April 2006, Issue 53

gapw@apcity.org

 

 

 

Guidelines on ASEAN's Relations with Civil Society Organizations
Asia-Pacific UN Chief Warns of Bird Flu Complacency
APEC Security Experts to Explore Strategies to Counter Terrorism

 

 

CHINA: HK CE - Public Opinion Guides Gov't Policies
Drafting of Energy Law initiated
Official Calls for Progress in Helping Disabled
Public Seek Workers' Rights Protection in New Labor Law
NPC to Discuss Draft of Anti-Money Laundering Law
Public Input on Law Important
Environment Protection Goals Set
Bush Urges Hu to Speed Up Reforms
China to Keep Family Planning Policy Stable
JAPAN: Govt Eyes Relaxation of Media Ownership Rules
All Prefectures' Attack-emergency Plans Now OK'd
Japan's Fingerprint Bill Arouses Controversy
Law Revision Benefits Local Brands
Ruling Coalition Agrees on Patriotism Under New Education Law
Panel Oks Bill to Reform Police Detention System
Japan’s Govt Seeks to Overhaul NTT Law
Ministry Says It Will Revise the Administrative Tribunal Law
Reform Timeline Approved by Lower House
SOUTH KOREA: Job Creation Is Ultimate Goal of Economic Growth Policy
Regulator to Revamp Anti-Chaebol Rules
South Korea's Nongshim Fined for Breaching Antitrust Law
New Laws Confront Racial Bias in Korea
Government to Globalize Welfare Plan for Prisoners
Court Sets New Church Property Rules
MONGOLIA: Minimum Living Standarts Fixed Newly

 

 

INDONESIA: Grant Signed Off on Basic Education
Government Rethink All Labour Laws After Global and Local Protest Action
MALAYSIA: PM Unveils RM220bil Ninth Malaysia Plan
New Legal Framework to Counter Cyber Threats
SINGAPORE: Biometric Passports Starting August
National Qualifications System for Tourism Industry Launched
THAILAND: Emergency Rule to Be Extended in South

 

 

BANGLADESH: Ministry Approves Draft Captive Power Policy
INDIA: Poverty Alleviation Schemes Devised by Indian Government
Govt Plans to Energise Bond Market
IMF Urged India to Reform Labour Laws
India Holding Back Some Reforms to Retain Leverage in WTO Talks
SRI LANKA: Four New High Courts to Reduce Problems of Laws Delay
MALDIVES: Immigration Bill Sent to Committee, Bill on Defence Act Debated
Special Majlis Decides to Include Basic Rights in Amended Constitution
NEPAL: Government Working to Amend 137 Discriminatory Laws
PAKISTAN: Pakistan Government and ILO Take a Stand Against Child Labour
Far-reaching Amendments to Judicial System Proposed

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Law on Military Mobilization Goes into Effect
IRAN: Money Laundering Bill in Limbo
KAZAKHSTAN: President Signs Decree on Further Measures to Implement Strategy 2030
TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Eases Visa Rules

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Redundancy Payouts at Risk
ACT Govt's Water Conservation Plan Draws Mixed Response
Ministers to Develop National Disaster Plan
Red Tape Review Targets Tax Tangle
Cabinet to Consider New Refugee Rules
Bilateral Agreement on Service Delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in New South Wales
New Regulation to Stop Commercial Rivals from Stifling Competition
'Perverse' Union Law in Federal Sights
NEW ZEALAND: Government's Energy Efficiency Strategy to Be Scrapped
Changing Food Law 'Asks for Trouble'
Pandemic Preparedness Legislation Introduced

 

 

 

 

 

WB Announces Strategy to Combat Corruption
Asian Currency Unit Likely to Face a Rocky Road
BFA 2006 Annual Conference Concludes in Hainan

 

 

 

CHINA: Gov't Power Needs Definition
600 Institutions Punished for Violating Anti-Money Laundering Rules
CPC Sets Moral Yardstick for Officials
Scholars Call for Change in Villagers' Voting Rights
Mianyang's Lawmakers Improve Authorities' Efficiency
Democratic Supervision Takes Root in Rural Areas
New Department Set Up to Oversee Policy Banks
Reduce Waste in Gov't Operation
More Grads Want 'Safe' Civil Service Option
JAPAN: DPJ Elects Ozawa as New President
Kyoto Gov. Yamada Reelected
SOUTH KOREA: Probing Gov't Officials over Hyundai Bribery
Roh Names New Cheong Wa Dae Spokesman
National Pension Service to Participate in Infrastructure Project
New College Tuition Systems Proposed
President Names Kwon O-Kyu as Chief Economic Aide
South Korea's First Woman Prime Minister Wins Assembly Approval
Premier Vows to Work for Social Consensus
S.Korea Picks New Member Of C.bank Policy Committee
KORAIL Executives Face Corruption Allegations
Kim Sung-Jin Named Prime Minister's Chief of Staff

 

 

 

 

INDONESIA: Government to Revise Decree on Public Procurements
City Welcomes One-Stop Service for Investment
Ombudsman Not Performing, Critics Say
MALAYSIA: Ministry Increases Enforcement Personnel
Alternative Attire Civil Servants Can Wear
Plan Well to Reduce Wastage, Agencies Told
Get Rid of Red Tape, PM Tells Civil Servants
PHILIPPINES: Public-Sector Deficit Narrows
PHILIPPINES: ICT to Help Strengthen Civil Service
Davide Named Envoy to UN
Philippines Congress Opens ICT Center
SINGAPORE: Committees Set Up to Certify Minority Candidates for General Election
THAILAND: PM Quits and Hands Power to Ally
VIET NAM: World Bank Calls for Truth on Corruption Scam in Vietnam
Vietnam Readies for Change of Guard as Party Congress Nears End

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Party Chiefs’ Accountability to Help Eliminate Corruption
Govt Decides to Form Judicial Probe Body
BHUTAN: A Strong Enforcement Culture Could Root Out Corruption
INDIA: Public Health Foundation of India Launched in New Delhi
PM Manmohan Singh Inaugurates Function on ‘Civil Service Day’
SRI LANKA: President Was Appointed as the Acting SLFP Chairman
MALDIVES: Energy Authority Established
PAKISTAN: Assemblies Can Re-elect Musharraf
Re-election of 17 Senators Challenged

 

 

 

 

AFGHANISTAN: Lower House Begins Cabinet-Confirmation Process
AZERBAIJAN: Minister of Finance Dismissed
Provisions on Three Ministries Approved
IRAQ: New Iraq Government Next Month
Iraq Gets PM After Four Months of Deadlock
KYRGYZSTAN: President Appoints New National Bank Head
Kyrgyzstan Holds Parliamentary By-Elections
KAZAKHSTAN: President Appoints New Economy Minister
TURKMENISTAN: President Creates Committee on China Pipeline Deal
UZBEKISTAN: New Economy Minister Appointed, Ex-Minister Becomes Presidential Advisor

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Appointment of Future Fund Board of Guardians
Outrage at Merger of Watchdog Agencies
$1.8bn Boost to Mental Health
Govt to Slash Business Red Tape
FIJI: EU Sends Team to Observe Fiji Elections
NEW ZEALAND: PM May Reinstate Parker to Cabinet
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Solomons PM Confident of Survival

 

 

 

APEC Symposium on Emerging Infectious Diseases Enhances Cooperation
World Ethics Forum: Leadership with Integrity Is the Missing Link in Good Governance
Asian Development Bank Awards the Asia Foundation Two New Grants for Poverty Reduction and Citizen Empowerment Programs
Three Ways to Strengthen ASEAN SMEs: Singapore Minister
Sustaining Gains in Poverty Reduction and Human Development in MENA Requires New Approaches
Top 10 Wireless Innovations in Asia Pacific

 

 

Social Science Think Tank More Active in Policy Decisions
More Grassroots Officials Trained to Enhance Rural Development
CHINA: Public Resources for the Public
World Bank Lends to Help Institutional Capacity Building for Further Reforms in China
Mianyang's Lawmakers Helping Govt Improve Efficiency
Law Enforcement Education to Be Launched
Nations Set "Good Example" Working on Environment
China to Issue First Statistical Method for E-commerce
JAPAN: Systems Face Terminal Debt Problems
Enhanced H5N1 Response Planned
SOUTH KOREA: Ministry of Information and Communication, Goyang hold Seminar on IT Globalization
Construction Stocks Shrug Off Anti-Speculation Steps

 

 

MALAYSIA: PM Firm on Open and Transparent Government
Parenting Course at Community Colleges Nationwide
PHILIPPINES: ADB to Help Strengthen Local Governance and Fiscal Management
SINGAPORE: To Host Eco-fair Showcasing Latest Green Technologies
Government Shortlists Potential Sites to Build Retirement Village
Singapore's PR Academy to Hold Conference to Discuss New Media and Its Impact
Singapore Launches Security Technology Community

 

 

BANGLADESH: PM Calls for Contributing to Spread of Quality Education
Bangladeshi Scholarship Winners Head to Australia for Disaster Management Training
BHUTAN: Position Classification System: Suitable for Modern Public Management
'Crisis Management Programme' Ensuring Doctor's Safety in Pakistan
Poultry Research Institute Being Upgraded
Universities to Be Turned into Colleges for Failure to Meet Criteria

 

 

UZBEKISTAN: Banking Association of Uzbekistan, Commercial Banks Hold Round Table
Commission for Small Business and Private Enterprise Development Meets
UZBEKISTAN: Information, Training Centre Opens in Lower House of Uzbek Parliament

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Solar-Thermal Power Touted as Energy Solution
Costello to Pay States for Reform
Bringing Government into Space Age
NEW ZEALAND: Focus on Results of Spending, Says Treasury

 

 

 

2006 Information & Communications for Development: Global Trends and Policies
East Asia Is Now Most Open Region in the World, Posts Solid Growth
The 6th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region Coming Soon
Central Asia's Rapid Growth to Continue in 2006-2007, Says ADB
East Asia to Post Steady Growth in 2006 as PRC Moves to Check Expansion, ADB Says
South Asia's Growth to Moderate but Remain Strong in 2006-2007, Says ADB
Asia Must Create 750M 'Productive' Jobs to Maintain Social Stability, Says ADB Chief Economist
Asia-Pacific Leads in Biotech
Asia: Public Enemy Number One for Spam

 

 

CHINA: Democracy Programme "A Success" in Rural Areas
Central News Websites Back Internet Self-Censorship
China to Lift 23.65m People Out Of Poverty in 5 Years
China Makes Further Progress on IPR Protection
Chinese PM Admits Sandstorms Are Sign of 'Ecological Destruction'
100 Websites Vow to Fight Unhealthy Internet Content
JAPAN: Economic Recovery Gets Double Dose of Good News; Unemployment Down, Prices Go Up
Japan Posts Year-to-year Population Decline for First Time Last Year
Ministry to Upgrade Bird-Flu Risk Status
Japan in 2nd-longest Economic Expansion
Japan's Regional Economies in Steady Recovery
SOUTH KOREA: Government to Spend $20 Billion to Combat Underpopulation
Korea Saw Biggest Labor Costs Increase Between 1990-2004
Korea Sets Aside 308.9 Billion Won for Patent Technology Projects
Low Birthrate Will Cause Worker Shortage by 2020
MONGOLIA: Nature Protection Campaign Announced

 

 

INDONESIA: Tax Officials to Be Tested on New Computer System
‘WCIT 2008 Must Be World-Class’
9MP: Govt Wants to Draw ICT Players to M’Sia
IRB Out to Promote E-filing to 3.5 Million Taxpayers
SINGAPORE: Companies Rank Well for Work Environment: Survey
Schools to Use E-learning to Continue Lessons in Event of Flu Pandemic
New Web Portal for Chinese Language Teachers Launched

 

 

BANGLADESH: E-health Recording Is Possible in the Context of Bangladesh
Digital Divide Creating Imbalance in Society
INDIA: India Ranked 40th in Global ICT Index
Large Outsourcing Orders Push Top IT Service Company Net Profit by 50%
Indian Economy to Grow by 7.5-8% in 2006-07
Microsoft Displays India-specific Solutions
World Bank Supports Agriculture Development in India
SRI LANKA: Telecom Resumes CDMA Service
World Bank Grant to Empower Sri Lankan Youth
PAKISTAN: Efforts to Promote Adult Education in Pakistan
Regulator Orders PTCL to Cut International Bandwidth Rates to Boost Broadband

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: New Cellular Operator to Launch Services in August
IRAN: ICT Ministry Planning Huge Expansion
Iran Seeks “National” Internet
KAZAKHSTAN: National Telephone Company Recommended to Pass Networks to State

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Digital Radio to Be Introduced by 2009
Australia Leads World in Online Child Protection
$4.4bn 'Not Enough' to Fix Farming Mistakes of the Past
60,000 Aussie Jobs to Be Lost
Push on for Health Hotline
Credit Management Code— Protection from High Phone Bills
NEW ZEALAND: NZ Still A Straggler in Broadband Race

 

 

 

OECD: Aid to Developing Countries Hit Record High in 2005
UN Body Urges Asia to Boost Infrastructure Financing
World Bank Member Nations Approve $37 Billion Debt Cancellation

 

 

CHINA: Gradual Move of Chinese Currency Good for World Economy - ADB Chief
People Are Focus of Public Spending
Guangdong Builds Harmonious Tax Environment
China's Defense Budget to Increase 14.7% in 2006
JAPAN: Central Bank Keeps Monetary Policy Unchanged
Japan Long-term Rate Hits 7-Year High Amid Warnings
Japan Urges BOJ to Support Economy with Zero Rates
SOUTH KOREA: Government Won't Cut Taxes on Property Capital Gains
Korea Devt Bk, Sing Investments Selling S$50M Bonds Each
MONGOLIA: General Government Budget

 

 

MALAYSIA: Public Banking on Proposed Medical Scheme
SINGAPORE: QFBs Waive ATM Fees
VIET NAM: Agribank Credit Policies to Benefit Poor

 

 

BANGLADESH: Slow Revenue Collection Growth May Force Govt to Revise the Target
BB Directs Banks to Follow STR Rules Properly, or Face Penalty
INDIA: India Central Bank Leaves Key Interest Rate Unchanged
S&P Upgrades India's Outlook Due to Improvement in Government Finances
PAKISTAN: Govt Has Doubled Education Budget
Gov't Concludes US$650M Debt Swap with Donor Countries

 

 

IRAN: Gov’t Prefers Domestic Finance
Housing Bank Raises Loan Ceiling
KYRGYZSTAN: President Signs 2006 Budget

 

 

AUSTRALIA: BHP Leads Longest Share Rally
Howard Flags Punter-Friendly Budget
Top Tax Too High: Business Inquiry
Shaky Surplus to Rein in Drive for Tax Cuts
Tax Cuts 'Feasible' If Work Expenses Claims Go
New Support for Costello on Tax Cuts
Growth Pressures Rates
PM Pledges Not to Tamper With Family Tax
Heavies Weigh in to Call for Tax Reform
Totally Debt-Free, We're Well in the Money: Costello
NEW ZEALAND: Three in Four Families with Children Will Be Eligible for Family Tax Relief from Saturday
Supplementary Stabilisation Instruments
Government Coffers Well Stocked

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Private Firms Encouraged to Hire Layoffs
Private Equity Fund Should Be Legalized
Tap Private Sector for Jobs
JAPAN: Feb Core Private-Sector Machinery Orders Rise 3.4 Pct Mth-On-Mth
Public-Private Railway Operator to Pay Dividends

 

 

INDONESIA: Bill to Permit Private Investment in Railways
Government Plans Shakeups in 40 SOEs
MALAYSIA: Construction Sector Set to Boom
Initiative for Privatisation

 

 

BANGLADESH: World Bank Urges the Gov’t to Privatize OGDC, PPL and Gas Companies
Govt Committed to Supporting Private Sector, Says PM
INDIA: Indian PM for Private Sector Job Quota
India's Outsourcing Boom Ends with Job Quota for Unqualified in Private Sector
PAKISTAN: Role of Private Sector in Education Lauded
Private Schools Seek Relief from Labour Laws

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Azercell’s Value to Be Known Shortly
Private Companies Should Be Engaged in the Purchase of the Oil Containers
IRAN: Private Banks Allowed Higher Lending Rates
Private Sector Sees Hope

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Doubting Mps Question Snowy Sale
Abbott Hints at Imminent Medibank Sale
Loans Keep Private Education Growing
$400 IR Lure for Firms
New Hospital to Burden Taxpayers: Critics
NEW ZEALAND: Canterbury Plan for $150m Irrigation Scheme
Private Education Bodies 'Deserve Better Funding'

 

Guidelines on ASEAN's Relations with Civil Society Organizations

The Guidelines begin: A civil society organization (hereinafter referred to as “CSO”) that is a non-profit making association of ASEAN persons, natural or juridical, organized to promote, strengthen and help realize the aims and objectives of ASEAN cooperation in the political, economic, social, cultural, scientific, medical and technological fields, may be affiliated to ASEAN...The 2nd Meeting of the 39th ASC, Jakarta, 18-19 January 2006, revised the original guidelines into its present form. The 39th ASC adopted the version of the Guidelines, 16 articles in all, on 3 April 2006. The original Guidelines were adopted at the 5th Meeting of the 19th ASEAN Standing Committee (ASC), Manila, 16 -18 June 1986.


From http://www.aseansec.org
04/06/2006

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Asia-Pacific UN Chief Warns of Bird Flu Complacency

A dangerous complacency about bird flu is spreading in Asia because it has not killed as many people as initially feared, the senior United Nations official in Asia said on Tuesday. Bird flu is known to have infected 192 people worldwide since 2003, killing 109 of them. Some people in parts of Asia, such as Indonesia, say there are bigger threats to their lives such as poverty, militancy and other illnesses and are not taking precautions against avian flu. But this was a short-sighted way to think, Kim Hak-Su, Bangkok-based Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of UNESCAP, told Reuters in an interview. People were confused, he said. "Only birds and very limited numbers of people are affected, and (a) very small number of people died" despite bird flu's presence for several years, he said. "People now start to think (of bird flu) as not a major threat. That is a concern, so we must be vigilant."

Health experts fear it could be only a matter of time before the H5N1 avian flu virus mutates and starts spreading easily from person to person, triggering a global pandemic. Millions could die and economies crippled. The virus has spread from Asia, deep into Europe, to the Middle East and Africa, infecting humans in at least nine nations, including Indonesia were it has killed 23 people, 12 of them this year, according to the World Health Organisation. Kim, speaking on the sidelines of a UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific meeting, said UNESCAP had identified bird flu as a "looming threat" to the region, which has already caused about $10 billion in losses to the poultry industry. But complacency was hard to fight. He said many people were initially very worried by the disease but that fear has largely worn off. Even UNESCAP staff, including himself, did not always take precautions such as carrying Tamiflu tablets that can fight the disease. He said a crucial task for Asian countries was developing comprehensive rapid warning systems, since Tamiflu, among the most effective known drugs to fight the virus, needs to be taken within 72 hours of flu symptoms emerging.


From http://www.alertnet.org
04/11/2006

 

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APEC Security Experts to Explore Strategies to Counter Terrorism

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) security experts will discuss how developing countries should manage counter-terrorism aid from foreign donors and explore other strategies to defeat the threat in a meeting in the Philippines this week, an APEC official said here on Tuesday. With the theme "Defeating Dilemmas in Counter-Terrorism," the conference, scheduled for April 20-22 in the Philippine Southern city of Cebu, also intends to strengthen appreciation of the basics of counter-terrorism, understand its sub-regional approaches and pave way for its adoption in national security policies, APEC Counter-Terrorism Task Force Chairman Benjamin Defensor said. Defensor said that the conference "will extensively explore the strategies in counter-terrorism that will complement current international efforts utilizing the perspective of countries that live with and take prime responsibility for dealing with the threat." A joint declaration, to be called Mactan Concord, will be issued at the end of the conference, according to Defensor.


From Xinhuanet
04/19/2006

 

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CHINA: HK CE - Public Opinion Guides Gov't Policies

Public opinions will continue to guide government policies, irrespective of opposition from lawmakers, Chief Executive (CE) Donald Tsang said yesterday. The CE was pleased with signs of opposition lawmakers who were more willing now to come to terms with the administration over matters of public interest. Making the points in an interview with Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), Tsang said it had always been his principle to refer to public opinion when it came to policy formulation. "Refer to public opinions, deliberate them (in the spirit of science) and make a policy. "He said there was bound to be opposition of some kind but he wasn't afraid of that, and insisted that he would go ahead regardless of the opposition if he was convinced that his proposals had the backing of 60 to 70 percent of the population. The government's adjustments to the West Kowloon cultural development project was typical example of the philosophy, he said. Referring to the ill-fated West Kowloon project, Tsang said the controversial single-canopy design was a feature central to the winning model in an open contest, and the government had insisted that it be retained because those against the design had never been in the majority.

He said the government decided to replace the single-developer approach, originally proposed for the project, with a multi-developer mode when public opinion made it clear that it didn't want the mammoth project to fall into the hands of a single developer. The government moved further to limit the plot ratio permissible under the project after the community made it known its majority wish to see a lower density in the development, he said. The government had no choice but to shelve the proposal altogether after the commercial sector failed to see reasonable potential in the project after the adjustments. Tsang said he was not afraid of criticisms of the lawmakers, especially because they both had the same client to serve: the people. He has never stopped trying to establish working ties with opposition lawmakers. "If there are some who want more discussions, we'll discuss with them more. With regard to those insisting on their own stance, there is little I can do about it. "But of late, he has noticed that some opposition lawmakers have said in public that were not opposing something just for the sake of opposition. Glad to see such a development, Tsang said he hoped that would mark the beginning of convergence of the executive-legislative tracks. He reminded the Legislative Council (LegCo) that the Basic Law did not ask lawmakers to "oppose" but to "monitor" the administration. Every lawmaker counted, he said, and he would communicate with each one of them regardless of their political affiliation.

Tamar at heart The CE used the interview to defend the government's decision to shift its headquarters to the Tamar site despite Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's (DAB) opposition. DAB wanted the government to study if it would be more meaningful to relocate the headquarters to southeast Kowloon before going ahead with the Tamar plan, he said. The government has looked into the southeast Kowloon option and concluded that Tamar, a precious and convenient 4-hectare site between Central and Wan Chai, was the best choice, he said. Tsang's reiteration of following public opinion came as the Commission on Strategic Development (CSD) - which he has upgraded to collect views from different walks of life - was about to intensify discussions on the competitiveness facing Hong Kong. On Thursday, CSD Executive Committee members from different sectors will study the city's positioning in the international community - an aspect Lau Siu-kai, head of the government's Central Policy Unit (CPU), said was interlocked with Hong Kong's place and role in the country's economic development. Lau said Hong Kong risked being marginalized by the fast developing mainland cities. It has to act quickly to assert its competitive edge as an international financial and logistics hub, and that is not an easy job. The challenges have been laid out in the discussion paper for CSD members. The primary challenge, it says, is in the city's openness to the world that renders it vulnerable to non-traditional security threats like infectious diseases, money laundering, illegal migration, financial crisis, ecological security and food safety. The city's position between East and West, it adds, also makes it difficult to avoid international disputes over instances such as the rule of law, human rights and constitutional development. Hong Kong as an international city still lags behind others in promoting and showcasing local cultural characteristics, leading consumption trends, driving for creativity as well as developing arts and cultural activities. "An environment of the quality of life is essential to persuade talented people to move to Hong Kong," Lau said.


From
China Daily HK edition 04/04/2006


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Drafting of Energy Law initiated

To implement the decision of the State Council, State Energy Office, National Development and Reform Commission and Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council held a conference in Beijing on January 24 to establish a drafting team of the Energy Law. As a result, the program of drafting China's Energy Law was unveiled. The conference pointed out that the formulating Energy Law is a strategic decision of the Central Committee of CPC and the State Council to cope with the complicate and urgent energy situation in the world. Energy is a key strategic issue concerning China's economic development, social stability and national security. In recent years, great achievements have been made in China's energy development and a preliminary energy supply mix is taking shape with coal as the principal part, electricity as the core and all-round development of oil, natural gas and renewable energies. However, with rapid economic development, the contradictions in the energy field accumulated in the past years gradually cropped up and the complicated and volatile international environment poses new challenges to China's energy and economic security. Moreover, China lacks a basic energy law which reflects the energy strategy and policy orientation and coordinates ties between energies and energy-related activities comprehensively. This situation fails to meet the requirement for building a well-off society in an all-round way and realizing the sustainable economic and social development. As a result, it's an urgent need to formulate a basic and comprehensive law to cope with these complicated contradictions and problems properly.

The conference emphasized that it is of great significance to formulate the Energy Law which tallies with the national conditions and gears to the need of the future. Firstly, it contributes to implementing China's energy development strategy, upgrading the national energy development strategy and the comprehensive and long-term energy policy to operable laws and regulations supported by the mandatory state force. Secondly, confirming the legal status of medium- and long-term development planning of energy is conducive to ensuring national economic security, promoting energy prospecting and development, reinforcing international energy cooperation, improving an energy conservation system and energy emergency system, enhancing the independent innovation-making ability of energy science and technology and ensuring energy supply safety. Thirdly, it is necessary to build a conservation-oriented and environment-friendly society, promote the optimization of the energy mix, advance a recyclable economy, implement clean production in an all-round way and promote the economic growth mode that features low input, low-energy consumption, low pollution and high efficiency. Fourthly, it is good to upgrade the safety level of energy production, perfect an energy safe production system, specify the responsibility of safe production and boost the technological and management innovation in safe energy production. Fifthly, it's imperative to establish and improve China's energy law system, boost the transformation of governmental functions, and strengthen and improve energy management.

The conference stated that the State Council has approved the establishment of an inter-ministerial drafting team in order to strengthen the leadership and mobilize forces from all departments to co-draft the law. Mr. Ma Kai, minister in charge of NDRC and director of the Office of National Energy Leading Group, serves as the team leader with a total of 15 units as members, including the Office of the National Energy Leading Group, NDRC, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Land and Resources, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Commerce, the Sate-Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the State Environmental Protection Administration, the State Administration of Work Safety, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, NPC Financial and Economic Committee, NPC Environmental and Resources Committee and Office of the State Organization Commission. At the same time, in line with the requirements for scientific and democratic decision-making and open legislation, experts and scholars from such fields as energy, law, economy and public management have formed an expert team to offer consultancy to the drafting team.

The conference called on relevant departments to pay great attention to and expand cooperation in the drafting work with a high historical sense of responsibility and mission and in the spirit of reform and innovation. It is imperative to adopt the scientific concept of development in an all-round way, reflect the approach of putting people first and building a harmonious society, and make efforts to solve pronounced contradictions and problems in energy development by fully referring to foreign and domestic experience and achievements in legislation on energy based on the national condition. We shall stick to democratic and scientific legislation, conduct a thorough investigation and study, fully develop democracy, encourage the active participation of the public, and pool intelligence from all aspects to draft a high-quality Energy Law which can endure the examination of practice and history.


From NDRC.gov.cn
04/05/2006


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Official Calls for Progress in Helping Disabled

Vice Premier Hui Liangyu has called for greater achievements in helping the Disabled in their rehabilitation, education, employment, social security and access to public facilities. Over the next five years, special efforts should be made to relieve disabled people from poverty, especially those living in rural areas, Hui said Friday at a plenary meeting of the State Council committee in charge of affairs related to the disabled. Hui is a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. In his speech, Hui recalled the achievements China made in the development of handicapped people's undertakings in the past five years. But it has been a long-term and tough job for the country to develop the undertakings of disabled people, he noted. According to official estimates, China has over 60 million people with disabilities, or five percent of the country's 1.3 billion people.


From Xinhua News Agency04/08/2006


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Public Seek Workers' Rights Protection in New Labor Law

China's top legislature is considering the public's suggestions to give more legal leverage to alternatives to written contracts as it draws up the nation's first labor contract law. The National People's Congress (NPC) had received 32,791 public suggestions in the last ten days to Thursday on the draft law, which was published for public consultation on March 20. The number of submissions since March 28 was six times that of the first week of publication, said Kan Ke, spokesman for the General Office of the Standing Committee of the NPC. Many submissions suggested alternatives to written contracts, Kan said. The ninth article of the draft states only written contracts are effective. A source close to the legislature said China's lawmakers were seeking written contracts to protect the rights of migrant workers. "It's now an information era, and labor contracts in verbal or electronic forms should be valid. An employment relationship is established as long as the fact of employment exists," Kan quoted from a submission. He said some submissions suggesting labor contracts for part-time employment or short-term employment should be effective in verbal forms, and revised contracts with few changes should also be valid with a verbal agreement.

Submissions also criticized the provision that employment without written contracts should be viewed as non-fixed-term, and that the draft law also makes it easier for employers to end such contracts at will. Some people feared bosses would decline to sign written contracts with their employees, instead opting for non-fixed-term employment so they could sack staff more easily, Kan added. Many people suggested the law should ban overtime, he said. "Some employees are forced to work over ten hours a day or seven days a week, but with little overtime pay; while some employers squeeze overtime into their employees' daily assignments, cutting wages for people who cannot finish their work," Kan quoted a submission as saying. China's current labor contract system was set in a labor law enacted 12 years ago. The draft, if passed into law, will be the country's first law governing contracts. It was submitted to the legislature for review last December, and the public can file submissions until April 20.


From www.chinaview.cn
04/06/2006


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NPC to Discuss Draft of Anti-Money Laundering Law

The 21st Session of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) of China will review the draft of the anti-money laundering law for the first time on April 25. The Budgetary Work Committee of the NPC Standing Committee said on Monday that with economic globalization and frequent transnational capital flow, money laundering is not only prevalent in developed countries but also in developing countries. The international society has realized that fighting money laundering crimes relies on international cooperation based on domestic and international legislation, it added. The coming session of the 10th NPC Standing Committee will continue to deliberate drafts of the Law on Quality Safety of Agricultural Products, Passport Law and an amendment to Compulsory Education Law. The draft amendment to Partnership Law will be submitted to the coming session for first deliberation.

The legislative session will also deliberate the motion on acceding to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, the motion on ratifying the extradition treaty between China and Brazil, the motion on ratifying the Treaty on Criminal Judicial Assistance between China and Spain, the motion on ratifying the Extradition Treaty between China and Spain and the motion on ratifying the Treaty on Criminal Judicial Assistance between China and France.


From Xinhuanet
04/18/2006


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Public Input on Law Important

Public participation in the making of the labor contract law is highly significant, says a commentary in Workers' Daily. An excerpt follows: The draft labor contract law was publicized on March 20 to solicit public opinion. The general public have actively participated in expressing their ideas. According to the Xinhua News Agency, the working committee of legal affairs under the standing committee of the National People's Congress received about 320,000 opinions within a week of publication. The public gave broad attention to issues concerning the sphere of application, shortening of labor contract, time limit of probation period and compensation standard. They also raised a series of issues that are closely connected to laborers' rights and interests, such as default payments to migrant laborers. The public hope these issues can be clarified and reflected in the law.Frankly speaking, the law on labor contract cannot solve all the current problems concerning laborers' rights and interests. But the law-making process shows that the public have a deeper understanding of the rule of law.

The work of law-making must be professional and precise. But to invite public suggestions into the law-making process shows an open, scientific and democratic attitude. Thus the process to solicit public opinion is a process of education, a process to foster and improve democratic awareness, as well as a process to promote democratic and legal construction. The more the public express their ideas, the better the educational effects are. For example, some people suggest finding a balance between citizens' labor rights and interests and that of employers. Some suggest that the government's supervision responsibility should be clarified in the law. Law-enforcement departments should be granted more effective power. The rigidity of law enforcement should be enhanced to protect laborers' legal rights and interests.In a sense, the public's attention and participation in the law-making process is even more significant than the law-making itself.


From
China Daily 04/18/2006


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Environment Protection Goals Set

"We cannot just sit for discussions behind closed doors while the sandstorms have raged outside for more than ten days," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at a national conference on environmental protection. "Besides climatic factors it displays the critical environmental situation we're facing," Wen said of Beijing being enveloped in a fine yellow dust. While addressing the conference held over Monday and Tuesday, Wen said China required to be on high alert to fight back against worsening environmental pollution and ecological deterioration in some regions. Protection of the environment had to be given higher priority in the drive for national modernization. The major targets on environmental protection during the recently completed 10th Five-Year Plan (2000-2005) had not been achieved as scheduled and new problems had emerged, Wen said. China had set a target of cutting discharges of sulphur dioxide by 10 percent in 2000-2005. It set the same target for reducing emissions of carbon monoxide but only succeeded in securing a 2 percent cut, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

"Lack of awareness, insufficient planning and a weak legal framework can be blamed for the severe environmental pollution in the country," Wen noted. According to the recently adopted 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010) energy consumption in terms of per capita GDP growth should be cut by 20 percent, major pollutants reduced by 10 percent and forest coverage should increase from the current level of 18.2 percent to 20 percent, he said. The Premier has set out four priorities for current and future environmental protection. These include improving water conservation, controlling atmospheric and soil pollution, enhancing protection of the national ecology, re-adjusting the economic structure and boosting the environmental technology and protection industry. SEPA reported 45 other pollution incidents in the two and a half months after the Songhua River spill last November which threatened the water supplies of four million people in the city of Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

Another incident listed by the administration was a cadmium spill along the Beijiang River in south China's Guangdong Province that also threatened drinking and agricultural water supplies. Other major water pollution incidents included chemical spills along northeast China's Hun River, central China's Hunan's Xiangjiang River and a diesel spill along the Yellow River in Henan Province as well as oil contamination of Ganjiang River in central China's Jiangxi Province. Wen ordered local governments on Monday to release information on energy consumption and pollutant emissions every six months, set plans to control discharges and step up the environmental assessments of proposed construction projects. Protective policies on the exploitation of resources should be put in place and legal and supervisory systems established, acknowledged Wen. He also urged those in authority to allocate more money and raise public awareness of environmental protection issues.


From Xinhua News Agency
04/19/2006


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Bush Urges Hu to Speed Up Reforms

George W. Bush on Thursday urged Hu Jintao to accelerate a rebalancing of China’s economy away from a reliance on exports by boosting consumption and allowing a faster appreciation of its currency. In a day marked by a number of serious protocol gaffes at a welcome ceremony carefully planned for months, Mr Bush and the Chinese president also disagreed over how to tackle human rights abuses in Sudan. A senior White House official said Mr Bush had made an “impassioned plea” to Mr Hu to support international efforts to pressure Sudan, a major supplier of oil to China, but without success. “The Chinese agreed with the long-term goals but were not in accord with everything we are trying to do in the short term,” said Dennis Wilder, acting senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council. The summit got off to a bad start when the Chinese national anthem was introduced as that of the “Republic of China”, the formal name of Taiwan, over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

Mr Hu’s speech was then interrupted by interjections by a protester from the outlawed Falun Gong meditation group who got into the White House grounds as a reporter and positioned herself on a podium near the two heads of state. Mr Bush emphasised in his speech the need for China to play a greater role in global institutions and security issues commensurate with the size of its economy and rapid pace of development. “The US welcomes the emergence of a China that is peaceful and prosperous and that supports international institutions,” he said. In his detailed comments on economic reform, Mr Bush consciously mimicked an agenda to boost consumption and reform the financial sector laid out recently by Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People’s Bank of China. In doing so, Mr Bush identified the US with Mr Zhou and other supporters in China of further market-based reforms who have come under attack from rival economic lobbies over the past six months.

“The big topic for us was the commitment to that structural change in the Chinese economy,” said Mr Wilder. “It was an important step having the President of China on the White House lawn make this kind of commitment to a vision of China’s future as an economic power.” Such structural changes in the economy are also considered the key to winding back China’s swelling global trade surplus, which Mr Wilder said Beijing expected would begin to moderate in “two to three years”. Mr Hu also emphasised economic co-operation in his remarks, saying it provided “an important foundation for China-US relations”. “We are ready to work with the US in the spirit of seeking mutual benefit and win-win outcomes to properly address each other’s concerns and facilitate the sound and steady of economic co-operation and trade,” he said. Mr Hu said that China was willing to co-operate with the US on resolving the nuclear stand-offs in both Iran and North Korea, but “though diplomatic negotiations”. With many issues to cover and running out of time, Mr Hu and Mr Bush dispensed with protocol and rearranged the seating at an official lunch to sit next to each other to continue their discussions.

The White House officials also said Mr Bush had raised the issue of the Internet and the need to “be careful” in restricting access to it. The Falun Gong, whose members claim to have been tortured in China for defying the government ban, have dogged Mr Hu’s trip, both setting up a sound truck outside his hotel in Seattle, his first stop, as well as meditating on the street nearby.


From http://news.ft.com
04/20/2006


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China to Keep Family Planning Policy Stable

China will maintain its family planning policy to keep a low birth rate over the next five years, but more efforts will be made to improve population quality and structure, a senior Chinese population official told the Beijing-based Study Times. "The current family planning policy must be kept basically stable, a fundamental measure to cope with the fourth baby boom (in the next five years)," said Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. Since the initiation of the family planning policy in the early 1970s, China has successfully brought its rapid growing population under control during 1970-1995 and achieved a low birth level during 1995-2005, preventing over 400 million births. But many challenges remain, said Zhang, as China will see its total population, working-age population and aging population all reach their peaks in the middle of this century.

The rising male-to-female ratio and the world's largest migrating population have posed serious questions to the government's management capacity and social stability. "The major reason for China's rising sex ratio is the entrenched concept of 'boys are better than girls'. The direct reason is the abuse of B-ultrasound technology. Does the imbalance have something to do with family planning? Yes, but there is no direct connection," said Zhang. The Republic of Korea, India and China's Taiwan all have the problem of a rising sex ratio, but they do not have strict birth control policies. Chinese cities also practice a stricter family planning policy than rural areas, but do not see the sex ratio rising, he said. "Therefore, adjusting the family planning policy is not a fundamental solution to dealing with a rising sex ratio," he said. Experts warned that China has seen 117 boys born for every 100 girls, far beyond the normal ratio of 100 females to 104-107 males. "To keep the current low birth rate stable, the countryside is the focus that requires hard efforts," said Zhang, urging the further improvement of policies favorable to families practicing family planning as part of the campaign for building a new socialist countryside.

China's current family planning policy will remain fundamentally the same although there will be minor changes according to future needs. Zhang said the reform of the family planning policy should follow the principle of "remaining stable overall and carrying out minor changes in line with local conditions" to prevent population growth from bouncing back by a large margin. The current 1.8 gross fertility rate is a proper level for China's population growth, he said, stressing that the population policy, if incorrect, would have an irreversible impact on socioeconomic development. China's family planning policy is not a 'one-child' policy, he said, adding that an urban couple, if both husband and wife are the only child of their families, can give birth to a second child and farmers in many provinces are allowed to have one more if their first child is a girl. Rural families in Yunnan, Qinghai, and Hainan provinces, and the Ningxia and Xinjiang autonomous regions can have two children. And there is no limitation whatsoever to rural families in Tibet, he said. Instead, China gives more attention to improve its population quality, first by setting up a national birth defect intervention and monitoring network to ensure that every family can give birth to healthy kids. The government should lead society in creating a social atmosphere of "women are equal to men", crack down on illegal pre-natal gender selection, abortion based on sex preference and deserting baby girls, he said. Meanwhile, the government should gradually reform its household registration system to enable the migrant population to have access to urban services, set up a social security net for migrant rural workers.


From Xinhua News Agency
04/23/2006


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JAPAN: Govt Eyes Relaxation of Media Ownership Rules

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Heizo Takenaka told reporters here Saturday that the government likely will let news organizations hold larger stakes in other television and radio stations. Takenaka arrived in this Fujian Province city on the day to attend a ministerial meeting with his counterparts from China and South Korea. If the ministry's ordinance for media decentralization is revised, major broadcasters based in Tokyo will be able to increase their stakes in local stations. The government has decided that such a change will expand the total strengths of Tokyo-based media giants, while stabilizing the management of local stations. It was the first time that Takenaka had referred to raising the ceiling on news organizations' shareholding ratios in other media. He will have his private study group on communications and broadcasting discusses the matter. Under the existing ordinance, a news organization may not own more than 10 percent of voting-right shares in more than one broadcaster in the same region. The ordinance also prohibits a news organization from owning more than 20 percent of voting-right shares of multiple broadcasters nationwide. Takenaka was to attend a ministerial meeting Sunday on telecommunications technologies.


From Yomiuri Shimbun
03/27/2006


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All Prefectures' Attack-emergency Plans Now OK'd

The Cabinet approved contingency plans Friday for Tokyo and 23 prefectures that feature measures designed to protect the public from an armed attack, finalizing approval of emergency response plans for all of 47 prefectures. The move is part of a 2004 package of 10 laws introduced in 2003 and 2004 as Japan's first postwar legislation aimed at dealing with attacks on Japan and other emergencies. While draft plans by Tokyo and Okinawa initially called for transit of civilians through U.S. bases, the government postponed approving such a move because it has yet to coordinate the plan with U.S. forces. The Cabinet Secretariat said the government will continue talks with U.S. forces so the transit of civilians is approved as soon as possible. The 2004 law calls for each administrative unit, from village level up to prefectures and the central government, to draft crises plans. Now that plans have been approved at the prefectural level, municipalities are aiming to draft their own plans within fiscal 2006.


From The
Japan Times 04/01/2006


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Japan's Fingerprint Bill Arouses Controversy

A bill which proposes revising the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law to fingerprint and photograph all foreign visitors entering Japan aroused controversy when it was brought to Japan's Upper House, local media reported on Thursday. At a meeting of Diet members, human rights activists said the bill, which was described by backers as a necessary counter-terrorism measure, must be defeated at any cost because it is discriminatory and vague, the daily Japan Times said.  "With no actual definition of who terrorists are, there is a danger (of people being fingered as terrorists) through arbitrary interpretation," lawyer Mitsuru Namba was quoted as saying. Some other critics said measures such as fingerprinting infringe on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The bill, which stipulates that foreigners entering Japan must provide personal identification data in electromagnetic format, cleared Japan's House of Representatives on last Thursday without much debate. The Japanese government put forward the bill in early March as part of its efforts to block terrorists from entering the country under false identities. The bill also includes a provision enabling the government to deport those judged by the justice minister to be terrorists and another provision requires planes and ships arriving in Japan to submit passenger lists before arrival.


From www.chinaview.cn
04/06/2006


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Law Revision Benefits Local Brands

The Patent Office received about 320 applications for trademark registrations of local products in the first week that the revised Trademarks Law went into effect on April 1. The revised law relaxes registration standards for local products that combine the names of regions and products, such as Omi beef from Shiga Prefecture and Soka senbei from Saitama Prefecture. Local specialities under consideration for registration include some industrial products, such as Toyooka bags from Hyogo Prefecture. Competition for goods and services among regions has increased as the government tries to eliminate counterfeit brand-name goods. Some corporate entities sent a large number of applications after local governments encouraged the applications for their products to boost local economies. The screening of applications will take about six months. The Patent Office was inundated with applications on the first day of the law change, treating applications on a first come, first served basis. Though the office was closed on April 1 because it was a Saturday, about 260 applications were sent to the office by post or e-mail. Among them, 107 applications were from Kyoto Prefecture, 22 from Okinawa Prefecture and 20 from Hyogo Prefecture. Gifu Prefecture ranked fourth with 14 applications.

The Kyoto prefectural government has supported trademark registration for local specialities in cooperation with the Kyoto municipal government and the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry to strengthen Kyoto brands. The prefectural government has held briefings on the issue six times since last year and allocated 2 million yen to promote and strengthen trademark registration for brands in its fiscal 2006 budget. The products submitted for trademark registration from the prefecture include Kujo leeks, Kyo-yuzen dyeing and outdoor dining platforms along the Kamogawa river. In Okinawa Prefecture, young businesspeople established a cooperative association for Yaeyama brands in March to protect specialities of the Yaeyama Islands, including Ishigaki Island and Iriomote Island. The association applied for registration of eight products such as Yaeyama buckwheat noodles and Ishigaki mangos with the support of the Ishigaki City Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The majority of the prefectural governments sent only several applications for their products on the first day mainly because they had difficulty in coordinating entities wishing to apply for registrations.

In the Kinki region, the number of applications sent to the office on the first day was seven each from Nara and Wakayama prefectures, three from Shiga Prefecture and two from Osaka Prefecture. Before the law was revised, the Patent Office imposed high requirements on products to be eligible for trademark status, such as local products with nationwide recognition to prevent certain entities from monopolizing local brands. As a result, only 80 products, including Nishijin-ori brocade and Saga beef, had been approved for trademark registration. Yubari Melon from Hokkaido was finally acknowledged as a local brand in 1993 after its third bid. The new system restricts applicants to corporate entities such as business cooperative associations. However, it also drastically eased registration standards, including products recognized just among neighboring prefectures instead of nationwide.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/09/2006


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Ruling Coalition Agrees on Patriotism Under New Education Law

A revised Fundamental Law of Education would emphasize love of Japan, respect for other countries, and willingness to contribute to the international community, to nurture patriotism, the ruling coalition agreed Wednesday. The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, agreed to insert into a revised law a sentence urging respect for the nation's tradition and culture together with love of the country and the land upon which they were maintained and fostered. The revised law would also call for an attitude of respect for other countries and contributing to the peace and development of the international community. The agreement paves the way for the first revision of the Fundamental Law of Education, which was established in 1947 while Japan was under the control of the Allied Forces following its defeat in World War II.

The planned revision is widely seen as a prelude to a move to amend the constitution and is expected to become a focal issue of the rest of the ordinary session of parliament, which ends in June. The issue of patriotism has been a major bone of contention between the LDP and Komeito, a party backed by a lay Buddhist organization. Komeito proposed defining patriotism simply as respect for the country, but the LDP insisted that love of the country be included. The LDP got its way in the end, after it reaffirmed that "the country" does not mean the governing structure and that a sentence will be added calling for respect for other countries and the international community. The two parties will formally approve a bill for the revision on Wednesday, for submission to parliament next month.


