotten.


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/16/2005
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Funding Shortfall of $4.22 Billion for Tsunami Reconstruction

Funds raised so far to help rebuild four of the countries worst affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster fall short by $4.22 billion, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Friday, reports Agence France Presse. The ADB presented a "Tsunami Recovery Tracking Matrix" on Friday at a one-day international conference it organized at its Manila headquarters. According to the document, some $7.76 billion is be needed by India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka for rehabilitation and reconstruction. So far only $3.54 billion has been committed by donor nations and agencies, leaving a funding gap of some $4.22 billion, the bank said, revising its earlier estimate of a $5.25 billion shortfall. Those attending the conference include ministers from India, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Sir Lanka; representatives from 28 ADB member countries; United Nations agencies; the World Bank; International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, the private sector and non-government organizations (NGOs.) According to the ADB's figures the cost for rehabilitation and reconstruction in affected parts of India is estimated at $1.21 billion of which $791.3 million has been committed. Indonesia will need $4.72 billion of which $1.70 billion has been committed, the Maldives $406.3 million with $187.2 million committed and Sri Lanka $1.42 billion and $864 million. Thailand was not included in the matrix as "it has not sought international assistance for rehabilitation or reconstruction needs," according to the ADB.


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 03/18/2005

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CHINA: Banks Tighten Grip on Property Loans

China's central bank announced measures to tighten property loans Wednesday, in a further sign of concern about a property bubble. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) also reduced the interest rate on banks' excess reserves -- a move analysts say is aimed at alleviating liquidity difficulties among businesses. A woman walks past a poster on housing loans in Liaocheng, Shandong Province in this March 13, 2005 photo. The central bank announced on March 16 that mortgage rate for individual house buyers will rise by 0.2%. [newsphoto] Starting Thursday, commercial banks are barred from lowering interest rates on consumer housing loans to below 0.9 per cent of the PBOC's benchmark rates. That brings the upper limit of interest rates on loans longer than five years up by 20 basis points to 5.51 per cent, the bank said. It also allows commercial banks to raise down payments from 20 per cent to 30 per cent in cities where the lenders believe property prices have been rising "too fast." "That means it has become the decision-makers' unuttered view that there has been property bubble in some cities," said Wang Songqi, deputy director of the Finance Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Although the measures are only a moderate tightening, they sent a signal to the market," he added. China's property prices rose rapidly during the past one year or so, and have long prompted worries among some analysts and government officials about a property bubble -- although many hold the growing trend of urbanization is delivering substantial support to the industry. Real estate investment slowed down last year, but the continued uptrend in prices "need close attention," the central bank said in its 2004 fourth quarter monetary policy report, released last month. Nine cities reported property price increases heftier than 9 per cent last year, including Shanghai and Nanjing of East China's Jiangsu Province. The PBOC also announced Wednesday its decision to reduce the annual interest rate on excess bank reserves, which banks keep besides required reserves basically to meet payment needs, to 0.99 per cent from 1.62 per cent previously. The rate cut "will help commercial banks further improve their efficiency in fund use and liquidity management, and will promote the liberalization of the interest rate regime," the PBOC said in a statement. Wang said the move is aimed more at pushing the banks to lend more to businesses, many of which -- particularly the smaller ones --, are feeling liquidity difficulties partly as a result of the ongoing macro management. China took a slew of measures as early as the second half of 2003 to curb the rapid growth in bank loans and fixed investment, which gave rise to worries about overheating. "Liquidity is already on the tight side (among businesses)," Wang said. The central bank has scaled down its money supply growth target for this year to 15 per cent from last year's 17 per cent. The growth of broad money supply slid to 13.9 per cent at the end of February from 14.1 per cent one month earlier, which some economists worry is a bit too slow to support this year's 8 per cent economic growth target. (by Zhang Dingmin)


From China Daily 03/16/2005

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Time for Unified Business Tax

A discussion is under way among legislators about revising legislation, and levying a uniform income tax, on domestic and foreign invested enterprises. The different treatment currently given to the two kinds of firms originates from two legal texts: The first is the Provisional Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Enterprise Income Tax, promulgated by the State Council in 1993; the second is the Law of the People's Republic of China on Income Tax for Enterprises with Foreign Investment and Foreign Enterprises, adopted by the fourth session of the Seventh National People's Congress in 1991. The former deals with income tax for domestic enterprises while the latter deals with businesses with foreign investment or of foreign ownership. The nominal rate of income tax for domestic enterprises is 33 per cent and that for foreign business is 30 per cent in general and 15 per cent in special economic zones. The actual rate drops to 22 per cent and 11 per cent on average respectively when tax reduction features and other exemptions are included. As the country marches towards a market economy as part of economic globalization, one of the strategic issues to be settled is how to provide a level playing field for all firms that compete against each other. This became a more pressing issue after China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) more than three years ago. It is against WTO rules to grant special treatment to foreign investors. Domestic enterprises should receive the same treatment as their foreign counterparts, or they will be pushed into a disadvantaged position in the long term, no matter whether they are State-owned or private. Laws and regulations that contradict WTO rules still exist, with the two legal texts concerning business income tax among them. As Jin Renqing, minister of finance, said at the recent annual meeting of the Chinese Society of Fiscal Science, the time is right to unify income tax rules without further delay. Actually, this unification is not something that cannot be achieved. Launched in 1991, the Law on Income Tax for Enterprises with Foreign Investment and Foreign Enterprises was in line with market practices. The stipulations in this law about taxable income, taxable costs and other terms accord with international practice. If the income tax is to be unified, stipulations in the 1991 law could still apply with minor adjustment. Although this unification, if national companies paid the same as international ones, would result in a reduction in the government's income for a while, the continuous growth of the economy in recent years will allow the State to withstand this. The net increase in tax revenue amounted to more than 500 billion yuan (US$60.2 billion) in 2004, which makes this year a good one to unify the various tax codes. Currently, domestic and foreign businesses are subject to the same rules in certain areas. For example, Chinese citizens and foreigners living in China enjoy the same individual income tax rate. It is now time to begin unifying income tax rates as a lot of preparation work has already been done. The biggest obstacle to unifying the tax codes is how to settle the tax reduction and exemption status enjoyed by foreign invested and foreign-owned businesses. Opinions are divided on which of these favourable treatments should be cancelled, which should be retained and for how long they should be retained. It is common for a country to have to modify favourable tax rates after entry into the WTO because of possible adverse impacts on domestic businesses, especially small- and middle-sized ones. It is natural for China to follow suit, though tax reductions and exemptions for foreign invested businesses would still remain. What will be altered is the means of granting this treatment. In most countries, businesses in sectors whose development is encouraged by the government, like high-technology, can get tax breaks. Tax reduction for businesses in other sectors is removed regardless of their ownership. The authorities should outline the principles of favourable tax treatment in the new document which is to replace the two pieces of enterprise income tax legislation. The details about the new taxation should be mapped out by administrative rules, so that they can be adjusted to suit changing circumstances. The new document should allow a transition period of three to five years. During this period, existing foreign-invested and foreign-owned businesses should keep their tax reductions and exemptions. The transition period will serve as a buffer against instant shocks for foreign investors and their businesses. The new rate of enterprise income tax should be set at 24 or 25 per cent, which will be close to the average tax rate for domestic and foreign businesses. The unification of this area of income tax will not have a remarkable impact on the efforts to lure foreign investment, nor will tax revenue see huge reduction in the long run. The Ministry of Finance, the State Administration of Taxation, the Ministry of Commerce and the Legislative Affairs Office under the State Council should sort this out too. Other necessary arrangements should also be made to facilitate the unification of these tax codes as early as possible.


From China Daily 03/17/2005

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China Sets Aside 15b to Mitigate Local Financial Difficulties

China's unprecedented efforts to alleviate the financial difficulties faced by its local governments will help narrow the gap between the rural and urban areas, experts said. Chinese Minister of Finance Jin Renqing announced last week that the central government had allocated 15 billion yuan (some US$1.8 billion) this year as part of a three-year plan to reduce local governments' financial burden. The plan was designed to safeguard local governments, maintain social stability and improve administration ability, make basic public services available to everyone in the community and promote coordinated economic growth in both rural and urban areas, said the minister. Many counties and townships across China, especially major grain-producing areas in the middle and western parts of the country, have been indebted, up to about five times their annual revenues in some areas. Overstaffing and sluggish local economies have been major reasons behind their financial difficulties, according to officials and experts. According to a survey by Ren Yuling, a counselor of the Chinese government, the average debt owed by each township in rural Deyang City in Sichuan Province, southeastern China is 17 million yuan (US$2.07 million), 4.75 times of their annual revenues. Liu Daoxing, vice president of the Henan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said Monday the average debt for each rural township in central Henan Province is more than 4 million yuan (US$487,800), with some debt-ridden township owing up to 50 million yuan (US$6 million). Sichuan and Henan are the country's major grain producing areas with a combined population of nearly 200 million. The annual revenue of Qixian County Government in Henan hovers around 60 million yuan (US$7.3 million), and at least 70 percent of which has to be used to pay salaries of primary and middle school teachers. A study by the World Bank has shown the tax-sharing system China introduced in 1994 resulted in a drastic increase of the ratio of central government's revenues to all governments' revenues. The ratio rose from 22 percent in 1993 to 55.7 percent in 1994. The Ministry of Finance has decided to use much of the increased revenues of both central and provincial governments and newly-added payment of transfer to help financially tight counties and townships in the future. As part of its plan to help those areas, China will offer 5.5 billion yuan (US$662 million) in cash rewards to approximately 800 major grain-producing counties across the country this year. The total grain output of these counties is 60 percent of China's total and at least 80 percent of all commodity grain on the Chinese market. Premier Wen Jiabao has promised earlier this month to speed up administrative reforms at the township level in an effort to rim the size of overstaffed township governments and reduce the number of people on their pay-rolls, while improving their administrative capability. Experts held that the reforms are significant in terms of helping reduce the financial difficulty of the local governments, which used to levy fees on farmers to make up their fiscal deficits and pay the salaries of government employees.


From Xinhuanet 03/21/2005
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Premier Prompts to Build Sound Financial System

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told foreign delegates to the 2005 China Development Forum Sunday that the Chinese government would "unswervingly" promote financialreform, strengthen financial supervision and try to avoid financial risks through reform and system building. Briefing the delegates on China's economic situation, Wen called financial reform a "major task" for the Chinese government in 2005 and beyond. "A stable, sound and modernized financial system will surely be built in China," he said. The Development Research Center of the State Council, the forum's host, has held six annual meetings. The 2005 annual session, focusing on China's role in the world's economy, attracted senior officials from international organizations, senior executives of multinational corporations, scholars and Chinese government officials.


From Xinhuanet 03/21/2005

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Stock Exchanges to Issue Unified Index

The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges are expected to release a long-awaited unified index at an appropriate time, but probably not so soon as some reports have predicted, insiders said yesterday. There have been reports recently that the unified index, a new barometer to trace the more than 1,300 companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen, would be launched at the end of this month, but insiders said the timing is no longer a sure thing now and may be postponed until the performance of the market improves. The technical preparations for the unified index have been completed, but it is up to the top financial authorities to decide when to launch the index, according to a senior official at the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Regarding the constituents of the unified index, he said it would cover stocks listed both in Shanghai and Shenzhen, though Shanghai-listed stocks may be in the majority. The unified stock index, jointly developed by the Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses, has been prepared for a long time. It is regarded as a new benchmark that will give a more comprehensive reflection of the market movements of both bourses. It will also pave the way for the introduction of more index-based innovative products, such as index futures, which are expected to offer investors more tools to hedge risks. The Shanghai Stock Exchange official said a lot of research and studies on index futures had also been conducted and the exchange looks forward to the early launch of the product. The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges each currently have a series of indices to track locally-listed stocks, but they remain separate. Only a number of securities institutions have developed their own brand indices that trace stocks in both exchanges, such as the S&P/CITIC 300 index, which was jointly developed by Standard & Poor's and CITIC Securities to trace the overall performance of A shares. But such corporate-designed indices are still not widely used. The most quoted benchmark now is still the Shanghai composite index. "Each index designer will have their own method of design, so the launch of the new index will not have much affect on the use of other indices but enrich product diversification. Investors can choose which index to apply to trace market movements," said Luo Lin, head of the index development team of CITIC Securities. Apart from market capitalization and liquidity, the fundamentals of the listed companies and their representativeness in their industries will also decide whether they will be chosen as the constituents of a benchmark index, said Luo. China's stock market has been bearish for nearly four years. After a brief rebound on Monday, the market lost strength again on Tuesday and yesterday. The Shanghai composite index once again plunged below the psychologically important 1,200-point level in early trading yesterday, hitting an intraday low of 1,194.32 and closing down 0.44 per cent at 1201.65. Some have expected the introduction of the unified index to give a boost to the market. However, it is impractical to expect any new products to exert a long-lasting stimulus on the bourses or change the listed companies' performance overnight, experts said, as they need more market-driven reforms to change their fundamentals. On March 14, Premier Wen Jiabao said at a press conference that the government would take measures to improve the quality of listed firms, enhance market transparency, crack down on irregularities and speculations, and protect the interests of public investors. While Wen's remark showed the government's determination to reform the capital market, investors are still expecting more concrete reform plans, like a fair and transparent programme to reduce and circulate State holdings in listed firms with appropriate compensation to the public shareholders, said an analyst from Guotai & Jun'an Securities.


From China Daily 03/24/2005

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JAPAN: Money Supply Growth Slowest in 4 Years

Japan's monetary base last month grew at the slowest pace since the Bank of Japan introduced its ultra-loose monetary policy four years ago, raising the prospect that the central bank may be edging towards tighter policy. The monetary base, the sum of bank reserves and cash in circulation, rose 1.2 per cent year-on-year in February, down from a rate of over 10 per cent less than a year ago. (by David Pilling)


From http://news.ft.com/ 03/02/2005

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Koizumi Says No Consumption Tax Hike Before Sept 2006

TOKYO ¡ª Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday reiterated his government's policy of keeping the consumption tax rate at the current 5% and making no decision on a hike while he is in office. "I refrain from making a decision," Koizumi told the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Affairs. The premier's term of office expires in September 2006.


