Oct 2005, Issue 47
Contact Us:  apcib@apcity.org
 
 
  ASEAN Unveils Strategy to Beat Flu Pandemic
Poorest WTO Countries Attack 'Aid for Trade' Plan
Tax Policies Vary Widely from Country to Country, OECD Study Shows
Top Military Commanders from 22 Asia-Pacific Nations Gather in Honolulu
 
  NORTH KOREA: New Food Rationing System Adopted
CHINA: Beijing to Tackle Water Issues in the Next Five-year Plan
New Contract Focuses on Employees' Rights
China's Leaders Set Five-Year Plan, Expect to Double GDP Per Capita by 2010
NPC to Discuss Amendment Draft of Law on Audit
HK Announces Report on Constitutional Development
China Loosens Limits on Overseas Investment
Land Ownership Focus of Property Rights Law Discussion
Gov't Considers Expanding Reformed Pension System
Shanghai Adds Noise Clause to Draft Law
Amended Securities Law Gives Larger Room for Development of Stock Market
China Raises Personal Income Tax Cutoff Point to 1,600 Yuan
New Rules to Combat AIDS Spread
JAPAN: English Translation of 180 Laws in Works
Law Planned on U.S. Forces' Realignment
Over 60% Oppose Revising War-Renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution
Fukui Vows to Maintain Current Monetary Policy
BOJ Set to Shift Focus to Interest Rates in Spring
Income Tax Cuts Should End in 2007: Panel Chief
Nuclear Energy Policy: EDITORIAL
New Law Bars Foreign Control of Broadcasters
SOUTH KOREA: Special Development Zone Laws to Be Amended
SNU Head Emphasizes Autonomy: One-fits-all Education Policy Criticized
Constitutional Reform Should Be Discussed in 2007
Pension Plan Key to Happy Retirement
Government Establishes Bird Flu Contingency Plan
MONGOLIA: Law on Renewable Energy to Be Approved
New ADB Strategy in Mongolia to Address Growth and Social Development
Minumum Pension to Be Added
 
  INDONESIA: Govt Ignores Constitutional Court on Fuel
Local Heads May Be Punished Under New Bill
Australia Offers Help on Antiterror Law Reform
Businesspeople Reject New Tax Amendments
2006 Budget Passed With Few Snags
MALAYSIA: Parliamentary Services Act for House Autonomy
PHILIPPINES: Charter Change Will Lift Local Business, Says Cari?o
SINGAPORE: MAS Maintains Policy of Modest, Gradual Appreciation of Singdollar
THAILAND: Residents Draw Up Own Water Plan
VIETNAM: Fund Management Rules Issued
NA Mulls Environment, Intellectual Property Laws
 
  BANGLADESH: Country Least Prepared to Tackle Bird Flu
BHUTAN: Tenth Plan Could Focus on Poverty and Quality of Life
INDIA: PM Announces Rs 500 Cr Additional Aid for J&K
India Approves Foreign Investment Cap Increase to 74%
SRI LANKA: New Tourism Law in House
MALDIVES: Amendment of Two Laws Have Begun in Order to Amend Employment Issues
Civil Service Bill Presented to People's Majlis
NEPAL: King Promulgates Media Ordinance
Gov't Defends Its Rights Record, Accuses UN Commission of Distorting Facts
PAKISTAN: Joint Economic Commission with India Revived After 16 Years
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Model Bills on Combat Against Terrorism, Criminal and Narcotics to Be Prepared
Lower House Reviews Draft Law on National Budget 2006
IRAQ: Constitutional Referendum Succeeds
KYRGYZSTAN: President Approves Election Law
KAZAKHSTAN: President Signs Changes in the Law "on Transport in RK"
Mazhilis Approves Draft Law on Auditing in First Reading
TAJIKISTAN: Party Outlines Presidential Hopes
 
  Pacific Set to Adopt 10-Year Plan
AUSTRALIA: Govt Defends Child Care Benefit Scheme
States Plan IR Laws Challenge
Tough Rules to Curb Phone Sales Pests
BCA Fights Social Responsibility Law
$100m Boost to Public Housing
State Drafts Radical Water Saving Plan
Howard Open to Suggestion on Terrorism Laws
NEW ZEALAND: Rethink Urged on Portfolio Tax Plan
Howard Sees Big Benefits in Work Laws
New Zealand Government Coalition Deal OK'd
Minister to Discuss Introducing 'Private Police'
 
  Curbing Corruption in Tsunami Relief Operations
Myths About Governance and Corruption
Corruption Watchdog Issues Warning on 'Severe' Debt Risk
 
  NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA: Opening Joint Economic Office
CHINA: Shenzhen Kicks Off Campaign on Crackdown Officials Bureaucracy
Corrupt, Inept Officials Cost US$12 Bln
836 Officials Relinquish Stakes in Coal Mines
Macao's New Legislature Sworn in
Hong Kong Leader Donald Tsang's Cautious Stance in Maiden Policy Speech
Expert Calls for Further Reform on Transforming Govt Role
China Initiates New Round of Court Reform
JAPAN: Civil Servant Who Passed Out JCP Paper Is Indicted
Government Shaves Civil Servants' Salaries 0.1%
High Court Rules Koizumi's Yasukuni Shrine Visits Unconstitutional
Public Servant's Suicide Costs State 72 Million Yen
Japan to Cut 10 Percent of Gov't Jobs
Govt Must Trim Fat in Civil Service
SOUTH KOREA: Lawmakers Question Credibility of Data of Statistical Office
Korea Considers Debt Management Agency
Korea Jumps to 40th in the World in Transparency
President Roh Nominates Top Prosecutor
GNP Sweeps By-Elections
 
  INDONESIA: Kadin Not Too Happy With Economics Team
Office to Aggressively Search for New Taxpayers
Reshuffling the Cabinet
Democracy Indicators 'Remain Poor'
Extra Income Unlikely to Improve House Performance
Susilo Working on Reshuffle, Silalahi Says
SBY Slammed Over Slow Military Reform
MYANMAR: UN Envoy Razali Rejects Myanmar's Claim That Moving Faster Toward Democracy Might Bring Chaos
Maritime Enforcement Agency Starts Operations on Nov 30
Government Action Needed for Indians to Get 3% Equity
Corrupt Malaysian Cabinet Minister Resigns
PHILIPPINES: President Gives Lgus More Economic Perks
GMA*s House Allies Collide on Juicy Committee Posts
Business Group Warns Govt of Antidemocratic Moves
SINGAPORE: More Corporate Governance Duties May Have Boosted Director Fees
THAILAND: Little to Show in Civil Service Reform
3,000 Police Forswear Corruption
 
  BANGLADESH: Transparency International Names Bangladesh Most Corrupt for Fifth Consecutive Time
BHUTAN: The Judiciary Reaches Out to New Heights
The National Council: A Symbolic Launch
SRI LANKA: Gov't Establishes New Ministry to Develop Petroleum Resources
NEPAL: King Announces Parliamentary Elections by 2006/7
PAKISTAN: Body Formed to Rehabilitate Quake-Disabled
 
  AZERBAIJAN: New Economy Minister Appointed
IRAN: New Officials Appointed to Security Council
KYRGYZSTAN: President Downsizes Government
KAZAKHSTAN: New First Vice President of "Kazmunaigaz" Appointed
TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Forms New Mobile Counternarcotics Units TURKMENISTAN: President Dismisses Regional Governors
 
  AUSTRALIA: Permanent Military Court to Be Established
Reform Bill Changes 'Too Complex, Unworkable'
Doyle Offers Low Taxes, Better Services
Top Bureaucrat Spruiks IR 'flexibility'
State Watchdog Pushed to Act on Foi
APRA Backs New Governance Regulations
Govt to Introduce IR Reforms Next Week
Indigenous Central Australians Reject Dump Plan
Business Leaders Greet New Top Man
NEW ZEALAND: Clark Begins Task of Forming New Govt
Standards Push in Family Court
New Government Sidelines Greens
Helen Clark Sworn in as New Zealand PM
New Cabinet Announced, King Gets Police
Government Sanctioned Sexism Must Stop
Public Service Chiefs Get Big Pay Hikes
 
  Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Mitigation Technologies Seminar
International Conference on Sustainable Cities: Linking Competitiveness with Social Cohesion
Governments, Private Sector, Civil Society to Gather in Tunis, for World Summit on the Information Society
 
  CHINA: Guangdong Officials to Be Audited Before Leaving Posts
Hong Kong's "10 Outstanding Young Persons" Announced
Poverty Reduction: Change from the Grassroots Up
'Top Ten Stars of Social Welfare' Selected
Chinese Environmental Watchdog Gets Tough
Jiangxi Province Sets Up Awards to New Nature Reserves
JAPAN: EDITORIAL - Strengthening Public Safety
DPJ Draft Top Law Touts 'Responsibility'
EDITORIAL: Science Council Reform
Gov't Wants to Levy 2,400 Yen Per Ton of Carbon as Environmental Tax
Let Consumption Tax Pay for Welfare: Panel
Political Donations to Be Capped
SOUTH KOREA: Defense Minister to Meet Netizens
Foreigners to Be Allowed to Work as Civil Servants on Jeju
Government Organizations Pressed for Innovation
Korean Air CEO to Get Business Leadership Award
UN Good Governance School Planned for Seoul
MONGOLIA: IT Person of the Year Results Announced
 
  INDONESIA: The Silver Lining After Susilo's First Year in Office
Businesspeople Concerned by Govt Economic Performance
MALAYSIA: Government Support Staff With Degrees to Move Up
Research on the Malaysian Leadership Under Way
Government Spells Out Ways to Boost Automotive Industry
PHILIPPINES: Philippines-World Bank Ink Grant to Improve Management and Efficiency of National Roads
SINGAPORE: New System to Help Workers Train and Stay Employable
 
  BANGLADESH: ACC Plans to Curb Graft in Education Sector
BHUTAN: Government*s Performance to Be Assessed
ICPD Report Launched
INDIA: Infosys Plans Mega Campus for Software Training & Development
PAKISTAN: NGOs Will Be Trained to Deal with Natural Calamities
 
  AFGHANISTAN: National Assembly Might Begin Work in November
AZERBAIJAN: Latvian-Azeri Business Forum Held in Baku
KAZAKHSTAN: Congress of Businessmen Opens in Astana
UZBEKISTAN: Forum Discusses Social Initiatives
 
  AUSTRALIA: Govt for More Private-Public Development
NEW ZEALAND: Teach Drivers Cellphone Skills, Say Researchers
 
  Foreign Investment in ASEAN Rises Sharply
World Economic Forum: Nordic Countries, Asia, Most Competitive Economies
Energy Issues and Nuclear Power in East Asia
Workshop to Focus on Standards in Home Networking
Young People Are Better Educated But 130 Million Youths Remain Illiterate, UN Says
ADB Assistance to Boost Effectiveness of Mekong Cooperation Program
WHO Says SE Asia Remains Biggest Bird Flu Danger
Four Countries Bring Down Huge Drug Ring
World Mayors Forum Boosts Awareness of Sustainable Urban Development
 
  NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA: Birthrates Sag
CHINA: Beijing's Blueprint to Tackle Gap Between Rich, Poor
China Drops in Global Competitiveness Ranking
70 Percent of China's Local Govts Have Official Gateways
World Bank President Impressed by Progress by China's Poorest in Combating Poverty
Beijing's New ID Card Issue Ends 1st Phase
Govt to Allocate More Public Funds to Rural Areas
China Issues First 'White Paper' on Democracy
China to Conduct 3rd Sample Census
100 Finalists for the China Development Marketplace Announced
China Urged to Build National Emergency Aid Network
ADB Plans $4.5 Billion in Loans for PRC in 2006-2008
Efforts Made to Reduce Pollution in Shanghai
WTO Process Initiated to Probe China`s Piracy Crackdown
JAPAN: Government Eyes Unified Education
NPO Attempts to Educate Public About Terrorism
SOUTH KOREA: National Competitiveness Surges
Online Document Forgers Face Heavy Punishment
Roh Calls for Launch of Social Conference for National Unity
Economic Education: Textbooks Should Not Be Capitalism-hating Spew
One-Fifth of Korea's Businesses Owned by Women
Corruption in Korea Improves Slightly
Female Workers' Ratio Hits Record High in September
S Korea Economic Growth Fastest in Nearly Two Years
Internet Banking Overtakes Tellers
 
  INDONESIA: Relocation, Tender of 3G Key to Industry
ICT Industry Objects to Proposed Bandwidth Tax
PHILIPPINES: Businessmen Urge Govt to Get Back to Work
Philippine Economic Takeoff Elusive Until Next Year
SINGAPORE: IDA to Reinvest Revenues From 3G Licences into Wireless Industry
Singpost Launches World's First 24-Hour Automated Post Office
THAILAND: PM Still Hopes to End Poverty in Three Years
122,000 New Jobs Being Created
VIETNAM: State Funding Cut Off for Sluggish Projects
World Bank to Fund Electric Development
 
  BANGLADESH: GrameenPhone Slashes Tariffs by Up to 60%
Bangladesh to Award New GSM Licence
BHUTAN: Good Progress on Bhutan*s Membership to WTO
INDIA: TRAI Warns of Worsening Mobile Congestion in India
Government Says Telecoms Equipment Must Be &Made in India*
India's GSM Customer Base Passes 50 Million
BSNL*s Monster GSM Order Grows to Over 60 Million Lines
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's Wickremesinghe Wants to Speed Up Tsunami Rebuilding
ZTE to Deploy IP-Based CDMA Network in Sri Lanka
MALDIVES: Wataniya Maldives Claims 10,198 Customers
NEPAL: Nepal Telecom Awards ZTE GSM Contract
PAKISTAN: Satellite Centre Installed in Pakistan
World Bank Warns of Long-Term Repercussions of Earthquake Reconstruction
Cellcos Allowed to Operate in Kashmir
World Bank Announces $470 Million Relief Package
 
  IRAN: Parallel Bodies Impede ICT Development
KAZAKHSTAN: President Prioritizes Economic Development
The First Information Center for Development Opens in Astana
TURKMENISTAN: President Publishes New Book
Tashkent to Host Seminar on Gender Equality
 
  AUSTRALIA: Call to Overhaul Mental Health Services
Crunch Time for Melbourne 2030
ICT Workers Need More Training: ACS
NEW ZEALAND: Customs Eyes Self-Service
Digital Strategy Funds Applications Open this Month
New Zealand Government Taps Landmark Graphics for Data Storage Deal
NZ ICT Export Idea Refused Funding
 
  Asia Sinks $650bn in Bank Bail-out
Hong Kong SAR Leads Region in Loans and Bond Issues
 
  CHINA: China Chooses IFC, ADB to Pioneer Yuan Bonds
China*s State Council Approves IFC Application to Issue Domestic Renminbi Bonds
Seven Banks Get Ratings Boost
US Pressures China for More Currency Moves
ADB to Buy Piece of BOC for US$75m
JAPAN: Launching of World's Biggest Bank Symbolizes Rebirth of Industry
Bank of Japan Holds to Monetary Outlook
SOUTH KOREA: Central Bank Raises Call Rate to 3.5%
Korea*s Property Tax 2nd-Highest in OECD
Finance Ministry Hints at Raising Tax
MONGOLIA: Draft of 2006 Budget Discussed
 
  PHILIPPINES: Public Sector*S Combined Revenue Shortfall Declines
SINGAPORE: Credit Counselling Organisation Helps Singaporeans Restructure Debts
VIETNAM: Viet Nam*s Largest Bank to Go Public in Early 2006
IFC to Set Up Credit Information Bureau
Workshop on Developing Capital Market Launched
 
  BANGLADESH: National Bank Provides Tk 70m Credit for Fareast Finance
INDIA: Central Bank Lifts Benchmark Rate for a Third Time in a Year to Curb Inflation
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka to Hike Defence Budget Amid War Fears
MALDIVES: Bank of Maldives to Introduce Internet Banking This Year
PAKISTAN: Pakistan National Account Data Termed Inconsistent
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Currency Denomination Starts
IRAN: Tax, Privatization Failure Blamed for Budget Deficit
KYRGYZSTAN: President Outlines Economic Goals for 2006
UZBEKISTAN: Uzce, Trustbank Agreed Mechanism on Accepting Pledges in Hard Currency
Municipal Service Fees May Be Paid from Interest on Deposits
 
  AUSTRALIA: Bankers Polish Their T3 Pitch
Costello Under Pressure for Tax Reform
NEW ZEALAND: Super Fund Commits $20m to Private Equity Investment
Banking Leader Addresses Finance Heads
 
  Private Sector Can Make Profits While Protecting the Planet, New ADB Report Says
 
  CHINA: Private Firms Gain More Access to Public Sector
Chinese Legislature Gives Greenlight to One-person Limited Company'
JAPAN: 4 Expressway Public Corporations Privatized
Japan Enacts Post Privatization Law
Seven Named to Postal Reform Firm
SOUTH KOREA: Six Publicly-Funded Firms Up for Sale
 
  INDONESIA: Amway to Help Sell SME Products
Number of State Enterprises to Be Cut From 158 to Only 80
MALAYSIA: Make Private Sector Pay Cola Too, MTUC Urges Government
SINGAPORE: Mobile Training Service Proposed to Improve Service Standards at SMEs
 
  BANGLADESH: Private Operators to Run 4 Land Ports
Hearing of Writ Petition on Rupali Bank Privatization Begins
INDIA: OGP Protest Against Privatisation
BSNL Slaps Additional Levy on Pvt Operators
PAKISTAN: Etisalat Seeks to Clarify PTCL Issues
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Executive Rules out Privatization of Azerbaijan's National Oil Company
IRAN: Corruption Undermining Privatization Process
KAZAKHSTAN: Private Sector Operations at Forefront of ADB's Updated Strategy
 
  AUSTRALIA: iinet Wants Telstra Privatisation Soon
NEW ZEALAND: Act Backs Private Prisons

ASEAN Unveils Strategy to Beat Flu Pandemic

TAGAYTAY〞(UPDATE) Southeast Asia's agriculture ministers endorsed a UN plan Friday to combat bird flu--a move they hope will win enough international aid to halt the disease before it becomes a catastrophic epidemic with the potential to kill millions of people globally. The ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations said in a statement that "the highly pathogenic avian influenza," which has ravaged poultry populations in large swaths of Asia and killed dozens of people, requires "an all-out coordinated regional effort." The meeting in the Philippines ended with the endorsement of a regional plan for control and eradication of bird flu and directed a new task force to urgently formulate "a detailed action plan for implementation and proceed to identify potential sources of funding," a joint ASEAN statement said. The three-year plan was drafted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health in May, and will be presented to international donors in December for implementation early next year. "It's important that we have the political commitment of the region so we can effectively invite the donors to back the program," said Subhash Mozaria, FAO chief technical adviser. The two-day meeting comes on the heels of an urgent warning from a UN health official about the disease's potential to threaten human life. Dr. David Nabarro of the World Health Organization said Thursday that political leaders must take immediate steps to prevent a human flu pandemic, which could strike if the bird virus mutates into a strain that is both deadly to humans and easily spread among people. "We expect the next influenza pandemic to come at any time now, and it's likely to be caused by a mutant of the virus that is currently causing bird flu in Asia," he said. Between 5 million and 150 million people could die in a human flu epidemic--the higher figure being likely if governments fail to act now, Nabarro said. Since 2003, bird flu has swept through poultry populations throughout Asia--leaving at least 65 people dead, mostly in Vietnam and Thailand. Massive culling of sick birds has failed to stop the disease, and regional officials have long complained of a lack of money for testing and vaccinating poultry and for stockpiling medication. Mozaria said the endorsement of the ASEAN ministers, meeting in the resort town of Tagaytay, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Manila, was necessary in order to acquire donor pledges to combat the virus. The Rome-based FAO has said donors have pledged just 20 million dollars so far, only a portion of what is needed. The agency estimates that 150 million dollar is needed to tackle the threat and prevent a possible human pandemic. Apart from the risk to human life, officials are concerned that a global pandemic could force governments to severely restrict the movement of people and goods--actions that would batter many industries. Mozaria said various financial institutions have indicated a willingness to fund the program, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development and several European Union countries. Some ASEAN members have been taking individual steps to prepare for an escalation in the health crisis. Malaysia plans to stock up on anti-flu drugs and protective gear to prepare for a possible outbreak of avian influenza, according to the Health Ministry Malaysia declared itself free of bird flu in January this year, more than six weeks after the last infection was detected in villages in the northeastern Kelantan state. The disease was discovered there in August last year in fighting cocks smuggled in from neighboring Thailand. No humans were infected, but a quarantine was declared in Kelantan and more than 18,000 birds and poultry were killed in areas where the virus showed up. ASEAN comprises Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.


From http://news.inq7.net/ 09/30/2005

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Poorest WTO Countries Attack 'Aid for Trade' Plan

The poorest members of the World Trade Organization have attacked as inadequate plans for more aid to help them trade in world markets, reports The Financial Times. In a letter to ministers meeting this week, Dipak Patel, the Zambian trade minister who co-ordinates the least-developed countries in the Doha round of WTO talks, said that an "aid for trade" proposal developed by World Bank staff was far too small to make a difference. The debate reflects concern that some developing countries - mostly African and Caribbean - will gain little from the Doha round. Because of the veto held by all WTO members over agreements, opposition from such countries could scupper it. Cutting rich countries' farm subsidies and tariffs will help farmers in developing countries such as Brazil, which has competitive agricultural exports. Yesterday Brazil and other members of the Group of 20 developing nations called for the US and EU to improve their offers on liberalizing farm trade. But such moves could be irrelevant or even damaging to poorer countries whose farmers struggle to compete in global markets. The value of access for those farmers to rich country markets will be eroded by a general reduction in tariffs. Staff at the IMF and World Bank have proposed spending $200 million - $400 million over the next five years in "aid for trade", helping developing countries build up the capacity to export through more transport infrastructure and better administration. But Patel said: "This aid for trade package is totally insufficient as a carrot being offered to LDCs. This amounts to at most $2 million per country per year for technical assistance, capacity building and assistance in project preparation." In other developments, The Associated Press reports that trade ministers from a powerful group of developing countries were trying Wednesday to thrash out a counterproposal asking for greater reductions in both US and European Union farm subsidies. Ministers from the so-called G-20 group, which is led by Brazil and India, gave a cautious welcome to new offers from Washington and Brussels made this week, but said they did not go far enough in trimming actual payments, said Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim. Reuters meanwhile notes that a day after US officials proposed large reductions in unfair farm subsidies, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee warned the White House on Tuesday against rewriting the US farm program in world trade talks. Chairman Saxby Chambliss listed five issues in WTO talks on agriculture that would determine whether he supported an agreement. The points included no cut in overall US agricultural funding and no cuts for US cotton subsidies earlier than any other farm supports. Reuters also notes that France accused European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on Tuesday of going too far in his latest offer in world trade talks and said he had not consulted EU member states enough beforehand. A spokesman for Mandelson insisted the commissioner had negotiated strictly within parameters set by member countries. In other trade news, The Daily Telegraph (UK) meanwhile reports that fears that ending the global quota system for clothes and textile exports would lead to economic catastrophe for Third World countries have not been born out, according to a report by the International Labor Organization. According to the ILO study, &Promoting Fair Globalization in Textiles and Clothing,* these fears have so far failed to materialize. In fact, many exporting countries are faring better than expected. John McGhie, a spokesman for Christian Aid, pointed to the effect of reimposed US and EU quotas on China as having slowed down the pace of its export growth - partly at its own volition. "We heard anecdotal reports that at first things were going badly in Bangladesh, and then things turned around,'' he said. Paul MacDonnell, a director of the Open Republic Institute, meanwhile writes in an opinion piece in The Irish Times that emphasizing democracy or overseas aid without fostering economic freedom in poorer countries is not the way to move forward. For the past nine years a group of think-tanks, the Economic Freedom Network (EFN has measured the "economic freedom" of 127 nations. The results are published in the &Economic Freedom of the World 2005 Report,* which includes a league table rating countries on a scale of most to least economically free. This year's EFW report contains something new: it addresses the question of whether there is any relationship between economic freedom and conflict. There is. Research by Erik Gartzke, associate professor of political science at Columbia University, shows that economic freedom is more likely to stop countries going to war than is democracy. Nations with a low score for economic freedom (below two out of 10) are 14 times more prone to conflict than states with a high score (over eight).


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 10/12/2005


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Tax Policies Vary Widely from Country to Country, OECD Study Shows

The ways in which governments raise money through taxation continue to vary widely across the OECD, with Denmark collecting almost 60% of its revenues from personal and corporate taxes and France less than 25%, according to data in the latest edition of the OECD*s annual Revenue Statistics publication. In North America, Mexico collects more than half of its tax revenue from taxes on the sales of goods and services while the United States raises less than a fifth of its revenue from this source (see Figure 1 and Table1). At regional and local level, different patterns are also visible. While most countries use a mix of state and local taxes to finance sub-national government, Ireland and the United Kingdom rely exclusively on local property taxes and Sweden exclusively on local income tax. Such differences reflect national choices with regard to taxation which in turn are determined by economic and social priorities. Revenue Statistics presents internationally comparable data on the tax revenues of OECD countries for all levels of government, enabling policy makers to compare a range of possible alternative models. In 2004, the OECD publication reveals, Sweden once again had the highest tax-to-GDP ratio among OECD countries, at 50.7% against 50.6% in 2003. Denmark came next at 49.6% (48.3%), followed by Belgium at 45.6% (45.4%). At the other end of the scale, Mexico had the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio, at 18.5%, against 19.0% in 2003. Korea had the second lowest, at 24.6% (25.3%), and the United States had the third, at 25.4% (25.6%). The ratio of total tax revenues to gross domestic product at market prices is a widely used measure of the extent of state involvement in national economies. Countries with high tax-to-GDP ratios tend to pay more from the public purse for services that citizens would have to pay for themselves - or do without - in lower-taxed countries. However, comparisons are not always easy to make: for example, many countries with high tax-to-GDP ratios provide family benefits as cash payments rather than as tax reductions, increasing the apparent tax burden as measured by the tax-to-GDP ratio. Taking the 30-nation OECD area as a whole, the tax-to-GDP ratio calculated on an unweighted average basis fell marginally in 2003 每 the latest year for which complete figures are available -- to 36.3%, from 36.4% in 2002 and from a peak of 37.1% in 2000. In 1975, the average tax-to-GDP ratio was 30.3%. The Netherlands showed the biggest percentage-point reduction in the overall share of taxation in its economy, with the tax-to-GDP ratio falling two percentage points to 39.3% of GDP in 2004 from 41.3% in 1975. In Spain, by contrast, the tax-to-GDP ratio jumped by almost 17 percentage points from 18.2% in 1975 to 35.1% in 2004. Recent changes in tax-to-GDP ratios in many countries have reflected the combined impact of changes in economic growth and lower rates of taxation on personal and corporate income. The OECD average corporate tax rate fell from 33.6% in 2000 to 29.8% in 2004, while the average top personal income tax rates fell from 47.1% to 44.0%. These resulted in marked falls in revenues between 2000 and 2002, when economic growth was sluggish, but a revival of economies in 2003 led to a recovery in revenues, thanks to the positive impact of growth on incomes and profits, and hence in the overall tax base.


From http://www.oecd.org/ 10/12/2005


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Top Military Commanders from 22 Asia-Pacific Nations Gather in Honolulu

HONOLULU (AP) - Top military commanders from 22 nations, ranging from Australia to Tonga, met in Honolulu this week to discuss efforts against terrorism, piracy at sea and a possible avian flu pandemic. The U.S. Pacific Command sponsored the annual meeting of top uniformed officers in the Asia-Pacific region. Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, hosted the event and represented the United States. Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could not attend. Fallon said the conference gave leaders an opportunity to discuss issues concerning their militaries. "We tackle these issues day-to-day, but this week we get the varied perspectives all in one room, and together drive closer to solutions," Fallon said in a news release. They also discussed efforts to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical, and nuclear arms. Last year's meeting, co-sponsored with Japan, was held in Tokyo. China declined a U.S. invitation to attend this year's gathering. The meeting included representatives from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Comoros, East Timor, Fiji, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Tonga.


From http://www.philstar.com/ 10/27/2005


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NORTH KOREA: New Food Rationing System Adopted

More is becoming known about a new food rationing system introduced in urban areas of North Korea as of this month. According to sources working with China, the new rationing system is not just a revival of the previous one, but includes a dual pricing system. ※The most notable part of the new rationing system is that it sets a lower price for those who go to work, and a higher one for those who do not,§ said Choi Young-ho, a Korean Chinese merchant who returned from North Korea on October 2, ※As for corn, it is sold at both 40 won and 190 won per kilogram.§ The previous system gave out different amounts of rations; for example a person performing dangerous or heavy labor would receive 900 grams of food per day, but a family member who stayed at home would be allocated only 300 grams. The new system is interpreted as being a desperate measure to return to the workplace those residents who left their jobs and began a trading business, as a result of the decade-old economic hardships. Another characteristic of the new rationing system is that the government will purchase the crops produced at separately cultivated fields. Farmers will be distributed a certain amount of food all at once in autumn, instead of receiving monthly rations. In the process, the food produced at each field will be included in the amount distributed to the household, and the surplus is to be sold to the government. Selling food on the market will be severely regulated, giving farmers no choice but to sell the crop to the government, but fortunately the government purchasing price is on the high side, close to the more expensive price of the dual pricing system.


From http://english.donga.com/ 10/05/2005


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CHINA: Beijing to Tackle Water Issues in the Next Five-year Plan

Major problems related to China's water resources are expected to be solved step by step in the next five years to improve the nation's water supply, flood-control, food security and ecosystem rehabilitation. Water authorities have set a target for this sector during the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), Wang Shucheng, minister of water resources said recently. He was optimistic about the further developments within the water resource sector. The country faces five water-related challenges today worsening floods, droughts, water shortages, soil erosion, pollution and insufficient rural water infrastructure, he pointed out. However, "further developments within the sector can back up the nation's efforts to build a well-off society by tackling water issues," he said this week in a speech for an ongoing international congress on irrigation and drainage. By 2010, "we will reinforce institutional development and optimize water resource allocation throughout China by setting up a system of controlling water consumption with quota management," he said. Top priority of water supply will be given to the security of drinking water. Ninety-eight per cent urban residents and 60 per cent of rural residents will get access to safe, clean water. A decade-long water shortage has plagued major cities across North China and East China's Shandong Peninsula, this will be relieved once the first phase of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project is completed. It is the most ambitious attempt yet by China to transport water from the Yangtze River in the south to the thirsty north. "By then, we will settle the problem of drinking water security, an issue that has plunged 80 million rural people into chronic poverty in China's remote areas," the minister said. To improve grain production capacity, water-saving irrigation will be increased on 10 million hectares of land with key large irrigation areas either renovated or upgraded. He made it clear that China will realize a nil growth in water consumption for irrigation by increasing the efficiency of water used for agriculture. Farming irrigation still consumes 66 per cent of China's total water supply due to backward irrigation techniques or equipment. In the south, draining capacity of major grain-growing bases will be further improved to withstand the worst waterlog in three to five years. Water quality in over 65 per cent of sections of major rivers and lakes serving as key water supply sources will be improved according to State criteria, with at least 95 per cent of headwater sites used for urban water supply to be kept unpolluted. Furthermore, authorities will rehabilitate rivers with fragile ecosystems through controlling water and soil erosion. In the following five years, the ministry will further reinforce flood-control systems with the operation of frequently used flood detention basins ensured either to mitigate damages or manage floodwaters to be used as resources. (by Liang Chao)


From China Daily 10/06/2005


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New Contract Focuses on Employees' Rights

Employees' rights should be better protected by a new labor contract, due to be implemented this year, sources with the Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of Labor and Social Security said yesterday. According to one official, the capital of Guangdong Province is set to introduce a new labor contract guaranteeing workers payments based on their regular working hours. "The specified payment system and working hours will help both employers and employees better communicate with each other when labor disputes occur," Xie Yingjian, an official with the bureau, said in an interview with China Daily. The old labor contract stipulates minimum wages instead of payment based on workers' hours. According to Xie, many workers were not paid according to their working hours. "Some of them were not even paid during the official holidays," said Xie. According to Chinese labour laws, employees should be paid during official holidays, including during marriage and maternity leave. Neither does the old contract specify details for overtime. According to Xie, employees should negotiate with employers for increased overtime pay. "The new contract provides a possibility for workers to get payments according to their working hours," Xie said. The new contract will also enable workers to better understand their responsibilities and abide by labor laws, Xie said. But, according to Xie, employers in the city will not be forced to adopt the new contract. "It is a sample contract for employers and their employees, providing a legal platform for them to seek mutual benefits and protect their rights," said Xie. In another development, Guangdong Province has set up a medical organization for examining employeees' ability to work. The organization was formed by 1,390 doctors from 19 hospitals to ensure standard inspection of employees' ability to work. At present, about 100,000 workers in Guangdong undergo the working ability examination every year.


From China Daily 10/11/2005


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China's Leaders Set Five-Year Plan, Expect to Double GDP Per Capita by 2010

China's communist leaders have drawn up a plan for the next five years that calls for doubling the country's gross domestic product (GDP) per person to about $1,700 in 2010, from $854 in 2000, reports said Wednesday, writes The Associated Press. The economic blueprint, released following a four-day annual meeting of the top leadership, calls for raising living standards while improving the efficiency of China's use of energy and other resources, said reports in state-run newspapers. The plan also reiterates China's determination to build up internationally competitive industrial groups, improve social welfare and reduce the number of people living in poverty. The plan calls for "social fairness" and working toward closing the politically explosive gap between the urban rich who have benefited most from China's 20-year economic boom and its vast poor majority in the countryside. Some 26 million people were living in absolute poverty last year, with annual per capita incomes of less than $80 that left them without adequate food and shelter. By international standards, which put minimum income at a minimum of $1 a day, the number of poor is much higher. The South China Morning Post reports that this is the first time the title "five-year program" has been adopted for the document, formerly called the "five-year plan" - a move described by state media as signaling an increased emphasis on a market economy. The document, which will need the endorsement of the national legislature in the spring, enshrines President Hu Jintao's drive to build a harmonious society by narrowing the wealth gap and solving widespread political and social problems which threaten stability. The road map seeks more balanced development between the affluent southeast and the less developed central and western regions, and a rejuvenation of the northeastern industrial base. However, some of the nation's underprivileged yesterday voiced doubts that their lives would change, while the wealthy made no apologies for the unique economic system which has made them prosperous. The Financial Times adds that while Chinese leaders have been happy with the headline growth and large expansion in foreign trade over the past five years, they have become increasingly alarmed about a rash of social problems. The communiqu谷 openly acknowledged rising "internal conflicts" and their roots in the failure of growth to benefit many people. "We must strive to address the problems which most concern, most affect and which are most realistic for the people," it said. The communiqu谷 reaffirmed policies the government has been pushing for two to three years: specifically the need for local enterprises to develop their own technology and brands. While the communiqu谷 mentions the importance of "deepening" administrative reforms, there is no discussion of substantial political change or any suggestion that the party should give up its monopoly on power. The New York Times further reports that the planning process is still closely watched because it reflects the priorities of the leadership, which controls the financial system and most strategic industries, like steel and energy. Officials did not release any detailed information about the five-year plan, which will not be put in place until next spring. But it seemed likely from the tone of the party's communiqu谷 that the document did not foreshadow a radical new approach to managing the country. Reuters meanwhile suggests that China's Communist Party chief Hu Jintao emerged stronger on Tuesday from a party meeting that endorsed an economic blueprint to curb unrest by improving social services and stressing sustainable rather than breakneck growth. But there was no sign Hu had anointed a political ally as the country's fifth-generation leader after Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and himself, suggesting he still has a way to go before establishing full control. Hu strengthened his grip on power by peppering the communiqu谷 of the four-day plenary session of the party's 354-member elite Central Committee with his "harmonious society" platform.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 10/12/2005


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NPC to Discuss Amendment Draft of Law on Audit

China's top legislature, the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), will deliberate on the amendment draft of the audit law for first time during a six-day session to commence October 22. According to the agenda proposed Friday by the chairman and vice-chairpersons of the 10th NPC Standing Committee, during the upcoming session, lawmakers will also deliberate on the draft law on quality safety of agricultural products for the first time, and continue to discuss the amendments to laws governing personal income tax, corporation, securities, properties and exempting foreign central bank's assets in China from judicial enforcement. The upcoming session will also discuss and approve the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Extradition Treaty between China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The legislative session will discuss the Supreme People's Court's report on the supervision of strengthening trial work, the report submitted by the Supreme People's Procuratorate on judicial supervision and the report on the implementation of the agriculture law, submitted by the NPC Standing Committee's law inspection group. The upcoming session will also hear and discuss four reports on deliberation results of the motions submitted by NPC deputies on the third plenary session of the 10th NPC, which were submitted by the NPC's Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs, NPC's Finance and Economy Committee and NPC's Environment and Resources Committee and NPC's Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/15/2005


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HK Announces Report on Constitutional Development

Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Rafael Hui announced on Wednesday the Fifth Report of the Constitutional Development Task Force at the Legislative Council (LegCo). The report contains a package of proposals on methods for selecting the Chief Executive in 2007 and for forming the Legislative Council in 2008. On the method for selecting the Chief Executive in 2007, the Task Force suggested to increase the number of members of the Election Committee for selecting the Chief Executive from the present 800 to 1,600. Hui explained that the number of Election Committee members in the First, Second and Third Sectors to be increased from 200 to 300 respectively and the number of Election Committee members in the Fourth Sector to be increased from 200 to 700, mainly by including all (appointed, exofficio and elected members) District Council members. The Task Force suggested that the threshold for nominating candidates to be maintained at the ratio of one-eighth of total membership. On the method for forming LegCo in 2008, the Task Force suggested that the number of LegCo seats to be increased from 60 to 70. The number of seats returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections and that returned by functional constituencies will respectively be increased to 35. The Chief Secretary for Administration said, to ensure that the proposed package is firmly grounded on public views, the Task Force has published four reports since its establishment in January 2004, to collect widely and openly and in several stages views from different sectors of the community. He stressed that "the work of the Task Force can be said to be highly transparent." The Chief Secretary for Administration said, the main thrust of the proposed package is the enhanced level of participation of District Council members in the Election Committee and the Legislative Council. He said half of the newly added members of the Election Committee and all the newly added LegCo seats will basically be directly or indirectly elected by over 3 million voters in Hong Kong through geographical constituencies. They have a broad electorate and can greatly enhance the democratic representation in the two electoral methods. Furthermore, close to 60 percent of the seats in the fourth term LegCo will be returned by geographical constituencies. Hui said the existing District Council members come from different strata and sectors of the community. Around one-fourth are from the industrial and commercial sectors, around one-fifth are from the professional and managerial ranks, whilst the others include personalities from the education, social work, sports and cultural sectors, representatives of trade unions, housewives, and representatives of rural communities. He added that the background of District Council members can be said to be a microcosm of the community at large. It epitomizes the spirit of "balanced participation" and gives full effect to the principle of "looking after the interests of different sectors of the community". The Task Force has commissioned the Central Policy Unit to conduct an independent opinion poll to ascertain the level of public support for the main elements of the package. The poll was conducted by an independent opinion survey agency. The results suggest that the proposed package has won the support of the majority of the public, he added. He believed that the package of proposals put forth by the Task Force on Wednesday has struck the right balance amidst the various views submitted by different sectors of the community and has responded to the aspirations of the community on constitutional development. It should be acceptable to the community at large. He hoped that the proposed package will have the support of legislators so that Hong Kong's constitutional development can move forward. The Task Force firmly believes that the proposed package can provide more room and opportunities for the public to participate in the elections of the Chief Executive and LegCo broaden the representatives of the two electoral methods, and take forward Hong Kong's constitutional development substantively towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage, and is consistent with the Basic Law and the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress made on April 26, 2004, he said.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/19/2005


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China Loosens Limits on Overseas Investment

China is relaxing controls on companies seeking overseas financing in a move meant to boost development of private and high-tech companies, the government said. The change in policy will allow Chinese companies to set up offshore companies to raise funds and conduct mergers and acquisitions inside China. The revised rules, which will take effect Nov. 1, require such offshore companies to transfer income back to China within 180 days after it is earned. The change is also aimed at eliminating a loophole in the regulations that made it difficult for regulators to monitor cross-border capital flows.


From Associated Press 10/25/2005


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Land Ownership Focus of Property Rights Law Discussion

Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) and NPC deputies on Monday focused their attention on the issue of land ownership during their discussion on a proposed revision to the property rights law at the ongoing 18th session of the NPC Standing Committee. The proposed revision was submitted to China's top legislature for deliberation. China's top legislator Wu Bangguo took part in the discussion. Addressing Article 205 of the draft that prohibits public-owned land to be pawned, Wang Shouchen, said that land, except that to be used by farmers as abodes, should be allowed to be pawned. "This would produce more capital which is crucial for the development of the rural areas, and curb usurious loans as well," he said. Huang Daifang, an NPC deputy, argued that allowing farmers to pawn their land would lead to an increase in the number of homeless people, and higher incidences of social unrest. Huang's view was echoed by other members who agreed that a rise in the number of homeless people would be potentially harmful to social stability. Members also agreed that the law should aim for better safeguards for the country's economic system and public interests. The full text of the draft law was released on July 10, and the public had a month to submit opinions and views. On September 26, Wu presided over a discussion, soliciting opinions from NPC Standing Committee members and NPC deputies on the draft revision.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/25/2005


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Gov't Considers Expanding Reformed Pension System

The State is considering expanding a reformed pension insurance system nationwide at the end of this year after four years of trial in northeast China, according to an official from the related ministry. Started in Liaoning Province in 2001 as an experiment, the new system aims to rectify the previous practice that mixes personal accounts with collected funds to form pension payments. Instead, the personal account will be separated and left untouched until it is paid to the retiree, said Zhang Ran, an official with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. China did not have sufficient reserves when it adopted a pension insurance system in the 1990s. Many provinces were found to have transferred money from personal accounts to pay pensions, which resulted in a huge shortfall in funds. The shortage was previously reported to be around 2,500 billion yuan (US$309 billion) nationwide. Therefore, a three-year renovation was implemented in Liaoning in 2001, followed by Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, also in northeast China, last year. According to the new system, pensioners pay 8 percent of their total wages as their personal deposit into the fund, while the government and enterprises input a subsidy that amounts to 20 percent of the average local wage. By the end of last year, Liaoning had enriched personal accounts with an accumulated fund of 13.8 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion). And Jilin and Heilongjiang have also seen similar substantial achievements. Hu Xiaoyi, the ministry spokesman, said yesterday that the good experience from the three provinces will soon benefit the whole country. The new pension insurance system will be implemented as an integral part of China's social security system, which also includes unemployment insurance under its umbrella, he said. And the delivery of pensions will follow a new pattern that aims to reduce the risk from unexpected early retirement. "In Liaoning, pensioners who have paid into personal accounts for 15 years will earn 1 percent more annually if they continue to pay," Hu said. The ministry said the country delivered pensions worth 252.9 billion yuan (US$31.2 billion) for the first nine months this year. By the end of September, 171.2 million people had participated in the country's pension insurance system, an increase of 7.7 million over the end of last year.


From China Daily 10/26/2005


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Shanghai Adds Noise Clause to Draft Law

Construction noise, as well as loud parties or decoration work at night will become illegal according to a second draft of a revised environmental protection law announced yesterday. The draft also will make illegal the city's outdoor advert lights that disturb nearby residents. "We have noticed that indoor noise in residential areas severely affects people," Ding Wei, a member of the Standing Committee of the Shanghai People's Congress, the city's top legislative body, said during a regular meeting of the committee. He said as the population density increases downtown, the government should do more to inhibit all kinds of noise pollution. According to the draft, both construction at night and construction during the university entrance exam period each June will be considered a violation of its noise clause. Organizations in charge of those projects will face a penalty up to 100,000 yuan (US$12,345). It's also illegal for families to produce too much noise, such as singing or loud music, at private gatherings. Decorating apartments at certain hours will also be prohibited. Lawmakers have not yet decided the hours the law will be in effect. There is no concrete punishment for offenders, but officials said the government would take other administrative measures to improve noise control. Huang Guiqin, a doctor of Shanghai Huashan Hospital, said: "I think the law should include more concrete penalties to punish families and entertainment organizations which make constant noise." The committee members are planning to vote on the draft tomorrow. As for light pollution from advert billboards, the draft states the city's environmental protection authority will be responsible for rectifying improper lighting equipment. Also in the meeting, the committee discussed the city's first law to provide legal aid to poor people.


From Shanghai Daily 10/27/2005


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Amended Securities Law Gives Larger Room for Development of Stock Market

The newly-amended Securities Law has more room for the future development of the country's stock market, said former chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission Zhou Zhengqing Thursday, hours after the top legislature adopted the amendments. The amended law has over 100 amendments, making it look like a completely new law. One of the most important amendments is that it allows the State Council to stipulate new regulations regarding the management and operation of different financial sectors including banks, securities companies, trust companies and insurance firms, according to Zhou. It leaves room for future reforms in this field, with the possibility of allowing different financial firms to enter into others' areas. Meanwhile, the new amendments also give the State Council the final say on whether securities dealers are allowed to provide loans to investors and state-owned companies or state-held firms are allowed to trade shares on the stock market. The newly-amended law includes articles on the setting up of a state fund for the protection of investors. Accordingly, the China Securities Investors Protection Foundation Limited was established on September 29. Moreover, the amended law has required securities dealers to place clients' accounts separate from their own accounts.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/28/2005


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China Raises Personal Income Tax Cutoff Point to 1,600 Yuan

China's legislature Thursday made a decision to raise the cutoff point of the monthly personal income tax from the current 800 yuan to 1,600 yuan, effective from January 1, 2006. The amount is 100 yuan (one US dollar equals approximately 8.1 yuan) higher than the proposed 1,500 yuan cutoff point in the draft amendments to the personal income tax law, an indication that the law-makers have considered opinions aired at a previous public hearing. "We learned from this hearing that people hope the cutoff point should be even higher," said Lou Jiwei, vice-minister of Finance. "But in that case, fiscal revenue would decrease too much and our capability to support the growth of the western regions would be impaired," he said. According to Lou, more than 50 percent of central finance goes to transfer payments to the relatively backward western regions. He said that raising the cutoff point from 800 yuan to 1,500 yuan will result in more than 23 billion yuan (approximately US$2.84 billion) loss of fiscal revenue each year. Raising the point to 1,600 yuan will incur an additional fiscal loss of more than 5 billion yuan (approximately US$617 million) each year. "After the adjustment of the cutoff point, the number of taxpayers will drop by more than a half approximately. It will live up to our legislative principle to care for the interests of low and medium-income groups," said Lou. Adjustment of the cutoff point has been one of the most discussed topics of the general public in recent years. The current standard of 800 yuan was instituted in 1993, when only around one percent of the employed people earned more than 800 yuan. In 2002, the ratio had jumped to around 52 percent. Draft amendments to the personal income tax law set the cutoff point at 1,500 yuan. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, decided to put the issue of cutoff point to a public hearing as the adjustment is of widespread concern. The hearing, held in late-September, is the first legislative hearing ever held by the NPC Standing Committee. Chinese media laud it as proof of China's determination to advance democracy. Twenty people were chosen out of 4,982 applicants to air views at the hearing. Among them, six approved of the proposed 1,500 yuan point; 12 favored raising the point still higher and two said the point could be lower. After studying the views comprehensively, the NPC Standing Committee reached the opinion that the proposed 1,500 yuan point is basically appropriate. But it could be raised still a little higher to better help the low and medium-income groups and account for a rise in living costs in the future, said an NPC Standing Committee member. "The final result takes into account both public opinion and the fiscal situation," he said. Comments on the adjustment swarmed Internet bulletin boards after the final decision was announced. Some netizens said the cutoff point is still too low. But people in the western regions said the point is acceptable. "It ensures our western regions will have enough support from central financing. I'm very glad about that," said one of the netizens.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/28/2005


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New Rules to Combat AIDS Spread

China will introduce a national regulation on prevention and control of AIDS at the end of this year, and will provide nationwide training courses to nearly 500,000 officials above county levels, Vice-Minister of Health Wang Longde said yesterday. The practice is expected to boost the country's efforts of keeping the number of HIV carriers below 1.5 million in the next five years. Wang said that the regulation has been prepared over a two-year period, and will be submitted to the State Council's meeting for approval next month. He made the remarks at a panel discussion at the three-day International Symposium on Official Development Assistance for Population and Development, which concludes today. The rules, the first of their kind in the country, will require governments at all levels to provide free medical treatment to HIV sufferers living in poverty, protect the rights of HIV-AIDS patients and punish officials who neglect their duties in controlling AIDS. The training courses will be completed by the end of next year, with the aim of improving AIDS-related knowledge of all major officials. This is crucial in China, according to Wang, as discrimination against HIV-AIDS sufferers is still rampant. The Ministry of Health announced that China had a total of 126,808 people who officially reported as HIV-positive at the end of July, but the estimated number of sufferers could be as high as 840,000. The total registered number of AIDS patients is 28,789 and the death toll is 7,375, according to Wang. Dai Zhicheng, the head of the Chinese Association of Sexually Transmitted Disease and AIDS Prevention, said earlier this month that China plans to keep the number of people infected with HIV below 1.5 million by 2010. If no effective measures are taken, the number could exceed 10 million by that time, Dai warned. Wang said yesterday that the central government had poured 830 million yuan (US$101 million) into AIDS prevention work this year, and the investment could even be more next year. China also attaches importance to carrying out international co-operation in AIDS prevention, according to Wang, noting that such projects have been conducted in 27 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across the country, involving 1.867 billion yuan (US$229 million). Wang said that a new investigation on China's AIDS prevention and control situation is being conducted by the Chinese Government and certain international organizations, and the latest figures will be released around December 1, World AIDS Day. Participants of the symposium concluded their panel meetings yesterday and released a document known as the Suzhou Declaration, which called for the international community to increase official development assistance for population and development. They agreed to make joint efforts in realizing the goals of reducing poverty, improving reproductive health and encouraging gender equality.


From China Daily 10/28/2005


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JAPAN: English Translation of 180 Laws in Works

A government panel has proposed that about 180 Japanese laws be translated into English by the end of fiscal 2009 to facilitate foreign direct investment. The panel is tasked with promoting the translation of domestic legislation into other languages. The government plans to endorse the council's recommendations at a meeting of ministry and agency officials Friday, and it will then seek public comments for a month, they said. The council will make a final decision by March about which legislation will be translated after examining the public comments, according to officials. The translation of laws is part of overall judicial reform efforts. Ministries and businesses have already translated some laws on their own, but English versions have contained errors and there are no unified translation rules, the officials said. The panel has already started translating 14 laws, including patent and copyright laws, which the business community needs. It will also consider establishing a permanent body to change the English translations when laws are revised. The panel plans to compile by the end of March a bilingual dictionary containing about 4,000 terms that are often used in Japanese laws.


From The Japan Times 09/29/2005


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Law Planned on U.S. Forces' Realignment

The government started internal talks Thursday on a special law to speed up legal procedures necessary for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, a day after reaching agreement with the United States on relocation of U.S. bases in Japan, according to sources. Relocation of U.S. bases often takes a long time as it requires talks with residents and following procedures for obtaining approval from local authorities in line with laws and ordinances. The special law therefore is aimed at expediting the relocation process by giving the central government the power to act in place of prefectural and municipal governments in approving such matters as environmental assessments and reclamation work on public waters. The government intends to submit a bill on realignment of U.S. forces in Japan to the ordinary Diet session next year. The government started considering measures to expedite the realignment process on the orders of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, according to government sources. On the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, Koizumi on Wednesday night told reporters, "Taking into account the failure of the relocation plan by SACO [Special Action Committee on Okinawa] due to strong local opposition campaigns, we need to do [the relocation] as soon as possible." On Thursday, Koizumi said he would consider establishing a special law if necessary. The special law would allow environmental assessments, which usually take three years, to be conducted in one to two years. The law would give the central government the power to approve reclamation work in state-owned waters, check construction plans and approve the use of roads without obtaining the backing of local governments. The government has shown its willingness to seek the understanding and support of local governments over the relocation plans. On Thursday, it started providing explanations of the plans to the relevant local governments. Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono said at the House of Councillors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, "I consider that the most important thing is to sincerely talk to local residents and seek their understanding." It is uncertain, however, whether the government will be able to obtain the consent of municipal governments that would host relocated forces. Even if the government could obtain local consent, opponents of relocation plans might be elected as heads of concerned municipalities in future polls, making it more difficult for the government to proceed with relocation plans. Processes for approving projects necessary for relocations might be prolonged if local authorities move with caution. In 1997, regarding the forced leasing of the U.S. Navy's Sobe Communications Site in Okinawa Prefecture, the so-called Elephant Cage, the government revised the law on the use of land by the U.S. military so the government would be authorized to make provisional use of the site after then Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota refused to sign documents to renew the lease in place of the landowners. The Japanese and U.S. governments agreed on the relocation of Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, in 1996. But due to prolonged negotiations with local residents, a basic plan to build an alternative facility off Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, was decided on in 2002.


From The Yomiuri Shimbun 09/28/2005


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Over 60% Oppose Revising War-Renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution

Over 60 percent of those surveyed by the Mainichi Shimbun said they are opposed to revising Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces war, even though a majority of the pollees expressed support for constitutional amendment in general. Only 30 percent responded that the clause should be revised. The results clearly demonstrate that the majority of people think the pacifist clause should be retained even though the public is increasingly in favor of constitutional amendment amid ongoing discussions in the Diet on such changes. The Mainichi Shimbun met 4,550 people randomly selected across the country for the survey in early September, and 2,418 of them responded. Of the respondents, 58 percent said they agree to constitutional amendment in general, well above the 34 percent who voiced opposition. By gender, 62 percent of men and 54 percent of the women support revisions to the Constitution, while 33 percent of men and 36 percent of women are against amendment to the fundamental law. By age, the majority of those in their 20s to 60s back revising the Constitution. In particular, 65 percent of the pollees in their 30s and 40s are supportive of constitutional changes. Among those aged 70 and over, the percentage of supporters and opponents was almost equal. When asked whether Article 9 should be changed, 62 percent of the overall respondents answered that it should be kept. By gender, 57 percent of men and 67 percent of women voiced opposition while 38 percent of men and 23 percent of women insisted that it should be revised. Over 60 percent of the pollees in their 20s, 30s, 50s and 70s are opposing changes to the war-renouncing clause. In particular, 70 percent of those in their 20s are opponents of revisions to Article 9. Article 9 renounces war as a means to settle international disputes and bans Japan from possessing any war potential. The Constitution can be amended only if two-thirds or more of the members of the houses of the Diet support it and a majority of all votes cast in a referendum are in favor of it, according to Article 96.


From http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/ 10/05/2005


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Fukui Vows to Maintain Current Monetary Policy

Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui on Thursday reiterated his determination to maintain the central bank's ultra-loose monetary policy until consumer prices post sustained growth, but gave no indication of when the policy may be changed. ''The BOJ will continue the quantitative easing policy until the year-on-year percentage change in the core nationwide consumer price index stabilizes at zero or above,'' Fukui said in a speech to a one-day quarterly meeting of BOJ branch managers.


From Kyodo News 10/20/2005


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BOJ Set to Shift Focus to Interest Rates in Spring

The Bank of Japan will likely lift its quantitative easing policy next spring as the economy has shown signs it will finally shake its deflationary woes by that time, central bank sources said. The BOJ adopted the quantitative easing policy in March 2001 to counter deflation after its zero interest rate policy failed to stimulate the economy. Recent signs indicate that consumer prices have ended their slide and will start to rise again on a long-term basis. Such a situation would end the need for the easing policy, which the central bank has described as unusual and potentially dangerous. Under the policy, the BOJ injects excess reserves into the banking system by progressively raising the target for the outstanding balance of current account deposits from private financial institutions. The current range is between 30 trillion and 35 trillion yen. The central bank has already allowed the balance to drop below 30 trillion yen. The BOJ achieves its target by buying financial assets such as short-term notes from commercial banks. The BOJ hoped that flooding banks with more money than they needed would stimulate lower interest rates, increase lending and stock purchases and spread expectations that consumer prices would rise. BOJ officials have long said the central bank would not lift its quantitative easing policy unless the consumer price index (CPI) achieved positive growth over the previous year.


From The Asahi Shimbun 10/25/2005


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Income Tax Cuts Should End in 2007: Panel Chief

The head of the government's tax panel said Monday income tax cuts and residential tax breaks should be abolished in January 2007. Deliberations at the Tax Commission will be "in a direction toward abolition," Hiromitsu Ishi, chairman of the panel, said during an interview. Ishi, a professor at Chuo University, was referring to discussions the commission is to launch Tuesday on compiling a package of tax reform proposals in late November for fiscal 2006. The tax cuts were introduced in 1999 as part of an economic stimulus package drawn up by the administration of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. The measure allowed cuts worth 20 percent of income tax, or up to 250,000 yen a year, and 15 percent of residential tax, or up to 40,000 yen a year. The tax reductions were introduced "with the promise of abolishing them when economic activity improves," Ishi said. "The time has come." He made the comment against the backdrop of improving economic data and the government's eagerness to rebuild its deficit-ridden finances by boosting tax revenues. While the government has already decided to halve the margin of the income tax reductions from next year, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki regards the curtailment as an "extraordinary measure" before abolishing them. The abrogation of the tax cuts would raise annual tax burdens by 178,000 yen for a family of four with an income of 10 million yen and by 82,000 yen for a family of the same size with an income of 7 million yen. Ishi said his panel is considering unifying at 10 percent the current local income tax rates of 5 percent, 10 percent and 13 percent, referring to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's call for decentralization by transferring 3 trillion yen worth of tax revenues from the central government to local governments. To offset a resultant rise in financial burdens on taxpayers, the commission may propose lowering the minimum rate of income tax to 5 percent from the current 10 percent, he said. As for tax revenues earmarked for road construction, the commission chief said the panel will likely propose allowing its use for other purposes in the coming package of tax reform recommendations.


From The Japan Times 10/25/2005


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Nuclear Energy Policy: EDITORIAL

The government has cobbled together an Outline of Nuclear-energy Policy for the next decade on the nation's problem-plagued nuclear energy program. The government decided to work out the outline because it thought its duty was to present a broad policy orientation rather than a traditional long-term program this time around. The focus of attention in the outline was whether the government would press ahead with its traditional policy of nuclear fuel recycling or change tack. The Atomic Energy Commission of Japan discussed alternative policies, giving hope that the government might actually shift its stance. But the talks were half-baked, and the commission approved the continuation of the existing policy. Japan plans to carry out a nuclear fuel cycle program in which plutonium is used as fuel after all spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed. Such a method is very expensive, and many foreign countries have given up on the idea. Even in Japan, an increasing number of experts have urged the government to reconsider this policy. In discussing the nation's future nuclear energy policy, the Atomic Energy Commission presented three alternatives in response to such critical views. Talks at the commission showed that reprocessing spent nuclear fuel would be 1.5 to 1.8 times as costly as a disposal method for the spent fuel. But the commission decided to maintain the current policy, mainly because the government has not yet studied a direct disposal method of spent fuel and that a change in policy would waste all the money that has been invested in the nuclear fuel recycling program. The commission also said a change in policy would invite resentment of local governments. The commission's arguments do not make sense. Japan has not inquired about a direct disposal method because it was assumed that such a study would be unnecessary. The commission itself is partly responsible for failing to look into this alternative. If the government hesitates to change its policy by citing various obstacles that may arise, then it will never be able to switch policies. It is inevitable even if the commission is criticized that it is not really ready for a change. At any rate, the outline gives a stamp of approval to start operations of the Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture. The plant will soon start testing high-level radioactive spent fuel, thus embarking on the road to nuclear fuel recycling. Discussions on this nuclear fuel cycle have not been completed. Further and deeper talks must be held over the reprocessing plant. But the outline does propose multifaceted inquiries into nuclear energy in preparation for possible future change in Japan's nuclear policy. This is only natural. Even if the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant starts operating, the plutonium-thermal program, which uses plutonium produced by the reprocessing plant, is not yet under way. Nor is there any plan for another reactor that will take over from the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor. Japan's nuclear fuel recycling program requires overcoming many difficult problems. Nuclear reactors themselves are also fraught with problems. The government plans to operate the reactors for 60 years, but there is no guarantee they will be safe enough to run after such a long time. Power companies might also become reluctant to use such unwieldy nuclear reactors when demand for electricity declines. Uncertainties surround nuclear power. The government should not stick to a single set of policies. It should study many other technologies to prepare for a possible policy shift if the situation changes. What is needed is a flexible approach.