From Jiji Press
04/13/2006


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Panel Oks Bill to Reform Police Detention System

A Lower House panel approved a bill on Friday to improve the treatment of criminal suspects in police custody awaiting trial or sentencing. The ruling coalition, made up of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, voted for the bill while opposition parties, Democratic Party of Japan and Social Democratic Party, voted against it. The bill contains a provision maintaining the controversial police detention facilities known in Japanese as "daiyo kangoku," or substitute prisons, which are used to hold detainees prior to indictment. The daiyo kangoku system has drawn criticism at home and abroad for increasing the chances of human rights abuse. Meanwhile, the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives voted down a revision bill that contains a provision that gradually decreases the number of detainees in daiyo kangoku. The bill was jointly proposed by the DPJ and SDP. The approved bill is expected to be adopted by the Lower House's plenary meeting Tuesday.

The government will submit the bill to the ongoing Diet session and aims to enact it during the current session due to end June 18.The bill calls for clearly separating police officers in charge of investigations from those who supervise detainees to ensure they are treated fairly. n Japan, the treatment of pretrial or presentencing detainees is currently governed by the prison law, which was established about 100 years ago.


From www.japantimes.co.jp
04/15/2006


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Japan’s Govt Seeks to Overhaul NTT Law

The government Friday began discussions on abolishing its obligation to hold NTT Corp. shares and on reviewing NTT's mandatory provision of nationwide fixed-line telephone service, sources said. Selling off the shares would require a revision of the NTT Law, which obliges the government to hold NTT shares. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will discuss changing the law that makes it mandatory for the holding company, NTT, as well as NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp., to provide universal telecom services on fixed lines. The discussion will also address abolishing NTT's obligation to engage in telecommunications technology research and development, and to give the management of NTT more freedom, to boost its international competitiveness. Under the NTT Law, the government must own more than one-third of NTT shares because the company is deemed to be a public benefit. The system guarantees a universal, fixed-line service is provided anywhere in the nation and to all people.

However, most members of the study group on communications and broadcasting services, an advisory panel to Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Heizo Takenaka, have questioned the necessity of maintaining a nationwide fixed-line telephone network, which is only capable of transmitting sound, when broadband telecommunication will be widely used in coming years. The group suggested revising the NTT Law because government targets call for nationwide broadband service provision by fiscal 2010. The NTT Law was framed with only fixed-line telecommunication in mind. The revision to the law would be proposed in a report to be completed in May, as part of a proposal to review the organizational structure of NTT Group. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will map out measures to be taken after it receives the report. The government has 5.31 million NTT shares, a 33.7 percent stake. It is expected to receive between 2 trillion yen and 3 trillion yen if it is permitted to sell the stock. These funds would be used to help balance the government's books and to extend the broadband network.

To make up for the loss of the nationwide government-backed fixed-line service, the government will consider introducing a new framework under the Telecommunications Business Law that would see a broadband service made available to all. It also plans to create a public subsidy program to assist companies to set up optical-fiber networks in sparsely populated areas. However, the discussion is sure to proceed cautiously because there is strong opposition to abandoning universal, fixed-line telecom service provision. NTT, which still dominates the telecommunication market, is expected to continue to face some restrictions to prevent it gaining greater control of this sector.


From www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/16/2006


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Ministry Says It Will Revise the Administrative Tribunal Law

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will revise the Law of Administrative Tribunal, which stipulates procedures for filing objections to decisions by administrative bodies, including decisions on taxes and pension payouts, in order to shorten the time for examining such petitions. The move is prompted by numerous complaints, including the time it takes for administrative bodies to reach a conclusion and the limited scope of petitions permitted. To establish an administrative tribunal system that puts citizens first, the ministry will speed up examining these petitions as well as allow petitions to an administrative guidance. The ministry, which may set up a panel of experts in autumn to map out a bill to review the law, plans to submit the bill to the Diet in 2008. The system would allow people to file petitions with national or local administrative bodies or higher-level administrative organizations to seek nullification of decisions made by the bodies if they are dissatisfied with them.

For example, people can seek annulment of an administrative decision that has canceled a store license, or petition for a larger pension when the amount approved is smaller than what was applied for after following proper procedures. In fiscal 2002, about 17,600 new petitions were filed with administrative bodies based on the Law of Administrative Tribunal that was established in 1962, but administrative bodies took more than six months to reach conclusions in more than one-third of the cases. Furthermore, less than 20 percent of the petitions were approved. Even some government officials said the system had failed to fulfill its function as a simple procedure that offers people quick assistance, which was the original intention behind the system. In addition, with more deregulations taking effect, administrative bodies have been approving an increasing number of cases after making retrospective examinations of applications. Thus, the ministry decided to thoroughly revise the law.


From www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/16/2006


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Reform Timeline Approved by Lower House

The House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday giving the timeline for a range of administrative reforms to be implemented in the next several years. The bill, the capstone of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's reform agenda, cleared with a majority vote of the ruling coalition -- the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. Included in the proposed legislation are plans on cutting the number of public employees, currently about 687,000, by 5 percent by fiscal 2010, consolidating eight state-backed financial institutions into a single public body in fiscal 2008, and reassessing independent administrative agencies. The House of Counselors is expected to begin deliberations on the bill next Monday. The bill is part of Koizumi's plan to create what he calls a "simple and efficient government," by trimming state assets, which in turn, he says, will help cut the huge national debt. The Democratic Party of Japan has been critical of the bill, saying the reform plans lack detail. The largest opposition party had submitted an amended version of the bill, but it was voted down. During Thursday's plenary session, DPJ lawmaker Yosuke Kondo slammed the bill, saying the public will become victim to the government's obsession with reform.

"The contents (of the bill) do not consider the lives of the general public, nor does it listen to the voices of the" people, Kondo said. The bill "is empty and hollow, just keeping up appearances and leaving most of the details to the bureaucrats." After the bill was approved, DPJ lawmaker Masayuki Naoshima issued a statement saying the biggest problem with the bill was that it does not address corruption in the civil service.


From www.japantimes.co.jp
04/21/2006


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South Korea Job Creation Is Ultimate Goal of Economic Growth Policy

Putting more South Koreans to work in quality jobs is the ultimate goal of the South Korean government's economic growth policy, the minister of commerce, industry and energy said on Monday (April 3). In a press briefing, Chung Sye-kyun said the commerce ministry will establish a systematic method between August and October to monitor job creation and set policy priorities based on endeavors that help create the most jobs. The new system will be based on the effects of capital investment, industrial and balanced growth policies, foreign direct investment, as well as the contribution of research and development on employment. “In the past, the analysis of job creation was not seriously considered in government policy objectives and allocation of state resources,” Chung said. He added Seoul would further assist in the creation of jobs by identifying the most promising, future growth industries and removing obstacles to investment and job creation. The government said business investment must grow 6-7 percent on an annual basis in order to create 350,000-400,000 new jobs a year and achieve economic growth of 5 percent.

Elaborating on state support for promising growth industries, the minister said Seoul has earmarked 144.9 billion won ($149.3 million) for R&D assistance to universities and research institutes. He said money would also go toward helping train 1,200 undergraduate students and establishing 30 “labs of excellence” nationally for masters and doctoral candidates. Also, Chung said the ministry will devise special policies aimed at helping parts and materials manufacturing companies with sales in excess of 200 billion won and exports of $100 million. The support for middle-tier domestic industries will strengthen overall national competitiveness and job creation, he said.


From www.korea.net
04/04/2006


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Regulator to Revamp Anti-Chaebol Rules

South Korea's antitrust watchdog will push for the revamping of its rules on the nation's family-controlled conglomerates, or chaebol, starting next year, the agency's head said Wednesday. The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) will set up task forces in July to assess the current fair trade law and systems, FTC Chairman Kwon Oh-seung told a press briefing. “To cope with changes in the economic environment, there is a need to match the nation's fair trade law and systems to international standards,” he said. It would take at least a year to work out details and hear opinions from related parties, the top regulator said, adding such a change must also be approved by the National Assembly. In addition, the watchdog will try to inject competition into such areas as law, broadcasting, telecommunication, medical services and energy sectors. “In the past, these were regulated markets, but this is changing and there is a need to follow the new process,” he said. The FTC chief said that once the Korea Consumer Protection Board becomes part of the FTC in the later part of the year, the watchdog will pay greater attention to policies that enhance consumer rights.


From www.korea.net
04/06/2006


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South Korea's Nongshim Fined for Breaching Antitrust Law

South Korean foodstuff producer Nongshim Co. (KSE:004370) was fined 480 million won (US$501,091) for violating a local antitrust law, the country's corporate regulator said Wednesday. The company violated an antitrust law that stipulates that companies must sell shares of subsidiaries within two years when they become registered under another company, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said. Nongshim did not sell 570,000 shares of its discount retail arm Mega Mart in the two years since it became a subsidiary of Nongshim Holdings in July 2003. Nongshim was ordered to sell the stocks from its subsidiaries, the antitrust watchdog said.


From au.biz.yahoo.com
04/06/2006


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New Laws Confront Racial Bias in Korea

The government is set to outline comprehensive anti-discrimination measures in the wake of NFL football star Hines Ward’s visit to Seoul. The planed laws will address discrimination against minorities, including immigrants married to Koreans and biracial Koreans. Cheong Wa Dae is expected to expand its “Social Integration Policy” in association with the ministries of education, justice, health and welfare, and gender equality later this month. According to the government’s plan, foreigners in de facto marriages with Koreans will be granted citizenship or permanent resident rights, and this will also be extended to their children. Currently, only after Korean spouses register their biracial children with authorities can they acquire Korean nationality. The government also suggested that it will no longer use the term “mixed-blood” in legal documents for its derogatory nuances, and will alternatively use the terms “children of an international marriage couple.” It also plans to pass anti-discrimination legislation, which protects biracial Koreans from discrimination in the workplace, school and public facilities by the end of this year.

Additionally, a 24-hour hotline called the “1366 Center” will provide non-Korean female spouses with phone consultation in six languages. Moreover, 21 immigration family support centers will be established this year to help international marriage couples settle in Korean society and learn the culture. Until now, many foreigners married to Koreans have had difficulties with adapting to Korean society due to its different language and culture. They have also found it hard to seek advice for conflicts among family members, their children’s education, or domestic violence. The government will also offer information kits to aid foreign spouses’ successful settlement, including a Korean language learning program, information on motherhood and welcoming messages. Historically, foreign parents without Korean nationality have been given little assistance from the government. However, they will soon be able to receive aid program and emergency assistance, if necessary. The Welfare Ministry estimates that 52.9 percent of international marriage couples live at an income level below the minimum living standard, and 23.6 percent do not have health insurance or health benefits. In the coming years, Korean classes will open in elementary, middle and high schools for children born to foreign workers or international couples.

Special institutions will provide psychotherapy and family therapy with biracial people to overcome identity crises. A Regional Human Resources Development budget of 10 billion won will be allocated for the education of biracial individuals in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, where 2,000 foreign spouses reside. Currently, a total of 6,100 biracial students are attending primary and secondary schools. The Education Ministry is set to guarantee education opportunities to children of all foreign workers regardless of their legal status and to prevent unfair treatment against them in schools. Moreover, the government will push for anti-discrimination legislation for international marriage families featuring college admissions quota, special education for children with learning disabilities, and daycare center operations for families in the lowest-income bracket.


From www.donga.com
04/08/2006


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Government to Globalize Welfare Plan for Prisoners

The Korean government on Tuesday (April 18) unveiled a package of measures aimed at improving the welfare and treatment of prisoners in a move to globalize the administration of prisons. Under the plan, prison guards will be prohibited, in principle, from screening letters inmates send and receive from June next year. Currently, prisoners must get clearance for mail correspondence. Prisoners will be able to enjoy more freedom in writing academic or literary texts in a major departure from the current rule asking them to get permission from jailors before writing about their life inside the prison. The Cabinet endorsed the plan to improve the human rights of prisoners in a meeting on Tuesday and decided to submit the revision bill of the current law to the National Assembly for approval this year. Each correctional center will be staffed by five to seven civilian advisors. This advisory committee will hold regular meetings with the chief of the prison to seek ways of improving the life of prisoners. This will promote transparency and fairness in the administration of prisons. The government mapped out the new plan as the current law – promulgated a long time ago – no longer conforms to the changing reality of Korean society.

It is also designed to change Korean law in such a way as to meet global standards, according to a Justice Ministry official. He said the new plan was formulated after gathering consensus in a consultation meeting between the ministries and the governing Uri Party. Such modern equipment as protective bedsteads or straightjackets will replace chains so that prisoners will not endure physical stress, he said. Under the revision, inmates such as foreigners, women, the disabled and the aged will be given special attention, he said. For example, foreign prisoners will be given special care so that they don't encounter cultural shock or language barriers, he added. It is the first time that such programs have been incorporated into the law in South Korea. The revision is also aimed at installing more electronic devices in prisons to reduce and hopefully eliminate suicides often committed due to the lack of a monitoring system, he said. The surveillance system will also be used to prevent possible self-injury and violence in the prison cells. But the monitoring will be run in a manner that does not infringe upon the inmates' human rights. Also, inmates convicted of smuggling in alcohol, cigarettes, cash or checks will face up to six months additional jail time or a fine of 2 million won, according to the revision.


From www.korea.net
04/19/2006


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Court Sets New Church Property Rules

“When certain members of a church separate to form a new church, the property of the former church should rest with the former church members, and the new church members should forfeit their claim for the property.” “But exceptions exist when two thirds of the members of the former church agreed to build a new church, wherein the old institution can be seen to be replaced by the new own, so that the property of the former church may be claimed by the members of the new church.” The Supreme Court announced a new guideline on rules and exceptions of church property issues. It is the first change in the law in fifty years. Following the new ruling, a number of lawsuits on church property are expected to occur. The Supreme Court deliberative body (headed by Kim Young-ran, justice of the Supreme Court) announced on April 21 on the case in which Chung, a pastor of church S of Sinjeong-dong, Yangcheon-gu, Seoul and several members of the church set up a new institution of the same name and transferred the property to the new church, which induced the former members to file a lawsuit asking for the return of property rights, in which the court ruled on April 20 by a vote of twelve to one to break the original ruling and turn the case back to the Seoul High Court.

The court stated “When certain members of the church checked out of their church and set up a new institution, it is the rule that they should forfeit their claim on the property of the church.” However, the court added that “‘exceptions exist when two thirds of the members of the former church agreed to build a new church, wherein the old institution can be seen to be replaced by the new one, so that the new churchgoers may claim the property of the former church.’ The Supreme Court maintained for fifty years the ruling that the property of church, in case church is split, be claimed by all members, and the changes only be made with the agreements of all members of the church. The new church thus had no say in claiming the property of the old. However, with the change of ruling the Supreme Court agreed that only in cases where two thirds of the members of the former church agreed to build a new church can the new institution be held as an extension of the old. The ruling has applied the articles concerning legal entities, where civil law stipulates that a majority of two thirds be required for a change of the entities.


From www.donga.com
04/22/2006


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ONGOLIA: Minimum Living Standarts Fixed Newly

Under the order by the National Statistical Office Head, the minimum living standards of the Mongolian population make-up has been fixed for the Year 2006.In the Western Region, the minimum living standard will stand at 37 thousand togrogs, in the Khangai Region - at 38,300 togrogs, in the Central Region - at 39 thousand togrogs, in the Eastern Region - at 34,800 togrogs, and in Ulaanbaatar - at 42,800 togrogs. The Western Region includes Bayan-Ulgii, Gobi-Altai, Zavkhan, Uvs, and Khovd aimags. The Khangai Region consists of Arkhangai, Bayankhongor, Bulgan, Ovorkhangai, Khovsgol and Orkhon aimags.


From http://www.gateway.mn
04/21/2006


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INDONESIA: Grant Signed Off on Basic Education

JAKARTA: The European Commission, the United Nations Children's Fund and the government have signed an agreement to improve the elementary school education of Indonesian children. The EC will provide a grant worth 14.3 million euros for the three-year project, while the government will provide another 5 million euros, UNICEF said in a statement. The project would seek to integrate schools, community groups and subdistrict offices and encourage education best practices. It aimed to improve the access, relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of a decentralized regional education system, the statement said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/
04/08/2006


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Government Rethink All Labour Laws After Global and Local Protest Action

Labour news from UNI global union - for trade unions in a global services economy. The President of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said that the bill to amend the labour laws would not be sent to parliament in its current form but would be revised in the countries interests by a tripartite forum with the unions and the employers. The proposals to change the 2003 labour laws which reduced workers rights caused big protests locally and the workers also had massive global support. Thousands of workers took to the streets to show their fury at the proposals which gave away their benefits. Unions were very concerned about the new proposals which allowed companies to hire without a contract for up to 5 years and outsource jobs and cut severance pay. The rethink is a great success for all Indonesian workers and the trade unions will continue to protect the rights and benefits of the workers when they meet in a tripartite forum to discuss the drafting of a new bill.


From http://www.union-network.org/
04/10/2006


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MALAYSIA: PM Unveils RM220bil Ninth Malaysia Plan

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday unveiled the Ninth Malaysia Plan in Parliament. The RM220bil plan seeks to put Malaysia on a solid footing as the country moves towards achieving developed nation status by 2020. The key thrusts of the plan are:  Moving the economy up the value chain, Raising the country's capacity for knowledge and innovation, and nurturing "first-class mentality", Addressing persistent socio-economic inequalities constructively and productively, Improving the standard and sustainability of quality of life, Strengthening institutional and implementation capacity 


From http://thestar.com.my/
03/31/2006


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New Legal Framework to Counter Cyber Threats

CYBERJAYA: A legal framework on the use, development and marketing of ICT industry related products is to be established to counter cyber threats.  “The impact from a cyber attack can be as bad as or worse than a physical attack, and if left without proper control can affect public security,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.  Abdullah said cyber attacks through the communications network was one of the new challenges facing cyber security. “This is especially when the infrastructure management system, management of energy supply, water, transportation, financial operation and banking, telecommunication services and health are undergoing a process of migration from manual to electronic,” he said after chairing the National Information Technology Council (NITC) meeting here yesterday. The meeting focused on national cyber security policy, content screening of mobile services and early disaster warning system. On content screening of mobile services, Abdullah said measures were needed to prevent unsuitable content from reaching the younger generation, who were exposed to 3G technology. At the same time, parents and the corporate sector that gained from such services should share in the social responsibility, he said.  He said the discussion on the early disaster warning system through telecommunications messages was to pave way for the development of an effective early warning system.  Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi and Minister of Higher Education Datuk Mustapa Mohamed also attended the NITC meeting. Bernama


From http://thestar.com.my/
04/08/2006


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SINGAPORE: Biometric Passports Starting August

SINGAPORE : Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority has unveiled its next generation of passports, which will include biometric data and new security features. Singaporeans can apply for the new passports from as early as August this year. On the front cover, it is still the familiar look of the Singapore passport, but with the inclusion of the International Civil Aviation Organisation's logo. Flip open the new BioPass and you will find the visa pages have been given a facelift. The Esplanade has been blended with the city skyline and Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, is at the top right hand corner. ICA says it is still reviewing the price of the new passport, but it is likely to cost more than the present passports, which are S$60 over the counter and S$50 for an Internet application. The most significant addition to the new passport is the polycarbonate page, which is a plastic-like material. It contains an embedded microchip, which will have the passport holder's facial and fingerprint information. The first group of people to use the new BioPass will be government officials and Singapore Airlines personnel, who are part of the phase one trial, which starts April 29.

ICA officials say the immigration process is not likely to change very much using the new passports. The use of the identification number as the passport number has been dropped; each BioPass will now have its own passport number. Since January, these new passports have been tested, recognised and accepted by immigration authorities in countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Trials are still ongoing. Said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng, "As a result of ICA's efforts in achieving interoperability, the US has confirmed that the BioPass has achieved Level 2 certification under their visa waiver programme. This means that tests conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security have shown the BioPass to be in full compatibility with their passport readers." The new BioPass will be accepted nationwide in the US when authorities there deploy their e-passport readers on October 26. To prevent tampering and forgery, added security features include the use of Optical Variable Ink, two multiple laser images and a kinegram. You don't have to wait for your current passport to expire to get the new BioPass. Singaporeans can apply for a new BioPass August this year. The new passports will have a validity of five years.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
03/31/2006


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National Qualifications System for Tourism Industry Launched

A national qualifications system for the tourism industry has been launched to recognise the skills and experience of older workers. 55-year-old Carol Chan has been with Chan Brothers Travel for the past three years. But she has been in the travel industry longer - joining it after her "O" levels 20 years ago. Although she has that much experience, her competency has only been recognised by the organisation. That will change with the introduction of the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ), a national certification system which provides a standard way of recognising employees' skills and competency. 70 percent of workers in the tourism industry have an education lower than Secondary 1 and 57 percent are over 40 years old. Ong Ye Kung, Chief Executive, Singapore Workforce Development Agency, said, "We recognise that it's not practical to bring them back to school. I know the polytechnics and the universities have all started a very good initiative to train talent in the tourism sector, but for a lot of them, now they have mouths to feed, family to support and they have work to do. "It's not practical to drag them back to school and go through 3 or 4 years of education...This is a qualification standard that caters to their needs, so training is done in bite size and on the job.

And maybe if they have 20 years experience, they don't need training, they only have to go through the assessment." "We don't insist that you must have "A" level", "O" level or score A1 in your GP, before you can join this. What is the criteria? You are willing to learn and at the end of it, you can demonstrate that you can do the job; it's not about writing (an) essay or thesis." However, new entrants like 27-year-old Kevin Wong will also benefit from the certification. The Front Office Agent at Pan Pacific Singapore said, "I do not have any educational background in (the) hospitality industry, so WSQ is actually a stepping stone for me...to get more certificates later on and eventually a degree or a masters." Evelyn Goh, Director, People Innovation and Education, Pan Pacific Singapore, said, "In some sense, I wish it was started earlier because every industry deserves its recognition of professionalism. "In the industry, we had problems attracting talent. Many feel that it's because of the image of the service industry, therefore many are reluctant to join...With such a programme, we are saying that you have the competency, you have the right skills, you have the right professionalism, because it's all benchmarked practices already, so it will certainly elevate the image of the industry.

"It's very motivating when you are recognised for your skills and through this, one can be inspired to pursue even more. Now they know with more skills 'I can actually be more successful' and a manager is not such a remote dream." The tourism industry has developed more than 140 competencies to cover a range of job functions - and these are benchmarked against world standards. Over 65 organisations have validated and endorsed the competencies set in this system. Besides the hotel industry, the retail sector has also started using the national qualifications system. And there are plans to expand this to other sectors quickly, so that it will benefit the 150,000 workers in the tourism industry. Future plans include certification for the food and beverage sector as well as the manpower sector. The tourism industry hopes that with the national qualifications system in place to create a professional, productive and motivated workforce, this will help it achieve its target of attracting 17 million visitors, as well as triple the tourism receipts to S$30 billion by 2015.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/24/2006


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THAILAND: Emergency Rule to Be Extended in South

BANGKOK : Thailand said on Tuesday it would extend the controversial emergency rule in its three southern provinces where 1,200 people have died in an Islamic insurgency. "I have asked district chiefs and local military commanders, and all of them say emergency rule is crucial and that it would be difficult for them to work without it," acting Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasathidya told reporters. He added that the powers would be extended by three months in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The controversial emergency decree covers the three provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala near the southern border with Malaysia, where Islamic militants have waged a separatist campaign for two years. Outgoing prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra imposed emergency rule in July last year, with a decree that requires renewal by the cabinet every 90 days. Under emergency rule, authorities can detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge, search and arrest without warrants, and tap phones. The measures also give security forces broad immunity from prosecution, which critics say creates a climate of impunity. Chidchai declined to say how long emergency rule would be needed. But he said that authorities had arrested 500 of some 3,000 suspected active militants. "Our goal is to make every village a peaceful one. We have to abide by the rule of law, and emergency rule allows officials to target villages where the violence still rages," he said. While Thailand is mainly Buddhist, most people in the south are ethnic Malays and many believe Bangkok discriminates against them because they are Muslims. The region was an independent sultanate until Thailand annexed it a century ago. Separatist violence has simmered ever since.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/18/2006


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BANGLADESH: Ministry Approves Draft Captive Power Policy

The Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MPEMR) approved Wednesday the draft policy to purchase surplus electricity from the private captive power units to reduce nagging power crisis. "The 'captive power' policy will be sent to the purchase committee soon for its final approval," a senior MPEMR official told the FE. He said, once approved, this will be the second such policy of the government to enhance electricity generation within a year. Prime Ministers' Office (PMO) earlier approved the Small Power Plant (SPP) policy in July 2005. But not a single SPP is yet to initiate operation due to government's indecisive stand on this particular issue, it was alleged. The power division is also working on devising one more strategy to accelerate countrywide power generation through installing plants on rental basis by the private sector. It has recently selected three proposals and sent it to the purchase committee for its final nod. The country is now facing over 1,000 mega-watt (mw) electricity deficit resulting in chronic load shedding. The Power Development Board (PDB) has the capacity to produce 3000mw to 3500mw against the demand of around 4,500mw, said sources.

Officials said power cell of the MPEMR prepared the policy on purchase of surplus power from the private captive power units and sent it to the power division for consideration. "The Cell has proposed to the government to purchase electricity at Tk 1.90 per unit (kilowatt hour) from the captive power plants," Power Cell Director General BD Rahmatullah told the FE. It has also started negotiations with three industries of Chittagong region - PHP, Heidelberg and Rahim Energy - to purchase electricity, he added. The PHP has agreed in principle to supply 14mw from its 25mw capacity plant, Heidelberg 2.5mw from 5.0mw its capacity plant and Rahim Energy has agreed to supply 8.0mw from its 30mw plant. According to office of the Chief Electrical Inspector, the country has over 1200 private stand-by power generation units, including the smaller ones used in markets, residential houses and offices. It said these power plants generate around 1,000mw of electricity. But the bulk of this power is generated by stand-by units at the industrial installations. But the state-owned Power Cell, in a joint study with the PriceWaterhouse Coopers identified that power units having the total generation capacity of 590mw could only sell surplus power to the national grid. The study recommended that about 30 per cent of the total electricity generated by these plants could be added to the national grid. It, however, did not take into account the units that generate below 0.5mw.


From http://www.financialexpress-bd.com04/13/2006

 


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INDIA: Poverty Alleviation Schemes Devised by Indian Government

A number of schemes, including skill-based training, are being devised in rural areas to help around 260 million people living below the poverty line come above that by 2012, Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has said. Dismissing the Planning Commission's apprehension that 11 percent of India's population may still be under the poverty line by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012), Singh said the government wants to erase the tag by that time. "Currently India has around 260 million people living below the poverty line and our ministry believes that by 2012, we will be able to provide them amenities to climb above that barrier," Singh told IANS in an interview. According to Singh, people in villages would be motivated to take up works like handicraft, handloom, floriculture, horticulture and honey farming. To provide markets for these products, special markets and networks at block, district and at state levels would be set up. "Instead of allowing foreign players to enter the rural markets, ethnic products will be marketed in a regulated way," Singh said.

"We are trying to achieve the target through skill-based training, employment and marketing facilities for people in rural India," the minister said. "With this aim, we started the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in 200 districts across the country in February and efforts are on to expand it to all the districts within the next year." The scheme promises employment to every rural household in which adult members volunteer to do unskilled work. The target is to remove poverty by assuring at least 100 days of employment in a year. According to World Bank standards, people under the poverty line live on less than one dollar a day. "Currently, we are studying the impact of the scheme in these districts and a report will be prepared soon." He said the scheme was launched with an investment of Rs.110 billion ($2.4 billion) and expansion across the country would cost about Rs.400 billion.

"There are a number of other schemes on our agenda that will provide the rural poor a lot of respite. It's a Herculean task and we are constantly in touch with the finance ministry and the Planning Commission in this regard," Singh said, confessing that there had been some financial crunch. Besides, the ministry is also planning to promote micro financing through self-help groups in rural India. "During the 11th Five Year Plan, all out efforts will be made to promote micro financing schemes. "And to implement it, the ministry is planning to set up nearly 500,000 self help groups in collaboration with panchayat raj (local self-government) institutions and non-governmental organisations," he said. "Depending on ethnicity of the region and efficiency of the people, we will make arrangement for skill-based training for social and economic empowerment."


From New Kerala
04/12/2006

 


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Govt Plans to Energise Bond Market

NEW DELHI: The Government is in the process of initiating measures to make the country's fledgling corporate bond market vibrant. Armed with R H Patil Committee's recommendations, the Government has put in place necessary mechanisms to enable corporate bond market take off in a big way, a top finance ministry official told the agency. The Reserve Bank in its credit policy took the first step for establishment of vibrant corporate bond market by deciding to set up 'when issued market' (WIM) for government bonds. WIM is used to determine price and quantity of bonds, much before their auctioning process begins. A sort of book-building process would be adopted to find out quantity and price of bonds based on the absorption capacity of the market. WIM will give much more efficient and transparent yield-curve for government bonds on which corporates can benchmark their papers.

Even as a mechanism for developing corporate bond market would be ready in the next 8-10 months, it would take some years before a market could be developed for Municipal Corporation Bonds. Though Patil committee has recommended development of Municipal Corporation Bond market in the country, the idea might not fructify in the near future as most municipalities in the country have not been doing well. The bond market for municipal corporations could be developed when investors have faith in putting their money on them, the financial expert said. With the Reserve Bank ceasing to the primary dealer in the auction of Government bonds from this fiscal, it is virtually impossible for government to acertain quantity and price of commercial papers, that it plans to issue, he said. The lacunae would be removed after setting up the WIM is set up, which would happen soon, the official said. Earlier, when the RBI was the primary dealer, shortfall in purchases of the Government bond used to be met by the central bank. But it is not the case now.

Under the WIM process, Government has to go with the books, much before auctioning programme to know the quote of various subscribers to its bonds. "While when issued market will be one of major steps for reforming the government bond market, it would be the first major measure to establish a vibrant corporate bond market," the official said. Right now, corporates prefer private placement of bonds since there is no strong market for bonds, he said. Besides price discovery, there is an issue of disclosure norms for corporate bonds, making the process cumbersome. As such, the SEBI is looking at the disclosure norms for corporate bonds, the official said. Meanwhile IRDA is working on guidelines for insurance companies investing in corporate bonds. The official said the insurance companies, just like pension funds, were long term investors and hence very active players in the corporate bonds market worldwide. Analysts said there was a boom in the equity market since there was very little scope for money to flow in the corporate bond market.

With the establishment of vibrant bond market, there would be better distribution of money between equities and bonds, they added. Pursuant to the announcement made in the Union Budget, 2005-06, the R H Patil committee was appointed to examine legal, regulatory, tax and market design issues in the development of the corporate bond market. The committee's recommendations included enhancing the issuer as well as investor base of corporate bonds, simplification of listing and disclosure norms, rationalisation of stamp duty and withholding tax and consolidation of debt. The committee had also suggested improving trading system through introduction of an electronic order matching system, efficient clearing and settlement systems, a comprehensive reporting mechanism, developing market conventions and self-regulation and development of the securitised debt market.


From http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/
04/20/2006

 


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IMF Urged India to Reform Labour Laws

WASHINGTON: Stressing that India is not only growing rapidly but has also taken steps to improve its infrastructure, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged for quick reform of labour laws if jobs are to be created in labour-intensive sectors. "India, too, is growing rapidly and important steps are being taken to improve the infrastructure. Reform of the labour laws are urgently needed if jobs are to be created in labor-intensive sectors, and I note the Prime Minister supported this today," Economic Counsellor and Director of Research Department of the IMF, Raghuram Rajan, said yesterday. Discussing the World Economic Outlook for the Spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, Rajan said India has to expand opportunities in higher education if it is to maintain competitiveness in the highly-skilled sectors. The top IMF official called on China to move away from investment in net exports towards consumption. Various aspects of the Chinese economy is meriting a great deal of attention here as Chinese President Hu Jintao has arrived in the United States for his official visit.


From http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/
04/20/2006


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India Holding Back Some Reforms to Retain Leverage in WTO Talks

NEW DELHI: The government is deliberately holding back key steps to open up the economy in order to retain India’s negotiating leverage at the WTO, commerce & industry minister Kamal Nath said on Wednesday. Allying concerns about continuation of economic reforms, he said India was keen to obtain market access in the services sector in various markets including the US through liberal visa regimes. “The US authorities say that it is an immigration issue. If a software engineer seeks a visa for two months, it cannot be an immigration issue,” Mr Kamal Nath said while speaking at the CII national conference here. We want liberalisation in Mode IV of services (which deals with visas for qualified professionals) and some reforms initiatives have been put on hold due to the reluctance of trading partners, he added. The commerce & industry minister was responding to doubts of CII representatives about the future of the economic liberalisation programme.

The Left’s growing importance has not stopped key measures like introduction of product patents and permission for foreign investment in construction, he added, while evading a direct reply on the government’s response to the proposal for reservation of jobs in the private sector for backward classes. The remarks on economic reforms being held back for the time being indicates that the government is keen to take economic liberalisation forward. The signal is important in view of the apprehensions about reforms slowing down due to the focus on populist measure outlined in the common minimum programme of the UPA government. Mr Kamal Nath assured India Inc that a level playing field would be ensured while entering into trade pacts. Instead of free trade agreements (FTAs), the government plans to now shift to economic cooperation agreements. “This includes services, investment and technology flows rather than just trade in goods,” he added while explaining that other aspects would bring equal benefits for India. India’s engagement with the world economy now stands at around $350 billion and the openness is slated to increase rapidly. Mr Kamal Nath said India should engage more with the Asian economies since they have become the centre of global economic growth. “The centre of gravity has shifted to the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic,” he remarked.


From http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/
04/20/2006

 


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SRI LANKA: Four New High Courts to Reduce Problems of Laws Delay

COLOMBO: The Cabinet has granted approval to a memorandum by Justice and Law Reform Minister Amarasiri Dodangoda to institute four new High Courts in four provinces. A High Court will be established in Polonnaruwa for North Central Province. The new Sabaragamuwa Hight Court will function from Emblipitiya. A new High Court will be in Welikada to try and hear cases relating to Narcotic Drugs. The Minister in his Memorandum said that the process of taking effective measures to remove the negative impact on the justice system caused by the problems of laws delay could be effectuated through different institutions established for dispensation of justice. One of the main reasons that contributes to the delays in disposal of cases is the non-availability of sufficient number of courts exercising different levels of jurisdiction. It evinces from the available data that in certain areas, especially those that are less developed and rural, no adequate measures have ever been taken to institute new courts and thus the people are undergoing a great amount of hardship in gaining access to the justice system. He also said that witnesses of courts also undergo immense hardships whenever they are required to travel long distances to testify on their respective cases and exposed to various vulnerabilities that can even be life-threatening. Minister Amarasiri Dodangoda has also pointed out that during the past 50 years the population in different parts of the country has grown drastically and sadly the number of courts that should be established to deal with the rising number of disputes and litigations has not been increased, commensurately.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/
04/21/2006


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MALDIVES: Immigration Bill Sent to Committee, Bill on Defence Act Debated

MALE - The people’s Majlis has referred the Bill on Maldives Immigration to the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, at its 11th sitting of the first session held Wednesday morning. The first agenda item considered Wednesday was the continuation of the discussion on the report submitted by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs relating the Bill on Maldives Immigration. Twelve members took the floor to participate the discussion of this Bill during the committee stage. At the conclusion of the discussion, a motion was put to vote in sending the Bill to the Standing Committee on Social Affairs for a second time for further review. The motion was passed by 34 votes out of 37 members attending the sitting. The next agenda item considered at the sitting was the consideration of the Bill on Defence Act submitted by the government. Minister of Defense and National Security Ismail Shafiu was present to hear the debate on this Bill and to answer queries raised by members concerning various aspects of the proposed Bill. At the committee stage of this Bill, eight members spoke before the end of the sitting. At the beginning of the sitting, Minister of Atolls Development Mohamed Waheedhudhin was asked parliamentary questions by Haa Alifu atoll member Jaufar Easa Adam. Responses were provided to these questions by the Minister. Today’s sitting, attended by 43 members was chaired by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis Ahmed Zahir. The Majlis will meet again on next Tuesday, 11 April 2006 and it will take up issues submitted by private members as it will be member’s day of the Majlis.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/
04/06/2006

 


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Special Majlis Decides to Include Basic Rights in Amended Constitution

MALE - At the eighty-first sitting held Sunday morning, People’s Special Majlis has decided to include basic rights in the amended constitution as one of its basic feature. The discussion was made at the conclusion of the extended debate on the elements to be included under the subject of basic rights. Twenty-five members took the floor to participate in the extended debate held on Monday morning. A proposal was made and seconded during the debate which called for including basic rights in the amended constitution. When the proposal was put to vote, at first it failed to pass through as the proposal could not secure sufficient votes. Given the importance of the matter and having some members raised doubts about the result of the vote taken by means of electronic voting system, the matter was put to vote for a second time in reference to section 36 of the Standing Order of the People’s Special Majlis. The proposal was adopted finally by 61 votes out of 66 members attending the sitting at the second round of voting.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/
04/24/2006

 


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NEPAL: Government Working to Amend 137 Discriminatory Laws

The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare has been mulling over amendment in 137 discriminatory legislative provisions. Speaking at an interaction in the capital on Tuesday, Minister of State for Women, Children and Social Welfare Dr Durga Pokharel said that the amendment process will be completed within two months. “The Ministry and the National Women Commission should work jointly while formulating and implementing the laws,” she said. Dr Pokharel also informed that the women who have been serving as development officers for the last 25 years will be made permanent. Ninety percent of the work has been completed, according to state run The Rising Nepal. "Until the women get equal share in property, there will not be any development in the country and the concept of poverty reduction will be limited to principles," she said.

Speaking at the same programme, vice-chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Shankar Sharma said that it would be better to focus on the part of advocating the policies. Dr Sharma said that the government has made provision of vocational training to those who had failed SLC in Karnali Zone and also provided scholarships to dalits and girls in the zone. Newly appointed chairperson of NCW, Bandana Rana, said that the mandate for reforming the status of women was a challenging task. "The overall mandate of the Commission is to work towards creating a conducive environment for the protection and promotion of women's rights, empowerment of women, gender equality, social justice and increasing women's participation in the mainstream of national development," she said.


From http://www.nepalnews.com/
04/05/2006


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PAKISTAN: Pakistan Government and ILO Take a Stand Against Child Labour

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has launched a project in collaboration with the Pakistan Government to support street urchins. Studies revealed that poor children collected all kinds of papers, empty cement bags, plastics, shoe soles, glass, bones, iron and nylon, while working and living under conditions that exposed them to health and safety complications The ILO had launched the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) that aimed at eliminating child labour and supported welfare programmes for child labourers. The project will operate in seven districts including the Rawalpindi district, to provide social protection to children that work and live in hazardous conditions. The project will be implemented by the ILO, along with district government organisations, workers’ and employers’ organisations and civilians. Senior ILO Programme Officer M Saifullah Chaudhry said the project would raise public awareness regarding the health and safety issues faced by rag pickers.

He said that awareness about the forms of child labour would be highlighted through the promotion of sports, art and cultural events at local and district levels. He said that under the project, 1,400 child labourers between the ages of five and 17 years would receive education in the Rawalpindi district. He said that 1,000 children aged between five and 14 years would be provided education in more than 30 non-formal educational centres, while 400 children aged between 15 and 17 years would be provided basic literacy and health and safety counselling in 16 literacy centres. Under the project, more than 100 child labourers will be linked to existing social safety nets available under the district’s Zakat schemes and Bait-ul-Mal programmes for scholarships to continue their education and training, while their families will receive grants. A community-based ‘child monitoring system’ will also be developed to prevent children from rag picking and ensure the availability of a trained adult work force. The project will support the development of educational plans in Rawalpindi district that will accommodate child labourers.


From http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/
04/12/2006


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Far-reaching Amendments to Judicial System Proposed

ISLAMABAD: The government has proposed far reaching amendments to the practice and procedure of the high courts and the administration of justice through distribution of business of the court between civil division benches and criminal division benches. Giving more powers to puisne judges, setting up of inspection wings and exercise of high court jurisdiction otherwise than by the judges. Addressing a news conference here on Thursday. Law, Justice and Human Rights Minister Wasi Zafar said that the only purpose of introduction of these amendments/ reforms to the present orthodox judicial system is to provide quick and inexpensive justice to the common man and not to curtail powers or jurisdiction of any office. He said that draft of the proposed amendments has been sent to the superior courts, Pakistan Bar Council, high court bar associations and all other stakeholders to seek their recommendations/suggestions and input so as to make the judicial system vibrant, dynamic and according to the needs of a growing economy and the people.

He said that the government proposes to set up three divisions, Civil Division, Commercial Division, and Criminal Division in each high court consisting of the senior judge of the division who would be president, thereof, and such other puisne judges as are for the time being attached thereto. He said that the puisne judges of the high court would be attached to various divisions by the order of the Chief Justice and the judges so attached to a division would be the judges of that division whether sitting at the principal seat of the high court or at the seat of a bench thereof. He said that the government proposes to increase powers of the president so that he may from time to time, on recommendation of the Chief Justice, by order, direct any increase or reduction in the number of divisions of the high court. The law minister said that commercial high courts will have the jurisdiction to hear and determine a commercial action, any jurisdiction exercisable by the Admiralty Court and such other jurisdiction of commercial nature as may be vested in the high court by any statutory provision or as may be directed by the rules of court to be exercised by the Commercial Division.

He defined the "commercial action" any action, arising out of the transaction of trade and commerce and includes any action relating to foreign investment, negotiable instruments, export or import of goods, carriage of goods by land, sea, air or pipeline, exploitation of oil and gas reserves or other natural resources, insurance and re-insurance, banking and financial services, including bank guarantees, operation of markets and exchanges, construction of ships, business agency, arbitration and companies. He said that in each high court, an Admiralty Court is also proposed which will have the jurisdiction to hear and determine any of the questions and claims mentioned in the Admiralty Jurisdiction of the High Courts Ordinance, 1980. Wasi said that the judges of the Commercial Division would, without involving themselves in any alternative dispute resolution process, encourage the parties and invite them in appropriate cases, to consider, as a possible additional means of resolving their cases or certain issues in the case.

He said hearing of a commercial action would continue on day-to-day basis until its completion, unless for reasons to be recorded, the court finds the adjournment beyond the following day to be necessary. He clarified that under the proposed amendments, any jurisdiction of the high court would be exercised by a single judge of that court except that the jurisdiction relating to the business assigned to the Constitutional Division would be exercised by a divisional court and except in so far as it is exercisable by registrar or any other officer of the high court by rules of the court. The law minister said that any case, cause or matter may at any time and at any stage thereof, either with or without application from any of the parties, but after hearing the parties, be transferred by such authority and in such manner as the rules of court may direct, from one division or judge of the high court to another division or judge thereof, or from a puisne judge or judges to another puisne judge or judges thereof.


From http://www.brecorder.com/
04/14/2006


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AZERBAIJAN: Law on Military Mobilization Goes into Effect

On March 31, Azeri press has published the law which amends legislation regarding military mobilization preparation and mobilization in Azerbaijan Republic, and the law has now gone in to effect. According to the law, in event of a real armed attack or the threat of a military invasion, the president will immediately declare partial or universal mobilization. People in the reserves and those who are not eligible to participate in the military draft could be sent to into the armed forces and other special formations to work in civil positions. In the event of mobilization, entrance and exit from Azerbaijan will be regulated by special rules. Fines equivalent to 80-90 conditional financial units (1.1 AZN) could be imposed on officials for refusal to carry out mobilization measures.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/
04/02/2006


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IRAN: Money Laundering Bill in Limbo

The much-publicized bill on fighting money laundering remains in limbo as the parliament and the constitutional supervisory body, Guardians Council (GC), have failed to forge a consensus over certain parts of the key legislation. Seyyed Kamaleddin Shahriari, deputy minister of economic affairs and finance for legal and parliamentary affairs, told ISNA that the parliament had earlier ratified the bill, which was later rejected by the GC that sought certain amendments. “The Majlis made those amendments and sent the bill back to the GC, where it was once again rejected,“ he said, adding that the parliamentarians now refuse to make any new changes to the bill. “Hence, as long as this controversy continues, the legislation cannot be implemented,“ he said. The bill will reportedly be referred to the State Expediency Council for a final decision following the continued disagreement between the Joint Anti-Money Laundering Commission of the Parliament and the Guardians. Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moqaddam, a member of the Majlis Economic Commission, told ISNA earlier that the Guardians have rejected the bill because they believe that dealing with the crime is within the jurisdiction of the judiciary, whereas the bill has entrusted the High Council for Combating Money Laundering, which is headed by the minister of economic affairs and finance, to do the same. Money laundering takes place when illegal or dirty money is put through a cycle of transactions, or washed, so that it comes out the other end as legal or clean money. In other words, the source of illegally obtained funds is obscured through successive transfers and deals so that the money can eventually be made to appear as legitimate income.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/
04/11/2006

 


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KAZAKHSTAN: President Signs Decree on Further Measures to Implement Strategy 2030

Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, has signed a decree "On further measures to implement the Development Strategy Kazakhstan-2030," Kazakhstan Today reports citing official media. This decree approves the Government Programme for2006-2008 and the National Plan of Events to Implement the Presidential Address to the Nation as of 1 March, 2006, "Strategy of Accession to the World's Top 50 Developed Countries." The decree orders to the government to work out and approve a schedule for the execution of the Plan and the Programme, to provide information on half year and quarterly results to the presidential administration. Besides, the decree forfeits the presidential decree as of 15 August, 2003, "On further measures to implement the Development Strategy Kazakhstan-2030."