From Kyodo News 03/03/2005

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Japan's Parliament Enacts 82 Tril. Yen FY 2005 Budget

TOKYO ¡ª Japan's parliament enacted an 82.18 trillion yen budget for fiscal 2005 on Wednesday with the backing of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's ruling coalition. The budget for the year beginning April 1 was approved by the House of Councillors, following its passage through the House of Representatives on March 2.


From Kyodo News 03/24/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: Korean Banks Stand at Crossroads

The fast-changing international financial environment has had profound impact on Korea¡¯s banking sector. The changes are underway not only at the micro level, causing changes in bank systems and organizational structures, but also at the macro level, leading to bank mergers and similar large-scale changes. Of all these changes, the one that has drawn the most attention is the advance into the domestic banking sector of overseas capital as well as international financial institutions. Led by Citigroup, overseas financial firms, such as Standard Chartered Bank and Fidelity, have started full-scale operations in Korea and are well prepared to become competitors of domestic banks. There is no doubt that it will be difficult for domestic banks to compete against these foreign banks either quantitatively or qualitatively. However, since the Asian currency crisis in 1997, domestic banks have had to fight for their existence, with some exiting the market and others merging to survive and grow larger to increase their competitiveness and market-leading ability. Through their advance into mutual business fields, domestic banks have promoted combining financial products and services, going through repeated stages of change and development, which, while insufficient, will give domestic banks the footing to have the ability to compete with international financial institutions. In the construction of this foundation for competitiveness, we can summarize the following three points in regard to changes affecting the domestic banking industry. First is the formation of financial groups and consolidation. To compete effectively with global players and offer economically efficient services, economy of scale must be attained, which can be achieved through acquisition of other types of financial service providers, leading to growth in size and an accompanying increase in revenue. This diversification can also lead to gains in quality. Thus, we can expect that the trend toward consolidation and grouping will continue. Second, the trend toward one-stop provision of financial services. The diversification of financial institutions into different business areas together with the development of information technology (IT) functions and the desire for a diverse customer base are all reflected in the introduction of high-quality comprehensive financial products. Through the rise of the ``in-house¡¯¡¯ concept and expansion of open architecture, which allows even the sale of competitors¡¯ products, the expansion of the one-stop financial service trend will continue. It is expected that there will be increased activity, especially in the areas of corporate finance, investment banking, and asset management _ specialties for which there will be much demand. And finally, the establishment of systems and organization to train core personnel and build professional staff. In the past, the human resources systems of banks emphasized the development of generalists. Today, however, in a time of heated competition with international financial institutions, we must cultivate human resource systems that foster professionals with professional abilities rather than generalists. One of the things that must be accomplished for that purpose is the establishment of merit-based compensation programs. All of the above is crucial if the Korean banking industry is to reach the next level of its development. The development of IT and the expansion into new areas of business and increased global competition have caused the domestic banking industry to use the phrase ``financial competition¡¯¡¯ to express the extent to which competition continues to grow fiercer. To foster fair competition in this environment, we must make a cooperative effort to focus on the development of rules and prepare systematic measures for the protection of consumers¡¯ rights, through which banks can transform into market leaders. Meeting the challenge posed by advanced nations¡¯ financial institutions is something that is definitely intimidating to the Korean banking industry. However, to compete evenly with them, our banking industry is stepping up its growth and development. Through fair competition with global financial firms, Korean banks must grab the opportunity to further the development of the banking industry. (by Moon Dong-sung)


From The Korea Times 03/24/2005

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INDONESIA: BI Mulls Over Formation of Cooperative Bank

As the country's numerous bank managers debate mergers and acquisitions, the central bank is mulling over another alternative -- the development of cooperative banks. Bank Indonesia's (BI) deputy governor Maman Sumantri was quoted by Antara news agency over the weekend saying the central bank was weighing up the advantages of the new option to speed up the sector's consolidation. A cooperative bank would work as a holding company for member banks, which were free to conduct their own operations, he said. The capital of a cooperative bank would be sound while the stumbling blocks of mergers, such as the difficulty of merging the working cultures of different banks, could be avoided. "Cooperative banks have been established in several European countries, such as Rabobank in the Netherlands and another bank in Finland," Maman said. BI has recently softened its policy on banks' legal lending limits (LLL) to boost consolidation in the banking sector. The new policy stipulates that money injected from one bank to another will not be calculated in its LLL, as long as the financial reports of the corresponding banks were consolidated. Previously, the LLL was set at 20 percent of the acquiring bank's capital. Since then, the media has been buzzing with news of possible mergers and acquisitions from the larger banks as well as small ones. No official corporate actions, however, have come out of it. Separately, Lippo Bank president Joseph Luhukay said cooperative banks might be a good alternative for the banking sector, considering the number of banks operating across the archipelago. There are over 130 regular banks and more than 2,000 credit institutions serving some 220 million people living in Indonesia. BI at present is also considering which banks it anoints as anchor banks to acquire smaller banks. "Acquisitions will need a huge amount of funds, and we (the banking sector) don't have that," he said recently. Such cooperative bank would save funds, as banks operate separately and would not need to have their systems made compatible with one another, for example. The establishment of a cooperative bank will face longer bureaucracy as there will be more institutions involved, namely the central bank, the Ministry of Finance, the Capital Market Supervisory Agency -- particularly if publicly listed banks are involved -- and the Office of the State Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises. The central bank, under the Indonesian Banking Landscape launched last year, is aiming to have the banks operating in the country divided into four groups based on its assets in 2010. The first and second larger groups comprise of two to three international banks with capital of at least Rp 50 trillion (US$5.39 billion) each and three to five national ones with a capital of between Rp 10 trillion and Rp 50 trillion, respectively. Between 30 and 50 banks with a capital of Rp 100 billion to Rp 10 trillion will be in the third group. The last group with a capital of below Rp 100 billion will be categorized as community banks or rural banks.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/07/2005

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Insurance Agents Oppose Bank Negara's Move

Long-term policyholders are likely to be burdened under Bank Negara’s new move, which allows those surrendering their policies after a year to get back part of their premiums. National Association of Malaysian Life Insurance and Financial Advisors (Namlifa) deputy president S.K. Samy said this was due to the likelihood that insurance companies would increase their premium rates following the new ruling. MCIS Zurich Insurance Bhd chief executive officer Datuk L. Meyyappan had reportedly said that insurance companies could increase premiums by 5% to 10% when the new benefit was adjusted into their new policies. Under Bank Negara's move, effective next month, policyholders who terminate their policies after a year can still get part of their premiums back, as opposed to three years previously. Industry records show that between 30% and 35% of life insurance policies in Malaysia are surrendered during the first three years of coverage. Samy said yesterday that the association was not pleased with the move since it would also pose difficulties for the agents. It will be more difficult to sell new policies if the premiums are higher and the returns less attractive, he said when contacted. He expressed the fear that insurance companies would also resort to reducing terminal and maturity bonuses to policyholders with the excuse that they would suffer losses under the move. He argued, however, that there was no need to increase premiums due to this exercise as insurance companies could still absorb the costs. Samy said in 1996 when Bank Negara introduced operating cost control guidelines which saw agent commissions being slashed, it was the insurance companies that gained and not policyholders. In Penang, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris called for Bank Negara to concentrate on reducing the high surrender rate of life insurance policies saying that this was more important than whether a cash value was paid in the first or third year, reports EMMELINE TAN.


Adapted From http://thestar.com.my 03/13/2005

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Govt Upbeat About Bond Issue Amid Improved Rating

With investors' early response promising, the government is confident that it will do well in its plans to offer at least US$1 billion of its securities on global bond markets later this month. "The spread of our bond yield is decreasing, while our credit rating has improved," State Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto said on Tuesday, after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to report the results of his roadshow to Hong Kong for the sales. Only recently, the government held roadshows for potential investors in Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as other roadshows to other world financial centers in the U.S. and Europe. The finance ministry's director general of state treasury, Mulia Nasution, said that investors' response during the recent roadshows had been promising, amid Indonesia's improving credit rating. Sugiharto explained that Indonesia's global bond yield used to be 277 basis points -- or 2.77 percent -- above the benchmark yields of U.S. treasury bills. "I think it would be comfortable enough if we can achieve a yield for our bonds of between 180-190 basis points above the U.S. treasury bills issued in February," Sugiharto said. Market analysts have said that Indonesia's global bonds would be regarded as less attractive if its yield difference with U.S treasury bills -- or spread -- was above 2 percent. Sugiharto admitted, however, that many investors were still waiting for the latest news on U.S. auto giant General Motors Corp.'s bonds, which recently fell to junk status and sent the global bond market into a volatile mood. Several bond issues have been disturbed due to the situation, making deals hard to price and more expensive for borrowers. "So what is important now is the timing, sizing and pricing of the bonds," Sugiharto said. After considering postponing the bond offering due to the situation, Minister of Finance Yusuf Anwar confirmed on Monday that it would go ahead as scheduled. The government plans to offer bonds amounting to Rp 43 trillion (about $4.6 billion) throughout the year, including the dollar-dominated bonds -- the proceeds of which would be used to help plug the state budget deficit. Last year, the government managed to sell $1.5 billion dollar-denominated bonds, at a yield of 6.75 percent.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 03/23/2005

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MALAYSIA: Insurance Policy Holders to Get Some Refund on Policies Surrendered After a Year

Insurance policyholders who surrender their policies after a year will get back part of their premiums under a major move by Bank Negara Malaysia that will take effect next month. Currently, policyholders who terminate their policies within three years get nothing. According to industry records, between 30% and 35% of life insurance policies in Malaysia are surrendered during the first three years of coverage, compared with less than 15% in developed countries. Bank Negara said that the change was part of efforts to enhance consumer benefits. In response to enquiries by The Star, it said it had issued a circular to insurers to use the ¡°asset share methodology¡± to determine the surrender values and bonus levels. ¡°The asset share methodology is an actuarial technique that is internationally accepted. ¡°It represents a fair share of the accumulated premiums which should be returned to policyholders after allowing for deductions for expenses and acquisition costs incurred by insurers. ¡°The requirement (guideline) will only apply to new products sold after April 1,¡± it said, adding that premium rates will continue to be determined based on the design of insurance products. To comply with the new guideline, insurers have begun reviewing their policies and products, with some planning to withdraw traditional policies like pension and savings schemes. Insurance companies support the central bank's move in principle, but some are seeking extensions to introduce new products based on the new guideline. MCIS Zurich Insurance Bhd chief executive officer Datuk L. Meyyappan said the move would benefit consumers. However, he said as companies adjusted the new benefit into their new policies, premiums could increase by 5% to 10%. Some insurance firms have sent out circulars to agents informing them of the increase and review, while others have verbally notified their agents. An industry source said one possible reason for this new pricing methodology was the concern that some firms might not pay the promised returns to consumers. ¡°Bank Negara, as a watchdog, is being stricter with those firms, so that the consumers stand to benefit,¡± he said.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 03/12/2005

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PHILIPPINES: Budget Leans Heavily Toward Debt Payment

Economists on Thursday expressed dismay at the newly approved P907.6-billion national budget passed by the Senate, saying it will not have a dramatic impact on the country¡¯s economic growth. ¡°This is the kind of budget that will just keep our noses just above water. This will just make us stay afloat and it won¡¯t support our economic growth,¡± said Dr. Ernesto Pernia, professor of economics at the University of the Philippines and formerly the lead economist of the Asian Development Bank. The Senate on Tuesday approved the House version of the budget of P907.6 billion without any amendments, skipping the bicameral conference committee. Pernia pointed out that budget priority remains focused on debt servicing. Sixty percent of the P907.6 billion, or P544.56 billion, will automatically go to debt servicing and the internal revenue allotment. Include the allocations for the payroll and the retirement, and the amount would total to 90 percent. ¡°We have a lot of debt service obligation. The deficit is still a big problem and burden,¡± he added. Bienvenido Oplas, an economist at Think Tank, a private consulting office, agreed with Pernia. ¡°Whether we like it or not, almost half of the budget will go to debt servicing,¡± he said. ¡°In fact, this year we have to borrow again because of our large deficit. Kulang ang revenues natin because we have too many GOCCs [government-owned and -controlled corporations] and most of these are rather losing. For instance, the National Food Authority has an P11-billion debt and this does not include the direct losses,¡± Oplas said. In 2003 the government¡¯s debt stood at P3.36 trillion, or 78 percent of the gross domestic product. The consolidated public-sector debt, meanwhile, hit P5.9 trillion in the same year. Pernia said it was lamentable that until now the people are paying for the past inefficiencies of public policies. ¡°That¡¯s the reason we are forced to borrow because we have to pay huge debts the country incurred over time,¡± he said. Pernia also rued the small allocations for social services in the approved budget. The Department of Health will get an allocation of P10.3 billion. Although the Department of Education gets the biggest share of P112 billion, this was still not enough, he said. ¡°That¡¯s a problem when social services are usually sacrificed. The allocations for social services should be the highest,¡± Pernia said. He, however, welcomed the cut in the pork barrel of the senators and congressmen. Under the approved budget, each senator will receive a pork of P120 million, P80 million less than what they were getting before. Each congressman¡¯s pork was also reduced to P40 million from P70 million. ¡°We were hoping that they would further reduce the pork barrel of the lawmakers,¡± Pernia said. Sen. Edgardo Angara thinks the approved budget won¡¯t help at all in reviving the economy or reducing the number of the poor, because the discretionary amount left after the mandatory payments of interest payables is already small and insignificant. ¡°Our budget is debt-oriented rather than growth-oriented. There is no chance for us to expand the economy and be able to pay that debt in this situation. It will just perpetuate a debt-ridden economy. Definitely this budget will not improve lives,¡± Angara said. He also noted that the allocations for social services are small and progressively getting smaller. He said the proportion of social services to the entire national budget was down from 30.36 percent in 2001 to 28.02 percent in 2005. ¡°When comparing expenditure shares of education and health alone, the Philippines trails behind some of its neighbors with only 2.5 percent and 0.3 percent of the national income. Thailand and Malaysia are doing better, allotting 5 percent and 7.9 percent for education and 2.1 percent and 2 percent for health,¡± Angara said. Although he¡¯s not exactly happy with the budget, Angara voted for its approval because he doesn¡¯t want the alternative of having no budget at all. ¡°An alternative of no budget isn¡¯t good for the economy,¡± he said. Given a choice, he would have gone for the Senate version because at least it tried to rationalize some of the spending, like the confidential and intelligence funds, which he said could have gone to other uses like social services.