From The Asahi Shimbun 10/25/2005


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New Law Bars Foreign Control of Broadcasters

The Diet on Wednesday approved legislation to prevent foreign companies from gaining control of domestic broadcasters by using affiliates in Japan, paving the way for its implementation next spring. The measure to revise the radio and broadcast laws was enacted after it cleared the House of Councilors on Wednesday. Under the revised laws, the government will limit to less than 20 percent the combined stake that a foreign company can directly or indirectly hold in a Japanese broadcaster in terms of voting rights. Current laws limit foreign investors or firms to direct stakes of less than 20 percent, but they don't limit the size of equity stakes they can own via affiliates. The revisions add Japanese affiliates in which foreign investors or foreign firms are invested to the category of investors that can be regulated by the laws. The revisions were worked out hastily in the wake of Livedoor Co.'s attempt earlier this year to take over Nippon Broadcasting System Inc., an AM radio broadcaster that was the biggest shareholder in Fuji Television Network Inc. The Internet services company had issued convertible bonds to U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers to help fund the acquisition of Nippon Broadcasting. If Lehman converted all the bonds into Livedoor shares, it would be a major shareholder of the Internet services company, raising the possibility it would indirectly control the radio station and possibly influence Fuji TV if Livedoor had succeeded with the bid.


From The Japan Times 10/27/2005


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SOUTH KOREA: Special Development Zone Laws to Be Amended

In Korea a draft amendment of laws on special development zones will give another lift to regional economies if approved by the National Assembly this month. One key revision involves expanding the employment of non-Koreans to teach foreign languages. A number of measures were passed at a cabinet meeting to tweak the current laws on government-designated special development zones. The Ministry of Finance and Economy put forward the amendments to further boost recent government efforts to bring about balanced development in different areas of the country mainly by promoting regional products or industries. One adjustment will allow all elementary, middle and high schools to hire non-Koreans to teach foreign languages. The current system only lets high schools and some specialized middle schools do so. Residents in special zones engaging in certain business activities are also set to benefit. Those in the agriculture industry will have more freedom to crossover into the leisure industry. The changes will also loosen regulations over the manufacture of distinctive and regional alcoholic beverages. In December 2004 the government selected six special zones across the country and an additional four cities were also chosen earlier this year. These include Changnyeong in South Gyeongsang Province, which has been named an English education zone, and Yeosu in South Joella Province, which will be transformed into a seaside resort. If the amendments are approved by the National Assembly, they will go into effect early next year.


From Arirang News 09/28/2005


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SNU Head Emphasizes Autonomy: One-fits-all Education Policy Criticized

At a ceremony celebrating the 59th anniversary of the founding of the university Friday, Chung criticized the government*s one-fits-all education policy, saying that higher learning educational institutions should be allowed to adopt their own policies that suit them best. ``Local universities should be able to set independent and school-specific policies to enhance their competitiveness and catch up with the world*s leading academic institutions,** Chung said. ``But the government*s restrictive education policies have hindered us from selecting more creative and competent students, which is indispensable to becoming the one of the world*s top schools,** he added. He also said that the government policy to provide equal education to students in all universities is not proper in the era of globalization. ``Korean universities also need to secure administrative autonomy and international diversities on campus. We will hire more foreign professors over the next few years and bring more students from other countries to increase the level of diversity on campus,** he noted. His comments are expected to spark another round of conflict between the SNU and the government officials over the university*s new admissions policy. In May, the SNU revealed a new admissions plan to place more importance on the written section of its entrance exam from 2008 with the writing score making up 60 percent of the exam to choose better qualified students. The college scholastic ability test (CSAT) would be used only as a qualifying exam and students' scholastic performance at high schools will cover the remaining 40 percent of the total grades for students. It said that the school cannot select good students from the current exam system, saying the CSAT and scholastic performance records cannot show students' real abilities. But the university*s decision has faced strong opposition from the government whose education policies have strictly enforced a ban on schools holding their own university entrance tests. The government*s ban is mainly aimed at discouraging middle and high schools students from enrolling in private learning facilities to prepare for more intense individual university admission exams. It is expected to incur huge private education costs, the government said. It also worries that once universities are allowed to select students based on their own admission standards, the public education system could collapse. The SNU*s new policy further angered government officials as it came just days after the government decided to place more importance on high school scholastic performance in the college entrance exam starting 2008. In July, President Roh Moo-hyun said that the government will not allow SNU to introduce the new admissions plan designed to revive the school*s own test. The government has also warned the SNU that it would reduce financial assistance and other administrative support unless the school withdraws its controversial admission plan. However, the university president Chung and professors have refused to back down, saying that school will not change its admissions plan, which will put more weight on essays in various subjects. (by Lee Hyo-sik)


From The Korea Times 10/14/2005


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Constitutional Reform Should Be Discussed in 2007

Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan said Monday discussions on a revision of the Constitution for introducing a new presidential system, instead of the current five-year single term presidency, should start in 2007. ``I agree that the present five-year single term was introduced transitionally in 1987 when the nation was at a great political turning point,** Lee said on the first day of a five-day discussion at the National Assembly. ``As the system doesn*t seem to be suitable anymore, we should discuss introducing a new system through changing the Constitution probably in the latter half of 2007 ahead of the next presidential election,** he said. The premier added he supports early discussions and studies by experts and legislators, but the issue should not be brought too quickly into the public arena. He expressed concerns over the possible negative impact of the issue on the slowly reviving economy. Political analysts say the current five-year system, a legacy of former dictatorships and excessive obsession with power, has been a stumbling block to the many reform measures of previous and incumbent governments as presidents have been prematurely tagged as `lame ducks* in the second half of their presidential terms. Both ruling and opposition party legislators agreed on the need to change the current system, offering various proposals to introduce a new system during Monday*s session. They suggested establishing a preparatory organization to study the constitutional revision late this year or early next year. Many of them also called for a national referendum on the issue in the beginning of 2007 at the latest. Rep. Min Byung-doo of the ruling Uri Party said, ``A revision of the Constitution should be dealt with in the Assembly*s regular session this year. I suggest setting up a special committee composed of the same number of ruling and opposition lawmakers in September next year and holding a referendum in March 2007 to finalize the constitutional revision plan.** Rep. Yun Ho-jung, also of the ruling party, asserted that a parliamentary Cabinet system of government should replace the current presidential system as an inter-Korean body is likely to undertake important state affairs such as diplomatic, unification and national defense affairs sometime in the future. ``Both the next presidential election to be held in December 2007 and National Assembly election in April 2008 should be held in November 2007,** said Rep. Kwon Chul-hyun of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP). ``A referendum on the issue should be held in March next year to expedite the time-consuming procedure.** Rep. Kwon criticized President Roh Moo-hyun for attempting to take advantage of his coalition government proposal for his own political interests and said an early agreement on the issue should be made to prevent unnecessary political disputes. Rep. Chung Ui-wha of the GNP said a four-year double term presidency with a vice-president system, instead of the current prime minister system, should be considered. He also said the current unicameral system of the Assembly should be changed to a bicameral, or two-chamber, system. (by Lee Jin-woo)


From The Korea Times 10/24/2005


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Pension Plan Key to Happy Retirement

Retirement Pension Plan, a new employer-sponsored pension plan, is set to begin for the first time on Dec. 1. Thus, together with the government-run public pension plan and individual retirement plans already in place, the new pension plan completes the three layers of public-employerindividual retirement safety nets that are found in most developed countries. The National Assembly passed the legislation on the retirement pension plan on December 29, 2004. The essential goal of the legislation is to provide more secure post-retirement benefits. Because most employers currently defer their pension obligations until their vested employees retire for a one-time, lump-sum payment, and some even allow their employees to ※cash in§ their vested years of service well before they reach retirement age, retirement benefits have not always been a sure thing. Under the new pension scheme, an employer and employees may agree to set up a pension plan and make regular contributions to the plan, with independent outside fiduciaries administering and protecting the plan assets. The new pension plan provides for two general types of pension plans commonly known as the defined benefit plan and the defined contribution plan and leaves it up to the employer and the employees to decide which plan suits them best. They may also select to stay with the lump-sum retirement payment scheme already in place. Under the defined benefit plan, the benefits that a vested employee receives after retirement are defined and typically determined on the basis of the final salary and the number of years of service. The contribution approach or the funding method elected for a defined benefit plan may vary from time to time and from one employer to another. But all defined benefit plans are supposed to provide the vested employees with the benefits as defined by the plan after retirement. Similarly, with the defined contribution plan, the employer makes annual contributions -- e.g., 1/12 of the annual salary of the vested employees-- to individual accounts established for each of the vested employees, who are then more or less responsible for allocating the contributions into various investments for retirement purposes. The new pension plan also provides individual retirement accounts for employees who switch jobs and receive severance pay or other compensation from the previous employer for use after retirement. There are many positive developments we can expect from the adoption of the new plan, not only for the asset management service industry, but also for the financial market as a whole. For one, it will open up new growth opportunities for financial service providers with sizable pools of funds to manage for stable, long-term investments. And as more workplaces adopt the new pension plans and more employees elect to contribute to their pension plans to secure postretirement benefits, we can expect to see the pools of funds grow in size over time. The potential for growth is exemplified by the experience of the U.S. since the introduction of 401(k) plans, which grew immensely popular and fueled the growth of the equity markets and strong economic performance throughout the 1990s. The size of pension plan assets in the U.S. was estimated at $6 trillion at the end of 2003, an amount equivalent to about 55 percent of the gross domestic product that year. For Japan, the comparable figure was 77 trillion yen or 15.5 percent of its gross domestic product. In contrast, the figure for Korea is around 19.5 trillion won or 2.6 percent of the gross domestic product. For our part, we have worked hard to come up with an effective and efficient regulatory framework for pension plans. Among the rules we expect to establish in the supervisory regulations later this month are the registration of pension plan administrators, managing and safeguarding plan assets, and the fiduciary duties of plan administrators and asset managers. The need for sound and transparent pension accounting and actuarial standards is obvious as well. We expect only sound and reputable financial service providers to be eligible to manage pension plan assets. As a way to further protect plan assets, there will be certain restrictions on the types of investment vehicles and the level of risks pension funds may take on. Appropriate disclosure requirements will also be set forth. We will also support financial service providers in such areas as system integration and staff training to help them prepare for the implementation of the new pension plan. Both the regulators and the pension plan administrators -- the people who manage the plans -- certainly have a role to play in ensuring the success of the new retirement plan. More importantly, those who decide to participate in the new pension plans will have to assume some responsibilities for safeguarding the accrued benefits. As noted earlier, with the defined contribution plan the participant has much discretion over how the accrued benefits are invested, and there is no fixed amount of benefits guaranteed at retirement. So it does place some burden on those participating in the new pension plan to take the due care to understand it, stay abreast of market developments, and make prudent investment decisions. We are certainly prepared to do our part and work closely with government agencies as well as public and private institutions to help improve public understanding of the new retirement plan and make sure it is administered in a safe and sound manner. (by Kim Chang-lok)


From The Korea Times 10/25/2005


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Government Establishes Bird Flu Contingency Plan

The South Korean government established a four-tiered alert system on Wednesday (Oct. 26) to combat any possible outbreak of the avian bird flu in the country. In a meeting of private and government experts chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, the participants decided that the governemnt would issue an "attention" alert if a bird flu case is detected among chickens and ducks. "At this initial level, decontamination and quarantine teams will be sent to the site, while detailed blood testing will be conducted," said Kim Chang-ho, the head of the Government Information Agency. The minister said this will be raised to "caution" if the bird flu has been found to have jumped to humans, and move up another notch to "warning" if it is determined the disease has passed from one person to another. Finally if the level of infection becomes rampant, the government will declare a national emergency. Kim said as the caution level move upwards, people's movements in the areas immediately contaminated will be affected first. Then, it will progress to school closures and discouragement of public activities in the final stage of the epidemic. The anti-bird flu drug Tamiflu will be dispensed with the issuing of the warning alert, and a 24-hour emergency task force will also be established to coordinate decontamination and quarantine efforts from this level. Other measures will include close monitoring of possible outbreaks of bird flu in North Korea and prevention of any contamination from across the demilitarized zone. The government stressed that due to the importance of prompt reporting of the disease, bird farms that report suspicious deaths immediately will receive full compensation for the animals culled if it is determined to be a bird flu outbreak.


From http://www.korea.net/ 10/27/2005


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MONGOLIA: Law on Renewable Energy to Be Approved

Mongolia will shortly have a new independent law on renewable energy. A draft law on renewable energy drawn up by the Government of Mongolia will be submitted to Parliament. At present, the issues related to the renewable energy are regulated under the law of Mongolia on energy approved in 2001. The above law is expected to support renewable energy production and to render a relief to the renewable energy producers. About 130-140 thousand families have not been provided with electricity, nationwide.


From MONTSAME 10/15/2005


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New ADB Strategy in Mongolia to Address Growth and Social Development

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank will support the Mongolian Government in promoting higher private sector-led growth and inclusive social development, in a new Country Strategy and Program (CSP) for 2006-2008 endorsed by ADB's Board of Directors. The CSP proposes assistance from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund totaling about $85 million over the three years, averaging about $28 million a year. This will be supplemented by an additional $40 million from ADB's regional fund and cofinancing sources. The lending program will be supported by technical assistance grants averaging about $1.9 million a year. The CSP aims to help Mongolia maintain stable broad-based economic growth and address priority goals of reducing disparities in development between urban and rural areas, while improving access to jobs, incomes, and higher quality public services. Planned for the period are projects to address urban development, public administration reform, agriculture, transport, and health. The final assistance levels are subject to performance and overall ADF availability. When Mongolia joined ADB in 1991, its economy was in crisis and the country was in flux, given that financial support and technical assistance previously provided by the Soviet Union had been withdrawn. Since then Mongolia has made a strong transition to a market economy, but there has been insufficient growth to reduce the large percentage of the population who fell into poverty in the early transition years. Harsh natural conditions, geographical isolation, difficult access to financial resources and unemployment are the major causes of poverty, according to the CSP. Low incomes are compounded by inadequate social services, particularly poor medical facilities, urban services, and education. ADB has provided loans totaling $605.8 million to the end of 2004 for 35 projects in the agriculture, education, energy, financial, health, industry, telecommunications, transport, and urban development sectors, complemented by technical assistance amounting to $57 million. "With much of the important rehabilitation and emergency agenda now complete, ADB assistance is now to be better focused on sectors that have the maximum impact on poverty reduction," says Barry Hitchcock, ADB Country Director in Mongolia. "ADB is therefore adopting a more focused approach, narrowing the number of sectors to include assistance in agriculture, transport, education, health, and urban development." A key change in the CSP is that it targets constraints to broad-based and stable growth rather than higher growth itself, and constraints that limit economic opportunities for the poor rather than general transition and development constraints. "The CSP addresses the Government's twin priorities within a framework that will develop rigorous performance indicators and establish systems to manage the Government's strategy for achieving results," Mr. Hitchcock adds. CSPs define ADB's medium-term development strategy as agreed with the country. A CSP update is usually prepared every year taking into account the continued relevance of the CSP, its implementation, and ADB's operational program. 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 64 members, with 46 from the region. In 2004, it approved loans and technical assistance totaling $5.3 billion and $196.6 million, respectively.


From http://www.adb.org/ 10/19/2005


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Minumum Pension to Be Added

The Parliament members consider that the minimum of pension is required to be added. This proposal was supported at the discussion on the 2006 draft budget of Mongolia held today at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Policy. Some lawmakers suggested to limit the minimum of pension by 40 thousand togrogs by ways of increasing the minimum of salaries. The calculation of the pension minimum will jointly be made by the Ministries of Social Welfare and Labor, and Finance. During the discussion, the proposals were supported by the majority of the Parliamentarians on increasing the salaries of staffs of budget organizations by 20 percent, on granting 500 thousand togrogs one-off allowance to new couples and on adding by 1000 togrogs a monthly money allowance for each child. (by Oyuntsetseg)


From MONTSAME 10/26/2005


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INDONESIA: Govt Ignores Constitutional Court on Fuel

The government said on Monday that it would not back down from its decision to raise fuel prices by an average of 126.6 percent, despite a warning by the Constitutional Court that the decision had been made on a shaky legal basis. Constitutional Court President Jimly Asshidiqie sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last Thursday, telling him that his presidential decree on fuel price hikes lacked a firm legal foundation. The letter was issued after a meeting of the court's judges, and copies were sent to other state institutions, including the House of Representatives. Jimly said Presidential Decree No. 55/2005 on the new retail prices of oil-based fuels, which was signed by Susilo on Sept. 30, had improperly used the Oil and Gas Industry Law (No. 22/2001) as its legal basis. The court ruled in December last year that the Oil and Gas Law had to be amended as it found that a number of its provisions were repugnant to the 1945 Constitution, including the article on the determination of fuel prices for the domestic market. The Constitutional Court ruled that such determination must not be based on market prices, but the government should instead set them based on people's purchasing power. Leaving fuel prices at the mercy of the international market would be contrary to the Constitution, it added. Responding to the letter, the government said it would ignore it. Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Purnomo Yusgiantoro said the letter was not specifically discussed during a Cabinet meeting on energy on Monday. "The government will not respond to the Constitutional Court's letter since our policy has been made in compliance with the existing legislation," he told the press after the meeting at the presidential offices in Jakarta. The fuel price policy had also been approved by the House of Representatives, Purnomo added. "We will not revoke the decree despite the letter. The court should not interfere in the government's affairs." Earlier on Monday, Jimly denied that the letter was an attempt to get the government to cancel the steep fuel price increases. "We have no intention of intervening in the affairs of the executive. But, it's very important that the government abide by the final and conclusive decision of the Constitutional Court regarding the Oil and Gas Law," he said during a press conference. "We cannot dream of upholding democracy without the rule of law and we cannot dream of improving the people's welfare without justice," Jimly said. The letter came amid continued sporadic protests against the increases as some lawmakers attempted to file a motion to summon the government to justify the policy. Legislators said the court's letter could be used as a "bullet" to further strengthen their antigovernment move.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/11/2005


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Local Heads May Be Punished Under New Bill

State Minister of Administrative Reforms Taufik Effendi said on Monday his office was currently preparing a bill on state administrations, which would make incompetent regional leaders who made bad policies answerable to the law. Taufik said the drafting of the bill was expected to be completed next year and once it was passed into law, "all governors, regents and mayors will no longer be able to create policies as they could be charged in the courts for doing so." "Nowadays, many people are jostling for political positions either in the central government or local administrations. But once we have this legislation, I believe that only qualified people will be able to join the race," he said on the sidelines of a ceremony on good governance in regional administrations. "The legislation will work to ensure that only people with their integrity intact, who have the honest intention of developing their area will run for political positions," he said. Taufik acknowledged there would likely be resistance to the new legislation, but vowed to get the law passed. "As of today, my office has completed nearly 80 percent of the contents in the bill and I hope that the government and legislators can begin to debate and will endorse it by early next year," he was quoted by Antara as saying. The planned legislation comes amid reports of rampant corruption in regional administrations and the creation of confusing local government policy that is often in conflict with national laws. The central government introduced regional autonomy in 2001, giving regional governments greater power to manage economic and social affairs after 32 years under the centralized authoritarian Soeharto government. Disputes involving heads of the local administrations and the local legislative councils also frequently occurred, with motions of no confidence launched to remove Cirebon Mayor Subardi and his deputy Agus Alwafier in 2003 after the later were accused of abusing their power. The past two Surabaya mayors, Soenarto Soemoprawiro and Bambang D.H., also faced similar dismissal threats from the municipal legislative council in 2001 and 2002 respectively for being incompetent. The central government accepted Soenarto's dismissal but rejected Bambang's. Another case took place in 2002 when 30 out of a total of 45 members of the Riau legislature voted to impeach of Kampar regent Jefri Noer and his deputy A. Zakir. Jefri was accused of making controversial policies and statements on numerous problems, all of which had caused confusion amongst local people. But the central government decided at the time to retain Jefri.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/11/2005


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Australia Offers Help on Antiterror Law Reform

The Australian government has expressed concern over Indonesia's antiterrorism laws, offering to send experts to help the country reform its counterterror measures. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Wednesday the experts would share with their Indonesian counterparts their experience in reforming counterterrorism laws at home, and would not intervene in Indonesia's justice system. The experts would meet with Indonesian experts and discuss legal as well as institutional reforms with regard to counterterror measures, Downer said after meeting with Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda here on Wednesday. "We'll be sending a team of officials who are experts in counterterrorism laws, in particular in the consultations we had with other countries over reforming our own counterterrorism laws and the changes we've made recently, or are in the process of making, in Australia to our counterterrorism laws," he said, adding that the details would be announced in two days. "This is an excellent example of the collaboration between the two countries. Indonesia makes its own laws and makes decisions about what laws it wants to consider. But I think for the two countries to talk to each other about how we're handling the legal framework of counterterrorism is very important," he said. Australia agreed last month on the enforcement of a tough antiterror law, in which a terror suspect can be detained without charge for up to 14 days. The law will be reviewed after five years. Downer is visiting Jakarta to meet with Indonesian government officials on a range of issues, including Canberra's objections to a possible sentence remission for jailed Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, as well as Australia's desire to see Jakarta outlaw al-Qaeda-linked regional terror group Jamaah Islamiyah. Downer declined to offer much comment on the issues, only saying that Indonesia was progressing very well in its investigation into the Oct. 1 Bali bombings.


Adopted from http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/13/2005


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Businesspeople Reject New Tax Amendments

Local businesses grouped in the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) and representatives of foreign firms operating here have rejected the proposed amendments to the tax legislation, arguing they would hurt the economy more than benefit it. "The amendments place too much power in the hands of tax officials and excessively heavy sanctions on taxpayers, creating a situation that could burden businesses and scare away investment," Kadin chairman M.S. Hidayat said on Monday. "We request that the deliberation and implementation of the new legislation be put on hold, in the interests of our economy." Hidayat explained that Kadin does not object to the government's efforts to reform the country's taxation system, but insisted that it should actually lead to a more equitable and transparent system that supported the competitiveness of Indonesia's businesses and its investment climate. Kadin saw the proposed amendments as failing to do all of these things, Hidayat said, referring to how unscrupulous tax officials could still abuse their powers due to a lack of effective sanctions, and how plans to reduce income tax rates to between 25 percent and 30 percent would only come into effect in 2010, while the rates in other Asian countries were already lower than these. "The requirement to state expenditure in annual tax returns will only create an administrative nightmare for businesses, as well," he said. National Economic Recovery Committee (KPEN) chairman Sofyan Wanandi highlighted how several draconian aspects of the draft amendments -- such as direct jail terms and the freezing of bank accounts following on from simple negligence or mistakes in submitting tax data -- could discourage businesses. The government has submitted to the House of Representatives its proposed amendments to Law No. 16/2000 on general taxation arrangements and procedures, Law No. 18/2000 on VAT and luxury tax and Law No. 17/2000 on income tax. Kadin had actually been involved in the drafting of the amendments, together with the tax office, and had supported the amendments, as many of its pro-business suggestions appeared to have been accommodated. The tax office, however, later made changes to the amendments to the dismay of Kadin. Vice chairman of the Indonesia-Australia Business Council, Peter G. Fanning, said that the draft amendments to the tax legislation could lead to existing investors reducing their commitments and new investors staying away.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/18/2005


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2006 Budget Passed With Few Snags

All ended well for the government's proposed 2006 state budget, with the House of Representatives passing the budget draft into law on Friday. In a plenary session that began at 9 a.m. and lasted for some eight hours, nine of the House's 10 factions accepted the proposed budget draft, attaching several notes for the government to address in its implementation in January. Only the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction refused to support the draft, with members detailing a list of criticisms of it. The plenary session had reached the required half-attendance quorum of the House's 550 members, but only some 100 returned after the Friday prayers break. The House's Budget Committee had earlier approved the draft after a two-month long deliberation with the government, whose final report was submitted to the plenary session by chairman Emir Moeis of the PDI-P. The budget targets Indonesia's gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 6.2 percent to Rp 3,040 trillion (some US$304 billion) next year, on higher development spending and assumes a deficit of Rp 22.4 trillion, or 0.7 percent of the GDP. It is the first budget deliberation for both President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration and the 2004-elected House. The previous administration of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and the 1999-elected House earlier deliberated and approved the 2005 state budget. That budget turned into a financial, and political, nightmare for the new government as soaring global oil prices forced it to twice revise what was a demonstrably unrealistic set of assumptions -- the first time in the country's history. But the 2006 state budget deliberation had its own intrigue too, with a last-minute controversy -- a significant rise in next year's stipends for legislators and for the Presidential budget -- at a time when the public is struggling to cope with increasing prices after the Oct. 1 fuel price hike. Next year's budget only allocates some Rp 40 trillion to the education sector, less than 10 percent of total spending, and even lower than the planned 12 percent that the government had previously presented to the House. Despite their acceptance of the budget draft, the factions also questioned whether next year's Rp 54.2 trillion fuel subsidy allocation would be enough, without the country having to go through another series of fuel price hike like this year. They urged the government to be more prudent in next year's budget implementation, basing it on performance-based criteria by setting specific targets -- such as unemployment rate reductions and human development index rating improvements in a year.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/29/2005


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MALAYSIA: Parliamentary Services Act for House Autonomy

The Government has agreed to re-enact the Parliamentary Services Act 1963 to ensure that the institution is not influenced by any party. Minister in the Prime Minister*s Department Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said the existence of the Act would enable Parliament to function without any interference. ※The Government realised that Parliament members wanted the institution to be free from influences,§ he told reporters after handing out Raya goodies at the Repoh mosque here yesterday. He was commenting on the call by backbenchers and opposition MPs to ※revive§ the Act which was abolished in 1992. The Act provided for the administrative functions of Parliament and its staff to be totally separate from the executive arm of the Government. Barisan Nasional Backbencher Club chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad said the Act would enable Parliament to get independent personnel service. The current arrangement was extremely bureaucratic and created the impression that there was executive interference even when there was none, he added. Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang said a committee comprising representatives from all sides should be formed immediately to come up with a Bill. ※Now, let us show that we can get things through in an efficient manner by getting it enacted before the end of this meeting at the end of this year. ※Alternatively, since there is already the old Act, it could be tabled for the first reading immediately,§ he said. Meanwhile, the Senate*s House Committee recommended that a new law to guarantee the independence of Parliament be drafted. It also called for all moves to change the administrative structure of Parliament be stopped. Announcing this, Senate President Tan Sri Dr Abdul Hamid Pawanteh said the recommendation was agreed upon when the committee met yesterday. ※The recommendation will now be tabled as a motion in the Dewan Negara when it meets in December,§ he told a press conference. Dr Abdul Hamid said the need for an Act to replace the Parliamentary Services Act had been discussed in an earlier committee meeting in May when the matter first came up. He said the committee had found the need to meet over the ※strange developments§ which took place in Parliament and had agreed that they were caused by the repealing of the Act. Among other things, the Act would ensure that Parliament staff is independent of the Public Services Department and that the Parliament Secretary 每 a post which is provided for by the Federal Constitution 每 is the head of Parliament*s administration. The controversy started when Nazri proposed the setting up of a new position to take over the administrative duties of the Parliament Secretary. On Wednesday during Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat, when a similar call for a new Parliamentary Services Act was raised, Nazri said he could not convey the wishes of the MPs because the proposal had not gone through the Dewan Rakyat House Committee.


From http://thestar.com.my 10/15/2005


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PHILIPPINES: Charter Change Will Lift Local Business, Says Cari?o

Members of the Consultative Commission flew to Cebu Monday to consult the people all over the country on the proposal to amend the Constitution. James Marty Lim, Con-Com member and national president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, said the members will consult people in Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Cebu, Tacloban and Davao. Noel Cari?o, another Con-Com member, said Charter change would immensely benefit the business sector because the current economic provisions in the Constitution are ※restrictive.§ He cited the provision restricting foreign ownership of utilities, mass media and land to 40 percent only. Cari?o said the changes in the Constitution would be freer and more liberal. ※They would attract capital. The change would be for the better,§ he said. The commission approved the proposal to remove restrictions on the exploitation of natural resources to allow foreigners to invest. . Rene Azurin said there should be no discrimination in the exploitation of natural resources. Dr. Jose Abueva, Con-Com chair, had said that the Con-Com will extensively consult the people about Charter change so as to reflect their views. The commission has until December 15 to submit the proposed changes to President Arroyo. Last week it approved the proposal to change the presidential government to a federal system. Abueva said it would take 10 years to shift to a federal government but that a plebiscite should be held next year or early 2007. Lito Lorenzana, an advocate of federalism, said the current unitary system has not been successful. Joji Ilagan-Bian, another member of the commission, said, ※Charter change must echo the voice of the majority of the Filipino people. I believe now is the right time to work for Charter change, since we are confronted with governance problems.§ However, Lim said the commission should present the pros and cons of having a federal system, which it has endorsed as the answer to the country*s political woes. ※Show it to them,§ Lim said. Lim has expressed misgivings about conducting workshops, the method that will be used by the Con-Com to consult the people and political leaders. He said this method is one-sided because it will only present the benefits of a federal system. Cari?o said the consultations in the Visayas and Mindanao would last one week before the members go back to Manila.


From http://www.manilatimes.net 10/25/2005


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SINGAPORE: MAS Maintains Policy of Modest, Gradual Appreciation of Singdollar

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has maintained its policy of a modest and gradual appreciation of the Singapore dollar. In its latest semi-annual policy review, the central bank says it expects inflation to rise next year due to higher oil prices and domestic costs. The MAS also expects economic growth to reach the top end of the official forecast range of 3.5 to 4.5 percent this year. The MAS adopted a tightening stance for the Singapore dollar since April last year. The latest decision to stick with the policy was widely expected as the economy continues to expand and inflation picks up. While the band against which the Singapore dollar is allowed to trade remains unknown, MAS says it will make no changes to the range. And it adds that the Singapore dollar is now in the lower half of this band. Market watchers believe there is room for the currency to strengthen in the near term. "From now on, on the trade weighted basis, the Singdollar should trade above the mid point, on the upper half of the band, from the 0 to 1 percent range. Based on the Yen outlook, we are targeting S$1.66 by the end of the year," said Leslie Khoo, regional economist at Forecast. "We are fairly optimistic and we are looking at the Singdollar on an appreciating trend, possibly S$1.65 to the US dollar by year end and S$1.62 by end 2006," said Song Seng Wun, regional economist at CIMB-GK Research. Despite higher energy prices, MAS says Singapore's economy remains resilient, with both the manufacturing and services sectors continuing to grow. The central bank has also cut its inflation forecast for the year. It says higher oil prices and a modest rise in domestic costs such as labour will push up inflation next year. It adds that inflation should remain relatively contained under the current policy stance. MAS expects inflation this year to be around 0 to 0.5 percent, down from its previous range of 0 to 1 percent. This is projected to rise to between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent next year. Overall, MAS says GDP growth this year should come in at the upper end of the official forecast range of 3.5 to 4.5 percent. Some analysts though are more optimistic about the economy. "If the tech sector gradually recovers, the transport engineering continues to do its job and the pharmaceutical sector continues to recover, you are likely to see growth towards or even higher than 4.5 percent. It'll probably be closer to the 5 percent range," said regional economist Song Seng Wun. MAS says Singapore's economy is likely to keep close to its potential output trajectory this year and next as external economies continue to expand. It expects GDP growth next year to be in a range of 3 to 5 percent.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 10/11/2005


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THAILAND: Residents Draw Up Own Water Plan

Civic members in the eastern region have begun drafting a water management plan of their own for presenting to the government as an alternative to the official version, which has been criticised for contributing to unfair water sharing. Paitoon Patibut, a member of the newly-formed Civic Council of Eastern Water Users, comprising local farm and household water users, said the group has started surveying the local water needs, particularly those in Prasae watershed in Rayong, which was chosen as the pilot area. Mr Paitoon said a dam is planned for the area, with the capability of supplying more than 200 million cubic metres of water a year. However, the project does not include a water management plan to ensure a fair sharing of water. The information acquired from the survey is expected to help lay the foundation for the plan because it will include local people's views, he said. The group has decided to draw up its own water management plan because the government's draft does not offer fair water sharing among users in the region. The problem became clear when the region was struck by the threat of a water shortage during the past few months, he said. The government, fearing the water shortage would affect the country's main industries, started at least 13 water projects worth nearly three billion baht to ease the problem. Some projects threatened people's jobs and the environment. Mr Paitoon said people originally planned to seek help from the water basin committees, but changed their mind in favour of drafting their own management plan because the panels had no legal power to undertake the job.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 10/09/2005


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VIETNAM: Fund Management Rules Issued

New rules on accounting systems for fund management companies and their member funds will be issued by the Ministry of Finance this month, said a senior Ministry official. Director of the Ministry*s Accounting and Auditing Department Bui Van Mai added that such funds and companies are new concepts in Viet Nam. "A fund is formed by mobilising capital resources from financial institutions, companies, banks, and individuals. Funds are not legal entities according to Viet Nam*s current legal system, so presently funds must hire a company to manage it," said Mai. A company is entitled to manage numerous funds whose capital resources can be invested in shares, property, and other areas, he added. Until now only a few fund-management enterprises have operated in Viet Nam- Vietfund Management, Thanh Viet Fund Management, Prudential Viet Nam Fund Management, and Manulife Viet Nam Fund Management. Despite the establishment of these institutions, specific regulations on their accounting systems had not been issued, and they had to apply normal accounting regimes for companies, said industry insiders. Mai affirmed that the issuance of the legal accounting framework is necessary and important because there will now be firm legal foundations for financial reports as well as operations. In the event funds suffer losses, the new rules will also define legal procedures concerning the establishment of a financial reserve to liquidate losses, he said. According to the draft regulations, a fund management company will be responsible for summarising financial reports on behalf of capital contributors, pertaining to investment projects and revenues as well as monthly or quarterly expenditures, Mai added. The Ministry of Finance affirmed that the specific rules will create favourable conditions for newly established funds and companies to operate legally and smoothly. Some other organisations have applied to the State Securities Committee for licences to set up fund management companies later this year. They include a joint-venture between the Bank for Foreign Trade of Viet Nam and a Singaporean partner, a joint-venture between the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam and an American partner, and the Viet Nam Insurance Corporation.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 09/21/2005


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NA Mulls Environment, Intellectual Property Laws

Viet Nam must protect the environment or face enormous bills to clean up the damage, deputies warned in the National Assembly on Wednesday. The deputies, who were discussing proposed changes to the Environment Protection Law, said amendments to the regulations and policies governing environmental protection were particularly needed. So too was the need to set, assess and apply an environmental standard throughout the country. The deputies, who wanted harsher penalties for those who damage the environment, emphasised the pollution caused by industrial and agricultural production including villages following traditional occupations. They said that Viet Nam produced more than 15 million tonnes of solid waste, including hazardous industrial waste, each year. More than 80 per cent of the total waste, about 12.8 million tonnes, came from municipal sources, including households, restaurants, markets and businesses. The latest Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry figures showed that Viet Nam had about 1,450 traditional occupational villages, including 800 in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta. Waste from these, together with the waste generated by a livestock herd of 36 million and 200 million fowls, had severely polluted both the air and the water. The overuse of chemical fertiliser in agriculture both lowered the quality of agricultural produce and harmed human health. The deputies also assessed the ministry*s 2006-2010 action plan to protect the environment and ensure the sustainable and effective use of such natural resources as land, water and forests. They agreed that plans to deal with natural disasters such as flash floods, landslides, sea encroachment and drought were needed. They also wanted national strategies for environmental protection effectively implemented so as to reduce losses to the environment caused by inappropriate agricultural production. Deputy Dang Ngoc Tung, HCM City, proposed that the committee writing the draft law add provisions to deal with transport carrying goods and waste that caused pollution. Deputy Nguyen Van Phan, northern Ninh Binh Province, proposed that the new law include the protection of the sea through regulations for the collection and treating of the waste from aqua-produce. The assembly is expected to pass the Environmental Protection Law of 15 chapters and 136 articles late next month.


Adapted from http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 10/28/2005


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BANGLADESH: Country Least Prepared to Tackle Bird Flu

The government has no preparatory mechanism for stocking anti-viral vaccine as a precaution to tackle avian influenza, neither for fowl nor for people of the densely populated country. But most of the countries, where the poultry sector is booming, have been scrambling for precautions by making stocks of anti-flu vaccine to combat the deadly outbreak of disease. Their mad dash for precautionary measures came against a backdrop of recent news that bird flu occurred in Romania and Turkey that killed more than 60 people in Asia since 1997. Experts fear a flu outbreak in a tropical country like Bangladesh could spell a disaster for the public as well for the poultry sector. Nonetheless, preparations have been scant thus far. "We are yet to take any steps regarding anti-virus vaccine," Professor Nazrul Islam, virology expert of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University told The Daily Star on Sunday. "This vaccine is very sophisticated and expensive that needs to be preserved under certain temperature," he said. To make a stock of the vaccine, the government has to create fund and facilities for preservation, he said. Experts also caution that Bangladesh should check for infected chicks entering the country to protect the poultry sector, adding that efforts to head off the flu require serious government initiatives. "It will be impossible to fight the flu if the government is not very sincere and watchful. And we should not import chicks from those places where the disease once broke out," said Dr. Monjur Murshid, a leading animal vaccine expert of the country. The government banned the import of chicks from 13 different Southeast Asian countries, including neighbouring India, where a low or high pathogenic virus reportedly broke out. Now the poultry farm owners import grand parent (GP) chicks from Europe, which is also now experiencing the flu. Syed Abu Siddique, the secretary general of the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association, said the government should take the issue more seriously. "Our whole poultry sector will crumble down if the virus breaks out in our country," he said. An outbreak would be devastating to the economically vibrant and growing poultry sector, whose one lakh poultry farms employ around four million people. Investment in the sector is nearly Tk five to six thousand crore. Since 2003, bird flu has swept through poultry and wild birds in Asia. The issue hit headlines again as the outbreak of bird flu was recently confirmed in Romania and Turkey.


From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 10/18/2005



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BHUTAN: Tenth Plan Could Focus on Poverty and Quality of Life

Alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life of the Bhutanese people should be the primary goal of the 10th Plan according to a multi sectoral grouping of 60 participants who brain stormed for three days in Thimphu as part of consultations for the preparation of the Plan. Amongst others, they said that decentralisation be made more real, gender brought into the forefront of development, Plan resources utilised and allocated more prudently, and overall development made more equitable. Poverty alleviation was the most fervently voiced development priority by the participants. Recent study had shown that 32 percent of the Bhutanese people fell below the national poverty line. ※Uplifting the poor was thought to be the primary objective of the Plan,§ said the Lham Dorji, the director of the planning department that organised the brainstorming exercise. The participants said that in the past there was no statistics on poverty and, thus, the problem was largely not addressed. There was also reluctance on the part of the government in accepting that the Bhutanese were poor and that most of Bhutan*s poor were in the south eastern region. Other areas that needed more focused intervention were private sector development, infrastructure development and employment. Lack of coordination among the sectoral agencies, dzongkhags and gewogs was one major issue discussed during the recent mid-term review of the Ninth Plan. People had complained that there was an urgent need to strengthen coordination mechanism at all levels. Reviewing and redefining the policy of community participation in development activities was another topic discussed. During the mid-term review people had said that adjusting their farm activities to contribute to development activities in their communities was becoming a major problem with most able people always away from villages.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 10/01/2005



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INDIA: PM Announces Rs 500 Cr Additional Aid for J&K

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said the devastation caused by the killer earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir will be treated as a national calamity. Addressing a press conference in Srinagar after touring the worst-hit areas of Uri and Tangdhar, he said the Centre and and the entire country was behind the people of Jammu and Kashmir in this "hour of sorrow and grief" and will do everything to overcome the "crisis". "This (the tragedy) will be considered a national calamity," the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister, who announced an additional relief of Rs 500 crore after witnessing the "magnitude" of the calamity, said "money will not be a constraint in meeting all legitimate needs" of the affected people. "We will put the best foot forward to meet the needs of all the affected people, particularly the orphans, widows and senior citizens," the Prime Minister said. The amount of Rs 500 crore as relief will be in addition to the assistance of Rs 100 crore announced by the Prime Minister on Saturday. An amount of Rs 42 crore has been sanctioned under the Calamity Relief Fund for the state. Singh said his government was keen to do everything to alleviate the problems of the affected people, not only on this side of Jammu and Kashmir but also across the Line of Control (LoC). The Prime Minister recalled that he had had telephonic talk with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf after the quake struck and later met Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmad Khan who indicated certain requirements. These requirements must have reached Pakistan by now, he said.


From http://hindustantimes.com/ 10/11/2005



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India Approves Foreign Investment Cap Increase to 74%

India's federal Cabinet late yesterday approved a proposal to raise the foreign investment cap in the country's telecoms sector from 49% to 74%. The 74% foreign investment can be made directly or indirectly in an operator or through a holding company, whilst 26% must be owned by resident Indian nationals or domestic companies. The decision is expected to assist in driving further growth in one of the world's fastest growing markets. Local telcos have long argued for increasing the FDI cap, saying that it will help them expand into underdeveloped rural areas that account for nearly 75% of India's population.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/21/2005


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SRI LANKA: New Tourism Law in House

Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike will present the new Tourism Law in Parliament today. This Bill was initiated by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1994 and substantial work had been done by the PA and subsequent UNP Governments. Bandaranaike, since becoming Tourism Minister in April 2004, had worked hard to finalise the new Law which has been long awaited specially by the private sector, a Tourism Ministry release said. Meanwhile, Bandaranaike will visit the Republic of Maldives from October 19 to 20. He will have bilateral talks with President Abdul Gayoom and Foreign Minister Dr. Ahamed Shaheed. He will discuss with Dr. Shaheed regarding working together to offer a joint package to tourists visiting Sri Lanka and the Maldives. "The discussions will centre on joint venture tourism and promotional ventures extending to region-wise tourism and to find new ways and means to upgrade commercial tourism making Maldives and Sri Lankan a tourism hub in the South Asia," Tourism sources said. This will be the first time that such a package will be worked out between the two island states. Maldives has proven its tourism potential with over 600,000 tourist arrivals in 2004 alone. Sri Lanka too gets around 500,000 tourists per year. Minister Bandaranaike will be assisted by officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Tourism. During the SAARC Tourism Ministers' meeting on July 29 in Colombo, all tourism ministers pledged to work collectively and promote regional tourism.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 10/18/2005



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MALDIVES: Amendment of Two Laws Have Begun in Order to Amend Employment Issuesy

Ministry of Employment has said that amendment of two laws have begun in order to bring amendments to employment issues. According to the Director of Employment Ministry, Mauroof Ahmed, in order to bring changes to the employment related issues, they have begun to amend employment law and foreigner*s employment law. ※very fundamental things have been included in these laws. Once the amendment is complete, there will be things that will relate to current issues. Employment agency law has been amended and publicized in order to solve employment related issues,§ Ahmed said. ※We are trying to make it possible, to put both the laws into practice, starting form January.§


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 10/26/2005


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Civil Service Bill Presented to People's Majlis

A civil service bill has been presented to the People*s Majlis (parliament) for the first time. The bill was presented by Meemu Atoll member Ahmed nazim and supported by Seenu Atoll member Ibrahim Shareef and Baa Atoll member Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. ※There is no influence of the government of the preparation of this bill,§ Nazim said. Nazim said that the bill mentioned that people will be employed and removed from posts of the government by the Civil Service Commission.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 10/27/2005



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NEPAL: King Promulgates Media Ordinance

At a time when the royal administration is facing wrath from the national and international media organisations for its repeated attempts to gag the independent media, His Majesty King Gyanendra on Sunday promulgated an &ordinance to amend some laws related to media*. The Council of Ministers, which is chaired by the King himself, had recommended for the ordinance, with some drastic measures to control the media, five months ago. The ordinance to amend Press and Publication Act (2048 B.S), Radio Act (2014), National Broadcasting Act (2048) and Defamation Act (2016 B.S) has incorporated tighter provisions concerning the publication and broadcast materials, ownership and penalty for defamation. The promulgation of the ordinance had been delayed owing to protests from media rights groups led by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), news reports quoting government sources said on Monday. In the new laws the authorities have been authorised to slap heavy amount of fine to publishers and editors if the published materials are found to be ※helpful to terrorists§. The ordinance has also incorporated stricter provisions regarding publication or broadcasting of materials likely to create communal or religious disharmony. According to The Kathmandu Post, there are provisions in the new ordinance to increase the penalty to editors and publishers - for publishing defamatory items - up to Rs.100,000 from Rs.10,000 while anyone publishing, translating or importing banned items will be subjected to a penalty of Rs.500,000. Meanwhile, reports quoting FNJ officials said that fresh protest programs would be launched against the new laws after studying them in detail.


From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 10/10/2005



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Gov't Defends Its Rights Record, Accuses UN Commission of Distorting Facts

Nepal*s permanent representative to the United Nations, Madhu Raman Acharya, reiterated unequivocal commitment of the Nepal government to protecting and promoting human rights in the country, consistent with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 1990, and the international human rights instruments to which Nepal is a party, an official news agency reported. Addressing the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Acharya highlighted the efforts of HMG/N, including its all possible cooperation to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR) to carry out its mandated activities. He clarified the position of HMG on the concerns of the Office expressed in the report, including impunity, disappearances, torture, detention under TADO and Public Service Act (PSA), freedom of expression and association, vigilante groups, ethnic discrimination and gender discrimination, the RSS news agency reported. ※Human rights in Nepal should be viewed in the overall context of an ongoing violence perpetrated by a group of terrorists for about a decade. Despite this, the government is upholding human rights norms and standards while defending life, liberty, safety and security of the people,§ the former foreign secretary said. Acharya said that HMG/N was serious about the allegations against extrajudicial killings and investigations were being undertaken. He stressed that disappearances are not policy-driven and the Government had regularly clarified the whereabouts of allegedly disappeared persons, despite the practice of multiple fake names and appeals, open-border and voluntary migration from rural to urban areas. Ambassador Acharya said the Nepal government had taken necessary measures to prevent re-arrest of persons released by the order of judiciary and had allowed unhindered access to the OHCHR team to all places of detention, including army barracks, without prior notice. Meanwhile, according to Kantipur daily, Acharya said that the ※deflecting** the image of Nepal*s security forces was beyond the mandate of UN monitors in Nepal. &*Nepal*s security forces have demonstrated the highest standards of performance including protection of human rights in its UN peacekeeping missions around the world. It goes without saying that Nepali security forces have been making every effort to keep that image while operating in internal situations,** he said.


From http://www.nepalnews.com/ 10/27/2005



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PAKISTAN: Joint Economic Commission with India Revived After 16 Years

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan on Tuesday held a meeting of the Joint Economic Commission for the first time in 16 years, marking a further thaw between the South Asian countries. Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh is leading the Indian side at the talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri, Foreign Office officials said. Reading out a joint statement of the recently concluded Indo-Pak talks later, Kasuri said India and Pakistan had decided to restructure and streamline the work of the Joint Economic Commission in light of developments that had taken place since it last meeting in 1989. ※The understandings reached will form the guidelines for the commission*s future. The commission*s next meeting will be preceded by technical-level working groups on agriculture, health, science and technology, information, education, IT and telecommunication, environment and tourism,§ the joint statement added. The statement also said India and Pakistan would consider options for demarcating the maritime boundary in Sir Creek. ※Both countries exchanged ideas on Siachen and agreed to continue discussions to arrive at a common understanding before the start of the next round of talks in January 2006,§ the statement said. ※India and Pakistan have agreed to explore possible options for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute in a sincere, purposeful and forward-looking manner and exchange ideas for resolving the Siachen and Sir Creek issues,§ the joint statement added. ※Both FMs held discussions on a whole range of issues within the framework of the composite dialogue process and expressed their satisfaction over the progress since their last review in September 2004,§ the statement said. ※The second round of talks achieved better results than the first round,§ Natwar said in his brief remarks. He said both countries had agreed not to permit terrorism impede the peace process and that an agreement on increasing cooperation in agriculture, health, science and technology and environment had also been made. He said the Indian prime minister had accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan, but did not comment on the dates. The two-day talks also led to an agreement to hold expert-level meetings by the end of the year to finalise the modalities on meeting points for divided families across the LoC and to start a truck service from Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. Experts will also meet in Islamabad on October 25 and 26 to start the Nankana Sahib-Amritsar bus service.


From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 10/05/2005



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AZERBAIJAN: Model Bills on Combat Against Terrorism, Criminal and Narcotics to Be Prepared

Representatives of the Commonwealth legislation bodies on October 12-13 will gather in St. Petersburg to discuss the question of bringing of the legislation on combat against terrorism, criminality and narcotics in conformity with each other. Member of Azerbaijan Parliament Vladimir Timoshenko will represent Azerbaijan. The participants of event are to focus on the Drafts ※On Police§, ※On combat against financing the terrorism§, ※On narcotic substances§ and others.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 10/11/2005


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Lower House Reviews Draft Law on National Budget 2006

The draft law on national budget 2006 has been reviewed today, October 20, at a plenary session of the mazhilis (parliament's lower house) by its deputies, KZ-today correspondent reports from Astana. Considering the draft law the deputies have brought forward a number of propositions on an increase of the budget income and supply. In particular, the mazhilis committee for finance and budget proposes to increase the income part by 27 billion KZT at the expense of the forecasted growth of the world oil price from $47 to $50 per barrel. A conclusion by the committee observes that the US department of energy, the IMA, and the World Bank are forecasting the average price up to $70 during 2005-2006 and the average price up to $60-65 during 2006-2007. "In conditions of a favourable foreign market trend the lowered forecast of the budget income part is not reasonable because it will cause incomplete, inappropriate, and inefficient spending of the budget funds," - the conclusion says. The deputies also propose to increase the income part by 8.1 billion KZT at the expense of the forecasted growth of the budget deficit from 1.4% to 1.5% against the GDP. A number of the mazhilis committees propose to provide 12.8 billion KZT in the budget expenditures to pay lump sum compensations to victims of the Soviet era nuclear tests. Deputies also propose to allocate 3 billion KZT for the implementation of a national programme "Potable Waters." As per the legislation, the draft national budget is reviewed separately in the mazhilis and in the senate and it is passed at a joint meeting of the chambers after two readings. The consideration of the draft law "On national budget 2006" in the first reading is planned on November 7. The national budget deficit is forecasted at 1.4% of GDP or 113.8 billion KZT in 2006. The overall state revenue is forecasted at 1 trillion 469.4 billion KZT, or 18.2% of the GDP. It will consist mainly of the tax income, expected to rise by 189.8 billion KZT and reach 1 trillion 280.4 billion KZT. The non-tax income is expected at 37.7 billion tenge. The budget expenditures are expected at 1 trillion 583.2 billion KZT or 19.6% of GDP in 2006. According to the Ministry of Economy, in 2006 the real GDP growth will be at 8.3% reaching 8 trillion 65 billion KZT. The Consumer Price Index is expected at 5-7% in 2006. 127 KZT is expected to be the average annual tenge rate against USD. The world oil price is forecasted at 47 USD per barrel, the export price will be 35.3 USD per barrel.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/20/2005



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IRAQ: Constitutional Referendum Succeeds

The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission announced in Baghdad on 25 October that the final results of the 15 October referendum on the draft constitution indicate that the referendum has passed, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. The commission said that 55 percent of voters in the Ninawah Governorate voted against the draft, short of the two-thirds threshold for rejection. Voters in the Salah Al-Din and Al-Anbar governorates rejected the constitution but, according to the Transitional Administrative Law, two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates needed to reject the draft for it to fail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2005). Voters in Iraq's other 15 governorates overwhelmingly supported the draft, according to commission officials. KR


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/25/2005



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KYRGYZSTAN: President Approves Election Law

On 12 October, Kurmanbek Bakiev signed a new law on elections that annuls the requirement that a potential candidate must be physically present in the country for five consecutive years prior to elections, Khabar reported on 12 October. According to Khabar, the new law enables diplomats, businesspeople, and other Kyrgyz citizens who have worked outside the country at the request of the president or the parliament, to take part in parliamentary elections. The requirement was a sticking point during the February-March parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan. Several opposition candidates, including former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva, who prior to elections served as Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States and Britain, were unable to participate as candidates. AN


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/13/2005



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KAZAKHSTAN: President Signs Changes in the Law "on Transport in RK"

Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, has signed the law "On changes and amendments in the law "On transport in RK," KZ-today reports with reference to the presidential press service. The changes and amendments in the law were worked out in relation with a necessity to bring the national legislation in compliance with requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In particular, the law provides beneficial air travels for children under 15. The law comes into effect as from 1 January, 2006.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/06/2005



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Mazhilis Approves Draft Law on Auditing in First Reading

The draft law "On changes and amendments in legislative acts on auditing" has been approved today, October 20, at a plenary session of the mazhilis (parliament's lower house) by its deputies, KZ-today correspondent reports from Astana. "The main objective of the draft law is to increase responsibility of auditors and auditing organisations and improvement of the audit regulation system and auditing activities," - Gani Uzbekov, vice minister of finance, has said presenting the draft law to the deputies. According to him, the draft law must "increase the investment attractiveness and competitiveness of the national business, promote the openness of Kazakhstani companies and confidence in the information provided by them for the market." The draft law has been passed to a profile mazhilis committee to prepare it for the second reading.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/20/2005



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TAJIKISTAN: Party Outlines Presidential Hopes

Rahmatullo Zoirov, leader of Tajikistan's Social Democratic Party, told a news conference in Dushanbe on 25 October that his party plans to field a candidate in Tajikistan's November 2006 presidential election, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Zoirov said that Tajikistan's constitution does not give incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov the right to seek another term. Zoirov also commented on international relations, the BBC's Persian Service reported. Queried about U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent visit to Tajikistan, he said: "I think that for Condoleezza Rice, the issue of expanding the activities of political parties and human rights in Tajikistan is not important. It was important for Rice to solve her country's geopolitical problems in the region. I believe that there is an oral agreement between America and Russia under which Tajikistan is considered part of Russia's political priorities and Kyrgyzstan [is] part of America's political priorities." DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/26/2005



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Pacific Set to Adopt 10-Year Plan

Pacific leaders are expected to adopt a 10-year plan designed to bolster security and improve governance when they meet next week. Prime Minister John Howard will go to Papua New Guinea on Tuesday for his eighth Pacific Islands Forum. While Australia has asserted its authority in the region at recent forums, this time its biggest goal is to sign off on the Pacific Plan, an initiative launched at last year's meeting. "That will be, we presume, endorsed by leaders," a government official said. The 16-member forum wants to use the plan as the foundation to achieve its goals of economic growth, good governance, sustainable development and regional security. Among the ideas the plan canvasses is how Pacific nations could pool resources and achieve better economies of scale in areas like training and transport, such as air services and shipping. Australia is satisfied with the final draft to be put to the leaders. "We're quite comfortable with the document, it takes forward a number of our interests and a number of our priorities, particularly in relation to good governance and corruption," the official said. But apart from endorsement of the plan, Australia has few expectations. "The great thing we get out of this meeting is sitting down ... with Pacific Island leaders, getting an opportunity to talk about a range of issues," the official said. "What I'm trying to say is, don't expect too many big outcomes." Island nations may try to use their combined muscle to convince Australia to soften its immigration restrictions to allow workers easier entry to take up seasonal jobs like fruit-picking. Australia is against any relaxation of its rule, concerned about its already large pool of unskilled workers and about people overstaying their visas. "We'll listen to what they have to say but the government has already made clear its position on that," the official said. PNG Prime Minister and forum host Sir Michael Somare, speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, was perplexed about why Australia is so reluctant to be more hospitable to temporary workers. "I see no reason why (our citizens) couldn't come down for seasonal labour," he said. The three-day forum meeting is also expected to touch on the region's ability to deal with any outbreak of bird flu, as well as issues surrounding climate change, which could have potentially catastrophic consequences for low-lying islands. Mr Howard will hold bilateral meetings with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Sir Michael in Port Moresby before all the leaders head to the resort of Madang on Wednesday for a one-day retreat. The leaders then return to Port Moresby for the final day of the meeting.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/20/2005


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AUSTRALIA: Govt Defends Child Care Benefit Scheme

The federal government has defended its child care benefit scheme, after Labor said new figures showed more than 40,000 families had racked up debts under the system. The figures showed 43,408 families in 2004 had to repay money to the child care assistance scheme, and the number of families saddled with the debts had soared from 990 in 2001. Opposition family spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said many families had fallen into debt because the scheme's reporting system was too complicated and inflexible. But a spokeswoman for Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson said the government was committed to helping families, with most Australians receiving the correct amount of money in benefits. "The Australian government provides assistance to over 690,000 families through child care benefit," the spokeswoman said. "As at 24 June, 2005, the majority of families for 2003/04 had received their correct entitlement. "Since 2001 the number of overpayments has decreased and the Australian government has introduced a number of measures to continue to assist families in accurately estimating their income."


From http://www.theage.com.au 10/07/2005


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States Plan IR Laws Challenge

Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales are flagging a possible High Court challenge to the federal government's workplace reforms once they see the final detail. Prime Minister John Howard fleshed out his industrial changes yesterday, as the government began a multi-million dollar advertising blitz to counter an ACTU campaign tapping concerns in the community. The exact detail of the new laws is still about three weeks away - the legislation is due to be introduced into parliament at the start of next month. Mr Howard reassured workers that they would have more jobs and higher wages under his sweeping workplace changes. But he again refused to guarantee that no worker would be worse off under the revamp on the industrial system, asking the community to look to his prime ministerial record as its guarantee. NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have signalled they are prepared to go to the High Court to challenge the long-awaited laws. "We will take every option open to us, including a High Court challenge, to ensure that the pay packets of Queensland taxpayers are protected from John Howard's unfair laws," Queensland's acting industrial relations minister Anna Bligh said. The West Australian government intends to seek legal advice over the commonwealth's plans to use its external affairs, as well as corporations powers, to bring in the changes. "We will campaign vigorously using all methods at our disposal - including a High Court challenge - to stop these extreme changes by the Howard government (because) contrary to what (Workplace Relations Minister) Kevin Andrews told us previously, this new information shows the Howard government will also use External Affairs powers as well corporations powers," WA's employment minister John Kobelke said. Acting NSW Premier John Watkins said he needed to see the details of the reforms before the state government could decide whether it could make a viable appeal to the High Court. "We still don't have the legislation and the devil will be in the detail," he said.