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/
04/03/2006

 


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TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Eases Visa Rules

A Tajik government resolution has eased visa requirements for citizens of 68 countries, ITAR-TASS reported on April 1. The March 31 resolution allows citizens of those countries to obtain 45-day visas within three days. The countries include France, Germany, Iran, Japan, and the United States. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/
04/03/2006

 


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AUSTRALIA: Redundancy Payouts at Risk

THE days of the redundancy package could be numbered as employers use "operational reasons" provided by John Howard's new workplace laws to lay off people without giving generous payouts. Legal experts believe the Government's laws allowing sackings for "genuine operational reasons" are so broad they could be used by employers to escape not just unfair dismissal claims, but also redundancy entitlements. Sacked employees would have to prove in a court that their position was made redundant. ACTU secretary Greg Combet said that using operational reasons to avoid redundancies was a big "sleeper issue" of new industrial laws introduced this week. "A redundancy means that your job is disappearing," Mr Combet said. "But employers will be able to avoid redundancy obligations as well as unfair dismissal claims by saying 'this is because of operational reasons'." Andrew Stewart, professor of industrial law at Flinders University, said employers only had to use an element of "genuine operational reasons" for an unfair dismissal claim to be disallowed in firms with more than 100 staff. He said employers could also avoid a redundancy payment, even if such a clause existed in the sacked worker's employment agreement. "The employer could say, 'This is not a redundancy, I'm replacing you'," Professor Stewart said.

Ron McCallum, professor of industrial law at the University of Sydney, said redundancy payouts could be avoided if an employer focused on a person's "qualities" when laying them off. "If the employer said they needed different qualities they could avoid a redundancy," he said. "It's a grey area. Operational reasons have got to be separate from redundancies." Under the new system, employers negotiating new agreements can exclude redundancy because it has been deleted from a list of compulsory minimum conditions. Redundancy entitlements remain, but firms with fewer than 15 staff are exempt. Despite being stripped of many of its powers, Australian Industrial Relations Commission president Geoff Giudice insisted yesterday that the body would play a significant role under the new regime. Under the new workplace laws, the commission has lost the power to set wages, change awards or approve workplace agreements. But Justice Giudice denied the commission's role had been gutted by the Government. "It does have a continuing significant role and it's a role that has been the keystone of its operation since 1904, that is the resolution of industrial disputes," he said. "The context may have changed but that's still the core function."


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/
03/29/2006


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ACT Govt's Water Conservation Plan Draws Mixed Response

The ACT Government's plan to force new homes to use less water has been welcomed by conservationists but has received a cool reception from the Opposition. The Government wants all new houses to reduce their water consumption by 40 per cent compared with those already established and will not approve new homes unless they meets the requirements. Conservation council director Trish Harrop says it is a positive step. "We're quite wasteful with our water, so there is plenty of scope to reduce consumption," she said. But the Liberals' planning spokesman Zed Seselja says first home buyers will bear the brunt of the changes. "We're forcing first home buyers to once again cough up the extra thousands of dollars to do something that essentially is a Government responsibility," he said. Mr Seselja says the Government must bite the bullet and build a new dam.


From http://www.abc.net.au/
04/05/2006


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Ministers to Develop National Disaster Plan

Emergency Services ministers from around the country will convene in Melbourne today to develop a national strategy to deal with a major disaster, such as a pandemic or terror attack. Emergency experts are hoping to formulate a plan that would identify the key strengths of each state and territory, so they can be coordinated in the event of a event. Victorian minister Tim Holding says some states, such as Victoria, have specific expertise in dealing with bushfires, while others are adept in handling cyclones. "Rather than just looking at things like bushfires and floods and storms, which occur regularly in Australia, the focus of our discussions will be on preparing Australia to be able to respond to things like a tsunami, or a pandemic, or even a major terrorist attack somewhere on our shores," he said.


From http://www.abc.net.au/
04/07/2006


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Red Tape Review Targets Tax Tangle

AUSTRALIA is captive to a "regulate first, ask questions later" approach and must simplify tax laws to assist individuals and small business. A national taskforce into red tape and regulation, chaired by Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks, has recommended sweeping reforms to streamline income tax, the GST, fringe benefits tax and superannuation regulation. Announcing new measures yesterday to simplify the nation's FBT regime and slash the cost of incorporating businesses, John Howard confirmed tax cuts were also on the May budget agenda. As reported by The Australian, the Government has agreed to slash the incorporation fee from $800 to $400 to encourage businesses to take advantage of the new workplace laws. Mr Howard said it was "no secret" the Government was making the change to encourage business to take advantage of the new industrial relations regime, which grants exemptions from unfair dismissal laws for companies employing fewer than 100 workers.

"The more companies, the small companies that come within the reach of the Government's industrial relations system, the better," he said. Companies will also be allowed to make annual reports available on the internet, with hard copies available only on request. In response to calls for FBT reform, the minor exemption threshold was increased from $100 to $300 and the exclusion threshold was lifted from $1000 to $2000. The threshold increases would make it easier for workers to enjoy fringe benefits such as private health insurance membership as part of their salary package without it affecting their taxable income for the purposes of determining eligibility for other government rebates. However, the report suggests that the Howard Government go much further, implementing national occupational health and safety standards and freezing country-of-origin food labelling. Warning that a growing and unsustainable aversion to risk is driving increased regulation, it calls for a new debate over the role of regulation in society.

"Regulation has come to be seen as a panacea for many of society's ills and as a means of protecting people from inherent risks of daily life," the report says. "Any adverse event - especially where it involves loss of life,possessions, amenities or money - is laid at the government's feet." Business groups told the inquiry that the average business in NSW spent 400 hours or $10,000 a year complying with regulations, and QBE Insurance Group estimated it spent $60million a year. The report finds there is "too much regulation" and in many cases it imposes excessive and unnecessary costs on business. In principle, the Government has also agreed to ask the states to harmonise the tax base and administrative arrangements of payroll tax regimes.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/
04/08/2006


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Cabinet to Consider New Refugee Rules

INTERCEPTION and the sending back of Papuan asylum-seeker vessels will be one of a range of options to be considered by cabinet's national security committee this week to help reduce tensions with Jakarta over the visa issue. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday the Howard Government was also reviewing the rules regarding the 1951 Refugee Convention, but he cast doubt on whether major changes would be made. Senior government sources said last night the special NSC meeting would consider options for dealing with any future asylum-seeker boats as well as ways of defusing the row generated by last month's granting of protection visas to 42 Papuans. John Howard wants a long-term strategy for the problem before he talks to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in coming days. The Indonesian leader last week criticised the visa decision as inappropriate and unrealistic, and called for serious discussions about the future of the bilateral relationship. Indonesia's ambassador to Canberra, Hamzah Thayeb, remains in Jakarta, having been recalled for consultations.

The NSC will consider mechanisms ranging from heightened maritime surveillance in northern Australian waters to the concept of a "national interest test" when it comes to future Papuan asylum-seeker determinations. Interception and return of asylum-seeker vessels would create legal difficulties for Australia and could only be done if a new monitoring and inspection regime could be set up with the co-operation of Jakarta. A national interest test would involve consultation between the foreign and immigration ministers before any determination of refugee status for Papuan asylum-seekers. For Papuans who land on offshore islands rather than the Australian mainland, the Government already has the power to send them to third countries, such as PNG's Manus Island detention centre, for processing. Mr Downer said that once a refugee determination had been made, it was difficult for ministers to intervene to overturn it. "We have certain obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and will obviously uphold those obligations," the minister told the Nine Network's Sunday program.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 04.10/2006


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Bilateral Agreement on Service Delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in New South Wales

The Hon. John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia and the Hon. Morris Iemma MP, Premier of New South Wales, have signed a landmark five year agreement to enhance access to services for indigenous people in NSW. Government’s 10 year Aboriginal affairs plan Two Ways Together 2003-2013 which supports joint planning and service delivery in consultation with indigenous people. Collaborative and long term planning will help ensure that money spent on services delivers lasting outcomes. Joint action has already been agreed for key priority areas, including: building indigenous wealth and employment; promoting an entrepreneurial culture in indigenous communities, and improving living conditions and health and social outcomes across a range of areas including reducing the incidence of middle ear infections in children (which can lead to loss of hearing); early childhood health and education intervention; improving Year 3 and 5 literacy and numeracy; increasing school retention rates; reducing incarceration and the level of family violence; and creating safer communities. A key mechanism of the agreement will be the integration of Commonwealth and State planning and service delivery so that appropriate and accessible services are available to Aboriginal people in regional and local communities and urban areas of NSW. An Intergovernmental Aboriginal Affairs Group comprising Commonwealth and NSW Government representatives has been established to oversee the implementation of the agreement. This is the fourth bilateral agreement signed under the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) indigenous service delivery framework.


From http://www.pm.gov.au/
04/17/2006


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New Regulation to Stop Commercial Rivals from Stifling Competition

Commercial rivals will not be able to use the planning system to stifle their competitors under a new regulation approved by Planning Minister Simon Corbell. Mr Corbell said the regulation would prevent commercial rivals from using the third party appeal process. The new regulation will apply in all town centres, Civic and all industrial areas. “This regulation will ensure that the planning system is not open to abuse through business rivals using the third party appeal process to delay or stop competition,” he said. “It is consistent with the direction of the planning reform agenda and is part of the Government’s efforts to make the planning system simpler, faster and more effective. “This new regulation should also reduce the need to exercise call-in powers, as many uses of the call-in power have been done to stop commercial rivals from stifling development. “The regulation preserves people’s rights to have input into planning proposals, while creating greater certainty and encouraging investment.

“Exemptions to third party appeals will apply to all development within the geographic centres of Civic, Gungahlin, Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong town centres, regardless of the land use policy, as well to industrial areas – namely Fyshwick, Hume and Mitchell – as defined in the Territory Plan. “The regulation is likely to reduce the number of appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, reducing the potential for further delay that occur when an appeal is heard. Often third party appeals have been based on commercial competition that unfairly disadvantages a developer whose rival business does not want to share the market. “Canberrans will still be afforded opportunities to comment and object to development in town centres and industrial areas through the public notification process where they are advised in a number of ways of development applications open for feedback. “Comments and objections will still be taken into account when a decision is made about whether to approve a development application and under what conditions.”


From http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/
04/18/2006


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'Perverse' Union Law in Federal Sights

LAWS allowing unions to prosecute businesses for workplace safety breaches in NSW are "perverse" and "outrageous". "In every other jurisdiction, only the relevant workers compensation authorities can prosecute for alleged breaches of occupational health and safety laws," federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews told The Australian. Under the NSW system, unions are allowed to retain a "moiety" of half of any fine imposed by the industrial court, along with costs. In three prosecutions since 2004, the Finance Sector Union has reaped $320,000 in OHS actions against banks, following robberies in which staff were injured or traumatised. "It is outrageous that under the NSW laws, unions can actually prosecute employers forOHS breaches," Mr Andrews said. "It creates a perverse incentive for unions to abuse such processes and to prosecute employers for purely financial gain." NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca rejected Mr Andrews's claims. "The Fines Act provides that a court may award half the fine in criminal proceedings to the prosecutor," he said. "This is entirely at the discretion of the court. It has been a feature of NSW law since 1901 and applies beyond OHS prosecutions."

Mr Andrews also singled out the higher duty of care imposed under the NSW act, which he said "reverses the onus of proof, where the accused is deemed to be guilty until they can prove otherwise". "What makes this worse is that, if an employer is charged with breaches of the act, be they civil or criminal, then this is dealt with by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and not a court," he said. "So, for an offence that could result in a jail term, the accused is not even afforded the basic right to a trial before a jury." Mr Della Bosca said Mr Andrews was "so keen to play a silly political game, he hasn't bothered to check his facts". "It is concerning that he is so misinformed on so many points. NSW OHS prosecutions are heard in a court: it's the Industrial Court and its judges are equivalent in status to Supreme Court judges." Mr Andrews also suggested there was "ever more impetus" for national consistency in workplace safety laws - a comment that will heighten speculation that Australia's nine separate OHS regimes are the next battleground in the federal-state war over industrial relations. A Productivity Commission report in 2004 recommended a single set of national OHS laws.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/
04/25/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Government's Energy Efficiency Strategy to Be Scrapped

The Government's energy efficiency strategy is failing to meet targets and will be replaced by 2007. Energy Minister Trevor Mallard and the Government's spokeswoman on energy efficiency Jeanette Fitzsimons said the four-year-old National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy would be revamped. The strategy was meant to achieve a 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency and increase renewable energy supply by 30 petajoules by 2012. A review by Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority found there had only been "very modest" improvements in energy efficiency. To reach the 2012 target energy efficiency would have to improve by 2.5 per cent a year. "New Zealand is currently tracking at a rate of improvement between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent per year," the review said. Enough new renewable energy was coming on stream to meet the target, but as the overall demand for energy increased, the percentage coming from renewable sources is actually decreasing.

Mr Mallard and Ms Fitzsimons said the original strategy had provided a solid base to build on. "It has delivered some energy efficiency gains, but not at a sufficient rate to meet New Zealand's current and future needs," they said in a statement. Ms Fitzsimons is not part of the Government, but gained the right to act as the spokeswoman on energy efficiency as part of the government formation talks following the 2005 election. "The new strategy will pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy more aggressively and will aim to put New Zealand on a faster course to a sustainable energy system," Ms Fitzsimons said. The authority largely responsible for running the current strategy would "lead development" of its replacement. The Government is also drafting terms of reference for a review of the wider national energy strategy. The law requires the Government to set down an energy efficiency strategy which includes targets and how they are to be achieved.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
03/30/2006


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Changing Food Law 'Asks for Trouble'

A sweeping review of food laws has run into strong opposition from Auckland City councillors who say allowing private contractors to take over hygiene inspections is asking for trouble. Auckland City Council is about to submit its final verdict on the New Zealand Food Standards Safety Authority's (NZFSA) proposals to food regulations, the first major review for more than 30 years. One proposal is that every food outlet be required to draw up a "food safety plan" which is then "verified" by a certified food "verifier". Councils would no longer have a monopoly on checking hygiene in takeaway bars, restaurants and the like with random inspections as happens now. They would also face competition in regulating food outlets from private companies. Auckland City councillor Penny Sefuiva said that could lead to similar problems experienced by the building industry after private companies took over building inspection work. "This just hasn't been thought through, it's a recipe for inconsistency and I would be amazed if other councils didn't share our concerns." Auckland City environmental health and licencing manager Chris Dee said there was a potential conflict of interest in a private company doing food inspections because under the changes the business would pay the company doing the work.

"You could say that's the equivalent to a council inspection but it's quite a different beast altogether," he said. The business owner would get notice of when a "verifier" was going to call, he said. "If the owner's got any nous at all he'll clean his place up in preparation for the visit." Food outlets, many of which are sole operator, small-scale businesses, were likely to go for the cheapest option when it came to selecting a food verifier which could mean different standards. There was the potential for conflict of interest. "That's because the verifier is paid for by the business whereas when council does that work they are working on behalf of the community." It was likely the council's food hygiene grading system, which rates food outlets on an A, B, D or E grade, depending on their level of compliance with hygiene regulations, would be scrapped under NZFSA's plans. NZSFA spokesman Gary Bowering said one proposal was a national standard of, say, a B grade, given to all food outlets which would then have to adhere to their food safety plans to retain it. A range of compliance tools was being considered to ensure food suppliers stuck to hygiene standards including infringement notices similar to those given to travellers who breach customs regulations.


 From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
04/04/2006


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Pandemic Preparedness Legislation Introduced

New Zealand's work to prepare for possible flu pandemic has been significantly progressed by the introduction of new legislation in Parliament today. The Law Reform (Epidemic Preparedness) Bill will improve the government's ability to respond to an outbreak of pandemic flu or a similar highly infectious disease capable of becoming an epidemic in New Zealand. Health Minister Pete Hodgson said the bill was an important part of the whole-of-government work programme that is currently underway. "The government has a responsibility to New Zealand families to do all we can to prepare for possible flu pandemic," Pete Hodgson said. "If a pandemic reaches New Zealand, we will have to be ready to deal with some of the most serious social and economic challenges we've faced in over a generation. "The legislation introduced today will strengthen the government's ability to respond to a pandemic. While its provisions will only be used in a major emergency, it clarifies a number of important issues for businesses, government agencies and the wider community."

Last year Cabinet asked a number of departments to examine existing legislation and to identify any gaps that would hamper the government's ability to respond to the outbreak of pandemic flu or a serious epidemic. The main issues addressed by the Bill involve amendments to the Health Act. The amendments mostly cover the need to update and clarify quarantine powers. There are also a number of amendments to non-health legislation, including changes to the Social Security Act and Holidays Act. "The Bill's introduction to the House provides an opportunity for all parties in Parliament to show leadership on pandemic planning. The government is open to all constructive suggestions about how this Bill can be improved and how our preparedness can be advanced." (by Hon Pete Hodgson, Minister of Health)


From http://www.taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz/04/06/2006


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WB Announces Strategy to Combat Corruption

The agenda of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum which opens in Pusan, South Korea, today includes ways to root out corruption that distorts the business environment in the region. The meeting is expected to deepen the sense of necessity for cross-border cooperation in fighting corruption in various fields, and to examine the global community’s efforts to eradicate corruption. One thing to be discussed is the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which contains some concrete measures to accelerate international efforts. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2003. When more than 100 countries gathered at the signing conference of the convention in Mexico the following December, Chung Soung-jin, chairman of the Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC), was also present at the meeting as a representative of the South Korean government. The UNCAC will come into force on Dec 14 this year, 90 days after Ecuador ratified the convention. It was the 30th country to do so. A minority of the 129 signatory countries to the convention has ratified it so far. ``Among G-8 countries, the so-called advanced countries, only France ratified the UNCAC,’’ said a statement from the Council for the Korean Pact on Anti-Corruption and Transparency. ``At OECD level, only 10 percent, or three countries _ France, Mexico, and Hungary _ got approval from their legislatures.’’ ``Advanced countries, including the United States, have not ratified the UNCAC. In Asia, only Sri Lanka did,’’ Chung said. He added that as the countries have differing interests as to the details of the convention, many of them drag their feet over the ratification, even though they sympathize with the cause and spirit of the convention. ``For example, when the convention comes into force, if an African leader had put his embezzled state money into a secret account at a Swiss bank, the bank would be obliged to return the money to the requesting country,’’ Chung said. In fact, the convention tackles issues that could be thorny to some countries, including prosecution and extradition of offenders and asset recovery of illegal funds. South Korea is no exception. Chung said the nation found it hard to abide by the convention’s aims to deal with private sector as well as public sector, for example improving standards of accounting and audit and punishing those that do not comply. ``But after sufficient consultations with relevant ministries, we hope in principle for the legislature to ratify the convention soon,’’ Chung said. Chung is proud of scheduled discussion of anti-corruption issue at the APEC summit. ``The APEC summit in Santiago, Chile, last year started the discussion on the issue,’’ Chung said. ``But we think the continuation of the discussion is attributable to South Korea’s leading role in raising the issue in the community and its commitment to fight corruption.’’ The APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency Symposium held in September in Seoul brought the issue, which so far has been mainly dealt with in the framework of the U.N. or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), closer to the APEC member community in the Asia-Pacific region, Chung said. He also hopes the APEC will provide an opportunity to let the world know that South Korea is determined to eradicate corruption and move toward transparency. ``Last year we saw the National Assembly revise the political fund law so that the businesses cannot donate money to individual politicians. This helped greatly to sever corrupt ties between the two,’’ he said. ``And we’re likely to see the APEC CEO summit adopt an anti-corruption declaration during the APEC period.’’ With such efforts being recognized both at home and abroad, South Korea will emerge as a new leading player in global efforts to root out corruption during and after the APEC, Chung said.


From China.org.cn
04/12/2006

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Asian Currency Unit Likely to Face a Rocky Road

In a few months, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is expected to make an announcement about the advent of an Asian Currency Unit (ACU), a development that has drawn keen interest from financial markets. The ADB's move reflects what has been evident for some time: the rapid expansion of economic interdependence in Asia. This deepening interdependency, coupled with concern about a recurrence of the Asian financial crisis that hit in the late 1990s, prompted the ASEAN-Plus Three nations--Japan, China and South Korea--to develop sound financial strategies. One result of this was the so-called Chiang Mai initiative to prevent a financial crisis. Another concerned moves to develop an Asian bond market. The possible creation of an ACU has drawn considerable international attention, partly because of the potential for the development of an Asian version of the European Currency Unit (ECU), which started out as an accounting unit and today is the currency we know as the euro. Promising candidates Until now, the ADB has emphasized that the ACU would be just an indicator of relative currency values and quite different from the ECU. ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda made this point clear in a recent speech, stating, "The ADB is developing a useful indicator for monitoring regional currency movements--the Asian Currency Unit." Masahiro Kawai, a senior ADB official, calls it a basket of Asian currencies. More specifically, it is a weighted average of Asian exchange rates. Kawai said the weight would be determined by the size of gross domestic product, trade and capital account openness.

The ADB has not revealed specific components of the basket, but the currencies of the ASEAN-Plus Three nations are promising candidates. It has also been suggested that more than one indicator with a different combination of currencies might be created. Kawai emphasizes that the ACU is totally different from the ECU, which began as an official unit of account and comprised part of Europe's official foreign exchange reserves. On the other hand, the ACU is expected to have no such official status. There are a number of reasons for the ACU not being able to become the Asian version of the ECU in the short term. First, the political will for this to happen is not strong among Asian nations. Second, even if they do want to create a common currency, differences in their economic conditions are huge. Third, unlike the dollar, the euro and the yen, most of their monetary units are not hard currencies that can be easily traded on foreign exchange markets. Fourth, continuing political rifts among Asian nations make it difficult to cooperate closely. This is borne out by the state of shaky ties between Tokyo and Beijing, as well as China's campaign to rein in Taiwan.

In the same vein, financial experts are interested in the possibility of including the Hong Kong and Taiwan dollars in the ACU. The reason for this is that their economies are much bigger than those of most Asian nations. Thus, the usefulness of the currency unit could be called into question if their currencies were not included. "The ACU would allow us to monitor both the collective movement of Asian currencies against major currencies, such as the U.S. dollar and the euro, as well as the individual movement of each Asian currency against the regional average presented by ACU," said Kuroda. "Thus, it could be quite a useful indicator for monetary authorities in their exchange rate policy formulation." However, Fumio Hoshi, senior executive director of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, wonders whether the ACU would actually prove useful in exchange rate policy. "The ACU would be a useful indicator for monetary authorities in their exchange rate policy formulation if Asian countries concerned are going to establish their community like the European Union. Otherwise, one can hardly imagine that monetary authorities will use it as reference for their policymaking," he said. Sixteen nations--the ASEAN-Plus Three, India, New Zealand and Australia--gathered in Kuala Lumpur last year to discuss the idea of the East Asian Community. However, the talks did not result in substantial progress. Long-range vision Nevertheless, the creation of an ACU would prove helpful in developing Asian financial cooperation. Hoshi said including all currencies of the ASEAN-Plus Three nations would be quite unrealistic because of big differences in their currency value. But, if the ACU consists of hard and semi-hard currencies in Asia, an ACU-based bond could help nurture an Asian bond market. The capital market development plan has generated considerable interest among the Asian nations concerned. The plan basically aims at preventing the huge amount of savings held in Asia from draining into the U.S. market. This is for the sake of stability of local currencies. Still, it would take time for the market to use the ACU, according to Satoshi Shimizu, senior economist at Japan Research Institute Ltd. Many experts speculate that the advent of the ACU would initially have an impact on financial markets only in the sense that the concept was moving beyond the realm of planning and to possible future implementation. Hoshi also says it would be difficult to attract strong private sector interest unless Asian currencies are to be integrated into one unit like the euro. He said the market would be interested in the idea of ACU bonds if they were based on a basket of hard and semi-hard currencies.

Yoshihisa Onishi, executive director of the Center for Financial Industry Information Systems (Japan), envisages four joint steps that Asian nations would need to take in creating a common currency. At the first stage, they would need to hold regular talks on exchange rate problems, just as EU countries do at monthly meetings of the Bank for International Settlements. That creates a common understanding of the problems affecting each member nation. At the second stage, nations would need to implement concerted market intervention and policy coordination while using a basket of currencies such as the dollar, euro and yen as a reference indicator. At the third stage, those nations would need to create an ACU which consists only of local currencies in East Asia. This would ensure the financial cooperation of monetary authorities.The final stage would be the creation of the Asian version of the euro. However, Onishi said he doubts the fourth stage will happen anytime soon. Nor does he believe the creation of an Asian common currency is a sure thing in the distant future. But, he said the "process of creating a common (Asian) currency has its own meaning" because it would generate a mechanism for the "convergence of exchange rate systems and the way Asian nations structure their economies."


From http://www.asahi.com/
04/20/2006


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BFA 2006 Annual Conference Concludes in Hainan

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) 2006 concluded on Sunday afternoon in Boao, a coastal town in South China's Hainan Province. BFA Secretary-General Long Yongtu said the annual conference had successfully promoted its core values of peaceful development, harmonious co-existence and cooperation, particularly among the Asian countries. Some 850 delegates from 39 countries or regions exchanged views on major international topics including energy and the World Trade Organization's Doha talks, Long said. The non-government forum attracted more business people from both home and abroad this year than previously. Three quarters of the delegates were in business and the number of overseas delegates exceeded that of domestic participants. The forum also promoted exchanges between related governments and companies. Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong attended the opening ceremony of the conference on Saturday and delivered a keynote speech. He vowed that China would work with other Asian countries to realize prosperity and harmony.

The BFA had arranged more than 100 meetings and round-table discussions between government officials and business people over the three days, said Long. He added that the forum had also covered issues such as education, culture, health-care and environmental protection. The forum also organized for the first time a round-table meeting for business people from both sides of the Taiwan Straits, explained Long. By way of the conference the BFA also enhanced cooperation with other international organizations such as the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank, Long added. The forum was opened by former President of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos, former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke and former Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa. Ramos and Hawke spoke highly of the 2006 conference, saying it had helped to promote regional cooperation and would have a long-term impact on Asia's development.


From Xinhua News Agency
04/24/2006


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CHINA: Gov't Power Needs Definition

A clear definition of administrative power will help guarantee individual rights, says a signed article in Beijing Youth Daily. An excerpt follows: Vice-Governor of Hebei Province Guo Gengmao said on Tuesday that the province would redefine and clarify the legal grounds for administrative power of various government departments, and publicize lists of government power. This is an action in response to a request of administration according to law. The State Council issued an outline of administration according to law in 2004. Premier Wen Jiabao also pointed out that to build a government by law is to give legal basis to administrative power, execute the power according to law and ensure effective supervision on the exercise of administrative power. The action in Hebei Province will contribute to the building of a government by law. Government departments will only have authority as defined on the list, and cannot encroach on other areas. This will help ensure a transparent government.

In ancient dictatorial society, government power, with imperial power as its core, was without limitation, while individuals lack rights. Modern society should enjoy the rule of law. Any power unauthorized by law is illegal, while for private citizens, all rights that are not forbidden by law should be legal. Setting a limitation on government power is a way towards guaranteeing the rights of the individual. Hebei Province has taken a step in the right direction.


From
China Daily 03/30/2006

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600 Institutions Punished for Violating Anti-Money Laundering Rules

China imposed fines totaling 56.29 million yuan (about 7 million U.S. dollars) on 600 financial institutions in 2005 for violating anti-money laundering rules, Wednesday's China Business News reports. The central bank's anti-money laundering monitoring and analyzing center received suspect transactions involving 80 billion yuan (some 10 billion dollars) and 800 million dollars, the report says. It is estimated that the size of money laundering in China falls between 300 billion yuan to 400 billion yuan each year. The central bank issued China's first rules on anti-money laundering in 2003, which demanded financial institutions to report suspicious transactions to the central bank. Xiang Junbo, vice governor of the central bank, said earlier that the drafting of an anti-money laundering law has come to the end and it will be submitted to the legislative body for approval in April. The new law shall include provisions on the financing of terrorist activities, he said.


From www.chinaview.cn
04/05/2006

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CPC Sets Moral Yardstick for Officials

A simple four character phrase 'Barong, ba chi' or the "eight honors, eight disgraces" raised by Chinese President Hu Jintao in March, is becoming the new moral yardstick to measure the work, conduct and attitude of Communist Party officials. In the Chinese language the list of eight honors and disgraces reads like rhyming couplets and sounds almost poetic. -- Love the country; do it no harm-- Serve the people; do no disservice. -- Follow science; discard ignorance. -- Be diligent; not indolent. -- Be united, help each other; make no gains at other's expense-- Be honest and trustworthy; do not spend ethics for profits-- Be disciplined and law-abiding; not chaotic and lawless-- Live plainly, struggle hard; do not wallow in luxuries and pleasures.

Prof. Han Qingxiang, a university philosophy professor, told Xinhua that Chinese society is undergoing a transition. He says some people have lost their direction and have blurred the differences between right and wrong, honor and disgrace. "Although most officials are well disciplined a few of them in important posts have failed to serve the country and the people. They have indulged in self promotion and nepotism. Their wrong doings have severely poisoned the social atmosphere," said the professor who is with the Central Communist Party School, or the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee has decided to use the list of do's and don'ts as an important assessment tool in order to select clean, diligent and capable officials for important posts. The CPC will ask all its officials and members to reflect on the pairs of eight opposing values and hope it will refresh the atmosphere in official circles and have a positive influence on all citizens.

From Xinhua News Agency 04/05/2006

 

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Scholars Call for Change in Villagers' Voting Rights

Chinese scholars have called for a change in the voting system to allow people to vote according to where they live as opposed to where they are registered. Many migrant workers now live in cities far from where they registered as residents. "To use residence registration to determine where a villager can vote was feasible in the past when rural farmers, land and residences were relatively fixed," said Xu Yong, a professor from the rural studies center of east China's elite Normal University. "But great, earth-shake changes have taken place in the countryside. Millions of farmer peasants have flocked to the cities to work and many elders settle in the countryside after retirement," he said. "That makes the registration no longer suitable to decide where villagers can vote." "Villagers have the right to directly elect or oust their village heads and members of the village committees, but as the Organic Law of Village Committees does not clearly define voters' rights, disputes and even mass protests have occurred in some village elections, which have disrupted the stability in the rural areas," said Prof. Yuan Dayi of the Beijing Administrative College at an ongoing symposium supported by the EU-China training program on village governance in Beijing.

The 140 million migrant workers, who have worked and lived in the cities for more than a decade, still play the role of "an outsider" because their residence is registered back in the countryside. At the fourth session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), 31 deputies proposed to revise the Organic Law of Village Committees. In the proposal, deputies set forth the issued of defining the village voters, setting up a village election law and improving the assembly of the village deputies system. At present, the Ministry of Civil Affairs is studying and drafting the revised Organic Law of Village Committees and planning to submit it to the NPC, China's top legislature.


From Xinhua News Agency
04/10/2006

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Mianyang's Lawmakers Improve Authorities' Efficiency

Fan Liying has his fingers crossed that the government will adopt his proposal this year and make natural gas available to the 540 poverty-stricken families in his community without charging installation fees. Though the same proposal fell on deaf ears last year, Fan has very good reason to be confident this year because his proposal, submitted again to Mianyang Municipal People's Congress in March, was published on Mianyang Daily, the most widely read newspaper in Mianyang, a city with 5.2 million people in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The newspaper carried 114 proposals from local lawmakers as well as the government departments responsible for implementing each of the proposals, with names of the people in charge and their telephone numbers. Yu Yuenian, an official with Mianyang Municipal Construction Bureau, found his name and telephone number on the newspaper, because he is supposed to implement Fan's proposal and provide 540 poor families in Shunhejie Street with easier access to natural gas. "It surely brings much pressure," said Yu, "I hope the pressure will turn out to be a driving force for me to do a better job."

Shortly after Fan's proposal appeared on the local newspaper, a vice mayor visited Shunhejie Street to see the residents' living condition and instantly discussed the feasibility of the proposal with a construction official. Though it is still unclear when natural gas will eventually be piped to their community, the residents are delighted all the same because "at least they've seen hope", said Fan. As a deputy to the local legislature, Fan submitted to the same proposal last year, but the local government didn't take any action. "Some bureaucrats turn a deaf ear to deputies' proposals concerning knotty issues," said Li Youquan, vice director of the Standing Committee of Mianyang Municipal People's Congress. "Some even think the deputies are making trouble." Very often, the deputies submit some constructive proposals without knowing which government department is expected to handle the case eventually, said Li Shangzhi, deputy secretary-general of the committee. The committee's decision this year to publish all deputies' proposals and detailed information of relevant government offices was objected by many officials, but it was determined to go ahead with the bold move, he said. The move will be effective in improving transparency and enabling the public to see weather the government is doing its job, said Guo Dan, a political science researcher with Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences. "It urges the government to seek solutions to issues concerning the fundamental interests of the people and therefore help the local government departments improve efficiency," said Li Yalian, vice mayor of Mianyang.

Since the beginning of this year, local legislatures have intensified their efforts to improve transparency and promote democracy in their work. They've also kept the public informed of what they are doing. The Sichuan Provincial People's Congress, for example, posted all its deputies' proposals on a most frequently visited local website before they were deliberated at its annual session. In Chongqing Municipality that neighbors Sichuan, three deputies of the local legislature published their personal blogs to encourage online discussions with the netizens on employment, social security and other issues of common concern. Local legislatures in Beijing, Henan and Guangxi also encouraged citizens to voice comments and suggestion by sending short messages via cell phones.


From Xinhua News Agency
04/13/2006

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Democratic Supervision Takes Root in Rural Areas

Supervisory committees have been set up in 500 villages across Wuyi County, in East China's Zhejiang Province, to monitor village affairs and restrict the power of village cadres. The supervisory committees, elected by representatives of the villagers, are devoted to supervising the financial and daily affairs of the villagers' committees and the village-level branches of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Zhong Xiaogu, office head for Wuyi's Baiyang subdistrict, said," In my hometown, hundreds of millions of yuan in land-transfer proceedings are usually brought under control of villagers' committee and a Party branch. If they were not supervised, corruption could occur." According to the county's disciplinary commission, 153 law and discipline violations were detected in Wuyi from 2000 to 2003, of which 80 percent involved village cadres. Meanwhile, complaints about village cadres increased at an annual rate of 40 percent, the commission added.

Zhan Chengfu, head of the department of grassroots power and community construction under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said, "Direct election has been realized in most Chinese villages, but it is only the first step towards democracy." On June 18, 2004, Wuyi County designated Houchen Village, where many complaints had occurred, as the pilot village for the permanent village-affairs supervision system. Zhan Shenan, a 43-year-old "veteran" of making complaints and drawing up petitions, was appointed as the first head of the committee. The committee of Houchen had one head and two members, who were paid by the collective fund of the village. Jin Zhongliang, vice mayor of Jinhua City and the former magistrate of Wuyi County, said, "The supervisory committee is still under the leadership of the Party. It only has power to supervise activities of the villagers' committee and the Party branch, but has no veto." "The supervision mechanism does not go against the Party's leadership. It is a positive attempt to enhance supervision over grassroots organizations of the Party," said Chen Suijun, an associate professor with the research center of agricultural modernization and rural development under the Zhejiang University based in the provincial capital of Hangzhou.

To keep the supervision committee clean, candidates have to be outside the villagers' committee and the Party branch. Parents, spouses, children or brothers and sisters of the members of the two organs are not allowed to become supervisors. A limited supervisory and transparency system for village affairs has been practiced for several years in other rural areas across China. "The committee established in Wuyi is a permanent organ and is able to supervise the whole process of village affairs. It is a valuable innovation," commented Professor Shi Weimin with the Research Institute of Politics Study under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences based in Beijing. The committee at Houchen Village has monitored biddings for 25 construction projects and has held a hearing on a production facility valued at 10 million yuan (1.25 million U.S. dollars). It has helped the village save more than 900,000 yuan (112,500 U.S. dollars). Some villagers said the former transparency system was simply to make public what the villagers' committee had done. Now every invoice and receipt are scrutinized, the villagers added.

Like Houchen, over 500 out of the 570 villages in Wuyi County have begun to practise the supervision system. Local government data showed that complaints in the county decreased by 32 percent last year. Initiated in Wuyi County, the system has been popularized in Jinhua City, where the county is situated. Earlier this year, it won a nomination for the Third China Local Government Innovation Award, which was mainly sponsored by the Party School of CPC Central Committee and Beijing University. After making a field research on the democratic supervision in Wuyi, Xi Jinping, secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of CPC, said, "The new system, based on the separation of supervision from administration, conforms to the development orientation of grassroots democracy in China."


From Xinhuanet
04/19/2006

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New Department Set Up to Oversee Policy Banks

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) has set up a new department as a watchdog for the country's three policy banks, four asset management companies and the vast postal savings network. CBRC said in a statement the initiative will provide more independent and improved supervision of the banking industry. CBRC was spun off from the People's Bank of China, the central bank, three years ago. It already regulates the Big Four state commercial banks and 13 smaller national shareholder banks. The new financial institutions to fall under the CBRC's preview include China Development Bank, Agricultural Development Bank of China and The Export-Import Bank of China and China Postal Savings offices. Their combined assets have climbed to 11.4 percent of the industry's total by the end of 2005. China's four asset management companies, namely CINDA, Great Wall, Orient and Huarong, were set up in 1999 to dispose of a mountain of problem loans transferred from the Big Four, in a sweeping campaign to reform the financial industry. They had either written off or recovered 839.75 billion yuan in non-performing loans by the end of last year.

A CBRC spokesman said the new department will require the financial institutions to provide more efficient services and guard against unreasonable business risks. According to the spokesman, a national postal savings bank based in the existing post offices could soon be established. It would be devoted to financing rural expansion which is currently the focus of China's development.


From Xinhua News Agency04/19/2006

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Reduce Waste in Gov't Operation

Governments at various levels should reduce waste and practise thrift in their operations, says a commentary in Outlook magazine. An excerpt follows: Conserving resources is one of our basic national policies. Government departments should take the lead to eradicate extravagance and waste. Besides corruption and wastefulness brought about by poor policy-making, there are many other examples of wasteful behavior in our administration. The "image projects" and "festival projects" have led to great waste. Government office buildings, for example, are often the best and newest in some regions, especially in underdeveloped places. Government cars are often used for private reasons. Many unnecessary training tours for government officials, who are in fact sightseeing, also waste resources.

Many factors have led to such waste. First, some civil servants lack a sense of conservation and due respect to taxpayers. Second, there is no mechanism to promote resource conservation. It is not shown in civil servants' performance assessment system. The accountability system is not effectively implemented either. Third, there is a lack of supervision. The people's congress, as the organ of power, has not performed competent supervision on budget-making and the use of public money. Some deputies of the people's congress have no information, time or professional knowledge to perform their duties. The financial affairs of administrative organs are not transparent or open for public supervision. Thus it is urgent for further improvements to be made to the supervision system. It is a pressing issue to foster civil servants' resource conservation awareness to construct a resource conservation government and a resource conservation society as well. Policy-making and implementation should be transparent for public supervision. Government officials should be held responsible for their mistakes and faults.


From
China Daily 04/19/2006

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More Grads Want 'Safe' Civil Service Option

The number of candidates sitting civil service examinations in China has steadily increased from 30,000 to 540,000 since 2001, with one out of every thousand candidates being successfully recruited, according to a report in China Youth Daily on April 18. A Summit Forum on Harmonious Pioneering, jointly sponsored by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League, China Youth Daily and www.ceoglobal.com, was held at Renmin University of China on April 4. During the forum, university students discussed the difficulties and challenges of joining the civil service. When the discussion turned to starting a business, most of the students didn't know where to start or simply had nothing to say.

For many university students, starting a business is something that they might aspire to but feel that they can never actually do. Sociologists who participated in the forum concluded that driving the "civil service fever", that is, the scrambling for jobs in the public sector, is the fear of private sector and open market challenges. "A civil servant is comparatively carefree and has a stable income, social welfare benefits and other perks," said Wu Wei, a student who participated in the forum. "A job in the civil service is also highly respected. Most important, a civil servant always has a sense of security and doesn't have to worry about unemployment and pensions." But some students held a different opinion. "These are multi-faceted times. I don't think one has to limit one's options," said a second-year student from the School of International Studies at Renmin University. "What I want is to work with a non-governmental organization or in education," she said. "Not everybody is made for the civil service or for starting a business. It depends on his or her character and interests." Many other participants agreed with her. (by Li Jingrong)


Excerpted from China.org.cn
04/23/2006

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JAPANDPJ Elects Ozawa as New President

The Democratic Party of Japan elected veteran lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa, 63, as its new president Friday, ending his head-to-head race with rival and two-time President Naoto Kan. Despite concern over his reputation for backroom dealing and dictatorial leadership, Ozawa received 119 of the 192 votes. Kan, 59, garnered 72 votes. One lawmaker was absent from the voting. "I will dedicate all my strength to realizing a DPJ regime," Ozawa, a former party vice president, told the party lawmakers after winning the race. Ozawa becomes the fifth DPJ leader during Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's nearly five years in office. Ozawa's biggest task appears to be restoring the DPJ's credibility during the remainder of outgoing leader Seiji Maehara's term through September, and to enable it to beat the Liberal Democratic Party in an Upper House election set for next year. With Ozawa's election, the focus will now be on the choice of executive members. Before the election, both lawmakers agreed they would cooperate with the other regardless of who won, and it is likely Kan will be given one of the chief posts. In a policy speech before the voting, Ozawa said he wants to rebuild the DPJ into Japan's "No. 1 opposition party that is trusted and stable," so it will ultimately be able to take power and make Japan "a fair nation."

"I would like to stake my life on overcoming this difficulty and recovering public trust in the DPJ," Ozawa said. "If the light for a two-party system and a change of power burns out, it means Japan is abandoned." At a news conference after his election, Ozawa criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government, saying it was too dependent on bureaucrats and reform was only moving "inch by inch." "I don't think (Koizumi's reforms) are in tune with the times," Ozawa said. "I believe the DPJ's role is to create a principle and basic policy that corresponds to the current times." As for Japan's deteriorating ties with China, strained in part by Koizumi's annual visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Ozawa said he wanted "both the Japanese and Chinese people to be able to develop a friendly relationship based on trust and cooperation." Prior to the election, Ozawa, a former Liberal Democratic Party veteran lawmaker, issued his political views in a written statement. In the statement, Ozawa said that he aims to establish a fair and stable social security system by covering the basic part of pension, nursing and medical treatment for the elderly through consumption tax.

Regarding foreign policy, Ozawa said he will improve the relationship with China, South Korea and other neighboring countries based on the Japan-United States relationship. At a news conference Wednesday, Ozawa said he favors revising the Constitution. "The Constitution is the fundamental rule for people to live in society," Ozawa said. "If the rule no longer suits the lives of the general public due to changing times, it should be changed. That goes for regular laws as well as the Constitution. "Ozawa has been elected 13 times to the Lower House. In 1989, at the age of 47, Ozawa became secretary general of the LDP, but bolted from the party with a group of LDP members in 1993, triggering the LDP's loss of its ruling party status for the first time in nearly 40 years. Since then, he has acted as the leader of Shinshinto and the Liberal Party. The DPJ presidential election came after Maehara expressed his intention to resign as DPJ leader last Friday to take responsibility over the fiasco involving the party's attempt to discredit a son of LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe with an e-mail, which turned out to be fake, suggesting a shady funds transfer to him from arrested Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie.


From www.japantimes.co.jp
04/08/2006

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Kyoto Gov. Yamada Reelected

Keiji Yamada, 52, was returned a second four-year term as governor of Kyoto Prefecture in an election on Sunday, beating his sole contender, Yoko Kinugasa. Yamada, an independent backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, New Komeito and the Social Democratic Party, garnered 514,893 votes, exceeding the 269,740 votes for Kinugasa, a 56-year-old independent backed by the Japanese Communist Party. Voter turnout hit a record low of 38.44 percent. Yamada took a comfortable lead over Kinugasa by attracting broad-based support from major parties, municipal leaders and other organizations.


From mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp
04/10/2006

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S. Korea Probes Gov't Officials over Hyundai Bribery

Prosecutors on Wednesday began investigating a number of leading politicians and senior government officials suspected of having received parts of slush funds raised by Hyundai Motor Group, prosecution sources said. The prosecutors have reportedly secured secret documents indicating Hyundai's bribing of some politicians and government officials from their raid on the offices of Glovis Co., a logistics arm of the Hyundai Motor Group, they said. Prosecutors raided five corporate restructuring and financing companies related to Hyundai Motor on Tuesday as they widened their probe to look into suspicions surrounding Chung's power transfer scheme.While the five firms, including Win&Win 21, Q Capital Holdings and CNC Capital, are not Hyundai affiliates, they were involved in the car manufacturer's acquisition of major auto parts makers at prices far below market value after the group took over the ailing Kia Motors Corp. in 1999,, according to prosecutors.

There are mounting suspicions that Hyundai Motor Group sold debt-ridden Kia affiliates such as Bontec and Wia Corp. to corporate restructuring companies before repurchasing them at fire-sale prices after banks had written off their debts amounting to 50 billion won (US$52 million) in total. The dubious acquisition deals appear to have been aimed at helping the chairman's only son, Chung Eui-sun, make enough money to buy controlling stakes in the group's major affiliates, according to sources at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office. The son currently holds a 25 percent stake in the auto plant builder Amco Corp., 32 percent in Glovis and 40 percent in advertising arm Innocean. He also owns a 2-percent stake in Kia Motors. The prosecutors were to decide on Wednesday whether to arrest four executives of the five restructuring firms for questioning over the alleged charges. Chung Eui-sun, president of Kia Motors, was placed under an overseas travel ban following his father's abrupt exit for a week-long business trip to the United States.