From http://www.manilatimes.net 03/04/2005

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More Bank Mergers, Consolidation Seen This Year

The local banking industry may see more mergers and consolidation this year because of the need for banks to comply with new international supervision and accounting rules. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Bankers Association of the Philippines said the country's compliance with the Basel II framework and the International Accounting Standards may spur mergers and acquisitions this year. The deal amounted to roughly P1 billion, banking sources have said. Bangko Sentral has come out with initial guidelines for the compliance of the Basel II framework, adopted by banks all over the world in Basel, Switzerland. Basel II ties a bank's capital adequacy framework to the riskiness of the loans it makes. Bangko Sentral would soon issue the guidelines which banks are expected to implement by 2007. The IAS, meanwhile, is a set of new accounting standards that private corporations including banks would soon be required to adopt. These two major reforms would require banks to reexamine their balance sheets, dispose of their soured loans and increase or expand their capital. Mr. Coronel said it would be a difficult decision for individual banks to merge and consolidate but in the end, it may be a necessary decision to make. Bangko Sentral Governor Rafael B. Buenaventura, for his part, expects to see more consolidation among banks that are not niche players. Bangko Sentral has been encouraging banks to merge or consolidate in a bid to have few but stronger financial institutions in the country rather than having many banks but vulnerable to weakness. State-run Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) also supports the consolidation in the banking industry. In an interview with BusinessWorld, PDIC President and Chief Executive Ricardo M. Tan said mergers and consolidations are ways to achieve stronger, more capable and more viable banks. Meanwhile, further consolidation in the banking sector would not severely undermine market competition, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies said.


Adapted From http://bworld.com.ph 03/08/2005

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SINGAPORE: Central SME Credit Database to Be Launched on March 21

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may not be getting a dedicated agency to attend to their needs - with cabinet members saying during the ongoing Budget debate that this is not necessary. But SPRING Singapore - tasked with overseeing small businesses - is launching a central database of SMEs' credit information. It hopes to create greater credit transparency for credit lenders, thereby easing access to financing for SMEs. The central national database containing relevant and objective credit-related data will be launched on March 21 at the SME Credit Bureau Conference. The conference is being jointly organised by Infocredit, the Association of SMEs, SPRING Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/09/2005

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SINGAPORE: MAS Makes Further Moves to Develop Islamic Banking Sector

The Monetary Authority of Singapore is pulling out the stops to build up a vibrant Islamic finance sector in Singapore. It has organised a private-sector advisory group to help deepen its knowledge of Islamic financing, and understand market trends. The Authority has also applied for Singapore to become a full member of the Islamic Financial Services Board, a global standards body, so that it can be better involved. Singapore wants to create a strong Islamic financial services sector. Senior Minister and MAS Chairman Goh Chok Tong has said that Singapore's role as an international financial centre is incomplete if it can't offer Islamic finance as part of its repertoire of services. Tax laws were changed in the last Budget to make it more conducive for Islamic finance to operate. The central bank has also reviewed its regulatory framework to ensure that current rules don't impede the introduction of Islamic finance. Now, MAS is looking towards strategy-building and market development. Said Ong Chong Tee, MAS deputy managing director, "Increasingly it's being recognised that Islamic finance will become a more integral component of the international financial system. Singapore intends to play a value-added role in such a development. "As a major international financial centre we are well placed to contribute to capacity building and understanding of Islamic financial products, leveraging on the expertise and the talent base in conventional products. Singapore's open markets, efficient infrastructure and transparent regulations will remain attractive to both conventional and Islamic financial services players." MAS see several areas where Islamic finance could take off in Singapore. The republic has an established asset management industry with a good concentration of expertise and investable funds, and these can help develop Islamic financial products. And Singapore's leading real estate investment trust market can also complement Islamic finance well. Said Mr Ong, "I am personally not aware of an Islamic REIT listed on any exchange yet. But if preliminary feedback given to me is any guide I think it's well possible for one to be set up and perhaps added to the growing list of REITs listed on our exchange." The MAS sees possibilities for Islamic financial products in the hedge funds and insurance sectors. It is also considering issuing sovereign Islamic bonds, or "sukuk."


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/16/2005

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VIETNAM: World Bank Foots Bill to Modernise Banks

The World Bank¡¯s board of directors yesterday approved a US$105 million credit for a project to help modernise Viet Nam¡¯s banks. The credit is the second phase of a World Bank project to develop the country¡¯s inter-bank payment systems and to add new functions to meet the increasing demands of consumers for new products and services, according to a World Bank press release. The World Bank¡¯s first $49 million bank modernisation project was completed successfully in December 2003. As a result of the support and financing from this project, the inter-bank payment system at the State Bank of Viet Nam was put into operation in May 2002, and the time needed to withdraw money from banks was reduced. The project has also contributed to the development of modern products and services such as ATM services, same day payment services, credit management, and fund transfers. New banking systems have also enabled the participating banks to adopt International Accounting Standards-based accounting and financial reporting practices.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/12/2005

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Banks Want State to Encourage Cards

Bankers are pushing Vietnamese consumers to put away their cash and pull out an electronic card to pay for purchases, by urging the Government to introduce policies that may include fees for the use of cash in a transaction. At a seminar on the role electronic payments play in modernising economies, bankers said that in recent years there has been an increase in card use, but Viet Nam still faces many challenges in reaching its electronic purchasing potential. Since the first payment card was used in Viet Nam in 1995, there has only been a lukewarm interest from consumers in using electronic cards. Though local banks have reported a surge of interest in the past three years following the issuing of 760,000 cards. Meanwhile, international cards have experienced a growth rate of 49 per cent during the past decade, reaching 125,000 at the end of last year. To increase the use of electronic cards in Viet Nam, Widening the networks of card acceptance points and automated teller machines (ATMs) was also cited by Ha as another measure to develop the card market. So far, there are about 10,000 card acceptance points and 773 ATMs across the country. To raise public awareness of the benefits of using a payment card, Ha said the government should consider making payrolls and its other spendings via bank accounts. And in a development to raise awareness among all relevant stakeholders, Visa International used the seminar as a forum to launch its white paper entitled Payment Solutions for Modernising Economies. The paper, produced by Visa International and the Commonwealth Business Council, highlights key ways in which the move from cash to electronic payment can generate returns to governments. It also provides examples of how governments can reduce costs and stimulate economic growth and strengthen local banking systems via payment card development.


Adapted From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/16/2005

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BANGLADESH: Bangladesh One of Top 10 Markets for StanChart

Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Osman Morad finds a huge scope for development of banking business in Bangladesh. "Bangladesh offers enormous opportunity for banking both in wholesale and retail levels," Osman told The Daily Star in a recent interview. "At the wholesale level, development of the debt capital market offers ample opportunities. Project finance and bond market could be explored as banks in Bangladesh have limits to how much they can lend to a borrower due to their narrow capital base. So, this leaves the room for exploring new avenues for financing." Osman, who has a vast experience of working in the Middle East, also felt that financing of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has not been addressed in a disciplined business way, adding that Standard Chartered has been financing the SMEs reaping turnover up to $3 million. "We engage in programme lending for the SMEs," he said. "We look at other programmes taken elsewhere in world and shape it here. We are also going to trade-finance the SMEs." Osman also sees growth areas in credit card and consumer banking and wants to improve cash management products so that customers can generate transfers of funds from offices. However, Osman feels that foreign banks should be allowed to set up more branches to facilitate better service to customers. Talking about the efforts of Standard Chartered to improve service quality, the CEO said a project called Outserve is being implemented here, which analyses a particular complete management process on the basis of customer complaints to find out what actions could be taken to reduce such complaints. "We have to embed service culture in our staff. That is the biggest challenge of any management team and that is my personal challenge too," said Osman. He also said Bangladesh should be more flexible in allowing expatriates in the banking sector. "We are exporting people to our network from Bangladesh, but we cannot bring in people from outside because of a limit on foreign national working in banks," he elaborated. "If we could import manpower that would have helped develop best practices and Bangladesh banking sector would have benefited." Explaining the strength Standard Chartered enjoys in Bangladesh, Osman said diversified products, scale of investment allowing it to accommodate large loans, excellent human resources and strong social commitments are some of the elements that make the bank an excellent one. With operations for over a hundred years in Bangladesh, the bank has also gained a vast knowledge about the local demands, said Osman. Standard Chartered considers Bangladesh a key country in its banking network. Not only that, Bangladesh figures as one of the top 10 most valuable markets in the world for the bank because of what Osman said is its strong growth over the years. "We have a substantial piece of market share here and the market is growing at 5-6 percent a year without even trying," he said. "It is a very complex market because it is going through a phase of deregulation and we have to innovate new products taking the changes into consideration." Talking about the complexities of the market, he said: "In Bangladesh, companies do not have the kind of financial reports as in the developed countries because not that many companies are listed on the stock market. So, they do not have annual reports or the kind of financial disclosures. This is why bankers have to know their clients very intimately. This is a challenge in Bangladesh."


From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 03/03/2005

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Currency Devaluation Encourages Remittance Flow

As the recent devaluation of local currency encouraged non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) to send money back home, remittance flow grew by around 11 percent during July-February period of the current financial year. The amount sent by Bangla-deshis living abroad jumped to $331.7 million in February this year from $256.3 million in the same month last year, posting a massive 29.43 per cent growth. As a result, remittance amounted to $2426 million in the first eight months of the 2004-05 fiscal, which was $2191.44 million during the same period of last fiscal, according to Bangladesh Bank statistics. "The remitters are now getting much better rate than they did two months back, which is one of the reasons behind this jump in the overall flow," said a banker of Sonali Bank head office. The increased flow has also helped push the foreign exchange reserves up, amounting to $3234.38 million as on Sunday. Central bank Governor Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed on Saturday said present foreign exchange reserve can meet import costs of less than three months. Present reserve situation is not very comfortable, he said. "But we are trying to increase the reserve," the governor told journalists. According to Export Promotion Bureau statistics, exports grew by 10.51 percent amounting to $4785 million during July-January period of the current financial year. On the other hand, imports rose by 26 .65 percent in the first six months of the current fiscal year, according to central bank statistics. Opening of L/Cs in the first half of this fiscal grew by 24.7 percent, which was 15.36 percent during the same period of last financial year. ¡°Remittance flow and export did not grow in the first half of the current financial year and it is creating a pressure on foreign exchange reserve," said a top official of the central bank. The import payment has increased and there is a high demand for dollar, he said, adding that the rising oil price is also forcing Bangladesh to spend more dollars. The foreign exchange market in recent days faced strong US dollar. Different banks sold greenback ranging between Tk63.95 and Tk 64 yesterday. The target for remittance income for the current financial year is $3620 million while the income was $3371.97 million in the 2003-04 financial year. The nationalised commercial banks (NCBs) are opening exchange houses in important foreign cities to encourage NRBs to send money through banks.


From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 03/08/2005

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INDIA: Disappointing 2005 Budget May Threaten Indian Growth Miracle

New Delhi: India's Budget for the financial year starting April 1 doesn't do enough to boost infrastructure, the country's low savings rate and weak foreign direct investment, said Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley. The government has failed to make changes aimed at reducing economic controls and is focusing on manufacturing instead of services, Roach said in a note to investors. ¡°If these trends turn out to be harbingers of more backtracking ahead, all bets could be off on the Indian growth miracle.¡± Finance Minister P. Chidambaram¡¯s Budget on Feb. 28 cut some taxes, increased food and fertilizer subsidies and raised spending on health, textiles and state-owned companies, while announcing a 68 per cent increase in debt sales to fund plans. That had prompted concern about the level of borrowings countering the effect of economic growth.


From http://www.expressindia.com/ 03/09/2005

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Finance Minister Challenged Over Claims That New Tax for Oil Sector Is 'Revenue Neutral'

NEW DELHI: Finance minister P Chidambaram¡¯s claim that fiscal restructuring for the petroleum sector in the Budget is ¡°revenue neutral¡± at the current levels of crude imports and domestic refining activity does not stand scrutiny. This is not only because the assessment did not factor in volatility in global crude prices, but also because the import volume was taken as equivalent to that in 2003-04, despite a major jump in imports this fiscal. The new excise duty mix - which has a much larger specific duty component - on products like petrol and diesel will, therefore, result in a substantially higher duty incidence on oil marketing companies. A senior finance ministry official admitted that the claim of revenue-neutrality was based on imports in 2003-04. ¡°We had to take the immediate past year (import) figures... the assumption of revenue neutrality is on that basis,¡± said the official. There has been a sharp rise in crude imports this fiscal, even as the price remained at very high levels for several weeks. As against 90.4 million tonne (mt) in 2003-04, the country imported 64.9 mt of crude in the first eight months of the current fiscal. Assuming the pace of imports have been constant since November, crude imports this year would be 97.35 mt. If the acceleration in import growth is factored in, the imports would be even higher. Substantially higher crude imports coupled with a flat domestic crude production had shown as enhanced refinery throughput, indicating larger excise incidence on refineries this fiscal. Figures released by the petroleum ministry confirm this. Refinery throughput during April-November this fiscal stood at 84.4 mt against 121.8 mt in the whole of the previous year. Assuming the growth rate to be the same in the last four months of the year, refinery throughput this fiscal would be 126.6 mt. The heavier the weight of specific duties in the tax mix, the actual tax incidence on refineries that produced more would be proportionately larger. The petroleum ministry has already said that it would not go by the North Block¡¯s assessment of revenue neutraility of the fiscal measures in the Budget. It is keen to spare the consumer from the adverse impact of larger tax burden. The ministry, which is working out a long-term pricing policy for petro products, is also likely to take up the issue at the Cabinet level.