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


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Tough Rules to Curb Phone Sales Pests

NEW rules to curb telemarketing and ease community anger over unsolicited sales calls to people's homes are set to be introduced by the Federal Government. A register would result in businesses being fined thousands of dollars if they persist in calling people who have asked to be left alone. A spokesman for Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan said the Government was seriously considering introducing the do-not-call register. The minister hoped to make an announcement soon, he said. The proposal follows anger among consumers about ill-timed, unwanted calls and moves by state governments to pressure the Federal Government into acting. The direct marketing industry has expressed support for a national register, provided it is given a role in its administration. Information research company CEASA (Commercial Economic Advisory Service of Australia) last week estimated that telemarketing companies were responsible for 1.065 billion calls in Australia last year, an average of 53 calls per person or 2.7 per household a week. The figure does not include calls from overseas call centres, in countries such as India and the Philippines, which some in the industry estimate could add another 200 million calls. The figure represented a 6 per cent increase on the previous year and CEASA estimated the value of the market was $2.9 billion. Teresa Corbin from lobby group Consumers' Telecommunications Network said community anger over unwanted calls was palpable. "It's up there as the number one problem as far as consumers go at the moment," she said. "They are getting absolutely fed up with it." Ms Corbin said people complained they were rung during the busiest part of their evening, between 6pm and 8pm. "Some people won't answer their phone between those hours because they know it's going to be a telemarketer," she said. Ms Corbin said her group was considering a don't-buy-from- telemarketers campaign to discourage the practice. Victorian Labor MP Anna Burke, who has been campaigning nationally for a do-not-call register, said consumers were receiving large numbers of calls from telemarketers. "The record was 13 for a day, but then we heard of another woman who had received 16 in an afternoon," she said. "There's this absolute swell of resentment that people's phones are being abused by telemarketers." Ms Burke has been planning to introduce a private member's bill calling for a register. The number of complaints to Fair Trading about telemarketers has increased sharply twice this year. The Australian Direct Marketing Association runs a do-not-call register. Consumers can ask to be taken off the call lists of member companies. The number of consumers who have taken up the offer has doubled in the past 12 months to about 320,000. But many firms doing telemarketing are not ADMA members and therefore cannot be sanctioned if they breach the rules. If the Federal Government decides to follow the lead of the do-not-call scheme in the US, companies could face fines of more than $15,000 per call if they ring a consumer who has asked to be left alone. How the US controls telemarketing THE Do Not Call Registry in the United States could prove a role model for the Federal Government's attempts to curb the growth of intrusive telemarketing. (by Daniel Dasey)


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/16/2005


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BCA Fights Social Responsibility Law

THE Business Council of Australia has come out against Government plans to create legislation forcing directors to meet certain levels of corporate social responsibility (CSR). In a submission to the parliamentary joint committee on corporations and financial services, the BCA says problems will arise if the state tries to govern these areas and the greatest social contribution made by corporations is through employment, the goods and services they create and the wealth these produce. "Mandating CSR through legislative intervention runs the risk of stifling the innovation and creative approaches to CSR that are being adopted by Australian companies," the report says. The submission warns legislation will undermine a company's ability to determine what shareholders want to have reported. "Effective and appropriate CSR responses should not be mandated or dictated by external parties," the BCA says. "The best CSR outcomes are achieved when companies and the community engage together and develop mutually acceptable responses to issues." The BCA, with members from most of Australia's top 100 companies, wants peer group forums to foster a CSR culture rather than legislation. The report highlights that in 2001-02, BCA companies contributed $195 million and 219,000 staff hours to social and community programs and a further $292 million and 425,000 staff hours to environmental initiatives. Banker Westpac and miner BHP-Billiton recently received a perfect 10 score from ratings agency Governance Metrics International for their CSR activities. Up to 20 per cent of BCA members provided more than $4 million a year to CSR projects. While 80 of the top 100 Australian companies also report publicly on their CSR activities, mostly through their annual reports, 30 of these corporations produce stand-alone sustainability reports. The chairman of Morgan Stanley Australia, Harrison Young, said that while corporations must act responsibly it must be about good quality initiatives rather than just being seen to do the right thing. "In the end, people would invent a bit of jargon, for example 'societally appropriate value maximisation', as a way of asserting that they were doing whatever Canberra thought it was causing them to do," Mr Young said. (by Stephen McMahon)


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/17/2005


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$100m Boost to Public Housing

More than 430 families who might otherwise have languished on the public housing waiting list will instead be able to lease a dwelling from one of five new housing associations under a $100 million deal the State Government announced today. The first of the new dwellings are expected to be ready for use within six months. Under the deal, the associations will put up $25.5 million in land, cash and borrowings in return for a $74.5 million State Government investment. Housing Minister Candy Broad said the not-for-profit associations would be able to build more homes than if they relied on State Government funding alone. "They will have access to a greater range of funds, including non-government borrowings," Ms Broad said. The five new associations are Community Housing (Victoria) Ltd, Loddon Mallee Housing Services, Melbourne Affordable Housing Ltd, the Port Phillip Housing Association and Supported Housing Ltd. Each property will be owned or leased and managed by the associations. However, up to 65,000 households will continued to live in public housing. Ms Broad said the new homes would be suitable for families, singles and couples, while some would be set aside to meet the needs of older people, migrant families, disabled people and mentally ill people. Potential tenants will have to be eligible for Commonwealth Government Rent Assistance or meet other public housing eligibility criteria. The new dwellings will be provided in Bairnsdale, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Croydon, Dandenong, Echuca, Footscray, Glenhuntly, Inverloch, Kyneton, Mildura, Numurkah, St Albans, St Kilda, Swan Hill and Warragul. Other places may follow when development sites are found for them. (by Chris Evans)


From http://www.theage.com.au 10/20/2005


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State Drafts Radical Water Saving Plan

MELBOURNE could run out of water in 11 years if the worst climate change impacts eventuate, the State Government says. Releasing options to boost the city's supplies, Premier Steve Bracks said the state's central region of Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, the Macedon district and West Gippsland faced significant water challenges from global warming and population growth. With mid-range climate change, the city's water demand would exceed supply by 2019, according to the Government's figures. By 2055, Mr Bracks said, Melbourne would have a water gap of 190 billion litres. The discussion paper released yesterday 〞 which will form a 50-year blueprint for the region 〞 included options such as desalination, more recycling of water and stormwater, and a plan to pipe Melbourne's treated effluent from Carrum to Gippsland for industry use, freeing up fresh water to be piped back to the city and saving 115 billion litres of water annually. The paper also canvassed the option of taking 30 billion litres a year of stormwater from Dights Falls on the Yarra River at Abbotsford. Under the plan, water would be pumped to an existing reservoir and treated, then put into the drinking water system. The document also details another two areas where extra water could be taken from the Yarra River and conservationists were yesterday angered that these were put forward before an environmental audit of the river is completed. In total, the options in the discussion paper identify 650 to 700 billion litres of extra water, but many come at a cost, both financially and in energy. The Government said it was not committed to any particular option but ruled out another dam for Melbourne and taking water from farmers north of the Great Dividing Range. Mr Bracks said desalination, with its high energy use and cost, was a "fool's paradise" and not the "silver bullet" needed for the city's water woes. Indeed, the big-ticket item was more water conservation, which could save the city up to 120 billion litres a year. Melburnians have already saved 22 per cent more water per person than in the 1990s. The water shortfall includes 200 billion litres of water that will need to be found to save the area's stressed rivers. A river health report released by the Government yesterday showed that 21 per cent of the state's major rivers were in good or excellent condition, no change from five years ago. Environment Minister John Thwaites reminded Melburnians that all their water came from rivers or aquifers and it was important to secure supplies and look after the environment. "We do have enough water for the future provided we plan properly," he said. The Government also announced yesterday: A television campaign starting this Sunday to remind Victorians of the water saving rules going into the drier months. A progress report on the Our Water Our Future reforms. The Government will finalise the strategy for the central region 〞 home to 4.1 million people 〞 in August next year after public feedback and a draft strategy is released. It is the second 50-year plan in three years. The other, released in October 2002, did not factor in climate change or water for the environment. Opposition environment spokesman Phil Honeywood dismissed any plans to drink water from the Yarra until it was cleaned up. He said the Government's plan had no genuine timelines or budget behind it. Environment Victoria's healthy rivers campaign director Dr Paul Sinclair said it was not possible to discuss options for more water until the scientific studies were completed on what the rivers needed to be healthy. (by Melissa Fyfe)


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/21/2005


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Howard Open to Suggestion on Terrorism Laws

Prime Minister John Howard says he is prepared to keep talking with the states and territories about the final form of his anti-terrorism legislation, but he will not alter the substance of what has already been agreed to. The state and territory leaders gave in-principle support to the laws at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting last month. The final version of the bill has been sent to the leaders for their approval. Mr Howard has told Channel Nine he is prepared to accept reasonable suggestions for changes. "One proposal that we have inserted in the legislation - the latest draft - is to provide that in relation to control orders you can have an interim order and then you can have confirming hearings at which all of the issues are ventilated," he said. "Now that's I think a reasonable change." Checks and balances The federal Labor Party says it largely supports the measures the Government has proposed. "But we are not going to be forced into some sort of false choice that we can't have these appropriate and tough laws with some checks and balances in place," shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon said. Ms Roxon says there must be a system to ensure that the new powers that would be granted to police and other agencies are not abused. "There [should be] some system so that they're aware when they make each of these individual assessments that there might be a check further down the track," she said. "That protects against corruption but just as importantly, probably more importantly in Australia, it just protects against silly mistakes being made as well. "We don't [want to] see the sort of thing that's happened in the Immigration Department become the culture within the Australian Federal Police as well." Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallop says he will closely examine the legislation before signing off on it. "There's been excellent dialogue between the Commonwealth and states on all of these issues," Dr Gallop said. "I can assure the people of Western Australia that the State Government has been making sure that the agreement we have entered into is the basis of the legislation and also that all of the safeguards we have said would be there, will be there." Sedition laws Federal Labor also has some suggestions to toughen up the laws. Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says he wants to make it a crime to incite someone to violence on religious or racial grounds. "The thing I have in mind is the sort of things that appear in the hate books, that it is a good thing to kill Jews or Christians or Muslims," Mr Beazley said. He wants to strengthen the provisions covering incitement to violence by banning incitement to violence on religious or racial grounds. That has Mr Howard confused. "You can't graft racial vilification laws into the law relating to sedition," Mr Howard said. But Mr Beazley says this would be separate to sedition. Kirribilli protest Meanwhile, protesters have gathered outside the Prime Minister's Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, to rally against the terrorism laws. The rally has been organised by the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties and the Australian Medical Association for the Prevention of War. The council's Cameron Murphy says protesters are wearing tape on their mouths to symbolise their concerns. "Many of us feel as though we're going to be silenced in the future and won't be able to run protests like this if the legislation passes," he said. "We're concerned particularly about provisions of the draft legislation, including shoot-to-kill powers, house arrest for up to 12 months and preventative detention orders all for people who aren't terrorists but are ordinary, innocent members of the Australian community."


From http://www.abc.net.au/ 10/30/2005


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NEW ZEALAND: Rethink Urged on Portfolio Tax Plan

The Government should take a fresh look at a proposed overhaul of the tax treatment of portfolio investments, says the organisation representing workplace superannuation schemes. The proposed changes, detailed in a discussion document earlier this year, mean that people who invest in New Zealand companies through managed funds rather than by holding the shares directly or through passive funds will no longer have their returns eroded by a capital gains tax. If they invest in foreign companies through managed funds they will still be subject to a capital gains tax as they are now. The Association of Superannuation Funds yesterday issued the second of its two submissions on the discussion paper. It believes the proposals would add new distortions such as an apparent, tax-driven bias towards investment in New Zealand instead of overseas shares. It also argues there would be significant administrative complexities that would increase the overall costs, including tax, of investing in collective investment vehicles. "We really don't think that what they're proposing actually achieves the objectives that they wanted which is to remove tax from the equation in terms of investors making decisions," said association vice-chairman Jill Spooner. "We think it probably makes it worse than where it is at the moment." While the association believed domestic collective investment vehicles such as super funds should be encouraged, it also believed it was good for New Zealanders to have overseas investment opportunities through collective vehicles, something which would be discouraged if the proposals were adopted. The association believed the Government should adopt a "first principles" approach. That would mean treating all collective investment vehicles similarly for tax purposes from the perspective of individual investors, no matter what country the vehicles were based in. Further, the tax the individual investors paid on their investment in a collective investment vehicle should be similar to what they would pay normally on a directly held investment. The association also said it was concerned that the proposed changes appeared to be being rushed through in time for the introduction of the Government's KiwiSaver scheme, which it saw as "a case of the tail wagging the dog". "Given the complexities of the changes required, the proposed implementation date of April 1, 2007 seems unrealistic."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/06/2005


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Howard Sees Big Benefits in Work Laws

CANBERRA - Proposed changes aimed at simplifying Australia's industrial relations system and encouraging more workplace contracts would produce additional jobs and higher wages, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday. Howard said the WorkChoices programme would protect basic conditions for the nation's 10 million workers, while giving more scope for businesses to negotiate with staff over how they organised and paid for things like holiday work, bonuses and overtime. "The foundation of our prosperity will be found in a co-operative workplace culture," he said. "The more you can get individuals focusing on agreements at the workplace level, the better off the nation will be." Australia expanded at its fastest in 18 months in the second quarter. Employers hired workers for a 12th straight month in August. The jobless rate, 5 per cent, is a 29-year low. Still, a slowdown in consumer spending and housing may lower the nation's economic growth this year to 2.2 per cent, from 3.2 per cent the previous year, the International Monetary Fund said last month. Growth at that rate would be the slowest since 1992. The Government said Australia had more than 130 different industrial relations laws and 4000 collective agreements. Under the proposed changes, 85 per cent of the country's workers would be covered by a national set of minimum employment standards. The move towards a national employment system was the most significant aspect, and would simplify employment at even small workplaces, said Peter Hendy, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "You only have to employ one person across a border and you're dealing with multiple jurisdictions. In some workplaces it's possible to have some staff on federal agreements and some on state agreements." About 80 per cent of Australia's workers are employed under contracts rather than collective agreements, and the changes proposed should help to extend that. Australia's unions have opposed the measures. In June, 3000 members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union stopped work at mines and energy projects in West Australia in protest. The next month the Australian Council of Trade Unions, representing 46 unions with 1.8 million members, went to court to stop the Government using taxpayer funds to advertise the proposed changes. Nothing in the Government's proposals had changed since then except the way they had been presented, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said. Howard was trying to fool people that basic rights would be protected when they would not be. Howard said Australia could not afford to stand still and must continue to build on the changes already made to the nation's labour laws. Minimum protections would remain, and the labour market would not be as deregulated as those in Britain or New Zealand, which have unemployment rates of 4.7 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively. A new Fair Pay Commission would set minimum pay rates and conditions, the Government said, and workers on individual contracts would be able to seek as much as A$4000 for legal advice if they felt they had been unfairly dismissed.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/11/2005


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New Zealand Government Coalition Deal OK'd

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Acting Prime Minister Helen Clark announced an agreement with with minority parties to form a new Labour-led coalition government, naming an outspoken anti-immigration party leader as New Zealand's new foreign minister. The deal gave Clark a third-consecutive term and ended a month of negotiations since the Sept. 17 election in which her Labour Party won 50 seats in the 121-member Parliament. The main opposition National Party won 48 seats, boosted by its pledges to scrap special treatment for the country's impoverished indigenous Maori minority and slash income tax. "I have every confidence that this government ... will enable us to offer strong, progressive and stable government," she said. Winston Peters, well known for his anti-immigrant and protectionist policies, swung his Nationalist New Zealand First party's seven votes behind Clark. In return he was named foreign minister. Clark defended Peters' appointment, noting he has largely supported the government's foreign policy, including New Zealand's nuclear-free status and its opposition to sending troops to Iraq. Peters has said the nation's annual ceiling on immigrants should be slashed below 10,000, while Labour has set the figure at 45,000 as it seeks to attract skilled workers. Despite obtaining a top political post, Peters appeared grudging in his support for Clark's new administration. "We have not embraced this government," Peters told TV3's "Campbell Live" show. "What we have done is ensure there will be a government, there will be stability for three years." (by Ray Lilley )


From http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/ 10/17/2005


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Minister to Discuss Introducing 'Private Police'

New police Minister Annette King has opened the door to the prospect of private contractors investigating crimes for an overstretched police force - a suggestion that has been slammed by the Police Association. Michael Barnett of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce suggested yesterday that police could employ members of the public in crime-fighting roles, such as asking accountancy firms to investigate financial crimes. "I am not saying it is the answer but ... let's explore that," he said. He was speaking in response to the airing of a top-level police report that revealed one in five crimes in the Auckland City district were not being investigated by police. Mrs King said she would be willing to discuss the idea with Mr Barnett. "I said when I got the portfolio that I'm interested in innovative ideas." But Police Association president Greg O'Connor said though the current situation was "intolerable", hiring private contractors was not a feasible solution. "It's not going to be any cheaper to have it done by private people, it's still going to have to be paid for. "It's not going to solve anything." Police had already been virtually forced to abandon fraud investigations because they were under-resourced, "which means that a lot of stuff is going unpunished because the police don't investigate it", Mr O'Connor said. Part of the price of the Government's confidence and supply arrangement with NZ First was an agreement to fund the recruitment of a further 1000 police staff over the next three years. Labour pledged during the election campaign to recruit 250 more community cops in the next two years. Mrs King said she would discuss the allocation of resources with Police Commissioner Rob Robinson. But she said it was unfair to assign all the responsibility for law and order issues to the police, and that the community should pitch in. National Party law and order spokesman Simon Power spoke scathingly of the Government's record, saying Mrs King had no choice but to listen to suggestions "from anybody that's got them". He said hiring private contractors was a proposal that warranted further consideration. "I can't see any reason why you wouldn't have a look at it, given that the Government's current strategies are clearly failing."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/30/2005


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Curbing Corruption in Tsunami Relief Operations

Beijing -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB)/Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia-Pacific, and Transparency International (TI) today launched an important new publication ※Curbing Corruption in Tsunami Relief Operations§. "Although developed in response to the devastating tsunami which struck Asia in December 2004, this publication contains lessons relevant to other humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts§, said Peter Rooke, Transparency International's Regional Director for Asia Pacific. The new publication contains the conclusions of a regional expert meeting on curbing corruption in tsunami relief, which was held in Jakarta on 7-8 April 2005, as well as the text of key papers presented there. The expert meeting was convened jointly by ADB, OECD and TI and hosted by the Government of Indonesia. It brought together stakeholders from government, civil society and the private sector from affected countries as well as donors and international governmental and non-governmental organisations. The Jakarta meeting and the resulting publication has benefited enormously from the open and frank dialogue between representatives from these involved stakeholder groups§, confirmed Fr谷d谷ric Wehrl谷 from the OECD Anti-Corruption Division. The meeting outcomes and options for follow up action were discussed yesterday at the 5th Regional Conference of the ADB/OECD Anti Corruption Initiative for Asia-Pacific being held in Beijing this week. Jak Jabes from the ADB Governance and Regional Cooperation Division said ※Corruption in the delivery of humanitarian aid undermines the very spirit of humanitarian action, which is: to 'do no harm'. Relief supplies - including food, water, medicines and shelter- can, as a result of corruption, be diverted or distributed inequitably. This can have devastating consequences for affected communities at the time when they are most vulnerable.§ Long term reconstruction after major disasters can involve huge funding flows and is particularly prone to corruption, for example due to a tendency to bypass standard procedures to speed rebuilding. Recommendations in the new publication include: All stakeholders involved in tsunami assistance must ensure transparency and accountability in their operations, in particular in the management of the financial flows. As the affected people's ownership of the relief and reconstruction process is essential, operations should build on their leadership, participation, and commitment to ensuring the best use of assistance. Donors should coordinate with governments and among themselves to avoid duplication of assistance schemes. Governments must involve affected people and civil society in decision making, ensure information dissemination, and provide easily accessible corruption reporting channels combined with effective mechanisms to encourage and protect whistleblowers. Non-governmental organizations play an important role in monitoring the relief and reconstruction process and in reporting any suspicion of corruption to authorities.


From http://www.transparency.org/ 09/30/2005

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Myths About Governance and Corruption

In a commentary published in the Business Recorder (Pakistan), Daniel Kaufmann, Director of Global Programs at the World Bank Institute, writes that governance is now being given a higher priority in development circles. A few donors and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have begun to work with some emerging economies to help reduce corruption, and encourage citizen voice, gender equality, and accountability. Kaufmann discusses if good governance and controlling corruption are really so fundamental for development. There are still unresolved questions and debates in the development community; not only about the importance of governance, but also about the ability of IFIs to help countries improve on it. In recent years, the World Bank has constructed aggregate governance indicators that cover more than 200 countries, based on more than 350 variables obtained from dozens of institutions world-wide. The indicators follow six dimensions of governance: voice and accountability; political stability and the absence of major violence and terror; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law; and control of corruption. Thanks to these indicators, a number of researchers have examined the impact of governance on development. The research generally shows that countries can derive a very large "development dividend" from better governance. We estimate that a country that improves its governance from a relatively low level to an average level could almost triple the income per capita of its population in the long term, and similarly reduce infant mortality and illiteracy. Governance also matters for a country's competitiveness and for income distribution. In the case of corruption, research suggests it is equivalent to a major tax on foreign investors. In many developing countries, corruption represents a "regressive tax" on the household sector as well: lower income families pay a disproportionate share of their incomes in bribes to have access to public services (compared with higher income groups), and often end up with less access to such services because of corruption. A rough estimate of the extent of annual world-wide transactions that are tainted by corruption puts it close to $1 trillion. To make matters worse, aid-funded projects tend to fail in corrupt settings. And corruption undermines fledgling democracies. Some claim that the link between governance and incomes does not mean that better governance boosts incomes, but the reverse-- higher incomes automatically translate into better governance. However, our research does not support this claim. In fact, the evidence points to the causality being in the direction of better governance leading to higher economic growth. It does not take generations for governance to improve. In some countries there has been a sharp improvement in the short term. Even so, it is sobering that, on average, there has not been a world-wide improvement in overall governance since 1996. The notion that the aid community can insulate projects from an overall corrupt environment in a country is not borne out by the evidence. The data suggest that when a systemic approach to governance, civil liberties, rule of law, and control of corruption is absent, the likelihood of an aid-funded project being successful is greatly reduced. Anti-corruption campaign, the creation of more "commissions" and ethics agencies, and the incessant drafting of new laws, decrees, and codes of conduct appear to have little impact, substituting for the need for fundamental and systemic governance reforms. A common fallacy is to focus solely on the failings of the public sector in developing countries. The reality is much more complex, since powerful private interests often exert undue influence in shaping public policy, institutions, and state legislation. And many multinational corporations still bribe abroad, undermining public governance in emerging economies. There are also weaknesses in the non-governmental sector. Further, traditional public sector management interventions have not worked because they have focused on technocratic "fixes," often done through technical assistance importing hardware, organizational templates, and experts from rich countries. Some development experts are skeptical about the ability of IFIs and donors to help countries improve their governance. Surely, there are areas that fall outside the mandate of IFIs, such as promotion of fair multiparty elections. But initiatives to encourage transparency, freedom of information and an independent media, participatory anti-corruption programs led by the country, and gender equality - all of which have been under-emphasized so far in the fight against corruption - may well be within the ability of IFIs and donors to do something about. The challenge of governance and anti-corruption confronting the world today strongly argues against the "business-as-usual" modus operandi. A bolder approach is needed, and collective responsibility at the global level is called for. The rich world must not only deliver on its aid and trade liberalization promises, it must also lead by example. OECD countries should ratify and effectively implement the 2003 UN convention against corruption, and take steps (as Switzerland is starting to do) to repatriate assets looted and stashed abroad by corrupt officials. And transnational corporations should refrain from bribery and support improving governance practices in host countries. As for the IFIs and donors, there is a need to grapple with questions of selectivity and effectiveness in aid programs, anchoring aid decisions within a governance prism and helping countries build capacity to effectively absorb aid. Improving transparency will be key. Finally, countries themselves must take the lead in improving governance.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/30/2005


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Corruption Watchdog Issues Warning on 'Severe' Debt Risk

Stories from Transparency International's Annual Index of Corruption continued today. There is a severe risk that money freed by debt relief for some of the world's poorest countries will be lost to corruption, Transparency International (TI), the anti-corruption watchdog, warned yesterday, reports The Financial Times. Announcing its annual index of corruption worldwide, TI said all 19 countries set to gain relief on debts owed to the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank had serious to severe levels of corruption. "These countries still face the grave risk that money freed from debt payments now entering national budgets will be forfeited to greed, waste or mismanagement," TI said. Most of the 19 countries that qualified for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program are in Africa, with the rest in Latin America. Some rich countries on the IMF's board raised concerns that some HIPC countries were deviating from their IMF reform programs when the Group of Seven announced further debt relief this summer. TI insisted, however, that poor scores should not be taken by donors as a signal to withdraw or withhold assistance from developing nations. Instead, donors should combine increased aid with support for anti- corruption measures by recipient countries, which, experience had shown, could reduce corruption. "Government leaders have to address corruption so that aid is freed up for its intended purpose," said David Nussbaum, TI chief executive. Iceland, Finland and New Zealand emerged as the cleanest countries in this year's index, which measures business people's and analysts' perceptions of corruption among public officials and politicians. Chad had the worst score among the record 159 countries included this year, followed by Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Burma and Haiti, which are among the poorest countries in the world. Perceptions of corruption in Bulgaria, Colombia and Estonia have decreased over the past decade, while they have increased in Canada and Ireland. Although ranked as the sixth most corrupt country in the index, Nigeria's score improved. La Tribune (France) and Liberation (France) add that TI*s report states that most corrupt countries are also the poorest and hindered by two plagues that reciprocally feed off each other. Corruption represents a threat for development, affirmed TI, insisting that the double burden of poverty and corruption plagues the least developed countries.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 10/19/2005


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NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA: Opening Joint Economic Office

The Office of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation will open at the industrial complex in Gaeseong on Friday (Oct. 28), marking the first-ever establishment of a permanent South Korean government branch in the North since the nation's division in 1945. After the opening ceremony with dignitaries from the two Koreas attending, the 11th round of inter-Korean talks on promoting economic cooperation will be held. ※South and North Korea agreed to set up the office to support direct trade, boost investment and build a permanent consultation channel between the two authorities,§ Vice Unification Minister Rhee Bong-jo said in a briefing Thursday. ※We think it's significant in that the office will institutionalize inter-Korean economic cooperation and help it to develop further both in quality and quantity,§ Rhee said. Located in an annex of the Gaeseong Industrial District Management Committee, the office will facilitate the services of 14 South Korean officials, headed by Hwang Pu-ki, a Unification Ministry official. Four employees from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, the Korea International Trade Association, the Small Business Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of Korea, will also be part of the perssonel to be stationed in the new office. Ten North Korean officials will be stationed on the third floor, headed by Jun Sung-keun, former director of the North's National Economic Cooperation Federation in Dandung, China. ※We have agreed to hold a regular weekly directors' meeting,§ Rhee said. Once cranked up, the office will greatly accelerate economic cooperation between the two Koreas by reducing trade costs and risk of investment via third country brokers.§ he added. Some 200 South Koreans, including Lim Chae-jung, chairman of the Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee of the National Assembly, will attend the opening ceremony. Some 80 North Koreans such as Choi Young-kun, the North's chief delegate to the economic talks, will also be present. In preparation of the 11th round of economic talks, the two sides have held two rounds of meetings in October. On the agenda to be discussed during the talks will be the linking of inter-Korean railways, road traffic and marine cooperation as well as economic cooperation in light industries and mine development.


From http://www.korea.net/ 10/27/2005

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CHINA: Shenzhen Kicks Off Campaign on Crackdown Officials Bureaucracy

Shenzhen's Party chief Li Hongzhong lashed out at "mediocre" officials Wednesday and vowed to rid the bureaucracy of officials who fail to perform their duties. The city government will launch an "accountability drive" to force officials to take responsibility for the mistakes they have made, he said. Li made the remark at the opening of a three-day seminar for the city's officials. "Some people just won't try to do their best -- they find excuses and cherry-pick assignments which are nice and easy," the 49-year-old Harvard-trained Party secretary said. "Some officials perform poorly or even fail to do their work properly," Li said, criticizing irresponsible leaders as evildoers. "Their non-performance poses a big threat to the benefits of the general public." Li urged all levels of governments to build a proper reward and penalty system, so that "officials who fail in their duty would get punished and those who work hard would be rewarded." The municipal people's congress has ordered the legal and disciplinary departments to pursue officials exposed in government audits as incompetent or having committed mistakes in a resolution passed Tuesday, and Li called it debut of the accountability drive. "The next step will focus on problems in public services management and production safety," Li said. "We must establish a responsibility and review mechanism so that officials in charge would be held accountable." Li pledged that the campaign would not just be about chanting slogans and would cover every level of the government. The Party secretary also asked the officials to be modest, thrifty, and work diligently like an ox. The seminar comes after the city's auditors recently exposed widespread abuses and embezzlement among officials.


From Shenzhen Daily 09/30/2005

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Corrupt, Inept Officials Cost US$12 Bln

More than US$4 billion has been illegally spent by government officials in south China's Guangdong Province and another US$7.54 billion lost due to poor management, according to a report released on Saturday by the provincial audit department. "The illegal behavior included embezzling public money, spending public funds on lavish dinners and gifts, and shifting public funds to personal accounts," said the department's director, Zeng Shouxi. Over 400 officials were reported to be involved one way or another in the activities, the details of which came to light after a five-year investigation between 2000 and 2004 that was conducted by the audit department and involved the provincial bureaus of supervision and finance and the provincial government. The accounts of 10,772 officials were audited in that period and 35.3 billion yuan (US$4.35 billion) was found to have been illegally used. Those investigated also caused financial losses of 61.2 billion yuan (US$7.54 billion) during the five years because of improper management. After the investigation, 71 government officials were demoted, 36 dismissed, 105 disciplined, and 231 sent to justice departments for further investigation, according to the report, while 747 were promoted. Zeng said those rewarded were officials who reported corrupt colleagues and worked with investigators, but refused to reveal their names or those punished. "In collaboration with the provincial government, we will crack down on malpractice by government officials in the future," he said. According to provincial government and audit department plans, from next year all officials below the rank of county magistrate must be audited when due to leave their posts. From 2007, the department will audit the accounts of chief government officials at least once during their terms of office. The leaders of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and state-holding SOEs must also be audited before a leader leaves, and accounts of key projects related to infrastructure and financial development will be supervised by the government, according to the plans.


From China Daily 10/10/2005

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836 Officials Relinquish Stakes in Coal Mines

Eight hundred thirty six officials and state-owned enterprise (SOE) leaders have abandoned their coal mine investments in north China's Shanxi Province, a major coal producing region, amid a nationwide crackdown on illegal coal mine investment by officials. According to the provincial government, those officials and SOE leaders have relinquished coal mine investments worth more than 40 million yuan (nearly US$5 million). On August 30, China issued a circular requiring all officials and SOE leaders with coal mine investments to withdraw their stakes, setting September 22 as the deadline. It said if the officials refused to relinquish the illegal investments, they would be removed from their posts. The circular was issued against the backdrop of frequent coal mine accidents in China. Li Yizhong, director of the National Bureau of Production Safety Supervision and Administration, has said the collusion between mine owners and officials is to be condemned. Some coal mines are owned or partly-owned by local officials. These mines always escape inspection and become black holes devouring miners' lives, he said. Statistics show that China recorded some 2,700 mining fatalities in the first half of this year, 3 percent higher than last year. The 24 most deadly accidents claimed a total of 704 lives, a year-on-year increase of 114 percent. In the first seven months, Shanxi witnessed 90 coal mine accidents in which 316 lives were lost. The six deadliest accidents occurred at illegally operated coal mines, claiming 183 lives. Investigation of these accidents showed that some officials collaborate with mine owners to make illegal coal mines appear to be legal. Up to September 30, reports from 11 Shanxi cities showed that 922 officials and SOE leaders were involved in coal mine businesses, with a total investment of over 92 million yuan (US$11 million).


From Xinhua News Agency 10/18/2005

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Macao's New Legislature Sworn in

Macao's newly grouped Legislative Assembly (LA) was sworn in at the Government Headquarters on Monday. The 29 LA members re-elected Susana Chou as the president of the third-term legislature. Among the members, 22 were elected through the September polls and seven were appointed by Edmund Ho Hau Wah, chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR), earlier this month. Under the Basic Law of the MSAR, the main functions of the LA are to enact laws, examine and approve budgets, taxation and public expenditure, and monitor the work of the government.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/18/2005

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Hong Kong Leader Donald Tsang's Cautious Stance in Maiden Policy Speech

When Hong Kong's new Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, campaigned for his election in June, he put down "politician" as occupation in his nomination form. This raised some eyebrows at the time - some wondered why having been a career civil servant for over three decades, he now suddenly became a late convert to politics. If the skeptics then read his latest maiden policy address delivered on 12 October, they would know Mr. Tsang is going to mean what he said. The central theme of his speech is politics, in contrast to his predecessor Tung Chee-hwa, who had on record admitted that of the three Ps, he was only good in Policy, but poor in Politics and Public Relations. Although the policy address is divided into three main sections - namely Pursuing Excellence in Governance, Fostering Harmony in the Community, and Helping the Economy to Power Ahead - to correspond to his three campaign pledges, those passages on harmony and the economy are at best reiterations of ongoing government programmes and plans, some of which were started in Mr. Tung's times. The new Chief Executive's politics is to strengthen the capacity of the Executive. This takes several steps. Realizing his lack of a formal political mandate from the population because of Hong Kong's undemocratic election system, he would expand the Executive Council (his quasi-cabinet) and the existing Commission on Strategic Development so as to broaden the spectrum of views to be incorporated into government policy-making. The Commission, created by Mr. Tung as an elite body to formulate long-term development strategies, will be expanded to about 100 members, with three special panels to study political, economic and social development. If run properly, the commission can become a community conference in which to forge consensus. There is, however, also the risk of it turning into just a talking shop getting nowhere. In addition to strengthening his tap on the views of key social stakeholders, Mr. Tsang is going to revitalize district administration. In the 1980s, the former British colonial government introduced both partially elected district boards (now known as district councils) and inter-departmental district management committees as a two-prong scheme to allow community participation in local affairs and to improve the coordination of government service delivery at the district level. At that time, district assemblies were regarded as substitutes to democratizing the Legislative Council which was fully appointed by the Governor. With the legislature becoming elected, though some on the basis of functional constituencies, public attention has turned to legislators rather than district councilors. The district management committees have also become routinized, serving only a superficial coordination role. Mr. Tsang has not yet unveiled his detailed plan for rejuvenating district administration. However, should he succeed in installing a principal representative of government who has the capacity to coordinate district agencies of various departments, and can report to him service shortfalls and public sentiments more timely and effectively, his government would become closer to the pulse of the community. This makes much political sense because he only has two trump cards to play in politics. He comes from an elite civil service background and enjoys strong credentials as a competent and decisive administrator. This is part of the reason why Beijing picked him to take over the helms of Hong Kong amidst a serious governance crisis under Mr. Tung. However, though supported by high public opinion ratings, Mr. Tsang has not gone through popular elections to obtain his mandate and faces constant challenge from the pro-democracy opposition. Neither is he well liked by the pro-Beijing camp due to his colonial service background. For him, the only way to withstand party politics is to appeal directly to the community and to have his own version of absorption politics within a yet-to-be democratized political system. His primary concerns until 2007 will be Politics and PR ╳V connecting to the community at different levels and managing media communication better. This explains why he would reorganize his own Office to include an Office Director for political and legislative liaison, a Permanent Secretary for intra-government liaison, and an Information Coordinator to strengthen media liaison. He has also asked the Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary to take up policy coordination responsibility through the Policy Committee. Such a positioning will certainly put him on a better track than his predecessor. However, a government no matter how well coordinated and better connected to society cannot function effectively in the long run without addressing the fundamental constitutional defect - namely the lack of democratic mandate.


From http://www.rsi.sg/ 10/24/2005

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Expert Calls for Further Reform on Transforming Govt Role

Wei Liqun, director of the State Council Research Office, a think tank of Chinese government, called for continuing the transformation of government functions, citing it as the key in deepening overall reform. Wei said in Monday's People's Daily that China's administrative system reform has made some important progress but there is still a long way to go, especially on the reform of transforming government functions. According to him, the major problems include that the government intervened in some areas it should not have, the government's functions of social and public service are still weak, organization was not appropriate, and the assessment of officials and various levels of governments was not scientific. Wei said China should continue its efforts to promote the transformation of governmental functions so that the government will not intervene in matters that should be dealt with by enterprises, intermediate organizations and the market. Besides, Wei said that China has entered the latter-transition period of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its opening up is facing a more complicated international environment, which brings new challenges to administration and governance. The government's functions should focus on economic control, market supervision, social administration and public service while enterprises should perform as the major body of the market. Only in this way can the market rationally allocate resources, and an effective macro-controlling system arise, said Wei. While doing a good job in the management of economic readjustment, the government should put more efforts in providing public services and social management, said Wei. Meanwhile, Wei called for improvement of the structure of government organizations and setting up an unified and efficient government. Besides transforming government functions, Wei went on to say that China should pace up reforms involved in economic structure readjustment, open wider to the outside world, and carry out reforms involving the interests of masses.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/25/2005

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China Initiates New Round of Court Reform

The Supreme People's Court of China Wednesday unveiled a program on reforming China's court system in the 2004-2008 period, initiating a new round of comprehensive reforms. "The reforms aim to tackle existing problems in the judicial system," said an official with the court. The program lists 50 reform measures in eight fields aimed at ensuring justice and improving the efficiency of the court system, including measures to strengthen the enforcement capability and beef up both internal and external supervision over the performance of the courts. Some of the reform measures listed in the program, said the official, had already been in implementation in 2004. China has made "building a harmonious society" a major target of its overall economic and social development plan to avert social impediments to its development. The call for court reform has been growing in recent years. Chinese scholars say unfair sentences and low court efficiency tend to give rise to social problems, as victims may be impelled to seek illegal means to address their grievances.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/27/2005

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JAPAN: Civil Servant Who Passed Out JCP Paper Is Indicted

A government official was indicted Thursday without arrest for distributing Japanese Communist Party newspapers at police housing in Tokyo in violation of the National Public Service Law. Shinichi Ujihashi, 57, a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare official, dropped extras of the newspaper Akahata in the mailboxes of 32 households at the police residential complex in Setagaya Ward on Sept. 10, involving himself in political activities. The law restricts government employees from undertaking such activities. Ujihashi had initially been arrested for trespassing at the complex, but prosecutors said they decided not to indict him on the charge as it was a minor infraction. Ujihashi was released three days after the arrest after the Tokyo District Court rejected the prosecutors demand to keep him in custody. In a similar move, a Social Insurance Agency official was arrested and indicted last year for distributing the JCP newspaper in violation of the National Public Service Law.


From The Japan Times 09/30/2005

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Government Shaves Civil Servants' Salaries 0.1%

The government decided Wednesday to cut the annual salary of civil servants by an average of 4,000 yen, or 0.1 percent, in the current fiscal year through next March, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said. The decision was made in line with the recommendations for fiscal 2005 made by the National Personnel Authority in August, Hosoda said. It also endorsed a plan to reform the pay system over five years from fiscal 2006 to differentiate pay levels between urban and rural areas as in the private sector. Under the current system, national government workers assigned to local posts enjoy higher pay than their local equivalents in the private sector. It plans to submit related bills to the Diet, which will be in session through Nov. 1. The margin of the reduction was based on a formula described by Hosoda as a 0.36 percent reduction of monthly pay for the first cut in two years combined with a 0.05 month hike in annual bonuses to 4.45 months' worth for the first rise in eight years. The five-year pay system reform is designed to cut the base salary of all government workers by an average of 4.8 percent and reallocate the resources as special allowances for civil servants working in urban areas, where private workers receive relatively high salaries. This will have little impact on the gross personnel costs of the government but is likely to result in slashing the costs faced by local governments as the pay of local public servants is set in line with those of their national counterparts. The government also decided to introduce a performance-based pay system in place of the conventional seniority-based format, and to submit a bill to revise its employees' retirement allowances to reflect their performance in office, Hosoda said.


From The Japan Times 09/29/2005

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High Court Rules Koizumi's Yasukuni Shrine Visits Unconstitutional

OSAKA -- Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine are a religious act, which the Constitution bans the government from carrying out, the Osaka High Court said on Friday. Friday's ruling is the first for a high court to deem Koizumi's visits to the shrine in central Tokyo unconstitutional. However, the high court rejected plaintiffs' demands of damages for what they claimed as mental anguish caused by Koizumi's visits to the shrine. The high court ruled that Koizumi carried out the shrine visits as prime minister because he didn't clearly state that he made the visits in a personal capacity. "Based on the prime minister's comments, the motives for the visits are deemed political," Presiding Judge Masaharu Otani said. "It is reasonable to regard that he carried out the visits as prime minister." The judge then added that Koizumi was eager to visit the shrine even though he faced criticism in Japan and from foreign countries. "The visits made an impression that the national government particularly supports the Yasukuni Shrine," the judge said. "Therefore, we consider this a promotion of a certain religion." A total of 188 people, including families of Taiwanese people who died while working for the Japanese military during World War II, filed the damages suit as they believed Koizumi's visits to the shrine violated a constitutional ban on state and religion. They had appealed an Osaka District Court ruling in 2004 that deemed Koizumi's Yasukuni visits were carried out in a personal capacity. The lower court didn't clearly state whether or not the prime minister's Yasukuni visits were in accordance with the Constitution. A total of seven lawsuits have been filed across Japan over Koizumi's visits to the shrine where Japan's war dead, including class-A war criminals, are worshipped. Only the Fukuoka District Court had said the visits were unconstitutional. Since becoming prime minister, Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine in August 2001, April 2002, January 2003 and January 2004. Koizumi said that he paid the visits based on his personal belief.


From http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/ 09/30/2005

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Public Servant's Suicide Costs State 72 Million Yen

KOFU (Kyodo) The Kofu District Court ordered the government Tuesday to pay 71.8 million yen in damages to the parents of a Social Insurance Agency employee who committed suicide in 1999 after becoming depressed from excessive work. Shinji Yokomori, 23, jumped off an apartment building near his home in Tokyo's Suginami Ward in April 1997 after becoming depressed. Yokomori had put in about 48 hours of overtime at the ward's Social Insurance Operation Center the week before he killed himself. The court said Yokomori's workload and working conditions exhausted him, triggering depression. It also ruled that his superiors were negligent for failing to consider his workload and simply ignoring the condition he was in. In December 2002, the National Personnel Authority certified that Yokomori's suicide was caused by overwork. The state paid 25 million yen to his parents in accordance with the public servant's compensation law, but the parents filed a lawsuit anyway, saying the agency failed to apologize to them for their son's death.


From The Japan Times 09/28/2005

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Japan to Cut 10 Percent of Gov't Jobs

All Associated Press News TOKYO (AP) - Japan decided Tuesday to cut about 33,230 jobs, or 10 percent of its current civilian work force, over the next five years. The move comes after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was voted back into office with a landslide victory in elections last month on a promise to create a smaller government and streamline government spending.


From http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/ 10/04/2005

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Govt Must Trim Fat in Civil Service

Following postal privatization, reducing the government's total personnel cost and cutting the number of civil servants has become an important priority. The smaller and more efficient government being advocated is in tune with the dawning era of a society with a declining population. The degree to which overall personnel costs are trimmed and the ranks of government employees reduced will serve as a yardstick for measuring the efficiency of government. The Council on Economy and Fiscal Policy will decide on a basic policy on this issue in November. It is the government's responsibility to work out effective measures to put the policy into effect. The total number of central and local government employees is about 4.04 million. The annual personnel cost for the national civil service is 4.7 trillion yen, nearly 6 percent of this year's general account budget. Personnel costs for local government workers, including teachers and police officers, topped 26 trillion yen, or nearly 29 percent of the ordinary accounts in fiscal 2002. The central and local governments are in critical fiscal condition, burdened with projected combined outstanding long-term debts of 774 trillion yen as of the end of the current fiscal year. Bottom-line necessity Cutting civil service personnel costs is a matter of fiscal urgency and a review of the wage system will have only a limited effect, making it necessary to cut the number of public service workers. The government earlier decided to cut nearly 28,000 jobs from fiscal 2006 through fiscal 2009. Yet there are some sectors that need more staff, leaving it unclear how many jobs are to be cut overall. A private-sector member of the governmental advisory panel has proposed a net reduction in the number of central government workers of more than 5 percent in five years. As to local government workers, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry in March set a guideline of cutting more than 4.6 percent in net terms in 5 years. The Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party has set a target of 20 percent net reduction in 10 years in ranks of central and local government employees, chiefly those in administrative jobs. Postal privatization first step Obviously, the net reduction target cannot include the about 260,000 Japan Post employees who will cease to be civil servants when the postal services go private in October 2007. To make a sizable net cut, it is also necessary to drastically streamline and consolidate unnecessary central government regional offices. There is strong opposition within government ministries and agencies to cutting staff and the government would be ill-advised to make across-the-board cutbacks at every ministry. In reducing staff levels it is essential, both at the central and local governments, to review the services being provided and accelerate the shifting of jobs from the public to the private sector through contracting out services and other measures. It is vital to make sizable cuts as needed in line with the services at each ministry and government organization. As Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Taro Aso put it, no government official is likely to say "We don't need this position [in our office]," because bureaucrats are bound to try to protect their own turf and avoid cutting jobs. Without strong political leadership, including that of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, it will be impossible to fend off opposition from government offices and labor unions and promote reform.


From The Yomiuri Shimbun 10/25/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: Lawmakers Question Credibility of Data of Statistical Office

A number of lawmakers have raised question about the credibility of economic data provided by the National Statistical Office (NSO), claiming that its statistics fail to reflect economic conditions effectively. In a parliamentary inspection of the NSO, Rep. Kim Jong-yull of the ruling Uri Party said that there is a wide gap between economic data announced by the NSO and economic reality felt by the public. ``Economic indicators are conflicting with each other or fail to effectively reflect real economic conditions, undermining the credibility and quality of statistics,** Kim said. For instance, data from the NSO and the Bank of Korea showed a wide gap, he said. He said that NSO*s data showed that manufacturing output rose to 7.2 percent in July from 3.7 percent in April, but BOK said that listed manufacturing firms* sales growth slowed to 1.7 percent in the second quarter from 4.9 percent in the first. At the same time, Rep. Lee Hahn-koo of the main opposition Grand National Party said that NSO*s unemployment figures tend to come out lower than those tallied by other private institutions. He said NSO*s jobless data have failed to match reality in the job market. ``A private economic institute*s jobless rate reflecting the public sentiment has been about 3 percentage point higher than those computed by the NSO. Some lawmakers also said the NSO is suspected of leaking some critical economic data before public announcements. ``There is speculation that some statistics are being reported to top government officials in advance before official announcement to the public,** Rep. Lee Jong-ku of GNP said. Lee said the NSO needs to revamped the internal security system to stem any leakage of important data in the future. (by Lee Hyo-sik)


From The Korea Times 09/29/2005

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Korea Considers Debt Management Agency

South Korea is considering establishing a national agency specializing in government debt management to improve the national fiscal balance. The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE) said Wednesday that it will weigh a plan to set up a government debt management body that will systematically manage and supervise the entire government bond issuance and management processes. Korea*s national debt, or financial obligations, amounted to 203.1 trillion won at the end of 2004, up 26.1 percent from a year earlier. Government debt accounted for 26.1 percent of Korea*s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004, lower than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 76.4 percent. ``We plan to examine the effectiveness of establishing a government debt management institute, which will hire non-bureaucrat experts in those fields,** said MOFE director general Lee Chul-hwan. ``The proposed institute*s business scope will include figuring out the adequate size of total government debt and mid- to long-term measures to effectively pay back the debt, as well as ways to effectively manage the government bond market and analyzing financial market risks and drawing up of countermeasures** Lee added. Government debt management agencies in operated by the British and Australian governments help the central government to reduce costs in repaying debt and disperse the risks involving debt through efficient debt portfolio management. Such organizations also devise ways to effectively raise funds required for paying back the debt. The ministry said it will commission a study to a private economic research institute to explore ways to improve Korea*s system to effectively manage the snowballing government debt and find out how effective and necessary is setting up of the proposed debt management agency. Based on the study results, the MOFE will draw up a draft blueprint of comprehensive government debt management by year*s end and pursue legislation of the related bill next year after conducting a public hearing and surveying experts* opinions. In addition, the government decided to study ways to enliven the Korean government bond market and stabilize the national treasury by easing regulations that restrict foreign investors* access to the market and extending the maturity of government bonds. ``There has been complaints that the basic transaction amount of the local government bond market is way too huge for an individual investors to tap,** Lee said. ``Thus we are reviewing splitting up the basic transaction amount of government bonds,** he said. The MOFE plans to hold public hearing on the government plan to adopt long-term government bonds on Oct. 18. (by Kim Sung-jin)


From The Korea Times 10/12/2005

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Korea Jumps to 40th in the World in Transparency

South Korea ranked 40th out of 159 countries surveyed in a global corruption perceptions index (CPI) this year, climbing from last year's 47th out of 146 countries, the Transparency International (TI) reported on Tuesday (Oct. 18). Scoring five out of a clean score of 10, South Korea is ※the largest improver in Asia compared with last year,§ said the report issued by the TI headquarters in Berlin, Germany. The CPI is a composite survey reflecting the perceptions of business people and country analysts, both resident and non-resident. It draws on 16 different polls from 10 independent institutions, according to TI, a global non-government organization committed to fighting corruption. This year, Iceland came first with 9.7, switching with Finland, which took first place last year. Finland and New Zealand followed at second with 9.6, while Bangladesh and Chad came in last, both scoring 1.7. South Korea ※has made significant progress in developing the institutions and laws to fight corruption, beginning with the inauguration of the Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) in 2002 and continuing in 2005 with the launch of the landmark K-PACT on anti-corruption and transparency, initiated by TI Korea and involving leaders in politics, the public sector, business and civil society,§ the report said. South Korea's transparency also improved among 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), ranking 22nd this year, a two-step rise from the 24th place it has maintained since 2001. TI Korea and the KICAC hailed the nation's improved CPI as important progress, but both noted that the country still has a long way to go. ※This is actually a shame considering the country's gross domestic product or the economy's scale,§ commented TI Korea in a statement. ※In Asia, we are even positioned behind Malaysia.§ Among 12 countries in Asia, South Korea comes sixth, the same as last year. Singapore and Hong Kong lead the regional ranking, recording fifth and 15th in global ranking, respectively. Kim Sang-geun, chairman of TI Korea, said the proper implementation of the K-PACT, nationwide education on anti-corruption, and parliamentary ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which is scheduled to take effect from Dec.14 this year, are necessary to move closer to a more transparent society. The KICAC attributed the nation's improving CPI to the government's anti-corruption drive. ※We think the government's efforts to fight corruption are beginning to be noticed both at home and abroad,§ said Chung Soung-jin, chairman of the KICAC. ※Recently, international institutions such as the International Institute for Management Development and World Economic Forum have also rated South Korea higher in transparency indexes.§


From http://www.korea.net/ 10/18/2005

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President Roh Nominates Top Prosecutor

President Roh Moo-hyun Monday nominated Deputy Prosecutor General Choung Sang-myoung as a candidate for the top post of the public prosecution, left vacant after former prosecutor general Kim Jong-bin resigned about a week ago, the presidential office said. ``Choung, who served as vice justice minister under the administration*s first years, has been evaluated as a competent candidate with a great deal of experience in planning and investigating parts of the prosecution,** Chong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Man-soo said in a press briefing. ``Trusted far and wide from inside and outside the prosecution, he is expected to fulfill such pending tasks as the reform of the prosecution in harmony with the Justice Ministry,** he added. Kim tendered his resignation on Oct. 14 as he was instructed by Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae to investigate a scholar, whose pro-North Korea advocacy stirred ideological controversy here, without physical detention. He argued the minister*s order hurt the public prosecution*s political independence as the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) attacked the Roh administration and the ruling Uri Party with a similar logic. Choung, 55, was born in Uisong, North Kyongsang Province, and graduated from Kyongbuk High School in 1967 and Seoul National University in 1972. He has held various posts at the prosecution and the Justice Ministry since passing the state judicial examination in 1975. He served as vice justice minister as Kang Kum-sil was appointed by Roh as the nation*s first-ever female justice minister. The nominee is considered close to Roh, who passed the state bar exam in the same year. Roh had worked as a lawyer before entering politics. Choung should go through a hearing at the National Assembly, though it does not require a floor vote to decide whether to confirm or boycott the presidential nomination. He is likely to be inaugurated as the new top prosecutor unless unanticipated variables break out. His nomination, in the meantime, will likely bring about a sweeping personnel reshuffle in the prosecution as his six contemporary and two senior officials are expected to retire from their posts in accordance with its traditional seniority system. (by Ryu Jin)


From The Korea Times 10/24/2005

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GNP Sweeps By-Elections

The largest opposition Grand National Party (GNP) swept all four National Assembly seats up for grabs in yesterday's by-elections. The ruling Uri Party failed to win a single seat, repeating the crushing defeat of April*s by-elections, in which it lost all six seats up for grabs. In April, the GNP took five Assembly seats out of the six, with the remaining one going to an independent lawmaker. In Taegu, GNP chairwoman Park Geun-hye*s secretary Yoo Seong-min defeated Lee Gang-chul, a former senior presidential secretary for civic and social affairs and close confidant of President Roh Moo-hyun. The ruling camp*s efforts to overcome regional antagonism by succeeding a by-election in the traditional stronghold of the conservative GNP once again ended in a failure. The GNP*s Yoon Doo-hwan snatched the Ulsan constituency, which was added to the list of electoral districts up for grabs after Rep. Cho Seung-soo of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) was deprived of his parliamentary seat on Sept. 29. The Supreme Court convicted Cho of illegal electioneering. Former GNP legislator Hong Sa-duck, who ran for Kwangju district in Kyonggi Province as an independent candidate, was defeated by the GNP*s Chung Jin-sup. Voters in Puchon elected Lim Hae-kyu, also of the GNP. Political analysts expected GNP chairwoman Park would be able to further secure her leadership and her position as one of the most promising presidential hopefuls of the party for the presidential election in December 2007 with the overwhelming victories, despite the surging popularity of Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak over his Chonggyechon restoration project. As a result of the Uri Party rout, Rep. Moon Hee-sang, the party*s chairman, is likely to face a serious leadership crisis after the defeat. Voter turnout in the by-elections Wednesday stood at 39.7 percent, higher than 33.6 percent of the previous by-elections last April. The percentage was lower than the 60.6 percent of the 2004 Assembly elections, the National Election Commission (NEC) said. By region, the Ulsan district saw the highest turnout of 52.2 percent. The Taegu district came second in terms of turnout with 46.9 percent, followed by Kwangju in Kyonggi Province with 34.4 percent. Puchon, also in Kyonggi Province, showed the lowest rate with 29 percent. As a result of yesterday*s elections, the governing Uri Party has 144 seats, followed by the GNP with 127 in the 299-member unicameral legislature. The remaining are shared between the Democratic Party (DP) with 11 seats, the DLP with nine seats, three seats by the United Liberal Democrats (ULD) and five independent lawmakers. (by Lee Jin-woo)


From The Korea Times 10/26/2005

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INDONESIA: Kadin Not Too Happy With Economics Team

Confidence among the business community toward the economics team of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is gradually declining, due to its failure to reduce the high-cost economy as well as provide clear-cut economic policies for the long run.Even a stout supporter of the economics team, the country's powerful business lobby group the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), has found the courage to openly criticize the team. "Frankly speaking, the business community is now skeptical about the team, particularly about its efforts to address the classic problems of high-cost economy and smuggling, which have scared away investors," Kadin chairman Mohamad S. Hidayat told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. The corrupt bureaucracy -- the root of the high-cost economy -- remains untouched by the reform drives promoted by the economics team. Hidayat was commenting on the performance of the current economics team in the Cabinet -- almost a year since it took office. The comments came only days after Vice President Jusuf Kalla defended the team's performance amid criticism that it had failed to successfully tackle the country's economic ills. Kalla said the economy had in fact seen progress under the new administration and that issues such as the weakening rupiah and the fuel price increases were attributable more to external instead of internal factors. Hidayat was apparently not convinced. "The economics ministers have come up with their own blueprint. However, it is not fully applicable since there are no concrete steps, time frames or parameters on how to implement it. Without that, the blueprint remains rhetoric," he said. It is due to the lack of concrete and comprehensive planning that the economics team failed to anticipate the impact of higher global oil prices, which has in turn dealt a heavy blow to the country's hard-gained monetary and fiscal stability. Due to the fuel price increases alone, the economic growth forecast for this year had to be slashed from 6.0 percent to 5.7 percent. "The performance of the economics team is far from what many had expected, as it cannot anticipate changes in the economy. All of their economic assumptions have missed the mark," said economist-turned-legislator Dradjat Wibowo. Dradjat said several of the economics ministers always downplayed future economic threats in order to cover up their incompetency and to please the public. "When the rupiah was plunging uncontrollably, Minister of Finance Jusuf Anwar simply said 'don't worry, be happy' despite the fact that President Susilo took the problem seriously. This is a sign that Jusuf did not have a good understanding of the problem." Economist Faisal Basri insisted that the government had to introduce impressive policies to improve the economy, such as by reforming the tax and customs regime, and eliminating the high-cost economy in order to regain business confidence. "I actually feel sorry for President Susilo as he is bearing the brunt of the curses from the public as a result of the incompetency of his economics ministers. Susilo should realize that it is time to change the economics team," said Faisal.


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

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Office to Aggressively Search for New Taxpayers

Dony was annoyed when he received a tax office letter requiring him to register for a taxpayer number locally known as an NPWP, after he recently bought a 45-square-meter house in Karawaci, west of Jakarta. Believing he would only end up in the clutches of corrupt and bureaucratic tax officials, the employee of a private Jakarta company threw the letter straight into the bin. Donny might not have done so, if he had known that receiving income without an NPWP will soon be punishable with a minimum six-month and a maximum six-year jail term and a hefty fine. In previous administrations, taxable employees could choose whether to have a tax number or let their companies pay the taxes for them. Although the amount paid through companies was a little more, the stories of corrupt officials extracting money from otherwise honest taxpayers put many people off registering. But according the country's taxation chief, things are about to change, with all people soon being required to have a NPWP. "The Directorate General of Taxation is serious about extending the number of taxpayers into the tens of millions by initiating several steps, including creating stiffer penalties for taxable people who do not have the NPWP," director general of taxation Hadi Purnomo said recently. Hadi said aside from proposing tough sanctions for non-NPWP holders in the upcoming draft revision of the tax laws, the office was now actively identifying and contacting people who it believed should register. The move comes after mounting pressure from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for the office to address the problem of low tax collection. As of the end of last year, only 3.67 million of the country's 220 million population paid taxes, with collections contributing to 13.5 percent of the gross domestic product -- one of the lowest among large Asian economies. To increase the number of taxpayers, the directorate has been sending out millions of tax number application forms to those it has categorized as taxable during the past few months. Taxable people are traced by the directorate based on their credit card information, passport registrations and business activities, as well as information acquired about motor vehicle, land and property purchases. However, some forms have been sent to the wrong people, including pensioners and domestic helpers who earn less than the minimum Rp 12 million (US$1,188) a year in taxable income. The directorate aims to boost the number of taxpayers to 10 million people nationally by October and on Oct. 19, President Susilo is scheduled to hand over the 10 millionth registration number to a taxable citizen. However, not all taxable people who receive the application forms are automatically applying for the NPWP, since the existing tax laws still give people the choice not to get the number. Besides imprisonment, tax evaders would also have to pay up to four times their unpaid taxes back in fines. The directorate will also have the authority to inspect the amount of taxes paid by individuals for the past five years based on its own calculations.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/13/2005

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Reshuffling the Cabinet

While most people are busy passing judgment on the first year's performance of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the man himself is likely to be quietly evaluating the performance of his Cabinet members. Given that the present lineup was something that was imposed on him rather than his first choice, the answer then is clear: He should go for the big reshuffle and probably bring back those names he had originally planned to recruit. The political situation has changed drastically in the last 12 months, so much so that today he has far greater freedom to pick his own men and women. The present Cabinet is really a rainbow coalition reflecting, or rather dictated by, the political reality at the time of selection. This evaluation time is therefore a golden opportunity for the President to correct the mistakes he made 12 months ago -- mistakes dictated by circumstances -- and to form a Cabinet that is more competent, solid, and truly united. He only has to rely on his own PD, Kalla's Golkar, and probably PKS, about the only small party that truly brings political support to the presidency. The representatives of other parties in the Cabinet are dispensable. SBY still needs a handful of able politicians, but these could be provided by either of the three parties. He could also bring in more professionals to improve the competency of the Cabinet. The President also needs to replace some of the businessmen in the Cabinet because of the big potential for conflict of interest. Even if they are sincere and refrain from abusing their office, their mere presence already undermines the credibility of the Cabinet. When the President evaluates the performance of his team, he should not confine himself to looking at the performance of each minister over the past 12 months. Such a period is just too short to say whether one has succeeded or failed. Evaluation should also be about looking into the country's future needs. Looking ahead, the President would go a long way to improving his reputation and image by picking a team that would take him through the next four years. He should not waste this opportunity.


Adopted from http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/13/2005

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Democracy Indicators 'Remain Poor'

Under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was democratically elected, indicators of democracy in the country have remained poor, a human rights group says. In a statement to mark Susilo's first year in office, the Institute for Studies on Democracy and Civilian rights (Demos) said on Wednesday that the democratic election of Susilo and his running mate Jusuf Kalla did not ensure clean, accountable and transparent governance. The current government, Demos said, had been no different from previous post-New Order administrations, with most respondents it surveyed giving a thumbs down to the development of democracy in the country, especially the recognition of civilians rights, political freedom, socio-economic rights and people's representation, not to mention law enforcement and security conditions. Demos executive director A.E. Priyono claimed that for many people, political developments might be moving in the right direction as people enjoy more freedoms. The latest survey also shows that 90 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the government's poor performance in upholding the rule of law and combating power abuse and corruption. There have been many institutions established to support democracy, but most still lack accountability, lack transparency and are involved in corruption. Priyono criticized the government's "neo-liberalism-oriented economic policies", which were supported by the oligarchic elitists, but burdened the majority of low-income people. The skyrocketing fuel prices were exacerbated by the neo-liberal economic policy, he surmised. He warned that such oligarchic rule might end up creating a period of chaos.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/20/2005

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Extra Income Unlikely to Improve House Performance

The controversial decision to provide a new additional monthly allowance for members of the House of Representatives would not guarantee any improvement in the performance of the lawmakers, critics have said. Noviantika Nasution, an outgoing legislator of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), blamed the lingering political friction among the country's political elite and party leaders on the poor performance of the lawmakers over the past year. "The House could not work well in accordance with its official functions because all things have been highly politicized and this was marked by the emergence of the koalisi kebangsaan (nationhood coalition) and koalisi kerakyatan (people's coalition). Despite their subsequent dissolution, the friction among their supporters and former leaders lingers. This has caused the House to be unable to effectively perform its function of controlling the government," she said. Noviantika, who quit the House over internal friction in her party, said that over the past year, legislators were more concerned about representing the interests of their party than the interest of the people. "To be open about it, the monthly income hike is really a compensation for the House's approval of the government's recent decision to boost fuel prices," she said. The House has approved a plan to provide a new Rp 10 million (US$1,000) monthly allowance starting November, a decision which has drawn strong criticism amid the current economic hardship endured by the people following the recent fuel hike. Noviantika doubted that the extra income would boost the performance of the lawmakers, who were only been able to endorse four bills during their first year in office out of a target of 55 bills. Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, a legislator of the National Awakening Party (PKB), said the lack of qualified human resources had hampered the House in reaching its legislation target. "Most legislators are not familiar with the legislation procedure and we are running short of law drafters, law experts and researchers. The House has only 17 experts and less than 10 researchers," she said, adding that an American legislator would have five legal drafters and expert advisors and several researchers. Experts have previously said that the domineering role of party leaders in recruiting candidates for House positions had been a factor for the poor performance of the current lawmakers. Meanwhile, Muhammad A.S. Hikam, chairman of the House's legislative body, blamed the government for the House's low productivity in the legislative field, saying many special committees had been left inactive because the government was not cooperative in the legislation process.