From au.biz.yahoo.com
04/05/2006

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Roh Names New Cheong Wa Dae Spokesman

President Roh Moo-hyun appointed Jeong Tae-ho (43), the planning and coordination secretary of the presidential office, as his new spokesman, replacing Kim Man-soo, according to a Cheong Wa Dae announcement Sunday. Kim Man-soo, who served as Cheong Wa Dae spokesman for the last 13 months, plans to run for the parliamentary by-elections in the Sosa District of Bucheon in July. Rep. Kim Moon-soo of the opposition Grand National Party, who has represented the district, will leave his National Assembly seat to run for Gyeonggi Province governor.


From www.donga.com
04/24/2006

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National Pension Service to Participate in Infrastructure Project

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) and the National Pension Service (NPS) announced on April 7 that they plan to participate in a private investment project for the Busan-Ulsan Expressway. The project is managed by the Ministry of Construction and Transportation and contracted by Busan Ulsan Expressway Co. with a total investment of 1.13 trillion won. The 4~6 lane expressway will cover 47.2 km from Jwa-dong in Busan to Beomseo-myeon in Ulsan with completion set for 2008. The NPS will recover its investment principal and income with revenue from tollgate fees over a 30-year period. The NPS invested in Ulsan New Port Development, Incheon International Airport Railway, Social Overhead Capital Fund and others and has set aside 800 billion won of the investment budget for SOC projects this year. SOC investment by the NPS would secure stable long-term investment assets and diversify investments for the fund, which would earn a stable income that exceeds the bond investment yield rate. In addition, it would expand the SOC facilities to contribute to the national economic development and promotion of living standards.


From www.korea.net
04/11/2006

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New College Tuition Systems Proposed

College tuition fees reached the 10.5 trillion won last year. Excluding 1.5 trillion won in scholarships and 830 billion won in student loans, parents paid a total of eight trillion won. The Grand National Party calculates that the government could cut that eight trillion won figure in half by generating a one trillion won national scholarship fund, expanding the amount of work-study to 480 billion won, creating 800 billion won by allowing soldiers to deposit their salaries and use the money as tuition, 300 billion won by converting student loans extended to lower-income households into sponsorships, and one trillion won by providing 110,000 won of tax credits to those who donate 100,000 won to a private college. The opposition party is planning to create a three trillion won national scholarship fund. The party explains that the government could initially secure one trillion won from the 800 billion won donated by Samsung Group and 100 billion won worth of dormant bank accounts, another one trillion won by streamlining lax management of budget for various projects, including Brain Korea 21, and yet another trillion won by reducing expenses for managing committees and public relations of the government. The GNP intends to spend one trillion won annually out of the three trillion won on scholarships and save one trillion won as a scholarship fund.

But budget experts say that the plan would lead to reduction of college research expenses and human resource development budget, which are very important. They also point out that if the government tries to excessively adjust projects to secure budgets, this would inevitably cause some side effects. In the case of utilizing soldiers’ salaries, it takes 800 billion won to raise the salary to 200,000 won a month by 2008. The problem is that the government would have to collect more taxes, and that whether the government can “seize” salaries of all soldiers regardless the will of individual soldiers. But the experts also say that the tax deduction of 110,000 won for those who donate 100,000 won to college would help vitalize donation. A tax deduction system for political conation is already in place. But it is another question that 10 million people have to donate 100,000 won to create one trillion won, and that how the government would fill the shortage of tax revenue which would be resulted by deducting 1.1 trillion won. Uri Party lawmaker Chung has proposed a “pre-free college education” which is technically a post-paid system. It seems that Chung used the word “free” to stress the benefits of the proposed system.

The pre-free education system is that the government pays college tuition on behalf of a student by issuing national bonds, the student would be supposed to pay the money back depending on the level of his or her income, after getting a job and securing a regular income source. Chung argued that the existing student loan system has not been well received because the interest rates reach seven percent and those who took the loan have to pay back immediately after graduating from college. Chung plans to implement the system for the lower-income bracket from 2007 and expand the application to cover the entire income brackets from 2012. However, if the system is introduced in 2012, at least 11.5 trillion won, the principal and interest combined, is needed annually for four years until 2012, when beneficiaries would begin repayment. A bigger problem is that students, who took the loan but failed to get a job or earn a small amount of income, do not have to repay. Apart from the problem of issuing 1.5 trillion won of national bonds for tuition and generating 75 billion won for interest, the possibility of causing moral hazard is raised. Chung said that the U.K. and Australia has been implementing the system. However, experts point out that, unlike Korea, those countries introduced the system to collect expenses from individuals after the governments’ burden of paying college tuition became too heavy.


From english.donga.com
04/13/2006

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President Names Kwon O-Kyu as Chief Economic Aide

President Roh Moo-hyun has appointed Kwon O-kyu, ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as new senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, Cheong Wa Dae said on Wednesday (April 12). Kwon, 54, will take up the post which has been vacant since his predecessor Kim Young-joo was promoted to minister of government policy coordination, presidential spokesman Kim Man-soo said. Born in 1952 in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, he studied economics at Seoul National University and graduated from the University of Minnesota in the United States with a master's degree in 1982 and obtained a Ph.D. in economics from Chung-Ang University in Seoul in 1998. Since starting his bureaucratic career in 1974, Kwon has held various positions at the now-defunct Economic Planning Board and the Ministry of Finance and Economy from 1975 to 1994. Between 1985 and 1987 he worked for the World Bank's research department.

During the Kim Young-sam administration (1993-1998), he served as presidential secretary for policy planning from 1995 to 1997. Then, he served as alternative executive director to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for two years during the Asian financial crisis. Between 1999 and 2001, Kwon worked for the Ministry of Finance and Economy as director-general of the Economic Policy Bureau and deputy minister. In 2002, he assumed the post of administrator of the Public Procurement Service. After Roh's election, he came back to Cheong Wa Dae to assume the post of senior presidential secretary for national policy. In September 2004, he took up the top post of the Permanent Representative of South Korea at the OECD.


From www.korea.net
04/13/2006

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South Korea's First Woman Prime Minister Wins Assembly Approval

South Korean lawmakers approved the nomination of Han Myeong Sook, 62, to the post of prime minister, making her the country's first woman premier. The National Assembly voted 182 to 77 for her nomination, approving Han, a member of the ruling Uri Party, to become the highest-ranking woman in political office in Korea. There were three abstentions and two votes were invalidated. Imprisoned as a social activist for two years from 1979 for reading socialism-related books when the country was under a military dictatorship, the Pyongyang-born Han is a leader of Korea's women's movement. She was the country's first minister of gender equality and family in 2001 and later also served as an environment minister. South Korea's President Roh Moo Hyun named Han to replace Lee Hae Chan, who resigned as premier on March 14 after playing golf instead of performing official duties. Known by the nickname of ``gentle charisma,'' Han is a stark departure from the style of her predecessor Lee, who shouted back at lawmakers during plenary sessions at the National Assembly.

Han studied French literature and language at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, where she received a master's degree in women's studies. She also has a master's in theology from Hanshin University in Osan, Gyeonggi province. She is married to a theology professor and has a son who is serving in the military. The premier is a lesser post than that of the president, and is primarily charged with running Cabinet meetings, government administration and crisis management.


From www.bloomberg.com
04/19/2006

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Premier Vows to Work for Social Consensus

Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook said Thursday that she would make it a top priority to mediate in social conflicts and draw up a social consensus plan. In a speech marking the first day in office of the nation's first woman premier, Han said that she would also make her best efforts to manage state affairs stably in the latter days of the administration under President Roh Moo-hyun. Han pledged to see to it that the May 31 local elections be held in a fair and transparent manner. “I am keenly aware of people's eyes on me for I became the first female prime minister,'' she said. ”I guess it is a lot of expectation mingled with some concern. I am firmly determined to relieve the people of the concerns.'' Han, 62, said that public officials, who served under male prime ministers in previous administrations, might be especially concerned. She said the people who have worked with her would call her an “iron hand in velvet glove'' or a person with ”soft charisma.'' As she already displayed her softness during the confirmation hearing sessions at the National Assembly last week, they would soon be able to experience her “iron hand'' or “charisma'' side, Han said.

The new premier also called on government officials to take the opportunity to experience the difficulties ordinary citizens undergo to gather public opinions that can be incorporated into policy and the system. That is what public service is for, she emphasized. Observers predict that the inauguration of the nation's first woman premier will likely bring minor changes around the Office of the Prime Minister throughout, such as installment of female secretaries or bodyguards. On a political note, the relationship between the prime minister and the governing Uri Party or the president is also liable to change. Han's predecessor Lee Hae-chan, who was known for his stiff-necked attitude against political antagonists, notably opposition lawmakers, maintained a close relationship with the president, while standing on the upper side at policy consultation meetings with the governing party. But the president and the Uri Party will likely have more say in the future as Han has relatively fewer political colors while valuing mediation and coordination, observers said.


From The
Korea Time 4/20/2006

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S.Korea Picks New Member Of C.bank Policy Committee

South Korea picked on Thursday Park Bong-heum, a former budget minister and presidential policy adviser, for the central bank's seven-member monetary policy committee. The announcement, which was made by the presidential Blue House, came amid speculation over whether the Bank of Korea will raise interest rates soon for the fourth time in less than a year. Park, a career bureaucrat, is as an expert in budget planning and was budget chief at the Finance Ministry in 1996. He was budget minister in 2003 and chief policy adviser at the Blue House in 2004, but quit later that year due to health problems. It is not immediately clear what stance Park, 57, who graduated from Korea's top-ranked Seoul National University and studied economics at Duke, will take on monetary policy. Park, who was recommended by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, replaces former policy committee member, Kim Tae-dong, the most hawkish member of the committee. Earlier this month, the Blue House appointed Lee Sung-il, the president of Seoul Money Brokerage Services Ltd., as deputy governor of the central bank and a committee member and Shim Hoon, the president of Pusan Bank, as a member.


From asia.news.yahoo.com
04/20/2006

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KORAIL Executives Face Corruption Allegations

The Office of the Prime Minister is investigating alleged corruption charges among high-ranking officials of the state-run Korea Railroad (Korail), officials at the office said on Monday. Earlier this month, the premier’s office began to scrutinize the operations of Korail, which has been suffering from massive debt, labor unrest and state auditors’ censure. During the inquiry, four or five Korail executives were suspected of having received bribes from their underlings for promotions and other favors, according to the officials at the Office for Government Policy Coordination (OPC) under the prime minister. The executives are also suspected of having received money, sometimes up to a dozen million won, from subcontractors for business favors as well as subordinates who asked for promotions during the restructuring process in Korail that has undergone in recent years. An official at the OPC did not rule out the possibility of the alleged corruption being organized. “The number of those involved seems to be especially centered around one executive,’’ the official said. After ending investigations into the case next week, the OPC will refer the case to the prosecution if allegations of corruption are considered to be centrally organized, the official said.


From times.hankooki.com
04/24/2006

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Kim Sung-Jin Named Prime Minister's Chief of Staff

President Roh Moo-hyun appointed Kim Sung-jin, vice president of the Educational Broadcasting System (EBS), as the chief secretary to newly inaugurated Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, Cheong Wa Dae announced on Monday (April 24). Kim, a 53-year-old former journalist, served as a presidential secretary under the previous Kim Dae-jung administration and worked for Han as a vice minister from 2002 to 2003 when the prime minister was the minister of gender equality and family. Roh also appointed Kim Man-bok, chief of the Office of Planning and Coordination at the National Intelligence Service (NIS), as the state spy agency's first executive director in charge of foreign intelligence, presidential spokesman Jung Tae-ho said.


From www.korea.net
04/25/2006

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INDONESIA: Government to Revise Decree on Public Procurements

The government is currently in the process of drafting a revised presidential decree on public procurements in an effort to reduce rampant corruption in the bureaucracy that has led to an inordinately high cost of doing business here, Vice President Jusuf Kalla says. Kalla said the revised decree would include a requirement that tenders for public procurements be announced in a number of newspapers that had earlier won the right to run such announcements in a separate tender. "All newspapers should participate in the announcements tender. In future, there will be a small number of newspapers that have the right to carry such announcements. This is intended to enable the government to monitor project transparency," he said. A tender must be held for state projects worth more than Rp 50 million (US$5,555). According to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), of the 33 cases the commission has handled since 2004, 24 -- or 77 percent -- were related to public procurements and involved numerous government officials at all levels. Kalla said the revised decree would also stipulate several types of projects for which no tender would be required, including emergency and public interest projects, and those involving official secrets. The revised decree would also permit the use of electronic procurement, or e-procurement, using the Internet. This would help ensure transparency and accountability. The KPK had earlier urged all government institutions to adopt e-procurement to help minimize corruption. E-procurement would allow suppliers and the public at large to access all information on state procurements and to monitor their progress through the Internet. It would also prevent state officials from marking up costs, forging documents and violating procedures so as to enrich themselves.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/
04/07/2006

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City Welcomes One-Stop Service for Investment

Mass labor rallies, which paralyze businesses and destroy city parks, may make investors think twice about putting their money into Jakarta, but the government is banking on a revision to the investment law to get the money rolling. Government officials have for years hinted and promised at putting procedures for investment under one roof to make it easier to open businesses, but it takes a presidential decree to actually make that happen. "We welcome the idea of a one-stop service for handling investment. Compared to other countries, the procedure to get a business permit in Indonesia is lengthy, we should now be able to compete with them," Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso said recently. He was referring to the revision of the investment law currently being deliberated at the House of Representatives. Usually taking an average of 150 days to issue a business permit, the presidential instruction -- issued in February -- demands a radical break down of entry barriers to reduce procedures to only 30 days. To simplify procedures, the instruction suggests delegating the authority to issue business licenses to regional offices, as well as establishing a one-stop service counter to handle all the necessary procedures for investment. "It only takes 41 days to start a business in China, 22 days in Korea, 30 days in Malaysia and only eight days in Singapore.

In comparison, it takes 151 for anybody to start a business in Indonesia," Sutiyoso said. "We are trying to loosen the bureaucratic knots in Jakarta. I must admit this is a very challenging task," he added. The head of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sofian Pane, said all its members fully supported the presidential instruction and hoped it would be implemented immediately. He said redundancies in many of the existing investment procedures had provided opportunities for corruption and bribery, and led to higher operational costs for businesses, which could be erased with a simplified investment procedure. "We hope the government carries out the implementation systematically, so it can ensure a six percent economic growth rate throughout the year," Sofian said. Despite fears the revision would pander to foreign investors and undermine local ones, an economist from the University of Indonesia, Bambang P.S. Brodjonegoro, assured the revision would not differentiate between local and foreign investments. "What the government is trying to do is to fix the bad image of investment in Indonesia in the eyes of the international community. So, the consideration is not to accommodate foreign investors at the expense of local ones, but merely to fix the investment climate," he said, adding that the revision would direct investments to local governments.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/
04/08/2006

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Ombudsman Not Performing, Critics Say

Legal activists are criticizing the National Ombudsman Commission for performing poorly. The independent body is responsible for responding to reports of irregularities in public services. Director of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) Hendardi said the public remains unaware of the purpose of the independent commission, which celebrated its 6th anniversary last week. "Public familiarity with the commission is limited. Publicity from the press is also still weak," Hendardi said. A consultant at the Partnership for Governance Reform, Bambang Widjayanto, said that the commission's existence was redundant amid the existence of other oversight committees. "The commission needs to change its focus so as not to overlap with other, related commissions," he said. The Commission was established by President Abdurrahman Wahid on March 20, 2000, to monitor how well state institutions provide services to the public.

According to the presidential decree on the formation of the commission, the independent institution has the authority to clarify, monitor or investigate public reports on services provided by state agencies and government bodies, including law enforcement. Hendardi said that one of the reasons for the organization's poor performance was its weak political status. "There is no law yet to support the commission," he said. He also noted that there is still a lack of cooperation with other related institutions, such as the Judicial Commission and Prosecutor's Commission. Hendardi also cited a possible lack of expertise among commission personnel. Head of the National Ombudsman Commission Antonius Sujata said, "Ombudsmen can only send recommendations to those institutions, instead of taking concrete action. It is actually up to them to decide whether they want to change for the better." Sujata said that the commission was still waiting for lawmakers to pass the bill that would support its function. "We submitted the bill about five years ago, just after the commission was established," he noted. Sujata said that the commission had proposed bills on public service and government administration so that it would have a stronger legal basis. "The commission needs a presidential decree stating that government institutions should follow the recommendations of Ombudsmen more closely."


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/
04/18/2006

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MALAYSIA: Ministry Increases Enforcement Personnel

JOHOR BARU: The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry will be more effective in enforcement activities with its staff strength beefed up by 745 new personnel.  Of the number, 500 had been recruited as enforcement officers, said parliamentary secretary Hoo Seong Chang.  “The enforcement officers were recruited in three batches, starting from late December, and have been sent to all districts nationwide,” he said. The recruitment exercise, he added, had been conducted to equip the ministry with enough manpower to face the challenges of the future. Asked if there were plans to further increase the number of enforcement officers, he said the ministry was happy with the present number. The 745 new personnel will supplement the 1,429 officers already working in the ministry.


From http://thestar.com.my/
04/10/2006

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Alternative Attire Civil Servants Can Wear

PUTRAJAYA: After the uproar over Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim wearing a Nehru collar-like shirt to Parliament, the Government has come out with a list of alternative types of attire available to civil servants. Public Services Department director-general Datuk Seri Ismail Adam said it has issued a circular on the alternative attire civil servants could wear to work or official functions.  “A circular in 1985 has set the types of attire available to civil servants. In addition to these, the Government has outlined other appropriate attire.  “However, officers who are required to wear and are supplied with uniforms must continue to wear them,” he said here yesterday. The new circular took effect from Friday and is extended to civil servants working in state and federal agencies, as well as local councils. Among other things, male civil servants can wear suits with the Nehru, the three-button Mandarin, and Malay cekak musang collars.  The attire has to be long sleeved and any shirt worn has to be tucked in.  Last Thursday, Dr Rais came under fire from several MPs after he showed up in Parliament in a Nehru collar-like shirt. Some MPs pointed out that under the Standing Orders on male attire, men were required to either wear a full suit or the national costume. However, the minister had said the Cabinet approved the attire in February and that he had written twice to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib seeking permission on the matter.


From http://thestar.com.my/
04/13/2006

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Plan Well to Reduce Wastage, Agencies Told

PUTRAJAYA: Government agencies must draw up proper development plans to avoid duplication of projects, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The Prime Minister said this was to ensure financial allocations under the Ninth Malaysia Plan were spent with no wastage, and added that administrative and management costs should be reduced where possible. Spending the allocated funds alone would not reflect the effectiveness of projects, he said, adding that the Implementation and Coordination Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department would be evaluating the projects.  “We will not only monitor the allocation and how fast it is spent for a project, but also see whether the money spent is cost-effective as well as ensure the smooth implementation. “We want to ensure that the target groups really benefit from planned projects,” he said. Abdullah said the Government would understand if some projects had higher administrative cost due to extra expenses such as the renting of lorries and helicopters to reach remote areas.


From http://thestar.com.my/
04/13/2006

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Get Rid of Red Tape, PM Tells Civil Servants

PUTRAJAYA: Any bureaucratic procedure or regulation that gives rise to obstacles and delaying the implementation of projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan must be done away with, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.  “I emphasised to the senior officers how important it is to abolish or simplify procedures that slow down the implementation of projects,” he said after a two-hour meeting with senior civil servants at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here yesterday. “This is particularly true in the acquisition of land for Government projects. So any project requiring this process should have action planned out in advance.”  Asked if the National Land Code would thus be amended to facilitate the acquisition process, Abdullah said problems only arose when the piece of land had been given to someone else or had its use determined. “That is why early planning of land use is important,” he said. Another method of simplifying procedures, Abdullah added, was requiring applicants for a project or service to fully disclose the details and to acknowledge this information as correct. “And if the applicants have been found to have made false claims, then action can be taken against them,” he said. 

“Then officers will not have to take a long time to consider their applications because the disclosure has been made with full knowledge of the consequences of their action.” Abdullah also said it was important for agencies and ministries involved to issue directives or circulars as soon as a decision made by the Government had been announced. “Communications within the ministries is very important. And that’s why I stressed to them in my meeting that all stages of implementation of a project is planned quickly and decided by all involved so that everybody knows his respective duties,” he said. Earlier, in Kuala Terengganu, Abdullah expressed confidence that Terengganu would benefit most from ongoing development in the east coast region. “The state is now undergoing an era of rapid development,” the Prime Minister said when launching Permodalan Nasional Bhd’s Unit Trust Week here. This, he said, was in line with the Federal Government’s approach on regional development. Abdullah said he did not want development in the east coast region to lag behind other regions.  


From http://thestar.com.my
04/21/2006

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PHILIPPINES: Public-Sector Deficit Narrows

THE combined revenue shortfall of the entire Philippine bureaucracy last year slipped way below the official ceiling due to improvements in the respective deficits of the national government and of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), the Department of Finance said Tuesday. In a statement, the DOF said the Philippines’ consolidated public sector deficit (CPSD) in 2005 reached P106 billion, or 41.2 percent below the P180.34-billion ceiling for the year, and 54.3 percent lower than the P231.96 billion incurred in 2004. At last year’s level, the CPSD was 2 percent of the country’s economic output or gross domestic product (GDP). Last year’s CPSD was the lowest in five years, while the CPSD-to-GDP ratio was the lowest in eight years. The better-than-expected public-sector revenue shortfall last year was largely due to the national government having kept its budget deficit at P147 billion, or lower than the P180-billion programmed for the period. Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves said this reflected the government’s efforts to improve its revenue collections and to control expenditures. The 14 monitored GOCCs also outperformed fiscal targets, as their combined P21.7-billion funding shortfall was 48.94 percent below the P42.5-billion programmed for the period.

The GOCCs’ combined deficit also was 74.6 percent better than the previous year’s actual deficit of P85.412 billion. The DOF attributed the GOCCs’ better-than-expected fiscal showing to higher receipts of P600 million, lower interest expense of P12.7 billion, and lower capital expenditures of Pl6.4 billion. Of the 14 state-run firms, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) posted the biggest improvement, having registered profits of P16 million last year, a turnaround from the previous year’s net loss of P29.9 billion. Previously the biggest drag on the national government’s finances, the Napocor earlier ascribed its improving finances to a rate hike and the use of cheaper feedstock for its operations. Meanwhile, social security institutions—which include the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.—generated a combined surplus of P51.8 billion, almost double the P25.989-billion target. Local governments, however, saw their combined fiscal position slide last year, as their combined P13-billion surplus was 28 percent below the P18-billion goal, and 12 percent lower than the previous year’s actual surplus of P14.868 billion. Lastly, government financial institutions generated a surplus of P6.2 billion, which, according to the DOF, was due to higher income from expanded loan portfolios. “This was achieved even as they provided higher dividends to the national government,” Teves said. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas alone increased its surplus from the targeted P1 billion to P3 billion last year due to lower cost of monetary management. (by Likha Cuevas)


From http://www.manilatimes.net/
04/05/2006

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PHILIPPINES: ICT to Help Strengthen Civil Service

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - A US$500,000 grant from ADB will use information and communications technology (ICT) to help provide more efficient and effective public services in the Philippines. The project, financed by the Japan Fund for Information and Communications Technology, from the Government of Japan, will use ICT to help strengthen the training and development of third level government executives, as well as enable their more efficient and transparent operations. The third level is the highest level in the Philippine civil service system, tasked with providing policy direction and leadership. “The collective strength of this segment of the civil service is a potent force that can be mobilized for large-scale initiatives for civil service reforms," says Emma Yang, an ADB Senior Financial Management Specialist. The project will develop, install, and operate a common database on personnel information to help insulate the civil service from political patronage and ensure the selection of the most competent candidates. To enable third level government executives to perform their functions more efficiently, the project will develop a web portal offering interactive multimedia tools for acquiring and sharing information and transacting business with partner agencies.

Last, online training facilities that include modules on management concepts and tools will be developed. Through this, the project will contribute to ensuring a more rational, responsive, and cost-efficient policy and decision-making process. “ICT, as a modern tool, has played a key role in public administration reforms,” adds Ms. Yang. “It not only helps improve service delivery efficiency, it also helps introduce transparency and accountability.” The Government will contribute $250,000 toward the project’s total estimated cost of $750,000. The Philippine Civil Service Commission is the executing agency for the project, which will be carried out over about 16 months. The JFICT was set up in July 2001 with an initial contribution from Japan of 1,273.3 million (about $10 million) to harness the potential of ICT and bridge the growing digital divide in Asia and the Pacific.


From http://www.adb.org
04/11/2006

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Davide Named Envoy to UN

PRESIDENT Arroyo has appointed retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide ambassador to the United Nations in New York. Davide will replace Ambassador Lauro Baja. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita submitted Davide’s nomination to the Commission on Appointments on March 24. Baja is reportedly being considered to replace Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo.

The Senate minority leader, Aquilino Pimentel, viewed Davide’s appointment as a good political move by President Arroyo. She will earn brownie points for appointing Davide, Pimentel noted. He said he feels sorry for Baja, who is a career official and who has to give way to a political appointee like Davide.

Career officials have to give way “When somebody more usable in terms of political agenda comes around, the career officials have to give way and I think that is what is happening with Davide’s appointment,” Pimentel said. He doubts if Davide will like the position. “It’s a good choice for Gloria but I wonder if it’s good for Davide. The reason I say this is that once you have attained the position of chief justice and you retire from it, what other honors can you aspire to?” Pimentel said. Davide’s appointment came days after he gave several recommendations on poll reforms in his capacity as senior adviser on electoral reform. The recommendations include a fixed four-year term for congressmen and local officials, a ban on political dynasties and a major revamp at the Commission on Elections. On Tuesday Palace spokesman Ignacio Bunye said that although the President fully supports all of Davide’s recommendations they cannot be carried out right away.

Legal obstacles “No matter how beneficial these proposals may be in our bid for genuine electoral and political reforms, we cannot immediately implement all of them, because of some legal obstacles, particularly with some of the provisions of the Constitution,” Bunye said in a statement. He said the least the government could do is to look for ways to adopt the most doable proposals. Pro-administration lawmakers praised Davide’s proposal to revamp the Comelec, but stressed that the move should be accompanied by “changes in other strategic positions and mechanisms” to help the people regain trust in the electoral system. Jesli Lapus of Tarlac, Salacnib Baterina of Ilocos Sur and Eduardo Zialcita of Para?aque said in a joint statement that the Comelec revamp was timely and necessary since the plebiscite for Charter change impends while the 2007 elections are only a year away. “If there’s a will, there’s a way. There are vacancies now in the Comelec, so my proposal is the appointment of three nonlawyers with expertise in information technology, management and mass marketing,” Lapus said.

Easier said than done Baterina said every step of structural reforms in the Comelec has to follow the rule of law. “We can’t just make heads roll and disregard due process just because critics have made a monster out of the Comelec through their smear campaign. To revamp the Comelec is easier said than done. Comelec officials and employees have a tenure that must be respected under the civil service law,” Baterina said. The revamp, Zialcita said, should consider that although the Comelec chairman and the commissioners have a term of office, they can be removed only through impeachment, unless they resign.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/
04/12/2006

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Philippines Congress Opens ICT Center

In a move to computerize the entire operations of Congress, the House of Representatives in partnership with Microsoft Corp. Philippines opened an information and communications technology (ICT) e-Learning Center. The ICT center is located at the ground floor of the House's main building near the session hall at the Batasan Hills in Quezon City--dubbed as the ICT capital of the Philippines. Mark Yambot, corporate affairs director of Microsoft Philippines, said the center has 16 personal computers equipped with Microsoft Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office applications. A total of 30 employees in Congress were honored in the center's launching being the first graduates of the program "train-the-trainer" computer course at the National Computer Center. The majority of the graduates also received the Microsoft Office Specialist Certificate. The employees shall serve as trainers at the ICT center. House ICT Committee chairman Congressman Simeon Kintanar led the program together with House Speaker Jose De Venecia who presented the center. De Venecia said most leaders and members of all political parties participated in the event in support of the House?’s ICT learning program.


From http://www.computerpartner.nl/
04/12/2006

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SINGAPORE: Committees Set Up to Certify Minority Candidates for General Election

SINGAPORE : Two committees which will certify candidates from the Malay, Indian and other minority communities for the upcoming General Election have been set up. These candidates will be contesting Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) as the required minority candidates under the Parliamentary Elections Act. The Malay Community Committee is headed by Mr Abu Bakar Maidin, who is the president of Jamiyah. The others in the committee are Mr Iskander Abdul Jalil, Mr Maarof Salleh, Mr Shafawi Ahmad and former MP Mr Wan Hussin Zoohri. The Indian and Other Minority Communities Committee is headed by Mr Gopinath Pillai, a former chairman of the Hindu Advisory Board. Members include Mr Rudolph William Robert Mosbergen, Mr Francis Joachim D'Costa, Mr Kirpal Ram Vij and Mr K Kaisavapany. The composition of the committees was announced in a government gazette notification on Wednesday evening. They were appointed by President SR Nathan on the nomination of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com
04/19/2006

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THAILAND: PM Quits and Hands Power to Ally

A weary Thaksin Shinawatra confessed "I need a rest" as he left Thailand's Government Office for the last time as Prime Minister today, handing over control to his closest political ally. Stock markets surged to a two-year high in the wake of Mr Thaksin's sudden resignation which followed two months of public demonstrations, ten million protest votes in a flawed election and, finally, the advice of the country’s revered King. Mr Thaksin said his only immediate engagement was a planned retreat to his home town of Chiang Mai for a holiday. Although there are reports that he intends to return to power, analysts say that the best he can look forward to is a career as a backroom politician controlling his Thai Rak Thai party. It is considered more likely that he will face investigation and potential prosecution for a range of charges from corruption and fraud to human rights abuses. Clutching a portrait of his family which had stood on his desk in the Prime Ministerial office, Mr Thaksin told a crowd of supporters gathered outside Government House in Bangkok: "I have appointed Chidchai to do my work from now on. I need to rest. I have told Chidchai that I’m worried..." Chidchai Vanansathidya, 59, the deputy premier appointed as interim prime minister, has known Mr Thaksin for more than 30 years.

Both men trained at Thailand’s Police Cadet Academy and went on to earn degrees at Eastern Kentucky University in the United States. Mr Thaksin abandoned his police career after 12 years to launch the telecoms business which turned him into one of the richest men in Thailand and financed his prime ministerial ambitions. Mr Chitchai meanwhile rose through the ranks to become deputy commissioner-general of the national police force in 2004. He worked in the administration's controversial war on drugs - blamed for 2,500 deaths - and was appointed deputy prime minister and interior minister by his old friend in March 2005. He has since led efforts to combat a deadly Muslim insurgency in the south of the country which has claimed 1,300 lives since 2004 and is likely to bedevil any future government. But as he is not an elected member of Parliament, Chitchai cannot constitutionally lead the next government, adding to the confusion already enveloping the country's administration and paralysing its economy. It is not clear who will be his permanent successor. There are several weeks of by-elections to go through before the country has a parliament capable of choosing a new leader.

Thirty-nine constituencies remain without an MP because candidates were disqualified or because unopposed Thai Rak Thai candidates failed to achieve a minimum threshold of votes in the weekend's snap elections. Mr Thaksin's emotional exit capped a day mixed with celebration and mourning as the country eased into its first day in months without angry calls for Thaksin to "Get Out!" Some offered the former leader a spiritual send-off: one group made a valedictory march to Government House just after sunrise with a coffin on their shoulders. To cheers, they laid the casket down at the gates of Thaksin’s office and lit a small bonfire where they burned paper flowers. Nearby, protestors packed away their tents, swept the streets of debris and began scraping "Thaksin Get Out!" slogans scraped off walls, their job done. Mr Thaksin's belongings were packed into two waiting vans and he was driven to the party headquarters, where a crowd of supporters handed him roses in an emotional farewell. "I will remember on the day that I die that the people came out to show their support," he told the crowd, as it chanted back: "We Love Thaksin!"


From http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
04/05/2006

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VIET NAM: World Bank Calls for Truth on Corruption Scam in Vietnam

“The World Bank Wednesday welcomed the Vietnamese government's actions to tackle a major embezzlement scandal but said the investigation into the misuse of foreign aid should continue,” reports Agence France Presse. “Transport Minister Dao Dinh Binh resigned and his deputy was arrested Tuesday in a scam in which millions of dollars including foreign money intended for infrastructure projects were looted in the ministry's Project Management Unit (PMU) 18. The World Bank over the past six years disbursed around $80 million to PMU 18 for about 1,000 different projects, Country Director Klaus Rohland told AFP. But it was still unclear how much of the theft involved foreign funds and how much involved local money. ‘This is something that we all expect the investigation to identify,’ he said, adding that a Bank supervisory team had already started work on the matter. The donor community would remain very vigilant in weeks to come. ‘Should the investigation or our own supervision identify any misuse of our funds, we would then cancel this portion of the credit,’ Rohland said, adding it would also ask for a refund. (…)” The Associated Pressnotes that “(…) [i]nternational donors have pledged $3.7 billion in development aid to Vietnam for 2006. The communist government has toughened its stance toward corruption, recently arresting scores of people including senior officials in key industries such as oil and gas, telecommunications, transport and trade.” Dow Jonesnotes that “(…) [i]n a front-page article Wednesday in the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper, columnist Thanh Thao said the public was outraged at how officials have misused government money. ‘It turns out that people have been paying taxes to feed a gang of inhumane 'cadres' who not only stole from huge foreign loans, but used the stolen money for extravagance,’ he wrote. (…)” Vietnam News Brief Servicewrites “(…)Rohland stressed that this is a chance for the government of Vietnam to show its absolute determination to seriously address the wrongdoing in the hope of boosting the trust from international donors as well as calming people's anger. Last month, the World Bank, Vietnam's second largest ODA lender, decided to send a working team of investigators from Washington to check the World Bank’s loan utility, supervise and inspect all World Bank-funded projects with 800 subcontracts carried out by PMU 18 and propose measures, Rohland told reporters of the Vietnam News Agency.


From http://web.worldbank.org/
04/05/2006

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Vietnam Readies for Change of Guard as Party Congress Nears End

Vietnam's ruling communist party is set to chose new leaders tasked with speeding up the country's economic modernisation, as its five-yearly national congress neared an end. A change of the guard was expected in the revolutionary party that has ruled Vietnam since the end of the war in 1975 and is now seeking to turn Southeast Asia's fastest growing economy into an industrialised nation by 2020. Two leaders who hail from Vietnam's booming industrial south were tipped to move up in the party's powerful politburo and be confirmed as prime minister and president by the national assembly in the coming months. For continuity, party chief Nong Duc Manh, 65, chosen in 2001 as a consensus-builder between reformers and hardliners, is expected to stay on, weathering the storm of a major corruption scandal, say analysts. The party's nearly 1,200 delegates -- representing 3.1 million members in a country of 83 million people -- cast their ballots Sunday in Hanoi's Ba Dinh Hall, decorated with hammer and sickle symbols and a bust of Ho Chi Minh. They voted for an expanded Central Committee with 185 members, which was due to choose a new 17-member politburo Monday and formally elect the general secretary.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, 72, has long been tipped to bow out, and President Tran Duc Luong, a 69-year-old trained geologist, is formally out of the race, having withdrawn his Central Committee candidacy. The frontrunner for the premier's job is Khai's first deputy, 56-year-old Nguyen Tan Dung, who has been groomed for the post for years. Dung has extensive ties within the party, military and security apparatus but also financial experience as a former head of the state bank. "All his predecessors had degrees from the Soviet Union, so we'd finally get a PM who knows more about market economics than all of them," said Vietnam expert Carl Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy. "He was an understudy who has performed very competently in his position and would lend continuity to that office." Fellow southerner Nguyen Minh Triet, 64, number four in the outgoing politburo and the party chief in Vietnam's commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, was seen as the top contender for the president's post. A trained mathematician and former labour activist, he hails from a region near the former Saigon that has attracted major foreign investment. As city party chief, he has been popular with the business community.

If Triet wins the presidency, Thayer said, Vietnam will have gone from having a trained geologist as president "to a person who has very strong credentials with Vietnam's integration with the outside world." "That would be a powerful symbol of what the congress has set as its goal, to industrialise and modernise Vietnam," he said. Vietnam, which posted 8.4 percent economic growth last year, is seeking to join the World Trade Organisation before November, when it hosts its largest ever international event, an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. In other party changes, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An and three more politburo members as well as another deputy prime minister, Vu Khoan, 69, all declined to seek new Central Committee candidacies. The congress has been held amid a graft scandal in a transport ministry road building unit, where officials embezzled millions of dollars, and the party has responded to public anger with much self-criticism during the eight-day event. The 76-year-old Communist Party has also been subject to stronger than usual demands for internal democracy and transparency from an increasingly vocal press and prominent critics including 94-year-old military hero General Vo Nguyen Giap.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/24/2006

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BANGLADESH: Party Chiefs’ Accountability to Help Eliminate Corruption

Leaders of major political parties reached the consensus that ensuring accountability of the chiefs of political parties including Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia was essential to eliminate corruption from the country. They also viewed that the persons who were in power during the last 15 years including their beneficiaries have to be identified and the details of their wealth should be exposed to the public. They were speaking at a "Meet the Press" programme organised by Channel-i on the occasion of completion of 1000 episodes of the popular talk-show titled "Tritio Matra" (Third Dimension) at a city hotel on Sunday. Communications Minister Barrister Nazmul Huda, AL Presidium Member Abdur Razzak MP, Jatiya Party (JP) Secretary General Sheikh Shahidul Islam, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) President Hasanul Haue Inu, Political Secretary to the JP Chairman Kazi Firoz Rashid, Vice Chairman of Bangladesh Bar Council Barrister Rokan Uddin Mahmud, former DG of BIISS Major General (retd) Syed Muhammad Ibrahim and President of Bangladesh Political Science Association Dr. M. Atiur Rahman took part in the discussion.

Channel-i Managing Director Faridur Reza Sagar also spoke while Tritio Matra presenter and director Zillur Rahman moderated the programme. Regarding the Kansat carnage, the opposition political leaders termed it a "national stigma" and said that it happened due to the political system devoid of ethics on the part of the ruling parties. In the face of criticism about the inert role of the 14-party opposition combine, AL MP Abdur Razzak said, "We gave the government a chance to subside the issue, but it failed." On the other hand, the Communications Minister, who is a senior leader of ruling BNP, said that a certain political party fuelled the issue and tried to earn political gains. He, however, termed it as an "unfortunate" incident. In reply to another question on the recent exchange of letters on the reform proposals, both the ruling and the opposition leaders admitted that time was being killed in this regard. The Opposition leaders urged the government to come forward with a positive attitude in this issue.

Dwelling further on the corruption, the speakers asked the government to reply why was the Bureau of Anti-Corruption abolished before ensuring full-fledged functioning of the Anti-Corruption Commission? "Has it been deliberately done with an objective to hide corruption of the government?" they questioned. The leaders of both ruling and opposition reached the consensus that the next parliamentary elections should be held in a free and impartial manner, but they maintained their differences on the reform proposals on the Caretaker Government system and the Election Commission. The participating JP leaders, however, outright differed with the Caretaker government system saying, "It does not exist anywhere in the world. Rather, they were in favour of developing a political culture where elections would be held in the conventional manner that is followed in other democratic countries.


From http://bangladesh-web.com/
04/17/2006

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Govt Decides to Form Judicial Probe Body

The government yesterday decided to form a one-member judicial enquiry commission to probe the police atrocities on journalists at Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Ruhul Amin Stadium in Chittagong on April 16. A seven-member body was also constituted to suggest compensation and treatment for the journalists after assessing the damage. Following successful talks between the Sangbadik-Sramik-Karmachari Oikya Parishad (SSKOP) and the government, the agitating sports journalists, who had been boycotting the coverage of Bangladesh-Australia second Test match, withdrew all agitation programmes and resumed covering the Test match and all other sports news from yesterday. As protest and condemnation continued fifth day into the police atrocities yesterday, State Ministers for Home Lutfozzaman Babar, State Minister for Youth and Sports Fazlur Rahman and Deputy Information Minister Abdus Salam Pintu sat with SSKOP leaders at the home ministry yesterday. SSKOP co-convenors Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, Fazle Imam and Mozammel Haque, Member Secretary Ruhul Amin Gazi, joint member secretaries Motiur Rahman Talukder and Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul were present among the Parishad leaders.

The participants unanimously decided to form a judicial commission headed by a sessions judge to look into the police atrocities that left 16 journalists injured minutes before the beginning of second Test between Bangladesh and Australia on April 16. The commission will submit its report in 15 days. Sources said the home minister yesterday requested the law ministry to nominate a sessions judge. "I condemned the incidents on the very first day and do so now again," Babar told reporters after the meeting, adding that the probe report will be made public and the government will take necessary action as per the recommendations of the committee. The minister also assured the SSKOP leaders of all sorts of assistance in professional work, when they asked him to take steps to stop recurrence of the Chittagong incident. The seven-member committee, with the joint secretary of information ministry as convenor, will suggest treatment for the injured journalists and compensation after assessing the damage to cameras and other equipment of the journalists. The committee, which also includes a representative from the youth and sports ministry and five from the journalists, will submit its recommendation in 10 days.

Emerging out of the meeting, SSKOP leaders told reporters that they have withdrawn all agitation programmes, including tomorrow's grand rally in Dhaka and four-hour work abstention programme, following the negotiation. The journalists in Chittagong observed a three-hour token hunger strike yesterday as part of their protest against the police atrocities on reporters and photographers on April 16, our staff correspondent from Chittagong reports. Chittagong Photo Journalists Association (CPJA) organised the strike from 11:00am to 2:00pm on the Chittagong Press Club (CPC) premises presided by CPJA President Monjurul Alam Monju. Leaders and representatives of different socio-political and cultural organisations joined the hunger strike and expressed solidarity with the programme. During the hunger strike, the speakers reiterated the demand for judicial enquiry into the attack on journalists and immediate termination and arrest of the accused Deputy Commissioner (Port) Ali Akbar Khan and other cops of the Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP).


From http://www.thedailystar.net/
04/21/2006

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BHUTAN: A Strong Enforcement Culture Could Root Out Corruption

Misuse of power and authority at the higher level, tampering and forgery of documents, misuse of public property, natural resources and manpower for individual’s personal gain were listed as some of the deep rooted corrupt practices predominant in the Bhutanese public sector. The list was one of the outcomes of the first national consultative meeting where more than 140 participants from government agencies, private sector and the civil society met in Thimphu on April 11, to discuss and draw inputs to the national anti-corruption strategy, to be developed by the Anti-Corruption Commission. The temptation of earning easy money was classified as one of the factors attributing to corrupt practices fueled by poor law enforcement systems in place. Favouritism and nepotism were common practices among the officials, which created breeding grounds for corruption, according to the participants. The participants also pointed out that the traditional practice of offering chan jey (presents) could be graded as a form of corruption. “When any favours carried out with vested interest is defined as corruption, why not the offering of chan jey ?” questioned one participant.

Besides a transparent system and stringent law enforcement in place the participants highlighted the need for harsh penalties as “the only effective way to root out corruption”. “No kidu culture should prevail such offense,” a participant said. Even as the participants demonstrated a proactive attitude in fighting corruption at all levels, some voiced concerns in fully achieving the goals. “High level interference” and the “resistance to change” were tricky challenges that were seen as unavoidable hurdles. “Being a small country where everybody knows each other, to implement stringent laws would be difficult,” voiced the participants. This was a wrong attitude, according to the Singaporean consultant with the Anti-Corruption Commission, Mr. Chua Cher Yak. “There is a sense of ambivalence where on the one hand people want action and the other, there is reluctance,” he said. “If there is a well established enforcement culture where every law is stringently enforced, then enforcing anti-corruption can be like any other work”. The prime minister, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, said that absolute intolerance for corruption was highly propagated by His Royal Highness Trongsa Penlop Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and thereby, it should be the responsibility of every Bhutanese to fight it.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/
04/12/2006

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INDIA: Public Health Foundation of India Launched in New Delhi

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh launched the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in New Delhi . The PHFI, modelled on the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine in the United States will be an autonomous public health foundation jointly promoted through a public-private partnership. The Foundation is expected to act as an adviser to the government and public-health schools, set national accreditation standards, design a more rewarding career path for public-health professionals, and seek to improve public-health education by building new schools and upgrading capabilities in existing ones. According to McKinsey, the agency that has worked with the Prime Minister's Office, the Planning Commission, and the Union Health Minister to develop the foundation, PHFI plans to finance and launch two new public-health schools in India during the next two years. At these and other institutions and educators should intensify the focus on academic rigor, real-world experience, and field internships so that professionals are more prepared for India's public-health realities. McKinsey noted that the foundation's autonomy would help to promote a system that fosters professionalism and ensure that the selection of public-health personnel is based on merit.

Such a system will encourage a virtuous cycle in which an increasingly specialized public-health community improves India's schools and, in turn, makes the field more attractive to practitioners, it hopes. Commenting on the status of Indian public health institutions, McKinsey had noted that India has 95 public-health institutions, which produce only about 375 professionals a year, or about 4 from each school; even the top schools graduate just 10 to 15 a year. By contrast, both Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical School produce nearly 200 public-health specialists annually. "The typical curriculum at Indian public-health schools is overly theoretical, outdated, and out of touch with the latest thinking on epidemiology, health economics, and mass communication. Practical internships are limited in number, and a shortage of faculty makes matters worse. Furthermore, some schools suffer from a lack of academic rigor and prestige and so are often filled by students who have few other career options," McKinsey report pointed out. It felt that the country should establish new public-health institutes, with the aim of replicating the achievements of the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management.