From http://www.financialexpress.com/ 03/10/2005

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HSBC to Add Capital to India Operations

MUMBAI, India HSBC Holdings, Europe's biggest bank by market value, said Thursday that it would add $243 million of capital to its Indian operations to bolster its business here. The bank's chief executive for India, Niall S.K. Booker, earlier had said that the bank would add $180 million. Of the total capital, $93 million will come from the retained profit of the Indian unit. The capital adequacy ratio of HSBC's Indian unit will rise to 13.5 percent from 10 percent, the bank said. Capital adequacy is a measure of the financial strength of a bank or securities firm, usually expressed as a ratio of its capital to its assets. In March 2003, HSBC injected $150 million into its Indian unit."The allocated funds will be used to support the growth of HSBC's fast-growing retail banking and commercial banking operations in India," Booker said in the statement.International banks are trying to tap growing demand for mortgages, credit cards and other forms of consumer finance in India. They see the nation as important to their growth in the next five years. India's economy, Asia's fourth-largest, grew 8.2 percent in the year to March 31, the fastest pace in 15 years."India, along with China, Brazil and Mexico," Booker said, "has been identified by the HSBC Group as one of the markets where we see strong growth over the next few years. Our Indian operations have demonstrated strong organic growth and the additional capital is expected to support our Managing for Growth strategy."HSBC, based in London, set up its first branch in India in 1853, in what was then known as Bombay. The bank, with 39 branches in 20 Indian cities, operates a mutual fund, an insurance brokerage unit and a stock-trading unit and is a primary dealer for buying and selling government bonds. It has 800,000 credit card customers and runs 150 automated teller machines.HSBC in June last year bought a 14.6 percent stake in UTI Bank, paying $67.6 million after receiving approval from the Reserve Bank of India.


From http://www.iht.com/ 03/10/2005

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NEPAL: Progress in Tax Reforms Promotes New Economic Vision

THE Taxation Cluster of the National Council for Economic Development has been successful in facilitating the implementation of the tax proposals outlined in the National Budget 2005, aimed at overall tax reforms in the country well on target. These reforms include statutory amendments. The VAT amendment already approved by the Parliament, will make far reaching reforms through the introduction of a four band VAT structure and the removal of the VAT from import of project related capital goods, agricultural seeds and plants, shrimp feed, leasing of three-wheelers, locally manufactured sold in duty-free shops and financial services share sales (natural and corporate persons). Further, supplies provided to services provided by garment buying offices registered with the Textile Quota Board will be zero-rated. Local supplies of exportable products to export companies registered with the Textile Quota Board and for finished goods supplied to the BoI registered trading houses for export by registered manufacturer will also be zero-rated. For the purpose of calculation of VAT, the value of imported goods has been enhanced by 5 per cent and the Port and Airport Development Levy has also been added to the tax base. Amongst other tax reforms, a social responsibility levy of 0.25 per cent of the proceeds of tax revenue other than the withholding tax and the divided tax and a share transaction levy of 0.2 per cent on all buying and selling of shares, will be introduced with the enactment of the Finance Act 2005, which too has been approved by Parliament. With the Revision of Fines Act, which has also been approved by parliament coming into operation, the outdated fines structure contained in key revenue statutes will be revised. This was a long-felt need in the country since most of these fines have not been revised for well over 25 years. A part of consequential revenue would be spent to equip the Police Force with communication and other equipment essential for law enforcement and towards upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure of the judiciary. With effect from February, 2005, dedicated tax courts have been set-up in Gampaha, Kandy, Galle and Anuradhapura which would give priority to the speedy dispensations tax related cases including tax recovery and compliance cases. Till then only the District Court of Colombo had this mandate. This move is expected to reduce laws delays in the area of tax litigation, thus facilitating tax reforms. To create a culture that is taxpayer friendly, an appeals unit has been setup in the Department of Inland Revenue to deal with settlement of appeals made by tax payers against assessments sent by assessors.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/14/2005

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PAKISTAN: Banks Can Achieve Lower TCO with Oracle, System Access

KARACHI: System Access, a leading global financial software provider of customer-centric universal banking solutions and an Oracle Certified Partner, last week has announced the alignment of its entire IT infrastructure on Oracle to reap the significant cost and productivity benefits. System Access expects the tight integration of its banking solution suite - SYMBOLS - with Oracle technology and applications to deliver the significant benefits to the customers. The ease of procurement, implementation and maintenance of a single, integrated SYMBOLS system built on the Oracle technology stack will effectively lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) and increase return-on-investment (ROI) for banks that opt for a complete financial IT infrastructure from System Access. As the banking industry has evolved over the years, so has System Access by enhancing its solutions to meet the dynamic requirements of customers. During their evolution, the solutions have incorporated various technologies from Oracle. System Access, at the forefront of using Oracle Technology, is keenly aware of the benefits of utilising the GRID technology. "To do otherwise would have been a game of increasingly unattractive cost-benefits and inefficiency," said Aravinth Kumarasamy, Senior Vice President, System Access. "We decided that constant, never-ending integration was not the way forward, as complexity would never be reduced. We wanted to build our applications based on an information architecture and technology infrastructure that could stand the test of time and change." System Access reviewed options from several vendors but determined that the Oracle Information Architecture approach offered a powerful combination of effective consolidation and flexibility. This approach would enable System Access to build a data-centric computing environment that would reduce fragmentation, improve efficiencies, lower computing costs, and enable flexible growth. Instead of multiple data stores and a heavy reliance on integration to glue their "suites" together, Oracle's single data schema approach for all applications offers a powerful way of reducing complexity, instead of merely managing it. Other advantages include the ability to allow easy, standards-based integration with existing systems and applications.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/21/2005

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AZERBAIJAN: Mortgage Loans to Be Disbursed for 10-15 Years

The government plans to start allocating mortgage loans within a year. The credits will be disbursed for 10-15 years. The state program on mortgage crediting will be forwarded to the President for approval immediately after the law ¡°On mortgage¡± is passed, the National Bank (NBA) board chairman Elman Rustamov told reporters on Tuesday. Rustamov said that the Bank has carried out some work on establishing the Mortgage Investment Fund. Talks have been intensified with international financial institutions in an effort to accelerate allocation of loans, he added. Azerbaijan will be using Kazakhstan¡¯s experience in the allocation of mortgage loans. A group of the NBA experts will leave for this country on Wednesday. (by AssA-Irada)


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 03/16/2005

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UZBEKISTAN: Pakhta Bank Launches New Service

Pakhta Bank has started offering new type of banking service starting from the beginning of March. The bank¡¯s clients can keep their valuables, rare objects and documents at depository cells. Lola Bazarova, specialist of cash operations department of Pakhta Bank, said that the bank takes fee from 900 soums to 2,300 soums monthly for service, depending on size of cell. The storage term is unlimited and the bank guarantees safety of valuables. The banks will practices non-disclosure of stored valuables.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 03/05/2005

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Uronbank to Increase Charter Capital

Turonbank announced its fifth issue of shares. The volume of the issue constitutes 600,000 common inscribed cash shares. The nominal price of one share is 1,000 soums. Shares will be distributed through preliminary subscription at the nominal price or on purchase and sale agreements starting 30 March 2005. The bank will distribute the shares independently.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 03/17/2005
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AUSTRALIA: Government to Consider Land Tax Relief

The State Government is considering cutting land tax in the May budget, with Treasurer John Brumby saying yesterday he sympathised with businesses hit by big tax increases caused by booming property prices. Pressure on the cabinet to act is growing, with several Labor backbenchers telling The Age yesterday that land tax was heating up as an issue for business and landlords. "Every electorate in this state is probably being affected, some just harder than others," one Labor MP said. As hundreds of landowners rallied in Hawthorn for a "fairer" land tax regime, Mr Brumby said a call from the Property Council of Australia for the Government to hasten the planned cut in the top land tax rate from 5 per cent to 3 per cent would be considered before the budget. Premier Steve Bracks said the Government would review all taxes, including land taxes, in the lead-up to the budget. Mr Brumby defended the Government's record on land tax reform and said only a small number of businesses had been hit by dramatic increases in tax bills. The Treasurer said the Government had inherited a land tax system from the Kennett government with a top rate of 5 per cent, well above the top rate in other states. Last year the Government had announced it would cut the top rate to 3.5 per cent by 2006-07 and to 3 per cent by 2008-09. The threshold at which land tax was applied had also been raised, from $85,000 when the Government took office in 1999 to $175,000 this year. "So we inherited this clapped-out, broken land tax system and we've been trying to fix it up, but you can't do everything at once," Mr Brumby said. "We need to put this in perspective: fewer people are now paying the tax, and no one pays the tax on their principal place of residence." The tax is paid by anyone who owns property worth $175,000 or more that is not their principal place of residence. People who use the land for primary production, for charity, or as a caravan park, are exempt. The issue has become increasingly contentious for the Government, with small business owners, investors and industry groups saying the taxing regime is unfair because it generates revenue for the state while failing to fully take into account rising property values and prevent "bracket creep". Valuations are also based on the optimum use of the site. Hawthorn's Whitehorse Inn closes today after lessee Jim Ryan said he could no longer afford the taxes, which had jumped from $1440 in 1998 to about $38,000 this year. "It's too late for us, but it might not be too late for other people," he told 200 people who rallied for "fairer" land tax at the hotel yesterday. State Opposition Leader Robert Doyle said a Liberal government would lower land tax, but would not say by how much. "Like stamp duty, I think we do have to be prepared to cut land tax (but) how much we can do will depend on the budget as we approach the election," Mr Doyle said.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/09/2005

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Pressure Props Door Open for Tax Reform in May

The Prime Minister has left the door open for extra tax relief in the May budget. Under mounting pressure to deliver reform - some of it from within his own ranks - John Howard yesterday flagged the possibility that the Government could have enough leftover cash to cut taxes, after delivering a "strong surplus" and meeting essential spending requirements for defence, health and roads. "If, after all those things have been provided for, we can provide further tax relief, we will," Mr Howard said. Earlier in the joint party room, Mr Howard warned Coalition MPs not to undermine the Government's strong tax record or the cohesion that had characterised previous terms. Many saw the comments as a reprimand for Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull, who said the Government should crack down on tax avoidance by the rich and use the extra money to deliver cuts for the broader community. Accountants, business groups, economists and some backbenchers are all calling for tax reform - particularly to boost incentives for people to move from welfare into paid work. An inquiry report from a Liberal-dominated parliamentary committee has blamed Australia's comparatively low labour force participation rates on disincentives entrenched in the tax and welfare systems. Economists are particularly worried about high effective marginal tax rates, where Government assistance payments are quickly withdrawn for just a few extra hours of paid work, leading to effective tax rates as high as 80 per cent. Many also argue that the Government should lift the tax-free threshold, currently at $6000. A Treasury submission to the inquiry said correcting the problem was a "balancing act" with no obvious solution. "Improving incentives to work for some individuals almost always comes at the expense of reducing work incentives for others," the submission said. Treasury also believes that tackling the problem would lead to higher levels of benefits, "which can itself act as a disincentive to work". Liberal parliamentary secretary Warren Entsch said yesterday a government that stopped reforming tax was finished. "We've done a very good job in relation to the first round of tax reform and that's been very successful," he said. "We now have to look closely and see what else we can do in that area, rather than sit back and rest on our laurels, but at the same time balance it against additional infrastructure."( by Josh Gordon)


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/15/2005

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Pensions Up, But Extra Cash for Self-funded

Two million pensioners will receive a bonus of up to $50 from the Federal Government and a pension rise of up to $5.60 a fortnight from tomorrow. The bonus payment was promised during last year's election campaign to counter Labor's pledge to index the pension quarterly. The Government called it a "utilities allowance" although there is no requirement it be spent on paying bills. Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson said the allowance would be worth $100 a year to single people receiving the age or veterans pension and $50 a year each to pensioner couples. It will be paid in March and September to coincide with the half-year pension indexation rise. The maximum single rate of pension will rise by $5.60 to $476.30 a fortnight and for pensioner couples by $4.70 to $397.70 each a fortnight. Senator Patterson said the payment, which coincides with Seniors Week, showed the Government valued the contribution older Australians made to the community. "Some older Australians can experience difficulties in saving to pay regular household bills such as gas and electricity and the utilities allowance will provide assistance," she said. But Opposition social security spokesman Chris Evans said self-funded retirees were being given a better deal than pensioners by the Government. Self-funded retirees received $200 a year and their payment was made last November but aged pensioners had to wait until this week, he said. He also said both partners forming a couple for the purposes of self-funded retirement were able to get the full amount if they had individual Commonwealth Seniors Health Cards but pensioner couples were forced to share the utilities allowance. "An aged pensioner couple on the maximum couple rate of pension of $795.40 a fortnight receives a utilities allowance of $100 a year while a self-funded retiree couple can earn up to $80,000 a year, qualify for individual Commonwealth Seniors Health Cards and also receive $200 a year each in the form of the seniors' concession allowance," he said. "It would seem to me that the aged pensioner couple struggling on barely $20,000 a year is in far greater need of additional financial assistance. "This is another classic example of poorly targeted, band-aid assistance measures that have become the hallmark of the Howard Government." Senator Patterson said the extra cash was given to self-funded retirees because the states gave concessions to pensioners for health, rates, water, energy, transport and motor registration charges, but had rejected a federal proposal to provide the same deal for self-funded retirees. "Self-funded retirees have taken steps to provide for themselves in retirement. The Howard Government recognises the importance of maintaining the lifestyle they deserve and has implemented these changes to assist them to achieve their goals," she said. Since the Howard Government was elected single pensions had risen by more than $140 a fortnight and partnered pensions were up $117 a fortnight, she said.(by Phillip Hudson)