Adapted from http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/26/2005

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Susilo Working on Reshuffle, Silalahi Says

This year's edition of Idul Fitri holiday may not be as festive compared to past years for a handful of Cabinet ministers. Some of them may find it helpful to voluntarily extend their fast for some divine intervention that will help them stay in office. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will spend his time during the holiday scrutinizing his aides' performance, a brand new, measured procedure that could end up in a reshuffle of his Cabinet. Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi said on Tuesday the President had received progress reports from almost all of his aides. Susilo visited the Southeast Sulawesi capital of Kendari on Tuesday, as part of his "Ramadhan safari". Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono said the Cabinet members had been given until Thursday to submit their progress reports, which will be examined directly by the President. Idul Fitri will fall on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4. Juwono denied rumors that he had tendered his resignation due to ill health. Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin submitted his report on Tuesday, which details achievements of his office over the past year compared to the set targets. Hamid was deeply involved in the peace talks with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel group between January and July, which resulted in the historic signing on Aug. 15 of a Memorandum of Understanding for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in the province of Aceh. His contribution to the peace deal, however, has been deemed a liability by House of Representatives lawmaker Muhammad A.S. Hikam, who demanded Hamid's dismissal for having neglected his main job. "His ministry is responsible for the House's failure to meet the target of endorsing 55 bills this year," Hikam of the National Awakening Party (PKB) exclaimed. The ministry and the House are supposed to work together in determining priority bills for each year. "He dedicated his time to that peace negotiation (the Aceh talks), which was actually the duty of the chief security minister," said Hikam, who was formerly the research minister under President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.


Adapted From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/26/2005

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SBY Slammed Over Slow Military Reform

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was criticized on Friday for showing lack of commitment in pushing through the military reform program during his first year in office.Al Araf, a researcher at human rights and democracy watchdog Imparsial, said the President seemed to have no control over the military's maneuvers in the field of politics, business sector and domestic security. In politics, Imparsial noted the participation of several active military officers in this year's direct regional elections. "The policy of Indonesian Military (TNI) Chief (Gen. Endriartono Sutarto) to allow servicemen to join the political race at local level is, indeed, against Article 39 of Law No. 34/2004 on military reform, as the article strictly bans the military from involvement in practical politics," Al Araf said on Friday. "The President, however, failed to warn the military from reentering the political arena," he added. In May of this year, the TNI headquarters suspended six active military officers to allow them to contest the direct regional elections in June for regents, mayors and provincial governors. The suspensions apparently took advantage of loopholes in Law No. 32/2004 on regional government that does not specifically ban active military or police officers from being nominated for regional government posts. Another Imparsial researcher, Otto K. Pratama, noted that the government was dragging its feet in removing the military from the business sector as mandated by the law. He said that Susilo had failed to create a corridor for the military to accede to the reform demands. "Law No. 34/2004 on the military has mandated the government to take over business entities run by the military in order to create professional soldiers. With the process under way for almost a year, we only see officials assigned to evaluate the business entities. They are only talking about whether or not the companies are profitable and should be taken over by the government," Otto said. He was referring to the ongoing verification held by four related ministries -- the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Office of the State Minister of State Enterprises -- during which officials have said the government would likely take over only 10 to 12 companies belonging to the military. This means the military would likely retain many other business units held under its 219 military cooperatives and foundations. As a comparison, Otto noted the Chinese government under Deng Xiao Ping had been able to accelerate the state takeover of all the Chinese military's business units within only six months.


Adapted from http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/29/2005

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MYANMAR: UN Envoy Razali Rejects Myanmar's Claim That Moving Faster Toward Democracy Might Bring Chaos

The U.N. special envoy to Myanmar on Wednesday rejected claims by the ruling junta that speeding up democratic reforms could throw the country into Iraq-like disarray. Razali Ismail, a former Malaysian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, urged Myanmar's military leaders to move toward national reconciliation "in the soonest possible time'' and release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. "I don't see any parallels between Myanmar and Iraq,'' Razali told reporters. "Iraq is a very bad case where unilateralism was allowed to happen. ... Nobody is talking about taking unilateral action'' against Myanmar. Earlier this week, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Myanmar's top leaders, including junta chairman Gen. Than Shwe, expressed concerns that bringing democracy could create social instability. "They want to ensure that the environment is conducive without chaos for them to introduce democracy,'' Syed Hamid said Tuesday after a two-day visit to Myanmar. "They said they want to avoid a situation like Iraq which is gripped by violence.'' Western nations have strongly criticised Myanmar's government for failing to carry out promised democratic reforms and committing human rights violations, such as Suu Kyi's detention. Razali voiced concerns that Suu Kyi is unlikely to be freed anytime soon. "From all indications, I don't think this (her release) is happening,'' he said. Razali urged the junta to let the United Nations "be engaged with Myanmar the way we have been engaged before,'' noting that he hasn't been allowed to visit Myanmar to jump-start democratic reforms since March 2004. The U.N. will hold discussions with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the current situation in Myanmar, Razali said, stressing that other Asian countries such as China and India should also try to encourage Myanmar's return to democracy. Myanmar's current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising. It refused to hand over power to Suu Kyi's party after its landslide election victory in 1990. Suu Kyi has spent 10 of the last 16 years in detention. Her latest detention started in May 2003.


From http://thestar.com.my 10/12/2005

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Maritime Enforcement Agency Starts Operations on Nov 30

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MEA) will begin operations on Nov 30, with an initial focus on the Straits of Malacca. Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the agency would start with 500 personnel, a fraction of the 4,035 posts which have been approved for it. The deputy prime minister and defence minister said it would guard one fifth of the 250 nautical mile zone placed under its jurisdiction. ※The agency*s steering committee has also asked the navy, police and other agencies to determine which area along the Malacca Straits needs attention. ※In due course, the agency*s responsibilities will grow, and its facilities and staff numbers will be expanded to full capacity to ensure effectiveness. ※We have to acknowledge that the agency is new and has limited personnel, assets and experience. ※So, the agency will have to give full attention to crucial areas in the initial stage to be effective,§ Najib said after the agency*s soft launch, during which its logo, flag and uniform were unveiled. Najib said the agency, which was given an initial allocation of RM69mil, would receive RM509mil next year. The decision to create the agency was made in 2002, to act as an integrated maritime enforcement agency involving the navy, police, fisheries, Customs and Excise Department and marine departments. The agency, which comes under the purview of the Prime Minister*s Department, will report directly to Najib, who is also Defence Minister. The MEA would be responsible for enforcing 20 Federal laws in the country*s maritime zones and airspace, and watch over Malaysia*s territorial waters, conduct search and rescue operations and combat piracy. To a question, Najib said there would be no overlapping of responsibilities between the MEA and existing agencies, adding that all would have to cooperate to ensure security in the country's maritime zones. ※The assets that have been passed to the agency will be upgraded to ensure it will have the capability to conduct search and rescue, and enforcement operations. ※A fleet of 72 vessels will be used for MEA operations,§ he said, adding that the agency's vessels would be displayed during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in December. On Umno matters, Najib, hoped that action taken against those involved in money politics would be a strong deterrent to other.


From http://thestar.com.my 10/11/2005

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Government Action Needed for Indians to Get 3% Equity

The MIC wants the Government to help the Indian community achieve the 3% equity set out under the Third Outline Perspective Plan, said its president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu. ※If it doesn*t happen in the next five years (when the OPP3 runs out), there is no point in talking about it anymore. What is the point of meeting in forum after forum on how to achieve the 3% equity? ※If nothing happens by then, we won*t ask anything from the Government anymore. We*ll close shop,§ he said after attending a briefing on economic issues by the National Economic Action Council to 500 Indian corporate leaders and politicians here yesterday. Samy Vellu said he felt the 3% equity share for Indians ※was not achievable§ due to the dynamic nature of population growth in the country. Currently, the Indian community only owns 1.5% of equity in the country. He was responding to arguments raised during a 20-minute dialogue with Minister in the Prime Minister*s Department Datuk Mustapa Mohamad which touched on poverty eradication, equity sharing and employment opportunities in the civil service for Indians. ※We want what has already been set out for our community under the Eighth Malaysia Plan to be extended into the next plan because the OPP3 operates until the year 2010. ※That*s why we want the Government to come up with a body like the Yayasan Amanah to help Indians invest their savings,§ Samy Vellu said.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/12/2005

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Corrupt Malaysian Cabinet Minister Resigns

A Malaysian cabinet minister has resigned after being found guilty of corruption by the ruling party, a newspaper reported Sunday. Isa Samad signed a resignation letter saying he quit his post as Federal Territories Minister effective Saturday, high-ranking government sources and Isa's aides told The New Straits Times newspaper on condition of anonymity. He was already the most senior UMNO leader ever punished for corruption following a new anti-corruption campaign led by the prime minister Abdullah Badawi. Isa was found guilty of vote-buying and political corruption during the September 2004 internal elections of the ruling United Malays National Organisation. The party's supreme council, its highest decision making body, rejected his appeal against a three-year suspension from the party. Isa, 56, won the vice president's post in the party's last elections, in what was considered an upset result. Some speculated that he had bribed delegates to vote for him, sparking an investigation by the party's disciplinary board.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 10/15/2005

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PHILIPPINES: President Gives Lgus More Economic Perks

President Arroyo on Monday vowed to give local government units more economic power, telling them at the Manila Hotel launching of the ※Kilos Lokal, Asenso Nasyonal§ program of the DILG, the Union of Local Authorities and NEDA. She told the LGU heads that from on she was making sure their share of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) would get to them promptly. She was taking steps to make funds from national lending agencies available to them. It was the 14th anniversary of the passage of the LGU Code yesterday. The commission*s contacts with the local government officials are likely to make them approve the constitutional amendments, if these are brought to the people in a plebiscite. The President warned the LGU officials that interest groups were working to sabotage the effort to amend the Charter but that she was confident constitutional amendment would prosper. Budget Secretary Romulo Neri told the LGU heads that he had met with the League of Governors on Sunday to discuss their P17.5-billion IRA that has not been remitted to them since the Ramos and Estrada administrations. Neri told the reporters he would seek clarification from the Department of Justice on this matter to verify the Supreme Court*s decision on its constitutionality. When Rep. Hermilando Mandanas was governor of Batangas, he sued the national government to have its IRA arrears to LGUs paid. Mandanas, a leading advocate of decentralization and LGU economic autonomy, won the case. Neri said he wanted clarification on how the High Court*s decision is to be properly implemented. President Arroyo also noted that to be able to achieve the target of creating 3 million small businesses in the countryside and the development of 2 million hectares of agribusiness, the government has to spend for the rehabilitation and building of farm-to-market roads. While speaking to them about work to be done and money to be made available, the President also reminded the LGU heads that they had supported her 2004 call for austerity.


Adapted from http://www.manilatimes.net/ 10/11/2005

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GMA*s House Allies Collide on Juicy Committee Posts

OWING to the impending reorganization in the House of Representatives, tension is growing between two dominant parties, both allies of President Arroyo〞the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) and the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats. Congressmen belonging to the ※Mindanao bloc§ confirmed that Lakas members are ※strongly lobbying§ for a partymate, Rep. Herminia Ramiro of Misamis Occidental, to replace Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte for the chairmanship of the powerful House Committee on Accounts. Rep. Benasing Macarambon of Lanao del Sur said that 50 congressmen from Lakas have signed a manifesto to support Ramiro. Macarambon, who belongs to the Nationalist People*s Coalition held a meeting with Mindanao congressmen to discuss the issue. He said the Mindanao bloc wants to replace Barbers with a congressman who hails from the country*s second biggest island and who is also a Lakas member. Macarambon said the group feels that a congressman from Mindanao would give the region the strong representation it deserves. Barbers is also a member of Lakas. Ramiro, a second-term congressman, is a member of 17 committees and vice chair of the Committee on Interparliamentary Relations and Diplomacy. The House leadership decided to revamp its ranks following the ※betrayal§ by some members, who were designated committee chairs and members for supporting the impeachment complaint against Arroyo. But the House majority leader, Rep. Prospero Nograles of Davao City, also a Lakas stalwart, said that despite ※lobbying§ efforts, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. will ultimately decide on the issue. ※It*s all up to the House leadership to grant it or not. It is indeed Speaker de Venecia who has the last say on this matter,§ Nograles said. Besides the accounts committee, Lakas wants to get the chairmanships of other panels that would be reorganized. Earlier a House source told The Manila Times that several administration congressmen, led by Lakas Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon, were disappointed with de Venecia for appointing Kampi members to ※juicy posts.§ The source said Lakas wants to dominate committee chairmanships to ensure the smooth passage of administration measures being pushed by Malaca?ang.


From http://www.manilatimes.net 10/15/2005

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Business Group Warns Govt of Antidemocratic Moves

THE Arroyo administration*s moves to undermine basic freedoms, cut government transparency and take over crucial private businesses will prove detrimental to the Philippine economy, the Makati Business Club warned on Friday, in a statement it issued at the same time that leftists and government critics were again attempting to storm Malaca?ang, the seat of the Philippine government. This was the second statement critical of the Arroyo administration that the MBC issued in months. In July the group called on President Arroyo to step down on the same day her key economic managers abandoned her and called for her resignation. In its latest statement, the MBC said Executive Order 464 prohibiting public officials from appearing in congressional inquiries without the consent of the President prevents Congress from exercising its constitutionally mandated oversight function and reduces transparency of government officials. The order was triggered by a media report disclosing a US lobbying contract signed by the national security adviser. The group also argued that the imposition of the preemptive calibrated response is an infringement on the right to assemble and the right to free speech, both of which are guaranteed by the Constitution. ※While some rallies may indeed be an inconvenience for the public, we must nonetheless respect this right to assemble and the right to free speech. The rallies per se are not the cause of instability as the government purports〞these are expressions of frustration at the government*s inability to make significant inroads on poverty and corruption,§ the statement read. The group added that the state of emergency, which the administration appears to contemplate, is counterproductive to its own objective of raising investor confidence and investments in the country. It will be recalled that the MBC was one of the key groups that lent their support to a military-led coup that ousted then-President Ferdinand Marcos, and installed Corazon Aquino, widow of Marcos* main critic, to the presidency.


From http://www.manilatimes.net 10/22/2005

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SINGAPORE: More Corporate Governance Duties May Have Boosted Director Fees

Executive directors of Singapore firms had an average pay hike of 21.7 percent in 2004. This is way higher than the 3.6 percent total wage increase for workers in the private sector. The numbers were released by SHRI Remuneration Data Specialists which studied the annual reports of 575 SGX-listed companies. The survey showed that non-executive directors saw an even higher jump in their fees - up an average of 35.6 percent. According to SHRI, the likely reason for this is that listed firms are paying directors more for the extra work that they have to do to comply with the corporate governance code. This is especially so for non-executive directors who have to take up new roles in the board's audit and other committees. The Singapore corporate governance code took effect on 1st January 2003. The survey also found that the average remuneration for executive directors in 2004 ranged from S$500,000 for small companies to S$6.5 million for large ones. For non-executive directors, it was from S$87,000 to S$700,000.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/14/2005

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THAILAND: Little to Show in Civil Service Reform

Thai Post Editorial, Oct 4 _ Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is proud of the progress under his bureaucratic reform policy, which marked its third anniversary on Oct 3. ``This is the biggest bureaucratic reform the country has had in 110 years,'' he declared. Critics were not optimistic, noting that the changes made so far were merely structural, while the spirit of reform had yet to be adopted by ruling politicians and civil servants. The main objective of reform is to improve the civil service in line with continuous changes in society. The bureaucracy must be smaller but more efficient. Red tape must be reduced, and transparency promoted so that state officials are more accountable to the people. In this regard, performance assessment must be done continuously, with input from members of the public. What has been done during the past three years is contrary to the objective. Instead of trimming the bureaucracy, the government increased the number of ministries from 14 to 20, with the creation of more than 30 new departments. CEO governors were created along the lines of chief executive officers of business conglomerates. Mr Thaksin says the increase will be followed by a reduction, but we cannot see how that can be done.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 10/11/2005

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3,000 Police Forswear Corruption

To mark Police Day yesterday, about 3,000 immigration police officers took an oath against corruption, while police chief Kowit Wattana called on his subordinates to work in strict compliance with the law, refrain from corruption and symbolise public safety, not fear. On July 13, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, at a seminar of police officers from all over the country, lashed out at the Immigration Bureau for indulging in corruption and for demanding kickbacks from people travelling in and out of the country.Mr Thaksin declared Oct 13 the start of new efforts to clean up the police force.Later that evening, the national police chief transferred immigration police chief Pol Lt-Gen Amarin Niamsakul to the job of acting commissioner of the Police Forensic Science Bureau.On national Police Day yesterday, immigration police commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Suwat Thamrongsrisakul presided over a mass ceremony for 3,000 immigration police to swear an oath to toe the line, perform their duties with honesty and shun personal benefits through power abuse.About 1,000 of these officers lined up and took the oath in front of Luang Phor Khao Muang , the bureau's revered Buddha image, at the headquarters in Soi Suan Phlu and the rest did the same at their units in the provinces.Pol Lt-Gen Suwat then urged his subordinates to adjust their attitudes and adhere to the principles of transparency, speed and virtue. He said the Immigration Police Bureau, which must play a leading role in the economy, security affairs and international relations, had often been criticised for lack of transparency and efficiency.Meanwhile, Amorn Vanichvivat, a lecturer of Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science and director of the Thai judicial procedure study and development centre, said the police still failed to live up to expectations.Their reputation remained poor even after the force was restructured this year. He called for an improvement in police work, especially investigations, and pay rises for non-commissioned officers.''Now we see police with close ties to their bosses, cabinet members and the prime minister being promoted fast while those working hard are held back. ''These things have degraded police work and professional ethics,'' he said.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 10/14/2005

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BANGLADESH: Transparency International Names Bangladesh Most Corrupt for Fifth Consecutive Time

Bangladesh for the fifth consecutive time has been put on the top of the list of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International*s (TI) corruption perception index (CPI). This year Bangladesh has topped the list jointly with Chad〞both having 1.7 points〞out some 159 countries of the world. Last year, Bangladesh and Nigeria jointly topped the list of corrupt nations. The CPI 2005 that lists 159 countries this year against last year*s 146, however, shows that Bangladesh has made a little improvement with a score of 1.7, up by .2 points from last year*s 1.5. A TI press release states that a score of 3 and down wards indicates &rampant corruption*. In South Asia, Sri Lanka has emerged as the least corrupt country, while the rankings of other countries in this region are India 92nd with a score of 2.9, Nepal 123rd and Pakistan 146th. According to the TI index, the most corrupt countries this time are Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Haiti, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Angola and Uzbekistan, while the least corrupt ones are Iceland, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Austria. TI Bangladesh (TIB) Treasurer and member of its Trusty Board Prof. Muzaffar Ahmad released the report of the Berlin-based organisation at the Jatiya Press Club in the city and it was simultaneously launched round the globe yesterday. This year, the TI determined corruption in Bangladesh through survey of seven sectors against eight last year. It surveyed business enterprises, while reports of multilateral organisations such as Economist Intelligence Unit, the World Economic Forum were also used to determine Bangladesh*s ranking in the CPI.


From http://independent-bangladesh.com/ 10/19/2005

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BHUTAN: The Judiciary Reaches Out to New Heights

The construction of the Supreme Court of Bhutan, the highest appellate authority for appeals on judgments, orders, and other decisions of the High Court on all matters, will begin over the coming months on three acres of land in Hejo, Thimphu. The salang (groundbreaking) ceremony for the construction was conducted by the Tshennyi Lopon of the central monk body, on October 13, attended by a gathering of senior government officials, court officials, and representatives of the Indian embassy. Addressing the gathering during the ceremony the chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, said that Bhutan was ※scaling new peaks, conquering new horizons, and finding new milestones§, and the construction of the Supreme Court was such an achievement. ※The voice from this edifice of the guardian of the Constitution will resound the commitment to justice,§ he said. The chief justice conveyed Bhutan*s appreciation to the government of India which has committed the funds for the construction of the Supreme Court building. The Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Mr. Sudhir Vyas, said that India was proud to be associated with such a prestigious project, the construction of the apex court of Bhutan as part of the bilateral cooperation programme through which India had committed over 19 billion Rupees in the Ninth Plan. ※I am sure, with the establishment of the Supreme Court, the systems of law and jurisprudence will evolve in response to the needs of a society in development to achieve the four principles in His Majesty*s vision for Bhutan 2020, for the judiciary,§ said Mr.Vyas. ※It has remained our endeavour throughout that India*s cooperation efforts remain in consonance with Bhutan*s own chosen path of development. All who have meditated on the art of governance have remarked on how crucial the judicial system is to the progress of the nations and the well being of the people.§ The Supreme Court, presided by the Chief Justice will have four drangpons, appointed by His Majesty the King from among the drangpons of the High Court or eminent jurists. In the absence of the Supreme Court, appeals against High Court decisions are made to His Majesty the King and are often investigated by the Royal Advisory Council.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 10/15/2005

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The National Council: A Symbolic Launch

In a significant step to prepare for a democratic system of governance with the enactment of the Constitution, the groundbreaking ceremony of the National Council building was conducted on October 13. The ceremony was presided by Trulku Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye and attended by the Prime Minister, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, cabinet ministers, the royal advisory councillors, senior government officials and dignitaries from international agencies. Located adjacent to the National Assembly building in Langjuphaka, the new building will house the members of the council, with separate chambers for the council members, and public and press galleries, according to officials of the department of urban development and engineering services which is undertaking the project. According to the draft Constitution the National Council, referred to as the Upper House in some parliaments, will comprise 25 members, 20 of them elected from the 20 dzongkhags and five eminent persons nominated by His Majesty the King. The National Assembly secretary, Jigme Zangpo, explained that the Council members will be independent of the political parties. ※This makes the National Council an important body to provide a check and balance in the functioning of parliament,§ he said. All legislation enacted in the National Assembly will have to be put up to the Council for their consent, he said. ※The Council, without political party influence, represents people from the grass-roots level whenever a bill is passed or a convention is signed,§ he said. Besides it legislative functions, the National Council will also act as the house of review on matters affecting the security and sovereignty of the country, the interests of the nation, and the people that need to be brought to the notice of the King, the prime minister and the National Assembly.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 10/15/2005

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SRI LANKA: Gov't Establishes New Ministry to Develop Petroleum Resources

A new Ministry of Petroleum Resources Development has been established under Article 44 (1) of the Constitution from October 24, the Presidential Secretariat said yesterday. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga will function as the Minister. Former Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Jaliya Medagama has been appointed Secretary to this Ministry, in addition to his duties as Chairman of the Petroleum Corporation, the Secretariat said. This follows the discovery of potentially commercially viable oil reserves in the coastal belt from Puttalam to Hambantota through international surveys. President Kumaratunga announced at a recent public event that the off-shore petroleum deposits will be utilised for the development of all areas of the country. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse too has pledged to make use of this resource to develop all parts of the country. Most surveys were conducted by TSG Nopec, a Norwegian petrochemical firm which specialises in oil exploration. The authorities expect to invite international bids for further exploration and commercialisation soon. Locally available oil will enable Sri Lanka to drastically reduce its dependence on imported crude oil, for which the Government spends billions of dollars every year. The consumption of oil has increased in recent years, with the rising vehicle population and the operation of more thermal power plants. The Government also announced plans to build a oil refinery at Sapugaskanda with the capacity to refine 100,000 barrels a day. The refinery, which will cost US $ 795 million, will be one of the biggest foreign investments in Sri Lanka. Cabinet spokesman Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said last week the Cabinet has approved a memorandum submitted by Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama to construct the new oil refinery. "The integrated 100,000 barrels per stream refinery will be constructed by a private investor in addition to the existing refinery at Sapugaskanda. The Government considers it as a very useful investment," he said. The existing oil refinery at Sapugaskanda can refine only 50,000 oil barrels per day. The Minister said that the private investor, Global Energy Industrial Operations Ltd will commence work on the project next year. Indian Oil, another investor, has commenced retail operations in Sri Lanka while the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is also expanding its services through the establishment of automated filling stations.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 10/26/2005

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NEPAL: King Announces Parliamentary Elections by 2006/7

KATHMANDU: Nepal king Gyanendra announced Wednesday that parliamentary elections would be held between April 2006 and 2007 but the country's major opposition parties pledged to boycott them. On Sunday, the Election Commission had fixed Feb 8 as the date for holding municipal elections in the Himalayan kingdom - an announcement that triggered stiff opposition from the country's seven-party opposition coalition. The coalition continues to oppose King Gyanendra's power seizure with the help of the army in February. It has been campaigning for a republic ever since. The parties say polls should not be held without starting peace talks with the Maoist rebels, who have threatened to disrupt such exercises. The parties feel polls would lead to greater violence and bloodshed. The parties are demanding restoration of democracy, an interim all-party government and an election to choose a constituent assembly.


From http://www.dhivehiobserver.com/ 08/09/2005

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PAKISTAN: Body Formed to Rehabilitate Quake-Disabled

ISLAMABAD: A committee has been formed to prepare a &National Plan of Action* for the rehabilitation of people disabled as a result of the earthquake. This was decided in a meeting, chaired by Zobaida Jalal, the federal social welfare and special education minister, in Islamabad on Thursday. The meeting was attended by the representatives of national and international NGOs and institutions dealing with the manufacture and supply of artificial limbs and related accessories. The meeting was told that a large number of people would become disabled, though the exact number was not available as yet. If all the three manufacturing units in Pakistan work at full capacity, they would not be able to meet the demand expected to have been created by the devastating earthquake. The minister directed the committee members to prepare both long and short-term plans to increase the capacity of these institutions. The committee*s secretariat will be set up in the Directorate General of Special Education and its first meeting will take place on October 31.Jalal stressed the need to formulate a strategy so that the affected people could resume their life with dignity in the shortest possible time. She said that new manufacturing units would be set up in affected areas if needed. Dr Syed Fazal Hadi, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Pakistan Baitul Maal Managing Director Brig (r) Muhammad Sarfraz and Ministry of Social Welfare Secretary Naeem Khan attended the meeting. staff report


From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 10/28/2005

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AZERBAIJAN: New Economy Minister Appointed

The Head of State Committee for Securities has been appointed the new Minister for Economic Development after Farhad Aliyev sacked from his position on Wednesday. Heydar Babayev was born in 1957 in Baku. In 1980 he graduated from the faculty of international economic relations in the Kiev State University. In 1981-89 he worked on different posts in the Bank for International Economic Relations with the former Soviet Union. In 1989-1992 he led the joint soviet-Bulgarian financial company Bolgarinvest". In 1992-1997 he worked as general representative of the Russian "Vnesheconombank" in Turkey. In 1997-98 he worked as vice president of the Russian "Mostbank", and as general representative of this bank in Great Britain. From 1999 he has been leading the State Committee for Securities under the authentic of the president of Azerbaijan.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 10/19/2005

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IRAN: New Officials Appointed to Security Council

Supreme National Security Council spokesman Ali Aqamohammadi has been replaced by Hussein Entezami, ISNA reported on 14 October. Entezami is the founder and managing director of "Jam-i Jam" newspaper, which is linked with the state broadcasting agency. National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani has appointed Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli as secretary and deputy head of the council, IRNA reported on 11 October. Larijani previously served as chief of state broadcasting, and Rahmani-Fazli was the deputy head of that organization. BS


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/17/2005

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KYRGYZSTAN: President Downsizes Government

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev issued a decree on 4 October dismissing three deputy prime ministers and two ministers, the Kabar news agency and AKIpress reported. The decree relieved Daniyar Usenov, Medetbek Kerimkulov, and Ishengul Boldjurova of their posts as deputy prime ministers, and removed Tolobek Omuraliev and Toigonbek Kalmatov as ministers of local self-government and international integration and cooperation, respectively. The dismissals are part of an effort to downsize and reform government structures by reducing the number of ministerial positions. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/05/2005


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KAZAKHSTAN: New First Vice President of "Kazmunaigaz" Appointed

Alexander Pavlov has been appointed as a new first vice president of the national oil company "KazMunaiGaz" NC" JSC October 22 by a government decision, KMG has informed KZ-today. A. Pavlov worked as the chairman of the board of the "Halyk Savings Bank of Kazakhstan" JSC. Besides, he is the deputy chairman of the Republican Party "Otan." Earlier that day Timur Kulibayev, first vice president of "KazMunaiGaz" NC" JSC, had declared his decision to leave the company. T. Kulibayev had explained his resignation by an intention to open private business.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/26/2005

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TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Forms New Mobile Counternarcotics Units

The Tajik Drug Control Agency announced on 3 October the formation of new mobile antinarcotics units to be deployed along the border with Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Drug Control Agency spokesman Major Avaz Yuldoshev, the composition of the new units will reflect a "priority on former Russian border guards, who served on a contractual basis, and junior officers, as well as personnel from the Tajik law-enforcement agencies, who have experience in combating drugs." The announcement follows a recent bilateral agreement between the Tajik Border Protection Committee and the Afghan Interior Ministry for cooperation in border security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2005). RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/04/2005

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TURKMENISTAN: President Dismisses Regional Governors

During a cabinet meeting in Ashgabat, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov dismissed two regional governors on 6 October for "abuse of power" and for the slow pace of the cotton harvest, Turkmen TV reported. Niyazov fired the governors of the Lebap and Mary regions, Geday Ahmedow and Annaguly Jumagylyjow, but appointed Ahmedow as the new governor for the Altyn Asyr district, describing it as a "chance for him to correct his mistakes." Niyazov further named Owezdurdy Casayew as the new governor of the Lebap region, and promoted Hojaberdi Basimow, the mayor of Mary, to the post of governor of the Mary region. Both appointments were provisional, and limited to a six-month probation period. Niyazov also dismissed dozens of unnamed local district governors for "poor management" and other alleged crimes including embezzlement and bribery, according to Turkmen TV. The dismissals come in the wake of Niyazov's recent criticism of the regional officials for problems with the cotton harvest, and follow the firing of Akhal Governor Murad Atagarriev for "nepotism, bribery, polygamy, and drug addiction" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 29 September 2005). RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/07/2005

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AUSTRALIA: Permanent Military Court to Be Established

A permanent Australian military court and a special investigation unit will be established as part of the federal government's response to a landmark inquiry into military justice. The inquiry, which took evidence from grieving families and friends around the country, heard stories of suicide, racism and violence, drug use and abuse of power in military training schools and cadet units. It recommended all suspected criminal activity be referred to state civilian police for investigation and prosecution before civilian courts and that suspected criminal activity outside Australia be investigated by federal police. Releasing its response to the inquiry today, the federal government said the Australian Defence Force (ADF) would retain its power to internally investigate crimes committed by soldiers. It said it would introduce significant reforms to improve the ADF's military justice system, including a permanent military court and special investigation unit.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/05/2005

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Reform Bill Changes 'Too Complex, Unworkable'

PROPOSED legislation aimed at improving corporate governance of indigenous bodies is too complex and unworkable, a parliamentary committee has heard. Land councils and indigenous representatives told a Senate committee that the legislation, designed to improve and modernise corporate governance standards regulating 2800 indigenous corporations, is too complicated and difficult to enforce. The Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Bill 2005 would have an impact on native title bodies and other businesses delivering medical services and infrastructure to remote indigenous communities. If passed, the legislation would take effect from July next year and replace the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976. Although the legislation would maintain a special statute taking into account the risks and requirements faced by indigenous people, land councils and leaders say the changes are too complex to absorb. Senior lawyer with the Central Land Council Michael Prowse told the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee that the legislation would be "unworkable" in Central Australia. "Many Aboriginal corporations that operate in Central Australia will be unable to comply with the provisions of the bill," he said. "There are no agencies in Central Australia who are funded to assist people to run their corporations and # it's quite possible that things will be more problematic than they were under the previous act." Mr Prowse said many members of indigenous corporations in the Northern Territory were people who spoke English as a second language or did not read or write in English at all. Martin Dore, principal legal officer with the North Queensland Land Council, said the proposed legislation was too lengthy. "We seem to have gone from a piece of legislation which is quite simple, to something which is in excess of 500 pages and quite complex," he said. Mr Dore also said the bill lacked transitional provisions for moving to a new corporate governance structure. Michael Dodson, chairman of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, said while he was not against a revamp, the act had been operating for almost 30 years and the Government should not attempt to rush through new legislation. "The information available to us does not provide adequate guidance," he said. "Concern has been expressed by some organisations about the time available for indigenous organisations to absorb the implications of this huge bill # there's an overwhelming burden of reform imposed on indigenous communities." (by Nassim Khadem)


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/06/2005

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Doyle Offers Low Taxes, Better Services

VICTORIANS have been promised a low-taxing, service-driven state under Liberal leader Robert Doyle's second bid to win government and the premiership. Speaking at the party's state council meeting in Ballarat yesterday, Mr Doyle gave a broad outline of his 2006 election strategy a year ahead of the polls. He warned that voting for Labor for a third consecutive term would reduce Victoria to "a nanny state that milks families for every dollar they can get". He committed his party to lowering taxes and ending what he described as a "greedy grab for more money" by the Bracks Government. But asked what tax relief he would offer, Mr Doyle said it would depend on the state of Victoria's finances. "We've already said stamp duty is something we want to attack, I think land tax is far too high," he said. "It will depend on the state of the budget, and so the taxation policy will be (released) quite late in the cycle." His pledge comes after Treasurer John Brumby last week ruled out any extra tax relief beyond what was announced in the May 3 budget, despite recording a budget surplus of almost $800 million in 2004-05. The financial report also showed that the Government collected $10.4 billion in taxes last financial year. A Government spokeswoman yesterday said Victorians were paying less in state taxes now than they were 12 months ago. She said the Government had provided land tax relief, abolished stamp duty on mortgages, and had reduced banking taxes as required under the GST. Mr Doyle said he aimed to have his election policies written, costed and through shadow cabinet and party committee by the end of the Commonwealth Games. He also set his sights on education, attacking Labor for what he said was too much of an emphasis by the Government on boosting year 12 retention rates in schools. He said finishing high school wasn't the answer for many students, and they should be encouraged to consider other options. "I think we should be saying to them, 'the skills that you acquire in employment, in apprenticeships # will give you lifelong, meaningful and well-paid employment'," he said. Premier Steve Bracks yesterday rejected Mr Doyle's criticisms of his Government's performance on education, saying the Liberals had a "shameful record" when in government. "Under the Liberals, retention rates went down to a low of 80 per cent 〞 we lifted that," he said. "They closed schools and they attacked teachers." While Mr Doyle's education comments won strong applause from the audience, there was silence when he apologised for not being able to deliver on his pledge of no tolls for the Mitcham-Frankston motorway. Instead, under the party's policy released last month, private motorists would pay half-price tolls for five years after the road's opening in late 2008.


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

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Top Bureaucrat Spruiks IR 'flexibility'

The public service is attracting more quality staff than ever under the federal government's workplace changes, one of Australia's top public servants said today. Hundreds of staff in all government departments were already on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) which the federal government wanted to expand in the wider workforce. Prime minister's Department and Cabinet secretary Dr Peter Shergold said for most public servants there would not be any obvious, immediate change under the government's IR shake-up. "The Australian public service (APS) has already made use of the flexibilities that exist under the Workplace Relations Act," he told ABC radio. "If you look at public servants, some of them are on individual Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) - all the senior executives and increasing numbers of middle managers." Others were on either union or non-union collective agreements, Dr Shergold said. "That sort of flexibility to make those decisions at the workplace will continue." Dr Shergold said the APS had become used to the type of changes in the government's package. "The economy is remarkably strong at the moment. We are continuing to attract very good employees," he said. "There's been an extraordinary change in the public service. "This year around the country, not just in Canberra, about two thirds of the people we recruited to the public service ... will be graduates. "Obviously it is still a very attractive occupation, not, I think, because of the conditions as they used to be a generation ago ... but because of the work itself. It's interesting. "Having said that, it's an extraordinarily strong worker's market at the moment.


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

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State Watchdog Pushed to Act on Foi

VICTORIA'S Ombudsman has been urged to clamp down on Government agencies obstructing freedom of information requests after an investigation found departments, including the Premier's, had caused unnecessary problems. The State Opposition yesterday called for a tougher approach against what it describes as "delay tactics" used by departments to stop sensitive information being released. The push comes after Ombudsman George Brouwer completed an investigation into a series of Opposition complaints against the Justice Department, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Film Victoria. The investigation was based on claims that departments had deliberately stymied the FoI process. In one example, Film Victoria told Opposition scrutiny-of-government spokesman Richard Dalla-Riva that a request for documents would not be processed until he clarified the term "all documents". In response to another FoI application, the Department of Premier and Cabinet took 86 days to clarify a request because it believed the words "signed contract" were too difficult to interpret. Mr Dalla-Riva said FoI officers working in departments were deliberately asking for basic words and phrases to be clarified to obstruct the FoI process. He said this breached the Government's own guidelines, which say departments must at least display a "willingness" to disclose information. "I'm happy to shout the Premier and each of the 10 departments a pocket dictionary so they can understand what the word 'document' means in future," he said. Mr Bracks defended the way requests are handled by Government departments. "They're doing their job as appropriately as they can," he said. "At times they have voluminous amounts of information that they have to deal with and requests which lack clarity, but I think they do that to the best of their ability, and I think they're doing the job they're charged to do under the (Freedom of Information) Act." Mr Brouwer's investigation into the Opposition's complaints did not substantiate the claim that there had been "unreasonable" delays in each case. But it uncovered problems in the way FoI requests had been dealt with, such as inexperienced officers handling requests and departments failing to use key sections of the FoI Act that would have hastened process. His report also urged departments to speed up the process by telephoning people for clarification, instead of writing letters back and forth. Ombudsman spokesman Paul Conroy said a review of Victoria's FoI laws, due to be finalised within weeks, would make recommendations to government "about shortcomings and failings with FoI laws". The Ombudsman's investigation centred on three Opposition complaints. The first sought documents relating to a Film Victoria tender on internal audit services, which took 59 days to clarify. The Opposition also requested signed copies of Department of Premier and Cabinet catering contracts, and conflict of interest declarations from the Justice Department. The contracts request took 86 days to clarify before the Government started searching for documents; the Justice Department request took almost six weeks. (by Farrah Tomazin)


From http://www.theage.com.au 10/17/2005

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APRA Backs New Governance Regulations

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) will press on with plans for new corporate governance standards for banks and insurers. The proposals have drawn criticisms from some banks and insurers who believe they will overlap with rules already enforced by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). APRA chairman John Laker on Wednesday said the regulator had held "vigorous" discussions with the industry but remained convinced the proposals were sound. "As yet we have heard no compelling arguments why a prudential regulator, in the interests of promoting a sound financial system, should not include governance among the important areas of prudential risk to financial institutions," he said. "The challenge of course is always is to get the balance right between safety and freedom." Speaking at the APEC Business Advisory Council corporate governance conference in Melbourne, Mr Laker said some opponents of the proposals had argued corporate governance should be left to ASIC and the Corporations Act. "That is plainly wrong and betrays a lack of understanding of the role and the history of prudential regulation in this country," he said. Claims of overlap with ASX regulations were also spurious, he said, as only four per cent of the banks and insurers APRA regulated were listed. ASX corporate governance regulations were also enforced on an "if not why not" basis, he said, where companies that could provide adequate explanations to their shareholders could be excused from compliance with the rules. But Australian Bankers Association David Bell said there was concern in the banking industry about the proposals. "It's not so much whether or not those standards should exist its whether or not there is overlap or confusion," he said. Mr Bell said there were instances where the APRA proposals would be in conflict with ASIC's regulations. He welcomed the federal government's launch of a taskforce to cut red tape and said it was important to remember that over-regulation hurt customers as well as banks. The challenge for government was to, "balance the public interest with the realities of compliance burden for banks and the costs of those burdens which are inevitably passed on to customers," he said. APRA is currently considering the submissions it has received on its proposals and new standards are expected to be released early next year.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/19/2005

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Govt to Introduce IR Reforms Next Week

The federal government's controversial workplace reforms will be introduced into parliament next week, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews says. Speaking at an industrial relations conference in Melbourne, Mr Andrews said while the legislation was not likely to be introduced to the lower house on Monday, October 31, it would be some time that week. Parliament sits the first two weeks of every month, with legislation normally introduced on a Wednesday or Thursday. Mr Andrews said the Senate employment committee was already looking to hold an inquiry into the legislation, which would probably run for a week in the non-sitting period. He said the legislation would then be debated in the Senate in the last sitting weeks of the year, in December. Labor says the changes will do nothing to turn around Australia's chronic trade deficit. Opposition trade spokesman Kevin Rudd said the government's ideological obsession with the proposed reforms had blinded it to other areas where change was needed to lift the nation's trade performance. They included skills, training and research and development. In a speech in Melbourne, Mr Rudd said the government had ignored the sharp fall in Australian manufacturing exports since it came to office in 1996. The country has racked up 43 monthly trade deficits in a row, last year's current account deficit was a record $57 billion while foreign debt was now at $430 billion. But Mr Rudd said despite all these problems, the government was fixated with its industrial relations changes that would do nothing to improve the trade performance. "This ideological revolution is not going to lead to the productivity gains Australia requires if we are going to be able to compete in the international global market place," he said. "Despite the government's taxpayer funded advertising blitzkrieg, there is little evidence to suggest that Australia's trade performance is going to improve as a direct result of changes that the Howard government is seeking to make in the workplace. "Indeed, the government has advanced no evidence that such reforms will enhance productivity." Mr Rudd said Australia had some of the longest working hours in the developed world. He said the industrial relations changes would only increase hours and depress wages in an effort to make Australia competitive with China and India. "We are not going to compete against China and India on the wages front," he said. "Skills, education, training, R and D and investment in infrastructure is the answer to our productivity problems."


From http://www.theage.com.au 10/24/2005

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Indigenous Central Australians Reject Dump Plan

The Central Land Council (CLC) says traditional owners do not want a nuclear waste dump on the two central Australian sites earmarked by the Federal Government. Their position comes after the Northern Land Council's (NLC) call for amendments to federal legislation relating to the dump that would allow land councils to nominate an alternative site, possibly on their own land. CLC director David Ross says traditional owners in the Territory have only just got their land back over the past 30 years. He told the ABC's Stateline program they have grave concerns over the future of their land, particularly at Alcoota. "They've run that place as a very successful pastoral lease, they have concerns that their cattle wouldn't be sold if there was a site there and there's all the perceptions about these sorts of things," he said. Mr Ross says if the NLC chooses to do things differently that is 'up to them'. "It's a decision they have to live with into the future, it's not something people in central Australia are a party to," he said.


From http://abc.net.au 10/29/2005

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Business Leaders Greet New Top Man

THURSDAY night saw the changing of the guard at the nation's top business organisation, presided over by a very confident Treasurer Peter Costello.Former WMC chief Hugh Morgan stepped down as president of the Business Council of Australia at its annual dinner, to be succeeded for a two-year term by just-retired Wesfarmers CEO Michael Chaney. Costello, back from Beijing and facing a year where he will head the G20 grouping of the world's top 20 economies gave the address. He painted an optimistic picture of Australia's future growth supplying minerals, coal and gas to China - an energy superhighway to Asia. He made the hard-nosed points that we had only got to this successful state of affairs for the economy by embracing reform to make us more competitive. He said also that we needed continuing effort to maintain that competitiveness. In particular, we needed major investment in infrastructure, if we wanted to maximise the growth of exports to Asia. He spoke of the need to rationalise the complex of state-based regulation of energy and its development. Costello projected a confident personal grip of the issues and an equally confident vision of where we could go. He made a big impression on what could genuinely be termed the 'massed might' of corporate Australia. The solid top CEO presence - to some considerable extent, driven by Costello, on 'foreign' soil in Sydney - nevertheless signalled a revitalisation of the BCA under, after, Morgan's leadership. In a very real sense the BCA is back in town. True, to most people, the top end of it. The BCA has never tried to deny that it is an elite organisation. Indeed, it was set up in the early 1980s, very specifically to not simply give voice to 'big business' but to collect that voice into a powerful and influential player in public policymaking. Its 'single parent', so to speak, was Geoff Allen, who had been an advisor to former liberal opposition leader, the late Billie Snedden. He seized the chance - and the need - on the election of the Hawke Labor government. With political labor and industrial labor joined in the Prices and Incomes Accord. So it was at once defensive. Unless business united to have a say in policy decision-making, at best it could end up getting rolled on the big decisions by labor. But it was critically also pro-active. Let's argue the case for reform; give government practical pathways to make reform happen; and let's support government in taking tough decisions. The BCA and Paul Keating were 'made for each other'. Without suggesting Keating was the big end of town's poodle - nor equally, that big business got into bed with big Labor - they were mostly on the same page, as the term goes, through the 1980s. The key to the BCA's success was in its restricted membership - restricted to the CEOs of the top 100 companies in Australia. This gave it intellectual and political firepower; but also people pretty committed to reform and not protection of established interests. This was in sharp contrast to most of the business and employer groups at that time. Interestingly, the existence of the BCA caused other employer groups to become more rigorous and effective. Most strikingly, the other peak employer body, the Australian Industry Group headed by Heather Ridout. The influence of the BCA, though, has waxed and waned over the years. Under Morgan in the last two years it has come back kicking. On tax, on IR, on infrastructure and on (over) regulation. Chaney will give it a somewhat different, softer flavour. He's a different personality to Morgan. He does not have as much free time: he has built a very full portfolio of activities. It will be interesting to see the difference.


From http://finance.news.com.au/ 10/30/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: Clark Begins Task of Forming New Govt

New Zealand caretaker Prime Minister Helen Clark has begun the tricky task of forming a new government by talking to five minor parties with conflicting agendas. As she did so, National Party Opposition Leader Don Brash said he was still ready to form his own coalition if Clark fails. Clark met leaders of the Green Party and Maori Party on Monday afternoon in Wellington. But she said the appointments did not reflect a preference over other parties. Her choices improved on the weekend when final results from the September 17 election shrank by one the number of MPs she needs to command a majority in parliament. The Labour Party won 50 seats from the poll and needs at least another 11 votes in the 121-member house to form a minority government. "My bottom line is stability and durability and to do that I need to engage with a range of parties to test what is possible," she told reporters before her meetings. She said possible agreements ranged from coalition through to assurances on confidence votes and abstentions. "All the options are on the table." Rival Brash, whose National Party won 48 seats, said Clark had a difficult task ahead and he remained willing to offer an alternative. "While she's got first dibs at doing that I stand ready to form a government if she can't," Brash told Radio New Zealand. Labour's one-by-one approach means New Zealand won't have a new government any time soon. "It is isn't a multi-party negotiation, it's a series of bilateral negotiations between Labour and five other parties and that's partly why it takes time," Clark said. "That's the way it needs to be done." Leaders of the Green Party, which had campaigned to be a Labour coalition partner, came out of their hour-long meeting looking happy. "We are certainly optimistic that we will be able to see some of our important policies put into place," Greens co-leader Rod Donald said. Donald said it was yet to be determined what contribution the Greens' six MPs would make to a Labour-led government. Two centre-right parties whose support Clark may need have indicated they won't back a government with Greens sitting at the cabinet table. The Maori Party's four MPs could give Clark the option of ruling without the help of New Zealand First or United Future, whose leaders she'll meet next. But Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said after their meeting any support she offered would unlikely be as part of a coalition government. "That's a decision for our people to make, but it is not a want, " she said. "It is about maintaining our integrity, our identity, our credibility with our people and we don't think when you are in coalition that you are necessarily able to maintain it." The Progressive party's sole MP Jim Anderton is already assured of a coalition role.


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

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Standards Push in Family Court

The Family Court is facing a fresh shakeup, with Principal Judge Peter Boshier insisting on more formality to ensure it - and the legal orders it makes - are respected. Judge Boshier wants a higher standard of evidence presented to the courts, and has decided lawyers will be asked to stand, not sit, when they address judges. He has already applied to the Government to lift a legislative ban on judges wearing gowns in the Family Court. The changes he has outlined are intended to improve the authority of the Family Court and to prevent its orders, including those protecting children, being flouted. But it is also understood Judge Boshier wants to strengthen the performance of professionals, including lawyers, social workers and court staff, to avoid "embarrassing lapses and delays". The court has already seen significant change in the last year, with a new law opening up proceedings which used to be held behind closed doors. Lawyers are believed to be divided on the pursuit of more formality, which is at odds with the softer, less adversarial, design for the court when it was set up 25 years ago. New Zealand Law Society family law chairman Simon Maude said "divergent" views on the judge's approach had been revealed when members were surveyed about a request they stand rather than sit when addressing the bench. He said there were both pros and cons to the changes. "We would always want to make sure the court doesn't lose its specialist nature." Mr Maude said lawyers were "at one" with Judge Boshier in his search for higher standards of evidence, and for less acceptance of hearsay evidence. In a speech in Wellington yesterday, Judge Boshier said that, when established, the Family Court was allowed to receive "any" evidence which might not be heard in other courts. "At what point, do we say there is an honourable limit to the admissibility of second-hand, unoriginal and sometimes questionably sourced material?" There was a need for the Family Court to be seen as a "mainstream" court. "I would like there to be no perception at all that Family Court orders, when issued, can be negotiated, avoided or informally modified. "This is not a 'blast from the past' ... but a reminder that a court above all requires authority if it is to be effective." He was concerned some people before the court thought it was an extension of mediation services and failed to grasp it had strict, defined powers. His view was a court which was too informal and too fluid with its boundaries might not be conducting itself completely professionally. Other changes understood to be contemplated are the introduction of an official coat of arms for each courtroom, and more space and security in courtrooms. Any changes are likely to affect adults involved in family cases. Children are not usually exposed to court proceedings. Court work * Between July 2004 and last June, 66,499 substantive applications were filed in the Family Court. Most of its work involved children. * Most cases did not require a formal defended hearing. Of the 24,905 applications filed under the Guardianship Act 1968, only about 6 per cent required a court order. (by Helen Tunnah)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/11/2005

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New Government Sidelines Greens

Prime Minister Helen Clark has stitched together a Government giving New Zealand First and United Future ministerial posts but leaving natural allies the Greens out in the cold and bitterly disappointed. As part of the unusual arrangement, NZ First leader Winston Peters is Foreign Minister outside of the Cabinet and United Future leader Peter Dunne is Revenue Minister outside of the Cabinet. It is the first time in New Zealand such a senior post as Foreign Affairs has been held outside of the Cabinet. Labour and the Greens publicly courted each other during the election campaign but the Greens have been pushed from the centre of power by NZ First. Mr Peters said yesterday he was keeping his pre-election pledge not to join a coalition Government. But the nature of Mr Peters' job will mean frequent and detailed contact with the Labour leadership and other ministers. Helen Clark describes the result with the two parties as "enhanced" confidence and supply agreements rather than coalition agreements but in many respects the arrangements will operate as a coalition. But other than on confidence and supply issues, NZ First and United Future will vote on a case by case basis. In a dramatic deviation from collective responsibility among ministers, Mr Peters and Mr Dunne will have to exercise collective responsibility only for their own portfolio areas. That means all Labour ministers will be required to support their initiatives but not the other way round. But the ministerial deal has soured the Greens, who were vetoed from holding similar positions by Mr Peters and Mr Dunne. The Greens have decided to abstain rather than support Labour. Co-leader Rod Donald predicted it would be a "reactionary" Government and said many of the demands Labour had accepted from NZ First and United Future were "socially, economically or environmentally destructive". But the deals give the minority Labour-led Cabinet a majority on confidence and supply votes - the first of which will occur this month a few weeks after the opening of Parliament. The Maori Party has decided it will not commit its support in any direction, though co-leader Tariana Turia thought it would probably vote for the Government on the first confidence vote. Labour in coalition with the single Progressive member, Jim Anderton, have 51 votes. The confidence and supply agreements with NZ First and United Future give them 61 votes, a majority, albeit bare, in the 121-seat Parliament. If the Greens had supported Labour, its majority would have climbed to 67 but the Greens' abstention does not threaten the safety of Labour. National and Act combined can muster only 50. Helen Clark used the scenario National had been promoting last week of the potential "deadlock" - 57 (Labour, Progressives, Greens) to 57 (National, Act, Maori Party, United Future) and with NZ First abstaining - to justify extracting a stronger deal from NZ First and United Future. She said in a press conference that Mr Peters had requested a ministerial post and foreign affairs specifically once they had talked about taking NZ First from an abstention to a positive vote. However, Mr Peters told a press conference he had been asked to take the job. (by Audrey Young)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/18/2005

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Helen Clark Sworn in as New Zealand PM

A swearing-in ceremony was held Wednesday in New Zealand's Government House for Helen Clark's new Cabinet, thus making her the first Labor Party leader in history to successively form a third government. In face of the Governor-General of New Zealand Dame Silvia Cartwright, Helen Clark and 25 Labor ministerial MPs, and three ministers from other minor supportive parties were sworn as the ministers of the three-year new government. Clark unveiled hours ago the Cabinet members. Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen kept the finance portfolio as expected, but he was also given minister of tertiary education. Cabinet's third ranked minister, Jim Anderton, leader of Progressive, took the portfolios of agriculture, biosecurity and fisheries. Phil Goff, former foreign affairs minister, became defence minister. Minister of foreign affairs, while out of the Cabinet, was given to Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First. United Future leader Peter Dunne was given minister of revenue and associate minister of health outside of the Cabinet. Clark said that "the government was renewing and refreshing itself for the third term in government." General elections were held on Sept. 17 in New Zealand and the final election result gave Clark's Labor 50 seats in Parliament, enough to form a minority government. After hard negotiations for a whole month, Clark finally obtained support at various degree from the Progressive, the United Future, the New Zealand First and the Green Party, and announced Tuesday to form her government. Clark said the Commission Opening of Parliament will be on Nov. 7 when MPs will be sworn in.


From http://english.people.com.cn/ 10/19/2005

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New Cabinet Announced, King Gets Police

The troublesome police portfolio has gone to Annette King in the new Cabinet announced by Prime Minister Helen Clark today. Steve Maharey takes the education portfolio. Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen keeps the finance portfolio as expected, but he has also been given tertiary education. Cabinet's third ranked minister, Jim Anderton, who had coveted the education portfolio, has been handed agriculture, biosecurity and fisheries. However, his desire to get involved in education has been partially met with the role of associate minister for tertiary education. Helen Clark said the Government was "renewing and refreshing" itself for the third term. "Experienced ministers need new challenges and we have a signficant number of new ministers to fill the slots of those retiring," she said. Phil Goff, who lost his foreign affairs portfolio to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters under Labour's deal with that party, becomes defence minister. Ms King, who had told Helen Clark previously that she wanted a change from health, becomes Minister of State Services -- including co-ordinating responsibility for race relations -- as well as Minister of Police. Trevor Mallard, formerly education, takes over the economic development portfolio, previously held by Mr Anderton. The new health minister is Pete Hodgson, who had been trained up for the role as an associate. Mark Burton, who had been defence minister, becomes justice minister. In other changes, Lianne Dalziel -- returning to Cabinet after a spell on the backbenches -- becomes minister of commerce. At number 15, she is the highest ranked of the new Cabinet ministers. Damien O'Connor, who makes it into Cabinet after being a minister outside Cabinet, is minister of corrections and minister of tourism. David Cunliffe, who was also a minister outside Cabinet last term, takes the immigration portfolio. David Parker becomes energy minister, Nanaia Mahuta is customs minister and Clayton Cosgrove is the minister for building issues. Absent from the ministerial list is Taito Phillip Field, under a cloud while various allegations against him are being investigated. Two new ministers outside Cabinet have been named in Winnie Laban, minister for the community and voluntary sector, and Mahara Okeroa, who becomes associate minister for social development. Mr Okeroa was a parliamentary under-secretary in the previous government. Miss Clark had prevously announced roles for the leaders of New Zealand First and United Future who have signed confidence and supply agreements with Labour. Among the changes were: Steve Maharey - Education Phil Goff - Trade Negotiations and Defence Annette King - Police Trevor Mallard - Economic Development Pete Hodgson - Health David Benson-Pope - Social Development David Parker - Attorney General And Energy And Transport Jim Anderton - Agriculture


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/19/2005

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Government Sanctioned Sexism Must Stop

The Government must make clear to its departments and organisations that treating female employees and students differently because of their gender is not acceptable, says National Party MP Katherine Rich. She is commenting following today's report that a female Unitec electrical services student was told she could not enter part of Auckland's Mason Clinic because she was a woman. "Culture cannot be used as an automatic excuse to continue to make women feel uncomfortable or like second-class citizens in their work or study," says Mrs Rich. "In modern New Zealand we cannot have government organisations allowing this to happen. "Female corrections staff should not have to sit at the back during Department of Corrections ceremonies. Trainee female electricians should not have to be accompanied like children while doing basic wiring practice at a government-funded hospital. "Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus in 1950's Montgomery, Alabama. I wonder what she'd think about kiwi women being told to stand at the back of a Corrections Department poroporoaki? "Josie Bullock and Adele Lewis are right to question why in 21st century New Zealand they are being treated differently because of their gender," says Mrs Rich.


From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 10/23/2005

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Public Service Chiefs Get Big Pay Hikes

The State Services Commission has given big pay rises to key Government department chiefs over the past year and is warning that even larger increases may be needed. The winners include the chief executives of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Treasury and the Labour Department, whose salary package bands were increased by $60,000 each during the 2004-05 year, the commission's annual report reveals. Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive Simon Murdoch is the biggest winner of the three, as his salary band was also given a $40,000 injection the previous year. He is now one of the three highest-paid public service heads earning between $420,000 and $429,999. The other two are Treasury Secretary John Whitehead and Inland Revenue Commissioner David Butler. The overall increases are bigger than those awarded last year and have narrowed the gap between the public service chief executives and the highest-paid person on the public payroll, the Police Commissioner, whose salary is set by the Remuneration Authority. Commissioner Rob Robinson, soon to retire, earned just $20,000 extra in the last pay round, but it came on top of a big rise last year and his package is worth $440,000. Ministry of Social Development chief executive Peter Hughes and Education Secretary Howard Fancy reaped $50,000 salary band increases and another seven chief executives got $40,000 rises. There are now six department chief executives earning more than $400,000, a big change from last year when Mr Butler was the highest earner within the core public service, on a maximum remuneration package of $389,999. Three chief executive positions have had their salary bands reduced. The Customs, Corrections and Fisheries chiefs have lost $20,000 to $50,000 of their packages. The biggest increase awarded by the Remuneration Authority went to the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson. He has gained a $40,000 rise, taking his salary to a maximum $349,999. State Services Commissioner Mark Prebble, whose salary band went up $30,000 to a maximum $399,999, said in the report that core public service salaries were too low compared with other public sector jobs. He had warned last year that despite rises the discrepancy was growing. "Even after these [latest] increases, public service chief executives' remuneration continues to be below par for equivalent-size roles in other parts of the public sector." After the latest pay round only chief executives of the smallest departments could be considered to be properly paid, he said. "I am now at a point where I need to give serious consideration to a step change in the levels of remuneration offered to public service chief executives. "Without this change I believe I will be unable to attract and retain highly competent public service chief executives." The rises for the public service heads - around 15 per cent - have been revealed as the Public Service Association continues to press for wage rises. The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which has pushed for a 5 per cent pay increase, estimates that thousands of its members have picked up an extra $1900 this year. Meanwhile, Dr Prebble expressed concern about the risk posed by the rising number of internet blog sites, appearing to warn public servants about posting opinions that could bring their agencies "into disrepute". "In some online forums, there have been various allegations, or personal slurs, made against senior public servants," he said. "It would be regrettable if this new medium gave unjustified currency to baseless accusations. On occasion the entries in some weblogs have amounted to political personal attacks on public servants."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/25/2005

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Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Mitigation Technologies Seminar

Jakarta, Indonesia -- Communities at risk of earthquakes and tsunamis will benefit from a seminar in Jakarta today that will disseminate disaster reduction technologies. The two-day seminar will focus on earthquake and tsunami disaster reduction technologies developed under a multi-lateral research EqTAP (Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Mitigation Technologies and their Integration to the Asia-Pacific) project. One of the event organizers, Dr. Hiroyuki Kameda, said the seminar will deliver practical information such as output from the EqTAP project on disaster reduction technologies. "This APEC seminar will make a valuable contribution to both disaster management capacity building and the enhancement of preparedness for natural disasters in APEC Member Economies," Dr. Kameda said on the eve of the seminar. "The experiences of the Sumatra earthquake & tsunami disaster on 26 December 2004 and the subsequent earthquake disaster on 28 March 2005 have demonstrated the urgent need to put the outputs of the EqTAP project to practice. "This includes the dissemination of information such as greenbelt technology for tsunami disaster reduction and seismic strengthening technology for brick masonry houses." The seminar will discuss disaster reduction technologies that are particularly useful for developing areas including: Disaster management technologies, Tsunami disaster reduction technologies, Seismic enhancement of masonry buildings and houses, Information dissemination technologies. Initially proposed by Japan, the seminar is being co-sponsored by Indonesia, Korea and Chinese Taipei. The seminar is taking place at the Hotel Nikko Jakarta, on 27-28 September. Participants are expected to include local government representatives, community leaders, engineers and disaster mitigation experts.