From http://southasia.oneworld.net/
03/31/2006

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PM Manmohan Singh Inaugurates Function on ‘Civil Service Day’

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today inaugurated a function at Vigyan Bhavan to mark the ‘Civil Service Day.’ All the 61 All India and Central Civil Services, including 15 non-technical and 20 technical services, are collectively observing the day. Union Minister of State for Personnel and Training Suresh Pachouri, Cabinet Secretary B. K. Chaturvedi, PM’s Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair, Comptroller and Auditor General of India V.N. Kaul, Members of Administrative Reforms Commission, Central Vigilance Commissioner P. Shankar and all the Secretaries to the Government of India participated in the event. A documentary film, produced by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, tracing the evolution of civil service was also screened at the function. An exhibition was organized on the same theme where photographs, books and documentary films on administration and best practices were displayed.

It was on April 21, 1947 when the first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, delivered a lecture on “Code of Conduct” to civil servants when the country was getting ready for the transfer of power. This day was like any other day before it dawned upon the bosses of Raisina Hills that April, 21 henceforth to be known as the “Civil Servants Day”. Sardar Patel in his historic address to the probationers of the All India Administrative Service Training School at Metcalfe House, Delhi had reminded them, “You are the pioneers in the Indian service and the future of this Service will depend much upon the foundation and traditions that will be laid down by you, by your character and abilities and by your spirit of Service”. A brain child of the Cabinet Secretary, BK Chaturvedi, the first ever Civil Servants Day conclave was addressed by Dr. Singh. (ANI)


From http://in.news.yahoo.com/
04/21/2006

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SRI LANKA: President Was Appointed as the Acting SLFP Chairman

MAHARAGAMA: President Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as the Acting Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at the 16th National Convention of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party held at the National Youth Centre, Maharagama, yesterday. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake proposed President Rajapaksa's name to the Acting Chairmanship of the SLFP. It was seconded by People's Alliance General Secretary Minister D.M.Jayaratne. SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena announced President Rajapaksa's appointment as the Acting Chairman of the SLFP. Minister Sirisena delivering his welcome address said the SLFP Executive Committee met on March 6 while the party's Central Committee met on April 6. The Minister said: "As the SLFP General Secretary, I submit the letter to the Central Committee sent to me by SLFP Chairperson former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga stating she was unable to act as the Chairman of the SLFP within the next few months. In her letter, she had also submitted a nomination for an Acting Chairman to the SLFP." However after extensive discussions, the Central Committee reached to a decision that it is against the Party constitution to a nominate the name of a member who has not attended the Central Committee meeting to the party's Acting Chairmanship.

Therefore the Central Committee which met on Thursday reached a decision that the SLFP Executive Committee should appoint a new Acting Chairman at today's party convention." Fifteen resolutions covering Government policy, peace process, foreign policy, economy, working class, culture, youth development, women's empowerment and law and order were also passed at the Convention. The SLFP extended its fullest support to the Government's peace process aimed at a lasting political solution to the national crisis on the basis of an undivided country and an honourable peace. The resolution stated that the Party stood for realising the aspirations of all communities and democratic pluralism. The SLFP expressed its gratitude to President Mahinda Rajapaksa for standing by and protecting the party for more than 37 years in victory and in defeat and ushering in a new people's era after winning the Presidential Election in 2005. In another resolution, the party expressed its fullest support for the implementation of the Government's Mahinda Chintana programme for rebuilding Sri Lanka as a prosperous nation.

The Party also called for a well-devised foreign policy that would help Sri Lanka to reflect its national interests in a proper manner in the international arena. On the economy, the Party sought a balanced national economic policy that will fuse the best features of the open economy with local aspirations in a manner that encourages the local producer as well as the foreign investor. It called for a sustainable path to development and people's empowerment. Another resolution urged the Government to formulate a youth development policy that ensures educational and life skills opportunities for them and allows them to display their talents in a variety of fields. President Rajapaksa submitted a special resolution in appreciation of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's leadership to the SLFP over the past one decade. President Kumaratunga gave leadership to the SLFP successfully facing violence and terror, he said. This 15th resolution submitted by President Rajapaksa was unanimously adopted. All resolutions were passed unanimously.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/
04/08/2006

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MALDIVES: Energy Authority Established

MALE - President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has established, on advice of the cabinet, a new Government Authority under the name of the “Maldives Energy Authority”. The new Authority is to function under the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water. Following the establishment of the Maldives Energy Authority, the Maldives Electricity Bureau has been abolished with immediate effect and its work has been re-designated to the new Authority. The establishment of the Maldives Energy Authority will not increase the number of government employees in the respective fields and will function in existing government premises, in order to ensure that the change will not require additional budgetary allocations.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/
04/19/2006

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PAKISTAN: Assemblies Can Re-elect Musharraf

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said on Thursday that General Pervez Musharraf would be re-elected as president for another term and both the present and newly elected assemblies were fully competent to elect him. Mr Hussain was speaking in response to journalists’ queries at the party’s secretariat on the occasion of the formal joining of PML by Abbas Sarfaraz, a former federal minister from Mardan in the NWFP. Mr Hussain, however, did not say whether General Musharraf would continue to be Chief of Army Staff (COAS) beyond 2007. Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi had declared in Lahore recently that General Musharraf would remain in uniform even after the next elections, a suggestion that is vehemently contested by constitutional experts. He rebutted the allegations of PPP (Patriots) of attempts of merging it in the PML and said “they were already a part of our coalition and there was no need for any merger”.

Mr Hussain said that the scheduled talks between former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London were unlikely to bear fruit as both leaders were trying to hoodwink each other. In the final analysis, he said, such “fruitless parleys” will only yield political dividends to the ruling PML-Q. Asked whether Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif would be allowed to return home to contest the 2007 elections, the PML leader said one of them had chosen to go into self-exile and the other had left the country under a deal. He made it clear though that there was no bar on the entry of either opposition leader. “The two leaders are welcome if they want to return and play their role in national politics,” he said. In response to a query, the PML president said the next elections would either be held by the end of 2007 or in early 2008 but in no case will it linger up to 2009. He admitted that there was an acute problem of quorum on the part of the treasury in the just concluded National Assembly session and expressed confidence that the issue would not resurface in future.

From http://www.dawn.com/ 04/20/2006

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Re-election of 17 Senators Challenged

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was moved on Thursday to declare ineligible 17 senators who were recently re-elected for the second term. Filed under original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on fundamental rights, the petition has been moved by Maulvi Iqbal Haider, chairman Awami Himayat Tehrik Pakistan. The Election Commission of Pakistan, Chief Election Commissioner and the 17 senators — Waseem Sajjad, Lt-Gen (retired) Javed Ashraf, Mohammad Ali Durrani, Gulshan Saeed, S.M. Zafar, Mian Raza Rabbani, Ahmad Ali, Abdul Razak, Dr Safdar Ali, Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan, Prof Khurshid Ahmad, Prof Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, Fauzia Fakharuz Zaman, Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, Mohammad Azam Khan Swati, Mohammad Ismail and Rahmatullah Kakar — have been made respondents. The petitioner stated that under Article 59 read with articles 44, 9, 17, 25, 50, 63, 219, 221, 222, 223 and 260 of the Constitution, the 17 senators who completed their tenure could not be re-elected. He requested the court to restrain the re-elected senators from performing their functions relating to legislation. Re-election of the senators who were retired through a notification issued by the CEC on March 9, 2006, is unconstitutional, illegal and void, he maintained.


From http://www.dawn.com/
04/20/2006

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AFGHANISTAN: Lower House Begins Cabinet-Confirmation Process

The People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) began confirmation hearings on President Karzai's proposed cabinet on April 4 with the nominees to head the National Defense and Justice ministries, Bakhtar News Agency reported. General Abdul Rahim Wardak (National Defense) and Sarwar Danish (Justice) presented their biographies and plans and responded to questions from legislators. The report did not elaborate on the nature of questions. Karzai amended his cabinet proposal in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 23, 2006). Wardak and Danish have served in similar capacities within Karzai's cabinet. Karzai sought a single, up-or-down vote on his cabinet by the National Assembly, but that proposal was rejected in favor of individual screening of the nominees. AT


From http://www.rferl.org/
04/05/2006

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AZERBAIJAN: Minister of Finance Dismissed

The Minister of Finance Avaz Alakberov dimissed from his post by the order of the President of Ilham Aliyev. By the other decree of the President Samir Sharifov appointed the Minister of Finance. At the same time Sharifov dismissed from the post of the Executive director of the State oil fund.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/
04/18/2006

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Provisions on Three Ministries Approved

Yesterday Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on the approval of provisions on the ministries of Justice, Culture and Tourism, and Youth and Sport. Texts of the documents were published today by the official press. The provisions determine the main directions of the activities of these ministries, their rights and duties, and the organization of their activities. The newspapers also publish texts of the structures of the ministries of Culture and Tourism and Youth and Sport. According to the presidential decrees, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has 160 employees, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports has 110 employees. Information on the number of employees in the Justice Ministry is unavailable.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/
04/19/2006


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IRAQ: New Iraq Government Next Month

Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari expressed confidence yesterday that a new government, still unformed three months after elections, would be put together in April. "It's true, the pace of discussions between the political blocs has been slow, but I remain confident that the government will be formed in April," he said at a press conference. Reacting to media reports that US President George W Bush had asked the Shi'ite political bloc to withdraw Jaafari's candidacy to be the next premier, the incumbent prime minister asserted that "nobody had asked him to withdraw his candidacy." Jaafari's candidacy has been stiffly opposed by Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish parties on grounds that he had failed to curb the raging insurgency during his present term. One of Iraq's most powerful Shi'ite politicians, Abdel Aziz Hakim, however, issued a statement denying the reports that he had been asked by Bush to replace Jaafari, calling them "misquoted" and "inaccurate". "The continuous meetings between his eminence Hakim and (US) Ambassador (Zalmay) Khalilzad included ideas and views for how to accelerate the formation of the new Iraqi government, and the country's need for a strong prime minister who enjoys generous national support," the statement read. The relations between Jaafari, his alliance and the US authorities have been strained in the last few weeks, especially after Sunday's night time raid in Baghdad by US-backed Iraqi forces that led to deaths of 16 Shi'ites.


From http://www.iraqfoundation.org/
03/31/2006



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Iraq Gets PM After Four Months of Deadlock

After four months of political deadlock, Iraq nominated Jawad al-Maliki as premier, with the Shiite leader immediately tasked with forming the first full-term post-Saddam Hussein government within 30 days. Iraq's reelected President Jalal Talabani called upon Maliki to form the cabinet, signaling an end to the deadlock that coincided with a surge in sectarian violence across the country that has left hundreds dead. "On this occasion, I call upon my brother Jawad al-Maliki to form the next Iraqi government," Talabani said in the landmark parliament session, which was only the second one since it was elected in December. "We think he has all the qualities required to head the government." Following his nomination, Maliki vowed to rein in militias by incorporating them into Iraq's security forces, while working with all the country's ethnic groups to tackle the insurgency. "I intend to form a national unity government that will face the challenges of terrorism and corruption," he said. "Arms must be in the hands of the government. There is a law to integrate militias into the security forces," he said.

"Each ministry will be run professionally and not as minister's own property, dictated by his ethnic background," he stressed. He was alluding to Sunni Arab accusations that forces under the command of the Shiite-run interior ministry have been carrying out sectarian killings of civilians in revenge for attacks by Sunni insurgents. Kurdish leader Talabani said the government would aim for "security to prevail, society to be united, and to rebuild infrastructure. The interests of Iraq should transcend all ethnic, sectarian or personal interests." The US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, applauded Malaki's appointment pledging Washington's support to the new Iraqi leader. "He's a man who speaks his mind and he's a strong leader," Khalilzad said. "His performance... convinced me that he's a unifier. We will certainly work with him. I promised that to him." US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited Baghdad earlier this month trying to end Iraq's political stalemate, hailed the breakthrough as an "important milestone." "The Iraqis are now well on their way toward the formation of this national unity government," Rice told reporters. Earlier Saturday Maliki was formally approved as the new Shiite compromise candidate for the government by Iraq's dominant Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

His nomination came through after former premier Ibrahim Jaafari withdrew his candidacy which was strongly opposed by the country's Sunni and Kurdish parliamentary blocs and also the United States. The parliament's two-hour session elected representatives to a number of key posts. Shiite leader Adel Abdel Mahdi and Sunni politician Tareq al-Hashemi were elected as the two vice presidents, Sunni MP Mahmud Mashhadani was voted in as the new parliament speaker followed by Kurdish lawmaker Aref Tayfur and Shiite MP Sheikh Khalid al-Attiya as his two deputies. However, Sunni MP Salah Mutlak, whose coalition holds 11 parliament seats, criticized the proceedings. "This is not a team for national unity, this is a sectarian arrangement," he warned. "If they improve security I will accept them, if not I will question their responsibility." Mutlak had earlier withdrawn his candidacy for the post of speaker. The session was convened by the eldest member of parliament, Adnan Pachachi, 83, who hailed it as a "crucial step in Iraq's democratic process." Mashhadani's new job was finalized despite a clear division of votes that reflected the simmering divide among Iraq's Shiite and Sunni factions.

Even as 159 MPs backed him, 97 spoiled their ballots and 10 abstained. Former premier Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi National List of 25 seats were among those who did not vote for any post. Ahead of the session, UIA MPs unanimously endorsed Maliki as their candidate in place of Jaafari, removing the biggest obstacle to the long-delayed formation of a broad governing coalition. Maliki is deputy leader of the Dawa, the same Shiite religious party headed by Jaafari, but his nomination was swiftly welcomed by political parties representing Iraq's other religious and ethnic groups. "We welcome the choice of Maliki and believe that we can now form a national unity government in Iraq which will be non-sectarian," said Zhafer al-Ani, spokesman of the National Concord Front, the main bloc representing Iraq's Sunni Arab former elite. MPs had been summoned twice before Saturday but on each occasion the session was postponed after politicians failed to reach agreement on the sharing out of top government posts. Jaafari had finally announced on Thursday that he was withdrawing his bid for a second term in order to preserve Shiite unity and end the impasse.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/
04/23/2006

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KYRGYZSTAN: President Appoints New National Bank Head

President Bakiev has signed a decree appointing Marat Alapaev governor of Kyrgyzstan's National Bank, Interfax reported on March 31. Alapaev replaces Ulan Sarbanov, who was suspended from his position on March 1 to face criminal charges that he illegally transferred $420,000 to then President Akaev in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 6, 2006). DK

From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/03/2006



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Kyrgyzstan Holds Parliamentary By-Elections

Kyrgyzstan held parliamentary by-elections on April 9 in the Kadamjai, Kurshab, and Balykchi districts, gazeta.kg reported. The Central Election Commission announced in the late afternoon that turnout was above 30 percent in all three districts. The commission noted that 25 international observers are monitoring the by-elections, in which 22 candidates are vying for three seats. Murders led to two of the by-elections. Bayaman Erkinbaev, who represented Kadamjai district, was killed in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 22, 2005); Tynychbek Akmatbaev, who represented Balykchi district, was killed in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 21, 2005). Ryspek Akmatbaev, the brother of Tynychbek Akmatbaev, is seeking to fill his slain brother's seat. Erkinbaev's widow, Cholpon Sultanbekova, is running to take her husband's place. DK

From http://www.rferl.org 04/10/2006



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KAZAKHSTAN: President Appoints New Economy Minister

President Nazarbaev has issued a decree appointing Karim Masimov deputy prime minister and minister of economy and budget planning, Kazinform reported on April 19. Kairat Kelimbetov, the outgoing economy and budget planning minister, has been appointed chairman of the Kazyna sustainable-development foundation, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The news agency noted that Masimov, a long-time Nazarbaev aide, has been deputy prime minister since January 2006. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/20/2006



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TURKMENISTAN: President Creates Committee on China Pipeline Deal

President Saparmurat Niyazov has created a committee to supervise the implementation of economic accords signed during his recent visit to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 4, 2006), turkmenistan.ru reported on April 11. Niyazov told a cabinet meeting on April 10 that the most important agreement involved the construction of a natural-gas pipeline for exports to China, Turkmen television reported. He said that construction should begin in January 2007. Niyazov himself will head the implementation supervision committee, which he said will meet once a month. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/12/2006



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UZBEKISTAN: New Economy Minister Appointed, Ex-Minister Becomes Presidential Advisor

President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov signed three decrees on 11 April 2006. The first decree relieved Vyacheslav Golyshev of the duties of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy, Head of the Complex for Issues of Economy and Foreign Economic Relations. Another decree appointed Golyshev to the post of the State Advisor to the President of Uzbekistan on Issues of Socioeconomic Policy. Botir Khodjayev was appointed new Minister of Economy of Uzbekistan.

From http://www.uza.uz/ 04/12/2006



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AUSTRALIA: Appointment of Future Fund Board of Guardians

The Government today announced the appointment of six members of the Future Fund Board of Guardians. This is a substantial further step in the establishment of the Future Fund, following the passage of the enabling legislation in late February. The creation of the Future Fund is an important part of the Coalition Government’s policies to strengthen the financial position of the Australian Government and prepare for the ageing of the population. The Government is pleased to announce today its decision to appoint Mr Jeffrey Browne, Ms Susan Doyle, Mr Robert Elstone, Dr John Mulcahy, Mr Trevor Rowe AM and Mr Brian Watson to join the Future Fund Board of Guardians. The Government previously announced its decision to appoint Mr David Murray as Chair of the Board on 6 November 2005. In coming weeks, the Government will consult with the Board on the Future Fund’s proposed investment mandate.

While the Board will be subject only to minimal restrictions in investing the Fund, the Government has already confirmed that: the Board will be required to seek a long-term benchmark for real returns of between 4.5% and 5.5% – though the Government accepts that market conditions may mean this return is not achieved in all years; the Fund will not be able to take a controlling stake in companies where a controlling stake is defined by reference to the takeover provisions of the Corporations Act; the Fund will not be permitted to borrow money except for short-term settlement of transactions; the Fund will be prohibited from using derivatives for leverage or speculation; the Board will be restricted to investing in financial assets, thus precluding direct investment in infrastructure projects or property. However, the Board will be able to gain exposure to these asset classes through pooled investment vehicles; the Fund’s annual earnings will be reinvested and that money cannot be drawn from the Fund until the unfunded superannuation liability has been matched, or until the year 2020.

Mr Browne, Dr Mulcahy and Mr Rowe will be appointed for a period of five years while Ms Doyle, Mr Elstone and Mr Watson will be appointed for a period of three years. The Board members have been selected by the Government for their expertise in investment management and corporate governance. The appointees are all professionals of significant standing in their fields of expertise and bring substantial experience to the Board. (Brief biographical notes follow.) All appointments to the Board (including the Chair) are on a part-time basis and the Board’s remuneration will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. The first meeting of the Board will take place in coming weeks.

Biographical notes on board members

Mr Jeffrey Browne was a Partner (New York) and Managing Partner of Australian Offices (Melbourne and Sydney) in the legal firm Sullivan & Cromwell until recently and has extensive experience in capital market transactions. Mr Browne has also acted for the Commonwealth and State Governments, mainly in relation to international bond offerings and privatisations. Ms Susan Doyle is Chair of the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme and the Public Sector Superannuation Scheme Boards and has many years experience in the area of superannuation and investments. Ms Doyle worked for Commonwealth Funds Management for 20 years and was more recently Manager of Equities and Fixed Interest Suncorp Insurance and Finance and Chief General Manager of NRMA Asset Management Pty Ltd.

Mr Robert Elstone is the Managing Director of SFE Corporation, the holding company for the Sydney Futures Exchange and related entities and a Director of the National Australia Bank. Mr Elstone has extensive experience in the corporate world and particular experience in the derivative markets. Prior to 2000, Mr Elstone held senior management positions with Pioneer International Ltd, Air New Zealand, Elders IXL and Paribas Group Australia. Dr John Mulcahy is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Suncorp. Dr Mulcahy has broad corporate experience and expertise in retail financial services having held a number of senior roles in the Commonwealth Bank including Group Executive, Investment and Insurance Services and previously the positions of Chief Executive of Lend Lease Property Investment Services and Chief Executive of Civil and Civic.

Mr Trevor Rowe is Chair of Investment Banking, N M Rothschild & Sons (Australia) Limited and has been the Chair of QIC since 2001. Mr Rowe is also Chancellor of Bond University (since 2003) and a Director of the Australian Stock Exchange Limited. He has substantial experience and expertise in financial management, investments and corporate governance. Mr Brian Watson is Executive Chairman of Georgica Associates Pty Limited, an independent private equity investment management firm. Mr Watson has expertise in private equity investment activities and the provision of corporate advisory services related to the private equity sector. Mr Watson is also Chairman of the Australian Government’s Pooled Development Funds Registration Board and was Chairman of the Government’s Venture Capital Industry Review, which was conducted in 2005.


From http://www.financeminister.gov.au/
03/30/2006

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Outrage at Merger of Watchdog Agencies

SECRET plans to merge the Independent Commission Against Corruption with the Police Integrity Commission and the NSW Ombudsman has drawn an angry response from Labor backbenchers. The creation of a single investigatory watchdog is one of the "clustering" projects being considered by Premier Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa in their drive to cut public spending. The amalgamation of the three agencies is also a major demand of the NSW Police Association, which has been lobbying for a curb on PIC and Ombudsman inquiries that often take years to finalise and hundreds of hours of police time. Mr Iemma has already expressed sympathy for the police, saying officers should be able to get on with the job and not be looking over their shoulders all the time. When he was police minister, Mr Costa also appeared to take the view that watchdog bodies were more of a hindrance than a help to the police.

But Liverpool MP Paul Lynch, chairman of the all-party committee of the Ombudsman and the PIC, has written to Mr Iemma strongly opposing the merger plan. "Such a development would be wrong," he said in a letter circulated to the other six MPs on the committee. "It would hopelessly confuse what are very different functions. "It would impede the fight against corruption. It would be a stupid decision. It would reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the roles performed by each body." Mr Lynch, a former solicitor, said the stand-alone PIC had arisen from the recommendations of Justice James Wood's police royal commission during the 1990s. "Merging the PIC with another body would amount to a repudiation of the royal commission report and a return to the previous unsatisfactory schemes," he said. He said while the Ombudsman dealt with police misconduct, the PIC targeted police corruption. "The merging of these two bodies would inevitably lead to a diminution in focus and resources ... " This is the second time the committee has fought merger plans. Last year MPs exchanged letters with then premier Bob Carr, who first favoured rationalisation then changed his mind.


From http://www.smh.com.au/
04/02/2006

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$1.8bn Boost to Mental Health

PRIME Minister John Howard has announced a major funding boost to mental health services, promising $1.8billion over the next five years. Mr Howard says there are too many gaps when it comes to mental health care in Australia. He says it is now time for the states to follow the commonwealth's lead, warning the problem will not be fixed without them. "These are areas where the public is sick and tired of any buck-passing," Mr Howard said. "We will do these things whether or not the states respond but I do believe they will respond. "We fund the things for which we are responsible and the states fund the things for which they are responsible. "There must be a significant increase in support and accommodation, improvements in emergency and crisis services and hospital and prison care." In February, Mr Howard and state leaders agreed to develop a framework for dealing with mental health by mid-year, but they failed to commit to funding. Under the package announced today, Medicare funding will be expanded from November to allow more mentally ill people to see a psychologist on referral from the family doctor.

Families and carers will receive more support, including 650 new respite places with priority given to elderly parents who care for adult children with a severe mental illness or intellectual disability. The government will fund 900 new "personal helpers" to help mentally ill Australians in their day-to-day lives. More funding will go to a community awareness program, focussing on the link between drug abuse and mental illness and there will also be better support at workplaces for those with a mental illness. Mr Howard said the government would address workforce shortages by funding 420 extra mental health nurses and 200 clinical psychologists a year. He said while the new Medicare item would be costly, it was something that was needed. "It's one of the huge gaps," he said. "This is a huge breakthrough to establish this new Medicare item – a massive breakthrough – and it's one of the things that's needed to dramatise our determination to deal with the problem."

Labor's health spokeswoman Julia Gillard said the federal government's $1.8billion mental health package was disappointing and inadequate. The government's initiative fell well short of what a recent Senate report recommended was needed as a minimum investment, she said. "I think every Australian with a mental health illness and every Australian who loves that person will be very disappointed with (what was announced) today," she told ABC Radio. "This is half of what the recent Senate committee into mental illness on a bipartisan basis said was a minimum investment." She said it was important the government committed more funds to mental health as it was an area which had been neglected for too long. University of Sydney psychiatry professor Ian Hickie welcomed the federal government's new funding for mental health care, but said the states must now match that commitment. "It needs to be followed up with a clear commitment from the states of at least matching funding," Professor Hickie told ABC Radio.

"Then we really need to see the commonwealth and the states work together to come up with a system of care so that when you get into trouble – whether you're in a hospital, when you're at home, you're with your family – you get really what you need to get back to school or get back to work," he said. "We need to see it from all the state premiers that they are really engaged and we will measure their engagement by the size of the funds and the degree of involvement in this process." Today's funding boost comes less than a week after a Senate report found the mental health sector desperately needed a "substantial" funding boost, following years of neglect. The report, released last Thursday, made 13 recommendations for sweeping changes, calling for spending on mental health to at least double in the next five years.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 04/05/2006

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Govt to Slash Business Red Tape

Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello will today announce a package to cut red tape for business and make it easier for small firms to access the new workplace relations laws. Mr Howard and Mr Costello will unveil the package in Melbourne today. They will also announce that the cost of incorporating a business will be cut from $800 to $400. This will make it cheaper for smaller firms to take advantage of the WorkChoices legislation, including the exemption from unfair dismissal provisions. The package is expected to cost about $200 million over four years. Mr Costello has received a report from a task force led by the Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks that made recommendations on how to slash red tape.


From http://www.abc.net.au/
04/07/2006

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FIJI: EU Sends Team to Observe Fiji Elections

The European Union, which is sending a team to observe elections next month in the Pacific island of Fiji, said it was crucial for the consolidation of democracy that the polls be seen as credible. The observers, deployed at the invitation of the Fijian government, is the first EU observer mission to be sent to a country in the Pacific region, the EU Commission said. The ballot from May 6-13 will be Fiji's second parliamentary election since a coup in 2000 toppled ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who is expected to challenge Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in the vote. "Fiji has been repeatedly destabilised by military coups, political turmoil and civil unrest," EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement. "Therefore, it is crucial for the consolidation of democracy that the forthcoming elections are carried out in a credible manner and perceived as such by all communities of Fiji," she said. Six EU election experts arrived in the Fijian capital, Suva, on April 10, a statement said. Twelve other observers will be stationed outside Suva to observe pre-election preparations and a further 12 will arrive at the beginning of May.


From http://theage.com.au/
04/20/2006

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NEW ZEALAND: PM May Reinstate Parker to Cabinet

Prime Minister Helen Clark indicated she will reinstate David Parker to the Cabinet immediately if the Companies Office does not charge him over false declarations he made. She cited natural justice. That is in contrast to her attitude last week when she suggested that if Mr Parker had not resigned all of his portfolios, she would have sacked him. "It probably would have come to that but it didn't need to. He's an honourable person and that's the step he's taken," she said last Tuesday. Mr Parker resigned as Attorney-General last Monday after undisputed revelations in Investigate magazine that he had filed several annual returns to the Companies Office for Queens Park Mews Ltd that said all three shareholders had unanimously agreed not to have the company accounts audited. In fact, one shareholder, estranged former business partner Russell Hyslop, had not been consulted. Both Mr Parker and Helen Clark said on Monday that he should go as the Government's top legal officer but keep his other portfolios.

The following morning he resigned from the transport, energy and climate change portfolios as well, after it was clear to Mr Parker that Helen Clark had changed her mind and could not justify having a different standard applying to different portfolios. She announced his complete resignation on her way to the Labour caucus. There was no suggestion he was standing aside temporarily until the outcome of the Companies Office inquiries. But at her post-Cabinet press conference yesterday, Helen Clark turned what had been acknowledgments of "mistakes" at the very least by Mr Parker into "allegations". And she indicated that if he were not charged by the Companies Office for filing false returns, she would have him back immediately. "If this set of allegations doesn't stack up then it would not be natural justice to deny Mr Parker a place." She even hinted he might be reinstated as Attorney-General if he did not face charges.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
03/28/2006

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Solomons PM Confident of Survival

New Solomon Islands Prime Minister Snyder Rini says he is confident of defeating Wednesday's vote of no confidence, moved by opposition parties after his election sparked rioting in the South Pacific nation. The impoverished archipelago's parliament has met amid tight security for the second time since more than 1,500 people gathered to protest against Rini's election a week ago by a secret parliamentary ballot, throwing rocks at police. The protest spiralled into widespread looting, targeting the tiny Chinese business population in the capital, Honiara, before the arrival of hundreds of troops from Australia and New Zealand and a dusk-to-dawn curfew quelled the violence. Parliament is evenly divided with 25 MPs each for the government and opposition, but two opposition MPs have been charged in relation with the riots and remanded in custody. "I'm confident the motion will be beaten so that my government will continue with the work of rebuilding our beloved Solomon Islands," Rini told a news conference.

Some Solomon Islanders fear a defeat of the no-confidence motion could spark more protests."I think some people will want to fight again ... but I hope the security will keep it under control," Hilda Waetai said as she set up her coconut oil stall. The opposition boycotted a vote for the deputy speaker of the parliament and complained that parliament had been "hijacked" by the police and military security operation. In their absence, former Solomon Islands prime minister Allan Kemakeza was elected as deputy speaker. The rioting in Honiara was fuelled by rumours that aid money from Taiwan was used to help elect Rini and that his government is heavily influenced by local Chinese businessmen. The city's Chinatown was destroyed, with buildings burnt to the ground. Hundreds of Chinese took shelter with the Red Cross before fleeing the country.

The Solomons, like other Pacific island countries, has been caught up in a battle for diplomatic influence between China and Taiwan, which split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. The Solomons officially recognises Taiwan, but China is trying to lure it and Taiwan's other diplomatic allies away. Solomons voters ousted half their parliament in a national election in early April, but it was not enough to unseat the government. Corruption was the major election issue. An Australian-led peacekeeping force which landed in the Solomons in 2003 to stop ethnic fighting has been reinforced following the latest unrest, bringing the number to almost 900. Australia has repeatedly said it is determined not to let the Solomons, a chain of 992 islands, become a failed state and possible terrorist haven.


From http://search.theage.com.au/
04/25/2006

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APEC Symposium on Emerging Infectious Diseases Enhances Cooperation

APEC Member Economies have agreed to a range of measures to enhance the region's surveillance and response capacity for dealing with emerging infectious diseases. After two days of meetings at the "APEC Symposium on Emerging Infectious Diseases" in Beijing this week, Member Economies have agreed to establish and improve existing infectious disease surveillance networks and regional laboratory networks in the Asia-Pacific. In the statement that was agreed by the symposium, Member Economies also agreed to enhance bio-safety standards at commercial farms and markets, improve veterinary capacity to detect and report infectious disease outbreaks and to strengthen animal health capacity to respond to outbreaks. In agreeing to the range of measures the delegates to the Seminar also made plans to undertake an assessment of the economic and social impacts of emerging infectious diseases in the region. This research is expected to then help Member Economies develop policies that will guide decision-making in the event of a crisis. Member Economies have also agreed to increase technical and scientific cooperation for the development of prevention and control measures among economies to better deal with emerging infectious diseases.

The symposium on April 4-5 was opened by China's Vice Minister for Health, Dr. Chen Xiaohong, and included presentations from representatives from the World Health Organization and the Asian Development Bank. The full text of the Consensus from the Beijing APEC Symposium on Emerging Infectious Diseases is available. The APEC Ministerial Meeting on Avian and Influenza Pandemics is the next major APEC event scheduled to deal with the threats posed by emerging infectious diseases and will be held in Da Nang, Viet Nam, on May 4-6.


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg
04/06/2006

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World Ethics Forum: Leadership with Integrity Is the Missing Link in Good Governance

Corruption and poor governance around the world will only be overcome through much greater emphasis on ethics and integrity in leadership, concluded the first World Ethics Forum, which ended today in Oxford.Held April 9th-12th, the Forum brought together over 250 leaders, thinkers, development practitioners, and youth from over 70 developed and developing countries.Participants were those whom have made significant contributions to improving governance in their countries, and have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the public sector, civil society, media, or local communities.Discussions at the Forum focused on strategies to promote ethical leadership and public integrity as tools for better governance and accelerated development. Commenting on the outcome of the World Ethics Forum from Washington DC, Danny Leipziger, World Bank Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management said: “Leadership with integrity is the missing link in the current governance discussions. I welcome the actions identified by the Forum and hope they will contribute to the global effort to foster Good Governance.” The goal of the Forum was to develop, empower, and connect leaders committed to integrity at all levels and in practical ways, specifically through: awareness raising, recognition, and networking; Coalition building across nations and sectors, and alliances for action; capacity-building for ethical, effective leadership; and supporting emerging leaders, and providing resources and refuge for exiting ethical leaders. One initiative proposed at the Forum is the Global Integrity Alliance (GIA), which will recognize, support and enable the formation of coalitions of leaders from different sectors of society committed to integrity.


From http://web.worldbank.org
04/12/2006

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Asian Development Bank Awards the Asia Foundation Two New Grants for Poverty Reduction and Citizen Empowerment Programs

The Asia Foundation, the premier non-profit organization devoted to Asia's development since 1954, announced today it has won two new multi- country Asian Development Bank grants to support pilot efforts promoting poverty reduction and citizen empowerment in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Marshall Islands. These new projects, totaling more than $800,000 will go into effect immediately. In other news, The Asia Foundation also announced that Asian Development Bank Chief Economist Dr. Ifzal Ali is hosting a roundtable discussion with leading San Francisco Bay Area executives today, Thursday, April 13, during which he will illuminate current economic patterns throughout the Asia Pacific region. The roundtable will be held at the Foundation's San Francisco headquarters and a limited number of press seats are available. To enable women and other disadvantaged groups to participate more fully in their local communities, and to make their specific needs more visible to government officials, the project of close to $500,000 will fund pilot citizens' empowerment projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan. This award will enable The Asia Foundation to assist marginalized citizens in advocating for their rights, improving government accountability, and reducing poverty in their respective communities.

The project runs until 2007, and will be managed through the Foundation's Bangladesh office, which has long been active in promoting citizen participation in political processes and advancing the role of women in Bangladeshi society. A second ADB grant of $333,000 for Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Marshall Islands will enable The Asia Foundation to design and implement pilot projects to promote increased public participation in local budget planning through the establishment of citizens' budget fora. This grant will be managed from the Foundation's headquarters in San Francisco and implemented through its country offices in Pakistan and Indonesia. Both of these offices have long been involved in supporting efforts to increase the voice of citizens and the accountability of government. "These grants allow us to advance economic growth and reform in Asia, promote participatory and accountable governance, and advance the rights of women," said Douglas Bereuter, president of The Asia Foundation.


From http://news.yahoo.com/
04/13/2006

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Three Ways to Strengthen ASEAN SMEs: Singapore Minister

There are three ways to strengthen the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang Tuesday. Speaking at an ASEAN SME Forum held in the city state, Lim stressed that the development of SMEs in ASEAN is critical to the region's growth as they account for over 90 percent of all private sector firms in the region and employ 75 percent to 90 percent of the domestic workforce. "I strongly believe that SMEs have immense potential and promoting them would yield wide-ranging benefits for ASEAN countries, both individually and as a regional group," Lim noted. The three ways to strengthen SMEs in the region include equipping them with capabilities to expand overseas, matching them with international buyers and suppliers as well as facilitating collaboration opportunities for them. Governments in the region should actively extend their free trade networks to provide SMEs with increased access to overseas markets and should help SMEs build up their branding capabilities, according to Lim. The internet can serve as a strong medium for securing new businesses and deal flows, Lim said, adding that "ASEAN has identified e-commerce as one of the cornerstones of the e-ASEAN framework." As for cooperation among ASEAN SMEs, Lim noted that the regional grouping has launched several initiatives, such as the ASEAN Incubator Network and the ASEAN Pioneer Project Scheme, to facilitate their collaboration. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


From www.chinaview.cn
04/18/2006

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Sustaining Gains in Poverty Reduction and Human Development in MENA Requires New Approaches

Since the mid-1980s, there has been little progress in poverty reduction in the MENA region although human development indicators have continued to improve. Accelerating poverty reduction and sustaining human development improvement are important challenges for the region in the future says a World Bank report "Sustaining Gains in Poverty Reduction and Human Development in MENA" released today. The report provides an overview of trends in poverty and human development indicators during the last two decades. It shows that the substantial progress in reducing poverty in earlier decades came to a halt in the latter half of the 1980s. Average poverty rates for the region, measured at the $2 per capita per day international poverty line, fell to around 25 percent by 1987, the lowest in the world at that time. But they stagnated thereafter, fluctuating between 20 and 25 percent. "This is the social cost of slow growth," says Mustapha Nabli, Chief Economist at the World Bank for the MENA region noting that "an additional 11 million people were added to the ranks of the poor between 1987 and 2001 because the region's population continued to grow but its economies didn't."

Knowledge about the causes and consequences of poverty in MENA is limited by the availability of data. This is a serious issue in MENA countries where, according to Farrukh Iqbal, the principal author of the report, "access to data is typically considered not a matter of public right but of bureaucratic discretion." Often, this results in a lack of accurate information even within government agencies, and hampers its ability to understand and analyze poverty, design effective anti-poverty programs, and learn from experience. Data from this report shows that while poverty incidence rates did not improve during the period from 1985 to 2000, there were strong gains in human development: Literacy spread to 69 percent of the population, average schooling (for those above 15) rose to 5.2 years, child mortality rates plunged to around 46 per thousand births, and life expectancy continued to climb to reach 68 years. Indeed, the region improved its social indicators faster than middle-income comparators over this period.

The fact that little poverty reduction occurred during the 1990s despite remarkable gains in human development reflects a failure to translate rising human capital into higher productivity. The slow growth experienced by the region over this period was a consequence in part of deficiencies in macroeconomic and structural policies. Among the structural policies that prevented higher rates of return to education and higher rates of employment were those related to trade. Insufficient openness to trade and investment constrained the returns to human development investments in the region. Progress in human development indicators despite economic stagnation and a decline in levels of social spending suggests gains in the efficiency of service delivery during the 1990s. This can be attributed to better targeting of spending to underserved groups and positive cross-sectoral impacts of earlier investments in female education and the provision of safe water supply. For example, statistical analysis shows a strong link between child mortality improvements during 1980?2000 and the level of female education achieved by 1980.

The report also notes that the region's social safety nets need considerable improvement. Parts of the safety net that are effective are not efficient and parts that are relatively efficient are not effective. For example, food and energy subsidies reach a large number of people and are effective in the sense that they also reach the poor. However, both food and energy subsidies are inefficient in that they involve a lot of resource leakage to the non-poor. On the other hand, cash handouts are often better targeted to the poor and the vulnerable but they are funded at such low levels (typically less than 1 percent of GDP) that they are not very effective. While acknowledging some improvements in the design of food subsidies in such countries as Tunisia and Egypt and the switch from a food subsidy system to a cash transfer system in Algeria and Jordan, the report notes that opportunities to make a more substantial difference through reforming fiscally-profligate energy subsidies have largely been missed. The report argues for a three-pronged plan to meet future challenges: (a) accelerate growth while paying special attention to the need to increase labor absorption in the private sector; (b) further improve human capital by focusing on education quality at all levels and expanding the access of the poor to health services; and strengthen social safety nets through an emphasis on efficiency and insurance objectives.

A growth strategy built around a bigger role in the regional economy for markets, the private sector and international trade and investment can deliver the needed growth. Such an approach, combined with better governance and higher female labor force participation, can raise the average output per capita by 3 percent per year, or thrice the actual rate experienced since 1985. Such a difference in growth implies a net gain in poverty reduction of around 8 percent within a decade or so. "The region cannot afford to miss this opportunity, "says Mustapha Nabli.”22 million more people would be lifted out of poverty by 2015 with a high growth scenario than without."The education and health challenges of the future are likely to be different from those in the past and will require different responses. In education, the emphasis must now shift to improving quality and labor market relevance so as to meet the challenge of global competition. On the health front, the emphasis must be on continuing to improve the access of the poor and coping with the fiscal pressures of an emerging disease pattern that is likely to require more technology-intensive and thus more costly remedies. The report further highlights the importance of improving the supply of safe water and sanitation to under-served groups as well as providing nutrition and preventative health education.

Safety net reforms are also needed. The prevailing social safety nets can be made more efficient through better targeting but this is presently constrained by political economy considerations as well as by deficiencies in data access, quality and related technical considerations. Safety nets can also be strengthened through measures that help insure against the risks of job and income loss. Such measures include: unemployment insurance, temporary employment in public works, and microfinance.


From http://web.worldbank.org
04/19/2006

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Top 10 Wireless Innovations in Asia Pacific

Wireless companies in Asia Pacific are increasingly focusing on improving research and development, manufacturing, as well as marketing activities to garner greater market share. Simultaneously, greater emphasis on implementing globally integrated value chain practices that involve a lot of mutual learning between companies in the market will enable Asian wireless solution providers to compete strongly against their U.S. and European counterparts. Global growth consulting company Frost & Sullivan studies the Top 10 Wireless Innovations in Asia Pacific as part of its regional monthly innovation tracker. "Telecom operators are developing as well as deploying innovative applications and services to gain entry into new industries," observes Frost & Sullivan industry analyst, Sachin Mittal. "In order to attain significant subscriber growth, service providers must find compatibility with low-cost business models.”

By leveraging their communications infrastructure, telecom service providers are breaking barriers into verticals as diverse as banking, healthcare and broadcast with their basic innovations. "To succeed in these sectors, providers of communication services are concentrating on developing ubiquitous networks that allow end users to access information freely, irrespective of the time, place and device, in a converged information and communications technology (ICT) environment," notes Mittal. SK Telecom in South Korea, for example, is developing software-defined radio solutions that can enable a single device to support multiple wireless technologies, such as global system for mobile communication (GSM), code division multiple access (CDMA), wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi), and worldwide interoperability for microwave access (WiMAX).Similarly, Radixs Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based company, has developed a mobile operating system that allows mobile phone users to conduct complex applications that were conventionally performed on a PC. Taito Corporation, Japan, has also introduced peer-to-peer (P2P) technology on mobile phones for online gaming, enabling quicker response time in these games.

Wireless solution providers would however need to offer compelling solutions that provide enhanced value in meeting customer demands in order to penetrate new markets dominated by incumbent players. Some of the top ten innovations included in the study are affordable phone videos, secure data and device solution, peer-to-peer technology for online gaming on cell phones, software-only location-based service, broadband connection from high-speed trains, powerful mobile operating systems, as well as zigbee-based 'digital smart-home' services. Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company, has been partnering with clients to support the development of innovative strategies for more than 40 years. The company's industry expertise integrates growth consulting, growth partnership services, and corporate management training to identify and develop opportunities. Frost & Sullivan serves an extensive clientele that includes Global 1000 companies, emerging companies, and the investment community by providing comprehensive industry coverage that reflects a unique global perspective and combines ongoing analysis of markets, technologies, econometrics, and demographics.


From http://www.mb.com.ph
04/19/2006

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Social Science Think Tank More Active in Policy Decisions

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) provided decision-makers of the Chinese government with 517 policy memos last year, an increase of 22 percent from the previous year, a senior CASS official said Wednesday. The policy memos were mainly concerned with recommendations for the draft of the national 11th five-year (2006-2010) economic and social development plan, urban immigrants, financial policies, energy consumption, social welfare, industrial restructuring, tax reform, enterprise reform, outflow of capitals, service industry, share options reform, economic relations between the central and local governments and fiscal reforms. Leng Rong, deputy CASS president, said at a meeting that CASS researchers should closely follow up practical issues and conduct extensive policy analysis and recommendations. Basic scientific research and consultancy to decision-makers through policy memos could be conducted effectively at the same time, Leng said, encouraging his fellow researchers to employ scientific methodologies in writing policy memos. The Institute of Sociology, the Institute of Japanese Studies, the Institute of American Studies and another handful of institutes were honored for their outstanding job in submitting policy recommendations. The CASS, covering the full disciplines of social sciences, has a tradition of providing consultancy to central decision-makers and ministries.


From Xinhua News Agency
04/05/2006

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More Grassroots Officials Trained to Enhance Rural Development

Twenty-one years into his job as a village official, Jiang Quanzhong said he is somewhat bewildered about how to lead the villagers in the building of "new socialist countryside", a pillar scheme in the country's blueprint for the coming five years. Jiang is about to find the answer soon, as he has become one of the first 400 village officials in southwest China's Sichuan Province to receive a systematic training this week on village administration, Party building and modern farming expertise. The week-long training, given by university professors, senior agronomists and exemplary village officials who have become role models for their counterparts, is designed to qualify Jiang and many other grassroots officials as bellwethers in a nationwide campaign to lead the 900 million farmers toward wealth. "I have never expected to enter a classroom again at age of 50," said Jiang, who only finished junior high school but works as secretary of the Longwangmiao Village Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). "It's come just in time to improve myself and hopefully to be a help to my fellow villagers."

Jiang has chosen to study village planning, rural infrastructure construction as well as modern expertise on livestock and poultry breeding which he thinks necessary and effective means to help his villagers become richer. Altogether 50,000 grassroots officials in the province will receive the week-long free training programs in the coming two years, according to the Organization Department of the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee. China's 900 million farmers living in 680,000 villages report an average per capita annual income of 3,255 yuan (407 U.S. dollars) in 2005. This is less than one third of the per capita disposable income for the urban residents, which hit 10,493 yuan (1,312 U.S. dollars) last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The central government launched a campaign of building a "new socialist countryside" early this year, aiming to help farmers share in the country's prosperity.