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/20/2005

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NAB Eyes Low-Doc Loans for Self-employed

National Australia Bank Ltd is moving into the traditional non-banking role of low documentation loans in response to increasing demand from self-employed people. The bank said the move is designed to meet the growing number of requests it receives from self-employed customers looking for competitively priced home and business loans. George Frazis, executive general manager of business and private banking, said the self-employed can now choose from a range of home loan and business loan products once they have met the lending criteria, and not be penalised with higher interest rates or fees. "National is one of the first Australian banks to launch a business low-doc package, a targeted offering for small business," Mr Frazis said. "This is another significant step in our journey to reduce complexity around our finance and helps self-employed business owners and managers get on with running their businesses." Low-docs have traditionally been the domain of smaller operators such as Liberty Financial, Suncorp, Adelaide Bank and St George Bank. NAB said its low-doc home and business loan options require a reduced level of income documentation. The loans can be arranged on the basis of a clear credit history and a statement of income from the borrower, so long as the borrower has more than 40 per cent equity or deposit for the loan, supported by residential property. CommSec banking analyst Vanessa Beenders said the move into low-doc loans appears to be part of NAB's desire to increase its appetite for risk. "These loans tend to be `self-certified' by the customer and the bank has to do cross-checks such as checking the income flow into bank accounts, assets and outstanding debts," Ms Beenders said. "The bank said a while ago it wound back its risk-appetite too much post September 11 and I'm assuming this is part of the bank lifting its risk-appetite." The loans are limited to $1.5 million for homes and to $750,000 for business loans.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/21/2005

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Bracks Digs Deep to Help the Poor

As the surplus rises, Victoria's "pockets of disadvantage" will benefit from a Government move to allocate millions of dollars more to them in the budget. The State Government will substantially increase spending on the poor in the May budget after conceding that 150,000 Victorian children live in families in which no one has a job. Cabinet's expenditure review committee, which is finalising the budget, will allocate millions of dollars to "pockets of disadvantage" around the state. A Government report, to be released today, shows the extent of the problems, including: ? About 17 per cent of children under 15 live in households with no job. ? About 25 per cent of Aboriginal children miss out on kindergarten. ? Poor Victorians are much less likely to complete year 12 than students from better-off families. ? People on low incomes are more likely to smoke, be less active and be overweight. AdvertisementAdvertisement The Government will reveal a five-to-eight-year plan to increase help to the poor in a "social policy statement" to be released by Premier Steve Bracks and Deputy Premier John Thwaites on budget day or earlier. This follows last year's pre-budget "economic statement" that concentrated on assisting business. The half-yearly budget report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, shows the Government is on track to record a higher-than-expected $665 million surplus this financial year. It shows the state's coffers are swelling, largely due to rising taxes, with an expected surplus $120 million higher than Treasurer John Brumby forecast last May. The figures also show the Government expects to reap $926 million in land tax by the end of this financial year. State Opposition treasury spokesman Robert Clark said the figures showed the Government had no excuse for continuing to ignore pleas for land tax relief. He said the surplus was mainly due to massive unbudgeted returns on superannuation funds from the strong stockmarket and from increasing tax and other revenue. "The Government has no excuse not to put together and announce a land tax rescue package before the state budget," he said. "With so many businesses on the brink of collapse, and so many retirees and other property investors on the brink of selling up, the Government cannot afford to sit on its hands and wait until the May budget before taking action." Despite the healthy surplus, Mr Brumby warned that the budget would remain conservative because of pressures such as a slowing economy, rising interest rates and the increasing cost of health care. "You put all of that together and there are budget pressures," he said. "And as I've said before, you won't see big spending in this year's budget. "Having said that, they are a good set of numbers. They show the state is being well managed." The figures show the Government reaped $1514 million from payroll tax in the first half of this financial year - an increase of 11.5 per cent on last year - following strong employment growth. Revenue from stamp duty on home and other property sales was also well above forecasts. Gambling tax revenue increased to $706.8 million, with poker machines accounting for $432 million. Motor vehicle taxes earned $675.6 million, while property taxes amounted to $114 million.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/23/2005

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Costello Remains Firm on State Taxes

Treasurer Peter Costello all but ruled out a compromise in the spat with the states and territories over the abolition of business taxes. Mr Costello maintained that states and territories had agreed in the 1999 GST deal to cut the taxes worth $8.8 billion over five years. He said if the intergovernmental agreement on GST was torn up, it would be the states' fault, not the federal government's. "The federal government won't walk away from the agreement," Mr Costello told reporters in Melbourne. "The federal government wants that agreement to be honoured. "The agreement says the states will eliminate their taxes. "We want that agreement to be observed, and if the states eliminate those taxes the agreement will be observed. "The critical question here is `are the states going to walk out of the agreement?' "Refusal to eliminate taxes which have been slated for elimination by the GST would equate to the states walking out of the agreement." On Wednesday, the federal and state treasurers agreed to a six-week timetable before meeting again to resolve the impasse over taxes. The federal government has called on the states to use an expected $16 billion GST windfall over the next five years to axe $8.8 billion worth of indirect taxes, such as stamp duty on mortgages, from July 2006. Mr Costello on Wednesday put a $330 million last-minute sweetener on the table to help fund the tax cuts. He dug his heels in further on Thursday. He said when the GST was introduced in 1999, it was plainly clear that it would replace a raft of state taxes. "The states have known since 1999 that this was coming in 2005... the only argument is the timing and sequencing," Mr Costello said. "There is no argument that they have to be eliminated. That is the essence of this agreement."


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/24/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: National - We'll Review Kiwibank

National would review Kiwibank's future as a state-owned bank in its first term in office. The party's finance spokesman, John Key, confirmed National's "case-by-case" policy for state assets in a speech to be delivered today in Auckland, saying the days of wholesale asset sales were gone. But he said NZ Post-owned Kiwibank would be kept during National's first term in office so its future could be properly decided on the basis of "full and complete information". "While it wasn't our policy to establish the bank and we have a very healthy degree of scepticism about the role of government in providing banking services, we do acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis who have in good faith established a relationship with Kiwibank. "For an incoming National government to simply unwind this on the basis of ideology would cause unnecessary disruption." National also did not see a good case for the Government owning an extensive portfolio of farms through Landcorp, so it was likely individual farms would gradually be sold. And National would seriously consider introducing a private sector partner to coal producer Solid Energy. But Mr Key said he agreed with National leader Don Brash that selling TVNZ would "not make the boat go faster. The same applies, I suggest, to any question of splitting out TV2". Mr Key said in general National's approach would be "premised on a strong desire to increase the performance of public sector assets". "While we expect that, in aggregate, public sector investment will increase, not shrink, that does not imply no asset will ever be sold, or that we would never dilute the degree of public ownership by introducing private stakes." National is aware of the hangover in public disapproval from the unpopular sale of state assets under the 1984-90 Labour government, and Mr Key's speech is a softly-softly attempt to chart middle ground. "The days of blind ideological or emotional approaches to economic issues are gone," he said. The "competing ideologies" of never selling anything and maintaining public ownership of businesses regardless of performance were representative of attitudes of 20 to 30 years ago. Kiwibank opened in early 2002 as a state-owned cut-price alternative to the big Australian-owned trading banks. It posted its first half-year profit last month - $2.5 million for the six months to December 31. But there is continuing scepticism about how much NZ Post is propping up its books. (by Kevin Taylor)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/04/2005
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Budget to Include Savings Plan

Finance Minister Michael Cullen says his May 19 budget will provide details of initiatives to encourage people to save. "We believe the workplace is the ideal context in which most New Zealanders can arrange long-term savings, and so we will have a set of measures aimed at rebuilding strong work-based superannuation schemes," he said in a speech prepared for a financial services symposium in Sydney today. "This will include mechanisms through which the Government will encourage participation amongst employees and minimise the transaction costs for employers." Dr Cullen said the Government was focusing on a range of measures aimed at changing the savings culture, creating better infrastructure for saving, and ensuring that the retail savings industry delivered good results. "A number of initiatives have already been signalled, and this year's budget in May will provide more detail," he said. He indicated that ways to help people buy first homes would also feature in the budget. "We introduced a mortgage insurance pilot in September 2004 as a first step toward assisting people into homes," he said. "We are looking at further cost-effective ways of assisting home ownership among New Zealanders who would otherwise struggle to get these important first runs on the savings board."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/09/2005

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Migration Tax Clampdown

The Government will legislate to ensure companies that migrate pay all the tax they owe before they go, says Finance Minister Michael Cullen. The change is intended to remove incentives for companies to migrate for tax reasons. Migration in this context meant no longer living in New Zealand for tax purposes, Cullen said. Generally that meant the company was no longer incorporated here, did not have its head office or centre of management here and was not controlled by directors here. "Under present law, companies can leave without necessarily having paid tax on all the income they earned while resident here," Cullen said. "The change will put migrating companies on a par with liquidating companies. When they migrate, companies will be deemed to have been liquidated at that point and to have paid a dividend to shareholders on which they must withhold tax." It will be deemed to have disposed of all assets and liabilities and realised them at market value. The law change will be included in the next tax bill to be introduced into Parliament and will take effect from yesterday. (by Brian Fallow)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/22/2005

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ANZ Forms Strategic Alliance with Vietnam¡¯s Sacombank

ANZ Banking Group Ltd today said it had formed a strategic alliance with Sacombank, a Vietnamese private commercial bank. Under the alliance, ANZ will acquire 10 per cent of Sacombank¡¯s share capital for US$27 million ($38 million). The alliance is a further step in ANZ¡¯s Asian growth strategy and builds on the success of its Asian business and its existing partnership investments in Indonesia and the Philippines. ANZ is the largest foreign bank in terms of capital, customers and employees in Vietnam, with branches in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and a representative office in Can Tho Province. "The alliance with Sacombank creates a unique growth opportunity based on Sacombank¡¯s strong distribution footprint and ANZ¡¯s capabilities in risk management, retail banking and technology," ANZ group managing director Asia Pacific Elmer Funke Kupper said. "With over a decade of experience in Vietnam, we believe this is a good platform to expand our presence in the rapidly growing Vietnamese banking sector. "If changes take place in Vietnamese Law regarding the shareholding limit of foreign shareholders, ANZ¡¯s investment could increase over the longer term." ANZ will provide Sacombank with technical assistance in the areas of risk management and retail and small business banking. Sacombank will work with ANZ to leverage its growing consumer/small business franchise, which includes Vietnam¡¯s largest network of private commercial bank branches -- 92 branches and 18 ATMs. ANZ will have representation on the Sacombank board. "The alliance with ANZ will assist us in accelerating the development of Sacombank into one of Vietnam¡¯s leading retail and small business banks," Sacombank chairman Dang van Thanh said. The alliance is subject to the necessary regulatory approvals from the Vietnamese government. ANZ shares are up eight cents at A$20.96 ($22.75) by 1018 AEDT (1118 NZT).


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 03/24/2005

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Asian Governments Rush to Privatize Water Services - At Their Peril