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 09/27/2005

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International Conference on Sustainable Cities: Linking Competitiveness with Social Cohesion

What makes a city attractive to global investors and highly skilled workers? Can cities maximize growth without sacrificing social cohesion? On 13-14 October, experts from across the world will gather in Montreal to discuss the future of the world*s cities. The conference, hosted by the Metropolitan Community of Montreal, is being held by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Government of Canada. Federal, provincial and municipal politicians from Canada and 23 other countries, along with academics and policy makers, will examine the challenges faced by large cities attempting to improve their global economic competitiveness while at the same time providing the social conditions necessary to attract investors and skilled workers. The conference is the third in a series organised this year by the OECD to examine challenges faced by large cities. The first two, in Japan and Spain, focused on the economic and attractiveness aspects while participants to the Montreal conference will look more closely at social issues such as employment, the regeneration of distressed neighbourhoods, and corporate social responsibility. The conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Montreal.


From http://www.pstm.net/ 07/18/2005

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Governments, Private Sector, Civil Society to Gather in Tunis, for World Summit on the Information Society

Geneva 〞 The Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), taking place from 16 to 18 November, will bring together political, business and civil society leaders to take action to bridge the "digital divide", consolidate the information society through public-private partnerships and draft a statement of political intent taking all stakeholders' interests into account. About 50 Heads of State and Government have so far confirmed participation in the Tunis meeting, to be held at Kram PalExpo. The private sector will be present in force, with more CEOs confirmed to participate than at the Summit's Geneva phase in 2003. Corporate partners of the Tunisian Organizing Committee, WSIS Tunis 2005, include Alcatel, Ericsson, Huawei, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE. A major ICT trade fair, "ICT For All", will be held from 15 to 19 November at Kram PalExpo. Companies from developed and developing countries will showcase innovative ideas and practical solutions, meet and forge new partnerships. Some 40*000 visitors are expected to attend ICT For All. The Summit will take stock of the implementation of the ambitious agenda agreed to at the Geneva phase in 2003. In Geneva, 175 countries adopted a Declaration of Principles outlining a common vision of the information society and a Plan of Action that sets targets to improve connectivity and access in ICT use. The targets, to be achieved by 2015, include connecting villages, community access points, schools and universities, research centers, libraries, health centres and hospitals, and local and central government departments. The Tunis Summit will take stock of the first two years of implementation of the Plan of Action. Governments will also seek agreement on issues such as effective financial strategies to promote the deployment of ICTs in the developing world and possible options for the governance of the Internet. A main goal will be to seek ways of providing better access to developing countries to the Internet and other information and communication technologies. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the 942 million people living in the world's developed economies enjoy five times better access to fixed and mobile phone services, nine times better access to Internet services, and own 13 times more personal computers than the 85 per cent of the world's population living in low and lower-middle income countries. ITU also estimates that 800,000 villages still lack connection by telephone line, the Internet or any other modern ICT. In parallel to the governmental Summit, some 250 separate roundtables, panels, presentations and media events are planned by civil society organizations, business entities and national delegations. High-level panels will give Heads of State and Government the opportunity to engage in public debates with prominent business and civil society leaders.


From http://www.itu.int/ 10/19/2005

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CHINA: Guangdong Officials to Be Audited Before Leaving Posts

All department leaders below county level will be audited before they leave their posts in Guangdong Province beginning 2006, a provincial auditing meeting was told Saturday. The province's auditing department will audit major leaders at the county level once during their tenure by the end of 2006, according to a decision on anti-graft made by the provincial committee of the CPC. Awareness, the building of a set of rules and supervision should be equally stressed while punishing and preventing corruption, the decision says. In 2007, the auditing department will audit major Party and government leaders at various levels during their tenure. Leaders of State-owned enterprises will be audited before they leave their posts. Audits on city-level leaders will be conducted regularly. All the auditing results will be announced in public. Leaders of departments that see large cash flow, that distribute financial resources or leaders who are going to be promoted will be the focus of audit. Leaders of departments that have had frequent complaints lodged against them by the public or leaders of key state-owned companies will also become auditing targets. The audit will see whether Party leaders are following national policies in making important economic and social development decisions, whether government leaders have flaws in the management of fiscal budget and facilities construction, and whether department leaders have erred in using government funds and separating management in income and expenditure. For leaders of state-owned enterprises, the audit will focus on whether the companies' financial reports are genuine and whether they have flaws in making operation and investment decisions. The audit department audited 10,772 leaders during their tenure from 2000 to 2004. A total of 35.3 billion yuan (US$4.4 billion) was found having been illegally used, 61.2 billion yuan was found having been mismanaged, and 4.7 billion yuan was found having been wasted during the audit. Among those amounts, relevant department leaders were found to be responsible for 2.32 billion yuan illegally used, 2.09 billion yuan mismanaged and 480 million yuan that have been wasted. A total of 231 leaders have been taken to court, and another 747 cadres have been promoted, 71 demoted, 36 dismissed, and 105 disciplined after the audit. Seven provincial departments attended the meeting in Guangzhou on Saturday, including the disciplinary committee of the CPC, the management committee of state-owned assets and the departments of organizing, supervision, personnel, audit and fiscal.


From Shenzhen Daily 10/10/2005

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Hong Kong's "10 Outstanding Young Persons" Announced

Architect Chueng Kwok Fan, animator Wong Wang Tat, singer Yeung Chin Wah and other seven people have been selected as Hong Kong's "10 Outstanding Young Persons" for the year. Junior Chamber International Hong Kong, sponsor of the selection activity, announced the result on Sunday. The "10 Outstanding Young Persons" selection, launched in 1970, is aimed at citing young people who have both outstanding achievements in their own work and in their service for the public. Cheung Kwok Fan has participated in the architectural projects such as Hong Kong Museum of History and Lingnan University Community College. Cheung has also been actively involved in community services and engaged in the organization of various community programs to promote architecture to the general public. Inspired by animation for years, Wong Wang Tat, had joined in the development of the world's best selling game "Final Fantasy" and produced over 200 TV commercials and visual effects for over 50 movies including the "New Police Story" and "Infernal Affairs". With joint efforts of Hong Kong Productivity Council, he created Hong Kong's first training program for film visual effects and has so far trained over 200 new animators. Three of the 10 outstanding young persons are pop singers, Yeung Chin Wah, Hui Chi On and Ku Kui Kei. They have not only won many music prizes but also attended lots of welfare work and offered much public services. For instance, Yeung has been one of the ambassadors of the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF and she had paid a field visit to children with AIDS in Shanxi Province, north China and attended activities for raising funds for the tsunami-hit victims in South Asian countries.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/10/2005

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Poverty Reduction: Change from the Grassroots Up

BEIJING, CHINA -- Beyond large-scale government poverty reduction projects, change in China is also being initiated by ordinary people. Local NGOs, community organizations, charities, and village-level groups work quietly but determinedly to help the neediest communities. They aren*t known for noise or fanfare. Unlike many countries, China has not had a long tradition of civil society organizations (CSOs) which are not affiliated with the government. In the last 20 years, there has been little precedent for how these types of groups would operate in the country. Yet current estimates put the number of civil society organizations working in China at anywhere between 300,000 and 700,000, delivering services from legal aid to environmental protection and at the village-level, building playgrounds for children and sharing technologies in smallholder agriculture. In a meeting with the leaders of Chinese civil society organizations, World Bank President Wolfowitz repeated his message from this year*s World Bank-IMF annual meetings〞that "civil society is a critical part of successful development" because CSOs act as "an important bridge between citizens and governments" and enable "people to get together for common purposes and, sometimes in ways that are more creative and focused on people*s needs than anything government bureaucracies can produce." In addition, "CSOs are an important way of holding governments accountable" because "bureaucrats sometimes forget that their responsibility is to the people they serve rather than the bosses." China*s burgeoning civil society faces many challenges, including an uneasy relationship with the bureaucracy. But one feisty women*s rights activist is not put off by this. Wu Qing, the director for Practical Skills Training Center for Rural Women has taken it upon herself to invite the government to see for itself the way her organization has made a difference. "I tell them, &Hey, come and see what we*re doing.* I don*t wait for them to come to me. I go out there and press the government," she said. "You have to reach out and show them what you are doing. When they*ve seen it, they*ve always been surprised and impressed with what we are doing," she added. Increasingly, government bodies have started to collaborate with local CSOs. As another civil society leader Song Qinghua relates, "They [government officials] used to order people about〞telling them what to do. Now they ask people more. And they*ve started to come to us to help them since we have been working for so long at the grassroots." Although Qinghua estimates that over one million Chinese are working in this sector, this is a still small community in a population of over a billion. Chinese CSOs are still in the early stages of development but as their capacity grows, they will be a powerful partner in the country*s development.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 10/17/2005

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'Top Ten Stars of Social Welfare' Selected

The "Top Ten Stars of Social Welfare" were announced on Sunday at a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing attended by senior officials Ismail Amat, Zhou Tienong and Peng Peiyun. A group of anonymous donors in east China's Shandong Province called "Micro-dust" topped the list after raising funds for victims of last year's Indian Ocean tsunami from Qingdao City. The nine others were Cong Fei, a singer with a malignant tumor, Zhang Xinghui, a doctor from Shandong providing free medical services for patients in need, Wang Jianlin, "Wanda Group" chairman from Dalian in the northeastern province of Liaoning, Yang Shoucheng, a noted philanthropist from Hong Kong, Han Yaqin, an entrepreneur from Taiyuan dedicated to public welfare service, Yan Xijun, a Tianjin private businessperson contributing to the cause of disabled people, Yang Benhua, a Taiwan philanthropist coming to the aid of the needy on the mainland, Xu Benyu, who has volunteered to teach in Dashi Hope School in southwestern Guizhou Province, and Lin Ruiban, who cared for older and disabled people and devoted time to neighborhood community services. In his address, Zhou said their selection has set a fine example for others to follow, and that charitable activities are helpful for building a harmonious society. The China Association of Social Workers* Committee of Social & Public Welfare, which organized the process, said the selection of the top ten began on May 23. Twenty candidates recommended by the general public were selected by professionals, and the final result decided by a public vote, opinions from an evaluation commission and opinions from a professionals* commission, weighted 30, 30 and 40 percent respectively. The election was sponsored by six charity groups and the People's Daily's domestic policy department.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/17/2005

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Chinese Environmental Watchdog Gets Tough

Beijing - A top official with China's environmental watchdog said on Monday that the government plans to warn investors away from cities that fail to meet national air quality standards over several years. A blacklist of cities with pollution levels above an unspecified government-set standard will be regularly published, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The State Environmental Protection Administration "will issue risk warnings to investors who consider investing" in cities that remain on the blacklist for an unspecified number of years, Xinhua said citing Zhang Lijun, the administration's deputy director. Two decades of rapid industrialisation have left China's cities and much of the countryside cloaked in a haze of noxious smog. A sharp rise in private car ownership has added increased levels of vehicle exhaust to the mix. No timetable was specified for implementing the blacklist or penalty system. The State Environmental Protection Administration, or SEPA, monitors China's environmental quality but has limited enforcement powers. The report said one-third of China's cities suffer "severe air pollution". China's sulphur dioxide emissions reached 26 million tons in 2004, the worst in the world, Xinhua said. Zhang was quoted as saying that more than 178 000 people die every year in China from air pollution-related diseases in the country's worst polluted areas. Zhang made his comments at a symposium on improving China's air jointly sponsored by SEPA, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Directorate of the European Commission and the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory, Xinhua said. The symposium opened on Monday and was scheduled to conclude Wednesday, it said. (by Alexa Olesen)


From http://www.int.iol.co.za/ 10/24/2005

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Jiangxi Province Sets Up Awards to New Nature Reserves

Jiangxi Province in east China has decided to give awards to encourage the development of nature reserves and forest parks. The provincial government will award 200,000 yuan (US$24,700) to the administration of a new state-level nature reserve, and 100,000 (US$12,350) to one at the provincial level. The development of forest parks at state or provincial levels will be given 100,000 yuan or 50,000 yuan. The provincial forestry department has also adopted an appraisal and grading system to step up the protection and administration of the province's nature reserves and forest parks. The nature reserves or forest parks which fail to pass appraisal for three times consecutively will be degraded or be deprived of their titles of nature reserves or forest parks, the department said.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/24/2005

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JAPAN: EDITORIAL - Strengthening Public Safety

Sixty years after the end of World War II, Japan has attained a high level of affluence and convenience. On the other side of the coin, though, concern is spreading about the safety of our daily lives. Japan for a long time was described as the safest country in the world in terms of public order, but in a survey conducted by the Ministry of Justice last year, three of every four respondents replied that public order is in decline. There are two main reasons for this. The first is the increase in the number of crimes. The crime-incidence rate (the number of police-recognized criminal offenses per 100,000 population) continued on a downward trend following the period of confusion after the end of World War II, but it has been on the rise since the mid-1970s. The types of crime have changed as well. The number of cases of purse-snatching and house break-ins has increased. In rural areas, incidents of burglary targeting elderly people living alone -- which sometimes lead to the murder of potential eyewitnesses and are often committed by criminals on "business trips" from urban areas -- have become all too frequent. More and more people seem to worry that they could become victims wherever they live, not just in large cities like Tokyo or Osaka. Organized crime gangs in search of new sources of illicit income are spreading their tentacles into areas such as illegal financing and bank-transfer fraud, which targets ordinary citizens. The second reason for the perception of worsening public order is the drastic change in social environments, especially the diversification of criminal methods that include wider use of cars and cell phones. Also, the increasingly impersonal nature of big city life makes it difficult for the police to obtain information or get eyewitnesses to cooperate. As a result, the perpetrators of violent crimes such as homicide and armed robbery, as well as people who steal from vacant houses in the local community, are not getting nabbed as frequently as before. There have been years in which 70 percent of crimes were considered "solved"; that proportion dropped below 50 percent at the end of the 1980s. In the past few years, it has dropped to as low as 20 percent. This slump has been caused partly by the decreasing availability of police investigative manpower as the number of crimes, per se, and their diversity grow. Still, Japan's crime-incidence rate is said to be less than half of that of the United States and European countries. So, it would appear that if proper measures are taken, lost ground in the perception of public order could be regained. Two key pillars of countermeasures will boost police capacity and eliminating the background causes of crime. The first entails changing the priorities of police work to create a police force that the public can trust. Vacant police boxes should be manned, patrols and other outdoor duties should be strengthened, and police duties should pivot around detective work, crime prevention and traffic affairs. Boosting police capabilities also requires that state-of-the-art technologies be utilized. The National Police Agency is building a database of DNA information and installing devices for automatically reading license numbers on motor vehicles, but these measures have aroused criticism from those concerned about privacy protection. Efforts should be made to gain the understanding of the public by establishing legislation that discloses operating standards. Regarding the background causes of crime, one theory has it that the local community, which at one time acted as a deterrent against crime, underwent a transformation during the age of economic growth. If we accept this theory, then the key to restoring public order lies in revitalizing the local community. The government has proposed "building secure and safe communities." This means working to give people a sense of safety not only in entertainment districts but also in central business and residential areas. Concrete plans and budgetary measures for this purpose are urgently needed. Participation of the public in this process is essential. Crime mirrors the society in which we live. Cases involving abuses of information technology have become noteworthy of late. We should expect crime to diversify further. The recovery of public order was not a focal point in the recent general election, but there should certainly be a broad discussion of the issue. Efforts to eliminate crimes in ordinary neighborhoods are as important as the fight against terrorism.


From The Japan Times 10/04/2005

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DPJ Draft Top Law Touts 'Responsibility'

The Democratic Party of Japan has included in its draft proposals on amending the constitution the notion of "common responsibility," stating that the government, companies and citizens must cooperate with each other to protect human rights and the environment. The party held a general meeting of the party's Research Commission on the Constitution on Wednesday in Tokyo, in which it revealed the content of the draft proposals. The draft also said that the right of self-defense should be further specified in Article 9 of the Constitution. The draft highlighted four items--the system of government, respect for human dignity and the establishment of common responsibility, decentralization of authority and security. The general meeting ended with the approval of all the items except for security. The common responsibility mentioned would not be a legal obligation for individuals and the nation, but a notion necessary to maintain human rights and the environment through the cooperation of the nation, society and individuals. As a concrete instance, the notion includes a responsibility to pass on to future generations a well-preserved environment, natural energy sources and an attractive urban landscape by keeping them in good condition. Concerning the respect for human dignity, the draft calls for clarification of the protection of human rights against abuses of reproductive medicine and genetic technology in terms of life ethics. It also calls for the protection of the rights of foreigners and refugees. As for the decentralization of authority, the draft says the central government's role should be limited to diplomacy, security, maintenance of social security systems and others. It also calls for giving regional governments constitutional guarantees of legislative power and local tax autonomy.


From The Yomiuri Shimbun 10/06/2005

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EDITORIAL: Science Council Reform

The Science Council of Japan is an important organization that we should be able to rely on. But most people don't even know it exists, let alone know its activities. For decades, the Science Council has remained in obscurity even though its members are distinguished experts in all areas of academic research. Chosen from about 760,000 researchers nationwide, the council was once called the parliament of scholars. Changes are afoot, however. The council chucked out a good portion of its membership this month, retaining only 27 of its 210 previous members. The step was taken to renew its efforts to inject the good sense of scientists into policymaking, it said, as well as to respond more quickly to urgent issues. We really hope the council means what it says and that this reinvention process will start providing useful advice from a scientific standpoint whenever it is needed. Part of the membership reforms include introducing a retirement age of 70. The council has also scrapped the system in which academic societies recommend new members-a step aimed at reducing those societies' influence on membership decisions. The latest member replacements were decided by a special selection committee, but in the future, such decisions will be made by the members themselves. The term for the members is six years, with election of half the members taking place every three years. The new list of members is dominated by newcomers like Ryoji Noyori, a Nobel prize-winning chemist and president of Riken, a government-backed research institute. Also newly on board is former astronaut Mamoru Mohri, who is now executive director at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The average age of the members has fallen by about five years to 59, with 14 researchers in their 40s included. Beforehand, members under 50 were rare. The number of female members has also increased sharply to 42, or 20 percent of the membership. They include Kuniko Inoguchi, a professor at Sophia University who won a seat in the Lower House in the Sept. 11 election. Yoko Ishikura, a professor at Hitotsubashi University, is the first woman to be appointed vice president of the council. In the United States and Europe, similar science societies make a wide range of policy proposals. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences addresses a broad array of scientific and technological issues, from the safety of genetically modified foods to energy problems, and publishes reports on the subjects. It is often asked by the government to provide opinions and advice. The Academy of Sciences doesn't hesitate to criticize government policy. The Royal Society of Britain has attracted international attention swiftly taking up the hot new issue of nanotechnology and its possible harmful effects on human health. The society operates on a clear principle that scientists themselves should control the method and process of research and the code of conduct for researchers. People expect academic groups like this to fulfill a mission: to provide advice for the sake of society, free from the interests of any individual group or organization. But the Science Council of Japan has so far failed to fulfill this role, at the price of relegating itself to obscurity. Individual scientists in Japan have also not been stepping up to the plate to tackle social issues. There are many contentious scientific issues such as environmental problems, food safety and genetic engineering, including cloning. The public is also paying closer attention to how the scientific community deals with illegal acts by researchers. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the re-elected president of the Science Council and a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo's medical department, stresses that individual scientists should first realize the social responsibility their respective positions entail. The council should listen to public opinion if it wants to become a think tank trusted by the people. The scientists' determination to serve public interest is now being tested.


From The Asahi Shimbun 10/25/2005

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Gov't Wants to Levy 2,400 Yen Per Ton of Carbon as Environmental Tax

The Environment Ministry proposes levying an environmental tax of 2,400 yen per ton of carbon contained in fossil fuels, excluding gasoline and diesel, beginning fiscal 2006 in a proposal unveiled Tuesday. The tax would generate 370 billion yen annually to help implement anti-global warming measures outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. Gasoline and diesel are exempted on the grounds that the transport business is struggling with rising fuel costs. They were also excluded because of plans to divert some of the tax revenues set aside for road construction to environmental purposes. The Environment Ministry, which hopes to introduce the tax in January 2007, plans to present the proposal to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito later this week. It is not clear whether the ruling coalition will approve the proposal as it is certain to draw industry opposition. Under the proposal, the tax will be levied according to the amount of coal, fuel oil, electricity, gas and other types of fossil fuel used by households and companies. Among key taxable items, coal will be taxed at 1.58 yen per kilogram, electricity at 0.25 yen per kilowatt, and manufactured gas at 1.38 yen per cubic meter. The tax will be added to the price of these fuels so that consumers will pay the tax at the time of purchase. The average monthly expense per household is expected to be around the level of 200 yen. Last November, the government gave up an attempt to introduce the environmental tax after facing strong industry opposition. The plan, modeled after the European carbon emission tax, calls for taxing various types of fossil fuels, including gasoline and diesel. It also called for appropriating 150 billion yen of its estimated 490 billion yen in revenue for reducing social insurance premiums. The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialized countries to slash their greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by an average of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012. Japan is required to cut emissions by 6 percent.


From http://home.kyodo.co.jp/ 10/25/2005

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Let Consumption Tax Pay for Welfare: Panel

A Liberal Democratic Party panel called Monday for converting the consumption tax into a welfare tax, a step that would certainly boost the tax rate to more than 10 percent from the current 5 percent. In its interim report, the LDP fiscal reform study group said consumption tax revenue should be used to specifically finance social welfare costs, which center on public pension as well as medical and nursing care insurance programs. Social welfare costs totaled some 26 trillion yen in fiscal 2004. If the fiscal 2004 social welfare costs were financed by revenue from the consumption tax, the rate would have been more than 10 percent. According to estimates by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, social welfare costs will swell every year with the aging population, reaching 43 trillion yen in fiscal 2015. After the group came out with the report, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi denied again there will be a consumption tax hike before his term as LDP president expires in September 2006. But he indicated there is a need for future tax hikes, stressing that 40 percent of budgetary revenue currently depends on government bond issuances. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Japan said it will seek to raise the consumption tax rate to 8 percent and use the revenue specifically to fund public pension programs when the main opposition party issued its manifesto for the Sept. 11 House of Representatives elections. "I am not sure that the DPJ plan is enough," Koizumi said. "There will certainly be calls for tax revenues to cover not only pension programs but also medical and nursing programs." Fiscal reforms resulting in a substantial hike in the consumption tax were not included in the LDP's general election manifesto. It is certain that the ruling party panel's proposals will come under fire from the general public and opposition parties. The LDP group said the current fiscal situation is comparable to that of 1945 during World War II and the worst among industrialized countries. It attributed the strained national finances mainly to tax cuts implemented in recent years to help revitalize the economy. Ballooning social welfare costs have also been a factor. The group said the government, in principle, should not raise taxes other than the consumption tax, such as individual and corporate income taxes. By reducing public works spending, tax allocations to local governments and other expenditures excluding social welfare costs, the government should seek to attain the so-called primary budget surplus -- by which tax revenues exceed expenditures minus debt-serving costs, the group said.


From The Japan Times 10/25/2005

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Political Donations to Be Capped

The House of Councilors on Wednesday passed amendments to the Political Funds Control Law that put an annual 50 million yen cap on donations made between political organizations, excluding political parties and their campaign fundraising units. The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito came up with the idea after it was discovered last year that a donation of 100 million yen to an LDP faction from a dental lobby group had been concealed. But critics have questioned whether the cap, which will come into effect Jan. 1, will be effective. They have said politicians can set up as many political organizations as they want to neutralize it. The Upper House approval came after the House of Representatives voted Oct. 18 for the coalition's bill and voted down a counterproposal by the main opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan, which had recommended a 30 million yen cap and provisions to stem donations routed through several entities. The law currently bans individual politicians from receiving money from businesses and other groups but puts no limit on transactions between political organizations, which are often set up by both sides. The coalition's amendments also require official party campaign fundraising groups to use bank remittances both for receiving and making donations to increase their financial transparency. According to the Lower House secretariat, the 2004 political donation report to the home affairs minister showed there were only 21 donations between organizations that exceeding 50 million yen. Yet, the number of registered political organizations was listed as close to 4,600. Lawmakers in the ruling coalition and the DPJ also approved a separate revision to the political funds law that would allow political party headquarters to dissolve local chapters. The LDP wanted the measure to dissolve local chapters, used to channel donations, as some of its chapters are headed by politicians who ran in the Sept. 11 general election as independents in opposition to the postal reform plan of party president, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.


From The Japan Times 10/27/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: Defense Minister to Meet Netizens

Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung will discuss the proposed military reform measures with Internet users online on Thursday, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday. During the 90-minute meeting organized by the online news service OhmyNews, Yoon will explain the plan in an open manner to build public consensus on it, the ministry said. About 20 selected Internet users will debate on the issue with the defense minister online, and others can participate in the meeting by posting questions on the OhmyNews website. The plan, announced last month, calls for the reduction of South Korean troops from 681,000 to 500,000, mostly Army soldiers, by 2020 on a gradual basis to transform the manpower-intensive armed forces into a ``smaller but stronger** unit.


From The Korea Times 09/28/2005

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Foreigners to Be Allowed to Work as Civil Servants on Jeju

Starting July of next year, foreign nationals will be eligible to work as civil servants on Korea's southern resort island of Jeju. This is part of the government's strategy to turn the island into a special autonomous district. The designation was confirmed by a special committee under the Prime Minister's office on Friday. Officials in Seoul say an exceptional level of autonomy will be given in all fields other than diplomacy and national defense once the National Assembly approves the plan. Under the autonomous government, foreign educational institutions, up to secondary level, are expected to open and they are allowed to accept Korean students and make their own decisions on school admission fees.


From Arirang News 10/15/2005

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Government Organizations Pressed for Innovation

Planning and Budget Minister Byeon Yang-kyoon called on state-invested firms to improve the efficiency of their organizations to boost productivity. Otherwiese, the minister warned, top executives could be sacked and budgets will be reduced. ※The government will suggest the dismissal of top executives and reduce budget assistance to agencies seen as inefficient and bloated,§ Byeon said. He made the remarks at the Public Institute Innovation Forum, where 64 public sector winners of this year's Management Innovation Award attended. The ministry will make public detailed management information of public organizations and government agencies, including labor cost, personnel management system and expenses on business projects, on the Web site to induce citizens' direct participation in monitoring how efficiently public institutes are run. He said the ministry would start posting the management information early November to facilitate the direct comparison of budget execution between public institutes. Byeon also expressed his strong resolution to plug the existing loopholes from varying budget planning systems of public-invested organizations by standardizing the budget planning and management system. He added that the ministry will assess the level of innovation, customers satisfaction and the degree of integrity of public institutes in allocating next year's budget while strengthening audits by the Board of Audit and Inspection and its business management evaluation works to eradicate indolent management habits that linger in some public institutes. To further promote innovative capacity of public organizations, the Ministry of Planning and Budget plans to hold a string of seminars and forums attended by heads of state-invested think tanks and public institutes through December.


From http://www.korea.net/ 10/20/2005

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Korean Air CEO to Get Business Leadership Award

Korean Air chairman and CEO Cho Yang-ho will receive the ``Spirit of Troy** award from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. The awards ceremony will take place Thursday at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, central Seoul, and Yash Gupta, the dean of the school, will present the award. The award honors international business leaders who embody characteristics that represent the ``spirit of Troy** _ faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous and ambitious. ``For more than a quarter of a century, Cho has served as an exemplary ambassador for the transportation industry, bridging its services with the need of the international business community and the public,** Gupta said. A total of 12 business leaders have received the award since 1984, including A.W. Clausen, chairman and CEO of Bank of America, and Robert W. Galvin, chairman of the executive committee of Motorola. Cho*s father, Cho Choong-hoon, founder and honorary chairman of Hanjin Group, also received the award in 1988. In April, Cho also received the engineering management award from the university*s Viterbi School of Engineering. (by Kim Rahn)


From The Korea Times 10/26/2005

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UN Good Governance School Planned for Seoul

Undaunted by its own recent hiccups in the area, the UN is opening a Governance Center in Seoul early next year to teach leaders from all over the world how to ensure greater civic participation and transparency. Korea*s Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs Oh Young-kyo met with UN Undersecretary-General Jose Antonio Ocampo on Tuesday and agreed to set up the center here as soon as possible. The government is considering shouldering half the cost. The center will tackle research and training on government innovation of UN members. It would be the UN*s first social sciences organization headquartered in Korea, which is already home to the International Vaccine Institute. ※When the UN Governance Center is established, it will serve as a forum where members can share their experience about efficient government operation, e-government, government innovation, and a war on corruption,§ Oh said. ※Many foreigners will come to Korea to attend its programs.§ Ocampo pledged to support the Korean government in ensuring the center*s effective operation.


From http://english.chosun.com/ 10/26/2005

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MONGOLIA: IT Person of the Year Results Announced

The MnDG organized the IT Person of the Year selection successful in second year. The deliberation process was conducted in three stages. Totally 49 candidates were applied by public and organizations. Total 85 organizations voted officially and 435 people voted through online polls. Results announced and awards presented in 21st December 2004: Leader, S.Enkhjargal, Executive Director of MIDAS/MONITA NGO; Software developer, D.Ulzii-Orshikh, Programmer of Starsoft company; Researcher, B.Sukhbaatar, Professor of MSTU; Engineer, N.Enkhbold, Director for System Integrity, MCS company; Technician, G.Enkhbold, Senior system engineer of Datacom company; Pioneer, G.Oyunbayar, Senior specialist of NSO; Businessman-supporter, J.Oyungerel, General Director of Petrovis company; Government official-supporter, N.Togtokh, Head of Risk study working group, former parliament member; Foreigner-supporter, Atsushi Yamanaki, Specialist of UNDP. More information is available at: www.gateway.mn/itprize/.


From The Japan Times 10/25/2005

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INDONESIA: The Silver Lining After Susilo's First Year in Office

In many respects it was always a case of mission impossible for Indonesia's first democratically elected president. Burdened by unrealistic expectations that the elections -- read democracy -- were an overnight panacea for the country's ills, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's performance predictably fell short of the voting public's expectations. He has not been helped by occurrences that seemed to have ganged-up on an administration that was only still finding its feet. In less than 12 months, Susilo has had to deal with an almost apocalyptic tsunami, record oil prices, malnutrition, bird flu, and a polio outbreak. Not to mention the advent of novel political processes such as regional elections and the new balance in the relationship between the legislature and the executive. Susilo may not be doing a great job, but the real question when evaluating his performance is whether his two predecessors, or any other of the presidential candidates of last year's presidential elections, could have done any better. Probably not. We may correctly argue that more decisive leadership could have reduced the gravity of the situation, however, it would not have completely remedied or avoided the cruel tides that have hit Indonesian shores -- economically, politically and literally. While it is easy to point out the negative aspects of Susilo's leadership -- and there are many issues to criticize him on -- let us look on the positive side; at the ways in which Indonesia's first directly elected president has been a good influence. Contributions which Indonesians now take for granted, include his relaxed almost laissez faire attitude towards the country's democratic evolution. Since taking office Susilo has not shown an inclination to build a stronger authoritarian power base. Neither has he embarked on strategies to strengthen his clutches on the levers of power. Unlike his predecessor, he has allowed, for example, to let the process of decentralization proceed unimpeded. If he has exploited his position, it has been done with subtlety and grace. Compared to his predecessors, Susilo has also been the most adept at engaging the public to the point that one would think that he is already on the campaign trail for 2009. There is room for improvement, Susilo, but the public has not given up on you yet.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/11/2005

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Businesspeople Concerned by Govt Economic Performance

Businesspeople in the Jababeka Industrial Estate in Cikarang, West Java, have expressed concern over the government's failure to tackle smuggling and bureaucratic red tape, or to reform tax regulations, which have hurt their businesses. During a meeting on Wednesday with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the chairman of the Indonesian Apparel Manufacturers Association, Vince Gowan, asked the government to take more seriously the problem of smuggling, which he said disrupted supplies and prices in the domestic market. "The war against smuggling should not be declared today and carried out over the next three months. It should be waged now and forever," he said. Vince, who is also the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's vice chairman for productivity, also expressed concern over the country's high-cost economy -- caused by illegal fees imposed by central government and regional administration officials -- which has harmed the competitiveness of locally made clothing products in overseas markets. "It is also difficult for us to divert and sell our products in the domestic market because it has been swamped with the smuggled products that we are complaining about," he said. "We expect the government to take action to resolve this problem and not just give us lip service." Singaporean businessman Stanley Lee highlighted the existing problems in Indonesia's tax regulations, citing how many tax officials were in the habit of interpreting the regulations according to their own preferences. "When the regulation does not actually fit (their interpretation), it results in the impression that they (the tax officials) are just trying to blackmail taxpayers and that there is no legal uncertainty in the country," he said. Responding to the criticism, Susilo highlighted a number of his administration's economic success stories. "The government is at present trying to reduce the high-cost economy," he said. "If you continue to face problems dealing with government officials in the bureaucracy, please report it to me." Regarding the issue of smuggling, Susilo said the government had been consistent in waging a total war against the crime. In his first year in power, he said, the government had achieved much economic progress, including a 24 percent increase in non-oil exports the growth of total investment from US$1.7 billion to $8.4 billion as of August. "It is the right time for investors to come back to Indonesia, as we have shown our resilience in overcoming the many problems we faced, including the recent tsunami and the terrorist bombings," he said. "It is the resilience of our nation that foreign investors can count on."


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/13/2005

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MALAYSIA: Government Support Staff With Degrees to Move Up

Government support staff with degrees can look forward to moving into the Professional and Administrative Group, following a decision to give priority to degree holders to fill positions in the category. Public Services Department director-general Datuk Ismail Adam said the vacancies created by those who moved upwards could be filled by unemployed and fresh graduates. Although they are lower positions in the civil service, new recruits can later apply to fill positions which require a degree if there were vacancies. ※In line with this, priority must be given to permanent officers in the Support Group with a degree to be appointed into the Administrative and Professional Group. ※However, candidates must meet the criteria stipulated for the posts,§ he said in a circular posted on the department*s website dated Oct 12. Currently, Ismail said, there was a substantial number of officers in the Support Group who are degree holders. Civil servants in the Support Group include clerks, assistant officers and technicians while those in the Professional and Administrative Groups are in mid-management positions. Ismail said appointment authorities at the same time should also consider degree holders who applied for permanent positions within the Support Group.


From http://thestar.com.my 10/17/2005

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Research on the Malaysian Leadership Under Way

Five local researchers have received grants from the Perdana Leadership Foundation to conduct research into the nation*s leadership history. The grants, worth between RM10,000 and RM50,000, were presented by foundation president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad here yesterday. Also present was the foundation board of trustees* chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim. The recipients for the grants are Datuk Dr Mohd Yusof Hassan of the Aminuddin Baki Centre for Global Education, Dr Suhaimi Shahnon and Assoc Prof Azhari Karim, both of USM, Sue Valquis Mashhor of UiTM and R. Sivaperegasam, a doctoral student. Dr Mohd Yusof*s research is on Malay intellectualism through the thoughts of three prominent thinkers, while Dr Suhaimi will focus on the politics of national identity through the country*s four prime ministers. Azhari is studying the country*s past foreign relations, Sue Valquis Dr Mahathir*s approach towards regional development and Asean, and Sivaperegasam the pattern of opposition towards Dr Mahathir*s declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state. Their research will take between six months and two years.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/18/2005

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Government Spells Out Ways to Boost Automotive Industry

The Government has unveiled new initiatives designed to promote a dynamic local automotive industry that is globally competitive. Incentives and support will be given to automotive manufacturers, in particular national car makers Proton and Perodua, as well as existing assemblers. Investments that will make Malaysia a regional hub for manufacturing, assembly and distribution for automotive vehicles are also encouraged. In releasing the National Automotive Policy Framework yesterday 每 the NAP itself will be released within one to three months 每 the Prime Minister*s Department said measures for immediate implementation include: Phasing out of the controversial Approved Permit system. Establishment of an Industrial Adjustment Fund to help Malaysian car makers meet increased competition and liberalisation. Incentives to local component and parts manufacturers which include support for a global supply programme. Provision for training and R&D grants. Designation of five centres 每 Gurun, Bertam (in Seberang Prai), Pekan, Tanjung Malim and Shah Alam/Rawang 每 as automotive production centres. Provision of market development grants to encourage small- and medium-size enterprises to seek export markets. The Treasury also announced a change in the calculation of excise duties for passenger cars, 4WDs and MPVs. Cars between 1800cc and 3000cc will enjoy a tax reduction in excise duties of between 3% and 28%. DRB-Hicom group chairman Tan Sri Mohd Saleh Sulong said the NAP removed market uncertainties and prepared Malaysian automotive companies to move ahead and prepare for a new operating environment as mapped in the policy. A spokesman for Proton Holdings Bhd said the National Automotive Policy was a positive step in the evolution of the Malaysian automotive industry as it created a more competitive playing field. The Naza Group of Companies said the NAP created a conducive environment for manufacturers and assemblers in the country.


From http://thestar.com.my 10/20/2005

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PHILIPPINES: Philippines-World Bank Ink Grant to Improve Management and Efficiency of National Roads

A US$677,000 grant from the Japan Policy and Human Resources Development Fund (PHRD) was signed today between the Philippine Government, represented by Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, and the World Bank, represented by Philippines Country Director Joachim von Amsberg, to help prepare the National Program Support for Roads Improvement and Management (NRIMP-2). The second phase of the three-phase 10-year National Roads Improvement Program, NRIMP-2 aims to improve the efficiency and sustainability in the management, organization and financing of the road sector, as well as improve the conditions and standards of the national road system. With NRIMP-2, about 700 kms of national highways will be rehabilitated and upgraded, preventive maintenance will be undertaken for about 2,000 kms, service delivery will be improved by implementing and extending the business processes initiated under the first NRIMP, and road management will be restructured through the establishment of an organization that will manage the country*s national roads in a commercial manner. The first phase will be completed in June 2006. ※This grant is a clear manifestation of the continued efforts of the governments of the Philippines and Japan, together with the World Bank, to further strengthen the development partnership for economic growth and better living standards of Filipinos,§ said Secretary Teves. Mr. von Amsberg said, ※This grant supports the preparation of a loan that represents the shift of our assistance toward more programmatic investment lending that finances priority programs within the Philippines national budget§ He added, ※NRIMP-2 will allow for an efficient and professionally-managed road system that will help reduce transport costs and cost of products, increase access to social services, and make commercialization easier.§ The Japan PHRD Fund, established in 1990 as a partnership between the Government of Japan and the World Bank, aims to support poverty reduction in developing countries, which is achieved through technical assistance and institutional strengthening, supporting the design and implementation of World Bank-assisted projects. Mr. Satoshi Ikeda, Financial Attach谷 of the Embassy of Japan, and Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Raul Asis witnessed the signing ceremony.


Adapted From http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/13/2005

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SINGAPORE: New System to Help Workers Train and Stay Employable

The government has come up with a new framework to help workers stay employable through lifelong learning and to make training count for both workers and employers. The Workforce Development Agency unveiled the national skills and qualifications system on Thursday. Called the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) system, it was launched by Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen. Over the next three years, Singapore will commit $100 million to build up the WSQ system. The WSQ acts as a national stamp of approval of workers' qualifications. It spells out industry-specific training and certification for workers. Developed with inputs from industry, WSQ programmes are tailored-made for practical job needs. Workers can be assured the qualifications are nationally-endorsed and recognised by employers and governmental organisations. The WSQ will benefit every worker, including those without academic qualifications. This is because it recognises past training, work experience and current credentials, on top of academic qualifications. Ong Ye Kung, chief executive of Workforce Development Agency, said: "WSQ's important principle is it's open and accessible. So you may not have formal 'N', 'O' or 'A' level, but we'll recognise your prior learning, prior experience in the craft, in the job that you've been in. We'll map you onto the WSQ, based on your competency, and from there you have a mountain to climb!" The first to benefit from the WSQ are workers from the retail, training and finance sectors. And in two years' time, the WSQ will be extended to other industries including tourism, hotel and accommodation services, food and beverage, information and communication technology, precision engineering, community and social services. Minister Ng said: "This (WSQ) system will increase the value and recognition of new skills and qualifications that workers obtain through their upgrading efforts. "At the National Rally Speech this year, the Prime Minister described his vision for Singapore, where there is a mountain range of successes in our society. This is what we hope to contribute towards with the WSQ system. "We are opening up new pathways, new opportunities and multiple chances for workers to scale their own mountain range. With proper qualifications, and good training institutions backing them, and the jobs that are available now, we want to instil a greater sense of pride, professionalism and help them progress in their occupations."


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 10/27/2005

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BANGLADESH: ACC Plans to Curb Graft in Education Sector

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will make surprise visits to the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) and the Directorate of Education to take instant action against corruption and irregularities. The decision was taken at a closed-door meeting between the ACC and the education ministry officials yesterday. "We will conduct sudden visit to the NCTB and the education directorate to reduce corruption," ACC Commissioner Maniruzzaman Miah told journalists after the meeting, also attended by officials of the NCTB and the directorate. "We have not come here to probe specific allegations but to find out ways to reduce corruption in the education sector," Miah said about the discussion in the meeting. The meeting also discussed how to mitigate the teachers' hassle in drawing their pension and seeking information about their monthly payment orders (PMO). "I asked them [ministry officials] to introduce a system so that the poor schoolteachers can get their retirement benefits in their bank accounts without coming to the capital and paying bribes," Miah told the journalists. Sources said Miah at the meeting raised the issue of corruption in teachers' appointment and the selection of books for the school curriculum. He said the impression of the education department is not good. However most officials of the NCTB and the education directorate alleged that newspapers publish baseless and fabricated news items to harm their image. Education Secretary M Abdul Aziz directed the ministry officials to be honest in their work otherwise he would hand over the corruption files to the ACC. Prof Dilara Hafiz, director general of the Directorate of Education, said she had been trying to reduce corruption at the directorate and reform the system. "We have deployed some members of Ansar so that the teachers and other people do not have to pay bribes to the officials," she said. "We will upload the MPO list on the website so that teachers from the rural areas can know it without coming to the head office." NCTB official M Sirajul Haq said he did not find any corruption in his department. He also blamed journalists for running "baseless" stories about corruption in the sector. The engineers of the education ministry told the closed-door meeting that musclemen of the ruling party prevent the contractors from dropping the tender schedules. But the meeting did not discuss the issue. Meanwhile, ACC Member Moniruddin Ahmed yesterday held a meeting with the officials of the Dhaka Bond Customs and ICD at Kamalapur. He told the officials that the ACC would keep an eye on the customs offices and investigate any allegation, if found against them. Atiqur Rahman Khan, commissioner of Dhaka Bond Customs, Nasir Uddin, commissioner of ICD, Dhaka Customs House, and Azam-e-Sadat, joint commissioner of Dhaka Customs, were present at the meeting.


From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 10/05/2005

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From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 10/05/2005

The prime minister, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, said that the performance of the Bhutanese government would be assessed by November 11, coinciding with His Majesty the King*s birthday celebrations. ※Efficiency, transparency, and accountability should be translated into services for the people,§ said Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup. ※We need to have a proper review of what we have done in the past, our present state, and how to move forward in order to provide better services to people as well as to try and achieve stability and predictability in terms of the civil service. By doing this we can remove all ambiguities and build a system that everybody can have confidence in.§ As the first step towards reviewing a good governance initiative started in 1999 the prime minister established a 26-member task force and a 14-member technical support committee which began its work on September 28. The task force has been given the task to review the existing system of governance, assess the implementation of 1999 good governance plan, and recommend changes to policies, structures, and system of governance to function under a constitutional democratic system. The committee will also look at various constitutional bodies that are going to be created and the different arms of the government, and see how they can function in harmony and coordination without losing their independence.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 10/01/2005

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ICPD Report Launched

Assessing the progress Bhutan had made on the vision of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 1994, the health ministry, together with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) launched the report on &Implementing the ICPD Programme of Action in Bhutan* today in Thimphu. Divided into four chapters, the report outlines Bhutan*s experiences, the priority issues and the challenges and constraints that lay ahead. The report also reviews the progress and achievements Bhutan has made after ten years of the ICPD programme of action. The report is expected to provide an analysis of the factors, constraints, challenges and lessons learned in implementing the goals and targets stipulated in the ICPD programme of action and recommend a future plan of action for Bhutan. The health minister, Lyonpo Jigmi Singay, launched the report.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 10/13/2005

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INDIA: Infosys Plans Mega Campus for Software Training & Development

Infosys Technologies Ltd plans to set up a software development centre in Karnataka, which will generate employment for 25,000 people and also establish residential facilities and essential amenities such as schools and hospital at a total investment of Rs 1,500 crore in the first phase. The NASDAQ-listed software major has requested the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board for 845 acres of land, sought by the firm, after securing zoning requirements from the Government and complying with the law. The land has been sought as two different plots. On one plot of land, a software development centre will be set up, which will generate employment for 25,000 people. The second plot is being sought, a short distance away, to provide residential facilities for the company's employees and to set up essential amenities like school and hospital. "This will provide Infoscions with a better quality of life and avoid long commutes," Infosys said. Infosys also planned to invest Rs 300 crore, to create 6,000 seats in the first phase at Information Technology Special Economic Zone in Mangalore, where the company has been allotted 311 acres. Infosys' plans were outlined in a press statement, which sought to respond point-by-point to some of the issues raised by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda on land allotment to the company. Infosys Chairman and Chief Mentor NR Narayana Murthy resigned from Chairmanship of Bangalore International Airport Limited on Thursday protesting the remarks of Gowda questioning his contribution in the progress of BIAL and Chief Minister Dharam Singh's failure to come to his defence.


From http://hindustantimes.com/ 10/21/2005

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PAKISTAN: NGOs Will Be Trained to Deal with Natural Calamities

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Thursday that various organisations in Pakistan would be given special training to effectively deal with natural calamities. ※Lends survey will be made to change building code and it would be the responsibility of contractors, building experts and other institutions concerned to materialise the new code,§ he said. In an interview with a private TV channel, Aziz said the government was receiving aid from various donor organisations and philanthropists for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the quake victims. He said that no country had been selected so far to train Pakistani organisations. He added that an organisation would be set up in which Army, Police and Civil Defence personnel would be trained to swiftly respond to disasters. The prime minister said that at least 60 countries had extended aid for the earthquake victims. Aziz said the government had banned the adoption of unclaimed children and had made special arrangements to look after the children. Meanwhile, talking to Henry F Drewfs Jr of Samaritan*s Purse, a US-based international relief organisation, the prime minister said the government has banned the export of tents and local manufactures were supplying tents to the affected areas. He said that a sufficient number of tents would be available by the end of next month. Aziz said that the first phase of the rehabilitation of earthquake affected areas was on an advanced stage. He said food and medicines had been provided to a large number of people and the government was now focusing on reconstruction. He said that it was encouraging that a number of organisations and individuals had offered to sponsor schools, hospitals, families and villages. Mr Drewfs told the prime minister that his organisation would distribute 10,000 tents in the affected areas.


From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/ 10/28/2005

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AFGHANISTAN: National Assembly Might Begin Work in November

The head of the transitional parliamentary secretariat has said that the National Assembly's first session could be held as early as 1 November, official Radio Afghanistan reported on 15 October. The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) previously announced that the first session of the new Afghan parliament will begin at the end of Lendai (22 November to 21 December). A budget of 250 million afghanis (around $5 million) has been earmarked for parliamentarians' salaries and other costs, according to Radio Afghanistan. AT


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/17/2005

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AZERBAIJAN: Latvian-Azeri Business Forum Held in Baku

A forum of Latvian and Azerbaijani businessmen was held in Baku on Tuesday and attended by President Ilham Aliyev and his Latvian counterpart Vaira Vike-Freiberga. President Aliyev said Azerbaijan is an extensive and beneficial area for Latvian businessmen. The government is making every effort to attract and protect investments, he said. Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan is developing rapidly, as the gross domestic product (GDP) increased 20%, while people*s income went up 26% in January-August. He said $25 billion have been invested in Azerbaijan over the past 10 years. Although investors are mainly interested in the oil sector, there are prospects for investments in the regions as well, he said. The Latvian President said her country is interested in opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Latvia and flights from Baku to Riga and vice versa soon. ※We have experience and we are ready to share it. We can cooperate in banking, financial services and assistance to Azerbaijani students in receiving education in Russian and English in Latvian universities, as well as in the area of information technologies,§ she said.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 10/05/2005

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KAZAKHSTAN: Congress of Businessmen Opens in Astana

A Congress of Kazakhstani businessmen opens in Astana today, October 28. Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, will participate in the event, KZ-today correspondent reports from the capital. The congress participants are going to discuss problems of development of the medium and small business in the republic. An exhibition of the National Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers of RK "Atameken" will make part of the Congress. An official awarding ceremony "For achievements in development of small business in 2005" will take place in the Intercontinental hotel tonight.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/28/2005

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UZBEKISTAN: Forum Discusses Social Initiatives

Forum ※Regional social important initiatives 每 modern opportunities and perspectives of realisation§ was held at Dedaman Silk Road in Tashkent. Fund of Forum of Culture and Art of Uzbekistan, Jenskaya Sobraniya Public Union, Mehr Nuri charity fund organised the event. Regional public organisations of Uzbekistan attended the meeting.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 10/17/2005

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AUSTRALIA: Govt for More Private-Public Development

Prime Minister John Howard says his departments will soon have to explain why their infrastructure projects, particularly those worth over $100 million, cannot be undertaken in partnership with the private sector. Mr Howard has told a gathering of infrastructure-based business leaders that the next federal budget would contain incentives to boost the rate of private company involvement in otherwise fully taxpayer-backed projects. Commonwealth departments would also have to provide his Cabinet with a "detailed explanation" where the option of a Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) was rejected for a major project. "In future, we have asked that when departments or agencies are seeking funding for new investments, or advising cabinet of new spending funded from existing appropriations, they should consider the full range of financing and ownership options, including PPPs," Mr Howard said in a speech on Wednesday. "Particular attention should be given to opportunities with potential for long-term contracts involving asset-based procurement with a whole-of-life cost in excess of $100 million." An increase in PPPs is likely to lead to a surge in private investment and part-private ownership of public infrastructure, such as roads and other vital community services. Mr Howard said one recent example was Sydney's new Cross City Tunnel tollway, which he admitted was the centre of a controversy. "I remain strongly in support of PPPs, provided private financial interests are not unreasonably preferred at the expense of the public and taxpayers," he said. "... PPPs can help governments to harness the innovation, financing and marketing skills of the private sector." The pledge came as Mr Howard addressed the National Infrastructure Investment Leaders Summit Lunch in Melbourne. He also said cooperation between state and federal government was vital to development of infrastructure, and he said there was a unique "window of opportunity" for this. "I believe that there is a window of opportunity at present for governments across the political divide ... to achieve a level of cooperation that may not have been possible in earlier years," Mr Howard said. "We are above everything else Australians together ... and we do want government regardless of political persuasion to work together."


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/19/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: Teach Drivers Cellphone Skills, Say Researchers

Researchers want the Government to consider introducing special driving licence endorsements for using cellphones in cars rather than banning them outright. They say communications skills learned by airline pilots could be taught by driving schools to those who need to use cellphones at the wheel for business or other purposes. A joint study conducted by Lincoln University near Christchurch and Bentley College in the United States, using a computerised simulator, measured the driving prowess of 56 pilots against that of 55 non-aviators. Professor Jake Rose, of Lincoln's Centre of Accounting Education and Research, said that members of both groups showed equivalent driving performances when not in conversation, either with a passenger or on a cellphone. But when talking on hands-free cellphones, non-aviators suffered 4 1/2 times as many life-threatening accidents as when not conversing. Pilots, on the other hand, were less than twice as likely to have crashes during phone conversations and were almost at no greater risk talking to passengers. This compared with about twice the risk non-pilots faced talking to people in the same vehicle. The researchers did not study the use of hand-held phones, but Professor Rose said Australian statistics showed a four times higher risk when using either these or hands-free equipment at the wheel. He said he would never use a cellphone while driving "after all the research we have been doing watching people running over pedestrians and crashing cars in the simulator". But many businesses stood to suffer financially from banning phones in cars, he said, and it might be better to consider how to lessen the danger through driver training. "Sometimes prohibition isn't the best option. "We concluded that it was the conversation, not the technology, that was to blame, and because of this, we can teach people how better to deal with conversation while driving." Professor Rose said that because phone conversations lacked key non-verbal cues available in close-contact dialogue, drivers used up significant "imaginative" resources to compensate, at the cost of losing concentration for the road ahead. He said pilots tended to avoid this by not trying to visualise those at the other end of a phone, keeping safe driving paramount and making conversation a secondary priority. The research, to be reported in this month's edition of international publication Risk Analysis, comes as the Ministry of Transport finalises a study on driver distractions for recommendations to the new Government on whether to ban cellphones or other driving hazards. At least 17 people were killed in road crashes blamed on cellphones in the seven years to 2004. (by Mathew Dearnaley)


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/05/2005

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Foreign Investment in ASEAN Rises Sharply

Vientiane (VNA) - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attracted 5.8 billion USD of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the first quarter of this year, a year-on-year increase of 35 percent, said Laos' Commerce Minister Soulivong Daravong on September 27. "ASEAN attracted FDI of 25.6 billion dollars in 2004, posting a year-on-year growth of 39 percent," Minister Soulivong Daravong, chairman of the 8th AIA (ASEAN Investment Area) Council meeting, said at a press conference after the meeting. The meeting, held ahead of the 37th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in Laos, was attended by economic ministers and senior officials from ASEAN as well as ASEAN General Secretary Ong Keng Yong. In 2004, top five investors in ASEAN were the United States, Japan, intra-ASEAN countries, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, representing respective percentages of 20 percent, 10 percent, 9.5 percent, 9 percent and 7 percent. FDI in the manufacturing sector in ASEAN last year rose by 13.4 percent to 20.8 billion USD, accounting for 45 percent of the total capital and reinforcing the region as a growing and important manufacturing base, Soulivong Daravong said. The 10 member countries have agreed to remove tariffs on 85 percent of the products in 11 priority sectors by 2007 for Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and 2012 for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam. Under the Framework Agreement for the Integration of Priority Sectors signed by ASEAN members in November 2004, the priority sectors include agro-based product, air travel, electronics, e-ASEAN, fisheries, healthcare, tourism, textile and apparel, rubber-based products, automotive products and wood-based products. At the press conference, ASEAN General Secretary Ong Keng Yong said "we are very attractive as a foreign direct investment location, but after a while it may be likely (investors) will be attracted elsewhere. If we want to assure ourselves of this high level of FDI for the next five years, we have to start addressing the problems that our investors face".


From http://www.vnagency.com.vn/ 09/28/2005

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World Economic Forum: Nordic Countries, Asia, Most Competitive Economies

Northern Europe and key East Asian countries are the most competitive economies in the world, retaining their positions in the top 10 of a survey titled the "Global Competitiveness Report," released Wednesday by the World Economic Forum (WEF), reports The Associated Press. For the third straight year, Finland has the most competitive economy, followed by the United States, according to the report. Rounding out the top 10 in the poll, expanded this year to include 117 countries, were Sweden, Denmark, Taiwan, Singapore, Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Australia. The success of the Nordics is due to their "very healthy macroeconomic environments and public institutions that are highly transparent and efficient, with general agreement within society on the spending priorities to be met in the government budget," said Augusto Lopez-Claros, chief economist and director of the institute's global competitiveness program. Lopez-Claros said the Nordic nations were disproving the common belief that high taxes hinder competitiveness. The highest ranked Asian countries, Taiwan and Singapore, have applied good governance to lift "their citizens from poverty, joining the ranks of the most prosperous and competitive economies in the world," the study said. At the bottom of the list were countries in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and southeast and central Asia: East Timor, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Cambodia, Paraguay, Benin, Guyana, Kyrgyzstan and Chad, which was last for the second straight year. The aim of the survey is to examine the range of factors that can affect an economy's business environment and development as it seeks to maintain economic growth -- including the levels of judicial independence, protection of property rights, government favoritism in policy-making and corruption. The results of the survey, conducted for the 26th consecutive year, were drawn from a survey by the WEF of nearly 11,000 business leaders in 117 countries. Xinhua (China) further reports that Lopez-Claros said China needs to build up the institutional underpinnings of its economy to strengthen its competitiveness. "China needs to improve the quality of its educational system and the delivery of improved public health services to the population. Education is key for developing the future innovation potential of the country. There is also a large technology gap with respect to the more developed industrial economies; so the process of modernization will have to continue," Lopez-Claros said. "Over time, I would hope that we can also see greater transparency in the public sector, a more concerted approach to put in place a social safety net to protect vulnerable groups in the population, as is done in countries that have had market economies for much longer periods of time than China," he added. Reuters meanwhile notes that Chile was the only Latin American nation in the top 25 most competitive economies in the world, in 23rd place compared with 22nd place last year. There was also a wide gap between Chile and the next Latin American economy listed in the competitiveness report -- Uruguay, in 54th place. Chile's economy, Latin America's sixth largest in terms of gross domestic product, is expected to expand some 6 percent this year, benefited by strong domestic spending and high prices for copper, its main export. Meanwhile, Mexico and Brazil, the region's two biggest economies, both fell. The Moscow Times further writes the WEF survey said that Russia's "woefully inadequate" government institutions are holding back economic growth and urgent reforms are needed if Russia hopes to keep pace with other emerging markets. The report said Russia's economy was not growing fast enough for average incomes to catch up with Central European levels. Russia fell five places to 75th in the Index. Economic competitiveness is being dragged down by a "significant deterioration" in the effectiveness of public institutions, especially the judicial and legislative systems, the report said. The Wall Street Journal also reports that according to the WEF survey, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, and Spain are losing ground, dragged down by concerns of sluggish economic growth and big budget deficits. Western Europe's general slip in competitiveness from the beginning of the decade reflects the region's economic development of late. But in the survey, Western European countries still rank above China and India, often cited as the greatest competitive threats to Western economies. The two ranked 49th and 50th, just behind Italy at 47th. Dow Jones states that while the US retained its "technological supremacy," it was ranked behind Finland because of its more fragile macroeconomic environment. "Particular weaknesses are the very low national savings rate and a growing level of public indebtedness," said Lopez-Claros. Without some action to cut the budget deficit soon, the US may slip down the rankings, the WEF warned. "Weaknesses in key macroeconomic indicators pose a non-negligible risk to the US overall competitiveness rankings in future years...requiring serious attention by the authorities," Lopez-Claros said. The Associated Press finally adds that Japan slipped to No. 12 from No. 9 last year as a result of poor management of its public finances, but reforms proposed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to privatize the sprawling postal service could help turn things around, the study said.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/29/2005

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Energy Issues and Nuclear Power in East Asia

Two major challenges are likely to push some Asian countries to move towards considering the option of more nuclear power plants. First is the finite supply of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. The second reason is the environment. Burning of fossil fuels produces harmful effects on the environment. Therefore alternative and cleaner sources of producing energy have been considered for sometime, although with very little success. One option is to go for nuclear power plants. Demand for energy in East Asia is growing rapidly. Japan has been a leading consumer of energy in the post-war period. Because Japan is a resource-poor nation, it is especially vulnerable due to its almost total dependency on external suppliers. The two oil shocks in the 1970s had devastating effects on the Japanese economy. Through energy conservation and alternative sources of energy, including nuclear power plants, Japan has managed its energy requirements well. Recent demand in energy is driven through the other and rising giant in East Asia - China. But the story here is a little different from Japan. China has vast natural resources of its own. However, since 1993 China has become a net importer of oil. Many analysts believe that the two rising economies of Asia - China and India -and their need for energy will put enormous pressure on oil and gas prices and supplies. While recent surge in oil prices is caused by natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes in the Unites States shutting oil fields and reducing refining capacities, the long-drawn war in Iraq and political instability in the Middle East are also creating uncertainties and increases in oil prices. In the long term though, many believe that pressure on supplies and prices will come from enormous demands in China and India. While China and India are competing for resources everywhere in the world from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa to South America, it is in East Asia that greater competition and indeed confrontation is taking place. Both China and Japan are competing to secure oil and gas from the Russian Far East. The East China Sea has emerged as another political theatre where both China and Japan see prospects of securing invaluable resources but they don't agree with regards to their Exclusive Economic Zone because of a territorial dispute around the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands. A Japanese proposal to develop the field jointly failed and China began drilling in the area in 2003. The issue took an ugly turn when a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine was detected in Japanese waters off the Okinawa islands. After resisting for years, the Japanese government has also now given drilling rights to a Japanese company. At the same time that these countries compete for conventional sources of energy, they are also aware about the environmental consequences. Japan has committed itself to the strict code of behaviour by signing the Kyoto Protocol. China, on the other hand, though not bound by this protocol, is part of a new initiative called the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. To address the twin problems of supplies and prices of oil and management of environment, one option is to go for nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is often promoted as a cheap, sustainable and clean energy source. Raw materials are available from politically stable and reliable supplier countries. Japan is already the world's third largest home to nuclear power plants after the US and France and is considering a few more. South Korea, another energy starved country, which already produces some two thirds of its electricity through nuclear sources, is expanding its nuclear power program. There are 20 nuclear power plants in operation and eight more are being built currently in South Korea. But the most dramatic change is likely to occur in China where only 1.4 percent of electricity supply currently comes through nuclear power. It wants to produce 4 percent of its electricity from nuclear plants by 2020. There were only 4 nuclear power plants in China in 2004. Plans are to construct at least one nuclear power plant each year until 2020. China has been slow to develop nuclear power plants, as they are very expensive to build. But now China can afford nuclear power plants and it needs them to generate electricity cleanly and cheaply. Countries like Australia already see prospects of selling uranium to China. It won╳‘t come as a surprise if Australia changes its strict policy on mining and selling uranium since it does not want to miss the opportunity of making money from the rising demand for uranium in China and elsewhere in Asia. In the next several years more and more nuclear power plants are likely to be commissioned in Asia, mainly in South Korea, China and India. But if oil prices keep rising and supplies become even more unreliable, some countries in Southeast Asia may also begin to consider this option seriously. (by Purnendra Jain)


From http://www.rsi.sg/ 10/03/2005

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Workshop to Focus on Standards in Home Networking

Geneva 〞 Home Networking 〞 the linking of a wide range of different consumer electronic devices for applications such as entertainment, telecommunications, home automation systems and telemetry (remote control and monitoring systems) 〞 is attracting a great deal of interest. Given the wide range of previously unrelated technologies involved, global standards that allow for the interoperability of disparate products are increasingly seen as key to the success of this new paradigm. So far, however, despite many initiatives, lack of standardization has continued to stifle market growth. Many believe consolidation of the various standardization efforts now underway is urgently needed for the potential benefits of home networking to become a reality. This workshop will bring together experts from around the world whose work is pushing the frontiers of this fast moving field. In addition to providing an overview of the today*s different home networking technologies, the event will take a look at the standards that address access, services, performance, quality of service (QoS), electromagnetic interference and security issues. What: Opportunities and Challenges in Home Networking; When: 13-14 October, 2005; Where: Geneva, ITU Headquarters .