From www.chinaview.cn
04/07/2006

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CHINA: Public Resources for the Public

Public resources should not be used to seek profits, says a signed article in Xiaoxiang Morning Post. An excerpt follows: The State Council issued a document last Thursday about off-campus venues for children. It requires that cultural or science centres be operated as public welfare undertakings, and the benefit of children must be the priority. The document says that such venues should not conduct commercial activities to seek profits. Venues like children's centres receive government investment to be run as public welfare undertakings. But some put their focus on commercial activities. It is timely for the central government to ban their commercial activities. Under market economy conditions, some sectors forget their public welfare nature and throw themselves into the tide of profit-seeking. Venues for minors like children's centres are contracted or rented out to businesses. The space for teenagers' off-campus activities shrinks while some irrelevant or even unhealthy activities emerge in such venues.

The situation where public sector venues profit from public resources is not uncommon. For example, students' scores in the national college entrance examination are public resources, but some education departments co-operate with telecommunication companies to conduct charged information services. From the angle of public administration, it is not cost-free for public departments, including public welfare undertakings, to provide public services. But taxpayers have paid for these services and citizens should not be charged for them. To use public resources for commercial activities amounts to privatization of public services and shows no regard to taxpayers' rights. It seems no big deal for children's centres to conduct commercial activities, but what lies behind this is a serious problem. Related departments may have made some profit, but their public credibility is harmed. Such behaviour should be banned. At the same time, it is important to guarantee the funding for public welfare undertakings. That is the only way to put an end to commercial activities and to realize their nature as public welfare.


From
China Daily 04/11/2006

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World Bank Lends to Help Institutional Capacity Building for Further Reforms in China

Yesterday the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $20 million loan to support China’s economic reform. It is the fifth in a series of technical cooperation projects that the Bank has funded since 1983. The China Economic Reform Implementation Project aims to significantly increase the adoption and use of sound reform and development strategies, policies and plans in China. This will be achieved through institutional capacity building through a series of technical assistance subprojects tailored to address specific challenges facing the government at the national and sub-national levels. The project has a strong focus on learning of new knowledge as well as on replication and scaling up efforts that work. “The key words to describe this project are “reform and development” and “technical assistance,” said Chunlin Zhang, World Bank task managerfor the project. “It is designed to assist government decision makers who are determined to implement a reform and development agenda in their departments or regions, but face a lack of technical knowledge and capacity. In supplying the knowledge and capacity they need, the project is driven by real demand and focused on achieving results. ”

Subprojects will focus on a range of objectives reducing poverty, inequality and social exclusion; improving public and market institutions; managing scarce resources and environmental challenges; financing sustained and efficient growth; integrating China into the world economy; or promoting achievement by China of the Millennium Development Goals. The Department for International Development (DfID) of the Government of the United Kingdom has approved a grant of ?5.71 million to co-finance this project. It aims to support sub-national governments implementing projects focused on poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. “DFID grant funding will enable the poorer parts of China to benefit from the access to external expertise this project will support, and so help promote achievement of the more equitable and harmonious society that is the objective of the new 11th Five Year Plan”. DFID’s Deputy Representative Chris Athayde said.

The project will be implemented by Ministry of Finance of China. Central government departments and local governments can apply for subproject funding from Ministry of Finance any time during the period of project implementation (2006-2011).The proceeds of the loan and grant will finance consulting services, workshops, training, study tours and other capacity building activities. The International Department of Ministry of Finance will issue detailed guidelines for preparation of subproject proposals. Subprojects will be required to produce “strategies, policies, implementation plans and mechanisms” that may significantly contribute to the achievement of a project objective, and to be clearly defined in light of the practical challenges that the subproject is designed to address.The $20 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is repayable in 20 years with a five-year grace period.


From http://web.worldbank.org
04/11/2006

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Mianyang's Lawmakers Helping Govt Improve Efficiency

Fan Liying has his fingers crossed that the government will adopt his proposal this year and make natural gas available to the 540 poverty-stricken families in his community without charging installation fees. Though the same proposal fell on deaf ears last year, Fan has very good reason to be confident this year because his proposal, submitted again to Mianyang Municipal People's Congress in March, was published on Mianyang Daily, the most widely read newspaper in Mianyang, a city with 5.2 million people in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The newspaper carried 114 proposals from local lawmakers as well as the government departments responsible for implementing each of the proposals, with names of the people in charge and their telephone numbers.

Yu Yuenian, an official with Mianyang Municipal Construction Bureau, found his name and telephone number on the newspaper, because he is supposed to implement Fan's proposal and provide 540 poor families in Shunhejie Street with easier access to natural gas. "It surely brings much pressure," said Yu, "I hope the pressure will turn out to be a driving force for me to do a better job." Shortly after Fan's proposal appeared on the local newspaper, a vice mayor visited Shunhejie Street to see the residents' living condition and instantly discussed the feasibility of the proposal with a construction official. Though it is still unclear when natural gas will eventually be piped to their community, the residents are delighted all the same because "at least they've seen hope", said Fan. As a deputy to the local legislature, Fan submitted to the same proposal last year, but the local government didn't take any action. "Some bureaucrats turn a deaf ear to deputies' proposals concerning knotty issues," said Li Youquan, vice director of the Standing Committee of Mianyang Municipal People's Congress. "Some even think the deputies are making trouble." Very often, the deputies submit some constructive proposals without knowing which government department is expected to handle the case eventually, said Li Shangzhi, deputy secretary-general of the committee.

The committee's decision this year to publish all deputies' proposals and detailed information of relevant government offices was objected by many officials, but it was determined to go ahead with the bold move, he said. The move will be effective in improving transparency and enabling the public to see weather the government is doing its job, said Guo Dan, a political science researcher with Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences. “It urges the government to seek solutions to issues concerning the fundamental interests of the people and therefore help the local government departments improve efficiency," said Li Yalian, vice mayor of Mianyang. Since the beginning of this year, local legislatures have intensified their efforts to improve transparency and promote democracy in their work. They've also kept the public informed of what they are doing. The Sichuan Provincial People's Congress, for example, posted all its deputies' proposals on a most frequently visited local website before they were deliberated at its annual session. In Chongqing Municipality that neighbors Sichuan, three deputies of the local legislature published their personal blogs to encourage online discussions with the netizens on employment, social security and other issues of common concern. Local legislatures in Beijing, Henan and Guangxi also encouraged citizens to voice comments and suggestion by sending short messages via cell phones.


From www.chinaview.cn
04/12/2006

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Law Enforcement Education to Be Launched

China will launch an education campaign on the judiciary and police on "the socialist concept of rule of law", focusing on governance according to law. Addressing a seminar in Beijing attended by high-ranking judicial and police officials, senior Communist Party of China (CPC) leader Luo Gan said the CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as general secretary formulated "the socialist concept of rule of law" after considering the experiences of China and other countries. "It indicates our party has gained a deeper understanding of how to build a socialist country with Chinese characteristics under the rule of law and the law of governance," said Luo, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, at the seminar from April 11 to 13. The socialist concept of rule of law, said Luo, mainly consisted of the following aspects: governance according to law, enforcing the law for the people, equality and justice, and leadership of the CPC.

Luo, also secretary of the Committee of Political Science and Law under the CPC Central Committee, described it as an "advanced concept of rule of law" that conformed with the interests and needs of the people. He called on judicial and police staff to use "the socialist concept of rule of law" to ensure their work maintained the socialist direction and improved their ability to uphold socialist rule of law. Luo said as the Chinese economy and society underwent profound changes, the clarity of guidelines for law enforcement was necessary to help judicial and public security staff adapt to the situation. He ordered them to continue cracking down on criminal gangs and to go all-out for social harmony and stability "to create a sound and stable social environment and a just and efficient law enforcement environment for the smooth implementation of the 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010) and the building of a socialist harmonious society".


From Xinhua News Agency
04/14/2006

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Nations Set "Good Example" Working on Environment

Stephen Johnson, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wrapped up his China visit on Friday, saying that China and the United States are a good example of co-operation on the global economy and the environment. "Throughout our discussions with Chinese officials, there is a theme of co-operation, friendship and partnership. This is key to success," Johnson said on Friday evening. He was speaking after a busy day, which included meeting Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng and visiting the Shanghai Waigaoqiao Power Plant and port to observe Sino-US environmental protection projects. China and the United States are both founding members of the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Clean Environment. It has provided great opportunities for the two countries in environmental protection, according to Johnson, adding that US President George W. Bush has asked the Congress for US$52 million for the project next year. Johnson's week-long China visit took him to Beijing, Lijiang in Yunnan Province and Shanghai.

In Beijing, Johnson met his Chinese counterpart, Zhou Shengxian of the State Environment Protection Administration. The two signed an agreement on hazardous waste management that will encourage co-operation in locating and disposing of polychlorinated biphenyls. He also talked with top environment officials in Beijing about clean air efforts. Beijing has promised to have a "green Olympics" in 2008 by working to improve the city's air quality, using recyclable materials and building sustainable structures that will have immediate commercial use following the Games. Johnson said he was pleased to see primary school students in Lijiang are learning about protecting the environment. In Lijiang, the US environment chief also visited two EPA-funded pilot projects that use cleaner and safer home cooking and heating methods.


From
China Daily 04/15/2006

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China to Issue First Statistical Method for E-commerce

The world's first official method to guide the statistical work of the e-commerce industry will soon be put in use, Chinese Vice-Minister of Commerce Liao Xiaoqi announced on Monday. "This unprecedented method will provide uniform standards for the data collection and allow decision makers in governments, academia and the general public to have a better understanding of China's robust e-commerce industry," said Liao at the press conference for the issue of the 2004-2005 China E-Commerce Report. Gao Xinmin, executive deputy director-general of the China Information Association, said the lack of uniform statistical methods had caused a data deficiency, which in turn stemmed scholars and government from making concrete conclusions on the country's e-commerce industry. While the 2004-2005 report was being drafted, Gao said that a comprehensive survey was launched at the request of the Ministry of Commerce to collect first-hand statistics. More than 2,000 companies in textile, coal mining, petroleum, petrochemical, construction, medicine and electronic sectors from 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have been covered, which made this report very objective, he acknowledged.

In comparison with the first report issued by the Ministry of Commerce in 2003, experts said the new report had provided a wide-ranging view of the growth of China's e-commerce industry. The report also touches upon the future trends of China's e-commerce industry and includes special reports on the e-commerce in foreign trade, logistics, small and medium-sized companies and on-line retailing. Liao claimed that the report represented the highest achievements of Chinese academia.Gregory T. Shea, President of the United States Information Technology Office in Beijing, hailed the report as "very comprehensive and substantial".


From
China Daily 04/18/2006

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JAPAN: Systems Face Terminal Debt Problems

The Tokadai Line in Komaki, Aichi Prefecture--a transit system using an elevated track and carriages with rubber wheels--will be the first of its kind to be abolished because of accumulated deficits. The line operator, a company financed by Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya Railroad Co. and other entities, has racked up 6.4 billion yen in debts, driving the prefectural and Komaki city governments to pull the plug on the line in September. A number of new transit systems were constructed during the 1980s and '90s, and were hailed as being environmentally friendly because they created less noise and vibrations than other transport systems. The Nippori Toneri Line, which will connect Adachi and Arakawa wards in Tokyo, will begin operation in fiscal 2007.

Nine lines, including the Tokadai Line, which extends 7.4 kilometers, were built with construction subsidies, but almost all the lines are facing financial hardships. Only Tokyo Waterfront New Transit Yurikamome, which is used by many sightseers, posted a profit in the last fiscal year. Other than Yurikamome, all the lines except the Tobu-kyuryo Line in Aichi Prefecture, which began operation last year for 2005 World Exposition Aichi, have accumulated debts of 10 billion yen to more than 20 billion yen. The operators' bottom line is being most hurt by their failure to attract more passengers. When the Tokadai Line opened in 1991, the company expected 12,000 passengers would ride the line each day. However, the line's inconvenience--getting to the center of Nagoya using the line requires at least two transfers--and commuters' preference to travel by car has seen the number of daily passengers hover between just 2,000 and 3,500.

Other lines also have fallen far short of initial passenger estimates: The Astram Line in Hiroshima carried 48,000 passengers a day in last fiscal year, much lower than early forecasts of 70,000, and Kanazawa Seaside Line in Yokohama is used by little more than half of the 86,000 passengers it expected daily. Constructing such a transit system costs less than half the price of a subway system, but refitting their special cars is expensive and linking up with conventional railroad systems is impossible. These drawbacks have contributed to the financial difficulties confronting new transit systems. Nagoya University graduate school Prof. Takayuki Morikawa, a specialist in urban environment studies, laid the blame on the passenger estimates.

"The estimates failed to take into account the influence of competing public transportation networks, such as JR," Morikawa said. Compounding the need for generous passenger forecasts was the Construction and Transport Ministry plan to approve construction of new transit systems that could eliminate their debts within about 30 years. Because operators entitled to receive state subsidies are limited to local governments or third-sector companies, many of them lack the managerial skill and advice of private firms. Managerial failures will bounce back to haunt tax payers as they shoulder a greater burden. No effort should be spared--including the introduction of private sector know-how--to revive the fortunes of the other transit systems and stop them going off the rails.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/13/2006

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Enhanced H5N1 Response Planned

The health ministry has decided to designate the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza as an infectious disease, officials said. The designation will enable authorities to force infected persons to be hospitalized for treatment and impose restrictions on their work activities, the officials of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said. The plan was approved at a meeting Friday of the ministry's Health Sciences Council and will be implemented this summer, the officials said. The last time the ministry took such a step was in July 2003, when severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, was designated as an infectious disease. The government had initially planned to designate the H5N1 strain of bird flu as an infectious disease once an outbreak was confirmed. But it decided to proceed with the designation anyway in part because H5N1 has been spreading rapidly in various parts of the world, with about 190 cases of human infection confirmed since mid-2003 in nine countries in Asia and in the Middle East, the officials said.

The health ministry also considers it necessary to take preventive measures because H5N1 has the potential to mutate into a form that can be passed easily from person to person and because the World Health Organization has called for isolating a patient infected with H5N1. Currently, the H5N1 strain of bird flu falls in a category of diseases for which authorities are not allowed to isolate a patient.


From www.japantimes.co.jp
04/16/2006

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Ministry of Information and Communication, Goyang hold Seminar on IT Globalization

The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) held a seminar on strategy to strengthen the international collaboration of information and communication, jointly with Goyang City, the International Knowledge Economy Forum of the National Assembly and the International Cooperation Agency for Korea IT (ICA) at Korea International Exhibition (KINTEX) on March 31. MIC Vice Minister Yoo Young-hwan; Kim Young-sun, National Assembly member representing Goyang; Goyang Mayor Kang Hyun-suk; and about 150 others attended. Specialists from KAIST, business representatives and others gave presentations and discussed IT industry expansion overseas and facilitation of the local economy. Vice Minister Yoo spoke about IT industry globalization's role as a growth vehicle for the Korean economy and the possibility of expanding cooperation with Goyang, a rising star in the exhibition and convention industry.

Meanwhile, National Assembly member Kim revealed her vision to generate jobs and increase incomes in Gyeonggi Province through the development of IT·BT (biotechnology)·NT (nanotechnology)-based high-tech industries. Kang Dae-young, director general of Cooperation Bureau of MIC, said that, "In response to the emergence of China and other countries, creation of a Blue Ocean, and other changes, the plan is to provide one-stop service by integrating the IT export institutions that have been divided into ICA and iPark (overseas IT support centers).”


From http://www.korea.net
04/01/2006

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Construction Stocks Shrug Off Anti-Speculation Steps

The government's latest steps to help stabilize the property market is expected to have no major negative impact on share prices of leading construction firms and banks as their earnings will remain strong, analysts said. The government on Thursday (Mar. 30) announced that up to half of capital gains from transactions of rebuilt apartment units will be levied by the nation's tax agency as part of a package of measures aimed at preventing speculative investment in the real estate market. Analysts, however, said that the government's steps will not have any serious impact on builders' earnings as major contractors expect stronger building orders from overseas. Most construction stocks closed higher on March 31, shrugging off the government's steps to curb real estate prices. Hyundai Engineering & Construction closed up 2.4 percent at 49,550 won, GS Engineering & Construction ended up 3.03 percent at 57,800 on and Daelim Industrial closed up 6.4 percent at 77,000 won.

"The government's new anti-speculation measures will affect small-scale construction companies that heavily depend on domestic demand," said Jeon Hyun-shik, an analyst of Hanhwa Securities. "But I think large builders will fare well this year on rising orders overseas." Overseas construction orders that local builders received exceeded $10 billion (10 trillion won) last year for the first time in history thanks to soaring orders from the Middle East. Between Jan.1 tand March 17, overseas orders have already reached $ 5.3 billion, analysts said. Some analysts stayed positive about the domestic construction demand. Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at Good Morning Shinhan Securities, said, "The new anti-speculation steps are unlikely to throw cold water on the entire construction demand in Korea. The policy puts focus on curving reconstruction orders, while seeking to increase home supply in Seoul and adjacent areas to remove real estate speculation in the long term." Incoming merger & acquisition deals in the industry, including Hyundai Engineering & Construction, will play a positive role to lift construction stocks, analysts said.

Separately, analysts said the government's plan to curb further rises in housing loans will also have negative impact on banks. Concerns over banking stocks were rising as the measures include tightened rules on housing loans for apartment purchases in speculation-ridden areas, in particular, Gangnam, southern Seoul. "The portion of housing loans to bank earnings is small. The restrictions on housing loans will have no major negative impact on bank stock prices," Cho Byung-moon, an analyst of Woori Investment & Securities said. Most bank stocks also closed higher on hopes of strong first quarter results. Kookmin Bank closed up 3.2 percent at 83,900 won, Shinhan Financial Group rose 2.5 percent to 43,500 won, and Korea Exchange bank added 0.8 percent to 12,300. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index closed up 1.5 percent at 1,359.60, and the Kosdaq market closed up 1.8 percent at 665.21.


From www.korea.net
04/01/2006

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MALAYSIA: PM Firm on Open and Transparent Government

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he remains committed to his aspiration of making the government under his administration open and transparent. However, he stressed that freedom had its boundaries. “There is no absolute freedom...whatever freedom, be it freedom of the press or freedom of expression, there are limitations and laws,” he said when interviewed by Datuk Johan Jaafar on a programme entitled Di Sebalik Rancangan Malaysia Kesembilan (Behind the Ninth Malaysia Plan) aired over RTM last night. Johan had asked Abdullah whether he was committed to pursuing his agenda of creating a government that was open and transparent. According to Abdullah, chaos would prevail in the country if there were people who wanted to fight for their rights without considering the law, simply in the name of freedom. To another question from Johan, Abdullah said the setting up of the Malaysian Integrity Institute and instilling the concept of Islam Hadhari (Civilisational Islam) and noble universal values in national development were part of efforts to wipe out corruption in the country. He said prevention was vital in realising this objective.


From http://thestar.com.my/
04/04/2006

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Parenting Course at Community Colleges Nationwide

JITRA: Parenting skills will be taught at community colleges nationwide, Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamad said.  He said it was important to acquire the skills, adding that the colleges would also be offering many other life-long learning short courses. “It just occurred to me while giving away the scrolls today that these young people will one day be parents and they need to learn how to be good parents,” he told newsmen after the Northern Region Zone Community College convocation ceremony at Dewan Wawasan here yesterday. A total of 1,223 graduates from community colleges in Arau, Bandar Darul Aman, Sungai Petani, Kepala Batas, Bayan Baru, Gerik, Pasir Salak, Chenderoh, Sungai Siput and Teluk Intan received their scrolls. Mustapa said 29 more community colleges would be built under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, to bring the total number of such colleges to 63 by 2010. “We are allocating RM376mil to build new community colleges, upgrade the existing ones, and purchase equipment. “We are spending another RM2.08bil on polytechnic institutions,” he said.  Mustapa said the community colleges offered weekend and night classes for working adults. “We hope the people would take the opportunity to learn new skills. We are offering sewing classes, handicraft making classes, and other value-added courses,” he said.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 04/09/2006

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PHILIPPINES: ADB to Help Strengthen Local Governance and Fiscal Management

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – ADB will help the Philippine Government strengthen governance and financial management in local government units (LGUs) through a technical assistance (TA) grant of US$1.8 million. The grant, provided in response to a request from the Philippine Government, will address three key aspects of local governance: an improved legal framework for decentralization; transparency and effectiveness in managing expenses and budget procedures; and better mobilizing of resources to provide needed services to their constituents. “While much progress has been made in terms of decentralizing government operations over the past 14 years in the Philippines, the ambitious vision of effective and autonomous local governance has only been partly realized,” says Tariq H. Niazi, an ADB Public Resource Management Specialist. Effective governance at the local level is hampered by the weak framework for decentralization, as well as by constraints both at the local and national level. At the same time, LGUs have frequently been unable to locally raise sufficient financial resources for their needs, leading to heavy dependence on the national budget and not enough funds for essential infrastructure investment.

To achieve its objectives, the grant will support studies to improve the local government code and other related laws and regulations; activities to strengthen national agencies in their overseeing and support for LGUs; and training to boost their budgeting, expenditure management, borrowing and debt management, and taxation. LGUs in around three provinces will be selected for participation in the project based on their prospects for accessing credit markets and commitment to improved governance, among others. “LGUs are the frontline of government social service provision, at which more than 20% of total government spending takes place,” adds Mr. Niazi. “By helping LGUs to operate more efficiently and effectively, the grant will contribute to improved local welfare without requiring additional Government transfers.” The total cost of the TA is estimated at $2,575,000. The Government will contribute the balance of $775,000 equivalent in the form of office space, staff support, and other items. The Department of Interior and Local Government is the executing agency for the TA, which will be carried out over two years beginning June 2006.


From http://www.adb.org/
04/17/2006

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SINGAPORE: To Host Eco-fair Showcasing Latest Green Technologies

SINGAPORE : Singapore is one step closer to achieving its goal of becoming a global hub for environmental excellence. It beat Vietnam and Korea to host the Eco-Products International Fair 2006, which will run from October 31 to November 2. The biggest ever such fair in Southeast Asia will showcase the latest eco-products and state-of the art environmental technologies and solutions. Plastic bags that can keep eggs fresh for a month, or washing powder that is so gentle on the skin that the water used can be recycled as fertiliser for the plants -- these and many more Eco-products will be showcased at the fair. Eco-products are made from improved raw materials; they also use less energy and water resources and produce less waste. Up to 100 companies from Japan, Europe, Australia and the US are expected over the three-day exhibition. Said Dr Amy Khor, chairperson, EPIF 2006 Steering Committee, "EPIF will be a platform where our local companies who are in the water and environmental sector could network with other companies in similar businesses from other countries. Our local companies can network with them and find business opportunities, in fact expand or collaborate with these companies and perhaps bring in products or export their own local expertise to these countries."

Singapore also hopes to tap into a $2 billion research fund to develop eco-products. Home-grown company, Grenidea Technologies, which specialises in producing biodegradable food packaging from used agricultural materials, sees the fair as a launch pad to learn best practices of international players and to market themselves overseas. Said Ivan Cheng of Grenidea Technologies, "Demand and reception has been great. The next step is the US market." To grow the consumer market, consumers need to know about viable alternatives in order to make educated choices. Said Michael Ho, chairman, Singapore Waste Management and Recycling Association, "For consumers it will be great to know that there are lots of eco-products in the world today which have not been introduced into Singapore. International groups coming in would mean giving them greater awareness. They may not be expensive, but more useful." Foreign visitors attending the eco-fair in Singapore will also get to visit the Semakau Landfill. This dumping ground, which is seven kilometres away from mainland Singapore, is a good example of Singapore's efforts in balancing the need of environmental protection and waste disposal. The fair is expected to attract over 40,000 visitors, nearly twice the number of the fair in Bangkok last year. This is the third time the fair is held outside Japan. The first EPIF was held in Malaysia in 2004.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/10/2006

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Government Shortlists Potential Sites to Build Retirement Village

SINGAPORE : The government has shortlisted a few potential sites for the construction of a retirement village, and the National Development Ministry is currently studying the details. The sites are on a 30-year land lease. And one of them will be picked to test market demand for such villages. In an exclusive interview with MediaCorp's Channel 8, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in the past, the idea of building retirement villages was put on the back burner as Singapore's problem of an ageing population was not as serious as that in Europe and America. The Singapore market was also too small for retirement villages to be commercially viable. But the prospects have since changed. With a rapidly ageing Singapore population, Mr Khaw said in five years' time, retirement villages will become economically viable. One obstacle is the high costs of land in Singapore. "My personal view is, our land is expensive. But we have nearby neighbours in Johore, Batam and Bintan. The elderly want to reach their doctors within half to one hour. So retirement villages in neighbouring countries is possible, barring the cross-border hassle. It is best to find cheap land on short leases," said Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan. (by Serene Loo, Julia)


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/17/2006

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Singapore's PR Academy to Hold Conference to Discuss New Media and Its Impact

SINGAPORE : SMS, MMS and blogging have changed the way people communicate and have an increasing influence in daily life. These new technologies can no longer be ignored and gone are the days of relying on traditional modes of communication like radio, TV and newspapers, to reach out to the masses. Some of the technologies that can be leveraged on are tools like blogs, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and even podcasts for PR and promotional activities. The PR Academy's 5th Annual Conference, "New Media: The New Frontier in Communications and PR," aims to demystify the myths surrounding new media. The conference will also explore opportunities and challenges that the new media poses, how, why and when to integrate the Internet and online media into any organisation's overall public relations, marketing and communications strategy. Popular Singapore bloggers, Mr Miyagi and mr brown are among the panel of speakers who will share their views and experiences. Among the other conference speakers are Dr Cherian George from the Nanyang Technological University, Mr Felix Soh from The Straits Times and Ms Margaret Thomas from MediaCorp Singapore. The conference will be held at Singapore's Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel on 31 May.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/20/2006

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Singapore Launches Security Technology Community

Singapore's security technology industry received a strong boost on Monday with the launch of the Security Technology Community - a first in the region. The community brings together private and public sector players, as well as public institutes to provide support for the security technology industry which includes intellectual property creation and design. The community has 12 founding partners. They include government agencies such as the Economic Development Board, the Police Force and private players like Siemens and Tyco Fire & Security. These partners will provide expertise and resources to help Singapore-based technopreneurs and start-ups in their product development and innovation. "We need technology to help us better control our border security, detect criminal activities, carry out law enforcement, manage prisons and respond to emergencies. And no government alone can efficiently harness technology without partnership of the private sector," said Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, Senior Minister of State, Home Affairs & Law.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/24/2006

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BANGLADESH: PM Calls for Contributing to Spread of Quality Education

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia Monday called upon all concerned, particularly the teachers, to contribute in the spreading of quality education in order to compete in the present competitive world, reports UNB. "Proper and standard education is very necessary in today's world of competition. Only you could play a leading role in this regard." Khaleda Zia said this while speaking at a function of "Strategic Plan for Higher Education in Bangladesh: 2006-2026' arranged for submitting report at the ICC of PMO complex in the city Monday. UGC Chairman M Asaduzzaman, convener of the 17- member Strategic planning committee flanked by Education Minister Osman Farruk and State Minister for Education Ehsanul Huq Milon presented the report to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Also present on the occasion were members of the strategic planning committee and six expert groups for preparing the long-term strategic plan for higher education, including chairman of the University Grants Commission, vice-chancellors and professors of public and private universities and distinguished personalities of various professions and organisations.

The 78-page report, which touched on a number of areas and issues, suggested bringing all public and private universities under an "Umbrella Act." It was recommended forming a searching committee by the Chancellor for appointment of Vice-chancellors, setting up at least 28 more universities by the year 2026 for expanding the scope of higher education and forming an accreditation council for ensuring standard of higher education. The report also recommended discouraging teacher and student politics. "A student should largely concentrate on academic activities, with social-cultural involvement, and should not have affiliation with party politics," says a major recommendation in the plan. The Prime Minister suggested constituting a monitoring cell for quick implementation of the strategic plan for higher education, saying that initiative would be taken to properly to implement the recommendations of the strategic plan with cooperation of all. Furthermore, the experts recommended that higher- education curriculum should be prepared in line with poverty reduction and appoint of teachers given on the basis of merit.

The report recommended setting up a postgraduate university and a central national laboratory for higher research, giving internet connections to all universities and colleges, setting up supervisory units in six divisions to strengthen the activities of national universities, including the latest technology-based subjects in ICT, and expansion of UGC authority. The PM said her government has given topmost priority to education as socioeconomic development, advancement, prosperity and everything of a country depends on education. "Educated society means developed society. We are working relentlessly to build a developed society," she observed. The PM mentioned her government's efforts, including the setting up of educational institutions and steps to maintain congenial academic atmosphere, to educate the nation. She said they have stopped unfair means at public examinations and now it is necessary to ensure "quality education." She believes that the 20-year-long strategic plan will be considered as an important document for expanding higher education in the country.


From http://www.financialexpress-bd.com/
04/11/2006

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Bangladeshi Scholarship Winners Head to Australia for Disaster Management Training

Twenty Bangladeshi government officials have arrived in Melbourne to study a Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management at Swinburne under AusAID Australian Development Scholarships program. Bangladesh is establishing itself as a leading centre for disaster management and training in the Asian subcontinent. The students from the Bangladesh Government Ministry of Food and Disaster Management will complete the course within three months as a pilot project. It is envisaged that this project will lead to similar cohorts for 2007 and 2008 with the potential for the training to be extended to Graduate Diploma/Masters level. Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Mr Douglas Foskett said Australia was pleased to provide the scholarships to assist Bangladesh develop its human resource capacity, particularly in the important sector of disaster risk management. There is also interest from BRAC University (Dhaka) to work in partnership with Swinburne in delivering Disaster Management Training in Bangladesh. Mr Abdur Rashid Sarker, The Secretary, Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, Bangladesh Secretariat will attend a Swinburne welcome reception as the guest of honour today at Hawthorn Town Hall.


From http://bangladesh-web.com/
04/14/2006

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BHUTAN: Position Classification System: Suitable for Modern Public Management

The success of Position Classification System (PCS) will depend upon the correct evaluation of jobs and the performance of the people, according to the Secretary General of the Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC) of Thailand, Mr. Preecha Vajrabhaya. “If the system is very good but the job evaluation of the people is not correct the purpose is not served,” the secretary general told Kuensel. “Even if the system is good and the evaluation is correct but the job performance is not appropriate, the selection of the right people in the right place will fail.” Mr. Preecha Vajrabhaya, who was in the country for the past three days, said that Bhutan was installing a new system that was suitable for 'modern public management', based on 'equal pay for equal work'. He said that Thailand introduced the position classification system in 1975 to replace the 'rank classification system' where seniority in the job was considered. “With the previous system even if some people had more difficult jobs but for shorter duration the value was not recognised,” said Mr. Preecha Vajrabhaya. He said that initially all 400,000 job positions were merged into a single scheme.

Later it was increased to four schemes: the executives, managers, knowledge workers (people with Bachelors degree) and the general (people with lower qualification), depending on the nature of jobs, which were treated differently in the market. “We now have a multi scheme with multi salary system and this fits the present world of marketing,” said Mr. Preecha Vajrabhaya. “The PCS introduced by the Bhutanese government is very modern,” he said, adding that it took into account the details of the jobs and its evaluation from the start. The Bhutanese and Thai civil service commissions signed a Memorandum of Understanding yesterday to share experiences and expertise in public sector reform, human resource development and management, training and development of skills. “The RCSC will know in advance what problems they would come across and the solutions they should adopt,” said Mr. Preecha. “But sometimes, there would be differences because of the difference in culture of the two countries.” He said that having many strategic plans was very important when starting the system. “When faced with the real situation, we should expect things to happen and changes need to be made,” he added. “So the 'if' planning is a must.” The secretary general and the delegation met with the prime minister, foreign minister and the home minister during the visit.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/
04/21/2006

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'Crisis Management Programme' Ensuring Doctor's Safety in Pakistan

A proper and effective ‘crises management programme’ should be formulated in the large government-run hospitals to ensure safety of doctors and paramedical staff to urgently provide required medical treatment to the victims of major tragedies. Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad said that the metropolis had witnessed many tragic and wide-scale terrorist activities and other eventualities in the last couple of years and following such incidents the life of doctors and paramedics performing emergency duties at the hospitals came under serious threat and danger due to unruly behaviour caused by the aggrieved mob. He said that doctors and paramedics became scared and frustrated from providing emergent medical treatment and first aid due to overwhelming scenes of unruliness, lawlessness and mob violence at the emergency section of the hospitals.

He said the crises management programme, he had suggested for the government hospitals, should include presence of police and personnel of other security agencies for ensuring foolproof security and safety of the doctors and paramedics. He said the crises management programme should also function for identifying and filtering out unnecessary people who throng to hospitals at the time of emergency. He said that a system should effectively be observed in the major hospitals which invoked the necessary support and assistance of the volunteers concerned and social workers for collecting blood donations and also ensuring uninterrupted supply of the essential drugs during the times of major accidents and eventualities. Dr Imtiaz Ather Siddiqui, a senior physician at the Jinnah hospital said venting anger, frustration and sentiments by the affectees and relatives of the victims was a natural and common human phenomenon but the near and dear ones of the victims should realise the sensitivity of the situation and they were not supposed to show hostility against doctors.


From http://southasia.oneworld.net/
04/13/2006

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Poultry Research Institute Being Upgraded

RAWALPINDI: Facilities at the Poultry Research Institute (PRI), Rawalpindi, are being further upgraded with the establishment of tissue culture, mycoplasma advance disease diagnosis and biotechnology laboratory. Mycoplasma advance disease diagnosis laboratory and biotechnology laboratory facilities like molecular diagnosis by using DNA probes, PCR, nucleic acid sequencing, chromosome analysis and gene mapping are so far not available for the poultry industry in Pakistan, according to the project document. Director of the institute Dr Shamsul Hassan told Dawn that the project costing Rs30 million would be fully operational in 2008, and with the strengthening of existing research facilities the PRI would be able to precisely diagnose the existing as well as emerging disease problems. “We will be hopefully able to tackle all the important poultry diseases including bird flu. There would be no need to send any sample outside the country for confirmation,” Dr Hassan said. In line with upgrading research facilities, the Punjab government is expected to approve in the next financial year setting up of an avian flu epidemics surveillance centre at the PRI, according to a senior official of the Punjab government. The threat of avian flu epidemics might be reduced if lost and degraded wetlands were restored to provide better habitat for disease-carrying migratory species and reduce their contact with domestic poultry, according to a UN study.

The PRI director said the monitoring and disease surveillance system would also be improved, which would go a long way in improving the disease reporting system, thereby benefiting the poultry farmers community. With this development, he added, the PRI needed professional expertise to be trained and well-conversant with modern research techniques to cope with the emerging disease challenge in the country. The PRI is offering poultry farmers to get their flock’s disease problems investigated and precisely diagnosed, leading to adopting therapeutic and control measures which help improve health and productivity of poultry flocks. According to a report on the status of present poultry in Pakistan, the development efforts and provision of various facilities have resulted in investment to the tune of Rs60 billion so far and establishment of 280 hatcheries, 165 feed mills and 19,279 poultry farms with capacity to produce 430 million day-old chicks and 2,950 million tons of poultry feed. It has further been estimated that Punjab’s share in total investment in poultry sector is Rs43 billion or 71.9 per cent. Similarly, Punjab’s share in layer birds and broiler population is 63 per cent and 66 per cent, respectively.


From http://www.dawn.com/
04/16/2006

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Universities to Be Turned into Colleges for Failure to Meet Criteria

ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) will convert those universities into colleges which failed to meet the laid down criteria by February 2007, said Dr Atta-ur-Rehman on Wednesday. Talking to reporters, the Higher Education Commission Chairman said a decision to improve the standard of higher education was taken by federal cabinet in 2002. The cabinet had directed the Higher Education Commission to set a criterion for universities to achieve that level in five-year time otherwise their charter would be withdrawn. "The Higher Education Commission will not extend the deadline and scale down the status of all those universities into colleges that failed to meet the criteria by the end of February next year," he said. The Higher Education Commission was pursuing the provincial governments to take strict action against fake universities, he added. He deplored that a large number of public and private sector universities were not meeting the international ranking.

Earlier, giving details of 'The third National Students' Convention' starting from Thursday, the Atta-ur-Rehman said the theme of the students' convention 2006 is gender empowerment for socio-economic development, volunteerism in natural disaster challenges and strategies and Pakistan my identity. He said that during the convention in addition to debates on various topics the dialogue sessions would also be held to provide youth opportunities to discuss critical issues of national importance. Other objectives of the convocation are to promote cultural integration among students, provide them a forum to share and exchange their views. And the convocation will create harmony in society by bringing students of diverse background to one platform, inculcate a spirit of moderation and enlightenment and promote peace, tolerance and understanding in society.


From http://www.brecorder.com/
04/20/2006

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UZBEKISTAN: Banking Association of Uzbekistan, Commercial Banks Hold Round Table

Banking Association of Uzbekistan together with commercial banks organized a round table meeting on "taxation of commercial banks". The meeting was conducted as a part of a series of measures taken to develop recommendations to be included in the draft of the new edition of the Tax Code of Uzbekistan. The urgency of the discussed issue results from the intensification of budget and tax reforms in the country, simplification and unification of the taxation system. In view of this fact, the provision of tax incentives to commercial banks aimed at increasing their resources base and consequently expanding the crediting of the real sector and other areas of banking activity is growing in importance. The said measures increase the profitability and attractiveness of commercial banks for investors and shareholders, help expand the range of the banks' active operations, which in turn reflects on the trust of the population towards the banking sector. Managers and specialists in taxation of twenty commercial banks of Uzbekistan, representatives of the city tax department and Banking Association of Uzbekistan participated in the round table. In the course of the discussion, participants addressed the issues relating to the estimation of the income tax, tax on value added, property, income of foreign legal entities – non-residents of the Republic, etc. Representatives of commercial banks provided recommendations on the improvements to be made in the tax legislation and the regulatory base on taxation of banks. The opinions expressed in the course of the discussion helped identify a number of shortcomings which the banks face in calculating the tax deductions.


From http://www.uzreport.com/
03/31/2006

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Commission for Small Business and Private Enterprise Development Meets

The meeting of the Commission for Small Business and Private Enterprise Development was held on 12 April at Tashkent City Department of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan. The meeting was dedicated to the problems entrepreneurs face when dealing with the financial and banking facilities, as well as issues relating to the development of the wholesale and retail trade system development aiming at creation of favourable conditions for the activity of enterprise entities, both legal entities and individual entrepreneurs. Also, the candidate of economic sciences S. A. Voronin made a presentation on the "Factors of formation of balanced prices in the production segment of the economy". The aim of the report is to demonstrate the negative aspects of the mechanisms of regulating price-formation and to suggest on the possible ways of their improvement. In order to establish constructive and continuous dialogue between the state bodies, representatives of private sector and international financial institutions, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry created nine business-forum commissions intended to serve as an effective mechanism of joint elaboration of recommendations on improvement of the economic legislation, formation of favourable investment and business climate, and expansion of opportunities to attract foreign investments and develop private sector of the country.

Commissions were created in the following key areas: small and private enterprise development; intensification of denationalization and privatization processes and activation of stock market; improvement of banking and finance sector; improvement of the system for coordination of the controlling bodies' activity; development of export and stimulation of foreign investments; simplification of the procedures entrepreneurial structures' access to raw materials; improvement of fiscal policy; development of information technology and entrepreneurs access to information resources; improvement of the system of preparation and improvement of private sector specialists' professional skills. In line with the approved schedule, organizational meetings of the corresponding commissions were held, their membership ascertained, working secretariats formed. Over 400 people participated in the early meetings of the commissions, including representatives government (39) and business management (15), private sector (140), diplomatic corps (43), international organisations (59), banks (20) and mass media (24). At this time, commissions are functioning on constant basis, and their activity is coordinated by the corresponding secretariats consisting of the representatives of both state and non-government sectors.


From http://business.uzreport.com/
04/18/2006

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UZBEKISTAN: Information, Training Centre Opens in Lower House of Uzbek Parliament

An information and training centre to assist Uzbek parliamentarians in the field of parliamentary affairs opened today in the Lower House of Uzbekistan's Parliament (Oliy Majlis). The centre is the result of a project supported by the OSCE Centre in Tashkent and the European Union's EuropeAid Programme, aimed at establishing a permanent training facility to assist Uzbekistan's Parliament and parliamentarians in building their capacities to further carry out democratic reforms in the country. The centre will provide regular training seminars to cover such issues as initiating legislation, legislative technique, rules of drafting laws and introducing amendments to acting laws, review of draft laws submitted by other subjects of the legislative initiative, exercising parliamentary control, as well as implementing international standards into national legislation. The centre will also train parliamentarians in using modern information and communication technology to carry out their professional tasks.


From http://news.uzreport.com/
04/24/2006

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AUSTRALIA: Solar-Thermal Power Touted as Energy Solution

Australian scientists have developed a new form of electricity that could provide all of Australia's electricity needs in 2020. It has been developed by mixing solar energy, heat and natural gas. In the search to find a cleaner, more efficient form of power, scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have developed what is called solar-thermal energy. Two hundred mirrors track the sun, and focus the sun's rays towards a tower. The heat can reach temperatures of more than 1000 degrees Celsius, producing 500 kilowatts of power. This is then mixed with natural gas and water to produce a renewable energy. Wes Stein from the CSIRO says the new development could provide for Australia's future energy needs. "It would only require about 50 kilometres by 50 kilometres in the centre of Australia somewhere to provide all of Australia's electricity needs in 2020," he said. "That's not very much of Australia."


From http://www.abc.net.au/
03/31/2006

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Costello to Pay States for Reform

PETER Costello has approved a national program of economic reform, agreeing to a system of incentive payments to reward the states. The Treasurer would not put a figure on the payments, but said there would be money in the next budget for states that achieved economic reforms with measurable outcomes. The decisions were brokered at yesterday's annual meeting of commonwealth, state and territory treasurers. Mr Costello agreed to a compromise schedule proposed by states for removing the last of their taxes to be traded off for the introduction of GST. "I have been coming to these meetings now for 10 years and I think this is one of the most co-operative I have ever seen," Mr Costello said. Victorian Treasurer John Brumby, who had sought annual funding for economic reform, starting at $1.2billion in the next budget, nevertheless hailed the agreement as a breakthrough.

"Mr Costello certainly made a number of statements about putting money aside as required, rewarding reform and providing for structural adjustment, so we're pretty comfortable with that direction," he said. Mr Costello said the new system would not involve up-front payments but would require the states to put forward economic reform proposals, agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments, with outcomes that could be measured. "We are not going to make prepayment of global amounts and then have a system where states complain of deductions when they don't implement changes," he said. "States will be joyously able to proclaim they are being rewarded, so it is going to work the other way around." Mr Brumby said mental health was an example of an area where there were some good policy proposals, but which carried a cost that needed to be shared by the commonwealth.

West Australian Treasurer Eric Ripper said there were still issues to be settled with Mr Costello. "He says he wants to see more details of what our reform plans actually are. We would like to see details of what his funding plans are," he said. It is still unclear exactly how much each state and territory will receive from the last round of the old competition payments for 2005-06. Each one's share of the $834 million up for grabs could be docked by fines or suspended payments for not meeting key water reform commitments. At least three states are facing multi-million-dollar fines for failing to reach agreement on a water trading scheme.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/
04/01/2006

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Bringing Government into Space Age

ALL levels of government must co-operate to bring in a new age of electronic government that uses spatial data to aid decision-making, says Special Minister of State Gary Nairn. A surveyor by profession, Mr Nairn wants to introduce a spatially enabled government and, after launching the Government's e-government strategy earlier this month, has charged the Australian Government Information Management Office with investigating the concept. He has acknowledged the task will be difficult, as all levels of government must be involved. State and local governments often held the spatial information that would be required, he said. And Mr Nairn is familiar with mapping and location technology and the power he believes comes from analysing data and statistics against spatial information. "One area I'm particularly interested in AGIMO pursuing ... is the research and facilitation of a spatially enabled government or, in other words, using place or location to manage and integrate government services and enhance business opportunities," he said.

The process involved linking business transactions to places - known as georeferencing - and using the georeferenced places to facilitate the evaluation, analysis and comparison of relationships among people, places, transactions and governments. "Imagine combining technologies such as Google Earth with other data on the natural environment and with the built, human-developed or constructed environment - and being able to view, analyse and make decisions based on seeing where health, education, business, or environmental issues are occurring by combining spatial ... information with non-spatial information such as facts and figures." Mr Nairn has spoken on the subject in a number of speeches to industry and government since becoming minister, including the Government Technology World Australia conference and at the launch of the e-government strategy. "There are great opportunities for government in getting the place and location of information joined with the huge amounts of data that government have in various departments," he said.

"So you're able to link business transactions to a place in using those few reference places to facilitate the evaluation, analysis and comparison of relationships between people, places, transactions and governments. "You get much better government decisions if you can do your analysis in a more strategic way, which you can do if you have that spatial content to your data." Mr Nairn said it would take "some time" to envisage, research and implement the technology -- particularly as it demanded the involvement of the various levels of government. "It is other levels of government that, in fact, hold most of the data-sets in this respect," he said, adding that it would require an "ambitious" level of co-operation. "One of the big challenges is between our various departments at a federal level, but then (we have) to take it that step further between different levels of government. Often, it's local government out on the ground that delivers many of these services."


From http://australianit.news.com.au/
04/18/2006

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NEW ZEALAND: Focus on Results of Spending, Says Treasury

A series of ministerial reviews of state spending should look to tie departmental funding more closely to results, the Treasury believes. The reviews are being overseen by a team of ministers, dubbed the razor gang, although the Government denies they are a cost-cutting exercise. In the next month the ministers will put together the terms of reference for the reviews, which they say aim to improve the prioritisation and quality of Government spending. But Treasury papers released yesterday suggest the reviews could be of limited use unless they include a much wider overhaul of the way performance is managed in the public sector. One of the most important changes suggested is tying budget funding more closely to clear outcomes. This would be coupled with expenditure reviews to ensure promised outcomes were being delivered. If they were not, money should be spent in other areas.