PENANG - Selling water rights to private institutions and then having people buy them back again is an issue that rears its ugly head at every World Water Day, which fell on Tuesday. Goaded by international financial institutions and corporate interests, regional governments are pressing ahead with plans for more private participation in water services. And yet all across Asia, water privatization schemes are failing to deliver clean and safe drinking water to communities, despite forcing consumers to pay for a basic human right. "If you look for a water privatization arrangement that works ... I cannot think of any," Manila-based Mary Ann Manahan, a researcher with Focus on the Global South, told Inter Press Service in a telephone interview. In contrast, the sterling performance of some major publicly managed water utilities in Asia has demolished the argument that private-sector participation is the only way to improve efficiency. Cities such as Osaka, Phnom Penh and Penang, where water is publicly managed, have outperformed Jakarta and Manila, two cities with massive privatization arrangements in several key sectors. Osaka, for instance, has a non-revenue water level (NRW) of 7%. This is an indicator of the level of unaccounted water and lost income due to leakages and unpaid bills. An NRW of 7% is a sign of outstanding performance. Phnom Penh records an NRW of 26% and Penang a commendable 19%. In comparison, Jakarta has an NRW of 51% and Manila 62%. The British-owned Thames Water Plc and the French operated Suez-Lyonnaise respectively, operate the largest water privatization schemes in Jakarta and Manila. Public Services International (PSI), based in Britain, which analyzes the privatization and restructuring of public services around the world, revealed in a recent study that Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, where water is publicly managed, has a water-leakage level of only 23% compared to a leakage level of 35% for the city of London, which is covered by Thames Water Plc. "There has been an extremely high failure rate for private concessions and long-term BOT [build-operate-transfer contracts] which may get worse if Suez and Thames leave their contracts in Manila and Jakarta," said the study. And yet, privatization schemes are being pushed with vigor by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, coupled with lobby groups such as the Global Water Partnership and the World Water Council. Manahan pointed out that the World Bank has increased its lending on water projects from US$546 million in 2002 to $3 billion in 2005. "But there is no clear indication that this has led to cleaner, more affordable water for people on the margins," she said. In addition, the European Union has come up with initiatives in the World Trade Organization to pry open national water services to the big foreign players. Indeed, since the mid-1990s, developing countries have been coaxed to privatize water services through "public-private partnership" or private-sector participation. But many of these schemes in Asia have had disastrous results, leading to soaring water tariffs, unmet targets, and crippling financial losses and debt. Faced with embarrassing results, several Western multinationals that once thirsted for water-privatization projects in Asia have tried to make a quick exit from loss-making or problem-saddled privatization agreements in Asian countries. Instead, they are now restricting themselves only to sure-fire problem-free projects or "safer" markets such as Japan and South Korea. Critics of water privatization complain that it tends to focus on urban consumers, whereas the vast majority of those who most need water live in rural areas. Worse, privatized water operations are diverting water in rural areas to urban centers, said Kuala Lumpur-based economist Charles Santiago, coordinator of Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization. "They do this in two ways: by actually channeling water meant for rural areas into urban areas and by ground-water mining in rural areas [for use in producing] bottled water, which is largely consumed in urban areas," Santiago told IPS. The experience in cities across Asia and elsewhere is that when multinationals enter the scene, or when private participation is introduced, water-tariff rates invariably soar. For instance, in Manila, the government touted water privatization as the solution to a looming water crisis in the Philippines. "They promised there would be no price hikes in water for five years," Manahan pointed out. "But within three years, they filed for tariff increases." Instead of the promised lower rates, Maynilad Water Services, which holds Manila's west zone concession, raised tariffs by as much as 400% between 1997 and 2003. Manila Water Company, the east zone concessionaire, raised water tariffs by 700% in the same period. When Manila's privatized arrangements failed, the eventual "solution" by the Philippine government was "rehabilitation". But Manahan prefers to call a spade a spade. "It's a bailout," she said starkly. Civil society groups now are making their voices heard. In Manila, they have filed a petition in court to oppose the ongoing "rehabilitation", arguing that it is against public interest and would only burden consumers and taxpayers. In Thailand, thousands of workers protested against the government's privatization policy in early 2004 - though the administration of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has since reiterated its plans to press on with privatization. And in Malaysia, a newly set up Coalition Against Water privatization, made up of 26 civil society groups, is opposing the government's plan to privatize even more publicly owned water utilities in the country. Manahan has her own solution to the dilemma facing many Asian governments. The Focus on the Global South researcher points to the example of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Water services in Porto Alegre were private until 1904, then the city took it over. In the participatory budget process the city people get together in meetings throughout the year and decide where the investments of the Municipal Department of Water and Sanitary Sewage are going to be made. Between 1989 and 1996, the number of households with access to water services rose from 80% to 98%, while the percentage of population served by the municipal sewage system rose from 46% to 85%. "My bias would be to call for a democratization in decision-making on how water should be managed in the community," said Manahan. "Water is such a basic need, it should remain in the hands of the public." (by Anil Netto)


From http://www.atimes.com/ 03/25/2005

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CHINA: Six Trends in Development of Non-Public Economy

The non-public economy has begun expansion in industries like heavy chemical, infrastructure and public utilities. Statistics say the proportion of non-public economy has exceeded 50 percent in 27 industries. In some industry the figure is even higher than 70 percent. A batch of capital and technology-intensive large groups has been formed. The top 500 private enterprises in China possess assets of 1.29 billion yuan and sales revenue of 1.41 billion yuan on average. In organizational forms, the non-public economy has developed towards corporate enterprise with multi-investors. The number of Limited Liability Company has reached 1.74 million in 2002. In terms of industrial layout, the non-public economy was mainly located in towns and counties in the past. The private enterprises were small in size and their operation was dispersed. In recent years, a group of large and specialized industrial blocs have been formed in certain regions. In terms of location, the non-public economy first developed in coastal regions and its proportion was high their. But its growth in middle and west regions is speeding up. In recent year, the growth rate of the non-public economy in middle and west China has outpaced that of the whole country. In most regions the proportion of non-public economy in GDP has exceeded 1/3. The non-public economy basically operates in domestic market before, but it has gradually headed to develop at international market. With the state's control of right to import and export being loosened, a large number of private enterprises have switched to engage in international trade.


From People's Daily 03/01/2005

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Private Economy Demand Pragmatic Support

Promised with strong policy support, entrepreneurs from the non-public or private economy demanded yesterday that the government at all levels adopt pragmatic measures to implement the new policy. "Systematic barriers that impede the further development of the private sector will be broken," said Huang Mengfu, chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, at a forum that marks the issuance of a document to push forward the private economy. The State Council issued a circular on February 24 proposing a series of policies to boost non-State investment into infrastructure, monopolized industries and public utilities. It also called for more efforts to create a sound environment of law, policy and market for the private sector. Easy market access into the previously-forbidden fields as well additional financial and taxation support will be given to the private sector thanks to the circular, Huang said. He noted that the document has made it clear that the federations of industry and commerce at all levels of the country will serve as "an assistant" to the governments. "It will be a historic breakthrough for the Chinese Government to permit the private sector to enter into industries currently monopolized by the public economy," said Wu Jie, an industry and commerce federation leader from Beijing. "It will also be good news for private enterprises, as the circular encourages the financial sector to widen financing channels," said Wu, adding that many local stock markets, risk funds and capital markets had refused to provide financial support to the private sector in the past. Hailing the new document as a great impetus for the private economy, Han Zhenfa, a private entrepreneur from Northeast China's Jilin Province, said the private enterprises should not simply focus their interest onto the preferential policies, but they should also carry out their responsibilities and duties for society as well as for the local people to shake off poverty. Han said he invested more than 600 million yuan (US$72.3 million) in recent years to help more than 100,000 local farmers breed pigs to escape poverty. The private sector has become an important driving force for the Chinese economy, said entrepreneurs attending the forum. Since China's opening-up, the private economy has been growing at a rate several-fold higher than the national economy, they said. The proportion of the non-public economy in the gross domestic product has exceeded 30 per cent, said Huang, chairman of the federation. The private sector has also become a major channel for employment and re-employment. Statistics indicate that private enterprises have created 5-6 million new jobs annually since the 1990s, representing three fourths of all newly created jobs in cities and townships.


From China Daily 03/02/2005

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First Private Airline Starts Maiden Flight

China's first private airline started its maiden flight Friday, a landmark move that broke the government monopoly in the civil aviation sector. The first passenger flight of Okay Airways took off at 9:00am from Binhai International Airport in Tianjin - where it is based - then fly to Changsha in Central China en route for Kunming in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. The aircraft being used is a 189-seat Boeing 737-900 leased from Korea Airlines. Sui Guangming, the new company's executive president, acted as captain on the first flight. The firm planned to begin operating last Saturday but was unable to do so as the necessary paperwork from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) was late arriving, said the company's president Liu Jieyin. A ticket between Tianjin and Kunming on the first flight is 680 yuan (US$82) after a 40 per cent discount, a Tianjin-based travel agency told China Daily. The ticket price for the trip between Tianjin and Changsha is usually 1,180 yuan (US$143), but just 710 yuan (US$86) on the first flight, the agency added. The route is only operated by Okay Airways. The airline, funded by private investors from Beijing and Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province, has a registered capital of 300 million yuan (US$36 million). It is committed to a low-cost strategy to engage in air cargo and express services plus passenger charter and ground distribution services. The CAAC has also given the nod to three other private investors to set up airlines. They are the Shanghai-based Spring International Airlines, the Chengdu-based Eagle Airlines and Huaxia Airlines in Gansu Province. It has been reported that Eagle Airlines will begin operating in June. All three are said to be planning on having low costs to build a budget airline. Okay Airways is taking off two weeks after the State Council released a new policy paper on "encouraging, supporting and guiding the development of the non-State sector." (by Cao Desheng)


From China Daily 03/11/2005

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JAPAN: State Finds 49% Support Postal Reform, 68% 'Interested'

Just over 49 percent of respondents to a government poll support Japan Post's privatization and more than 68 percent of respondents are "interested" in the issue, according to figures released Friday. While the results could be used as ammunition for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's drive to change the state-run postal service, several major media firms' polls show the public does not think the issue should be a priority for the government. When the Asahi Shimbun, Kyodo News and Nihon Keizai Shimbun asked people in separate polls to choose the most pressing issue Koizumi's Cabinet needs to address, postal reform was chosen as either the least pressing or very low on the list. Pension reform was among topics listed high on the list. But Heizo Takenaka, postal privatization minister and a key aide to Koizumi, has insisted that people support postal privatization -- regardless of whether they rate it less important than other issues. In the Feb. 10-20 nationwide poll, the government managed to poll 2,077 of the 3,000 people aged 20 or older it contacted. The poll shows 49.1 percent support postal privatization, while 30.2 percent are opposed. The remaining 20.8 percent have no opinion. Of the respondents, 68.3 percent are "interested" in the postal privatization drive of the government, while 28.9 percent said they are not. The remaining 2.8 percent said they have no opinion. Asked to choose from a list of reasons for supporting privatization, 36.1 percent said they expect an improvement in over-the-counter-services through privatization. The top reason for opposing postal reform, at 35.9 percent, was fear that mail delivery to rural and isolated areas would deteriorate. An Asahi Shimbun poll in September asked 972 people selected at random to choose one of five issues the Cabinet should make a priority. Pension and welfare was on top at 52 percent, followed by the economy and jobless issues at 28 percent. Postal reform came last at 2 percent. But in a recently published book, aide Takenaka criticizes the Asahi Shimbun polls, saying that relative comparisons with limited choices do not indicate whether people are interested in a specific issue. "You need to carefully interpret results of a questionnaire. You have to confirm the way questions are asked, and what answers" people can choose from, Takenaka wrote. Other polls by the media have also shown that people tend to give lower priority to the government's postal reforms when asked to choose from a list of issues. A Kyodo News poll in March showed that 53.9 percent of its 1,015 respondents felt the Diet should take more time to thoroughly examine the issues surrounding privatization and not go directly to enacting privatization bills in this session, which runs through mid-June. (by Reiji Yoshida)


From The Japan Times 03/12/2005

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Gov't, LDP Agree on Possible Delay in Full Postal Privatization

TOKYO ¡ª The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed Saturday that the completion of the nation's postal services privatization can be postponed from the government plan of 2017, if economic and social conditions at that time are deemed to be unsuitable, sources close to the matter said. Both sides also agreed to put off the launch of the privatization process from April 2007 if a necessary computer system is not created in time, paving the way for accelerated government-LDP negotiations so that necessary legislation can be presented to the Diet during its current session.


From Kyodo News 03/21/2005

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3 State-Run Firms to Be Relocated by 2010

Three state-run corporations -- the Korea National Housing Corp., the Korea Land Corp. and the Korea Highway Corp.-- will be relocated to provinces by 2010 and the third development program of Seoul Metropolitan area will be set up by June. In addition, the government will introduce a transportation card, with which citizens will be able to travel across the nation in all transport means available, such as railway, bus and air, in 2007. These are part of the policies for 2005 Construction and Transportation Minister Kang Dong-suk reported to President Roh Moo-hyun at Cheong Wa Dae Monday (March 7). More rental houses will be provided to the middle class residents in central Seoul, legislation will be made on landscape so that each region has its unique landscape and a special graduate school on logistics will be set up to produce logistic experts, Kang said. The ministry has decided to post the area in Yeongi-Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, and other areas to compensate for purchase of the lands, in which an administrative will be built, public organizations will be relocated and corporate towns will be constructed. These are the three major projects for balanced development of the nation. About 180 public organizations will be relocated from Seoul to 12 large cities and provinces, excluding Daejeon. A reformative town will be built in each of 11 large cities and provinces, linking business, universities, research institutions and local government.


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/07/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: Refining Regulation Key to Privatization

The government continues to privatize banks that were nationalized in the process of financial restructuring after the 1997 currency crisis. Privatization is widely viewed as the best way to realize a market-oriented banking sector. Korea¡¯s pursuit of privatization since the financial crisis was expedited by the government¡¯s decision to abolish the 10 percent ceiling on the ownership of listed companies by foreign investors and to allow foreign entities to effectively gain majority ownership of commercial banks. Opening regulations for foreign entry has paved the way for increased foreign participation in bank privatization. The entry of foreign capital is significant for many reasons. It signifies the government¡¯s determination to stay clear of exerting undue influence. Foreign capital can also induce the introduction of advanced banking technology. What is more, foreign ownership can lead to increased transparency in lending and enhance the competitiveness of domestic financial institutions. The inflow of foreign capital can also infuse best practices into banking regulation as well as banking strategy. Few would argue against foreign strategic investors, usually advanced global banking corporations, entering the domestic financial market through mergers and acquisitions. As can be seen from previous experience, however, these strategic investors are prone to abstain from any involvement until the trend toward financial recovery is clearly visible. Thus, immediately following a financial crisis, aggressive investment maneuvers are left in the hands of foreign private funds. These funds focus their efforts on putting distressed banks into good shape, in the pursuit of short-term returns. Korea was no exception to this trend. The Korean government pursued the sale of its distressed banks to foreign investors as a means of demonstrating its seriousness to reform the financial sector. Korea First Bank (KFB) and KorAm Bank were sold to US-based private equity funds, Newbridge Capital and Carlyle Group, respectively. Although there has been criticism that the government sold these banks to ¡®speculative¡¯ funds, I believe this issue needs to be viewed with a full understanding of the circumstances at the time, rather than with the benefit of hindsight. Private equity funds, to some extent, can play a useful role in turning around distressed banks and help the recovery of confidence in the financial system. With the wave of financial restructuring more or less complete, strategic investors have replaced private equity funds. Citigroup, the world¡¯s largest financial conglomerate acquired KorAm Bank from the Carlyle Group last year and similarly, Standard Chartered Bank, a global bank based in the UK, signed a contract to take over Korea First Bank from Newbridge Capital earlier this year. With the foreign entry in bank privatization, the proportion of banks controlled by foreign capital has been significantly increased. As of the end of 2004, the total assets of foreign-controlled banks reached 270 trillion won, accounting for 22 percent of total assets in the domestic banking industry. The previous tally had been 15.5 percent of total assets at the end of 2003. Given that the private funds in question made a certain contribution toward restoring international confidence as well as alleviating the crisis in the financial industry, we are bound to ask: have they contributed to the continued development of the banking sector? Above all, they have undoubtedly exerted competitive pressure on domestic banks. Foreign-controlled banks have maintained smaller profit margins, yet at the same time, increasing their market share. This intensification of competition can be seen in the active pursuit of increased profitability. In fact, total income per person rose from 80 million won in 1997 to 210 million won in 2003. Cost efficiency has also been area that has received much attention. Operating costs as a proportion of total assets, dropped from 2.2 percent in 1997 to 1.5 percent in 2002, thus displaying fierce competition in bringing down costs. In the context of Korea¡¯s banking sector, banks have played a very important role in supporting the sound and long-term development of the economy as a whole. However, some have argued that foreign-controlled banks tend to concentrate on certain areas to seek short-term rewards. This can have the effect of leaving some business areas neglected, thereby bringing up the issue of ¡®cherry-picking¡¯. It has been said that evidence of cherry-picking can be found in the severe contraction in corporate lending as opposed to the great increase in household lending: a trend that was especially more pronounced in banks controlled by foreign capital. The proportion of these banks¡¯ corporate lending fell to 46.7 percent of their total domestic loans in 2003, from 74.3 percent in 1999. The figures for domestic banks were 55.2 percent in 2003, down from 73.5 percent in 1999. In some respects, reduced corporate exposure can be deemed rational since unreasonable over-weighting in corporate loans was one of the main causes of the financial crisis. However, it seems unfortunate that such a distinct cutback on corporate loans occurred at a time when it was most needed to boost corporate activity. In addition, there was wide expectation that bringing in foreign capital would help accelerate the introduction of advanced know-how relating to efficient banking operations. Such expectation was not adequately met. Instead, it seems that these funds concentrated on reducing overhead costs and investment requiring a long-term horizon, such as IT and human capital was way down on the list of priorities. (by Choi Jang-bong)