From http://www.itu.int/ 10/04/2005

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Young People Are Better Educated But 130 Million Youths Remain Illiterate, UN Says

Young people today are better educated than any previous generation, but 130 million youths are still illiterate, more than half a billion live on less than $2 a day, and a record 88 million are unemployed, according to a United Nations report, writes The Associated Press. The UN World Youth Report 2005 provides a snapshot of the 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 who are increasingly seeking the bright lights of cities, engaging in international activities, and becoming more influenced by the global media than by their own families and communities. But the 192-page report highlights the stark differences in the lives and opportunities of young people in poor African and Asian nations and richer Western countries. Almost half of the world's 15- to-24-year-olds were living on less than $2 a day, and over 200 million, about 18 percent, were trying to survive on less than $1 a day in 2002 -- the vast majority in south Asia, east Asia and the Pacific, and sub-Saharan Africa, the report said. While malnutrition strikes millions, the main killer of 15- to 24-year-olds is AIDS. Ten million young people -- mostly in Africa and Asia -- are currently living with HIV or AIDS, and "the epidemic has had a devastating impact on the sexual and reproductive health of young people, as they are particularly vulnerable to infection," the report said. It also found that globally, young people are reaching adolescence earlier, marrying later, and increasingly engaging in premarital sex although early pregnancy has declined in many countries. The health of young people is also being affected by the "unprecedented increase in the use of synthetic drugs worldwide, mostly in recreational settings," the report said. In a new trend, it said, "the demand for illicit substances among youth in developing countries has risen to levels typically found in industrialized countries." The highest arrest rates are also found among 15- to 24-year-olds, and disproportionate numbers of young people are affected by the increase in violent conflicts, both as perpetrators and victims, it said. Xinhua (China) adds that rates of unemployment among young people are highest in West Asia, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, and there is growing pressure on young people to compete in an increasingly globalized labor market, the report added. However, amid the grim picture portrayed in the report, there are positive signs. It pointed out that the number of children completing primary school has continued to increase since 1995, and four out of five young people in the eligible age group are now in secondary school. Tertiary enrollment has risen as well, and it is estimated that some 100 million youth are presently engaged in university-level studies worldwide, the report noted. The Canadian Press further notes that the statistics and trends point to one key message - investments in young people need to be scaled-up to implement the 1995 World Program of Action for Youth and to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. ※Investing in young people is especially important to have a growing economy,§ said Johan Scholvinck of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. ※You cannot have successful growth if you don't have skilled and active youth in your economy.§ The report said investments must focus on the 1.8 billion youngsters currently under the age of 15 because they will be the 15- to 24-year-old generation in 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals are supposed to be reached.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 10/05/2005

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ADB Assistance to Boost Effectiveness of Mekong Cooperation Program

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank will strengthen management and effectiveness of the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program through a new technical assistance grant of $2.5 million. The subregion is one of the world's fastest growing and among Asia's most rapidly integrating. In 2004, despite prolonged droughts, escalating oil prices, and the threat of avian flu, each of the GMS countries grew at more than 6%. However, large numbers of people in the subregion are still living in severe poverty. At the Second GMS Summit in July 2005, the leaders noted that progress has been made over the 13 years since the GMS Program began, but emphasized that increasingly complex challenges remain, including environmental management and cross-border crime and disease. To ensure sustained momentum in the development of the GMS and a more equitable distribution of benefits, there needs to be a more proactive approach in defining, carrying out and monitoring the GMS program, using a clear analytic framework that can determine and measure results. The technical assistance (TA) project will support the work programs of the various GMS working groups and draw up a monitoring and evaluation framework for activities. It will also develop ways to engage more effectively with the private sector, helping to identify areas for public-private partnerships and private sector participation in projects. In addition, the TA project will promote more effective coordination among development partners and provide assistance to boost the capacity of national coordinators and line agencies in the GMS countries. ADB will be responsible for implementing and monitoring the TA, in consultation with the GMS governments. TA activities will be carried out over the next two years to January 2008. ADB has been supporting GMS economic cooperation since the program's inception in 1992 and is the lead development partner.


From http://www.adb.org/ 10/13/2005

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WHO Says SE Asia Remains Biggest Bird Flu Danger

MANILA (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation said on Monday it was concerned that European countries facing the spread of bird flu would divert funding and attention away from Southeast Asia, the most likely epicentre of a human pandemic. Officials in Europe are braced for an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003, after tests confirmed the disease in poultry in Romania and Turkey. No human cases have been reported in Europe. "There's a lot of anxiety (in Europe)," said Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the WHO in Manila. "Quite clearly, the result of this could be that governments might focus on domestic preparedness and forget the fact that ground zero is Southeast Asia." Cordingley said the feared mutation of the virus into a form that is easily transmitted between humans was most likely to take place in Southeast Asia, where millions of birds have been culled in an attempt to limit the disease's spread. "(U.S. President) George Bush has said it and he got it right. He said you can't fight bird flu within the boundaries of the United States. You have to go to its genesis, and that's out here." Experts say the fight against bird flu in Asia is being hampered by huge differences in wealth between countries. Some countries still have no stockpiles of the expensive anti-viral drugs that could help limit a human pandemic and have poor public health infrastructure. The WHO said on Friday it needed $260 million from the international community to fight the spread of bird flu in Asia. To date, about $20 million had been committed to help fight the disease in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam, where most of the deaths caused by the H5N1 strain have been reported. The WHO hopes to generate more pledges for Asia from wealthier states during meetings on bird flu in coming weeks in Canada, Australia and Switzerland. "So far, there have been good indications but we don't have the money in the bank yet," Cordingley said. "While we are concerned that money shouldn't get diverted into Europe, we're pretty confident we're going to get the money we want."


From http://today.reuters.com/ 10/17/2005

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Four Countries Bring Down Huge Drug Ring

POLICE from China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand have jointly cracked down on the biggest heroin trafficking case in recent years in the region. The notorious Han Yongwan cross-border drug-trafficking syndicate was destroyed, Zhang Chongde, deputy director general of the Border Control Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, said yesterday. Seventy criminal suspects were arrested, 726.8 kilograms of heroin were seized, and illicit money, including more than 600,000 yuan, HK$22,200 and more than 4.1 million Thai baht, were confiscated. Police from the four countries also seized 36 guns, six rocket launchers, 33 grenades, 1,586 bullets and two radios, Zhang said. Han Yongwan, head of the syndicate and the most notorious drug trafficker in the region, had fled to and lived in neighboring countries for more than 10 years, before he was finally arrested and repatriated back to China, according to Zhang. On November 2, 2004, police in Yunnan Province were informed that a shipment of drugs had been sent into Chinese territory from Myanmar. On November 6, 2004, Yunnan police tracked down and seized 220 kilograms of heroin in two teakwood-loaded trucks from Myanmar, and two criminal suspects were arrested. The Ministry of Public Security then ordered police forces in different provinces to deepen the investigation. Soon, 11 criminal suspects were arrested and 10.8 kilograms of heroin were seized in Guangdong and Gansu provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and two major trafficking syndicates based in Guangdong and Gansu were destroyed. Originally from Longchuan County of Yunnan Province, Han had engaged in drug trafficking in the border areas between China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand for many years. With the close cooperation of police in Laos and Thailand, a fleeing Han and his alleged drug mule Ah Shou were arrested in Laos on September 22. Another five Laotian were also arrested. Laos handed Han to Myanmar on September 28. Myanmar police forces delivered Han and Ah Shou to China on October 2.


From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 10/19/2005

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World Mayors Forum Boosts Awareness of Sustainable Urban Development

The Seoul World Mayors Forum 2005, held on September 30 and October 1 in the South Korean capital under the theme of "Sustainability and Revitalization," enhanced global awareness of sustainable urban development to mayors, government policymakers, urban planners and scholars from around the globe. Holding this year's Forum, sponsored by Metropolis (the World Association of the Major Metropolises) and the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), in Seoul was extremely timely as the city is one of the leaders in a paradigm shift from blind pursuit of economic development to sustainable development focusing on social and environmental values. Seoul's recent efforts have included the expansion of urban forests and other green areas as well as the restoration of an inner-city waterway. The opening of the restored waterway, Cheonggyecheon, on October 1, coincided with the Forum and allowed the visitors to take a first-hand look at Seoul's efforts to overcome various urban problems and revitalize the capital in an environment-friendly way. The Forum participants applauded the city's efforts on sustainable urban regeneration and rehabilitation as epitomized by the restoration of the Cheonggye stream, which had been paved over by a road since 1958. The rebirth of the 5.8-kilometer stream, which has entirely changed the face of one of the city's busiest commercial districts, was also praised by citizens as well as local and foreign media as an example of successful urban revitalization. Mayor Lee Myung-bak and other Seoul City officials shared their experiences in the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, which took more than two years and a budget of 386 billion won (US$375 million), with the Forum participants, as the project was one of the top items on the agenda. The "Overview of the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project" was the theme of one of the two special sessions at the Seoul Forum. The mayors and experts also had three working sessions - on "Creation of Urban Waterfront," "Designing the Grand Project" and "Conflict Management, Leadership and Governance." In addition, the participating mayors held two roundtable discussions, in which they shared their concerns, ideas and experiences in meeting challenges faced by some of the world's leading cities. The Forum's two-day discussions led to the adoption of the "Seoul Declaration," where the participants called for urban development policies ensuring sustainable development and global inter-city cooperation. The declaration stressed international cooperation and common policy directives to help cities come up with better methods of balancing growth and environmental preservation. It also emphasized the need to improve efficiency in decision-making processes, refine conflict management and strengthen ties between cities and central government in order to meet the growing complexity of policy-making in civil administration. "We are in full agreement that we must create city alliances and cooperative networks in which diverse experiences and common policy directives in city development can be shared," the declaration said. By adopting the declaration in Seoul, a metropolis transforming itself from a symbol of development-first policy that led to numerous urban problems to a city that cherishes human and environmental values, the world's mayors sent out an opportune message to the world: It is never too late to tackle urban problems and make sustainability a top priority in cities' social, economic and environmental policies. In this sense, the Seoul Forum fulfilled its goal as it provided the stage for building a consensus on the need to establish a "caring society," which Mayor Lee said should be the vision of the Forum.


From http://english.seoul.go.kr/ 10/19/2005

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NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA: Birthrates Sag

South Korea*s total fertility rate stands at 1.22 this year, far behind the world average of 2.6, according to a U.N. population report. In the State of World Population 2005, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said Wednesday that North Korea*s birthrate is estimated at 1.97, higher than in the South. But the North*s figure is still lower than the average of developing countries* 2.82, indicating that a low birthrate prevails over the entire Korean Peninsula. South Korea*s total population is 47.8 million in 2005 while the North stands at 22.5 million, according to the report. ``In cooperation with the government, we are now doing our best to solve the low birthrate. We can still have hope for the future,** Choi Sun-jung, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea (PPFK) said in an opening address at the National Assembly yesterday to mark the release of the report. The total fertility rate (TFR) for South Korea increased slightly from a record low of 1.16 last year. It was the lowest among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But the rate is still lower than 1.79 in Norway, 1.66 in England and 1.33 in Germany. In 2003, South Koreans gave birth to an average of 1.19 babies in their lifetime compared to 2.01 for Americans, 1.75 for Australians and 1.29 for Japanese. The TFR is the average number of babies born per woman aged between 15-49. Along with the release of the report, the PPFK also marked the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Korean version of the world population report. For the event, about 100 dignitaries were invited including Steve Kraus, chief of the HIV/AIDS branch in the UNFPA, Janette Garin, a lawmaker from the Philippines and Virapong Skolkitivat, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Public Health in Thailand. The low birthrate is one of the main problems the Korean government faces. ``Korea, which has created various social basis for socio-economic development by strongly implementing the population growth control program until the late 1980s, is now faced with the serious issues of low fertility and an aging society,** said Lee Sang-seok, an official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare. ``The government will make every effort to cope with the problems by realizing the lowering of infant mortality and the protection of maternal health,** he added. Many lawmakers who attended the ceremony suggested during a discussion session various measures to counter the problems. Rep. Lee Seok-hyun of the ruling Uri Party, chairman of health and welfare committee at the National Assembly, pointed out that low fertility resulted from a poor educational environment and an increased number of women participating in the workforce. ``Discrimination against women in the workforce is also responsible for the low birthrate. And insufficient maternal health services are exacerbating the problem,** he said. Lawmaker Kim Choon-jin proposed that the low fertility rate and aging society cannot be solved just by encouraging mothers to have one more child or by increasing social security or welfare. ``Education and childcare should be a top priority if we want to secure a quality labor force and the population policy for emigration and adoption should be reviewed again,** he insisted. South Korea became an ``aging** society in 2000, when the ratio of the population aged 65 or older exceeded 7 percent. The figure is expected to double by 2018, making the country an ``aged** society, according to a government statistics. In recognizing the problem, the government has rolled up its sleeves to address the falling birthrate of the country with plans such as increased financial assistance for childcare. The government said recently it would consider tax refunds for families with two or more children and increase housing benefits, daycare and educational scholarships. (by Kim Cheong-won)


From The Korea Times 10/12/2005

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CHINA: Beijing's Blueprint to Tackle Gap Between Rich, Poor

China's Communist Party leaders are set to meet soon to approve a national economic-policy blueprint for the next five years aimed at smoothing uneven development that has fueled unrest throughout the country, reports The Wall Street Journal. Members of the party's powerful Central Committee will convene in Beijing from October 8-11, the official Xinhua news agency said. Usually, China's five-year plans have set specific goals for everything from economic expansion to steel production to livestock numbers. But for the first time, it is being dubbed a "five-year blueprint" instead of a "five-year plan" to reflect the government's step-back approach to managing the economy under a market system. Economists say a main focus of the plan will be to address the increasing inequities between China's prosperous coastal regions and its poorer inland and rural regions, where the majority of China's 1.3 billion people live. The plan is expected to shift the emphasis from strong economic-expansion rates to the strengthening of social services, such as education and health care. Whether President and party chief Hu Jintao's government can meet these goals could be critical for the country to maintain the overall stability that has for the past decade helped it attract record levels of foreign investment, exceeding an estimated $66 billion this year. Economists said a main theme of the five-year plan will be a "scientific approach to development" -- focusing on improving people's livelihoods, not just growth; seeking efficient and sustainable development, not blind growth; and ensuring that the benefits of growth are divided among the people, such as through higher taxation of wealthier areas. The blueprint is expected to promote development of regional economies around urban centers. Ma Kai, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, which is overseeing the drafting of the plan, told local media in mid-September that such regions could include the Yangtze River Delta, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, the northeastern industrial belt and Chengdu-Chongqing cities in the southwest. The South China Morning Post adds the fifth plenum of the Communist Party's Central Committee will review and approve the 11th Five-Year Plan, the policy blueprint, which will then be adopted by the National People's Congress next March. In related news, The Canberra Times (Australia) writes that while China is endeavoring to promote industrialization and urbanization, agriculture is continuously regarded as fundamental. This is based on the consideration of China's domestic situation. China has 70 percent of its 1.3 billion population in rural areas, the largest rural population in the world. Many of them are still stricken by poverty. ''China will give priority to achieving sustainable agriculture and rural development, as it is the basic guarantee for sustainable social and economic development,'' Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said. While farmers show increasingly greater interests in crop cultivation, extensive expressways and mushrooming enterprises have expelled some of them from their land, as the process of industrialization and urbanization accelerates. Statistics show that more than 20 million farmers have been &laid off* from their land in the past 13 years due to land requisition. The serious land situation forces the Chinese government to be tough with land policies. In April 2004, the State Council halted the ratification of farmland for other uses for six months and started to rectify the national land market. The State Council, China's cabinet, has issued three circulars urging still better protection of cropland.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/30/2005

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China Drops in Global Competitiveness Ranking

China's general competitive advantage took a dive this year, largely due to a decline in the quality of the country's macroeconomic environment, according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2005-2006 released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on September 28. According to the report, Finland remains the most competitive economy in the world and tops the rankings table for the fourth time in five years. The United States second, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Taiwan and Singapore, respectively. Hong Kong is ranked 28th. Among the 117 global economies covered in the report, China ranks 49th, three places down from last year. One of the reasons for this is that the WEF expanded the report's country coverage for this year's survey, and many of the new listings came in at higher rankings than China. The WEF added that rankings that float within a range of 10 places up or down do not necessarily reflect a substantial change in the country's competitive advantage. However, a drop in ranking on some indices is noteworthy. Ranking criteria includes factors related to business environment, which are crucial for sustainable economic growth. Researchers paid particular attention to macroeconomic environment, quality of public institutions, and technology innovation and operational readiness. China*s macroeconomic environment ranked 24th last year, but dipped to 33rd this year. Augusto Lopez-Claros, chief economist and director of the WEF's Global Competitiveness Programme, offered some possible reasons for the decline. He cited government restraints on personal savings, a decline in related loan indices, and accelerated inflation due to a marked rise in consumption. On the business competitiveness index, China experienced a slide in rank as well, from 47th last year to 57th this year. This index measures current enterprise productivity and the effective use of available resources. Operation and strategy are also taken into account when measuring business competitiveness. On the technology index, China ranked a low 64th, two places lower than last year. China's public institutions were ranked 56th this year, dropping one place from last year. Claros pointed out that the growth of the Chinese economy can be attributed to factors including improved resource distribution efficiency, increased productivity as a result of more open policies, and urbanization, a key promoter of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. However, problems with China's public institutions have had an impact on the economy. If these problems are not solved, China*s competitiveness will not improve, said an International Finance News report on September 26. Areas that need urgent attention include banking system efficiencies, basic social security especially in relation to the growing number of unemployed and aged people, healthcare and education to ensure the sustainable development of human resources, and the legal system. The first global competitiveness report was issued by the WEF 26 years ago. It is published annually and combines ※hard data§ 每 country statistics that are publicly available 每 and ※soft data§ 每 results from enterprise surveys. (by Xu Lin)


From China.org.cn 09/30/2005

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70 Percent of China's Local Govts Have Official Gateways

At present, as many as 73 percent of China's local governments have their own gateway websites and 93 percent or more ministries have theirs. Over 90 percent of Chinese central ministries, provincial and local governments have had their gateway websites, according to sources with the State Council Informatization Office. As an important means of shifting government's function and innovating management, e-government is a key area of China's informatization efforts. Ratings show the websites of the Ministry of Commerce, the State Food and Drug Administration and cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Qingdao have been able to provide quality services to the public. Overall, however, China's governmental websites are still in the stage of information publication, incapable of interaction with the masses of people therefore badly in need of strengthening the awareness and capability of service.


From People's Daily 10/09/2005

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World Bank President Impressed by Progress by China's Poorest in Combating Poverty

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said the achievement of the poorest people of China in poverty reduction is stunning, reports Xinhua (10/14). After visiting some of the poorest parts of the country, including remote villages in Gansu Province, Wolfowitz said the efforts of poor people, often with few resources, were inspiring. He signaled that the Bank would stay engaged in China to help create opportunities for the 150 million people still living on less than a dollar a day. Wolfowitz said: "It's stunning what they've done with very little to work with. The house we were just in is a fairly big house; the woman takes care of the house and the livestock - five sheep and a cow and a whole bio-gas cooking operation. And the husband's off earning money to make it all work. "It's very impressive. I can't imagine doing it myself. You have to be somewhat in awe of what people who, you give them a little bit of a chance, will make a better life for themselves and their children. It's really quite amazing. We've seen it in other countries; we see it here in China, and it's inspiring." Lianxing village has seen a rise in living standards in recent years in part because villagers have pooled their energy and resources, after discussing specific project proposals and voting on them. Each villager is given one potato to deposit in a bucket in front of his or her chosen project. The one with the most potatoes wins, and the villagers then are able to achieve the benefits of working together on village-wide plans. The approach has been used in Bank-supported projects elsewhere in Gansu and Inner Mongolia, and has now been adopted widely as a more effective way to achieve village-level development. One outcome in Lianxing has been the widespread use of bio-gas for cooking, using the methane produced by animal and human waste instead of having to rely on straw, coal or wood - all of which caused serious air pollution and respiratory problems. Wolfowitz's comments followed his visit earlier in the day to another poor village - Heping, a village of Dongxiang minority Muslims high in the hills of Gansu - and to the Jiuhuagou area nearby, where local people have helped turn some of the most degraded land in China into terraces with green fields of corn and fruit. The Jiuhuagou area is part of a bigger project, covering an area about the size of Belgium in northwest China. When complete, it will have helped 50 million people to raise their incomes, and greatly reduced the erosion of soil into the Yellow River. Before the project, about 1.6 billion tons a year washed into the river. Wolfowitz said his impression from visiting impoverished rural areas was mainly how different China was from the rich coast to the poorer western areas. "I've been in Shanghai, I've been in Beijing, Nanjing, and Guangzhou, all within the last 5 years. We talk -- correctly -- about how much China's accomplished. This is also a demonstration of how much more work there is to be done. I'm very proud that the Bank is participating in it." The China Daily (10/17) meanwhile writes that it seems to be a very popular, convenient approach these days to compare China's rise to the emergence of Germany and Japan after the 1860s. Those who like to make analogy between now and the dark days leading up to two world wars say that powers rarely emerge without sparking war and reshaping the international system. The conclusion: there is a big chance that China's rise will lead to, at best, troubles, or, at worst, bloodshed, the daily argues. However, Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank's new president, would not subscribe to this argument. Since taking office, however, Wolfowitz has worked to establish his image as a strong advocate of the World Bank's anti-poverty mission, rather than a tool for US values. In Gansu, the soft-spoken man spent substantial time talking with farmers about their lives and expectations for their children. He also visited a village Mosque and recited by memory Arabic prayers from the Koran. ※The mission of the World Bank is to reduce poverty and to promote economic development and that's really what I want to stress," Wolfowitz said. "When it comes back to the test of whether we (the World Bank) are doing our job or not, it's whether we're promoting development, not whether we're promoting democracy."


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 10/17/2005

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Beijing's New ID Card Issue Ends 1st Phase

At 3 PM on October 17, Cheng Minzhang was given the 9 millionth second generation ID card and an honorary certificate by Ma Zhenchuan, member of Beijing's CPC standing committee and director of the city's public security bureau. Cheng is Shenzhou VI's vice commander in chief and senior engineer at China Aerospace Science Corp's Space Technology Research Institute. In the meantime Ma said the first phase of the new cards' issue in Beijing was now complete. As 90 percent of the capital's citizens were issued new cards between April of last year and October 17, ten months ahead of schedule, Beijing Public Security Bureau was awarded 500,000 yuan by the Ministry of Public Security. About 17,000 police, one third of the city's force, spent more than 240,000 working days on the initiative. While going door-to-door they solved 7,266 unrelated cases, involving the arrest of 6,899 suspects. There are still about 900,000 citizens who have not replaced their old ID cards. The police aim to issue new cards for older and disabled people, who were not required to obtain them themselves, before the end of this year. Many people registered at permanent addresses in Beijing's Tongzhou District, a suburban area, actually live near or at their places of work elsewhere in the city, so police there have extended the initial issue of new cards to the end of October. The police reminded citizens who have not acquired new ID cards that, though they can still apply, they will have to wait longer to get them because temporary fast track channels will be closed soon. (by Wang Ke)


From China.org.cn 10/19/2005

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Govt to Allocate More Public Funds to Rural Areas

China will allocate more public funds to rural areas through reform and development, Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said Tuesday. The move aims to bring the benefits of China's modernization process to more Chinese farmers, Hui said at the international symposium on public finance coverage of rural areas, which was jointly held by the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank. Problems facing China's agriculture, rural area and farmers are at the top of the Chinese government's agenda, said Hui. China has witnessed farmers' enthusiasm for growing grain. Local governments have paid more attention to agriculture and grain plantation in recent years by offering better conditions to farmers. Rural production and living conditions have been greatly improved as a result of infrastructure construction efforts in rural areas and environmental improvement, he said. According to Hui, new government funding in education, health, culture and family planning will mainly be used in rural areas and more efforts are being made to improve compulsory education in rural areas and advance pilot projects for a new rural medical care system. China is endeavoring to build an assistance system for poor people in rural areas step by step, start minimum standard of living pilot projects for rural people in areas where conditions permit, and increase funds allocated for poverty reduction, he said. Hui said China had proposed the great mission of building a new socialist rural area in the 11th Five-Year Program of national economic and social development from 2006 to 2010. The Chinese government will continue to give priority to finding solutions for problems facing agriculture, rural areas and farmers, upholding the policy of coordinated development of urban and rural areas and enhancing the public funding coverage in rural areas. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz attended and addressed the opening ceremony of the symposium.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/19/2005

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China Issues First 'White Paper' on Democracy

China's government on Wednesday issued a lengthy justification of its commitment to autocratic rule by the Communist party entitled "The Building of Political Democracy," reports The Financial Times. The white paper said in the past 20 years China had dramatically improved its political system, strengthening protections for disadvantaged groups and improving administration. The document, China's first policy "white paper" on the subject, left no doubt that Beijing defines democracy very differently from western governments or domestic dissidents who think it should mean giving ordinary people a real role in choosing their leaders. "Democratic government is the Chinese Communist party governing on behalf of the people while upholding and perfecting the people's democratic dictatorship," the document said. "China's socialist political democracy has vivid Chinese characteristics," it said. The white paper made clear Beijing intends merely to tinker with its system of political control by promoting government by laws, combating administrative failings such as corruption, and pushing forward with elections for some local government officials. The South China Morning Post writes that the white paper stressed repeatedly that leadership by the Communist Party was a "historic choice" made by the Chinese people and was written into the constitution. It described "socialist political democracy" as "the apt choice suited to China's conditions and meeting the requirement of social progress." For the most part, the document trumpeted China's past achievements and made clear that the Communist Party's leadership was here to stay. Fang Ning, one of the document's drafters and a political scientist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that by accepting the Communist Party's leadership, China could focus its energy on economic development, maintain stability in policy formulation and ensure that the common interests of all Chinese people would be protected. The Irish Times notes that while the 74-page white paper contained few new insights into the plans of the Communist Party to maintain its grip on the country it has held since the 1949 revolution, the fact it has been published at all is significant. China has no direct elections and the Communist Party is really the only show in town. At the same time, the report was candid in underlining how the mechanism of supervising the use of power needed improvement. The report was characterized by a combination of Soviet-era Communist-speak and market-led jargon, concluding that socialist political democracy "was the apt choice suited to China's conditions and meeting the requirement of social progress." While some of the language was familiar, the report testifies to China's growing desire to present a reform-minded attitude to the outside world. The document was issued just one day after World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz urged China to give more power to the people to help sustain strong economic growth. He said China needed to do much more on issues such as the rule of law and the role of civil society. The Los Angeles Times reports that analysts said the white paper offered little evidence that the new leadership team of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao planned to make political reform a cornerstone of its administration. The lengthy document offers no timetable for meaningful elections and no mention of political checks and balances or making Communist Party officials subject to the rule of law. Rather, the analysts said, the document's timing and content suggested its primary aim was to counter foreign criticism and signal that people should not get their hopes up, that political reform would be gradual at best. Even as an English summary suggests that China can learn from Western democracies, the Chinese version adds that it is "absolutely impossible to blindly follow foreign regimes." Kyodo News finally adds that China's paper does not bill itself as a rebuttal, but it follows the themes of a 193-page 2005 Annual Report issued October 11 by the US Congressional-Executive Commission (created in 2002 with a legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the rule of law in China), which blasted China in for continuing tight Communist Party control over all key political institutions and policies, and refusing to allow meaningful citizen political participation above the lower levels of the political system.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 10/20/2005

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China to Conduct 3rd Sample Census

China will begin its third national sample census in early November, according to Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan on Wednesday. The census aims to make clearer China's population and the citizens' structure and qualities. It will measure age, gender, distribution, profession, income, housings condition, health condition, education, marital condition and employment. "The census will help us acquire the basic knowledge about the people in China and the change patterns of the country's population, which has been undergoing noticeable changes since the fifth National Census in 2000," Zeng said in Beijing on Wednesday. China has carried out five national censuses in the past 56 years since 1949. The Chinese government decided in the 1980s to punctuate thorough National Censuses with sample censuses, which sample one percent of the population. The upcoming one will begin nationwide at 12 AM on Nov. 1 and end early next year, Zeng said, adding that the public should cooperate with the census departments, which should keep the data secret. "The accelerating movement of the people in the country makes the upcoming census complicated," Zeng said.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/20/2005

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100 Finalists for the China Development Marketplace Announced

Last week the World Bank announced 100 finalists of the China Development Marketplace. The finalists have been selected out of 975 proposals received from civil society organizations all over China, through two rounds of careful assessments. The selected proposals came from 28 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions all over the country, covering a wide ranging of activities from growing and breeding activities, provision of clean water and biogas development in rural areas, skills training and other services provided to farmers and migrant workers, education and health services for rural poor population and urban vulnerable groups, assistance to various ethnic minority groups, to environmental protection and natural resources management. Most of the applicants are grassroots civil society organizations. The first round of assessment of the proposals, conducted by teams of assessors mostly from partner organizations outside the World Bank, was completed on September 25, resulting in a selection of about 215 proposals. The second round of assessment, started on September 30 and conducted by sector specialists mostly from the World Bank, chose the 100 finalists. The list of finalists is now available on the special website of the China Development Marketplace. The finalists will be required to provide full project proposals by mid-November. They will also be invited to Beijing to display their projects and be interviewed by a jury composed of donors on December 7-8. 40-50 winners will be selected by the jury and receive grants for implementation or scaling up of their projects at an award ceremony in the Great Hall of the People attended by representatives of the government, international development agencies, donors, media and civil society organizations on December 8. Progress has also been made on the fund raising front. In addition to the contribution of the World Bank, China Development Marketplace has received cash contributions or pledges from the Red Avenue Chemicals Co. Ltd, International Finance Corporation (the private sector arm of the World Bank Group), Asia Development Bank, Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, Canadian International Development Agency, AusAid, Norwegian Embassy, Ford Foundation and Lehman and Li. Hogan & Hartson has provided in-kind contribution. The bigger donor so far is the Red Avenue Chemicals Co. Ltd., a Shanghai based company specialized in the sale of rubber processing agents, which has contributed RMB800, 000. "We like to work with the World Bank and do more for the needed," said Ms. Zhang Ning, President of the company. On his recent visit to China, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz emphasized the role of civil society in development: "if you look at successful development in the world, you'll see that it's not only a strong private sector, but a strong civil society that contributes to development." "So the World Bank is working with civil society groups to strengthen their ability to contribute to the country's development, and we're working with the government to provide a better environment for civil society to grow," he said. David Dollar, World Bank Country Director for China said," there is tremendous energy at the grassroots level in China. Often these community organizations know best how to address poverty and environmental problems. Development Marketplace aims to support their good ideas and good work." China Development Marketplace is an initiative of the World Bank aiming to identify and support innovative bottom-up development ideas that deliver results, which can then be expanded or replicated in the country.


From China.org.cn 10/25/2005

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China Urged to Build National Emergency Aid Network

A Chinese expert on emergency medicine said in Beijing on Monday that China was urged to build a national emergency aid network for natural disasters to guide and coordinate various departments in rescue operations. Peng Bibo, chief medical officer of the Chinese International Rescue Team (CIRT), has just finished rescuing tasks in Pakistan's quake-hit area last week. He told Xinhua that China's health, earthquake, agriculture, fire fighting and water resources departments should be integrated into the network so as to cope with natural disasters. All these departments are closely connected when emergency occurred. Peng said China was urged to build a headquarters coordinating all related departments. Such a headquarter should be given a higher administrative title to enable it to supervise others. He said the current emergency response offices in both the central and local governments were on alert only when facing disasters. The temporary coordination in disasters by these offices proved to be unfruitful due to inefficient communication. Peng also said it was highly important to teach the public how to conduct rescues by themselves. The public should be given more training courses on first aid.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/25/2005

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ADB Plans $4.5 Billion in Loans for PRC in 2006-2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) plans loan assistance totaling about $4.5 billion for the People's Republic of China (PRC) over the three years 2006-2008, according to a Country Strategy and Program Update endorsed by ADB's Board of Directors. The thrust of ADB's operations in the PRC is to help reduce poverty by promoting pro-poor equitable and inclusive growth. In the three-year period, ADB will continue to focus on reducing the inequality between the coastal and interior provinces and the income gap between urban and rural populations. About 85% of the projects will be located in the relatively deprived central and western provinces of the country. Planned projects will support road and railway infrastructure to underdeveloped consumer markets, strengthen agriculture development, provide electricity to rural areas, and support integrated water resource management to minimize damage from droughts and floods in poor provinces. The projects will draw on knowledge-based products that can promote growth that benefits the poor, including rural water management reform, agriculture taxation, town-based urbanization, distance learning in poor areas, HIV/AIDS protection on road projects, and financing compulsory education. The PRC has made remarkable progress in poverty alleviation, reducing the number of rural poor (using the official poverty line) from about 250 million in 1978 to 26 million in 2004. There has also been progress on several non-income aspects of poverty, with the PRC poised to achieve the Millennium Development Goals pertaining to maternal health and primary education. "ADB is committed to continue our partnership with the PRC to sharpen the fight against poverty to ensure that the country's progress on alleviating poverty can be sustained. More targeted and innovative approaches are needed to achieve the MDGs and to help remote and disadvantaged communities and the large population on the brink of poverty," says Toru Shibuichi, ADB Country Director for the PRC. "ADB's proposed projects will target the provinces that contain more than 80% of the country's poor. We will continue to focus on poverty-related policy work in such areas as social protection, strengthening the role of nongovernment organizations, and cooperating with other development partners." Recognizing the strong correlation between poverty and the environment, the Government has asked for ADB's continual support in protecting and improving the environment. The 2006-2008 program will therefore include soil and water resource management, urban environmental improvement, and clean energy and energy conservation development. ADB also strongly supports the Government's fight against corruption and its efforts to strengthen governance. ADB will continue to provide training to government officials on how to detect fraud and corruption, while nonlending assistance will include helping the Government to strengthen its project inspection system. ADB will continue to discuss strengthening trade and transport coordination with the Government and includes projects related to regional cooperation in the Greater Mekong subregion and Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation in the program. ADB is also working with the PRC to support regional cooperation on combating dust and sandstorms in Northeast Asia. The lending program will be complemented by grants amounting to about $11 million annually over the three-year period. They will focus on operational support and policy-related and knowledge-based products. Operational support will include work on transport, energy, land management, water supply and wastewater treatment, urban development, education and health, and environment. Policy and knowledge-based products will cover support for policy reform and deepening the impact of ADB lending projects, financial sector reform, law and development, fiscal reform, and support for education and health. CSPs define ADB's medium-term development strategy as agreed with the country. A CSP update is usually prepared every year taking into account the continued relevance of the CSP, its implementation, and ADB's operational program.


From http://www.adb.org/ 10/26/2005

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Efforts Made to Reduce Pollution in Shanghai

The city of Shanghai and Shell International Gas International Ltd will cooperate to develop clean energy and reduce air pollution by 2010 for the World Expo. Officials yesterday signed a cooperation agreement with Shell International Gas, forming a partnership to get rid of emission-caused air pollution. The agreement, which does not include concrete investments from both parties, cites areas of cooperation such as joint studies on clean alternative fuels and cost-effective ways to reduce emissions, particularly for the city's 40,000-plus cabs and 18,000 buses. Currently, the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission and Shell are collaborating with local Tongji University and Jiao Tong University on trials of clean Gas to Liquids technology. "Shanghai is one of the most progressive cities and is setting an example in clean energy development," Jack Jacometti, Shell's vice president of Global GTL Development, said. GTL is considered as a promising fuel since it is convenient for transport and safe. Normally, natural gas fuel must be compressed into special bottles under very high pressure, causing potential risks during transport. It is also much more environmentally friendly than normal natural gas because it is purified. Air pollution is mainly caused by emissions from the coal-dominated energy structure. Chinese and international energy experts will discuss sustainable development of local public transport through 2030.


From Shanghai Daily 10/26/2005

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WTO Process Initiated to Probe China`s Piracy Crackdown

Washington (ANTARA News) - Japan, Switzerland and the United States have initiated a special process under the World Trade Organization to obtain information on China`s intellectual property enforcement efforts, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman said Wednesday. The United States has sent a written request for information to China under WTO rules, and Japan and Switzerland have joined in submitting similar requests, Portman said in a statement. Washington expects a response from China by Jan. 23. The move is aimed at increasing pressure on Beijing by taking the case to the WTO for multilateral negotiations. Washington has been working to improve the piracy situation in China through bilateral negotiations. "We will utilize all tools at our disposal to ensure that U.S. intellectual property rights are protected," Portman said, noting that piracy and counterfeiting remain "rampant" in China despite years of bilateral talks on the issue. "If China believes that it is doing enough to protect intellectual property, then it should view this process as a chance to prove its case," Portman said. "Our goal is to get detailed information that will help pinpoint exactly where the enforcement system is breaking down so we can decide appropriate next steps," he said. The U.S. request calls for the clarification of various cases of intellectual property right enforcement that China has made between 2001 and 2004.


From http://www.antara.co.id/ 10/27/2005

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JAPAN: Government Eyes Unified Education

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry is considering establishing public schools that teach students under a system combining primary and middle school curriculums, sources said Tuesday. The new system has been proposed because some people argue that the current scheme, in which children receive education separately in six-year primary schools and three-year middle schools, has failed to respond sufficiently to students' physical and mental development, according to the sources. The unified nine-year scheme would enable public schools to introduce a system under which different teachers teach different subjects to primary school students in higher grades as well as provide children with noncurricular guidance continuously. In its draft report submitted to a ministry subcommittee Tuesday afternoon, the Central Council for Education cited the desirability of studying the creation of a nine-year system. The ministry therefore will ask the council to discuss the issue further, the sources said. The so-called six-three system was introduced in the educational reforms carried out after World War II. Since then, the system has served as the foundation of the nation's compulsory education. But the effectiveness of the six-three system has been called into question. Nowadays, children appear to develop rapidly physically and mentally when they are in the higher grades of primary schools. Also, from the viewpoint of children's learning, the division of primary and middle schools has become an issue. The envisaged nine-year system would allow primary and middle school students to learn in the same school compounds, the sources said. Under the system, teachers would be able to give students appropriate guidance and discipline according to their stage of development, they added. In addition, the proposed introduction of a system that would allow teachers to take charge of different subjects would enable teachers to offer students more specialized academic instruction. Currently, homeroom teachers teach most subjects at public primary schools. The ministry, however, plans to leave it up to each local government to decide whether to introduce the new system, the sources said. If the ministry officially decides on the establishment of the system, it likely would seek to revise the School Education Law and other relevant legislation. The ministry also has pointed to another advantage of the envisaged system. "We expect it to produce side benefits because the integration of schools is likely to be required with the declining birthrate," a senior ministry official said. According to the results of a ministry survey conducted in the spring, 30.6 percent of students' guardians supported the nine-year unified system, while 18.9 percent opposed it. But in the survey, the largest number of respondents, 39.5 percent, said they could not decide which was better. (by Kosuke Tomidokoro)


From Yomiuri Shimbun 10/19/2005

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NPO Attempts to Educate Public About Terrorism

A nonprofit organization that brings together former Defense Agency officials, academics and doctors is working to educate the public about potential terrorist attacks using nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological materials. The group, NBCR Taisaku Suishin Kiko, was established in May and is led by Tadao Inoue, who used to head the Chemical School of the Ground Self-Defense Force. The school conducts research on developing countermeasures against chemical agents and other dangerous materials. "It is essential that the government and citizens work together in the event of a major terrorist attack," Inoue said. "We want to become a bridge between the two, utilizing our knowledge." The group held a seminar and symposium late last month for company employees and plans to sponsor similar events for the public. Speakers at the symposium in Tokyo included researchers involved in nuclear power and infectious diseases, in addition to officials in charge of disaster prevention at the local level. One person expressed concern about the lack of a system in Japan to handle suspicious items found on bullet trains. Another pointed out that the government doesn't have a system to prioritize vaccination of high-risk individuals in the event of a smallpox attack.


From The Japan Times 10/27/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: National Competitiveness Surges

Korea ranked 17th in the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2005, up 12 notches from last year, out of 117 countries under review, according to WEF's annual report released Wednesday (Sept. 28). It is the second time Korea was ranked among the top 20 on the WEF report, which serves as a valuable tool for shaping economic policy and guiding investment decisions. Korea was 18th in 2003 but saw its standing plummet by 11 notches to 29 last year. The report shows that Finland topped the list for the last three consecutive years, followed by the United States, Sweden, Denmark and Taiwan in that order. Singapore came in 6th, Iceland 7th, Switzerland 8th, Norway 9th, Australia 10th, the Netherlands 11th, Japan 12th, Britain 13th, Canada 14th, Germany 15th and New Zealand 16th. Among Asian economies, Taiwan, placing 5th, was evaluated as the best, though slipped a level from the previous year, and Singapore immediately followed at 6th, improving a cut from 2004. Japan and Hong Kong saw a setback of three and seven notches, respectively, to 12th and 28th, but Malaysia surged to 24th from 31st. China ranked 49th, followed by India and Thailand, which marked 36th. The annual report is produced in collaboration with leading academics worldwide and 122 Partner Institutes.


From http://www.korea.net/ 09/29/2005

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Online Document Forgers Face Heavy Punishment

Citizens have civil documents issued at the Chongno ward office, central Seoul, Wednesday. The government has decided to stop issuing civil documents through its online public service, following growing concerns about forgery. Forgers of civil documents who use online public services to commit their crimes will face severe punishment, as the government has pledged to root out the practice. The move came after online services for issuing civil documents, including resident registration, were suspended amid growing concerns about forgery. The Government Information Agency said Wednesday that the government has decided to create a task force next month to draw up measures against document fabrication. It said the task force will be run by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the National Tax Service, the Supreme Court and other related government agencies. The decision was made during a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan. The government has also decided to set up an administrative information sharing system by 2007 to monitor possible forgeries of civil documents. ``We will make every effort to confirm that Internet issuance services will resume by late October,** an official said. Boosted by a broadband network, Korea launched in 2003 the G4C, or the government for citizens system, under which civil documents are available online. The system was designed to make public service procedures simple and convenient as part of the e-government project. However, Rep. Kwon Oh-eul of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) raised concerns about sloppy cyber security during a National Assembly inspection last Friday. He admitted that the services are vulnerable to crimes and that the online documents can be easily fabricated. ``Documents can be forged before printout when they are transmitted to personal computers right after being approved on the Web site of the ministry, rather than being falsified in the printed documents,** Kwon said. In the wake of the claim, the government has suspended the online services of about 21 kinds of administrative documents, including certificates of resident registration and tax payment. The Supreme Court has also temporarily shut down online services for the issuance of property and business registration documents since Tuesday. (by Moon Gwang-lip)


From The Korea Times 09/28/2005

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Roh Calls for Launch of Social Conference for National Unity

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun proposed Wednesday that the country's political, economic, labor and religious circles and nongovernmental organizations convene to produce an agreement on ending political regionalism and address economic and social woes. In a speech at the National Assembly for the presentation of the government's budget for 2006, which amounts to 221 trillion won (US$211.9 billion), Roh hoped that the "joint conference for grand national unity" will help produce "a grand compromise on major social issues and conflicts that cannot be resolved by the efforts of the government alone." The president sought active support and participation by people from all walks of life to launch the conference, which he described as "the framework handling the economic and social agendas of the country." The proposal comes after the major opposition Grand National Party (GNP) dismissed the president's offer to form a coalition with it and accused him of using the coalition idea as a ploy to draw attention away from the government's poor economic performance and other affairs. Recent public opinion polls have put the popularity ratings for Roh and his Uri Party at around 20 percent. Roh has said that he will relinquish all of his powers and even cut short his term if the GNP accepts the coalition proposal to help put an end to the chronic political regionalism that has dominated the country's political landscape for the past decades. Cho Ki-suk, senior presidential secretary for public information, said Tuesday the the president will no longer raise the issue of forming a coalition with the GNP, although he will "continue agonizing over ways to end decades-old political regionalism and change the political culture under which we deal with major state affairs." Roh was also quoted by Cho as highly evaluating the German grand coalition between outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's liberal Social Democrats and Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union as an "example of showing the level of European politics." In the speech, read by Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, Roh said, "Now is the time for us to begin a new era of national unity by terminating the history of conflicts and division," fearing continued division and conflict will prevent the country from sustained development to become an advanced nation soon. Roh cited widening economic polarization, rising labor strife and revision of the national pension system as some of the urgent tasks facing the country. "I understand that Sweden signed a social agreement in the past to overcome social conflicts and materialized long-term economic development and social stabilization," Roh said. "I also know the examples of the Netherlands, Germany and many other countries that paved the way toward becoming developed nations through social agreements." He repeated his call for political parties to revise the current parliamentary election system, which he described as "fostering regionalism and national division." "We need to agonize over the election system so we can establish an effective political system for national unity," he said. Roh reportedly intends to revise the Constitution to introduce a parliamentary Cabinet or a two-tier government as a means of addressing regionalism. GNP Chairperson Park Geun-hye, however, said she thought the presidential government is the most suitable one for South Korea. Unification Minister Chung Dong-young and Health and Welfare Minister Kim Geun-tae, two of the strongest candidates for the next presidency under the ruling party banner, have also said they prefer a constitutional change for the introduction of a four-year presidency with reelection possible for another four-year term. Under the Constitution set up in 1987 amid pro-democracy movements at the end of decades of authoritarian rule, Roh is not allowed to run again after his single five-year term ends in early 2008. On reform of the national pension system, Roh urged the political community to form a special committee soon to come up with its revision, saying, "We need to make a political determination before it is too late, because the accelerating aging society makes it impossible for us to sustain the pension system if we continue to maintain the current structure." Roh said the government will focus on easing economic polarization and reinforcing the means for future economic development in implementing the budget for 2006. The president said he will put a priority on revitalizing the economy next year by increasing spending in the public sector, attracting private funds for various investment projects and pursuing further deregulation. "We will also pursue reform of the complicated corporate tax and other taxation and improve corporate governance in consideration of market conditions," he said. Roh urged the Assembly to ratify the agreement the Seoul government has signed with other countries for wider opening of South Korea's rice market, fearing any further delay in its ratification will undermine the country's credibility. He also sought support from the parties for the 5.1 trillion won supplementary budget for fiscal year 2005, saying, "We expect tax revenue this year will be greatly reduced as a result of the falling foreign currency exchange rate and continued slump in domestic consumption." (by Hwang Doo-hyong)


From http://english.yna.co.kr/ 10/12/2005

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Economic Education: Textbooks Should Not Be Capitalism-hating Spew

A recent public-private sector survey has found the economic textbooks for elementary and secondary education to be outdated, erroneous and politically biased. Schoolteachers themselves acknowledge that the nation's economics education leaves much to be desired in both quantity and quality. This is simply problematic, considering that sound and correct financial sense is the basis for individual and national wealth. According to the report, some 114 economic texts now used at primary, middle and high schools require 446 corrections. It would be easy to rectify old data, simple factual errors and inaccurate definitions of basic terminology. For instance, the schoolbooks mainly used economic indicators from the 1990s, quoted now-defunct organizations and in one instance confused national income with per capita gross national income. More difficult and controversial to change, however, are largely subjective descriptions of capitalism and market economy. One textbook described the act of dining out as ``family selfishness,'' which neglects the plight of others. Has Puritanism been restored in 21st-century Korea? Another ascribed overcharging at beaches during the summer to ``lacking in civic consciousness'' rather than explaining it in terms of supply and demand. This may well fit for ethics book, but has no place in an economic text. In more ideologically charged parts of these books, authors defined the market system as an inhumane mechanism where money votes, while adding that individuals cannot escape from poverty no matter how hard they try in a capitalist society. These accounts, while not entirely wrong, reveal an excessive hostility toward capitalism. True, capitalism has elements of winner-takes-all cruelty, and all the more so in Anglo-American neo-liberalism. It is also necessary to point out, without bias, both the advantages and disadvantages of the market economy, as well as the distorted distribution of wealth in an era of rapid development and social unrest in Korea. However, these are insufficient reasons in and of themselves for rejecting capitalism altogether, the very basis of our economic foundation. Any system has merits and demerits. We have only to maximize the former while minimizing the latter. The authors of economic texts need to be politically neutral to show contrasting aspects of capitalism, the market and corporations. In more practical terms, the government should try harder to eliminate the financial illiteracy of young students, for their ignorance is largely to blame for the thousands of teenage credit delinquents. Good habits on consumption and savings are formed from childhood. Sound economic common sense is necessary not just for starting a business, but also for day-to-day good judgment. It is hard to imagine Korea becoming a wealthy, advanced country as long as the public remains economically ignorant.


From The Korea Times 10/18/2005

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One-Fifth of Korea's Businesses Owned by Women

More than one-fifth of business owners in Korea are now women, suggesting that Korea's traditionally male-dominated business environment is changing. According to the National Statistical Office, the number of female employers reached over 350,000 as of September, or 20 percent of all employers and up 8 percent from a year ago. The number has been steadily on the rise since 2000. Women employers were found to be especially strong in technical and administrative fields, accounting for 35 percent in those areas. The NSO attributes the growing number of female bosses to an increase in women's economic activity and expects the upward trend to continue due to the country's low birth rate and aging population. The number of male business owners on the other hand dropped almost 2 percent from 2004 to 1.3 million.


From Arirang News 10/18/2005

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Corruption in Korea Improves Slightly

Korea ranked the 40th most transparent nation among 159 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index. This is up seven notches from last year, marking the biggest advancement among countries in Asia. On a scale of 10 to 0 with 10 indicating the cleanest and 0 most corrupt, Korea scored a five. The Berlin-based corruption watchdog attributed the major stride to the Korean government's anti-corruption drive. At the top of the ratings list, Iceland came first with a score of 9.7 while Finland, last year's leader, and New Zealand followed closely behind. More than two-thirds of the countries surveyed scored under five, indicating serious levels of corruption around the world.


From Arirang News 10/19/2005

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Female Workers' Ratio Hits Record High in September

The number of female workers is nearly 10 million and their percentage of the workforce reached a record-high of 42.1 percent in September, showcasing their increasing role. The National Statistical Office (NSO) said that the number of female workers stood at 9.7 million, up 1.5 percent from a year ago. The number of male workers reached 13.3 million, up 0.7 percent from a year earlier. Overall employment grew 1 percent from the previous year to 23 million. ※Female workers are actively participating in the economy. This shows that the nation is shifting from its traditional Confucian and male-dominated workforce,§ a NSO official said. At the same time, the number of female workers accounted for more than half of the 15-29 working age bracket. They attributed the increase in women's economic activities to higher education, a low birth rate and change in public perception of female employees. Out of 4.3 million workers in the 19-29 age bracket, 2.3 million, or 53.3 percent, were females, showing a steady increase since 2001, when the number of women workers exceeded that of men for the first time. About 1.6 million women engaged in economic activities have at least a university-level degree, up 7.1 percent from a year ago and 57.7 percent from five years ago. The number of women in politics or management-level posts also increased nearly 90 percent in the last five years. About 49,000 workers in these positions were women in September, a 22.5-percent increase from a year ago and an 89-percent rise from five years ago. In the January-August period, a monthly average of 842,000 women had such professional jobs as doctors, lawyers, scientists and journalists, which represents 46.3 percent of the nation's total professionals. The number of female employers rose 8 percent year-on-year to 353,000 in September while that of male workers fell 1.7 percent to 137,400, the NSO said.


From http://www.korea.net/ 10/24/2005

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S Korea Economic Growth Fastest in Nearly Two Years

South Korea*s economy grew faster than expected in the third quarter and at its fastest pace in nearly two years, boosted by recovering exports and domestic demand, data showed on Tuesday. Analysts said the data raised the prospects the central bank might have to be more aggressive with monetary policy. It raised interest rates this month for the first time in more than three years, but indicated there would no further rises this year. ※The data will surely make people think that the chances have risen for a second interest rate hike taking place within this year,§ said Oh Suk-tae, an economist at Citibank. ※But the weak construction sector may make the central bank hesitate before delivering another hike in interest rates because the industry is very sensitive to interest rate levels.§ Gross domestic product rose a seasonally adjusted 1.8 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30, central bank data showed, the fastest pace since a 2.8 percent rise in the fourth quarter of 2003. The rise in GDP compared with a median 1.6 percent increase forecast in a Reuters poll and follows growth of 1.2 percent in the second quarter and 0.4 percent in the first. From a year earlier, Asia*s fourth-largest economy expande 4.4 percent, above expectations for a 4.3 percent increase, and outpacing a 3.3 percent gain in the second quarter. The country*s economic growth has been built largely on exports since a credit card bubble burst in 2002 to leave households under a mountain of debt. But signs that domestic demand was picking up prompted the central bank to raise its overnight call rate target to 3.50 percent from a record low 3.25 percent on Oct. 11 to head off future inflation. The GDP data showed private consumption, which accounts for just over a half of the economy, expanded a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent in the July-September period, the fifth consecutive quarter of growth. The export-led manufacturing sector grew a seasonally adjusted 3.1 percent in the third quarter thanks to a 7.6 percent rise in shipments, both marking their fastest growth since the fourth quarter of 2003. In raising interest rates, Bank of Korea Governor Park Seung said borrowing costs would stay low enough to support economic growth at least through 2006, adding inflation might not emerge as an immediate threat. He also reiterated the central bank*s forecast that economic growth would slow to 3.8 percent this year from 4.6 percent in 2004, but said growth would accelerate to 5.0 percent in 2006.


From http://news.ft.com/ 10/25/2005

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Internet Banking Overtakes Tellers

Bank customers relied more on the Internet than on tellers for their financial transactions in the third quarter as online banking offers faster and more convenient services at lower rates. The Bank of Korea (BOK) said that 30.9 percent of retail banking transactions were done over the Internet in the third quarter, while tellers at branches handled 29.8 percent of transactions. On average, the number of transactions processed on the Internet was 11.27 million a day in the third quarter, up 8.2 percent from the previous quarter. It is the first time that the number of Internet banking users surpassed that of bank users since the service debuted in July 1999. The BOK said the number of customers who registered for Internet banking services was 25.43 million as of the end of September, up 11 percent from 22.9 million at the end of June. ``This means more than 30 percent of bank customers use the Internet for banking,** said Kim Sung-mook, an official of the BOK*s e-banking service team. The number of Internet banking users has risen sharply, surpassing that of phone banking users in September 2002 and that of automatic telling machines last December. In the third quarter, 27.6 percent of transactions were made by electronic tellers with 11.7 percent by phone banking. In particular, people using mobiles phones to bank have increased sharply. About 306,000 transactions were made using mobile phones per day in the third quarter, up 18.8 percent from the previous quarter. The BOK*S report comes amid mounting concerns of identity theft in online transactions. The government plans to adopt a strengthened personal identity authentication system for Internet banking called the one-time password (OTP) system. Along with OTP, it looks to build and distribute new anti-hacking software with stronger security this year. (by Na Jeong-ju)


From The Korea Times 10/26/2005

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INDONESIA: Relocation, Tender of 3G Key to Industry

State revenue from the telecommunications industry will increase once the government expedites the relocation of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators currently operating on third generation (3G) frequencies, an industry executive says. Apart from the relocation, the acceleration of the tender process for the 3G bandwidth frequencies is also urgent for the industry, said Jim Glinski, the president director of telecom equipment provider PT Alcatel Indonesia. Describing the telecommunications industry in Indonesia as one of the world's most deregulated, he said many telecommunications providers and operators were waiting for the relocation and the bidding to expand their business activities here. "I think if the allocations and the issuance of licenses was done faster, this would of course help the development of the business," Glinski told The Jakarta Post last week. Although some companies are still conducting trial operations of the 3G system, not yet for commercial purposes, business will be booming in the coming years after the government has decided the winners of the tender, Glinski predicted. The Alcatel executive, who has been located at the company's headquarters in Paris since 1997, said there was still huge growth potential for the GSM-standard generation and the 2.5G or the GPRS technology, although the 3G was much more advanced. "I heard hundreds of thousands of 3G phones were sold in Indonesia without the 3G service, because people buy it as some kind of status symbol," he said. The Ministry of Information and Communications has ordered all CDMA operators -- including Flexi and Indosat's StarOne -- which have a bandwidth of between 1,920 HMz and 1,990 Mhx to cease using their frequencies as the frequencies will be allocated to operators with the introduction of 3G technology to the country. In the meantime, after several delays, the government is scheduled to open in November bidding for the frequencies and licenses for 3G bandwith. The cash-trapped government expects about Rp 5 trillion (US$500 million) in revenue from the provision of frequencies and licenses. The government has already granted 3G licenses to two companies though they are still not operational. Meanwhile, when asked about problems his company is facing in doing business in Indonesia, the Polish-born executive replied: "Frankly speaking there are no big problems. Those we do have are more general problems -- but this is something that we share together with others."