The papers suggest that to get the best results senior ministers need to play a more active role in guiding spending into priority areas and co-ordinating sector-wide approaches. However, they acknowledge that the performance information available to ministers needs to be improved in some areas. Another area needing attention is the accountability of chief executives for their department's performance. "The State Service Commission's performance management relationship with the chief executive is one of the major points of leverage over departmental performance," it says. "This could be used to reinforce any value-for-money process." Associate Finance Minister Trevor Mallard, who is leading the reviews, said the Treasury's advice contained good ideas, which would be considered in setting the terms of reference. The Government has outlined nine areas to be examined in the reviews, including its business assistance programmes, Child, Youth and Family (CYF), the public health sector, capital asset management and land transport spending.

CYF is one department expected to come under intense scrutiny. Its funding has increased by 50 per cent to $457 million since a review in 2003 but an earlier Cabinet paper noted it was not clear if better outcomes had resulted. Mr Mallard yesterday reiterated that the reviews were not a cost-cutting exercise. The aim was to take poor spending and reinvest that in more productive areas. "There are, within different agencies, areas that we've traditionally spent money on that might not be quite as important as something which misses out in the budget. "Clearly, when you do have a limited budget, what you do is you prioritise. "If we can shift the money out of the less important things to the more important things, then I think the taxpayer will thank us." The reviews would be done this year, although Mr Mallard said the intention was to continue the programme through the Government's three-year term. The first results were expected later this year, so they could feed into next year's budget process.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
04/21/2006

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2006 Information & Communications for Development: Global Trends and Policies

Information and Communications for Development 2006: Global Trends and Policies is a new World Bank flagship publication addressing the critical role being played by information and communication technologies (ICT) in economic development. It provides a global overview of ICT trends and policies in developing countries, covering issues such as financing infrastructure, the importance of public-private partnerships and effective competition to extending access, using ICT in doing business and formulating national e-strategies. The ICT At-a-Glance tables for 144 economies show the most recent national data on key indicators of ICT development. The data enable assessment and comparison both over time and across economies to assess ICT capacity, performance, progress and opportunities.


From http://web.worldbank.org/
03/28/2006

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East Asia Is Now Most Open Region in the World, Posts Solid Growth

East Asia’s economies delivered another solid performance in 2005, now surpassing Europe as the region most open for trade in the world, according to the World Bank’s latest East Asia Update (available on-line at http://www.worldbank.org/eapupdate)In 2005, developing country economies grew by 8.2 percent and this solid growth is expected to continue at a 7.8 percent, rate in 2006.Growth in East Asia was broad based for the second year in a row, exceeding 4 percent in every country, except Timor-Leste. The Pacific Islands, however, show a much weaker performance with only two out of ten countries growing above 4 percent. This impressive performance was in spite of rising oil prices – the highest in 25 years – rising interest rates, continued worries over the financing of the United States’ current account deficit and over the prospect of the spread of avian flu, reports the twice-yearly look at the economies of East Asia and Pacific.

In the first half of 2005, high oil prices, slower growth in China, and slowing high-tech exports briefly reduced growth across the region. But from mid 2005 economies have rebounded, boosted by strong export growth to China, Japan and other regional economies as well as the United States. “East Asia’s exports surged to over $2 trillion last year, and this powered the region’s growth.Strong growth in turn is having a dramatic impact on poverty reduction” said Homi Kharas, Chief Economist for East Asia and the Pacific. “Although 580 million people in the region still live on less than $2 a day, this number has been falling by about 50 million people each year over the past five years.” On a more cautionary note, the report notes that investment in the region, which had rebounded in 2004, slowed in 2005, and capital flows in many countries reversed course last year, including short-term flows, which fell due to the narrowing of the interest-rate gap between Asia and the United States.

Open economies East Asia has now surpassed Europe as the most open region in the world with exports almost doubling over the past three years, but this level of openness also exposes economies to some new challenges. Challenges like checking the potential spread of avian flu, particularly among humans, are bringing countries together, most recently in Beijing, to collaborate on steps to prepare, control, and prevent future outbreaks among poultry. “So far the impact of bird flu outbreaks has been isolated to the poultry sector and some farm households and has not spilled into the overall economy,” said Milan Brahmbhatt, lead economist and author of the report, “The key focus now is on national preparedness to appraise and implement integrated country programs.” The region’s economies have much to gain from a successful completion of the Doha round of trade talks, but increased trade also means some domestic challenges, including boosting efforts to innovate and build skills, improve the climate for investment, and better protect vulnerable segments of the society.“ To take advantage of these new export opportunities, the region’s going to have a lot of job turnover,” Kharas said. “And most countries in the region don’t have unemployment insurance. New mechanisms to help people as they move from one job to another will be important.”

Climate change The East Asia and Pacific region is already among the most vulnerable to natural disasters, whose intensity could be affected by climate change, the subject of the East Asia Update’s special focus section. While the region is still largely rural, most of the gross domestic product and large cities, are coastal and at risk from rising sea levels and weather-related disasters. Some Pacific Island nations could even disappear. Countries need to urgently take steps to strengthen their disaster preparedness and to climate proof construction and development. Rapid economic growth has also meant the fast growth of greenhouse gas emissions from the region. The report notes that countries will need to reduce emissions and adopt policies to promote greater energy efficiency and conservation. A variety of international schemes exist to encourage countries to act.


From http://web.worldbank.org/
03/30/2006

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The 6th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region Coming Soon

The 6th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region (CIAPR VI) will take place in Shanghai, China, 18-19 October 2006, with the theme “ICT and Citizens’ Inclusion: The Role of Local Government.” The Forum will be co-organized and co-sponsored by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force (UN/ICT/TF), the State Council Informatization Office of China, the Ministry of Information Industry of China, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

With a focus on inclusion for the poor, innovative e-government solutions and tools, and engaging citizens’ participation in the decision-making process, the Forum will be composed of a plenary session, a number of parallel sessions and workshops, covering topics such as ICT and e-government development for all, creating a public value for citizens, enhancing participation and partnership with citizens, creating e-government toolkits (information technology & applications), and citizen-friendly e-government policies and cyber laws. The United Nations Public Service Awards, in the category of ICT Application and Local e-Government, will be presented by UNDESA to recognize outstanding achievement and contribution in local e-government applications. The Forum is expected to attract over 800 participants worldwide, including senior officials form the UN and from central and municipal governments of both developed and developing countries, CEOs of well-known IT companies, and famous experts and scholars of academia, international organizations and NGOs. Contact: The Regional Cooperation Office for City Informatization (RCOCI), Tel: (86-21) 6112 3736, Fax: (86-21) 6112 3739, Email: hyliu@apcity.org or hyliu@siecc.org


From http://www.unpan.org
04/01/2006

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Central Asia's Rapid Growth to Continue in 2006-2007, Says ADB

Central Asia will maintain its rapid economic expansion with GDP growth in the region projected at 10.3% in 2006 and 9.8% in 2007, according to a major ADB report released today. The region grew 10.9% in 2005. Regional inflation is expected to rise slightly to about 7.9% in 2006, but the current account is now expected to post a strong surplus due to high oil prices. “Many Central Asian economies are benefiting from a range of reform measures under way. But the overall picture masks a large gap between growth in the oil-producing nations and the rest,” said ADB Chief Economist Ifzal Ali in launching the 2006 edition of ADB's flagship annual economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO). “As a region, Central Asia would benefit most from an aggressive campaign to remove barriers to trade and foster closer economic cooperation,” he said. ADO 2006 forecasts overall growth for the 43 countries of developing Asia of 7.2% in 2006 and 7% in 2007. In Armenia, rapidly rising incomes and falling poverty rates abetted by well-sequenced economic reforms are the country’s current hallmarks. GDP growth is forecast between 6% and 7% in 2006-2007 as inflation is expected to be well contained, and the current account deficit is expected to narrow further.

The medium-term outlook is favorable although prospects would brighten if an agreement to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was concluded and the country’s borders were fully open to trade. Azerbaijan experienced unprecedented GDP growth of 26.4% in 2005. This momentum is set to build further to 30.5% in 2006 and nearly that rate in 2007, driven by oil and gas production and exports as recent large investments come fully online. The 2006 budget calls for a very large increase in spending and the Government will need to carefully manage expenditure to avoid stoking inflation, which started to pick up last year. Key challenges are controlling inflation, preventing excessive appreciation of the Azerbaijani manat, and diversifying the economic base. Ambitious structural changes, foreign investment, high prices for hydrocarbons, and political stability have spurred Kazakhstan’s economy and improved living standards in recent years. GDP growth is projected to average 8.5% in 2006-2007 as high investment continues in this oil-driven economy. The challenge ahead is to maintain past successes and ensure broad-based development and employment by expanding non-oil manufacturing, raising productivity in agriculture, and extending the reach of small and medium-sized enterprises.

In the Kyrgyz Republic the “Tulip Revolution” and the fall in gold production at the country’s major mine adversely affected the economy in 2005. The outlook is for recovery and GDP growth is projected at 5% in 2006 and 5.5% in 2007 based on implementation of an economic program supported by the Poverty Reduction and Growth facility of the IMF. The new Government has declared its commitment to addressing the three main challenges facing the country: low living standards, unemployment, and widespread corruption. GDP growth in Tajikistan slowed to 6.7% in 2005 due mainly to falling cotton production and deterioration in the terms of trade. The outlook is for a recovery in activity with GDP growth projected at 8% in 2006 and then moderating to 6% in 2007. Progress has been made in implementing a poverty reduction and growth strategy in recent years, despite the legacy of weak institutional capacity and a limited resource base. Medium-term economic prospects are promising in view of the start of major foreign-invested projects and intensified efforts to advance structural reforms.

The outlook for growth in Turkmenistan is subject to considerable uncertainty because of the economy’s heavy reliance on exports of a handful of energy and agricultural products. If prices for exports of natural gas rise in 2006 this will provide a short-term stimulus to the economy and GDP should grow 5%-7% a year in 2006-2007. Uzbekistan has posted strong growth over the past two years with significant contributions from agriculture and robust performance on external trade. This growth momentum is expected to continue in 2006-2007 with GDP projected to expand about 6% annually, aided by greater foreign direct investment in the hydrocarbon sector. Medium-term prospects are bright; however, a sustained, broad-based high-growth track would require undertaking the critical mass of reforms needed for private sector-led growth.


From http://www.adb.org
04/06/2006

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East Asia to Post Steady Growth in 2006 as PRC Moves to Check Expansion, ADB Says

East Asia’s growth is expected to hold steady at 7.7% in 2006 before decelerating about a half percentage point to 7.1% in 2007, according to a major ADB report released today. The region grew 7.7% in 2005. Regional inflation is expected to rise slightly to about 2.4% in 2006 and 2.7% in 2007, influenced by anticipated increases in administered prices of electricity, gas, water, and petroleum products in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Hong Kong, China. “PRC’s decision to proactively move to slow its economy will have the biggest impact on East Asian growth in the years ahead,” said ADB Chief Economist Ifzal Ali in launching the 2006 edition of ADB's flagship annual economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO). “PRC growth will certainly remain rapid and Government efforts to tackle structural weaknesses that have crept into the economy during recent years of very high growth should position the region for sustainable expansion over the medium-term,” he said. ADO 2006 forecasts overall growth for the 43 countries of developing Asia of 7.2% in 2006 and 7% in 2007.

Driven by surging investment and exports, the PRC economy grew 9.9% in 2005. Very high investment levels have, though, caused overcapacity in some industries and are a cause for concern. Growth is expected to remain vigorous at 9.5% in 2006, slowing to 8.8% in 2007. Further out, growth is seen converging on a more sustainable trajectory, but this will require a rebalancing of demand in favor of private consumption and better use of investment resources. Risks to the outlook include incomplete reforms in the financial system, labor market, and state enterprises; widening income inequalities; a deteriorating natural environment; and international trade frictions. An acceleration in net exports led rapid economic growth of 7.3% for Hong Kong, China, in 2005, with support from domestic demand. Consumer price deflation, which has persisted since the Asian financial crisis, ended as prices rose 1.1%. Labor market conditions improved following several years of weakness. The economy was buoyed by strong growth in PRC and generally favorable conditions in the global economy. Growth is expected to soften to 5.5% in 2006 and further to about 5% in 2007, in line with the moderation on the mainland and rising domestic interest rates.

A recovery in private consumption, spurred by rising real earnings, supported growth of 4% in Republic of Korea in 2005. Larger, export-oriented firms are likely to expand fixed capital investment this year, but some smaller firms face constraints in lifting investment. Growth is expected to accelerate to 5.1% in 2006 on the back of stronger consumption and investment, as well as double-digit export growth supported by a recovery in global electronics sales. On the assumption that cyclical support to growth eases as 2006 progresses, growth is projected to soften to 4.9% in 2007. In the medium term, trend growth is forecast at 4.5%-5%. In 2005, the Mongolian economy grew at a robust 6.2%. High global prices for copper and gold boosted the mining industry, but manufacturing was hit by the end of global textile and clothing quotas. Inflation rose to double-digit levels. GDP growth in 2006 is projected at 6%, slowing to 5% in 2007 as the livestock sector returns to its trend growth rate after high volume-led growth over 2004–2005. Given its narrow base, the economy remains vulnerable to swings in the prices of a few commodities and to weather conditions. Stronger links to neighboring markets would facilitate development.

Taipei, China’s economy grew 4.1% in 2005 with help from the upturn in the global electronics cycle late in the year. Growth was down 2 percentage points from 2004. Private investment contracted, weighed down by weak electronics exports in the first half, but private consumption continued to expand. The likely continued upswing in the electronics cycle in 2006 will assist exports and investment with growth forecast at 4.4%. Growth momentum may ease to 4% in 2007, largely reflecting a softening in worldwide electronics demand.


From http://www.adb.org
04/06/2006

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Asia Must Create 750M 'Productive' Jobs to Maintain Social

South Asia’s growth is expected to moderate to 7.3% in 2006 as a result of some slowing in India and Pakistan, but then rise slightly to 7.5% in 2007, according to a major ADB report released today. The region grew 7.8% in 2005. Average inflation for the region in 2006 is expected to increase to 6.1% as removal of subsidies on some petroleum products in a number of countries boosts domestic prices. Most countries are projected to see somewhat larger current account deficits with the regional average projected at 3% of GDP. “Evidence is growing that South Asia is moving on to a higher growth path. But future growth will require progress on reforms across the region," said ADB Chief Economist Ifzal Ali in launching the 2006 edition of ADB's flagship annual economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO). “Focused investment aimed at breaking infrastructure bottlenecks in key economies would also open the door to stronger growth in the medium-term,” he said. ADO 2006 forecasts overall growth for the 43 countries of developing Asia of 7.2% in 2006 and 7% in 2007.

Afghanistan continued its solid track record of macroeconomic and structural reforms in 2005 and elections were held without major disruptions. Growth is projected to remain strong at 11.7% in fiscal year (FY) 2006 and 10.6% in FY2007. Inflation is forecast to moderate to 8% this year and 5% in 2007, while the budget and balance of payments lessen their heavy dependence on grant assistance. Though insecurity and the opium trade hinder nation building, medium-term growth prospects are favorable. Transforming the economy to a sustainable footing will require the Government’s continued commitment to its reform agenda and greater effort to promote private sector activity. GDP growth in Bangladesh is forecast at 6.5% in FY2006, reflecting a steady increase in domestic and external demand, with a moderation to 6% in FY2007. In this period inflation should remain in the 6%-7.5% range as subsidies in domestic prices of petroleum products are reduced. Continued large worker remittances will help keep the current account deficit at 1% of GDP. Major development challenges need to be tackled if investment is to rise and move the country onto the higher growth path required for rapid poverty reduction - including substantial improvements to infrastructure, public policy, and governance.

Bhutan has established a record of sustained solid growth based on utilization of its vast hydropower resources for export, sound policies, and strong support from development partners. GDP growth is expected to rise about 2 percentage points each year to 10% in 2006 and 12% in 2007, as production from the 1,020 megawatt Tala hydropower project is phased online. India’s growth has averaged more than 8% over the past three years driven by broad–based domestic demand and expansive business dynamics. GDP is projected to grow 7.6% in FY2006 and 7.8% in FY 2007 as consumption and investment demand are slightly held back by price adjustments to reduce domestic petroleum subsidies and somewhat higher interest rates. India faces two key policy challenges as it continues its structural transformation. First, it must maintain consolidation of its fiscal position while ensuring spending on infrastructure improvements to support industry and services development, and investment to advance rural productivity and human development. Second, it needs to improve the investment environment by lowering the cost of doing business.

The Maldives was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami and GDP is estimated to have fallen 5.5% in 2005. This followed a strong performance in 2004 with robust growth, increasing per capita income, and macroeconomic indicators that reflected prudent policies. GDP is expected to grow 9% in 2006, moderating to 6% in 2007. In Nepal the economy faltered in 2005, reflecting a weather-related decline in paddy production, disruption caused by insurgency, a downturn in tourism, and continued weak growth in industry. GDP growth is forecast to slow to 2% in FY2006 because of poor weather affecting production of both winter and summer crops. Growth is projected to pick up to 3.4% in FY2007, assuming normal weather and greater public and private investment. The outlook is hostage to the insurgency and political instability. Pakistan grew 8.4% in 2005, its fastest rate of growth in the past two decades, but inflation also pushed higher and the current account slipped from surplus to deficit. Growth is projected to soften to 6.5% in FY2006, mainly due to slower agricultural output, and to pick up to 7.3% in FY2007. A tightening of monetary policy is expected to bring inflation down to 8.5% this year and to 7.6% in 2007. The medium-term outlook is favorable for growth in the range of 6%-8%, assuming continued robust performance in economic management, greater investment to ease infrastructure bottlenecks, continued security and political stability.

The economic impact of the tsunami on Sri Lanka was muted, despite its devastating human cost. Talks between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in February 2006 have improved the overall climate on the status of the ceasefire. Accordingly, GDP growth is forecast at 5.3% in 2006 and 5.2% in 2007; performance in line with the long-term trend. Inflation is projected to remain high at 8%-9% as administered prices for petroleum products and power are increased to reduce subsidies.


From http://www.adb.org
04/06/2006

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Stability, Says ADB Chief Economist

With nearly half of its workforce underemployed or unemployed, the development debate in Asia is shifting from concerns over economic growth to creating ‘productive’ employment, the chief economist of the Asian Development Bank has said. Ifzan Ali cited as an example India's ruling BJP's ouster in 2004 elections despite rapid growth rate chalked up during its term. The party had banked on growth to call for snap polls but it was "voted out because voters got insulted that anybody could ever dare talk about a 'shining India' when 700 million people live below USD two a day," he said.“ What we are seeing in China today is something very similar -- a recognition that the social contract will break down unless the lines of the marginalised are improved. "To maintain social stability and economic growth, Asia had to create about 750 million ‘productive and decent jobs’ in the coming decade, he told a Washington forum organised by the ADB and the Institute of International Finance.

Ali said a bank study on labour markets to be released in a week would show that by 2005 end, of an Asian workforce of 1.75 billion people, ‘very conservatively’ 500 million people were underemployed and unemployed. Compounding the problem was a forecast that over the next 10 years, 245 million people would join the workforce as new entrants, he said. Considered under utilisation of labour, under employment is a ‘huge problem’ in developing Asia. Ali said the whole issue of underemployment hinged around underinvestment in the rural sector and in agriculture particularly. Another trend in Asia was that the booming manufacturing sector was creating lesser jobs than during the region's first wave of industrial growth in the 1970's.


From http://www.dnaindia.com
04/11/2006

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Asia-Pacific Leads in Biotech

Growth of the biotech sector in Asia-Pacific region outpaced its performance in other parts of the world, with an unprecedenting 46% increase in revenues. Globally, the revenues of publicly-trading biotechnology companies surpassed $60 billion for the first time in the sector's 30-year history, the Ernst & Young Global Biotech Report 2006 said. In 2005, Asia-Pacific has become the first region to reach aggregate profitability in biotech. China and India continued to attract attention and deals, motivated by the desire to increase access to these large and growing drug markets, and by the need to lower the costs of drug development. According to the report, number of deals in vaccines were energized by concerns around avian flu, SARS, and biodefense products, while looming patent expirations led to more deals in generics. Utkarsh Palnitkar, industry leader, Ernst & Young India said: "India's generic firms are positioning themselves to play a big role in the evolving biogenerics market.

With our advantage in IT and access to well-trained and relatively less expensive human capital, India is also well poised to become a hub for processing and managing clinical data. Further, stem cell research will help us create a niche". India is moving from label extension support centre to include global pivotal studies and the growing generics industry is boosting the flow of pharmacokinetic studies to the country, the study said. While stem cell research has raised some debate in the West, investments have been flowing to India in this field. Strategic emphasis in India has shifted to develop new vaccine delivery systems, instead of manufacturing vaccines in bulk to maintain cost competitiveness.


From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com
04/12/2006

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Asia: Public Enemy Number One for Spam

Asia tops the chart as the world's biggest spam relayer with Europe hot on the heels of North America in second place more spam is now relayed from Asia than any other continent according to the latest research from IT security company Sophos. Asia accounts for 42.8 percent of the spam received by Sophos' global spam monitoring network with North America in second place with 25.6 percent, the company claimed on Thursday. Two years ago North America was responsible for over half of the world's spam. Now North and South America combined don't come close to Asia's percentage, said Graham Cluley, Sophos' senior technology consultant. Cluley added that Europe is also becoming a major relayer of spam and now transmits almost as much as North America, at 25 percent. "I won't be surprised if Europe overtakes North America next month," he added. On a country-by-country basis, the US still relays most spam, at 23.1 percent. China and Hong Kong come second with 21.9 percent of global spam, while South Korea is third at 9.8 percent.

China has many computers running older versions of Windows, which contributes to the levels of spam, as machines running older versions of the OS are more easily exploited by spammers. South Korea is a particularly tempting target for spammers due to its advanced technology infrastructure and the economic rewards of setting up networks of zombie computers, or botnets, said Sophos. "South Korea has a fantastic Internet structure with immensely fast connections, and so it is a goldmine for spammers wanting to create botnets," said Cluley. A ZDNet UK research report released this week revealed that despite advances made in security technology, there has been little or no reduction in the time IT professionals are spending trying to protect their business systems from issues such as spam and viruses. "The top ten viruses in the past ten months are really old, which suggests the human race isn't winning the war against viruses and spam," said Cluley. "Some people just simply aren't bothered, and they are the ones bombarding the rest of us."

However Cluley admitted that Microsoft has made some big differences with XP Service Pack 2, which has made it harder for hackers to break into Windows systems because a rudimentary firewall and automatic updates are enabled by default. Antivirus company McAfee agreed that antivirus vendors and cybercriminals were locked into a stalemate situation. "It's almost like a game of chess," said Greg Day, security analyst at McAfee. "Spammers try to put our customers in check. We put pieces on the board to block them, then they make their next move," Day added. Both McAfee and Sophos agreed that spam was unlikely to disappear, and called for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), businesses and home users to run anti-spam software. ISPs have traditionally been reluctant to block any kind of content, although most of the major players now have some form of antivirus protection for their customers. "It's an issue we've been working on," said Day. "Every person has to protect their own space, but there's a lot of common sense in moving a security level up into the cloud," Day added.

McAfee and Sophos also applauded recent arrests of spammers, but said that more needed to be done in terms of international law enforcement cooperation. "When the prosecutions hit the streets, there was a visible downtrend in spam — but these aren't global laws. It's a step in the right direction, but there's definitely scope to work on this," said Day.

From http://uk.news.yahoo.com 04/20/2006

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CHINA: Democracy Programme "A Success" in Rural Areas

An inter-governmental programme designed to promote basic level democracy in rural China has been a success, authorities said Wednesday. The EU-China Training Programme on Village Governance is one of the country's largest co-operative projects in the political sector. It aims to promote the development of village self-governance, improve villagers, elected representatives and officials' understanding and observance of existing laws and regulations, and also improve democratic elections. "The successful implementation of the programme has promoted the democratic process in rural areas and enhanced the long-term understanding and teamwork between China and Europe," said Chai Xiaolin, a deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce, at yesterday's workshop on village self-governance. Since its inception in May 2001, the programme has organized 280 training courses and workshops on village elections and transparency in village affairs, with these workshops attended by 30,000 participants, according to William Massolin, the programme's EU co-director.

The programme is set to end in May. Acclaimed as a "quiet revolution," China's village self-governance system was first introduced in the early 1980s. In this new rural governance system installed and protected by law, the government relegates administrative power from the rural areas while the villagers are authorized to elect their own village heads and manage and supervise village affairs in an autonomous and democratic manner. It is also viewed as a significant step in China's politics.


From
China Daily 04/06/2006

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Central News Websites Back Internet Self-Censorship

China's central news websites on Tuesday backed the proposal of major Beijing-based portals for self-censorship and the eradication of pornographic and violent Internet content. In a joint announcement, 11 news websites vehemently supported the initiative, saying it represents the aspiration of China's Internet users. "Chinese websites are capable and confident of resisting indecent Internet content," the announcement said. The central websites are China's major channels of Internet news releases and the main sources of news on other websites. "We all agree and actively respond to the joint proposal," the announcement said. The websites also vowed to play a leading role in self-censoring Internet content in compliance with the "Eight Honors and Disgraces", a new concept of socialist morality set forth by Hu Jintao, president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, recently. "We will make the Internet a vital publisher of scientific theories, spread the advanced cultures and promote decency, so as to boost economic growth, maintain social stability, and promote the building of a socialist harmonious society," they pledged.

The websites include Xinhuanet.com, People.com.cn, China.com.cn, Chinadaily.com.cn, and Chinanews.com. Fourteen Beijing-based portals on Sunday said in a joint proposal that they were blocking "unhealthy" content and inspired all portals to join them. They included Sina.com, Sohu.com, Baidu.com, and Yahoo's Chinese website. "We are in a stern opposition to indecent on-line messages that undermine public morality and the culture and fine traditions of the Chinese people," the proposal acknowledged. "No indecent texts and photos, no search engines for such content, no links to indecent websites, and no games involving sex and violence," it promised. The proposal also urged Internet portals to ban illegal, obscene, and "poor taste" photos, texts or audio messages on on-line forums, chat-rooms and blogs. China has approximately 700,000 portals and more than 111 million Internet users. The government has launched campaigns to clean up cyberspace, in a conscientious effort to promote a healthy cultural environment. The People's Daily, a leading newspaper of the country, on Monday published a commentary to praise the proposal.

"It shows the mainstream of China's websites are healthy and positive. They are responsible, competent, and confident in the fight against indecent on-line content," it said. "Only a handful of portals are ... sabotaging the interests of the people and the country," the paper said in its commentary. "It seems that websites with indecent messages have a market potentialand profits, but as they betray the interests of the majority of people, they won't stay long."


From www.chinaview.cn
04/11/2006

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China to Lift 23.65m People Out Of Poverty in 5 Years

China plans to accomplish two poverty reduction targets during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10): securing adequate food and clothing for 23.65 million people and completing poverty relief programs for 148,000 villages. Liu Jian, head of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, released the information at the 2nd session of the fifth China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) council, April 16 in Beijing. In 2006 the CFPA would launch a series of poverty cut activities across China, build stronger volunteer organizations and village archives, and award those with distinguished poverty reduction efforts, Liu said. In 2005, the CFPA totally raised 182 million yuan worth of funds and materials and put in 165 million yuan in relief programs, which directly benefited 493,300 poverty-stricken people.


From People's Daily
04/18/2006

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China Makes Further Progress on IPR Protection

At a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office on Wednesday Zhang Qin, deputy commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), discussed the introduction of China's intellectual property protection in 2005. According to Zhang, 2005 saw a sharp increase in patent applications and approvals. Patent applications continued to rise rapidly with the average annual growth rate being 20 percent over the past five years and representing an increase of 34.6 percent over 2004. The growth rate of applications for 'invention' patents from China was also much higher than those being received in other countries. Enterprises have been identified the main drivers behind the increase in patent applications.In 2005 Chinese authorities investigated and completed 49,412 trademark cases, including 6,770 involving foreign companies -- 23 percent more that the number in 2004, Zhang said. The growth rate of the molecular design register applications was also 9.8 percent higher than last year, he added.

Zhang also explained that trademark applications continued to grow rapidly in China totaling 838,000 cases -- a 10 percent jump on last year. China’s cumulative applications for trademark registration had now reached 4.22 million.The State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) had strengthened administrative law enforcement and investigated a large number of major trademark cases which had the potential to seriously harm people’s health and safety. This was also against the national interests and social and economic order. Statistics show that in 2005, SAIC investigated 49,412 trademark cases, destroyed more than 7,346.75 tons of illegal products and 342 million yuan was paid in fines.Around 235 cases involving 215 suspects were transferred to judicature departments for further investigation. In 2005 the National Copyright Administration developed a series of initiatives to stem the flood of pirated music, audio-visual material and the protection of internet copyright. Meanwhile administrative departments at various levels continue to strengthen day-to-day market supervision.

Last year copyright management departments accepted and heard 9644 cases in total. Of these 9380 were concluded. In excess of 107 million pieces of pirated goods were confiscated. In addition the state council's IPR and Sino-US trade working groups, the National Copyright Administration and Ministry of Information Industry have constituted measures to protect internet copyright.Last year Customs scored a number of major successes as China further enhanced IPR protection. To the end of 2005 there were 6307 successes recorded by Customs. So far this year 1610 articles applied to be IPR registered and of these 1469 were approved.


From China.org.cn
04/19/2006

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Chinese PM Admits Sandstorms Are Sign of 'Ecological Destruction'

Beijingers unfurled their face-scarves and wiped the coating of yellow dust off their homes yesterday after days of sandstorms which deposited on to the capital 300,000 tons of sand from the Gobi desert and dust from the thousands of building sites around the city. By the time the sandstorms whipped Beijing, they had picked up a large dose of heavy metals and carcinogens which, over the past week, caused a suffocating layer of foul air to hang over China's capital. The head of China's environment watchdog warned yesterday that worsening water and air pollution could soon become a political issue and translate into social tension, riot and protests. "The environment has become a focal issue that triggers social contradictions," Zhou Shengxian, the head of the state environmental protection administration (Sepa), told The Beijing News. His views were echoed by Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister. "The succession of dust storms is a warning to us. Ecological destruction and environmental pollution are creating massive economic losses and gravely threatening people's lives and health," he said earlier this week.

The premier said China had no problem meeting economic goals but was faltering on environmental targets. China's sulphur dioxide emissions last year were 27 per cent higher than in 2000, despite the goal set by the government to reduce emissions by 10 per cent over that time. The World Bank says 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China and so far this year the capital has recorded just 56 days with blue skies - 16 fewer than for the same time last year. Environmental damage has sparked widespread anger and many citizens have taken to the streets to protest. Peng Lei, of the conservation group WWF, said China was sacrificing the environment for the fast growth of the economy. "The model of economic development is not sustainable," Mr Peng said. Beijingers unfurled their face-scarves and wiped the coating of yellow dust off their homes yesterday after days of sandstorms which deposited on to the capital 300,000 tons of sand from the Gobi desert and dust from the thousands of building sites around the city. By the time the sandstorms whipped Beijing, they had picked up a large dose of heavy metals and carcinogens which, over the past week, caused a suffocating layer of foul air to hang over China's capital.

The head of China's environment watchdog warned yesterday that worsening water and air pollution could soon become a political issue and translate into social tension, riot and protests. "The environment has become a focal issue that triggers social contradictions," Zhou Shengxian, the head of the state environmental protection administration (Sepa), told The Beijing News. His views were echoed by Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister. "The succession of dust storms is a warning to us. Ecological destruction and environmental pollution are creating massive economic losses and gravely threatening people's lives and health," he said earlier this week. The premier said China had no problem meeting economic goals but was faltering on environmental targets. China's sulphur dioxide emissions last year were 27 per cent higher than in 2000, despite the goal set by the government to reduce emissions by 10 per cent over that time.The World Bank says 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China and so far this year the capital has recorded just 56 days with blue skies - 16 fewer than for the same time last year. Environmental damage has sparked widespread anger and many citizens have taken to the streets to protest.

Peng Lei, of the conservation group WWF, said China was sacrificing the environment for the fast growth of the economy. "The model of economic development is not sustainable," Mr Peng said.


From http://news.independent.co.uk
04/21/2006

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100 Websites Vow to Fight Unhealthy Internet Content

A ceremony was jointly held by over 100 websites in Beijing Saturday to declare "war" against "Internet rubbish" by exposing unhealthy Internet contents. "This brochure listing 100 examples of wrong doings on-line will help people stay away from unhealthy content," said Yang Haocheng, a Chinese student who has returned from his overseas study, attending the ceremony. On the spot, people from 25 websites set up consultancy desks to give the brochures and instructions about how to use Internet scientifically while an Internet supervision center received reports on websites featuring unhealthy content. Liu Zhengrong, Director of the Internet News Service Work Committee under the Internet Society of China (ISC), said the activity is a self-conscious step taken by the Internet industry to prevent an "unhealthy Internet culture" that has had a negative influence on society, especially the younger generation. "The move also responded to Chinese President Hu Jintao's list of honors and disgraces," Liu added.

In recent years, the Internet industry in China has seen remarkable progress with more than 700,000 websites, which increase by 25,300 each year. The Internet has become an indispensable part of people's daily life but is plagued by unhealthy content. China, with 111 million Internet users, is the world's second largest Internet market after the United States. However, a report released by the government said earlier this month that each of its e-mail subscribers receives an average of 16.8 pieces of junk mail a week, which are 60 percent of the total e-mails they receive. "In 2005 alone, we received more than 120,000 complaints from the public, including 68.2 percent about pornography and 8.15 percent about gambling frauds," said ISC Secretary-General Huang Chengqing. "The unhealthy content online severely harmed young people," Huang said, adding China has around 78 million netizens aged under 30, among which 18 and under-18 totaled 18 million. A latest survey shows 13.2 percent of China's young netizens have become Internet addicts. Huang said violence, online chatting, pornography and online gambling are major cyber space attractions to young netizens. Therefore, Internet websites operators and content providers should take the social responsibility to create a healthy environment for the younger generation to get access to the outside world. According to him, the ISC has urged their 2,600 members nationwide to be disciplined when operating websites, and netizens to properly use the Internet.

The nationwide campaign has had an immediate effect, as reports on unqualified websites have increased markedly, said Liu Zhengrong. The number of reports increased to around 1,000, from the previous 300. He stressed that many netizens proposed that the government should encourage people to use their real names on the Internet, improve measures to avoid Internet addiction, promote filter software and enhance the legal system. In 2004, Chinese government kicked off a massive campaign to weed out pornography from the rapidly-growing Internet. In 2005, 11 people were jailed for up to 12 years for running an obscene website in China's largest case of Internet pornography. The website operators of the 99 Sex Forum were accused of posting pornographic pictures, videos and stories, and even opening chatrooms providing information on prostitution throughout China.


From Xinhua News Agency
04/23/2006

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Economic Recovery Gets Double Dose of Good News; Unemployment Down, Prices Go Up

Japan's economy showed fresh signs of robust recovery Friday with the government reporting lower-than-expected unemployment in February and an increase in consumer prices for the fourth-straight month. The double dose of good news helped drive Tokyo stocks to a new five-and-a-half year high. Friday's data was the latest evidence that the world's second-biggest economy is cementing a dramatic comeback after more than a decade of doldrums. Consumer spending, economic growth, and corporate profits have steadily picked up, and the Bank of Japan declared earlier this month that the country has beaten a dangerous downward spiral of falling prices, known as deflation. The overall turnaround helped cut Japan's jobless rate to 4.1 percent last month, down from 4.5 percent in January. The data, released Friday by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, beat expectations of economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, who predicted the jobless rate would fall to 4.4 percent.

The total number of jobless fell on year for the third straight month in February, by 310,000 to 2.77 million people, according to the data. The number of those with jobs rose on year for the tenth straight month, increasing by 480,000 to 62.72 million people. The results highlight firmness in the labor market due to job creation in the services sector and bodes well for consumption, which accounts for more than half of Japan's GDP, analysts said. Japan's economy grew at a brisk 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a year earlier. On a quarterly basis, the economy expanded 1.3 percent, marking the fourth straight quarter of growth. Meanwhile, Japan's core consumer price index rose 0.5 percent in February, from a year earlier, showing convincing progress in the country's battle against deflation. For years, falling prices had eroded corporate profits and workers' paychecks. The up tick also sharpens the focus on the Bank of Japan, which is expected to raise interest rates later this year in an attempt to temper the threat of inflation.

For five years, the central bank has held interest rates at zero to rekindle economic growth, but it said earlier this month it was abandoning that policy because prices are starting to climb again. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe warned that it was still too soon for the Bank of Japan to raise rates. Many lawmakers and business leaders fear doing so too soon will snuff the recovery by making it more expensive for companies to fund expansion. "To raise interest rates dramatically while deflation appears to moderately continue will cause a negative impact on economic conditions, and this is not desirable," Abe told reporters. February's rise in CPI follows increases of 0.5 percent in January, 0.1 percent in December and 0.1 percent in November, according to the data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The stable rise in retail prices and a recent recovery in Japanese land prices comes amid heightened speculation that the Bank of Japan will raise interest rates later this year for the first time since August 2000 to contain inflation or an asset bubble. Abe's one hedge to Friday's good news was noting that the country is still grappling with high unemployment among youth.

"While there are still some harsh conditions, the current employment situation has improved," he said. "I think the results of the reforms are showing, and bud of the economy is emerging."  Investors still rallied behind the data, however, sending the Nikkei 225 stock index 14.32 points, or 0.08 percent, higher to finish at 17,059.66 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, its highest close since Aug. 29, 2000.

From mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp 04/01/2006

 


 

Japan Posts Year-to-year Population Decline for First Time Last Year

Japan's population shrank in the year through November 2005 -- the first annual decrease on record, the health and welfare ministry said Friday, confirming an earlier government prediction. The country's population fell by 8,340 from December 2004 to November 2005, marking the first yearly decline since the government began compiling data in 1899, the ministry said in a statement. However, it added that data for 1944-1946 was missing. The government had said Japan's population of 127 million began to fall for the first time on record last year, fanning worries that future generations of workers won't generate enough tax revenue to support the growing legions of elderly. At the center of the population debate is the question of how to encourage women to have more babies. Japan's average birth rate of 1.29 babies per woman is one of the lowest in the world.

On Friday, the ministry's data also showed that the number of births in the first 11 months of 2005 totaled 971,291, down 43,331, or 4.3 percent, from a year earlier. The number of deaths totaled 979,827 during the same period, up 47,136, or 5.1 percent, the ministry said. The ministry had earlier predicted that Japan's population declined in 2005.In an attempt to encourage women to have more babies, the government began a five-year project last year to build more daycare centers, while encouraging men to take paternity leave. Yet Japanese companies typically expect long hours from workers, and many women with careers feel they cannot meet the demands of both work and family and must choose one or the other. Other factors include expensive housing and education costs.


From mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp
04/08/2006

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Ministry to Upgrade Bird-Flu Risk Status

The health ministry plans to categorize the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has killed more than 100 people around the world as a most dangerous infectious disease, the second virus to be so labeled after the SARS virus in 2003, sources said Friday. The designation allows for enhanced measures to prevent the outbreak or spread of the virus, such as forcing infected people to be hospitalized to prevent outbreaks. The measure was contained in a summary report by a special advisory council on infectious diseases of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Friday. Should bird flu be designated as a Category IV infectious disease, doctors would be required to report immediately to a health center if they diagnose a patient as having been infected. Notifiable infectious diseases are categorized from I to IV, according to their impact on public health.


From www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/15/2006

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Japan in 2nd-longest Economic Expansion

Japan's economy is logging its second-longest expansion since the end of World War II, the country's economy minister said Sunday in the latest in a stream of optimistic forecasts. The upward trend should continue until the summer of 2007, making the current growth streak the longest in postwar history, said Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano. Japan is enjoying a rebound on booming exports and rising consumer spending. Unemployment has been falling, the stock market has rocketed to near six-year highs, and deflation has been reversed, ending a spiral of tumbling prices that have eroded corporate earnings and workers' paychecks. The economy has now been expanding for 51 months, the same span as the so-called bubble era of the 1980s and 1990s, Yosano said. The only longer postwar expansion began in 1965 and ended 57 months later. "The government predicts growth of 1.9 percent," Yosano said on the Asahi Television talk show Sunday Project. "I can easily see how it will be more than 2 percent."

Yosano attributed the recovery to the economic restructuring policies of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a more cautious approach to investment by Japanese companies, and booming economies in China and the United States, big markets for Japanese exports. Japan, the world's second-largest economy, has suffered stagnation for about 15 years since the late 1980s. Its turnaround promises more balanced growth for the world economy, which has relied in recent years on breakneck consumption in the United States.


From news.yahoo.com
04/16/2006

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Japan's Regional Economies in Steady Recovery

Japan's regional economies are in a steady recovery, although some are improving more slowly than others, the Bank of Japan said on Tuesday. Four of nine quarterly reports by BOJ regional branch managers described their local economies as doing better than three months ago. The reports were the first since the BOJ scrapped its ultra-easy monetary policy on March 9.


From asia.news.yahoo.com
04/18/2006

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South Korea Government to Spend $20 Billion to Combat Underpopulation

Because of legalized abortion and the revocation of maternity benefits to women who have a third child South Korea is facing a severe underpopulation problem and will soon spend $20 billion to combat it.Fearing overpopulation problems similar to China's and not wanting to dampen economic prosperity, South Korea 40 years ago began encouraging couples to limit their number of children to two. The nation legalized abortion in 1973 and, in 1984, ended maternity benefits for women having a third child. Now, South Korea has the lowest birth rate of any of the OECD members and is having problems sustaining its economic growth. It also faces the prospect of an aging population and not having enough younger Koreans in the workforce to support them. National Statistical Office figures show the number of births dropped to 476,000 last year from 1 million in 1970. The nation has the world's fastest aging population, the office said. The Korea Economic Institute in Washington says the current problems are the result of the population policies South Korea put into effect long ago. The $20 billion will go towards paying for kindergarten costs for all children and additional financial help for families with three or more children, according to a Bloomberg report.

Some $6 billion will be used to pay for more day care centers while $680 million will go towards helping infertile couples conceive. Bloomberg reports the country wants to increase the number of births to 1.6 per woman by 2010. The country is also considering changes to the nation's tax structure to make it more affordable to have a larger family and to help businesses help large families.


From www.lifenews.com
04/04/2006

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Korea Saw Biggest Labor Costs Increase Between 1990-2004

The Korean economy has yet to enter a full-fledged recovery. But labor costs in the manufacturing sector are found to have increased far more compared to other countries. Many fear the latest trend may create some gloom on the jobs front. Wages for manufacturing workers in Korea grew by the largest margin during the last 15 years compared to workers in the U.S., Singapore and 30 other countries. According to the Bank of Korea, hourly compensation costs for manufacturing workers in Korea rose more than 200 percent in 2004 compared to 1990. It was the highest among 32 countries surveyed in the report which cited data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was also more than twice that of Singapore which had the second-highest wage increase during that period of 99 percent. The United Kingdom trailed behind with 96 percent. The central bank said even the onslaught of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s didn't push down labor costs for Korean workers. Between 2000 and 2003 wages rose 25 percent again, the highest growth rate among the countries surveyed.

BOK officials said however that such a rise in labor costs could be a positive sign by improving living conditions for such workers. However such wage increases could also prompt more Korean employers to lay off workers and head to countries offering lower labor costs, a trend that has already begun to happen.


From http://english.chosun.com
04/12/2006

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Korea Sets Aside 308.9 Billion Won for Patent Technology Projects

The government will set aside 308.9 billion won for patent technology projects in 2006, an increase of 32 percent from 2005, the patent technology commercialization council said on April 12. The council consists of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAF), the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE), the Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA), the Korea Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and other government agencies. It allotted 141.2 billion won for the new product development projects, 63.1 billion won for business startups, 44.5 billion won for mass production and facility investment, 42.5 billion won for evaluation and guarantees and 17.6 billion won for R&D projects. By section, loans take the largest share of the total fund with 149.7 billion won, followed by contributions with 58.8 billion won, investments with 54.5 billion won, guarantees with 35 billion won and subsidies with 10.9 billion won. In addition, the government plans to remove factors that interfere with the commercialization of patented technology by providing a total of 22 indirect support projects, including technology and management guidance, technology certification and guarantees, technology transfers and the fostering of professional manpower.


From www.korea.net
04/15/2006

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Low Birthrate Will Cause Worker Shortage by 2020

South Korea will see falling economic growth potential due to a dwindling workforce amid low birthrates and an aging population, Finance and Economy Minister Han Duck-soo said. Han said the country will lack 1.52 million workers in 2020 as the economically active population will steadily fall in coming years. The country’s growth potential, the maximum growth rate a country can attain without fanning inflation, is expected to fall to as low as 0.7 percent in the 2040s from 2.9 percent in the 2020s and 4.6 percent in the 2000s. “Low birthrate and an aging workforce are big concerns for the economy and society as a whole,’’ the finance minister said at a forum Wednesday. Korea’s birthrate fell to a record low of 1.16 in 2004, lower than 2.04 of the United States and 1.29 in Japan. As a result, society is aging at an alarming speed. Analysts believe it will take only 18 years for Korea to become an aged society, where people aged 65 and over account for more than 14 percent, whereas it will take 72 years for the U.S. and 24 years for Japan.