From The Korea Times 03/24/2005

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Banks to Allocate Rp 60.4t for MSME This Year

The high demand of loans from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) last year -- supported by sound credit performance -- has prompted the banking industry to increase its lending targets for the businesses by 60 percent this year. Bank Indonesia Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah said local banks were planning to lend Rp 60.4 trillion (US$6.46 billion) to MSME this year, up from last year's target of Rp 38.5 trillion. "The increase signals the revival of the small businesses. Banks are confident and optimistic over the huge lending potential, which can help the expansion of the banking sector as well," he said in a press statement distributed on Friday. This year's lending allocation for small business accounts for some 60 percent of the total lending available from local banks, which is estimated to reach Rp 106 trillion. Some 40 percent of the total lending will be from state banks. One of the main reasons for banks wanting to increase their loan portfolios to the sector last year was due to the declining number of non-performing loans (NPL) in the sector in the recent years. According to the central bank, last year's NPL figure among MSME stood at 3.44 percent, down 0.86 percent from the previous year of 4.3 percent. Both figures are lower than the banking industry's average NPL rate of 4.5 percent and 6.7 percent in 2004 and 2003, respectively. Loans are considered non-performing if the interest payments on them are more than three months overdue, and the NPL is commonly used to gauge a bank's financial health. BI requires all banks to maintain a NPL figure of below 5 percent.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/12/2005

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Small Indian Firms Flourish With Govt Support

With most of its 102 participants being small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the ongoing Indian engineering expo -- Indiatech 2005 -- proves that SMEs are big contributors to India's engineering exports. The concept was developed 15 years ago and has boosted India's engineering exports from $893.88 million in 1985 to $10.7 billion in 2003/2004. "People setting up business in the SEZs are even exempted from income tax for 10 years. That's why those fully involved in the export business choose this area," he said. Shah said Indian businesses were looking at similar establishments in Indonesia as potential trading partners as both countries had cultural similarities and were at the same stage of development. His statement was supported by one of the participants, Miki Steel Works Pvt. Ltd. -- a medium-scale carbon steel wire manufacturer based in Bangalore. The company supplies its products to the construction and automotive industries. "We don't only want to export our products to Indonesia, but also want to import wire strand, which is much in demand, from this country," the company's executive director, M. Sarkar, said. Shah added that the SMEs participating in the expo were looking forward to sealing trading partnerships with their Indonesian counterparts. Indonesia's Central Statistics Agency has reported that there are more than 2.5 million SMEs operating in the country's manufacturing sector, with a gross output value of more than Rp 57 billion.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 03/12/2005

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SINGAPORE: Govt to Liberalise Gas Market, Decide on Going LNG Soon

The government plans to liberalise the gas market to boost competition and ensure greater reliability of supplies. This was revealed by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at an industry conference on Thursday. He also said that the Energy System Review Committee has completed its review of Singapore's electricity and gas systems. The Energy System Review Committee was set up last year following the power failure in June. Its main task of the committee was to take a fresh and impartial review of Singapore's electricity and gas systems. And according to Dr Balakrishnan, its findings will be released in about two weeks. He says the government is looking to liberalise the gas market. "Let me therefore state for the record that the Government will liberalise the gas market to allow open access and to support new entrants. This should encourage more sources of gas supply into the gas system, and the resultant competitive pressures should spur players to do better on both price and reliability," said Dr Balakrishnan. While it is difficult to totally eliminate power failures, he says measures are being taken to avoid them. Besides piping in gas, the government is studying the feasibility of having a Liquefied Natural Gas facility over the longer term, and a decision is expected within the year. "If the study is positive and we decide to go ahead with building an LNG terminal then we envisage that it should be ready by 2012 or even earlier if possible," he added. And if the facility gets the green light, the government is not ruling out of making Singapore a regional LNG hub. "I think it will be premature to prejudge that but we are a hub for the region. If you look at our refining capacity we clearly serve more than just Singapore to the extend that an LNG terminal will entrench our ability to be that energy hub for the region. That is certainly something which we will also be interested in exploring," said Dr Balakrishnan. Last year's power failure highlighted the need to explore other sources of energy and to liberalise the gas market.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 03/03/2005

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THAILAND: Private Land Eyed for Farmers

The Agricultural Land Reform Office (Alro) will revert to buying land from private owners for distribution to landless farmers while at the same time grant rights over public land under its supervision to current occupants, a senior land reform official said yesterday. These are among the measures being planned as part of a major overhaul of the agricultural land reform law, which has been in use for 30 years. If approved, it will be the first time public land is freed up from land reform, which is the mandate of Alro, said the official, who asked not to be named. Since setting about its task, Alro has taken over about 42 million rai of public land. The majority of this land was ailing forestry areas, which it took over from the forestry department in 1993 for distribution to landless farmers. About 26 million rai was eventually distributed to around 1.6 million farmers, while over 10 million rai was already occupied by non-farmers. The official said some occupants had been on the land for over 30 years before it had been slated for reform. The rights of these residents should be recognised. ¡°This is about the management of public land and ensuring rights to the land are legitimate,'' he said. In doing so, Alro would buy idle private land and redistribute it to landless farmers, he said.In its early days, Alro purchased nearly 500,000 rai of private land and rented it out to nearly 10,000 farmers. Later it concentrated on public land after taking over the large tracts of land from the forestry department. The official said about 400,000 landless farmers on the government's ``poverty list'' were awaiting settlement on the land. Banphot Srichannit, a researcher of public participation in land management under the Sustainable Agriculture Foundation, agreed that purchasing private land and redistributing it to farmers was a good idea. He cautioned that the plan carried high investment costs that could discourage implementation. Neither could farmers bear the cost of renting land from Alro, and consequently they often lost their plots due to the accumulation of debts, he said. Mr Banphot suggested Alro reconsider its reform plan involving public land, or share the rental cost of private land with farmers. This issue and others relating to revision of the agricultural land reform law will be discussed at a seminar on 30 years of land reform on Wednesday to commemorate Alro's 30th anniversary.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 03/07/2005

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VIETNAM: Banks Change Lane, SMEs Grow

Creditors are taking on more small ¨C and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), although they still leave many in the cold. In 2004 the number of local loans to SMEs increased significantly. Many banks granted SMEs loans as big as those to major State-run enterprises. Nguyen Trong Thanh, Sai Gon branch director of the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV), said his bank has given many loans to help SMEs relocate at the city¡¯s request, and many others towards development. "We¡¯ve opened a new company to give loans to SMEs for improvement of equipment and production," he added. Tran Quoc Tuan, Sai Gon Joint Stock Bank (SCB) director, said: "SME loans have proved to be some of SCB¡¯s most effective investments recently. These loans make the bank¡¯s portfolio well-rounded and give it greater potential." "Banks will make high returns if they carefully invest in SMEs, " he said. Many local banks have drawn up SME lending strategies. These plans allow SMEs some preferential treatment concerning interest rates and loan application procedures. Some banks are allowing SMEs to use assets created from loans as collateral or to mortgage future assets. These open lending policies mark a change in banks¡¯ lending priorities and strategies. Formerly, local banks and credit organisations were often hesitant to lend SMEs due to the risks involved. SMEs were, in fact, often unprofessional and badly organized. Recently, however, local SMEs have tried to improve their quality and earn banks¡¯ trust. Many SMEs are operating effectively: they have mapped out long-term development strategies and improved in management, production and trade. Thus they are attracting more investment capital. According to experts from the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV), banks give SMEs less capital than they request. SMEs who are denied must rely on unofficial sources of capital. They said banks in the city have missed an opportunity. There are 49,000 SMEs with a total capital of VND67 trillion ($418 million) but they¡¯re thirsty for more. The experts added that the central bank has urged local banks to invest more into SMEs. The central bank will issue new lending policies that favour SMEs. Additionally, the city¡¯s commercial bank system has pledged to offer SMEs more guaranteed loans. If support from creditors continues, SMEs may develop and become a major component of the economy.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 03/12/2005

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BANGLADESH: Performance of Private Universities Under Scrutiny

Educationists at a meeting in the city yesterday deplored that majority of the private universities had failed to uphold the dignity and image of full-fledged universities. As they viewed, the private universities could play a significant role in spreading knowledge for social enlightenment if quality education was ensured there. They underscored the need for improving the prevailing condition of the private universities, which has been an impediment to ensuring quality of the education. Addressing as chief guest, University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Prof. Dr Asaduzzaman told the meeting that UGC formed a probe committee on the basis of specific allegations against some universities. The initiative was taken in order to ensure the right type of education without any biased attitude, he added. Asaduzzaman said that the probe committee had investigated budgets, the number of teachers and procedures of admission test at these universities, among others, and recommended to the Ministry of Education that it take action against the institutions which had violated the criteria of the UGC. President of Council of Vice Chancellors of Private Universities (CVPR) Prof. Emajuddin Ahmed said that CVPR was formed with a view to resolving administrative problems through dialogue among Vice Chancellors. He lamented 41 out of total 53 private universities were established in the Dhaka city. He urged UGC to take measures to establish universities in the remote areas to open up windows of opportunities for the promising students residing across the country. Vice Chancellors, registrars and intellectuals, among others, spoke at the seminar on the "Probe Report on Private Universities and Open Discussion" organised by Education and Youth Development Institution.


From http://independent-bangladesh.com/ 03/22/2005

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Govt Plans Regulatory Body for Private Sector Auditing

The government is planning to constitute a regulatory body for private sector auditing to curb massive financial corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in non-government accounts. Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman disclosed this yesterday with an observation that the so-called self-regulated system of the private entrepreneurs has proved ineffective to control corruption. "So, the professions dealing with public affairs but pretending to be self-controlled also should be brought under the watchdog body," he said. "Some professionals say they are accountable to their own conscience and not to anybody else," Saifur said and wondered "as others in the country lack conscience?" The Minister was addressing the foundation laying ceremony of Audit Bhaban in the city¡¯s Kakrail area. Finance Secretary Zakir Ahmed Khan and Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Asif Ali also spoke on the occasion. Without elaborating the possible form, structure or authority of the proposed audit body, the minister simply said, constituting such audit body was crucial to check malpractice in preparing financial statements. Scandals involving giants like Enron had made the US and European countries also rethink their regulatory system and they are also considering constitution of separate regulatory bodies for private sector accounts. At present there is no government audit body to look into the private sector accounts in Bangladesh as the Comptroller and Auditor General¡¯s (CAG¡¯s) office is responsible for auditing the accounts of public expenditure only. The Finance Minister said the government is relentlessly trying to ensure accountability and transparency in financial activities of the government. He mentioned the separation of audit and accounting system, setting up of separate accounts department in all government offices in this regard. Saifur called upon the auditors to adopt easy and dynamic process to ensure best use of public money and urged them to know the reasons behind public spending instead of taking into account the small matters. He underscored the need for compliance and performance-based auditing. The minister also called upon the auditors to ensure proper utilisation of foreign loans as the next generation would have to take the responsibility to repay the credits. He expected that the CAG office would ensure proper utilisation of tax payers¡¯ money by providing quality audit reports to parliament. The 8-storied apex office building of CAG would be built at a cost of Tk 8.37 crore in two phases. In the first phase, five floors are expected to be completed by June, 2006. All modern facilities, including IT lab, multimedia centre and electronic library, auditorium, meeting and conference rooms, library, archive, cafeteria, prayer hall and underground car parking lot will be there in the building. CAG Asif Ali hoped that the proposed "Audit Bhaban" would be a symbol of sustained improvement in audit quality.