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

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ICT Industry Objects to Proposed Bandwidth Tax

Internet and cellular telecommunication users could expect to pay higher rates if the government goes ahead with a plan to tax the utilization of bandwidth. The plan is contained in a new draft of the tax law currently at the House of Representatives, and has lead to industry complaints that it would have to pay a double tax of up to 30 percent, having already been subjected to a 10 percent value added tax (VAT). "Businesses will likely pass the new burden on to consumers," said Internet Service Provider Association (APJII) representative Sylvia W. Sumarlin recently. Claiming an increase in fees would hamper the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry, several associations have objected to the plan. "With the new burden, ICT development would be slower. Last year, the industry grew by 20 percent in terms of number of businesses and the ICT penetration ratio," said Infocom Society tax working group head Rudi Rusdiah. Currently, Indonesia has a low ICT penetration ratio of 2 percent, meaning that only 4.4 million of 220 million Indonesians have access to internet services. Most other countries in the Asian region have reached at least 5 percent penetration. "The use of bandwidth should not be taxed like a royalty, as it only provides the connection access for internet users and is not a technology," said Sylvia. In the new draft of the tax law, the government plans to tax income derived from the transfer of data using satellites, optical cables and fiber optics. The data is transferred through bandwidth, a term the ICT industry uses to define a range within a band of wavelengths, frequencies or energies. This is a measure of how many megabytes of digital data can be channeled. Currently, information and telecommunications technology depends on satellites for the transfer of data. APJII, along with other related industry associations, said ICT companies were already paying a value added tax on the bandwidth they used. "Taxing the use of bandwidth is just like imposing a tax on the use of satellites that are not even the government's," Sylvia said. Separately, the director general of post and telecommunications at the Ministry of Communications and Information, Basuki Yusuf Iskandar, said his office had not been consulted when those sections of the new tax law that affect the ICT industry were being drafted. "I cannot comment on the effect (the law) would have, but as far as I know my office was never formally or informally consulted on the matter," he said. The draft was drawn up mainly by the Ministry of Finance.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/27/2005

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PHILIPPINES: Businessmen Urge Govt to Get Back to Work

AMID heightened politicking, businessmen are urging the Philippine government to get back to work and resolve more than a dozen priority issues to spur economic growth. In a resolution it passed during the 31st Philippine Business Conference, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) on Wednesday laid down its wish list of 13 priority areas that require urgent government action. These areas include fiscal reform, tourism, energy reform, revenue collection, infrastructure development, agriculture and food security, small and medium enterprise (SME) development, economic zone establishment, trade negotiations, business partnerships, business center creation, population and environmental management. With the implementation of the expanded value-added tax, the PCCI recommended the removal of the 70-percent cap on the amount of input VAT credit and the amortization of input VAT on capital goods. The group also urged the government to defer the VAT on petroleum and power given the current global energy crisis. Businessmen are also urging President Arroyo to press Congress on amending the Electric Power Industry Reform Act at the earliest time possible, and carry out its enforceable provisions. The government must tie up with the private sector for sustainable energy conservation and productivity program, they said. To address energy concerns specifically in Mindanao, the government should immediately review the grid program in Southern Mindanao, the PCCI said. In the area of revenue collection, the group urged the Bureau of Customs to strictly enforce its guidelines, encourage regular trade flow patterns and shipment data, and simplify the transaction process. To make SMEs globally competitive, technology must be enhanced and better production practices adopted, with the help of the Department of Science and Technology, the PCCI said. In its proposed strategy for special economic zone development, the group urged th3e passage of a bill that would offer duty-free incentives to Subic, Clark and other economic zones. The government must also honor existing contracts with investors and locators, the PCCI said. Strategies for achieving food security include developing the supply chain and expanding irrigation facilities to sustain crop production. To make trade negotiations successful and to protect the country*s local industries, the PCCI recommended the participation of the private sector in international trade talks.


Adapted from http://www.manilatimes.net 10/13/2005

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Philippine Economic Takeoff Elusive Until Next Year

THE Philippine government is unlikely to meet its economic growth target for this year and next if reforms stall, investment remains weak and the political uncertainty continues, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned Thursday. In a report released Thursday, the IMF said the Philippine economy will likely grow 4.75 percent for this year and next, owing to delayed fiscal reforms and weak investments. The Development Budget and Coordination Committee earlier revised the country*s economic growth targets to 5.3 percent this year and to a range of between 5.7 percent and 6.3 percent next year owing to higher oil prices and the expected global slowdown in electronics demand. Under the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, the government expects the economy to grow within higher ranges of 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent this year, and 6.3 percent to 7.3 percent next year. The IMF noted that soaring oil prices are a threat to the Philippine outlook particularly if they serve to soften demand for the country*s exports. The Philippines has already secured its foreign commercial borrowing requirement for this year, but needs to borrow $4 billion abroad next year. Faced with rising oil prices, central banks worldwide have been raising their interest rates to keep a check on inflation. For its part, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas raised its key policy rates twice this year. The latest monetary tightening in September increased the central bank*s overnight borrowing and lending rates to 7.25 percent and 9.5 percent. These rate hikes were on top of a decision in July to increase the amount of nonearning reserves that banks have to park with the BSP〞a de facto tightening of money supply. In raising its lending rates, the BSP cited the impact of rising oil prices on people*s expectations of higher inflation in the future, and the narrowing differential between Philippine and US interest rates. A narrowing differential would encourage capital flight, as foreign investors seek higher returns elsewhere. The capital flight in turn would pull down the peso vis-角-vis the dollar, and lead to higher inflation. In its report, the IMF expressed concern that interest rate differentials were narrowing at a time when the Philippines* risk premium may have risen due to political uncertainties. The Development Budget and Coordinating Committee earlier raised its inflation forecast for this year to a range of between 8 percent and 8.5 percent owing to higher oil prices and the implementation of the expanded VAT law.


Adapted from http://www.manilatimes.net 10/14/2005

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SINGAPORE: IDA to Reinvest Revenues From 3G Licences into Wireless Industry

With more than a 98 percent penetration rate for mobile phones in Singapore, telcos are still finding that it's slow when it comes to 3G subscriptions. The Infocomm Development Authority estimates there are about 47,700 3G users, or just one percent of the more than 4.16 million of mobile phone users in Singapore. Is there still a future for 3G? Since the telcos launched their 3G services earlier this year, the take up rate for subscriptions has been less than enthusiastic. And it appears the telcos will have an uphill climb to recoup the S$100 million they each spent on their 3G licences even though some argue that 3G services here are very competitively-priced. Erwin Chan, Deputy Director, Mobility Development, Infocomm Development Authority, said: "The fact of the matter is, 3G services in Singapore actually costs less than 2.5G. Consumers are fortunate to enjoy highly competitive 3G plans and offerings. It is 30 percent lower than GPRS rates, video rates are priced same as voice call rates, are among the cheapest in the world. Some operators are offering video streaming for free, others cost 30 cents to watch." To further help the telcos along, IDA will be reinvesting the revenues it collected from the 3G licences into the wireless industry. Erwin Chan said: "The first is the innovation development scheme, IDS helps companies develop innovative products and services. Another is the intellectual property enrichment scheme, helping companies customise existing solutions for a different market. "The pilot and trials hotspots or PATH scheme reduces the risk of deploying new unproven techs, and finally the marketing scheme provides assistance for activities to help companies reach their target audiences." Help from the regulators aside, industry watchers say the way to go for the 3G market will still be driven by the content and applications for 3G phones.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 10/13/2005

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Singpost Launches World's First 24-Hour Automated Post Office

SingPost plans to offer 24-hour automated post offices at all condominiums bringing its services closer to users. For a start, the first such post office, a world's first, is now available in a condominium in Jurong. Picking up their registered parcels or online grocery shopping will now be easier for the 4,000 residents living at Parc Oasis condominium. Lockers at a 24-hour Self-Service Automated Machine or SAM Plus will allow residents to retrieve their items from couriers at their convenience. They will be informed of the pickup through their mobile phone, and given a pin number to access the locker. Residents can also use the machine for other services like returning library books and paying bills. In the future, they can also book condominium facilities like tennis courts and barbeque pits via SAM Plus.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 10/15/2005

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THAILAND: PM Still Hopes to End Poverty in Three Years

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra still hopes to eradicate poverty from Thailand within three years by focusing on the anti-poverty caravan, village fund and fix-it centre schemes. He has also urged the private sector to hire youngsters to work part-time, and threatened to transfer officers who neglect to combat prostitution, drugs, soccer gambling and other vices.The prime minister made his comments during his weekly Prime Minister Thaksin Talks to the People radio programme aired from Narathiwat yesterday. He said he was determined to end poverty in Thailand in three years and asked Justice Minister Chidchai Wannasathit to take charge by dispatching anti-poverty caravans to villages nationwide.About eight billion baht was last week transferred to villages under the village fund scheme and more money will reach the rest by the end of the year. After that, 20,000 fix-it centres will open nationwide to repair household and farming tools at low prices, he said.Under the 20-billion-baht small, medium, large village fund scheme, a small village will receive 200,000 baht per year, a medium-sized one 250,000 baht and a large one 300,000 baht.The government project giving youngsters part-time jobs as expressway voucher sellers at congested tollgates was working, Mr Thaksin said. He said the children were proud to help ease traffic jams and save money to further their studies.He encouraged the private sector to hire students to work part-time on weekends and during school vacations. Mr Thaksin also announced his plan to declare Sundays as family day for Thais.He pledged to immediately transfer police and officials failing to combat the sex trade, child prostitution, drugs, soccer gambling, and the sale of liquor to underage children.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 10/09/2005

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122,000 New Jobs Being Created

The government will create 122,000 jobs for people in the far South this financial year, PM's Office Minister Newin Chidchob said yesterday. The first 42,000 jobs, many of them on royal farming projects, would be available from this month onward. Applications for these jobs could be made at district offices from Saturday. About 80,000 more jobs were being organised and were to be considered by the cabinet on Oct 18, Mr Newin said. He was speaking after talks on the special employment scheme for people in Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla provinces with their provincial governors, and chiefs of the National Security Council and the Provincial Administration Department at the Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command in Yala yesterday. The government is creating employment for people in the deep South as a way to ease the violence. Mr Newin said 38,000 jobless people had benefitted in the region over the last five months.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com 10/13/2005

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VIETNAM: State Funding Cut Off for Sluggish Projects

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has reported the Government will cancel this year*s reimbursement plan for slow infrastructure projects that are using Government bonds in a bid to tackle the sluggishness riddling this type of capital. The MoF said it was working with the ministries of planning and investment, transport, and agricultural and rural development to review and halt this year*s refund for slow projects. However, refunds may be reallocated to next year. Regarding works on the Ho Chi Minh road project, which is complete, the MoF has urged the Ministry of Transport to finish filing for payment. The MoF*s proposal is seen as a bold step to speed up the disbursement of government bonds, which has become a problem in the last year and is believed to cause State losses. According to the State Treasury, by the end of September 2005, disbursement had reached VND12 trillion (US$750 million), fulfilling only 69.2 per cent of the three-year 2003-2005 plan. Total disbursement for 2005 is expected to reach VND16 trillion ($1 billion), or 75 per cent of the three-year plan. These figures show that disbursement has been too slow, especially in 2005, while difficulties in investment procedures, site clearance, and tardy inspection have been cited as the biggest causes for delayed projects.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/14/2005

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World Bank to Fund Electric Development

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung welcomed the World Bank*s financial and technical support for Viet Nam*s electric power industry as he received World Bank director in Viet Nam Klaus Rohland yesterday. Dung told Rohland that developing sources of electricity and transmission systems was one of Viet Nam*s key and primary tasks over the next 5-10 years. In order to reach an economic growth of 7.5-8 per cent annually, the country would need 100 billion kWh of electricity by the year 2010, he said. While Viet Nam will concentrate on developing all forms of eletrical generation including hydropower, thermopower and coal-fired power generation, it has set three universal requirements for hydroeletric projects: generating effeciency; environmental considerations (such as the ability of hydroelectric projects to contribute to flood control and irrigation); and improving people*s lives. He urged the World Bank to co-ordinate with the Ministry of Industry and Eletricity of Viet Nam (EVN) to develop new plans for the nation*s power development. Rohland said he appreciated Viet Nam*s attention to the environment while developing its power sector, as well as its concern for the lives of residents displaced by hydroelectric projects. He added that the World Bank expected to help the country develop environmental criteria and resettlement schemes for its hydroelectric projects. The bank intended, he said, to finance new projects and continue to help Viet Nam develop its power transmission and distribution capacities.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 10/14/2005

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BANGLADESH: GrameenPhone Slashes Tariffs by Up to 60%

Bangladeshi private mobile operator GrameenPhone (GP) Limited says it is slashing its tariff plans by between 20% and 60%, effective from today, as it looks to hang on to its dominant position in the country*s mobile market. The move is in part a response to an influx of competition: in late March 2005, the market's fifth player, BTTB subsidiary Teletalk, launched full commercial services after rolling out 110 base stations. At launch, Teletalk said it was aiming for a quarter of a million subscribers, with a long term target of a million. The company also said its medium to long term target was to cover 55 of Bangladesh's 64 administrative districts with a total of 570 base stations, although an exact timescale was not announced. Although GP currently controls around 60% of all mobile subscribers in Bangladesh it is not being complacent. The planned price cuts will reduce its highest pre-paid tariff from BDT6/minute to BDT4.4/minute (for calls to other GP users), and down to BDT4.8/minute for cross-network calls. The tariff of its djuice brand has also been reduced and both existing and new subscribers can take advantage of a flat-rate tariff of BDT4.65/minute, down from BDT4.98/minute previously.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/06/2005

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Bangladesh to Award New GSM Licence

Bangladesh is planning to launch a tender for a new 15-year national GSM licence, open to overseas and local bidders. The existing five GSM and CDMA operators in the country 每 BTTB, GrameenPhone, CityCell, Banglalink and Aktel 每 have been barred from competing for the additional concession. The proposed new spectrum allocation will be in the 1710-1765MHz/1805-1860MHz band. Preference is to be given to bidders with experience of operating GSM networks in the following countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/11/2005

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BHUTAN: Good Progress on Bhutan*s Membership to WTO

Bhutanese officials who returned this week from Geneva after the second working party meeting on Bhutan*s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) were upbeat about the progress. ※The meeting went off very well,§ said the trade director, Sonam P Wangdi, who was part of the 14-member delegation to the WTO meeting led by the minister of trade and industry, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba. Sonam P Wangdi said that the meeting was well received and there was a lot of goodwill from the WTO working party members, but he maintained that they should be treated as initial reactions. The trade ministry pointed out that the chairman and members of the working party had commended Bhutan*s methodical and systematic approach in the negotiations. The meeting also agreed that work on the draft working party report, which forms the main platform for Bhutan*s accession to WTO, could begin. The ministry stated that this development was a significant achievement. It meant that Bhutan had reached a fairly advanced stage to being a member of WTO. During the meeting Bhutan submitted its memorandum of foreign trade regime. Bhutan also submitted its legislative action plans which were a time-based schedule of policy commitments for making Bhutan*s trading regime consistent with WTO agreements. Two such agreements were the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and General Agreement on Trade and Goods (GATT), which are framework agreements to liberalise trade in services and goods. One other agreement is the Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPS) which relates to exclusive right given to the creator over the use of his or her creation for a certain period of time.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ 10/13/2005

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INDIA: TRAI Warns of Worsening Mobile Congestion in India

The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today published a new study on the country*s mobile market suggesting that congestion on operators* wireless networks will further deteriorate in the coming months, with no immediate prospects for improvement. Although the meteoric growth of mobile services in India has been lauded thus far, the TRAI*s study concludes that it has led to congestion levels in many cities that is 20 times higher than those stipulated by predefined quality of service norms. And the situation is getting worse. In January this year there were 24 locations where congestion levels exceeded 10% (ie 20 times higher than the industry benchmark). By July this had ballooned to 86 areas affected by inordinately high bottlenecks. The TRAI blames the current situation on India*s inefficient interconnect system between private operators and state-backed Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, that has not kept pace with the dramatic rise in the country*s subscriber base.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/05/2005

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Government Says Telecoms Equipment Must Be &Made in India*

Telecommunications Minister Dayanidhi Maran has said that equipment manufacturers looking to participate in forthcoming infrastructure contracts from state-run carriers will have to manufacture locally if they want to take part. The announcement comes as state-controlled fixed line and mobile operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) prepares a USD3 billion-plus tender for 40 million GSM lines 每 India*s largest telecoms gear contract. With the world*s leading equipment vendors standing ready to fight for the contracts Mr Maran said that: &BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) boards have decided to make it mandatory for telecom equipment suppliers bidding for BSNL/MTNL tenders to manufacture equipment directly or through contract manufacturers in India so as to ensure the quality, timeliness of delivery and after sales service.*


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/07/2005

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India's GSM Customer Base Passes 50 Million

The Cellular Operators* Association of India (COAI) has reported an increase of 1.95 million GSM subscribers during September, taking the country*s total to 50.87 million. According to the COAI*s data, GSM market leader Bharti Tele-Ventures added 650,000 subscribers in the month to take its total to 14.07 million, or 27.65% of the market, whilst second placed BSNL*s subscribers grew by 4.44% to 11.90 million, representing a market share of 23.39%. Third ranked Hutchison ended the month with 9.71 million GSM users, followed by Idea, BPL and Aircel with subscriber bases of 5.95 million, 2.81 million and 2.09 million respectively.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/11/2005

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BSNL*s Monster GSM Order Grows to Over 60 Million Lines

Indian telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has doubled the size of a planned wireless network equipment order to at least 60 million new GSM connections, in what will be India*s largest ever telecoms tender. State-owned BSNL plans to invite bids for the USD4 billion mobile network expansion by the first week in December and to select winning suppliers by March 2006.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/24/2005

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SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's Wickremesinghe Wants to Speed Up Tsunami Rebuilding

Sri Lankan opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said he may seek an alternative to a tsunami aid accord with Tamil Tiger rebels to speed up reconstruction, if he is elected in next month's presidential election. Sri Lanka's Supreme Court in July blocked an accord signed by the government and Tamil rebels to jointly distribute $3 billion of aid pledged after the tsunami, which left almost 40,000 dead and half-a-million homeless. The decision added to tensions between the two sides, threatening a 2002 cease-fire accord that ended two decades of civil war. ``There needs to be a rapid mechanism to distribute aid to areas controlled by the rebels,'' Wickremesinghe said in an interview in Colombo yesterday. ``I hope that the court case will be over soon, so we can decide whether to go with the present arrangement, or go with an amended one.'' The Supreme Court decision has prompted the rebels to say they will try to seek aid directly from international agencies, outside of the structure set up in the accord signed with the government. The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland and say the Tamils, who make up less than a fifth of the island's 19 million population, are discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese. Wickremesinghe, who was prime minister when a cease-fire was negotiated, has said he wants peace with the separatists, though not on terms that threaten the nation's territorial integrity. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, who is also contesting the presidency, is backed by groups opposed to granting concessions to rebels. He has said he will scrap the accord to jointly distribute aid.


From http://www.bloomberg.com/ 10/14/2005

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ZTE to Deploy IP-Based CDMA Network in Sri Lanka

China*s second largest equipment manufacturer ZTE Corporation has been selected by Sri Lanka Telecom to deploy its ALL IP-based CDMA network in the country. The two firms signed a pact in Colombo under which the Chinese vendor will roll out 124 base stations in Sri Lanka, based on its ALL IP CDMA2000 solution, for the country*s largest fixed line operator. The network, which includes a soft switch-based ALL-IP 3G core network and a series of ALL-IP base stations, is due to be installed by January 2006 at which date it will accommodate 150,000 new connections, offering subscribers high speed internet access to voice mail, high data rate transfer services and location based services.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/18/2005

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MALDIVES: Wataniya Maldives Claims 10,198 Customers

Wataniya Maldives, which launched services at the beginning of August, has reported a total customer base of 10,198 at the end of September. Of the total, 7,131 were pre-paid and 3,067 post-paid. Kuwait-based Wataniya Telecom owns 100% of Wataniya Maldives.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/20/2005

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NEPAL: Nepal Telecom Awards ZTE GSM Contract

Chinese equipment provider ZTE is supplying Nepal Telecom with a range of value-added services technology platforms including HLR (Home Location Register), WIN (Wireless Intelligent Network), SMC (Short Message Centre), VMS (Voice Mail System) and CRBT (Colour Ring Bell Tone). The upgrades, due for completion by 18 December 2005, will enable Nepal Telecom to provide improved WIN, SMC and VMS services to its GSM subscribers across the country, and polyphonic ringtone services to all GSM users in the capital Katmandu.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/27/2005

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PAKISTAN: Satellite Centre Installed in Pakistan

In response to the Pakistan earthquake, aid charity Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) has installed a satellite centre near Muzaffarabad heliport, to help rescue teams evacuate injured people; similar satellites are expected to be set up in Balakot, Manshera and other affected villages, although main fixed line, mobile and internet connections have yet to be restored. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has temporarily allowed all telcos to provide services in Azad Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to aid communications in the affected areas, which were previously only served by government organisation the Special Communication Organisation (SCO).


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/17/2005

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World Bank Warns of Long-Term Repercussions of Earthquake Reconstruction

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank country director for Pakistan, John Wall on Thursday warned Islamabad of serious repercussions of October 8 earthquake, saying only appropriate measures could minimise the risks and ensure compensation to the rightful and deserving affectees. He was responding to queries at launching of web portal 'RISE' to assist relief efforts in earthquake-affected areas in the NWFP and Azad Jammu & Kashmir. John Wall said that rehabilitation of the victims and construction of damaged areas were uphill tasks that may take 4-5 years. The World Bank is a part of the consortium that launched the web portal. Other stakeholders included the government agencies involved in relief efforts, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and several civil society organisations. The web portal is meant to disseminate reliable and authentic information on earthquake damage and relief efforts. The WB official said that the situation arising out of major crisis such as earthquake or hurricanes create many problems such as encouraging the people to indulge in some serious crimes. "Grabbing of the land in damaged areas and wrong claims are some of these serious problems," he added. John Wall was of the view that delay in tackling the situation on ground could simply multiply the woes of the deserving and rightful people. He referred Iran, China and many other countries where influential took undue advantage of the situation and deprived the deserving from their land and property as well as share in compensation. John Wall recommended that Government of Pakistan should take appropriate measures to avoid the situation wherein deserving suffer at the hands of influential or those who are authorised for rehabilitation and reconstruction. He suggested house-to-house survey to establish the real ownership of damaged property and land. The web portal offers pre-earthquake information, showing village-level demographic and infrastructure data, major road networks and the distance of every village from the epicentre of the earthquake. Each of 4,000 villages is listed on a table of common headings, including everything from amount of aid received to the agencies working in the area. John Wall said "RISE" was truly a remarkable and spontaneous collaboration by a range of academics and development practitioners. He said, "The portal will be key to co-ordination among donors and relief agencies, and the WB will certainly use it extensively to plan the follow-up support for Pakistan.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 10/21/2005

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Cellcos Allowed to Operate in Kashmir

Pakistan*s government has licenced all mobile operators in the country to provide services in the northern region of Kashmir for two months, in a bid to provide better communications to those engaged in relief work following the 8 October earthquake. Under normal circumstances only state organisation the Special Communications Organisation (SCO) is allowed to operate in Kashmir.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ 10/26/2005

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World Bank Announces $470 Million Relief Package

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has announced a $470 million package to assist the government of Pakistan (GoP) in rehabilitation and reconstruction of earthquake devastated areas. The assistance will be available to the government in a week. The Bank country director for Pakistan, John Wall, announced the package at a press conference here on Wednesday. It includes $200 million credit from the International Development Agency (IDA), 100 million loan for reconstruction, $130 million additional credit financing for community infrastructure and $40 million for relief work. John Wall issued a statement of the Bank's president Wolfowitz to the press on the occasion. According to the statement, Wolfowitz said: "The scale of this disaster is really unimaginable, and the problems that the survivors are facing in worsening weather conditions are frightening." He said: "We are most encouraged by the resoluteness of the government's response and very eager to do what we can do to help it for rehabilitation and reconstruction work." The statement added that the amount of the package was a big step but sadly just the first step as everyone would have to do much more. It added that it was important to give the government confidence to address the immediate needs "and as we develop a better idea of the medium-term needs we will work on that as well". The statement said that the bank's president was extremely encouraged by the way in which the government and the people of Pakistan were approaching their very big development challenges when he visited the country in August last. He said to have the catastrophe piled on top was an enormous extra burden but added that he was confident that Pakistan would meet the challenge, and the bank was ready to do whatever it could do to help the government of Pakistan. It added that the World Bank also lent its support to an innovative web portal designed to share as much information as possible that can be gathered from the 4,000 villages in the affected areas (LINK). Responding to various queries John Wall said Pakistan's response to earthquake was highly impressive, but since the scale of devastation was very huge the government efforts to outreach all the affected areas might take some time. He said that Pakistani nation has shown great courage and come forward to help the affectees within few hours of the incident. John Wall said that he had no initial estimate of assistance that the multidonors could offer to Pakistan for rehabilitation and reconstruction work.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 10/27/2005

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IRAN: Parallel Bodies Impede ICT Development

Uncoordinated activities of parallel state organizations dealing with information and communication technology (ICT) affairs have led to the sector failing to develop properly, observed the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) manager for ICT affairs here on Sunday. Hossein Talebi told ISNA that the poor structures of ICT sector will seriously harm the national economy, calling for the merger of parallel ICT bodies to reinforce efforts to develop the key sector. He said that the bill to dissolve parallel state organizations in the ICT sector has not yet been implemented, adding that the High Council for Information Technology which was established by the ICT Ministry is yet to be activated. ※Unfortunately, ICT affairs are being handled by several organizations with quite similar responsibilities,※ he said. Experts maintain that the former Khatami administration managed to prepare the necessary infrastructure for the development of the ICT sector and that the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not have a tough task in this key sector. However the lack of a comprehensive data center in Iran remains one of the gravest challenges facing ICT development projects. Some 250 trillion rials has to be invested in the ICT sector by 2009.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 10/24/2005

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KAZAKHSTAN: President Prioritizes Economic Development

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said on 11 October that economic development is his government's top priority, RFE/RL and Interfax reported. Nazarbaev stressed that his government will continue its economic reform program to forge a liberalized economy conforming to "developed market standards" and will bolster the "favorable investment climate" in Kazakhstan. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/12/2005

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The First Information Center for Development Opens in Astana

ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN (18 October 2005) 每 Information Center for Development (ICD) of three largest international development organizations - the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank - in partnership with the National Academic Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan (NABRK), opened today in Astana. This is the first joint public information resource center in Kazakhstan aimed at wider information dissemination, knowledge transfer, learning facilitation and capacity building. More than 70 representatives of public sector, academia, media, nongovernmental and international organizations participated in the opening ceremony. Loup Brefort, Country Manager of the World Bank, Gordon Johnson, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, and Karin Oswald, ADB Senior Project Facilitator, jointly stated that this collaborative initiative will promote better understanding of the developmental activities among local stakeholders, and enhance their potential in delivering knowledge-based results. NGO and academia representatives underscored the importance of having such an information center for sharing best practices in all aspects of growth by other countries of the world. NABRK Deputy Director outlined, that ICD will benefit various public groups, including students, scientists, noncommercial organizations, officials and private sector representatives. Located in the very heart of the new administrative center of Astana, ICD is designed to be a one-stop public access point for resources on the various social and economic aspects of development. It offers a range of facilities and services that stimulate development thinking to the general public, policy-makers and civil society organizations. It provides open access to the extensive data-bases on various development topics, world expertise, and up-to-date statistical and analytical information. ICD visitors enjoy consultations and assistance in information search, and free Internet connection. ICD collection comprises more than 1000 publications, periodicals and multimedia on developmental topics, economic overviews, and sector analyses; project documents and reports from multiple international organizations active in Kazakhstan; and international publishers* books. It is expected that ICD will host a number of public outreach events, such as publications launches, information search trainings, workshops and roundtable discussions on various topics, group tours and more in 2006.


From http://www.adb.org/ 10/18/2005

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TURKMENISTAN: President Publishes New Book

Saparmurat Niyazov's new book, "Mahribanlarim" ("My Dear All"), was launched in Ashgabat on 15 October, the official Turkmenistan.ru site reported. Turkmen government official, intellectuals, teachers, and students participated in the ceremony, the agency reported. The new book reportedly consists of Niyazov's poetry and prose; the leitmotiv is the eternal connection between generations. According to Turkmenistan.ru, Niyazov praises the beauties of his homeland and its history, notions of courage, dignity, and love. "Mahribanlarim" is Niyazov's fifth book published within the past several years. AN


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/17/2005

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Tashkent to Host Seminar on Gender Equality

Workshop ※Rights of women and gender equality§ will be held in Tashkent on 28-30 October. Geothe Institute will organize the event at cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Institute ※Women and Society§. The seminar will consider issues on structure and political organization of civic society, legal and democratic basis of civic state, relations with sexes and position of women in Germany. The issue on role of NGOs in protection of women rights in Germany and international level will be also considered.


From http://www.uzreport.com/ 10/24/2005

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AUSTRALIA: Call to Overhaul Mental Health Services

Sufferers of mental illness, their families and carers have delivered a disturbing message to the federal government: the mental health system is broken and failing millions of Australians every day. The 1,000-page report, compiled by the Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA), the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, calls for a complete overhaul of services in every state. Launched by federal Health Minister Tony Abbott, it contains first hand accounts by thousands of Australians with mental illnesses, their families and carers between 2003 and 2005. It found "12 years of so-called reforms" since the federal government deinstitutionalised services for the mentally ill had failed to help millions of people in need or deliver promised community support. People seeking primary care or specialist mental health services ran the serious risk of "having their basic needs ignored, trivialised or neglected", the report said. The current system also failed to provide basic medical and psychological care, and overused confinement and sedation, it said. MHCA chairman Keith Wilson, who is also a primary carer for his mentally ill adult son, said an increase in funding was needed over the next five years so expenditure in mental health care reached 12 per cent of total health funding by 2010/11. A whole-of-government approach was needed to address the issues raised in the report, he said. "I think this is a moral obligation on you and on your government and I challenge you to pick up this moral task and fulfil what it requires of you and your colleagues," Mr Wilson told Mr Abbott at the report launch on Wednesday. "Don't leave us like lepers of the 21st century - untouchable and untouched." The report recommended the federal government should establish an annual formal mental health reporting mechanism - the National Mental Health Report Card - to track progress. Mr Abbott acknowledged the need for improved services but said the system would work better if just one level of government dealt with the issues. "The whole system would work better still ... if one level of government was in charge ... (then) the buck passing and the cost shifting would end." But opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard said a federally-run mental health system was "an excuse for inaction". "He's got lots of power in his hands to make change ... what he lacks isn't the power, it's the will," Ms Gillard said. State governments on Wednesday defended their treatment of mental health services. NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos said NSW in April 2004 committed an additional $241 million in mental health funding for services, staff and infrastructure over the four years to June 2008. Western Australia's Health Minister Jim McGinty said the state had allocated an additional $173 million over three years to improve mental health services, lifting overall spending in the area to more than $300 million a year. Victorian Health Minister Bronwyn Pike said individual cases of poor treatment contained in the report should not overshadow improvements in Victoria's mental health system, which included a $180 million government spending program unveiled last year. Queensland government said more could be done, but urged critics to "wait and see" what the October 25 mini-budget delivered to the mental health sector. Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the government could do more to improve on its 70 per cent funding increase for mental health services since it came to power in 1998.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/19/2005

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Crunch Time for Melbourne 2030

A proposal for a model suburb on the city's fringe presents a crucial test of the Bracks Government's Melbourne 2030 planning blueprint. A Malaysian consortium, backed by former Labor Party heavies, has proposed a $4 billion suburb for 35,000 residents on former defence land at Rockbank. The scheme aims to raise the bar in sustainable development, featuring advanced water recycling in houses and a water-treatment plant. The developers promise affordable homes and to pick up the tab for much of the innovative infrastructure. The Jayaland proposal is designed to appeal to both government bean counters and environmentalists. The key obstacle is that the site falls outside the urban growth boundary set by the Government and within green-wedge territory between Caroline Springs and Melton. Melbourne 2030 is the state's vision for coping with a million more residents over the next 25 years. It limits new housing to within the boundary, encourages higher-density housing around commercial and transport hubs, and preserves green-wedge areas. But the boundary does allow for growth in five designated corridors, including Melton. Land supply along these corridors is reviewed every five years and Planning Minister Rob Hulls will decide next month whether the boundary will move. The Government already faces many development proposals for the green spaces beyond the boundary. This proposal, pushed by former federal minister Neil O'Keefe and former state minister David White, will be hard to ignore. But with planning and property groups already questioning the Government's commitment to Melbourne 2030, making an exception in this case would risk opening the floodgates to every developer's whim.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/22/2005

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ICT Workers Need More Training: ACS

Workers in the information and communications technology industry receive inadequate training and will find themselves lacking necessary skills to stay in the industry, the Australian Computer Society said today. In a statement, ACS president Edward Mandla said a survey of chief information officers indicated that workers were not receiving sufficient training in areas such as soft skills and new technical developments. He said the survey highlighted the need for the industry to address a looming skills shortage among those who right now had the skills to work in the industry. "The pace of technological change is so fast these days that organisations need to make a substantial commitment to boosting and refreshing the skills base of their ICT workers, or face a drastic fall in the quality of their technical workforce," Mandla said. "Companies are simply not devoting enough time to up-skill their professional ICT staff, and if they don't do so, their staff should take steps to develop their own skills base." CIOs surveyed said they believed their ICT staff should receive five to 10 days of training annually but the actual figure was between one and five days. The ACS considered 20 days to be an acceptable figure, Mandla said. "The survey reveals an alarming shortage of quality training in soft skills such as communications, business analysis and project management," he said. "The ICT market has evolved to the point where technical managers need to engage more effectively with other parts of the organisation and the development of business skills in the IT community is becoming more vital." Mandla said technical training was weakest in the areas of enterprise infrastructure, storage and content management, and document and network management. He said the survey indicated that more training was needed in security, database management, network management, storage, wireless networks, wide area networks and business intelligence. Training in telephony, wireless networking and middleware appeared to be sufficient.


From http://theage.com.au/ 10/21/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: Customs Eyes Self-Service

New Zealand Customs and Auckland International Airport have begun shopping for self-service border control kiosks that look set to spell the end of face-to-face checks by Customs staff on all visitors, speeding up border checks for "trusted travellers". The kiosks would automatically check the identity of travellers, using software to match people against their passport photos, while ensuring passengers weren't on wanted lists. The kiosks would advise passengers if Customs needed to question them. The computerised entry checks will be offered first to "registered passengers" 每 likely to be frequent fliers 每 who volunteer to use biometric kiosks to avoid queues at manned Customs booths. However, a request for information (RFI) jointly issued by Customs and Auckland International Airport suggests the use of the kiosks will eventually be the norm for all passengers. Customs information systems manager Peter Rosewarne says security won't be compromised. Passengers will continue to be watched by Customs officers from the moment they stepped off the aircraft. Thanks to new Advanced Passenger Processing technology, Customs knows who is travelling to New Zealand before they board their aircraft, and has more time to assess possible risks and decide who it wants to take aside for questioning. "If we don't want people to come through, we will block them." Rosewarne doesn't believe it will become compulsory for people to use kiosks instead of talking to a Customs officer, accepting that "some people are resistant to technology". The RFI sets out an eight-stage plan for the introduction of biometric checks, though Rosewarne says these plans may change. According to the RFI, Customs will initially offer self-service biometric checks to Air New Zealand passengers arriving at Auckland airport, before extending them to Qantas passengers and then passengers of other airlines who don't require visas. It will then be open to other airports, such as Wellington and Christchurch airports, to introduce the kiosks. At that stage, Customs will also allow the biometric processing of passengers who are travelling with visas. Biometric checks will probably involve checking people against digital photographs stored on computer chips embedded in passengers' passports or on a special device that would be issued to passengers who register to be part of a "trusted traveller" scheme. However, Customs and Auckland International Airport say they want the biometric kiosks they buy to be capable of also checking people's irises and fingerprints, indicating they are keeping their options open. The biometric passports 每 first shown in NZ InfoTech in May 每 look much like conventional passports but contain a credit card-sized chip, embedded in several layers of thin plastic, that is bound in as a page within the passport. The chip contains a digital photo of the holder, their eye coordinates, a copy of the holder's passport details in electronic form and a special "cleaned" copy of their photo that is designed to be easily read by facial recognition software. Rosewarne says Auckland airport may contribute to the cost of the biometric kiosks, though no decisions have yet been made on funding. "Auckland International Airport is partnering with government and wants to contribute their share. Anything that helps in terms of passenger movements is of benefit to them." Customs screened 8.2 million people entering or leaving New Zealand in the year to March and expects those numbers to double in 10 years. The department says biometric checks will let it handle the growth in passenger numbers "while enhancing security standards for both inbound and outbound passengers". (by Tom Pullar-Strecker)


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

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Digital Strategy Funds Applications Open this Month

Applications for two major funds under the Government's digital strategy open later this month. Caretaker Information Technology Minister David Cunliffe announced the launch of two blocks of funding available under the strategy announced in May. The funding blocks were the $24 million Broadband Challenge and the $20.7 million Community Partnerships Fund. The Broadband Challenge aims to support initiatives to get broadband to areas that don't have it and high-speed fibre networks to urban areas. The Community Partnerships Fund aims to support regional and community information and communications technology (ICT) initiatives to upskill people to assess and use ICT. Mr Cunliffe said applications should be community focused and show they can be self-sustaining when funding ends. The Digital Strategy provides a framework for $10.5 billion of expenditure for information and ICT over the next five years.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/07/2005

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New Zealand Government Taps Landmark Graphics for Data Storage Deal

Landmark Graphics Corp. has been hired by the New Zealand government to provide Web site and database technology for an internal department that manages the country's government-owned mineral assets. Houston-based Landmark, a division of Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL), supplies software and services for the upstream oil and gas industry. Under the contract, Landmark will provide a single data storage solution for New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development. "This will directly support the Ministry of Economic Development's efforts to promote and encourage exploration in New Zealand," said Halliburton vice president Peter Bernard. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. "This technology will help the (Ministry of Economic Development) in the future to provide access to all ... publicly available petroleum, coal and minerals exploration data through an easy-to-use Web site portal," said Adam Feeley, manager of the mineral group of New Zealand. "This will allow the New Zealand government to provide data free of charge for block gazettals to explorers, opening up more of the country's frontier exploration acreage."


From http://houston.bizjournals.com/ 10/10/2005

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NZ ICT Export Idea Refused Funding

An initiative to boost New Zealand's ICT exports to developing nations is dead in the water after the Government declined to provide funding. Fifteen New Zealand companies and organisations had banded together to support market research, a multimedia presentation and a booth at ICT 4 All - a trade show designed to link exporters with buyers in the developing world. The group, led by Pierre-Etienne Vachon, director of IT at economic development consultancy Proximus International, needed to raise $NZ300,000 ($A277,524) and hoped the Government would chip in half this amount. Mr Vachon received guarantees of about $NZ150,000 of in-kind donations from industry. The government money would have covered the cost of the stand, shipping costs and flights to Tunisia where ICT 4 All is held. ICT 4 All will be held from November 14 to 19, leaving little time to find another funding source. Mr Vachon says the Economic Development Ministry told him it had "other commitments". Earlier this year Trade and Enterprise gave a $NZ560,000 grant toward a stand for Kiwi firms at CeBIT, Europe's biggest annual computer fair, which this year attracted 480,000 visitors. Companies from Germany, Russia, Canada, France and the United States will attend this year's ICT 4 All event, which is expected to attract 40,000 visitors. Mr Vachon says the decision is a missed opportunity for the Government to encourage ICT exports beyond the US and Britain. "It's the only conference that touches ICT and economic development on such a large scale. The idea was to get the biggest returns possible out of the summit and open the market for New Zealand. The amount of deals that are struck at these summits is just amazing." He says the Kiwi aptitude for "fixing things on the cheap" works well in developing economies. Trade and Enterprise ICT team director Gordon Stevenson says he met the project's leaders in August to discuss funding, but told them at the time it wouldn't qualify under Trade and Enterprise's criteria. However, Mr Stevenson wasn't aware of the ICT 4 All event itself. He says the group mentioned only the parallel World Summit on the Information Society, a diplomatic conference where countries debate issues such as Internet governance and how to bridge the digital divide. That conference is a bureaucratic event, rather than a trade show such as ICT 4 All. He also said then that it was too late to file an application to get funding for November. Wellington software firm Data Torque has won deals in developing countries for its taxation software, used by Tonga, the Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa and soon the Solomon Islands. Managing director Neil Hamlin says developing countries look for similar products and services as developed ones, but often at a lower price. He says developing nations offer some advantages over traditional export markets, and even disadvantages such as poor infrastructure can be turned in a company's favour if they can provide the right solution at the right price. "Sometimes there's not as many people looking in that market. In the US you can struggle to be heard above the noise, even if you've got a good product. You're just another `me too'." Many of the projects in developing countries are funded by overseas aid agencies, he says, such as Data Torque's recent Solomon Islands deal. But Mr Hamlin says government help isn't necessary for export success. "We've never received a cent of government money for anything we've done overseas." (by Reuben Schwarz)


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/17/2005

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Asia Sinks $650bn in Bank Bail-out

ASIAN governments have spent about $US500 billion ($650 billion) to help domestic banks since the 1997-98 regional economic crisis and are likely to come to their rescue again, according to a new study by the Standard & Poor's credit rating agency. S&P's findings - one of the first estimates of government aid to Asia's financial sector - underline the states' pervasive influence in the region's banking industry despite recent efforts to sell shares in several lenders to international investors. "Banks are used by governments as a device for economic development and to an extent this hobbles Asia's banking systems," said Terry Chan, S&P's director and credit officer. "On the other hand, governments have to take responsibility when the banks get in trouble." On balance, S&P judged Asian governments' interventionist stance as a positive development and upgraded its ratings on 18 lenders in South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand. S&P argued that Asia's developing economies relied heavily on banks to fund companies and support poorer parts of the population. As a result, the region's governments come to the rescue of domestic lenders when they run into financial troubles. "The banking sector's critical role in financing the economy and as a repository of deposits ... induces Asian governments to support the banking system more than they perhaps might do in systems where developed capital markets exist," it said. S&P's move helped South Korea's leading banks Kookmin, Shinhan Bank, Hana and Chohung to achieve the highest credit rating since the onset of the financial crisis in 1998. The upgrade came as research from JPMorgan warned investors that earnings growth in Asia's banking sector was likely to fall due to rising interest rates, a fall in loan growth and higher taxes. "Easy money has been made both by banks and investors," the research note said. According to S&P, China spent more than any other Asian country to bail out its banks, which have been plagued by a mountain of bad loans resulting from decades of government-directed lending to weak state-owned enterprises. Beijing, which used $US45 billion from its foreign exchange reserves to help two of its largest banks last year, was followed by Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and India in the state aid league table. The agency also upgraded its ratings on seven Chinese banks, arguing their financial health had been improved by recent capital injections from the government and foreign investors. The upgrade is important for China's big four state banks - Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China - which are seeking multi-billion-dollar overseas listings. CCB is due for a $US6 billion Hong Kong listing next month. (by Francesco Guerrera and Andrew Yeh)


From http://theaustralian.news.com.au/ 09/30/2005

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Hong Kong SAR Leads Region in Loans and Bond Issues

Hong Kong led the Asia-Pacific region's loan and bond markets, excluding Japan and Australia, in the first three quarters, according to Thomson Financial. Borrowings by Hong Kong companies jumped 20 percent year on year to US$17.3 billion (HK$134.94 billion), accounting for almost a quarter of the region's total borrowings of US$72.7 billion in the period. Total loans in the region increased 15 percent. Citigroup tightened its hold at the top of the region's loan-arranger league, boosting its market share in the period by 3.7 percentage points to 11.5 percent, while arranging loan proceeds worth about US$8.4 billion. HSBC ranked second, with US$4.2 billion of loans, followed by Calyon at US$3.8 billion. Hong Kong dollar bonds led the Asia-Pacific bond issuance league, accounting for nearly US$14.1 billion, or 25 percent of the market, where total bond proceeds in the first three quarters rose 3.1 percent. JPMorgan head of syndicate Fergus Edwards said there is still strong demand for high-yield bonds, which he cited as driving the increase in Asian bond issuance volumes. China is still the region's most important market for raising equity capital and for mergers and acquisitions. Mergers and acquisitions involving Chinese firms surged 70 percent from a year earlier to US$24.4 billion, compared with a 68.7 percent rise across the region. "Newer trends have been the level of financial institutions activity in China and Taiwan, and the emergence of large transactions in the energy sector," said Rohit Sipahimalani, managing director and co-head of M&A for Morgan Stanley in Asia Pacific. China National Petroleum Corp International's proposed US$4 billion takeover of Calgary-based PetroKazakhstan was the largest acquisition in the first nine months, while the US$4.2 billion borrowed to carry it out was also the biggest loan in the period. China remained the most attractive place to find companies wanting to make equity offerings, though proceeds declined 27.7 percent to US$12 billion from US$16.6 billion raised in the year- earlier period. Beijing-based China Shenhua Energy was the largest initial public offering in the region in the first nine months, raising US$3.3 billion before a Hong Kong listing. (by Lee Yuk-kei, Tim LeeMaster)


From http://www.thestandard.com.hk/ 10/04/2005

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CHINA: China Chooses IFC, ADB to Pioneer Yuan Bonds

China has picked international agencies Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Finance Corp. (IFC) to pioneer yuan bond sales, for the first time introducing foreign issuers into its fledgling debt market, reports Reuters. The first yuan-denominated bonds to be issued by foreigners would go on the market after the central bank approved technical preparations, the Finance Ministry, which dubbed them "panda" bonds, said on its website. The two international agencies and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation had been awaiting a final go-ahead since June 2004, when they got in-principle approval. Industry sources said on Wednesday that the ADB had applied to the central bank to issue 1 billion yuan ($123.6 million) in 10-year bonds while IFC applied to sell 1.13 billion yuan in bonds with the same maturity. Both institutions aimed to issue the yuan bonds, which would carry an annual interest rate of around 3.4 percent, in the near term, said the sources, close to the underwriters. The central bank has said the first one or two institutions -- now named as IFC and the ADB -- would sell their yuan bonds under a pilot scheme which, if successful, would be followed by an expanded program. The Financial Times notes that developing a corporate bond market is seen as central to relieving China's creaking banking system, which has traditionally provided most of the capital for Chinese companies, especially those owned by the state. This became more apparent in May when the government revealed that bank lending had accounted for 99 percent of all corporate fund-raising in the first quarter of the year. China also needs to develop long-term investment products in both the bond and equity markets to help fund pension schemes as the population gets older over the next two decades. Karin Finkelston, the IFC's Associate Director for East Asia and the Pacific, said: "We hope this will be a step towards making the bond market a more viable funding source for other parts of the economy, including the private sector, when the authorities are ready." The Asian Wall Street Journal further adds that China is unlikely to open its doors to just any issuer until it more fully decontrols its exchange rate and interest rates. For several Asian countries, the sale of domestic-currency bonds by a foreign multilateral institution has been a right of passage signaling maturity in its capital markets. Participation by a triple-A-rated foreign institution offers the market credibility and establishes a benchmark pricing level. Over time, the aim is to allow a fuller range of issuers into the market, such as foreign companies that are expanding into the nation and need cash. The business daily adds that in granting the foreign agencies permission to sell the bonds, China appears to be compromising less than other Asian countries have when they allowed such issues, a banker familiar with the plans said. China's central bank will have a final say over terms of an offering. Offering sizes being whispered in the market of around one billion yuan are small compared with bonds issued domestically by Chinese companies and the government. In addition, underwriting and distribution will be handled solely by domestic Chinese firms, despite efforts starting as early as 2000 by foreign banks to have a role. The Financial Times meanwhile writes in Thursday*s editorial, that Beijing's approval marks an important step forward for China's underdeveloped capital markets. Although the immediate financial impact will be minimal, there ought to be long-term benefits for China, for Asia and for global markets. Bearish investors will point gloomily to the damaging collapse of Russian rouble-denominated bonds seven years ago, but the circumstances are very different. Although foreigners are eager to lay their hands on renminbi assets in the hope of a further revaluation of the Chinese currency, access to the local bond market is still highly restricted and the Chinese economy seems remarkably robust. Just as there is no need to panic, so there is no justification for over-excitement, the financial daily suggests. The Chinese domestic bond market is in its infancy and will take years to develop. It requires a proper network of dealers, a modern pricing system, liberalized interest rates and authoritative credit ratings. But the long-planned China moves by the ADB and the IFC, along with other bond market initiatives, will ultimately help reduce Asia's susceptibility to financial crises. Developing Asia should be importing capital, not exporting it, and it is far more likely to do so if it can borrow in its own currencies rather than in dollars, the daily argues.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/29/2005

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China*s State Council Approves IFC Application to Issue Domestic Renminbi Bonds

Beijing〞The International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, today confirmed its intention to issue Chinese renminbi-denominated bonds in the domestic capital markets of China. IFC was pleased to be notified today by the Ministry of Finance that the State Council approved IFC*s application to issue renminbi bonds in accordance with the RMB Bond Issuance Regulations. IFC appreciates the Ministry of Finance and the Chinese government*s efforts to encourage international institutions to participate in the bond market. This announcement is an important step to further developing China*s financial markets and assisting its expanding private sector. The proceeds of IFC*s bond issue will be used to finance private sector projects that IFC has already selected and appraised. "IFC is very grateful for the opportunity to issue bonds in China*s domestic capital markets,§ said IFC Acting Executive Vice President Assaad Jabre. State Council approval is the result of four years of cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and other relevant authorities during which IFC provided technical assistance and shared with the authorities its extensive experience in issuing in other domestic markets. ※The IFC bond, when issued, will contribute to our broader strategy of helping China develop stronger and deeper domestic capital markets," Mr. Jabre said. IFC funds its lending activities by issuing bonds in the international capital markets. The Corporation*s securities, which are rated Aaa by Moody*s and AAA by S&P, have been issued in 33 different currencies. IFC*s funding program for fiscal year 2006 is around $2 billion. IFC has been the first, or among the first, nonresidents to issue in many currencies including Colombian pesos, Spanish pesetas, Portuguese escudos, Greek drachmae, Hong Kong dollars, Malaysian ringgit and Singapore dollars in the domestic markets, and in Czech koruna, Philippine pesos and Polish zloty in the eurobond markets. Since 1985, IFC has invested more than $2 billion in 100 private sector companies in China. The International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, promotes sustainable private sector investment in developing and transition countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people*s lives. IFC finances private sector investments, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses. Its 178 member countries provide its share capital and collectively determine its policies. From its founding in 1956 through FY05, IFC has committed more than $49 billion of its own funds and arranged $24 billion in syndications for 3,319 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC*s worldwide committed portfolio as of FY05 was $19.3 billion for its own account and $5.3 billion held for participants in loan syndications.


From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/28/2005

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Seven Banks Get Ratings Boost

BEIJING - Standard & Poor's Rating Services said September 28 that it had raised ratings on seven Chinese financial institutions, on the back of improved management, profitability and government support. But the rating firm stressed that China's banking system remains a high-risk one. It pointed out that more efforts are needed to improve the banks' profitability and risk management, and better handle challenges like government-led macroeconomic control measures aimed at cooling down excessive investment in certain sectors. The long-term foreign currency ratings on state-owned lenders Bank of China Ltd (BOC), China Construction Bank Corporation (CCB), and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) were raised to "BBB+" from "BBB-", and the short-term ratings were raised to "A-2" from "A-3". The outlook on the long-term ratings was described as stable. Also, the public information (pi) rating on the Agricultural Bank of China, one of the "Big Four" state-owned banks, was raised to "BBBpi" from "BBpi". The rating changes reflect the banks' solid progress in improving their financial profiles, as seen in enhanced risk management processes and improving asset quality, earnings and capital positions. In addition, the support of the government is another important factor underpinning the ratings, Standard & Poor's said. "We are confident that the banks will continue to improve on the basis of the existing system," said Ryan Tsang, Standard & Poor's credit analyst. "Although the [macroeconomic control measures] will have a certain level of impact [on bank performance], the overall trend is for the better, and that's why we moved [them] two notches up," he said, referring to the long-term foreign currency ratings of the BOC, CCB and ICBC. All of the three banks are preparing for initial public offerings, but that will not significantly reduce government support in the future, he said. The three banks received a combined US$60 billion in capital injections over the past two years. In other ratings shifts, the long-term foreign currency rating on the Bank of Communications was raised to "BBB-" from "BB+", while that on CITIC Group was raised to "BB+" from "BB". The "pi" rating for Guangdong Development Bank Co Ltd was raised to "Bpi" from "CCCpi". But government policies and macroeconomic conditions, including asset and oil price volatility, could have a negative impact on the banks' asset quality and profitability. However, the sector is not likely to be severely affected, since the government's increased ability to manage economic conditions is likely to prevent any major policy-induced shock, the company noted. The amount of loans classified as "requiring attention", which implies a relatively high likelihood of becoming bad loans, has increased substantially since last year, a result of both the ongoing macroeconomic control measures and tighter loan classification standards, noted Tsang. The credit tightening in the property market alone is likely to cause an estimated 30 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) in non-performing bank loans this year, sources said earlier.


From Asia Pulse 09/30/2005

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US Pressures China for More Currency Moves

Growing high-level visits between China and the United States underline the importance of the bilateral relations, though officials from Washington often bring with them pressures and directives to the other. On the eve of a trip to Beijing, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said yesterday during a testimony to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol that he would ask China for more currency flexibility. People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan and U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow shake hands before they hold private talks at International Monetary Fund Headquarters in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005. "We will be meeting with Chinese authorities ... to make the case it is time to see greater (yuan) flexibility," Snow said. He and Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan are scheduled to visit Beijing from October 11-16 for the annual Sino-U.S. Joint Economic Conference. U.S. manufacturers and their allies in Congress allege that China undervalues its currency, giving its producers an unfair trade advantage. &*Greater flexibility** is code for allowing the yuan to appreciate further versus the dollar. Washington assumes that market forces would push the Chinese currency higher due to China's large bilateral surplus with the United States. In July, in the wake of strong pressure from the United States, China*s central bank allowed the yuan to appreciate 2.1%, and dropped its dollar peg and set up a managed float system against a basket of currencies, including the yen, euro and won. "The commitment has been made, the initial step has been made, but we need to see more flexibility incorporated into the currency reflecting real demand and supply in the market," Snow said. Not everyone sees Washington pressure on Beijing as a fair one. It has been reported the U.S. Treasury Department wanted the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to support its claims that China is a currency manipulator. ``We don't see evidence'' that China is violating the IMF rules against maintaining an artificially cheap currency, IMF managing director Rodrigo de Rato told the Washington Post earlier this week De Rato's comments were in response to ones made days earlier by Tim Adams, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. Adams accused the IMF of being ``asleep at the wheel'' on monitoring currencies. Chinese central bankers have time and again since the July 21 yuan revaluation said it would be in everyone*s interests to adhere to ※gradualism§ in adopting further currency reform measures, because any more drastic moves would entail grave risks to China*s economy. A sudden breakdown of the Asia*s fasting growing economy will drag many down, they asserted. Secretary Snow sidestepped questions on whether Beijing would be branded a currency manipulator in the Treasury's semiannual report due in early November. Snow spoke during an exchange with Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, who is co-sponsoring a measure to impose tariffs of 27.5 percent on Chinese imports unless Beijing adopts a more flexible currency. Schumer and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, agreed in June to delay their bill after Snow and Greenspan assured them China was about to change its policies. The yuan traded at 8.09 to the dollar on Thursday, as compared with the 8.30 yuan vs a dollar prior to July 21 ``The yuan has appreciated less in 10 weeks than China said it would allow in one day,'' Schumer said. ``To me that's greater evidence of currency manipulation. Clearly they aren't letting market forces take hold, they are afraid to let go.''


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 10/07/2005

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ADB to Buy Piece of BOC for US$75m

Asian Development Bank plans to spend US$75 million (HK$585 million) on a less than 1 percent stake in Bank of China, making it the fourth strategic investor in the bank as it gears up for an initial public share offering. Bank of China said ADB would work with it to improve corporate governance, internal controls and anti- money-laundering programs. Manila-based ADB - funded by more than 60 countries and dedicated to strengthening the financial sectors of developing regional economies - will be subject to the same three-year lock- up period agreed to by other investors, according to a BOC press release. Last month, Swiss investment bank UBS agreed to buy US$500 million in BOC shares, or a 1.6 percent stake, after the planned listing, expected to be worth up to US$5 billion. UBS, the largest bank in Europe, is one of the lenders mandated by BOC to arrange the share sale, expected in the first half of next year. Temasek, an investment vehicle for the Singapore government, has also agreed to buy the same amount of shares and take a 10 percent stake in the bank for US$3.1 billion. Royal Bank of Scotland, Europe's second largest lender, is leading a group of investors including US investment bank Merrill Lynch in an acquisition of the same size. Beijing wants foreign banks to take stakes in the domestic industry to boost weak risk management practices that have helped saddle local financial institutions with trillions of yuan in nonperforming loans. Overseas banks, for their part, want to gain access to the large branch networks and depositors that China's biggest banks maintain. Investment banks have bought into China's largest banks in the hopes of winning lucrative IPO mandates and the huge fees that come from taking them to international capital markets. They have also concentrated on smaller regional or municipal lenders, believing them to be more financially sound. Developmental organizations such as the World Bank's International Finance Corporation have also concentrated on smaller city banks. On Monday, Shanghai Securities News quoted an assistant to the bank's president saying that BOC is planning to list in March or April. China Construction Bank plans to list shares in Hong Kong next month, raising up to US$7.7 billion in what could be the largest IPO in Hong Kong history. (by Tim Lee Master)


From http://www.thestandard.com.hk/ 10/11/2005

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JAPAN: Launching of World's Biggest Bank Symbolizes Rebirth of Industry

Buying a scandal-tainted bank plagued by four straight years of red ink hardly seems like an auspicious way to cement a turnaround. But when Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group Inc. takes over money-loser UFJ Holdings Inc. on Saturday, the new bank will not only emerge as the world's biggest bank -- surpassing Citigroup in terms of assets -- but it will also symbolize the rebirth of a Japanese banking industry once buried in bad debt. Named Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., the new giant will lead an industry that has undergone years of consolidation, largely freed itself from the onerous bad loans and is now helping underpin the nation's economic resurgence. Just a few years ago, Japanese banks were saddled with massive debts that had piled up over a decade-long slowdown in the world's second largest economy after the stock and property price bubble burst in the early 1990s. At their peak in March 2002, major Japanese banks' loans to troubled borrowers totaled 43.2 trillion yen. The total dropped to 17.9 trillion yen by the end of March, according to the latest data from Japan's Financial Services Agency. In May, Bank Minister Tatsuya Ito declared that seven top Japanese banks had reached a "turning point" in reducing by half the proportion of their bad loans to overall lending -- a government target for moving banks toward financial health. To get there, the banks reduced loans, wrote off nonperforming debts and gobbled up weaker lenders. Japan's "Big Four" -- Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi Tokyo, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and UFJ -- didn't even exist 15 years ago. All were formed in recent years through mergers with smaller banks. Come Saturday, that will shrink to the "Big Three." Now, the banks' earnings are rebounding, their stocks are gaining, and -- in a sign of Japan's economic recovery -- overall bank lending rose year-on-year in August for the first time since 1998, when the central bank began keeping statistics. "The fiscal year ended March 2005 marks the end of Japan's financial crisis, with improvement in the banks' asset and capital quality," said Brett Hemsley, senior director for Japanese financial institutions at Fitch Ratings, said in a July report. He predicts that the industry could report its highest net income ever in the current year, exceeding the previous record of 1.7 trillion yen in 1989. In the quarter through June, Mitsubishi Tokyo's net income rose 18.1 percent to 96.9 billion yen. So far this year, UFJ's share price climbed about 27 percent, while Mitsubishi Tokyo shares gained 38 percent to close at 1.38 million yen (US$12,212) on Wednesday. But to achieve global competitiveness, Japanese banks still need to boost their profitability. Interest margins for Japan's big players are about 1 percent, about four or five times lower than that booked by U.S. rivals, Koll said. That's largely because of the Bank of Japan's zero interest rate policy. The problems that faced Osaka-based UFJ, the smallest of the "Big Four," provide a glimpse of the industry's ills. It was the last of Japan's big banks to meet the government's target of halving the proportion of bad loans, only after posting a fourth straight annual loss in the year through March 2005. The company's troubled clients included retailer Daiei, which is now undergoing a government bailout, while three former executives at its banking unit were arrested last December over allegations the bank lied to government authorities about its bad debts. Still, Mitsubishi Tokyo fought hard to buy UFJ, drawn by its strengths in retail banking, particularly in western Japan, where the larger bank had less of a presence. Mitsubishi Tokyo won a protracted takeover battle against rival suitor Sumitomo Mitsui after injecting UFJ with 700 billion yen ($6.19 billion) in cash to help it clear its bad loans. The stock swap merger was valued at 3.4 trillion yen ($30.1 billion) when shareholders approved the deal in June. The new Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. will have total assets of around 190 trillion ($1.68 trillion), topping U.S.-based Citigroup Inc.'s $1.55 trillion, based on most recent company figures. Mitsubishi Tokyo and UFJ posted a combined net loss of 139.3 billion yen ($1.23 billion) in the year through March. But adding individual outlooks would give the new company a joint profit of 735 billion yen ($6.5 billion) in the current fiscal year through March 2006, while together they are forecasting net income of 1.1 trillion yen ($9.7 billion) for the year through March 2009. However, a three-month delay to Jan. 3 in the merger of the commercial banking units of UFJ and Mitsubishi Tokyo due to worries about computer integration has raised concern about whether the companies are too optimistic about cost savings. Mitsubishi UFJ may not be even Japan's biggest bank for long. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to privatize the nation's postal system, which has 330 trillion yen ($2.92 trillion) in savings and insurance deposits and 24,700 offices around the country. That process, if approved by parliament, would begin in 2007 and could pose a retail banking threat to the likes of Mitsubishi UFJ. "The big issue out there is who's going to take on Godzilla bank, i.e. the Post Office." Koll said. "It can turn into a problem."