From http://independent-bangladesh.com/ 03/23/2005

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INDIA: 2005 Budget¡¯s Tax Reform Seen to Benefit Private Sector, Households

Budget 2005 has received the thumbs up from most sections, and rightly so. While satisfying the demands of the NCMP with serious sums of money, Finance Minister P Chidambaram has managed to present a reformist budget. The budget shows the long-term thinking about taxes that was needed. Chidambaram has delivered on the tax reforms budget that he had promised. Personal tax rate slabs have been made compatible to the 1997 dream budget tax rates in terms of real income. Now the maximum tax rate kicks in at an income of Rs 2.5 lakh per annum. This is far more sensible than having the highest tax rate kick in at Rs 1.5 lakh, as was the case till now. This gives relief to people who were brought into the tax net even though their real incomes did not merit it. By lowering the tax rate, compliance is expected to increase. It may happen that there is a loss of revenue in the first year. However, tax collections can be expected to rise in the years to come. Higher tax rates encourage tax evasion. Better tax administration will help in reducing the loss to revenue. The finance minister has brought savings into the framework of the Exempt-Exempt-Tax system (exempt at the point of saving, exempt during accumulation and taxed at the time of withdrawal). Chidambaram has decided to set up an expert committee which will consider changes in the treatment of savings. This is long overdue and welcome. As far as corporate tax goes, the finance minister has accepted the recommendations of the Kelkar Task Force. The corporate tax rate has been equated to the individual tax rate of 30 per cent. The reduction in the corporate tax rate as well as in the depreciation rate will improve the incentive structure for Indian industry. Not only has the corporate tax rate been brought down, but it has also been proportionally reduced more for companies that have relatively labour-intensive technology. A high depreciation rate gives incentives for purchase of more capital-intensive equipment. This distortion needed to be corrected. The reduction of the peak custom rate to 15 per cent, along with the reduction in tariffs on many items is also very welcome. There was fear that this may not be done because of the importance of custom duties in the overall scheme of government tax collections. But the weightage of customs as a proportion of tax revenue has been declining. The budget is not without gimmicks, though. The tax on cash withdrawals from banks of Rs 10,000 and above makes little sense.


From http://www.indianexpress.com/ 03/01/2005

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Private Sector Play a Key Role in the Hi-Tech Manufacture

NEW DELHI: The private sector will now play a key role in the manufacture of the hi-tech Sukhoi-30 fighter at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the company's chairman A K Baweja said. Addressing after a ceremony where two technologically upgraded Sukhois were delivered to the IAF, Baweja said that in future, 30 percent of the work involved in making the fighter-jets will be assigned to private industries. "It will provide a good opportunity for these industries to get involved in the field of aerospace and simultaneously generate employment." Baweja said.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/24/2005

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SRI LANKA: Education Will Not Be Privatized - UGC Chairman

THE Government will never work towards privatising education, said University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Prof. B. R. N. N. Mendis in a statement. A false campaign is going on in the country spearheaded by some politicians and university students that the government is planning to privatise education, he said. "The idea behind this false campaign is to deceive people and put the government into inconvenience and gain political mileage to realise their hidden agenda. Hence we totally reject the false allegation perpetrated to rouse the people by these groups", Prof. Mendis said. He said there is also no truth at all that the Government is planning to create private medical colleges in the country. No action whatsoever has been taken by the UGC to initiate action to start the alleged sort of medical colleges in the country. "We are very emphatic when we say with a sense of responsibility that there is no move whatsoever either to prune the right to free education by children of this land or give it to the private sector. We appeal to the public not to get deceived and disturbed by the false propaganda", he said.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 03/05/2005

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NEPAL: Gov't Stockpiles Essential Supplies for 2 months, Urges Private Sector Cooperation

To ensure supplies of essential goods and petroleum products in the Kathmandu Valley, the government is embarking on a new policy as per which supplies will be stockpiled to support the Valley population for at least two months. Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Supplies, Dishesh Chandra Pyakurel, Wednesday said, ¡°To make sure that supplies do not run out, foodstuff such as rice and daal, petroleum products and other goods of daily use will be stored for at least two months.¡± He told the state-owned Radio Nepal that the government agencies would coordinate with the private sector for the stockpiling of foodstuff and petroleum products. To make effective the storing of supplies, monitoring will be made effective, Pyakurel said. ¡°It is not that government alone is able to stockpile the supplies, we need the private sector cooperation,¡± said he. Meanwhile, the ministry has said that arrangements have been made to dispatch food grains to some eastern hilly districts facing food shortage since last few days. The Nepal Food Corporation depot in Biratnagar dispatched 200-quintal rice to Sankhuwasabha district today while preparations are underway to airdrop foodstuff to Bhojpur, another eastern district facing food shortage due to frequent Maoist-enforced blockades and bandhs.


From http://www.nepalnews.com.np/ 03/02/2005

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PAKISTAN: Call for More Private Sector Employment Opportunities

PESHAWAR: Minister of state for Information and Broadcasting Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli has urged the private sector besides public sector to come forward to create more employment opportunities in the country. She was addressing the prize distribution ceremony of Sanjing Corporation as the chief guest here on Sunday. Minister for Provincial Assembly (MPA) Pakistan Peoples Party General Secretary Sikandar Sherpao presided over the function. Anisa Zeb said it was a unique opportunity for the jobless and down trodden people to come forward and avail of the Direct Marketing facility offered by Sanjing Corporation. She urged the companies to develop their skill without any investment and through their hard work and dedication, adding it would provide them income and job opportunities. Through those qualities, people could get their due place besides monetary facilities, she said. The Minister said the government was utilising all available resources to provide job opportunities to the unemployed people, every one wanted to get job in the public sector but the government alone could not do. The problem of unemployment could be solved with the active Cupertino of public and private sectors, she added. "Pakistan had very important geo-strategic location through which it could become hub of trade and communications in links with Afghanistan, Central Asian states, China, Iran and other countries. Pakistan had potential and there was need to dig out and utilise that potential," she said. The Minister said due to effective economic and fiscal policies of the government, the foreign reserves had reached at the maximum level, and Stock Exchange registered record increase. Pakistan has become self-sufficient in financial sector and came out of the clutches of the International Monetary institutions, she added. The minister said the government had started mega projects of dams, highways, communication, energy and other sectors which would employ lakhs of people, and after completion provide job opportunities and other facilities to the million of Pakistanis. After their completion, Pakistan would become a trade hub, self-sufficient in food, industrial, irrigation and hydel sector, she added. Anisa Zeb lauded Sanjing Corporation, a Chinese Company dealing with Blood Pressure Relieving Machines, for its role to provide financial and trade opportunities to the people. Later, the Minister of state gave awards and prizes to the officers and staff of Sanjing Corporation for showing the best performance. Sanjing Corporation General Manager presented shield of the Corporation as memento to Anisa Zeb and traditional cap to Sikandar Sherpao.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/22/2005

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Musharraf Welcomes Launching of AAJ TV

KARACHI: President General Pervez Musharraf has welcomed launching of the private sector TV channel, AAJ, by the Business Recorder group and wished the new channel success. He said this in an interview to AAJ TV chairman and Daily Business Recorder Editor Wamiq Zuberi on Monday in Islamabad. The President heard in detail various arrangements for televising different programmes on AAJ TV. The President stressed the point that he always believed and upheld freedom of speech. Wamiq Zuberi lauded the policy relating to the print and electronic media pursued by the government from the time President General Musharraf took over power. He also highlighted that AAJ TV channel was going to project a positive image of Pakistan and inform viewers better on national and international issues. Meanwhile, AAJ TV also received good luck message from Pir Sahib of Pagara, who wished the TV channel well and said since it was sponsored by the Business Recorder, it would cater to viewing needs of the educated people including businessmen and guide on how to make good money. ISPR director-general Major-General Shaukat Sultan has also wished the AAJ TV channel success and hoped that it would achieve objectives for which it is being launched. AAJ TV director Arshad Zuberi met Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz last week and briefed him about the channel's working and areas it would cover with special focus. AAJ TV channel will telecast an interview of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz conducted by Nasira Zuberi at 8pm on Wednesday, also marking the launch of its regular transmissions.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 03/23/2005

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IRAN: Privatization Organization Committed to Share Offer

Privatization Organization has to offer shares of state companies on the stock market even at a time when the market was down due to several factors, including the nuclear controversies. Mir Ali Ashraf Abdollah-Pouri Hosseini, who heads the organization, told ISNA on Tuesday that the organization was bound by the law to offer 50 trillion rials worth of shares by March, stressing that the initiative coincided with a continuous fall in indices starting form last September. ¡°We could not wait until domestic and foreign political problems are settled before releasing shares,¡° he said, adding that small investors have welcomed the presentation of shares by the organization. He expressed hope that a major portion of privatization targets for the year to March 2005 would be achieved in the next two weeks. Eight specialized mother companies have managed to sell 540.5 million shares for 6.1 trillion rials since last March. Privatization Organization alone sold 1.1 billion rials worth of shares in the past week. The Industrial Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO) has recorded the highest value of shares sold on the market, selling 3.9 trillion rials worth of shares in the past 12 months. The other mother companies include Telecommunication Company of Iran, Satkab, State Privatization Organization, Agro Services Company, National Petrochemical Industries Company and Commercial Company of Iran. Earlier, Abdollah-Pouri Hosseini said the government would definitely fail to reach its privatization targets by March given the critical situation of the stock market and the ongoing political developments.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 03/09/2005

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Private Sector Will Get $8b

A total of eight billion dollars will be withdrawn from Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund to finance private sector projects in the year to March 2006, said the minister of industries and mines here on Wednesday. Es¡¯haq Jahangiri told ILNA that credits for some $5.5 billion had already been opened, underlining that the industries and mines sector has shown a 17-percent growth in the past five years thanks to the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund loans. ¡°Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund is a golden opportunity for the private sector,¡° he said, adding that the private sector has to be turned into a mechanism for industrial development and transfer of technology. The minister further noted that the national industries would not have a say at the international level without private sector participation. ¡°The Ministry of Industries and Mines has given top priority to renovating the industries,¡° he said. The government would have to withdraw an extra $4.7 billion from the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund to offset huge budget deficit that would follow the parliamentary decision to keep prices of major consumer goods unchanged during the March 2005-2006 fiscal year. Experts have warned that a multibillion-dollar withdrawal from the fund would lead to a further rise in inflation. To strong opposition from the conservative-dominated Parliament, the Khatami administration has been trying to weaken the rial to offset its budget deficit following the failure to encourage car imports in the past 12 months. The parliament finally managed to fix the parity rate of greenback against the national currency at 9,090 rials for each US dollar, allowing the rate to fluctuate only by five percent.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 03/17/2005

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KAZAKHSTAN: Government Approves List of Privatised Properties for Sale

The following big privatised properties will be on sale, if the government passes a corresponding decision, KZ-today reports. The list published on the website of the Finance Ministry of RK includes: "Sokolov-Sarbai Mining Production Association" OJSC (SSGPO) with 39.5% state share holding, "Kazzinc" JSC -27.64%, "Kazchrome" Transnational Company" JSC - 31.37%, "Pavlodar Petrochemical Plant" CJSC - 45.16%, Pension Savings Fund "GNPF" - 100%, "Eurasian Energy Corporation" JSC - 25.18%, "Kazakhstani Electric Power Market Operator" JSC - 100%, "National Marine Navigation Company "Kazmortransflot" - 50%.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 03/19/2005

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AUSTRALIA: Govt Introduces New Telstra Laws

Laws to safeguard Telstra services in the bush before the telecommunications giant is sold off by the government were introduced into parliament today. Under the laws, Telstra's services in rural and regional areas areas will be subject to review by an independent panel every five years. Parliamentary secretary to the treasurer Chris Pearce said Telstra would also have to draw up local presence plans to ensure it continues providing services to the bush. "The measures contained in this bill are directed at future-proofing regional telecommunications so that service quality is maintained into the future, when future services start being provided to rural Australia will not miss out or face unreasonable delays and other benefits that Telstra currently provides as a result of its regional presence do not diminish," he said. The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Regular Reviews and Other Measures) Bill 2005 is part of the government's response to the Estens inquiry into Telstra's services in the bush three years ago. Pearce said the bill's provisions for regular review of Telstra's services and local presence plans were previously linked with legislation for Telstra's sale. But he said they had now been separated from the sale legislation so the government could lock in its response to the Estens inquiry and its commitment not to proceed with the sale until Telstra's services in the bush are adequate. Pearce said the new bill would not stop the government taking any further action to safeguard the needs of Telstra's customers in the bush. He said Communications Minister Helen Coonan was also drawing up a new licence condition for Telstra to ensure it introduces local presence plans for the bush. The new licence condition would also allow the government to delegate powers to make administrative decisions to the Australian Communications Authority, he said. "The licence condition will provide a high degree of certainty and reassurance for regional, rural and remote communities that an effective Telstra local presence will be maintained and for Telstra that it will maintain the right to manage its regional operations autonomously and in its commercial interests," Mr Pearce said. Debate on the bill was adjourned.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/10/2005

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Status Change Flagged for MU Private

Melbourne University Private would be allowed access to lucrative federal government research funding under changes introduced to parliament. The Higher Education Support Amendment (Melbourne University Private) Bill 2005 would allow the institution to become the third private university in Australia allowed access to government research funding. Education Minister Brendan Nelson said Melbourne University Private's inclusion would put it on the same footing as Bond University and the University of Notre Dame. "At present all Australian universities except Melbourne University Private are listed on ... the Higher Education Support Act," Dr Nelson said. The University of Notre Dame Australia and Bond University are listed and have access to Australian government funding on behalf of their staff and students, and their students can access Fee-Help assistance. "By moving this amendment the Australian government is seeking to put Melbourne University Private on the same footing as these other private Australian universities." Dr Nelson said a panel convened by the Victorian government had in July 2003 recommended Melbourne University Private be reaccredited to operate as a university for five years on the condition it maintained a certain level of research output. In addition, the Victorian Department of Education and Training in October last year confirmed that a further independent review had found the university surpassed its requirements. Dr Nelson said this task had been made more difficult due to the fact the institution was ineligible for research funding. "Put simply, this amendment will put Melbourne University Private on the same footing as other Australian private universities," he said. "The Australian government is committed to developing a sustainable and diverse higher education system, in which both public and private universities can provide education and produce research which Australia needs to be economically competitive on the international stage." Debate was adjourned.


From http://theage.com.au/ 03/16/2005

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