From http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/ 09/29/2005

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Bank of Japan Holds to Monetary Outlook

TOKYO -- The governor of the Bank of Japan, Toshihiko Fukui, said Thursday that the central bank would maintain its policy of flooding the banking system with cash and holding borrowing costs near zero until it was sure that more than seven years of deflation had ended. The bank is "committed to supporting the economy by maintaining its monetary policy until core consumer prices stabilize at zero or above," Fukui told a quarterly meeting of the central bank's branch managers. Japanese consumer prices will probably start to gain by the end of this year, after which the bank may consider changing its policy, Fukui and other central bank directors have said in the past month. An end to falling prices would help to raise profits, encourage consumer spending and fuel domestic-demand-led growth. "An end to deflation would strengthen the world's second-largest economy and enable Japan to shoulder part of the burden of the U.S., which has been the sole locomotive for global growth since the 1990s," said Naoki Iizuka, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo. The central bank has pursued its policy, known as "quantitative easing," since March 2001 to overcome deflation. The bank makes between ㄓ30 trillion, or $260 billion, and ㄓ35 trillion available to lenders, an amount it has increased seven-fold since starting the policy. The bank has set three conditions for a change in policy: core consumer prices should stop falling at least for a few months; policy makers must be sure that prices will not resume sliding; and the bank must be confident about the overall strength of the economy. "Fukui has hinted the shift of monetary policy toward next fiscal year since September," said Kenro Kawano, a fixed-income strategist at Credit Suisse First Boston in Tokyo. Fukui forecast that Japan's economy would keep expanding at a "moderate and lasting pace" and said rising corporate profit had prompted companies to invest and to increase wages. Exports were also climbing, he said. Part of the reason that prices may start to gain is that one-off factors such as cuts in utility charges and rice prices last year will pass out of the picture, helping prices turn positive, he said. Speaking on Sept. 25, Fukui said the Bank of Japan would not alter its policy based on price gains driven solely by rising oil prices, but that it would look at the strength of the overall economy before deciding any change. Speaking Thursday, he said the effects of high oil prices on the Japanese and global economies should be monitored. Core prices have risen only in one month since April 1998. They fell 0.1 percent in August from a year before, following declines of 0.2 percent in June and July. The increase in oil prices is slowing deflation, Iizuka, the Dai-Ichi Life research economist, said. He estimated that costlier oil contributed a 0.36 percentage point gain to August's core prices, partly offsetting lower utility charges and rice prices. Japanese second-quarter growth matched a 3.3 percent expansion in the United States in the same period and exceeded the 1.2 percent annual expansion in euro zone. (by Mayumi Otsuma)


From http://www.iht.com/articles 10/20/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: Central Bank Raises Call Rate to 3.5%

The Bank of Korea (BOK) Tuesday raised the benchmark short-term call rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent, sending clear signals that the central bank is confident of an economic recovery. It is the first time the central bank has tightened its monetary policy since May 2002, when it hiked the call rate by 0.25 of a percentage point to 4.25 percent. Since that time, the bank has lowered the rate on four occasions until November 2004 when the rate leveled out at 3.25 percent. BOK governor Park Seung, who chairs the BOK*s rate-setting seven-member panel, predicted Korea*s economic growth rate will come in at 5 percent next year. ``Economic recovery has been more vivid since the second half, boosted by recovering consumption and strong exports,** Park told reporters following the panel*s monthly monetary policy meeting. He downplayed concerns that the rate hike may pour cold water on the recovery. He said that the rate hike may augment inflation pressure, but its impact on the economy will be limited. Despite the latest rate hike, Park said the central bank will maintain a low-interest rate policy to support the economic recovery. Still, he did not rule out further rate hikes. ``Current interest rate levels will not pose any deterrence to recovery,** Park said. Analysts said the bank*s decision to hike the interest rate reflects confidence shared by both the BOK and the market for the outlook of the Korean economy. Kim Joong-hyun, an analyst from Goodmorning Shinhan Securities, said the BOK*s rate hike was in line with expectations, so it will have a limited impact on the financial market. ``Policymakers have signaled a rate hike, and market participants have already been ready,** Kim said. ``There may be further rate hikes, but, at present, there is no likelihood that the market will be swayed by the BOK decision.** Woori Investment and Securities economist Hwang Chang-jung said he is focusing on the effects the rate hike will have on the real economy and the flow of funds and equities in the market. ``Past records show the real economy and the stock market dipped whenever the BOK raised the call rate,** Hwang said. ``The government uses the therapy to get some heat out of the economy, but it doesn*t seem that the domestic economy is overheated. I think its impact will be limited this time.** The BOK said the Korean economy is showing clear signs of an upturn, thanks to expanding consumer spending and brisk exports. Still, the economy is not on the right track because rises in facility investment and growth in the construction sector fall short of expectations, it said. BOK officials indicated further rate hikes may take place until the end of the year, as long as consumer spending and exports keep growing. It expects the economy will grow at 4 percent in the second half, about one percent higher than growth in the first-half. The BOK said the inflation pressure is not worrisome, but forecast that high oil prices may add more pressure to inflation. Since the Korean economy began showing recovery signs in July, Governor Park has signaled that he may raise the call rate, as economists turned positive for the economic outlook. Some forecast second-quarter economic growth will attain the potential growth level of around 5 percent, as the bullish stock market will help boost consumer sentiment and speed up economic recovery. Behind the confidence is a recovery in the service sector output coupled with solid growth in exports and an improvement in consumer sentiment. Still, there are concerns that the rate hike may block the economy from picking up further. Last week, Finance-Economy Minister Han Duck-soo made his opposition public to the call rate lifting, saying an interest rate hike should be carried out for only valid reasons, but that, at this stage, the hike is not desirable. Commenting on concerns that the BOK is in feud with the ministry over money policies, Governor Park said he consulted closely with Han to narrow differences, and that they agreed on crucial points in principle. ``Minister Han thinks the Korean economy is on the recovery track and is strong enough, and so I do,** the governor said. (by Na Jeong-ju)


From The Korea Times 10/11/2005

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Korea*s Property Tax 2nd-Highest in OECD

South Korea*s property tax is the second highest among advanced economies, reaching nearly 12 percent of total tax revenue, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Its property taxes accounted for 11.8 percent of its total tax revenue in 2003, the second highest among the 30 OECD member economies, just behind the U.S. with 12.1 percent. Korea*s figure is more than twice the OECD average 5.6 percent. The United Kingdom ranked second with Korea with 11.8 percent, followed by Japan with 10.3 percent, Canada with 10 percent and Australia with 9.5 percent. Property taxes include taxes levied on holdings or transactions of real estate and financial assets, as well as gift and inheritance taxes. ``Property tax rates in Korea are lower than in other advanced nations, but the property tax burden has remained relatively high because the nation*s real estate prices are high compared to national income level due to the high rate of property transactions,** a tax expert said. Consumption-related taxes, including value-added taxes, special excise taxes and customs duties, took up 37.1 percent of total tax revenue, higher than the OECD average of 32.1 percent, according to the OECD. Korea*s consumption-related taxes are the sixth highest in the OECD, behind Mexico with 52.5 percent, Turkey with 49.5 percent, Iceland with 41 percent, Hungary with 39.4 percent and Ireland with 38.4 percent. The ratio of individual and corporate income taxes to total tax revenue stood at 28 percent, well below the OECD*s average of 34.4 percent. The so-called national tax burden, the taxes and social security people pay to the government, was equivalent to 24.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003, the second lowest in the OECD and just ahead of Mexico with 18.5 percent. Sweden topped the ranking with a national tax burden ratio of 50.7 percent, followed by Denmark with 49.6 percent, Belgium with 45.6 percent, Norway with 44.9 percent and Finland with 44.3 percent. Social security contributions include quasi-taxes, such as payments to the country*s public pension fund, health insurance premiums and other payments to a social safety net. (by Kim Jae-kyoung)


From The Korea Times 10/18/2005

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Finance Ministry Hints at Raising Tax

The government may rely on higher tax rates to secure more funds to cope with falling birthrate and an aging society, Vice Finance and Economy Minister Bahk Byong-won said. Bahk told reporters that the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE) would consider raising the tax rates if other alternatives fail to raise enough additional tax revenues to meet the costs required for strengthening the social safety net. ``The government is currently seeking alternatives other than raising the tax rate to secure the funds required, such as better preventing tax evasion, curtailing unnecessary government expenditures and cutting back the earned income tax credit (EITC) benefits,** Bahk said. ``But if government coffers are still short, we will consider as last resort measures raising tax rates or adding new items of taxation to boost tax revenue,** he added. However, the vice minister noted that a national consensus would be necessary for the execution of such plan. ``The government will probably go through various procedures to collect public opinion. And only then will the revision of related laws be discussed at the National Assembly,** Bahk said. The MOFE estimates that a total of 7.8 trillion won in additional finances will be required to carry out government policies aimed at shoring up the social safety net and coping with a rapidly graying Korean society between 2007 and 2009. The ministry said an extra 3.5 trillion won is required for strengthening the social safety net and an additional 4.3 trillion won in countering the nation*s low fertility rate. The government estimates that 14.5 trillion won will be required to address the low national birth rate between 2006 and 2009, but it has allocated only 10.2 trillion won in its mid-term national budget plan for the project during the cited period. Bahk pointed out that Korea is still ranked as one of the lowest taxed nations among the 30 wealthy nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), such as France, Japan and the U.S. Citing a recent OECD report, he said the ratio of total tax revenue to gross domestic product (GDP) at market prices in Korea stood at 25.3 percent in 2003 and 24.6 percent in 2004. MOFE expects Korea*s tax-to-GDP ratio to grow to 25 percent this year and 25.4 percent in 2006. He said the anticipated hike in tax revenue is attributed to the increase in social security taxation. Social security tax revenue, which comprised 4.9 percent of the 25.3 percent basket in 2003 is projected to increase to 5.5 percent in 2005 and 5.7 percent in 2006, while the level of the property tax revenue comprises will remain relatively steady at the 19 percent. Bahk said Korea*s tax-to-GDP ratio will still be lower than the 2003 OECD average of 37.6 percent, as well as the 25.4 percent in the United States, 25.8 percent in Japan, 44.2 percent in France and 36.2 percent in Germany. (by Kim Sung-jin)


From The Korea Times 10/20/2005

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MONGOLIA: Draft of 2006 Budget Discussed

A draft law on 2006 budget of Mongolia was discussed at a regular cabinet meeting. The Cabinet made a decision to submit the draft law to Parliament for the approval. The economic and budget situation of Mongolia have been improving in recent years, in particular, in the last three years. The draft on 2006 budget aims at launching the tax and expenditure reforms--main factor for keeping the above achievements--and gradually reducing the budget loss in the upcoming three years.


From MONTSAME 10/03/2005

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PHILIPPINES: Public Sector*S Combined Revenue Shortfall Declines

THE Philippine public sector, which includes the national government, government-owned and-controlled corporations (GOCCs) and social security institutions, spent more than it earned in the first six months of the year, but its revenue shortfall for the period was lower than expected and when compared to a year ago. Department of Finance data showed the consolidated public-sector deficit (CPSD) improved in the first semester due to the better financial position of the national government, GOCCs and social security institutions. The source of savings came largely from lower than program costs to acquire fixed assets for most state-run corporations, coupled with higher than program operating receipts for most of the 14 GOCCs, Beltran said. Also offsetting the negative cash positions of the national government and the GOCCs was the continued surplus incurred by the social security institutions, specifically the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), which registered the biggest surplus of P13.7 billion. This was on the account of the bigger revenues the GSIS earned from members* contributions, not to mention the investment income and other earnings from holdings of government-issued debt papers. Government financial institutions, on account of huge net operating income from investments, also made a positive contribution to the higher than program surplus of the rest of the public sector. Govt debt slightly rises The improved fiscal position of the entire public sector would reflect in a lower amount of debt, as its outstanding financial obligations are merely the aggregation of years of revenue deficits. But the latest data from the DOF showed that the public sector*s outstanding debt was still on the rise as of end-March, as the national government and government financial institutions incurred more debt compared with the end-December period. As of the first quarter of this year, the public sector*s debt stood at P5.3 trillion, or 0.6 percent higher than the end-2004*s P5.297 trillion. The end-March figure comprises 107.7 percent of Philippine economic output. The national government*s debt alone reached P3.9 trillion, equivalent to 78.1 percent of economic output, and 1.5 percent higher than the P3.8 trillion incurred as of last year. Borrowings of P58.2 billion from local creditors largely accounted for the rise, which offset the 0.1-percent decrease to P1.5 billion in foreign debt.


Adapted from http://www.manilatimes.net 10/07/2005

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SINGAPORE: Credit Counselling Organisation Helps Singaporeans Restructure Debts

Not-for-profit organisation Credit Counselling Singapore has helped 471 Singaporeans restructure their debts amounting to some S$34 million. But it said this could just be the tip of the iceberg, as rollover credit in Singapore has nearly doubled in five years to S$2.7 billion this year. Forty-three-year-old "David" found himself drowning in debts amounting to S$200,000 five years ago, after his credit card bills snowballed. He said, "My work involved a lot of traveling, so I spent it outside. My company does reimburse me, but my mistake was that I sometimes didn't pay promptly." Not wanting to be declared bankrupt, he started driving a taxi part-time and with the help of credit counselling, restructured his debt with seven banks. He now has some S$40,000 to repay and no longer carries a credit card. David represents a typical debtor in Singapore -- male, between 35 and 45 years, with a family, and an average debt of S$72,500. His average take-home pay is S$2,600, which means he would need 28 months to pay off his debt, at S$1,500, or nearly 60 percent of his income, monthly. Besides ease of credit, car loans are an increasing problem, as they are cheaper to buy upfront but not cheap to maintain. Credit counsellors call this group of debtors the "new poor" -- they earn more than the bottom 20 percent but after deducting their loan repayments, their little remaining disposable income sometimes puts them in dire situations. Some can't downgrade their flats as they can't get another housing loan due to poor payment records. Others have even pleaded with their banks not to deduct their loans directly from their salaries credited as they would not have enough to feed the family. But while they acknowledge individuals are responsible for their debt, they say creditors should also go by an ethical code of conduct, and not make incessant calls. Said Kuo How Nam of Credit Counselling Singapore, "The other practice we would like to see stopped would be letters from lawyers to the debtors' employers asking about particulars. This actually forces the debtor to reveal the state of his indebtedness to the company, and in many instances, companies are rather unhappy over that, and some people have been threatened with termination of employment." A total of 940 people have been counselled since 2003, but some walk away with debts too huge to be restructured.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/27/2005

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VIETNAM: Viet Nam*s Largest Bank to Go Public in Early 2006

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Wednesday signed a long awaited decision to allow Viet Nam*s largest bank, Vietcombank, to go public in 2006 following more than a year of preparations. Under its equitisation, the State-owned commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Viet Nam (Vietcombank) will make its initial issue in 2006 and will continue to divest its equity for the next few years. The further issues will be made every year until 2010 but no single issue can exceed 10 per cent of its registered capital, according to the Government*s decision. The Deputy PM*s decision mandates that the equitisation process ensures the State will still retain a controlling stake in Vietcombank. The figure is set at a minimum of 70 per cent for next year and 51 per cent by the end of the process in 2010. Under the outlined plan, institutional investors can not own more than 10 per cent of the bank*s registered capital and individual investors can own up to five per cent. The combined foreign holdings can not exceed 30 per cent. Vietcombank is allowed to hire international consulting groups to help it evaluate its assets in the equitisation, however, it will have to submit its hiring decision to the State Bank of Viet Nam and the Ministry of Finance (MoF). The latter will decide how much can be spent on the consultants. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai announced the Government*s plan to equitise Vietcomebank in July 2004. Before the official equitisation, Vietcombank is due to issue nearly VND1.5 trillion of convertible bonds later this year to increase its capital, but the bonds will only be sold to domestic investors who are eligible to become bank shareholders after the bank goes public. In addition to Vietcombank, the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Housing Bank (MHB), the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV) and the Viet Nam Industrial and Commercial Bank (Incombank) all said they are ready for equitisation. BIDV has taken the first steps of registering with the Government to go public in 2007. Under Viet Nam*s 2010 targets, all State-owned commercial banks will be equitised.


Adapted From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 09/24/2005

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IFC to Set Up Credit Information Bureau

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, plans to set up a credit information bureau in Viet Nam with assistance from credit-card giant Visa International. Visa is the first private company to offer support for the IFC Global Credit Bureau Programme, which supports the development of credit bureaus in developing and emerging economies. In this first phase of the IFC programme, Visa plans to provide financial support to bureaus in Viet Nam as well as Brazil, Bulgaria, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates. "Credit bureaus are at the heart of sound lending practices and benefit not just lenders but also borrowers," said Gordon Cooper, Visa country manager for Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. "The growth of Viet Nam*s economy depends largely on lenders* abilities to sustain financing and manage risks efficiently and effectively," he said. Cooper said that Visa and IFC would work closely with the Government, regulators, banks and other stakeholders to ensure the project delivers what Viet Nam needs. Visa, which will also offer support to local banks on credit risk management and practices, opened its representative office in HCM City earlier this year. In Viet Nam, it operates through 14 banks, with more than 80,000 Visa cards in circulation in the country. "The adoption of an efficient credit bureau system is a vital next step," Cooper said.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 10/07/2005

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Workshop on Developing Capital Market Launched

A seminar on developing Viet Nam*s capital market was held here on Tuesday jointly by the World Bank and HSBC Viet Nam. The seminar focused on reforms to further develop the capital market in Viet Nam and mobilise long-term financing for investment, particularly in infrastructure, energy, power, telecommunications, banking and financial sectors as well as other industries critical to local economic development. Experts also explained key factors in the equitisation and bond issuance processes. The seminar was held to tackle current issues in Viet Nam*s capital market, including the country*s on-going equitisation process, issuance of sovereign bonds in the international market, and the increasing interest of foreign investors in investing in Viet Nam. Participants also noted that the country needed a significant level of capital in the near future for various large projects in the pipeline, given the country*s fast economic growth. Attendees include representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the State Bank of Viet Nam, the State Securities Commission and others from banks nationwide. Last year, HSBC held a seminar on Developing Domestic Capital Market in Viet Nam.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 10/27/2005

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BANGLADESH: National Bank Provides Tk 70m Credit for Fareast Finance

National Bank Ltd will provide a Tk 70 million credit line for Fareast Finance & Investment Ltd. An agreement to this effect was signed between the two companies on Wednesday in Dhaka, says a press release. Mohsin-Ul-Karim, deputy managing director of National Bank, and Shantanu Saha, managing director (Current Charge) of Fareast Finance, signed the deal on behalf of their organisations on Wednesday in Dhaka.


From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 10/11/2005

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INDIA: Central Bank Lifts Benchmark Rate for a Third Time in a Year to Curb Inflation

The central bank on Tuesday increased a key interest rate for the third time in a year in an effort to curb inflation, which has risen to a five-month high on rising fuel costs and consumer spending. The Reserve Bank of India said it had raised the rate it pays to borrow overnight from commercial banks by a quarter-point, to 5.25 percent. It also raised its forecast for economic growth in the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, to 7.5 percent from 7 percent. Rate increases in the past year have failed to curb record bank lending, which has spurred purchases of cars and electronic goods in Asia's fourth-biggest economy. The rupee has slumped 3.8 percent in the past three months as India's central bank has trailed the United States, Indonesia and Thailand in raising borrowing costs. "Inflation has been on the upswing, and the rupee has been under some pressure," said Shuchita Mehta, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Mumbai. "We expect another quarter-point increase in January." The central bank on July 26 left its reverse repurchase rate unchanged after the finance minister, P. Chidambaram, said "benign" interest rates were needed to spur economic growth. Stocks rose on Tuesday in what traders said was a response to the higher growth forecast. The benchmark Sensitive index closed 0.9 percent higher at 7,991.74 points. India's inflation rate accelerated for six straight weeks to reach 4.62 percent in the week that ended on Oct. 8, the highest since May 28. A weaker currency may drive inflation higher by making imported goods, including fuel, more expensive. Government-controlled gasoline prices in New Delhi have risen 15 percent this year, compared with a 39 percent gain in crude oil costs in the same period. India imports 70 percent of the crude processed in local refineries. "Upside inflationary pressures from oil prices can be expected to continue, with attendant direct and indirect effects," the central bank said. It may have been "difficult to contain the inflation" without "an appropriate policy response," it said.


From http://www.iht.com/ 10/25/2005

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SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka to Hike Defence Budget Amid War Fears

Colombo: Sri Lanka will increase its defence spending by 23.29 per cent to 69.4 billion rupees as the Norwegian-backed peace initiative with Tamil Tigers remains on hold. The Appropriation Bill for 2006 tabled in the legislature today showed that the government hoped to increase defence spending by 23.29 percent to 69.4 billion Sri Lankan rupees. The Bill also showed that government expenditure next year will be 568 billion rupees (5.68 billion dollars), up from a provisional 438 billion rupees (4.21 billion dollars) this year. A truce between the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government forces is under severe strain following the August 12 killing of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. The government accused the Tigers of killing the Minister, a charge denied by the guerrillas. Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama, is expected to announce new revenue measures to finance government spending when he unveils the full budget in parliament on November 8. He is seeking parliamentary approval to raise 536 billion rupees (5.36 billion dollars) as loans both locally and abroad to finance government spending next year.


From http://www.hindu.com/ 10/04/2005

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MALDIVES: Bank of Maldives to Introduce Internet Banking This Year

Bank of Maldives has said that they are making the necessary preparations to introduce internet banking to the Maldives within this year. Manager Corporate Affairs Hassan Rasheed said Monday that when Internet banking is introduced Maldives living in islands other than Male and abroad will benefit from it. ※Using this service people can transfer money to accounts. Now, Internet is becoming more and more popular in the atolls. Therefore I believe that many people from living in the islands will use this service,§ he said. Hassan Rasheed said that a person, who has access Internet, regardless of the geographical location, will be able to transfer money from one account to another, request loans, make loan payments, request check books, apply for cash cards and use other services. ※Many people want this service. We have been preparing for this for sometime now,§ he said.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 10/05/2005

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PAKISTAN: Pakistan National Account Data Termed Inconsistent

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has observed that Pakistan's national account data is of poor quality and inconsistent. The data of national income account, particularly various components of aggregate demand is generally of poor quality and its various components varies as compared to fiscal, trade and private sector credit data. For instance, in the Budget 2005-06, there is 41.9 percent increase in public sector development expenditure, but it is very difficult to explain as to how fixed capital formation in the public sector, according to the national income accounts, decreased by 0.4 percent in nominal terms and by 14.1 percent in real terms. In addition, although small revision in previous year's national accounts data at the time of releasing the data for the outgoing year are understandable, drastic changes made every year in these data undermine their credibility. For instance, according to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2003-04, public sector fixed investment at constant prices increased by 40.8 percent in FY 2004 and the private sector investment increased by 7.9 percent. While, in the Economic Survey 2004-05, growth in public sector investment in FY 2004 has been revised downward to 21.1 percent and the private investment has declined by 11 percent.


From http://www.brecorder.com/ 10/06/2005

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AZERBAIJAN: Currency Denomination Starts

Prices on goods in Azerbaijan*s government agencies and organizations, as well as businesses, are to be indicated both in old and new currency values from October 1 till December 31, in light of denomination. The same rule applies to securities and advertisements, according to the country*s central bank, the National Bank of Azerbaijan (NBA). 1 Manat (national currency) will equal 5,000 Manats currently being used. For instance, the price on a loaf of bread currently selling for 1,000 manats should also be indicated as 20 Gapiks (hundredth factions of 1 Manat), while public transport fare costing 500 manats 每 as 10 Gapiks, and a liter of AI-93 gasoline - 32 Gapiks. The new banknotes, worth 1, 10, 20, 50, and 100 manats and coins worth 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 hundredth factions of 1 Manat will be released into circulation on January 1. In calculating the new prices, the remainder of one Gapik will be rounded up to a full hundredth faction of Manat. If the remainder is less than half of a Gapik, the price should be lowered to the full Gapik, while if it equals or exceeds half of Gapik, it will be raised to the full hundredth fraction of Manat. For example, if a price on goods or services is 53.4 Gapiks, it should be considered 53 Gapiks, while if it is 53.6 Gapiks, it should be rounded up to 54. In estimating the prices, every 1.000 manats will be separated in the digit by a &period*, while a &comma* will be used to separate Manats and Gapiks. Businesses and private individuals failing to indicate both old and new values of prices on goods and services will be held accountable in accord with the law. The measure is being implemented in the country in compliance with the February 7 presidential decree on denomination and a relevant decision made by the Cabinet of Ministers in June. ㄗby Assa Iradaㄘ


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 10/01/2005

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IRAN: Tax, Privatization Failure Blamed for Budget Deficit

The government*s failure to achieve tax revenue targets and the pitiable state of privatization schemes are the main reasons for the huge budget deficit the Ahmadinejad administration is expected to face this year. Gholamreza Salami, a member of the State Accountants Association and an economic expert, told ILNA that the government must viewing privatization as a means of generating revenues. He further that at a time when the country*s capital market is wrestling with serious challenges, transferring shares of state companies to private ownership to offset the government*s budget deficit will make things worse. Salami said estimates of this year*s budget deficit are not based on scientific procedures, stressing, however, that it is quite predictable that the government will certainly fail to materialize its budget projections. He blamed the government*s traditional budgeting system for allocating huge funds for state companies, adding that a major portion of the country*s annual budget goes to state companies. He further noted that if the government does not downsize, it will face budget deficits in coming years as well. The country*s budget deficit is expected to reach 70 trillion rials by March.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 10/27/2005

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KYRGYZSTAN: President Outlines Economic Goals for 2006

Kurmanbek Bakiev said on 15 October that in 2006 Kyrgyzstan's GDP growth should be at least 8 percent, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Speaking to a joint session of the government and parliament, Bakiev said that this goal is feasible, and that to achieve it, the agricultural sector should be developed and an orderly system of governance installed. The Kyrgyz president urged officials to resign if they are unsure whether they can accomplish the outlined goals. AN


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/17/2005

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AUSTRALIA: Bankers Polish Their T3 Pitch

IT WILL be another busy weekend for Australia's top merchant bankers after they got the call on Friday to prepare for the biggest pitch of their careers: selling the Government's 52 per cent stake in Telstra (T3). Nine banks are expected to make the trip to Canberra on Thursday and Friday to make their final presentations for one of the lucrative global co-ordinator roles that will manage the sale, according to sources close to the process. Few details were released about this final beauty parade. What is known is that the banks will present to a panel comprising four Department of Finance bureaucrats and two independent businessmen. The panel is likely to include departmental secretary Ian Watt and Simon Lewis, who is heading the Government's T3 team. Former Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner David Miles, and Malcolm Kinnaird, founder of Adelaide engineering company Kinhill, were the two business appointees for the scoping study but they are not guaranteed to return. "We are not advising who will be the independent advisers," said T3 spokesman Ian Smith. It will also be a minutely managed event for the banks involved. An exacting schedule has been set out for each team, starting from when they should assemble at the venue for their pitch, and ending with which door they will use to leave the room. UBS is the frontrunner for one of the global co-ordinator roles after being chosen in March to do the scoping study into the sale. The global co-ordinators of the previous Telstra sell-offs were Goldman Sachs JBWere, ABN Amro and Credit Suisse First Boston. Other contenders this time are JPMorgan, Citigroup, Macquarie Bank, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley. The Government has not advised how many banks will get one of the lead roles in the sale. Other firms with roles in T3 include business adviser Caliburn Partnership, and Freehills as domestic legal adviser. Merrill Lynch has been appointed Telstra's business adviser. This could prove to be lucrative as it will be well placed to advise on any asset spin-offs that follow the strategy announcement by Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo next month. Telstra shares fell 3⊿ to close at $4.04 yesterday. (by Colin Kruger)


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/08/2005

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Costello Under Pressure for Tax Reform

Treasurer Peter Costello faces more pressure to reform the tax system after a new report found Australian businesses are among the highest taxed in the developed world. The Business Council of Australia report found only Luxembourg and Norway relied more heavily on the tax taken from the business sector than Australia. It said a sharp drop in foreign equity investment in recent years was partly due to Australia, through its taxation on business, becoming less competitive than other nations. The survey of the corporate tax system found the tax burden on Australian business was 5.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, 64 per cent above the OECD average of 3.4 per cent of GDP. While profits by Australian firms have grown strongly in recent years, the tax paid by business has grown even faster, the survey says. The council said although the corporate tax rate of 30 per cent was internationally competitive, the tax system when taken in its entirety weighed down Australian firms. Foreign equity investment in Australia grew 37 per cent between 1993-94 and 1998-99, but between 1998-99 and 2003-04 it grew just 10 per cent. Council president Hugh Morgan said it was clear Australian businesses were facing a higher tax burden and it was now time for the federal government to reduce business tax. "There has been a steady increase in Australia's corporate tax burden over the last 20 years and it is a misconception that our high tax burden is the result of factors such as the recent resources boom," he said. One of the council's biggest concerns was the huge growth in tax revenue from the business sector in recent years. In 2001-02, the federal government received about $25 billion from business. This financial year it was expected to be closer to $48 billion. Mr Morgan said although the government benefited from greater tax revenues, businesses found it more difficult to compete. "If our company tax regime becomes too uncompetitive, investment and growth will erode," he said. "This in turn will have a direct impact on government revenues and the country's capacity to provide the services and standard of living we currently enjoy." The council believes the government needs to canvass tax incentives and breaks offered in other countries, and also slashing the 30 per cent rate. Opposition treasury spokesman Wayne Swan said the council had highlighted a major problem facing Australian business. "The report paints a picture of Australia's declining competitiveness, particularly compared with key trading partners and competitors in the Asia-Pacific region," he told AAP. "We should ensure Australia's tax system is as competitive as possible, and that this is balanced with other priorities like fairness and efficiency across the entire tax system." CPA Australia senior tax counsel Paul Drum said the strength of the corporate sector, and the introduction of fully franked dividends, had boosted tax revenue. He said it was clear that a new round of tax reform for both the corporate and individual sectors was needed. "It's now getting five or six years on from the last wave of business taxation reform, and if we are going to go forward, it's not something that can be ignored," he told AAP.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/17/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: Super Fund Commits $20m to Private Equity Investment

State-funded investor the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZSF) is making its second foray into the high-risk, high-return world of private equity investment. NZSF announced today it has committed $20 million to the Direct Capital Partners III fund, which invests in businesses in New Zealand and Australia. The Direct Capital III fund is the seventh fund raised by Auckland-based Direct Capital Management Ltd, which has $350 million under management. The firm was established in 1994 by Ross George, Bill Kermode and Mark Hutton. In March this year NZSF announced plans to invest up to $100 million in local private equity funds over the next three to five years. Its first investment was committing $23.75 million to the AMP Pencarrow Private Equity Fund in June. Today's investment was given the green flag by NZSF's independent advisors, Quentin Ayers. The NZSF, established by the Government in September 2003, is intended to partially provide for the future cost of superannuation, which is expected to double in the next 50 years. The Government plans to allocate an average of $2.2 billion a year to the fund over the next 20 years, with the fund expected to grow to about $100 billion by 2020. The value of the NZSF as at August 31 was $7.2 billion.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/04/2005

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Banking Leader Addresses Finance Heads

New Zealand*s experience in bank regulation and supervision came under the spotlight when Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Adrian Orr addressed finance heads at AUT University today. The Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) invited the banking leader to address the inaugural meeting of its New Zealand chapter. GARP is the world leading independent association for risk managers. Its 46,000-strong membership includes professionals and academics from banks, investment firms, government, corporations and tertiary institutions. Professor Alireza Tourani Rad and Associate Professor Ming-Hua Liu from AUT University have been appointed as regional co-directors of GARP. The co-directors said bank regulation is an important issue for the finance industry and it was significant to have a leading New Zealand banker address the group. The aim of this forum is to understand key issues in risk management and share latest developments, both here and abroad. It was a great honour to have Mr Adrian Orr as our first speaker, they said. GARP New Zealand will hold five meetings a year to provide members opportunity to exchange best practices. Leading financial experts from New Zealand and overseas will be guest speakers. GARP is dedicated to the advancement of the risk profession through education, training and the promotion of best practices globally. Its mission is to be the leading professional association for risk managers.


From http://www.scoop.co.nz/ 10/21/2005

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Private Sector Can Make Profits While Protecting the Planet, New ADB Report Says

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Green investments and products offer the promise of strong business and job opportunities in Asia and the Pacific, according to a report released today by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The report, Asian Environment Outlook (AEO) 2005, estimates the global market in 2005 for environmental goods and services to be about $600 billion, and projects this market will expand to more than $800 billion by 2015. Out of this burgeoning market, Asia and the Pacific accounts for $37 billion. With a growth rate of 8-12% - the fastest in the world - the regional market is expected to triple to $100 billion by 2015. "We now see that governments across our region - from India, to Thailand, to the People's Republic of China - are increasingly ready to take on environmental challenges. Enforcement of pollution control laws is tightening, budgets for environmental protection are increasing, and judiciaries are taking tougher stances," says Nessim Ahmad, Director of ADB's Environment and Social Safeguards Division. "The improved environmental quality demanded by the public will require investment in wastewater treatment, solid waste management, sustainable public transport, and clean, renewable energy systems - all of which are critical to the economic and environmental future of the region." He adds that consumers are also demanding greener and more environment friendly products. "While not all firms will be able to benefit from the expected boom in environmental investments, most should have an opportunity to gain from environmentally-based product differentiation if they recognize this and act," he says. Mr. Ahmad was presenting the key findings and conclusions of AEO 2005 during a keynote address at the 6th Asia-Pacific Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production, in Melbourne today. Subtitled Making Profits, Protecting our Planet: Corporate Responsibility for Environmental Performance in Asia and the Pacific, the report is ADB's second Asian Environment Outlook. The first, released in 2001, centered on the need to better integrate environmental considerations into economic and sectoral policies and programs. While there has been some progress in recent years, AEO 2005 argues that there is a critical missing ingredient in the pursuit of a sustainable future for Asia and the Pacific - that of a fully engaged private sector. While governments determine the rules under which businesses act, the firms themselves use natural resources, make products, and generate pollution. A sustainable future for the region - and the rest of the planet - is not possible without greater corporate engagement and environmental responsibility. "Industry, government, and communities must come together to collaboratively solve environmental problems," Mr. Ahmad adds. "The key is for governments to give the private sector the incentive and flexibility to find low-cost ways to meet agreed environmental management objectives." Fortunately, the time is right for this transition to sustainability because market and social forces are creating new incentives for corporate attention to the environment, he points out. "We all have our roles to play in furthering this transition, and the time to act is now - so that a sustainable future for Asia and the Pacific may be secured."


From http://www.adb.org/ 10/10/2005

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CHINA: Private Firms Gain More Access to Public Sector

Zheng Qiugen, a businessman based in east China's Zhejiang Province, is busy preparing to establish a life insurance firm, a joint venture of private enterprises. Like many of his entrepreneur peers, Zheng is seeking new opportunities for business expansion after the Chinese government earlier this year published guidelines on the deployment of private capital in the public sector. The guidelines, the first governmental blueprint for the growth of the private sector in the country in more than 50 years, were regarded as having opened the lid on the "forbidden" areas which were once only open to state-run enterprises. China encourages and supports the participation of private businesses in the infrastructure sector, in industries previously monopolized by state-owned ventures, in public service sectors and in any other areas which are not forbidden by law, the guidelines said. "The government has given the green light, now it's high time for us to show what we can do," Zheng said. The guidelines are only the first step in China's attempt to open its public sector to private capital, and entrepreneurs are waiting for more. Some entrepreneurs complained that the guidelines only gave them something to see, while what they want is something to touch. The government, however, is making detailed regulations to facilitate private business access to the public sector, said Wang Yuanzhi, an official from the State Development and Reform Commission, at an on-going forum on the growth of the private sector held in Hefei, capital of eastern Anhui Province. In recent months, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Railways and the General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) issued detailed regulations on the entry of private capital into the insurance, railway and aviation industries. Local governmental departments also made similar regulations. Private business, even farmers selling eggs and poultry to one another, were taboo in China until the country shifted to the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s. The private sector was then considered a useful complement to the public sector. Over the ensuing two decades, the country's central authorities gave increasing recognition to the private sector. One of the resolutions of the 15th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1997 was to seek growth in both the public and the non-public sectors. And in 2002, the party in power vowed in its 16th National Congress to encourage and support the development of the private sector. With all the encouraging policies, private companies can now gather a momentum to enter areas once off-limits to them, said Fang Zhaoben, a professor of management with the prestigious Chinese University of Science and Technogy based in Hefei. On March 11, China's first privately-owned airline Okay launched its maiden flight in the northern municipality of Tianjin, breaking the state monopoly in the sector. Two other private airlines, Yinglian and Yingan, went into operation after Okay, and the Junyao Group, an elite private enterprise based in eastern Zhejiang Province, got approval from CAAC in July to set up an express airline whose flights are expected to cover the country's eastern sector. Following a stock transfer, the formerly state-owned Shenzhen Airlines became a private enterprise earlier this month. The oil sector is no longer entirely in state hands after the Changlian Petroleum Holding Company was established at the end of June. After an injection of 5 billion yuan (US$625 million) from about 50 private enterprises, the company hopes to boost its fixed assets to 500 billion yuan (US$62.5 billion) within three to five years, according to board chairman Gong Jialong. In spite of all these encouraging policies, however, private businesses may still feel handicapped both because their strength does not equal their ambitions and because of the long-existing bias against them in business management departments, said Prof. Fang.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/13/2005

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Chinese Legislature Gives Greenlight to One-person Limited Company

China's top legislature adopted the Draft of the Amendment of the Corporate Law Thursday, with an eye-catching lifting of ban on the setting-up of one-person limited companies. The Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) held its 18th session on October 22-27. According to the newly-adopted amended law, one person, either a natural person or a legal person, is allowed to apply for opening a limited company with a minimum capital of 100,000 yuan (about US$12,345). The amended law also prescribes that the owner of the single-person company should pay the investment capital at one time. It is prohibited to open a second one of the kind by the same person. It should be made clear whether the one-person company is opened by a natural person or a legal person during the process of registration and in its charter, the new amendment says. The one-person limited company should submit its audit report at the end of a year to an accounting firm. The owner who fails to prove his/her assets is independent from the assets of the company should take responsibility for the company's losses, the amendment says. The proposal to allow the setting-up of a one-person company was opposed by a number of lawmakers during discussions. A study co-conducted by several legislative and government bodies shows there had already existed in the country companies with features of one-person limited companies. These companies, according to the research, either have their assets mostly owned by one of the shareholders, or owned by one actual shareholder and a number of others who only hold stocks nominally. Some lawmakers feared that the owner of a one-person limited company might take advantage of the company's assets for his/her own use. Nevertheless, the study says the fact that the new amendment includes articles on auditing, which are even stricter than corporate laws in other countries, may eventually prevent this from happening.


From Xinhua News Agency 10/28/2005

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JAPAN: 4 Expressway Public Corporations Privatized

Japan privatized four expressway public corporations Saturday, four and a half years after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took power with structural reform initiatives to transfer as many public sector operations to the private sector as possible. The Japan Highway Public Corp. was split into three regional companies, while the other three -- the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority -- were kept intact as private companies.


From Kyodo News 10/01/2005

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Japan Enacts Post Privatization Law

(Xinhuanet) -- A set of laws on postal privatization reforms passed Japanese parliament and became enacted Friday, clearing the way for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to realize his long-standing initiative from Oct. 1, 2007. After the general election in Japan on Sept. 11, the Japanese government resubmitted postal privatization bills rejected during the previous parliament session. The House of Representatives passed the bills by a 200-vote margin Tuesday. The House of Councillors' Special Committee on Postal Privatization approved the proposed legislation earlier Friday, and the upper house's plenary session enacted it 134 to 100 in the afternoon. Speaking to reporters at his office, Koizumi called the enactment of the laws a "political miracle" and thanked the publicfor supporting his drive. Most of the members of Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party who joined the opposition in the upper house to reject the bills before the Sept. 11 election supported them in the wake of Koizumi's landslide victory. "There is no end to reform," Koizumi said in renewing his commitment to reforming Japan's structural problems. "I will have to advance reform more than ever from now on." At a separate news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda listed examples of issues, which the administration will now tackle to streamline Japan's government. He cited fiscal decentralization, reform of public corporations, a cut in the number of public servants and reform of special state coffers. Having accomplished his administration's highest priority goal of this year, Koizumi is now expected to shift his focus to planned reshuffles of his Cabinet and the LDP leadership after the parliament session ends Nov. 1. Attention will be paid to the way he promotes in the reshufflespotential candidates to succeed him after he leaves office in September next year. The premier is also slated to tackle through the end of the year initiatives to streamline the government such as fiscal decentralization, consolidation of state-run financial institutions and a major target to reduce the number of public servants. Under the just-approved legislation, Japan Post will be split into four stock companies on Oct. 1, 2007, and its postal savings and "kampo" life insurance businesses will be fully privatized by Sept. 30, 2017, under certain guarantees that they be kept universally available at post offices. The only change to the bills since their failure in the previous parliament session that ended Aug. 8 is that the 10-year privatization process has been moved back by six months. The bills cleared the lower house earlier this week as the LDP and its ruling coalition partner, the New Komeito party, now hold more than two-thirds of its 480 seats together. Most of the "rebel" lower house LDP members who previously opposed the bills but survived the election as independents also joined in voting for them this time. Koizumi called the lower house election to ask the public's view on the policy and brought a landslide victory to the LDP by fielding only proponents of postal privatization as candidates. The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which attributesits devastating election losses to its failure in the previous session to make a counter proposal, had presented an alternative postal reform bill but it was rejected in the lower house.


From http://www.chinaview.cn/ 10/14/2005

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Seven Named to Postal Reform Firm

The government on Tuesday named Japan Post President Masaharu Ikuta and six others as the founding members of a company that will be set up in January to plan the details of the postal system's privatization under laws enacted last week. The other six are Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren); Kakutaro Kitashiro, chairman of the Association of Corporate Executives; Nobuo Yamaguchi, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Yoshihisa Akiyama, chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation; Yoichiro Morishita, chairman of the Postal Administration Council; and Keimei Kaizuka, chairman of the Financial System Council. Senior officials from the Finance Ministry and other government agencies related to Japan Post's privatization will also be appointed as founding members within the month. The planning firm, which will develop into the holding company, will have a management committee that will consider how to distribute employees and assets to the four separate firms when privatization commences in October 2007.


From The Japan Times 10/19/2005

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SOUTH KOREA: Six Publicly-Funded Firms Up for Sale

The government said Sunday it will sell 3.39 trillion won worth of stakes in six publicly funded companies held by the Korea Asset Management Corporation (KAMCO) next year. In a report to the National Assembly, the Ministry of Finance and Economy said the six companies up for sale next year include Daewoo Engineering & Construction, Daewoo International, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), Daewoo Precision Industries, Daewoo Electronics and SsangYong Engineering & Construction. Daewoo Engineering & Construction posted 3.5 trillion won in total market capitalization as of Sept. 21 and KAMCO is expected to recover 44.36 percent or 1.51 trillion won of the stakes. As for Daewoo Shipbuilding, 19.11 percent of its stakes worth 788 billion won owned by KAMCO will be on sale. Other stakes up for grabs next year are the 621 billion-won stake in Daewoo International, the 306 billion-won stake in SsangYong E&C and the 56.3 billion won stake in Daewoo Precision Industries. ``Stakes in companies with sound management structure will be traded at prices higher than expected. So total returns in the upcoming sales may exceed the suggested market capitalization,** a government official said. The government is also considering what impact the sale of KAMCO-held stakes will have on the economy. Meanwhile, the government will pour 1.36 trillion won worth of public funds into other cash-strapped companies by 2008. It will spend 591 billion won in the four months ending in December, 608.4 billion won in 2006, 109 billion won in 2007 and 53.6 billion won in 2008. In 2002, the government decided to retrieve 97 trillion won out of 159 trillion won funneled into debt-ridden companies. ``Despite the additional spending, the government expects the retrieval of public money will put little strain on economic recovery,** the government official said. (by Choi Kyong-ae)


From The Korea Times 10/02/2005

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INDONESIA: Amway to Help Sell SME Products

As part of its effort to help boost the development of local products, multilevel marketing and distribution firm PT Amway Indonesia has entered into collaboration with 16 small and medium enterprises to distribute their products.The company, which has 300,000 distributors nationwide, will help market 212 SME products ranging from edible cooking oil and snacks to garments. "We hope that the additional products will help increase our local (product) sales from the current 7 percent to 10 percent next year," said Amway Indonesia president director Koen Verheyen (photo above, second left) at the venture's launch on Monday. During the ceremony, Minister of Trade Mari Elka Pangestu (photo above, second right) said the government would also increase access to capital loans for micro businesses. According to 2003 figures, there were 42.3 million SMEs back then employing about 79.04 million people nationwide and contributing more than half of Indonesia's gross domestic product (GDP).


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/11/2005

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Number of State Enterprises to Be Cut From 158 to Only 80

The government will slash the number of state enterprises from 158 to only between 80 and 85 over the next three to five years for the sake of efficiency, State Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto said on Friday evening. "The efficiency plan has been disclosed to the coordinating minister for the economy and the vice president recently," Sugiharto said, adding that the efficiency drive would be conducted by merging money-losing companies. Without giving details on the names of the state companies to be merged, the minister said that only five of the state enterprises contributed greatly to the state coffer, namely telecommunications company PT Telkom, gas company PGN and oil company Pertamina, with the other two in the infrastructure sector. He further identified there were at least 22 state companies which were badly in the red. Before merging the money-losing companies, the government would try to restructure their management first so as not to severely affect the financial condition of their partners, he said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 10/29/2005

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MALAYSIA: Make Private Sector Pay Cola Too, MTUC Urges Government

The rising cost of living affects all Malaysians and thus private sector employers should also pay special allowances to their workers, says the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC). MTUC secretary-general G. Rajasekaran said the Government should direct these employers to pay a cost of living allowance (Cola) to their employees like the RM60 to RM150 given to civil servants depending on their geographical location. ※The 260 affiliates of the MTUC represent more than 500,000 workers, who are all affected by the higher prices of goods and services. ※The unions want their employers to follow the gracious precedent set by the Government,§ he said in a press statement yesterday. Rajasekaran said the MTUC would submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the matter soon. ※The Government introduced a Cola payment to all public sector employees to alleviate hardship caused by the increase in the cost of living, especially due to the substantial increase in prices of petrol and diesel. ※It has affected all families directly or indirectly and the MTUC is upset that the Government does not seem to be addressing the plight of the private sector employees,§ he said.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/15/2005

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SINGAPORE: Mobile Training Service Proposed to Improve Service Standards at SMEs

A mobile training service for small retailers and food and beverage outlets is one idea to improve customer service. The Go the Extra Mile for Service (GEMS) committee for small and medium sized businesses hope to create grants to help defray the costs. Serving customers now comes naturally to Noor Hafiz, but when he started in sales two years ago, he was sorely lacking in confidence. "Actually I feel scared about going up to customers because we don't know what they want and what will they say when we just approach them." said Noor Hafiz, a sales assistant at 77th Street. Such shyness is common among new sales staff at 77th Street, so all are sent for training before they hit the shop floor. "During the induction, we play games and do role-plays until they are sure of themselves. We shoot them all sorts of weird questions or difficult customers so that they can handle it when we put them to the front," said Chris Chew, director of 77th Street. In-house trainers visit all the 77th Street outlets regularly, upgrading customer service skills and product knowledge. The government's Go the Extra Mile for Service (GEMS) campaign wants more companies to adopt good service practices through training. But small shops often have only one or two members of staff, so they may not be able to release staff for training. Another problem is cost - bringing in a trainer for such few people can work out to be very expensive. "We can bring trainers to them, and train all at one time before they start work or after they finish work. I believe that will be something they can look at," said Elim Chew, who co-chairs the GEMS committee. Ms Chew says setting up a mobile training service for small retailers and food and beverage outlets will help spread the cost, making it more affordable. She also hopes to tie-up with the Skills Development Fund and Spring to create grants to ease the financial burden of training.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 10/10/2005

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BANGLADESH: Private Operators to Run 4 Land Ports

The Bangladesh Land Port Authority on Sunday signed agreements with four private operators, awarding them rights to operate four land ports under build-own-operate system. According to the agreements, the operators will develop necessary infrastructures at Hilli, Sona Masjid, Banglabandha and Bibir Bazar land ports, within the next six months and will provide logistic facilities for the importers, sharing a portion of the revenue earned through selling such services to the port users. In the signing ceremony the BLPA chairman, Amjad Hosain Sarker, said signing of four agreements was a part of handing over 12 of the country*s 13 land ports to private operators under BOT system. Panama Trading, a local business house was given the contract of the Sona Masjid port in Chapainawabganj district and Hilli in Dinajpur district, while, Erba Limited, was given the Banglabandha in Panchagar district and the Bibir Bazar land port in Comilla district was handed over for operation, to Shepherd Limited. The private companies will pay a fixed amount of royalty to the government annually, for using the land and the other facilities for the next 25 years, after which the government will take back the ports. The operators, who were also the highest tender bidders, bided a fixed monthly amount of Tk 30 lakh, which will be 49 per cent of the earnings from Sona Masjid, Tk 15.25 lakh, also 49 per cent of the earnings at Hilli, Tk 6.65 lakh that is 31 per cent of earnings from Banglabandha, and Tk 5 lakh or 15 per cent of earning for Bibir Bazar port. Under the agreements, the private operators will have to make advance payments on the basis of potential amount of revenue collection〞Tk 5.7 crore for Sona Masjid, Tk 2.85 crore for Hilli, Tk .58 crore each for Banglabandha and Bibir Bazar. &We will develop modern facilities in the ports at the convenient of importers,* said Moniruzaman Chowdhury, the proprietor of the Panama Trading that at present operates a truck terminal at Chittagong port in BOT system. Chowdhury said, besides developing the equipment, warehouses and other infrastructure for the ports for loading and unloading of consignments, they would also build cold storages at Sona Masjid and Hilli ports, as the importers preferred to bring perishable agro-produces, vegetables and fruits from India.


From http://bangladesh-web.com/ 10/10/2005

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Hearing of Writ Petition on Rupali Bank Privatization Begins

The hearing of the writ petition on Rupali Bank Privatization case on Wednesday began at a division bench comprising Justice Syed Mohammad Dastagir Hossain and Justice Ashraful Islam of the High Court Division, reports BSS. Appearing on the first day hearing, Attorney General AJ Mohammad Ali argued in favour of the expansion of privatization process in the country. Earlier, the Privatization Commission advertised seeking Expression of Interest for selling 67 per cent share of Ruplai Bank to private entrepreneurs on May 21. But, the HC stayed the process until disposal of the case on a write petition filed by a shareholder of the bank on July 17 last. Later, upon a request of the Finance Division, office of the Attorney General took steps to include it (Finance Division) as a respondent of the case, a senior official told BSS. The HC later included the Finance Division as the sixth respondent, he said. The Government then prayed to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court seeking a stay of the earlier stay order of the High court division. The Appellate Division, however, issued a two-week status quo and asked the government to file a regular leave petition, the official also said. With the active supervision of the Finance Division, the law secretary took steps in this regard, he said.


From http://bangladesh-web.com/ 10/27/2005

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INDIA: OGP Protest Against Privatisation

BHUBANESWAR 〞 Chief minister, Mr Naveen Patnaik is apparently keen to protect the interest of private companies like Posco, Vedanta and Jindal rather than protecting the interest of people of Orissa, observed Orissa Gana Parishad president, Mr Bijoy Mohapatra and leaders of left and other democratic secular parties. Addressing a protest rally and demonstration in front of the Kalahandi district collectors* conference at Bhawanipatna on Friday, Mr Mohapatra said the Naveen Patnaik government was out to show undue favours to the private companies on the plea of rapid industrialisation. This was vindicated by the recent report of the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court in the Vedanta case, he said. The indictment of the state government by the CEC is an unprecedented incident, remarked the OGP chief. This joint rally and demonstration against Vedanta project will lay the foundation for a massive state-wide movement against the mining scam, he said. CPI-M state secretary, Mr Janardan Pati alleged that the BJD-BJP government had pushed the people of Kalahandi to misery by displacing them for the mining project. The much desired agricultural development and poverty alleviation programmes had taken a back seat while the government was keen on the development of some private industries, he lamented. His CPI counterpart, Mr Nityananda Pradhan criticised the Naveen Patnaik government*s ※ pro-MNC policy§ at the cost of the state*s interest. Later, a memorandum addressed to the Governor demanding scrapping of MoU with the Vedanta company and stern action against the erring officials was handed over to the district collector.


From http://thestatesman.net/ 10/09/2005

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BSNL Slaps Additional Levy on Pvt Operators

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has slapped a levy of Rs 15,000 per annum on private telecom operators for providing them additional interconnect 〞 a move that has enraged the operators. The charge, which would be levied with retrospective effect, was described by operators as ※arbitrary§ and a result of BSNL*s ※unilateral decision.§ BSNL informed Unified Service Access Licence operators that it had fixed a charge of Rs 15,000 per annum per E-1 link. A circular, issued by BSNL in this regard recently, also insists that operators make provision for HDSL modems, besides convert all passive links to active links. BSNL has insisted that all new PoIs will now be given only on the basis of active links, and all existing PoIs will have to be shifted to active link by December 2005. ※The charges fixed by BSNL are unilateral and arbitrary and have been done without any discussion with operators. This must be discussed with private operators and reasonable amount can be worked out and charges be accordingly fixed. There is no reasonable ground for levying the charge retrospectively§, operators association AUSPI said in a letter to BSNL. The passive links are deployed by service providers for interconnection with BSNL. Operators said HDSL modems were not required as all suitable protective actions were taken by service providers. The charge, which has recently been unilaterally fixed at the rate of Rs 15,000 per E-1 per annum, that too from back date is not fair and we consider it absolutely arbitrary.§ This is despite the fact that the operators are not using any resource of BSNL like power, space, AC. In fact, there is no rationale for per E1 charges and charges, if at all, should be on per cable basis, operators said. It was BSNL, which insisted that operators set up passive links, and now that they have already installed passive links, forcing them to migrate to active link would mean a drain on financial resources.


From http://thestatesman.net/ 10/12/2005

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PAKISTAN: Etisalat Seeks to Clarify PTCL Issues

Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) has confirmed that it is in heavy negotiation with Pakistan Telecommunications (PTCL) to resolve a number of issues that have arisen since it agreed to buy a 26% stake in the company in June. Queries reportedly include a deferred payment structure, permission for a dual listing on the UAE bourse and various tax exemptions. Pakistan*s Privatisation Commission has agreed to extend the sale of the stake to 28 October 2005.


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

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AZERBAIJAN: Executive Rules out Privatization of Azerbaijan's National Oil Company

Natik Aliev, president of the Azerbaijani state-owned oil company SOCAR, said in Gyanja on 11 October that he is not aware of any move to privatize that company, and that doing so would be inexpedient, at least during the next five years, ITAR-TASS and day.az reported. He said that oil is "a major political and economic factor, which determines the country's economic growth." Aliev recalled that the Law on Privatization adopted in 1996 specifies that SOCAR can be privatized only with the personal approval of the Azerbaijani president. Aliev added that he has never met, and is not personally acquainted with, Czech businessman Viktor Kozeny, who was arrested in the Bahamas last week and has since been indicted on bribery charges for his efforts in the late 1990s to persuade unnamed Azerbaijani officials to permit a group of investors he headed to participate in the privatization of SOCAR. LF


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/12/2005

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IRAN: Corruption Undermining Privatization Process

Iran*s chief inspector said Saturday the privatization drive has been plagued by rent-seeking and misuse of public funds, stressing that there are certain cases of privatization in which the general policies have been violated. Mohammad Niazi, who heads the State Inspectorate Organization, told Fars news agency that several state-controlled factories have been sold to certain people who have failed to run them properly. ※For instance, the Lorestan refrigerator manufacturing factory was sold to a person who failed to pay the government and made 300 workers jobless,※ he said, adding that some people have misused insider information in the process of privatizing state companies. Asked why the names of those accused of economic corruption are not announced publicly, the chief inspector said there is no ban on making their names public after a court ruling. He said that disseminating information on economic corruption is like a double-edge sword, stressing that the people want to see the actual outcome of the fight against corruption. ※If the names of those involved in economic corruption are not made public, the public trust (in the anti-corruption campaign) will dampen,※ he said. Privatization in Iran is mainly conducted by transferring shares of state companies to private ownership via stock market. The Parliament has stipulated jail sentences and stiff cash fines for misuse of insider information at the stock market. Under the parliamentary ratification, those who trade shares using insider information will be sentenced to jail terms ranging from three months to a year and cash fines of two to five times the amount they have acquired. The penalties are stipulated in the Stock Market Bill, which was passed by the Parliament earlier. Anyone with access to information about a company that has not been made public and which is used to the advantage of the buyer to make profit on the stock market will be prosecuted. The ratification also envisages penalties for stock market speculators whose activities usually cause unreal fluctuations in share prices. (by Mohammad Niazi)


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 10/30/2005

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KAZAKHSTAN: Private Sector Operations at Forefront of ADB's Updated Strategy

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (12 October 2005) - A new thrust toward private sector operations will be at the forefront of ADB's operations in Kazakhstan in 2006-2008, according to ADB's Country Strategy and Program (CSP) Update. Public sector technical assistance (TA) and investments will create an enabling environment for the private sector, as well as selected public sector lending programs in rural development and water supply aimed at poverty reduction, the Update says. Government public sector borrowing is highly selective, emphasizing projects with strong development impact or innovative approaches to mobilizing central Government funds for local investment. Currently, ADB plans to process loans amounting to $50 million a year for Government consideration. "The rapid development of this oil rich economy has led to an inevitable shift in ADB's development priorities," says Adrian Ruthenberg, a Director in ADB's East and Central Asia Department. "Focal areas for ADB activity will be creating inclusive growth and human development through private sector development, while maintaining environmental sustainability, and promoting regional cooperation." Three loans are planned for the period - one for agriculture and natural resources/rural development in each of 2006 and 2008, and a water supply, sanitation, and waste management project in 2007. Private sector operations will be emphasized as the main vehicle for future ADB operations in the country and gradually increase over time. The nonlending program will continue to be an important instrument for ADB operations, with ADB providing about $1.5 million a year. The Government will increase its cost sharing over technical assistance projects to reach 50% for each of ADB and the Government in 2007-2008, compared to the present 60/40 mix. TAs over the period will include project preparatory and advisory work, and economic, thematic, and sector TA projects. Kazakhstan continues to be a strong proponent of regional cooperation and will take part in several regional TAs over the three years, including projects involving regional railways, roads, and cross-border harmonization, and gas transmission and power modernization. Continuing growth, job creation in the private sector, and pro-poor growth have raised living standards in Kazakhstan. In 2004, real per capita incomes rose by 13%. Reducing rural-urban disparities is now a key challenge. Gross domestic product is projected to grow at around 9% over the medium term, assuming continued high oil prices, foreign direct investment flows, good economic management, and continued political stability. As of the end of 2004, ADB had approved 12 loans for Kazakhstan amounting to more than $500 million and had approved TAs totaling $25 million. CSPs define ADB's medium-term development strategy as agreed with the country. A CSP update is usually prepared every year taking into account the continued relevance of the CSP, its implementation, and ADB's operational program. 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 64 members, with 46 from the region. In 2004, it approved loans and technical assistance totaling $5.3 billion and $196.6 million, respectively.


From http://www.adb.org/ 10/12/2005

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AUSTRALIA: iinet Wants Telstra Privatisation Soon

Australia's third largest internet service provider iiNet says the Federal Government should speed up the sale of Telstra to relieve itself from the conflict of owning the asset and regulating the industry. Iinet said the industry would be better off once the government sold its remaining stake in the telco, a process known as T3. "Is it good for competition that (Telstra) is drafting the operational separation plan, and also policing the plan that they have drafted?," iiNet regulatory affairs general manager Steve Dalby asked. "I don't think that the industry believes that that is good for competition." He said the government's move to separate Telstra's wholesale and retail divisions should be monitored by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission. "(Operational separation) is government regulation, so someone in the government should be doing it, and I would think that that would sit with Graeme Samuel and the ACCC - that seems to be the most appropriate," he said. "This is the thing about the sale of Telstra. "We look forward to it, let's get it done and dusted and there will be no conflict between owning the asset and regulating the industry. "We have no problem with who owns Telstra, we have a problem with how they behave. "I would hope that the government would be objective about its regulation once that sale is completed." The government is planning to sell its 51.8 per cent shareholding in Telstra in 2006.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/21/2005

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NEW ZEALAND: Act Backs Private Prisons

Private prisons would solve the overcrowding crisis, the Act Party said today. Problems with housing prisoners have been reported this week, and there have been admissions some were held in police vans and others sent to a rugby club for a shower. "Private prisons are the only answer to the ongoing crisis of prison overcrowding," ACT's national security spokeswoman Heather Roy said. "There is no good reason why private prisons were abandoned." The Government changed the law which allowed private prisons and the only one that existed, Auckland Central Remand, was handed back. New Zealand First, which has signed a support agreement with the new government, has suggested sending prisoners to military bases but Ms Roy took issue with that. "This is a problem for the corrections department, not the military," she said. "Private prisons should be reinstituted and defence force staff left to focus on their core function." Ms Roy said NZ First should use its influence with the Government and urge a policy reversal.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/27/2005

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