The average age of productive population, those aged between 25 and 64, will soar to 47.6 years in 2050 from last year’s 42.4. As a result, economic growth is expected to slow down. ”Rate of growth potential will decline from 4.56 percent in 2000s to 0.74 percent in 2040s,’’ Han said. As the population grows old, Koreans’ tax burden will increase and the government will see a fiscal deficit equivalent to 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the 2040s, according to the minister. He said the government will set up measures to tackle the problems, such as helping to support working mothers raise children and encouraging senior citizens to join the labor force. The minister said there is little possibility of a “double dip,’’ or a slowdown of the economy after a brief rebound, as it did in 2004. “The economy is backed up by balanced recovery of domestic consumption and export, unlike in 2004 when the economy depended solely on export.’’ “In spite of high international oil prices and the strengthening of Korean won, the economy will achieve five percent growth rate.’’

The minister advocated the FTA again, as he does whenever there is an opportunity. ”Even when considering losses that the FTA might bring to some economic sectors, an FTA with the U.S. is a must to upgrade our economy.’’ He pointed out that Korea’s market share in the U.S. decreased to 2.6 percent last year from 3.3 percent in 1995, while that of China grew to 14.6 percent from 6.1 percent. “When we opened the market in the 1980s, people said domestic confectionaries would go out of business faced with cookies from overseas. On the contrary, they (survived) and are even being exported to China and Russia.’’ Han said the FTA should be based on national harmony instead of groundless criticism.


From times.hankooki.com
04/19/2006

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MONGOLIA: Nature Protection Campaign Announced

On the verge of the World Environment Day, the Mongolian Ministry of Environment has announced a month-term campaign starting from Aril 20 under the theme Environment - Real Activities. The campaign will focus to restore forests, suspend any crime against environment, intensify the implementation of the Eco Trass National Program, and carry out advertisement activities for the natural protection among the public. The results of the campaign will be concluded every ten days and will be reported to the public. The first ten days will carry out a number of activities to prevent from forest and steppe fires. The second and third ten days will focus to clean rubbish on the surrounding environment and provide the environment with gardens. Families, individuals and organizations, who efficiently took part in the campaign, will be awarded with 500 thousand - one million togrogs.


From http://www.gateway.mn
04/18/2006

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INDONESIA: Tax Officials to Be Tested on New Computer System

As part of an effort to bring the tax service into the 21st century, its 32,000 staff in East Java are to be tested to see whether they can operate the service's new computerized system.Director General of Taxation Hadi Purnomo told reporters Thursday that the new system should reduce the time needed for processing tax returns and payments to only 30 minutes from three days previously. "I don't think that any of our officials will be dismissed if they don't pass the test, but they will definitely have to undergo intensive training for at least three months," he warned. He said that the test was part of the tax office's internal reform program, which was designed to improve the service provided to the public. This was in addition to cutting down on red tape and the introduction of computerization. "We expect that all the tax offices in the country will have been overhauled by 2007. Work will be completed on five more offices this April alone, including the one I just inaugurated here in Malang," he said. A total of 29 tax offices had already been modernized, and were able to serve large, medium and small taxpayers. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani said that reforming and modernizing the tax service would be among the ministry's priorities for this year. She added that the reforms introduced to date had helped increase tax revenues to Rp 82 trillion in the first three months of the year, a jump of 30 percent compared to the same period last year. The government is hoping to raise Rp 416 trillion in taxes this year compared to last year's figure of Rp 351 trillion.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com
04/08/2006

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‘WCIT 2008 Must Be World-Class’

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's hosting of the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) in 2008 must be to international standards, said Science, Innovation and Technology Minister Datuk Seri Jamaludin Jarjis. This is necessary, he said, because it would help maintain the country's reputation in the world of ICT (information and communications technology). WCIT is a biennial global ICT conference under the patronage of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA). “Malaysians should feel honoured that the country has been selected as the WCIT 2008 host because this shows the world recognises our development in ICT,” Jamaludin said.  He said that by successfully hosting the event – which is largely seen as the Olympics of the ICT industry – Malaysia can prove to the world that it is an able competitor in the ICT race. “We can take this opportunity to show everyone our ICT platforms and infrastructure,” Jamaludin said.  According to him, WCIT 2008 is also an important event because it can help attract technology investors to the country. “This is in line with the Prime Minister's highlighting of (the importance of) ICT in the (recently anounced) Ninth Malaysia Plan,” he said.  An influx of investors would contribute to the further development of the nation's ICT industry, which could then become a major contributor to the Malaysian economy, said Jamaludin.

“We should make hay while the sun shines,” he said, adding that a more vigorous ICT industry would also mean more jobs for the many information technology savvy graduates here. The Multimedia Development Corporation, caretakers of the Multimedia Super Corridor, is working with the Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (Pikom) to organise WCIT 2008.  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will be attending WCIT 2006 in Austin, Texas, from May 3-5, and will be bringing home a crystal piece to signify that WCIT 2008 will take place in Malaysia. Abdullah will be accompanied by local industry representatives who will take the opportunity to learn how WCIT 2006 was organised and hosted, so that the lessons learnt can be applied to WCIT 2008. WCIT draws international leaders and decision makers who use the event as a platform to exchange ideas on global IT policies, issues and standards, spotlight trends and future technology developments, as well as drive economic decisions for businesses, universities, organisations, and even countries. (by Jo Timbuong)


From http://star-techcentral.com/
04/10/2006

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9MP: Govt Wants to Draw ICT Players to M’Sia

PETALING JAYA: Under the 9MP, the Government clearly stated its desire to improve on measures to make Malaysia the choice destination for information and communications technology (ICT)-based investments. It also emphasised the country's potential as a global player in the shared services and outsourcing (SSO) industry. In strengthening the development and adoption of ICT among the small and medium-scale enterprises (SME), the Government said it would enhance financing sources and fund programmes as well as strengthen existing ones. Jeffrey Raj, chief executive officer of Cuzzy Advanced Convergence Laboratories Sdn Bhd, said: “Foreign SMEs have shown interest in outsourcing their activities to SMEs in Malaysia. These opportunities would be realised with the improved financing and market access under 9MP.”  The Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (Pikom) said it was confident the ICT industry would continue to enjoy double-digit growth annually throughout the 9MP. Chairman Lee Boon Kok has forecast a 12% growth for the local ICT sector this year.  “The biggest boost for ICT funds is the emphasis given to the computerisation of Government agencies. This will improve processes and lead to greater efficiency in the public sector,” he said. Intel Electronics (M) Sdn Bhd managing director for assembly and test K.C. Yoon said: “The 9MP reinforces Malaysia's ability to increase its competitive edge by moving up the value chain to high technology and knowledge-intensive economic activities beyond manufacturing.”  IBM Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Voon Seng Chuan said the company was keen to support the development of Malaysia into an international SSO hub by investing in its regional operations. “In doing so, we are well positioned to transfer best practices and skilled expertise to Malaysia,” he added. Microsoft (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Butt Wai Choon commended the Government's efforts in promoting personal computer ownership among first time buyers and the lower income groups. He said: “The added boost to the One Home One PC initiative, coupled with cost-effective broadband availability, will certainly drive Malaysia's knowledge economy.”  The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) will focus on the development of corridor networks, encompassing the existing three cyber cities and also the setting up of four new cyber centres. The Government also said it would develop new fields such as the local digital content industry and bio-informatics, the convergence of biotechnology and ICT, and at the same time, pay special attention in promoting “e-dagang” (electronic commerce).  Biotechnology also took the limelight in the 9MP, especially as a new source of wealth creation. With an allocation of RM2bil and special incentive packages for companies holding 'Bio-Nexus' status, the Government aims to turn biotechnology into a new driver of economic growth.  The Government said sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, industrial activities and bio-informatics would benefit from biotechnology.  It has made a commitment to support the development of biotechnology through better investment regulatory framework, improved funding, increased commercialisation of research and development (R&D), greater skilled biotechnology workforce as well as attracting foreign R&D partners.


From http://thestar.com.my
04/01/2006

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IRB Out to Promote E-filing to 3.5 Million Taxpayers

To encourage more than 3.5 million taxpayers to file their tax returns easily, the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) is providing free secured digital signatures and free downloading of Adobe Reader software to facilitate its use. Instead of signing on the printed tax return forms, the Digisign certificates offer the most comprehensive online security coverage on the Internet, according to IRB assistant director Rahimah Abdullah. To e-file a tax return, a taxpayer needs a digital certificate, income tax reference number, Adobe Reader 7.0.5 software, Internet connection and Internet Explorer 5.0 software. The digital certificate with registration slip and Adobe Reader software are provided free and can be obtained from the nearest IRB office.  The digital certificate registration slip contains a serial number and a PIN (personal identification number) from the IRB branch. “Upon obtaining the registration slip, taxpayers need to register the digital certificate,” Rahimah said. “Taxpayers can either use their own computers or computers at the IRB, cyber cafes or work places to register the digital certificate and to fill and file their tax returns via the Internet.”  Taxpayers can also write to the IRB by providing their MyKad numbers and income tax reference and the confidential digicert would be mailed to them. Rahimah said that e-filing was easy, accurate, safe and fast, and the acknowledgement was guaranteed.  “Upon successful submission of a tax return form via the Internet, an acknowledgement letter will be received on-line immediately,” she added. “Save the tax return on a diskette, CD or thumb drive.”


From http://thestar.com.my/
04/04/2006

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SINGAPORE: Companies Rank Well for Work Environment: Survey

SINGAPORE : Singapore employees have some of the best working conditions in the region, according to an independent survey by International Survey Research. In the survey, Singapore companies were ranked first in terms of benefits, internal communication and organisational leadership. Employees in the survey said senior management was able to set clear objectives and directions for the company. With that in mind, fostering commitment and participation among staff was much easier, the survey said. Companies also performed well when the lines of communication were clear between all parties. This meant staff clearly understood their job responsibilities and how their contribution helped the company. The survey also found that manpower policies laid down by the government also helped improve the work environment. This included restructuring the Singapore economy, which involved wage reforms, the Central Provident Fund and enhancing human capital. The survey was conducted over two years and involved more than 280,000 employees in six countries, namely Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
03/31/2006

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Schools to Use E-learning to Continue Lessons in Event of Flu Pandemic

SINGAPORE : In the event of a flu pandemic, students in Singapore won't have to miss any lessons. School is out for Daniel for two days but it's no holiday. His school is testing out its e-learning programme to get students familiar with it. Teachers will be online all day to answer any questions students may have. "The lessons are usually more interesting because they use powerpoint and animate the slides. It's not like the teacher stands there and shouts 'You! Workbook page 13.' When I learn at home, even though the teachers aren't there, some of the notes still contain hints as to what will come out on the tests. But if it's the teachers talking in classes, they will not give hints," said Daniel Fernandez, a primary 5 student at Anglo Chinese Primary. Methodist Girls' School has also recently upgraded its e-learning system. If the school is shut, teachers will upload their lesson slides and conduct tests for students online. There will also be online forums where students can discuss study topics with their peers and post questions which will be answered by their teachers.

"The e-portal system that we are using has a tracking system, it enables teachers to set work for the students as well as track whether the students have done their work and what their scores are if it's a test. 96 percent of students here have broadband access, the remaining few percent who do not have access they should be able to get help from their friends via fax," said Heng Jee Sin, IT head of Methodist Girls' School. But developing an e-system like this does not come cheap. Schools are charged a minimum of $20 000 a year by vendors and some neighbourhood schools say they do not have the resources to pay for this. Furthermore, the number of students in neighbourhood schools who have broadband access at home is also slightly lower. To ensure that all students will have access to lessons in the event of school closure, the Education Ministry says it will support free-to-air broadcast services on television.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/05/2006

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New Web Portal for Chinese Language Teachers Launched

SINGAPORE : In a new milestone for Chinese language teaching, Singapore has launched its first online portal for Chinese language teachers. It aims to bring together over 3,500 teachers to share innovative ways to teach the language, starting with some 1,200 teachers from over 100 schools in the east and the south. This is a partnership between Microsoft Singapore, the Singapore Chinese Teachers' Union and schools. Teaching Chinese language in Singapore has been undergoing a review, and this new online portal is one way to help teachers cope with changes to the way they teach by allowing them to share lessons and ideas across schools. Sadi Yeo Guat Kwang, GPC Education member and executive secretary of the Chinese Teachers' Union, "One big concern is that it may actually increase the workload of teachers. A better way is -- for those who have already come out with innovative ideas, we should encourage them to share, so we do not have this problem of duplicating effort of everyone. Once we pool all together it will be more effective." Said Barney Lau, managing director of Microsoft Singapore, "You have communities of teachers coming together in a like-minded way to share information. Second of all, it allows teachers to search for information and documents and materials. And third of all it allows storage, submission and alteration of documents."

Teachers can log on to the website to gain access to a library of resources, including articles, tutorials and learning materials. Parents are also encouraged to participate in a special forum to exchange ideas and experiences. The Education Ministry says it is working towards similar portals for Malay, Tamil and English. And it is encouraged by the work Chinese language teachers are already doing incorporating IT into the curriculum. Said Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, "We're really putting emphasis on the teachers themselves, allowing teachers to use IT as they wish, to build on their own strengths, rather than having to adapt themselves to IT. IT must not be forced; it must not be something not natural to the teacher." The technological innovation doesn't just stop here. There are plans to link up this portal with similar ones in countries like China to encourage more cross-border collaboration and to boost Singapore's status as an education hub.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/08/2006

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BANGLADESH: E-health Recording Is Possible in the Context of Bangladesh

Prime Minister KHALEDA ZIA on Sunday inaugurated compact disc (CD) and website of digitized Bangladesh Government forms to make those available to people without hassles, as government gradually goes online, reports UNB. Address of the website is http://www.forms.gov.bd With UNDP assistance the Prime Minister’s Office took the initiative of developing CD and website of digitized government forms under a project on ‘e-citizen service’ as part of multifarious activities of e-government of Bangladesh aimed at increasing transparency and accountability of the administration. The e-citizen service is being introduced under the UNDP-aided project for strengthening the ICT system at Prime Minister’s Office. Under this initiative, widely used various government forms would be digitized in phases. Some 250 to 500 types of forms will be digitized within three years, out of total 1200 government forms of various categories, according to a concerned official. The website has been developed to make the digitized government forms available to people having access to internet while these forms published in CD media for areas still out of reach of internet network. The published CD would be distributed for free through government and private institutions so people can get those without having to queue up at the gates of government offices. Prime Minister KHALEDA inaugurated the website and CD of digitized forms by pressing the mouse of a computer at the PM Office on the first day of her office after EID-UL-FITR vacation. The Prime Minister noted that the introduction of the website on digitized government forms is a big progress on way of multifarious activities of the government, which would increase transparency and accountability of the administration. “Government service would reach people more easily following the introduction of the website and CD,” she told the function, attended by the country representative of the UN agency for development promotion. The Prime Minister thanked the UNDP Resident Representative, Jorgen LISSNER, for extending support to the project. Responding, LISSNER expressed his satisfaction being involved with this venture, which takes governance on a higher plane in this information age. Prime Minister KHALEDA ZIA is the chairperson of the National ICT Task Force while her Principal Secretary chief of the steering committee on implementation of the taskforce decisions. PM’s Principal Secretary Dr KAMALUDDIN SIDDIQI, Secretary KHANDOKAR SHAHIDUL Islam and project director of the ICT project at the PMO Engineer MAHBUB SARWAR were present.

 

From http://www.digitalopportunity.org/ 03/30/2006

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Digital Divide Creating Imbalance in Society

Top policy makers yesterday termed digital divide dangerous for the country, saying it is creating imbalance in the society. "Digital divide is already existing in Bangladesh and widening very fast. Majority of the people do not have access to computer and education...it is very dangerous," said Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, principal secretary to the prime minister, speaking at a consultation meeting. It will have an adverse impact on the society in the long run, he felt. "We are a homogeneous society. But lack of access to computer education is going to create imbalance in the society." The principal secretary termed information and communication technology very important for improving governance and reducing poverty not only in Bangladesh but also the South Asia. "We must use ICT in improving governance and alleviating poverty," said Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, adding that Bangladesh has problems in the ICT sector, although there have been some progress.

Bangladesh Friendship Education Society (BFES) is hosting the three-day 'The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Regional Consultation Meeting on ICT Policy in South Asia' at Brac Inn in Dhaka. Mian Mushtaque Ahmed, secretary of the Ministry of Science and ICT, spoke at the meeting as special guest while Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelly, advisor to BFES and chairperson of the Center for Development Research, Bangladesh, presided over. Mian Mushtaque said Bangladesh is lagging behind in the ICT sector in many ways, seeking suggestions from the panels participating in the meeting how Bangladesh can reach out rural people in ICT use. Willie Currie, communications and information policy manager, and Karen Banks, networking and advocacy manager of APC, also spoke at the inaugural session.


From http://www.thedailystar.net/
04/20/2006

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INDIA: India Ranked 40th in Global ICT Index

NEW DELHI: Despite all the hullabaloo about India's prowess in IT and sky-rocketing telecom subscriptions, the country still figured at the bottom rung (rank 40) in the World Economic Forum's Global Information Technology Report 2005-2006. US topped the list, followed by Singapore, Denmark and Iceland at second third and fourth positions, respectively, in the report released on Tuesday. India's ranking at 40th position amongst 115 economies remained largely unchanged. In fact, India slid one rank from last year's 39th position. China's rank dropped 9 positions from 41 last year to 50 th position this year. US regains the top position in the rankings, reflecting an impressive performance in the areas of ICT physical infrastructure and high levels of business and government usage of the latest technologies. US topped the rankings for the third time in five years. Last year, US was ranked fifth on the list. The US also stands out for ready availability of venture capital.

Singapore had topped the list last year. Singapore benefits from an excellent regulatory environment and exemplary macroeconomic management. Singapore apart, Asia and the Pacific also did extremely well this year with Taiwan in 7th place, gaining 8 positions from last year and in the top ten for the first time, followed closely by Hong Kong (11), Korea (14), Australia (15) and Japan (16). Nordic countries maintained their positions at the top of the rankings, with Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden in third, fourth, fifth and eighth places respectively. Nordic countries have registered consistently high ICT penetration and have occupied places in the top ten positions over the last five years. Estonia leads the eastern European countries with a rank of 23 out of 115 (gaining two positions from last year), thanks to its excellent political and regulatory framework for ICT. The highest ranking Latin American countries are Chile (29), Brazil (52) and Mexico (55).


From http://www.financialexpress.com/
03/29/2006

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Large Outsourcing Orders Push Top IT Service Company Net Profit by 50%

MUMBAI: TCS, India's No 1 IT services company, announced its best ever sales and profit growth in five years on the back of large outsourcing orders. For the year ended March 2006, TCS'income grew 36% to Rs 13,252 crore ($2.97 billion), while the net profit jumped up 50% to Rs 2,967 crore ($649 million). Earnings per share (Re 1 paid up) rose to Rs 60.6 per share from Rs 42 last year. The company also announced its first bonus issue in the ratio 1:1, after being listed in the stock markets in 2004. The IT services behemoth integrated Tata Infotech a sister concern with revenues totalling Rs 700 crore, into TCS this quarter. The company's managing team also painted a rosy picture for the year ahead, saying that sales growth is expected to continue at current levels while margins are likely to expand. The company which added 89 clients in the quarter ended March 2006 and 330 clients this financial year, sees a committed order book, increased global IT spending and the ability to cross sell their products to existing clients to keep up its sales growth. It already has a letter of intent from an undisclosed company that will give $100 million in business each year, for the next five years. The last quarter was marked with an all round good performance.

An increase in services offered, larger orders from overseas clients marked by a volume growth of 8.2%, stable pricing and faster ramp up from their top 10 large accounts were main reasons the TCS management team attributed to their good show. In the next few years, the company expects a strong growth in revenues from their three acquisitions this fiscal - FNS, Combicrom and Pearl. Combicrom is still not a profitable company, while FNS is slowly regaining its lost market share in the banking space. They also said their joint venture with the Chinese government was well on track and has been negotiated. The final deal is expected to be signed in a month or two. TCS will host 400 employees in TCS. TCS with a marketvalue of $19.5 billion said that they just about missed hitting the much expected magical $3 billion total income mark due to the appreciating dollar. "We have just about missed the $3 billion mark, all thanks to the exchange rate,"said S Ramadorai, CEO and MD. TCS, said that they are the first Indian company to cross the 60,000 employees mark. They currently have 62,000 employees and plan to add another 30,500 during the next year. 9,200 employees joined TCS through campus recruitments. The company also said they had the lowest attrition in a sector riddled with problems. TCS said that this quarter on, they are seeing rising revenues from Europe. "Europe contributed 24% of revenues, up 2% from the last quarter," said N Chandrasekaran, executive vice-president.


From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
04/17/2006

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Indian Economy to Grow by 7.5-8% in 2006-07

MUMBAI: India's economy is likely to expand between 7.5 and 8 per cent in the current fiscal year on a sustained growth in farm and industrial production, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Tuesday. India's economy grew by a robust 8.1 per cent in the fiscal year ended March 31, up from 7.5 per cent the previous year. The central bank said in its annual policy statement for 2006-07 that inflation would be contained within 5-5.5 per cent in the current fiscal ending March 2007. "The recovery in agriculture, alongside the sustained momentum of growth in industry and services, augurs well for the Indian economy," said RBI governor YV Reddy while unveiling the policy. "There is a gathering confidence that the economy is possibly poised on the threshold of a structural step up in the growth trajectory. "The containment of inflation and particularly inflation expectations has boosted growth prospects in an environment of stability and confidence."

On downside risks to the economic outlook, the central bank said sustaining the growth of manufacturing, the key driver of industrial recovery, would depend critically on bridging large gaps in the physical infrastructure. Getting infrastructure right will hold the key to achieve the growth targets in fiscal 2006-07 and 2007-08, assuming that the global economic environment remains conducive, said the policy statement. "Fiscal policy will obviously have to play a key role in improving the delivery of infrastructure services, in fostering public-private partnerships and in crowding in private investment," it said. Progress in fiscal consolidation will also be a key factor in achieving higher growth, said the RBI. The larger market-borrowing programme of the government envisaged for the current fiscal year will have to be managed in the context of the overall liquidity situation and, particularly, the conditions in the debt market.


From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
04/18/2006

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Microsoft Displays India-specific Solutions

Software giant Microsoft said that it would launch the latest version of its Office software suite by the end of the year and the company's India development centre has made a significant contribution to it. "India development team has played a key role in developing Office 2007. It has designed tools that support unified communication, pocket applications for mobile usage and has worked on many other functionalities," Mr Jeff Raikes, President, Microsoft Business Division, Microsoft Corporation said. Microsoft has 1,100 people at its India development centre. Meanwhile, Microsoft Corporation also previewed the 2007 Microsoft Office version, which is currently in beta phase.

Mr Raikes also inaugurated a Microsoft Office solutions showcase featuring 18 information worker productivity solutions developed by its local Independent Software Vendors (ISV) partners for the Indian market. Based on the theme `Innovating for and with India', these ISVs demonstrated their applications in areas such as e-governance, education and defence, in addition to specific vertical solutions for the banking, publishing and retail sectors. The event also featured applications for everyday users such as a financial solution and Office Student & Teacher Edition. The applications on exhibit included the e-gram application by the Department of Panchayat, the National Manuscript Project by National Informatics Centrer (NIC) etc.


From The Hindu Business Line
04/19/2006

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World Bank Supports Agriculture Development in India

The World Bank approved two credits for a total of US$200 million for the National Agricultural Innovation Project. It is designed to assist the Government of India transform the agriculture sector from being primarily focused on food self-sufficiency to a more market-oriented approach in support of poverty alleviation and income generation. In the last ten years the Indian agriculture sector has undergone considerable changes. National food self-sufficiency has been achieved and the market demand for products such as fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, fish, milk, sugar, and edible oils has increased and is encouraging diversification of production. While agricultural development has long been supply oriented, its future will be more market driven. At the same time, analyses show that with the limited scope for area expansion, enhanced productivity, profitability, and competitiveness will be the main sources of future agricultural growth.

The challenge for Indian agriculture now becomes to increase profitability, competitiveness, and income earning capacity in a market driven system. “Over 200 million poor people in rural India depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods,” said Michael Carter, World Bank Country Director for India. “In order to generate additional income and employment for these rural poor, market-driven agricultural development is critical. It will help increase producer incomes, employment opportunities and wages, and ultimately reduce poverty.” The project will support the development and implementation of agricultural innovations through collaboration among farmers, private sector, civil society, and public sector organizations. The project responds to the goals addressed in India’s National Policy on Agriculture (NPA) and the Tenth Five-Year Plan, which place high priority on raising agricultural productivity as a means to achieve agricultural growth and reduce rural poverty.


From http://southasia.oneworld.net/
04/19/2006

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SRI LANKA: Telecom Resumes CDMA Service

Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) has received legal backing to resume offering its CDMA wireless in the local loop (WiLL) services to new customers after sales were suspended because of a government order to reduce tariffs. SLT stopped marketing new CDMA connections on 21 March, after the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) set a deadline for the day before to cut charges from LKR18,400 to LKR12,000. After consultation with its lawyers, SLT said that it was resuming WiLL sales as of 1 April at the original price.


From http://www.telegeography.com/
04/03/2006

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World Bank Grant to Empower Sri Lankan Youth

The World Bank Monday gave out US$35,000 grant to six projects that will help youth development work in Sri Lanka. In its second consecutive year, the 2006 Small Grants Programme aims to build capacity and develop management skills among Sri Lankans within the ages of 18-30 years, the bank's Country Director Peter Harrold told reporters. The Sri Lanka Youth Parliament, based in Colombo, walked off with two grant cheques each worth US$5,000 to expand their regional and national level programmes. The other five got US$5,000 each for a variety of projects ranging from training youth in the Sinharaja Forest area to become local tour guides to upholding children's rights in the estates of Parakaduwa.

The recipients for 2006 are:  Sri Lanka Youth Parliament, Colombo; The Sri Lanka Environmental Journalists Forum, Kotte; Sri Lanka Jathika Peace Development Society, Haliela; Derana Community Development Foundation, Waskaduwa; Organisation for Environment & Children Rights Preservation, Parakaduwa, and, Total Development Association, Hambantota.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 04/20/2006

 

 

PAKISTAN: Efforts to Promote Adult Education in Pakistan

Under the Adult Literacy Campaign launched jointly by the Literate Pakistan Foundation (LPF) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC), a books’ distribution ceremony was held at the SSGC regional office. Executive District Officer (Education) Larkana Muhammad Azam Memon was the chief guest on the occasion, who lauded in his speech the SSGC for giving a boost to adult education, especially among the villagers, under its Corporate Social Rehabilitation Programme (CSRP). He said the opening of adult literacy centres would enhance the literacy rate in Sindh and Balochistan and also help the government’s projects launched in this regard continue successfully. He invited other departments to follow the example of the SSGC. The EDO assured that the education department would extend its cooperation to make the projects of adult education a success. Regional Manager SSGC Larkana Saeed Ahmed Larik said the company was also giving scholarships for higher education to deserving students.


From http://www.jang.com.pk/
03/29/2006

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Regulator Orders PTCL to Cut International Bandwidth Rates to Boost Broadband

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has directed fixed line incumbent PTCL to review and reduce its international bandwidth rates to bring tariffs in line with the rest of the world to help increase the take-up of broadband services in the country. The PTA says that there have been substantial reductions in IP and international private leased circuit (IPLC) bandwidth rates across the globe, and that tariffs in Pakistan need to be revised accordingly.


From http://www.telegeography.com/
04/10/2006

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AZERBAIJAN: New Cellular Operator to Launch Services in August

The new cellular operator, Azerphone company with partial foreign capital operating in Azerbaijan since January will lunch its services to customers in August, officials said. “The company is currently setting up its infrastructure. Since the two cellular providers working in the country [Azercell and Bakcell] are not meeting the demand, some problems emerged in the network. But they will be gradually solved with the new provider’s operation,” Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Ali Abbasov told reporters on Thursday. Abbasov said the demand for cellular services is not being met due to the growing number of mobile phone users and calls. The overloads in the network tells on the quality of communication. The minister hopes that the new company will bring cutting-edge technologies to Azerbaijan. Azercell and Bakcell also have plans in this regard, he said. Azerphone plans to invest $300 million in the country over two years. It was set up a joint venture, with Siemens holding a 30% stake, while British companies Extel and Celex Communications - 60%, and local provider Aztelekom 10%. Two operators are working in Azerbaijan’s mobile communications market. Bakcell company is fully owned by Israeli GTIB-96 company, while the state-owned share in another cellular communications provider, Azercell Telecom Joint Venture, is to be privatized this year. (by AssA-Irada)


From http://www.bakutoday.net/
04/14/2006

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IRAN: ICT Ministry Planning Huge Expansion

Minister of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Mohammad Soleimani said here on Tuesday that the ministry is planning to double the number of fixed and mobile phone lines by next March. According to Iran’s Economic News Agency, the minister further said that the fixed phone network has not developed adequately in terms of value-added services in recent years, stressing that the telecommunications infrastructure remains poor in rural areas. He said the infrastructural shortcomings need to be overcome through greater teamwork, adding that if one part is ailing, the others will have to try to make up for it. Soleimani said, however, that it is not possible for the ministry to meet the entire demand for ICT services. “For instance, those who have recently registered for SIM cards expect us to give them their SIM cards within a day,“ he said, adding that demand is so high in large cities like Tehran that the telecommunications services will have to grow significantly.

“If we extended the deadline for SIM card registration by another two weeks, our expectation is that 1.5 million more people would have registered,“ he explained. The state and private sectors have been tasked under the Fourth Five-Year Plan (2005-2010) to provide 18.5 million fixed phone lines. The private sector’s share is 3.5 million. By March 2005, there were some 17.7 million fixed phone lines in Iran, all of which were provided by the state sector. He also said that 3.4 million land phone lines have been offered to subscribers nationwide since last March. The private sector provided 400,000 fixed phone lines in the year to March 2006. There is also a major domestic private sector mobile phone operator in Iran, which has pledged to provide 10 million SIM cards over the next few years.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/
04/19/2006

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Iran Seeks “National” Internet

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Suleimani announced on April 19 that Iran intends to establish a "national" Internet this year, state television reported. He explained that the current requirement that information on a website must exit the country and then return in order for users to access it is quite costly. "Our people may not feel the problem, but this problem is there anyway," he continued. Suleimani went on to say that this effort began a few months earlier with the connection of the country's universities to a fiber-optic network. BS


From http://www.rferl.org/
04/20/2006

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KAZAKHSTAN: National Telephone Company Recommended to Pass Networks to State

The Agency for Computerisation and Communications of RK has decided to recommend reorganisation to JSC "Kazakhtelecom" during which main networks and channeling will passed into the State management, Agency for Computerisation and Communications of RK has informed Kazakhstan Today. It also recommends to create a working group from representatives of Ministries, other authorities, the National Telecommunications Association of Kazakhstan, and JSC "Kazakhtelecom" that would work out propositions for the plan of events related with restructuring and demonopolising JSC "Kazakhtelecom."


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/
04/19/2006

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AUSTRALIA: Digital Radio to Be Introduced by 2009

Digital radio services – which will offer consumers more choice, better sound quality and innovative new services - will commence in Australia by 2009, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, announced today. “In October 2005 I gave a commitment to Australian radio broadcasters and their listeners to develop the necessary legislative and planning structures to implement digital radio as soon as possible,” Senator Coonan said. “I am pleased to announce the next steps in the implementation process which will result in services commencing in the six state capital cities by 1 January 2009.” The introduction of digital radio requires amendments to the existing radio broadcasting and transmission legislative and regulatory arrangements. New licence categories will be defined and legislation will be required to implement the six-year moratorium on the issue of new commercial digital radio licences in the Broadcasting Services Band.

The moratorium will commence from the start date for services in the state capital markets, and the multiplex licensees will need to achieve specified rollout and coverage requirements in these markets by the end of the moratorium period. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will have the power to plan and licence digital radio services and to oversee digital radio rollout including the development of Digital Radio Introduction Schemes. The Schemes will set out the technical, and other, requirements broadcasters must meet for the implementation of digital radio. The commercial broadcasting sector has expressed a desire to control the multiplexes used to deliver commercial digital radio services. The framework includes an option to allow them to do so, in conjunction with community broadcasters should they choose, and the legislative amendments will provide for this.

The introduction of a multiplex for the transmission of radio broadcasting raises unique competition issues that are not present in analogue. “Accordingly, the legislation must ensure open, efficient and generally give non-discriminatory access to digital radio multiplexes and proposals to achieve this have been developed in consultation with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission,” Senator Coonan said. “A decision on whether specific funding assistance for the participation of the national and wide-coverage community broadcasters in the initial service rollout is necessary will be considered as part of the 2007-08 budget process.” “This will provide the opportunity for a number of technical issues relating to their rollout to be considered in more detail and for the scope for them to share facilities with commercial broadcasters to be explored.” The Government’s policy framework to guide the introduction of digital radio in Australia was announced on 14 October 2005.


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/
04/04/2006

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Australia Leads World in Online Child Protection

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan today welcomed the announcement by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington that Australia was one of only five nations out of the 184 studied to receive top marks for its crackdown on child pornography. This coincides with the release of a new educational campaign called Wise Up To IT - to inform young people of online dangers . The campaign has been prepared by the Australian Government's Internet safety agency – NetAlert – as part of activities to mark National Youth Week. The International Centre for Missing and Exploited children examined the laws of 184 countries with the assistance of Interpol. The countries were examined on the effectiveness of their legislative response to child pornography. Following this analysis, Australia along with Belgium , France , South Africa and the United States were the only countries found to have enacted legislation that was providing significant protection for children. “This legislative response forms part of the Government's three pronged strategy of legislating, educating and regulating to protect children online.

It is pleasing to see international recognition for Australia 's strong stand,” Senator Coonan said. Recognising the importance of education as the primary tool to protect children online, NetAlert today released a new DVD for use in schools. It details real-life experiences of Internet issues affecting young people including cyber-bullying, scams, cyber-stalking and online grooming. The DVD comes after six months of research by NetAlert and represents four case studies where young people have fallen victim to the dangers lurking on the Internet and offers advice to avoid such situations occurring to others. “It is of the utmost important that children are aware of these issues and ensure they and their parents actively take steps to prevent these scenarios happening to them,” Senator Coonan said. NetAlert worked closely with The Online Child Sex Exploitation Team, Taskforce Argos (QLD), and the Australian High Tech Crime Centre to accurately represent the case studies in the DVD and provide strategies to help young Australians manage the risks while surfing the Internet. “With this useful resource parents and teachers will be able to openly discuss these issues at home or in the classroom and together gain a better understanding of the problem,” Senator Coonan said.


From http://www.dcita.gov.au/
04/07/2006

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$4.4bn 'Not Enough' to Fix Farming Mistakes of the Past

MORE money is needed to deal with intractable land degradation than the $4.4billion already spent by the Howard Government, according to a review of two key federal environmental programs. The report into the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan on Salinity found the programs fell short in dealing with farm areas needing structural adjustment. The sustainable use of natural resources by agriculture is a key objective of both programs, as farmers manage over 60 per cent of Australia's land mass. The review, obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws, found the regional bodies used to deliver the programs had been valuable, but added: "There is still a great deal of potential to be realised."

Jim McDonald, a grain grower from Quirindi in northwest NSW, was a member of the steering committee that oversaw the evaluation. He said sustainable agriculture practices were fundamental to farming: "Run the farm down, you run the resource down, you run the business down. It is a simple as that." While there were a lot of good agricultural practices, "there are some that do need improving, and maybe even some that need taking out of the system", he said. The report said areas with intractable problems, such as severe degradation from past land management policies, would need "significant investment in innovative approaches and cost-sharing arrangements beyond current levels of investment".

It also found that structural adjustment, or areas of farming made unviable by past policy decisions or severe economic downturns, had rarely been addressed under the programs. "The size of a farming enterprise was often a good indicator of whether sustainable agricultural practices were taken up or not," the report said. "While market-driven structural adjustment is occurring, there are some areas where this is not happening fast enough." Mr McDonald said the 20 to 30per cent of farmers who made 70 to 80 per cent of the profits could be convinced that better environmental outcomes meant better business outcomes. But the problem came with less profitable farmers, who could not afford to change or remove unsustainable practices.

"Their opportunity costs of changing are far too high and they just cannot afford the changes, whether it is capital machinery or updating technology," Mr McDonald said. He said history had not been on the side of those facing structural adjustment. "They are shunted out one way or another, whether through regulation or tightening of land use and a whole range of other things," he said. "Those people need to be treated sympathetically, they have done nothing wrong." He said it would be best if these land types, which occurred on many farms, were removed from farming and replaced with more suitable uses. But the report warned this would take significant investment above and beyond the current levels.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/
04/10/2006

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60,000 Aussie Jobs to Be Lost

AS many as 60,000 jobs will be lost over two years as manufacturers shift operations overseas. But the historic free trade deal with the US isn't making it any easier for Australian firms to break into the American market, according to industry leaders. Releasing a report on the future of manufacturing yesterday, the Australian Industry Group predicted the proportion of manufacturing work done offshore would jump from 15 per cent to 25per cent by 2008. With firms under pressure to use global supply chains as part of their manufacturing strategies, AiG chief executive Heather Ridout said 30,000 jobs had been lost last year and the same could go again in the next 12 months. "Don't think that companies are not doing a lot of that very rich investment, which is core to their agenda, but they also know they have to become part of global supply chains, whether they are small or large, if they are going to survive," she said. "Last year we lost 30,000 jobs in the industry.

This year we estimate another 4per cent, which is roughly the same amount, will be lost again." Australia's clothing and footwear industries are expected to be the biggest users of offshore production, with almost 40per cent of work to be sent overseas within three years. The outsourcing trend is across the sector. More construction materials, metal products and food and beverages are also expected to be made offshore. But Ms Ridout said the free trade deal with the US had so far only helped Australian companies with existing American connections, leaving other firms struggling to break into the market. Australian firms trying to win US government contracts have particularly struggled, she said. While urging caution about judging the agreement little more than 12 months after it came into effect, she said firms needed to work harder to break into the US market, but the exchange rate was "a major issue for us".

"Over the last 12 months, our members ... that (already) have operations and ... links into the American market, (tell us) that they're doing better," she said. "They're actually benefiting from the agreement. "Those that are trying to break into the market haven't found it any easier and areas like the government procurement market that we hoped would be opened up is proving more problematic." She said that if the Australian dollar fell to between 65 and 70US cents "we'd also have much less headwind to confront getting into the market". Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said Australian manufacturing would change over the decade, with a greater emphasis on hi-tech and high-quality work. The AiG called for the company tax rate to be cut from 30per cent to 25 per cent over five years. The report also argued that in an era where skills are in short supply and the workforce is ageing, tax deductions should be offered to those wanting to retrain or develop new skills.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/
04/20/2006

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Push on for Health Hotline

THE company behind the world's largest healthcare hotline wants to run Australia's first national medical telephone advice service. CAS Services hopes to replicate across Australia the successful NHS Direct medical hotline it runs in Britain to allow anyone in rural or metropolitan areas to seek advice over the telephone on a range of health problems. The federal government sealed a deal with the states and territories in February to set up the revolutionary 24-hour National Health Call Centre Network by July next year. Tenders to help run the free hotline, which will be staffed by nurses, are expected to be called for by the federal government in the next few months. The general manager of CAS Service's Asian division, Helen Doumit, said if the company was chosen to run Australia's health hotline the service would probably be offered first to those living in the bush. "People from every walk of life will use this service," she said. "But rural areas are the ones with a desperate need for these services.

"It would be our strongest recommendation that they at least pilot it in a regional area and then roll it out." The federal and state governments hope that by making the hotline available, hospital emergency rooms will be under less pressure. CAS believes it could set up three main call centres staffed by nurses to handle calls from across Australia and offer advice on specific local health services. All calls between patients and nurses would be recorded for monitoring purposes, but the queries would be kept confidential. As well as services in England, Wales, Scotland and Portugal, CAS operates a trial health hotline with the Queensland government and an after-hours GP service in Tasmania. Its NHS Direct service, which has operated in England and Wales since 1999, receives about 20 million calls a year and has helped reduce the numbers of people turning up at hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

People feeling unwell call the hotline and are asked a series of questions by specially trained nurses who can advise them what to do, including going to hospital. Ms Doumit said the most common calls to NHS Direct were from people worried about a child's fever followed by those with severe diarrhoea and headaches. The nurses working for the hotline use special computer software to help them advise the callers what action to take. While the 24-hour NHS Direct service has been popular in England and Wales, it has been at the centre of some controversy this month over plans to cut hundreds of jobs. Ms Doumit said while some job cuts were expected, most of the losses would probably come from the service's internet arm which provides a host of online health information rather than from among the nurses working in call centres. The federal government has committed to providing $96 million for the Australian service, with the states and territories contributing $80 million over four years.


From http://australianit.news.com.au/
04/20/2006

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Credit Management Code— Protection from High Phone Bills

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today welcomed the registration of a revised code of practice to protect consumers from unexpected high phone bills. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has registered the Credit Management Industry Code to help manage consumer expenditure and usage, and where appropriate, require credit assessments to be undertaken to help determine the most appropriate level and type of service for a customer. “In August last year, I wrote to the CEOs of every major service provider making clear the Government’s expectation of an effective code of practice to protect consumers, especially young people, from unexpected high bills. The CEOs were also informed that the Government would consider direct action if an effective code was not implemented soon,” Senator Coonan said. “I applaud industry and consumer representatives, as well as ACIF, for working together to develop a set of rules to protect consumers.

“Registration of the revised Credit Management code is an important achievement in the Government’s self-regulatory regime for telecommunications. It represents the culmination of a process in which industry and consumer representatives worked together to protect consumers from unexpected high phone bills,” Senator Coonan said. “The revised code will guide industry on how to prevent consumers from getting into financial difficulty, as well as how to assist consumers experiencing financial hardship when paying their accounts.” The revised code will complement existing rules developed by ACMA that require industry to inform consumers about the financial risks associated with premium services, the actions customers can take to lessen these risks, and how to unsubscribe from unwanted services. “Registration of the code means that service providers may now be directed by ACMA to comply with the code rules.

Failure to comply with such direction may attract a substantial penalty,” Senator Coonan said. Registration of the code also means that ACMA is satisfied that the code provides appropriate community safeguards, that adequate consultation has taken place, and that consideration has been given to the views of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, the Privacy Commissioner, industry stakeholders, consumers and members of the public. “The Government will continue to monitor industry developments and respond appropriately in the best interests of consumers,” Senator Coonan said.


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/
04/21/2006

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NEW ZEALAND: NZ Still A Straggler in Broadband Race

New Zealand continues to wallow near the bottom of broadband uptake rankings despite Telecom's doubling of customer numbers in 2005, OECD statistics show. New Zealand placed 22nd out of 30 countries - unchanged from a year ago - in the rankings, which are published twice a year. "What this shows is just how useless all the promises we've had from Telecom are at actually making any change," said InternetNZ president Colin Jackson. "We're not getting any further." Telecom trumpeted in February that broadband customer numbers had doubled in 2005 to 279,000. Chief executive Theresa Gattung said at the time that New Zealand had a strong broadband story and that growth was outstripping the OECD average. Telecom said yesterday the lack of improvement in the rankings was the result of strong growth in other countries. "It shows that it's a really big challenge to get up the ladder," said Telecom spokesman John Goulter. "We put on 72 per cent growth over the year and a lot of countries did as well, so it shows that we've got a lot of work to do."

Prime Minister Helen Clark said in February that improving broadband uptake was a key economic priority. Fast internet access was swiftly transforming the economies of more advanced countries and New Zealand was falling further behind because services here were slow and inadequate, she said. Communications Minister David Cunliffe plans to have a review of telecommunications regulation done by mid-year. He was out of the country yesterday and unable to comment. Broadband market observers again called on the Government to immediately intervene with strong regulatory action against Telecom. They said the only way to boost broadband uptake was through opening Telecom's phone and internet network to rival service providers, stronger regulation of wholesale services, and a structural separation of the company's wholesale and retail divisions. "If the policy framework would promote a stronger set of competitors in the market, that's the only way we'll ever get ahead, otherwise we're going to continue to just maintain our position," said Telecommunications Users Association chairman Graeme Osborne.

"We truly believe that Telecom needs to have a separation of its network operating environment and its commercial arm." The OECD statistics measured the number of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants in member countries as of the end of 2005. New Zealand had 8.1, behind Portugal at 11.5 and ahead of Ireland at 6.7. Iceland surpassed South Korea to take top position at 26.7 while Australia maintained its 17th position with 13.8. The OECD average was 11.7. A year ago, Australia ranked just ahead of New Zealand at 21st, but has since moved up and is growing at double the pace. Telecom rejected the need for regulation and said its recently announced ADSL2+ services, which promise speeds up to 24 megabits per second, would eventually help boost uptake. Telecom has said it would initially invest $150 million to $170 million in the technology, but has not committed to any dates. That has led to widespread scepticism in the industry about the announcement. "They know they're under considerable pressure," Jackson said, and were trying to announce as many things as they could. 


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
04/13/2006

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OECD: Aid to Developing Countries Hit Record High in 2005

“Government aid to developing countries rose almost a third in 2005 to hit a record high of $106.5 billion, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday. But a large portion of the increase was accounted for by debt write-offs granted to Iraq and Nigeria,” Dow Jones reports.“New flows of aid from the 22 rich countries that are members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) rose 8.7 percent to $83.5 billion. The Paris Club of creditor nations, which is largely made up of governments that are also members of the DAC, granted $14 billion in debt relief to Iraq, and a further $5 billion in debt relief to Nigeria. That represented a quadrupling of aid in the form of debt relief compared with 2004.”The Financial Times (UK) writes that “The OECD’s development assistance committee also said last year’s aid figures were boosted by $2.2bn in aid to countries affected by the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Of the promised funds, 60 percent had so far been received by Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the two countries worst affected.”

According to OECD rules, rich governments’ commercial loans such as export credits, count as part of a country’s aid effort when they are written off, even though a borrower country may not be servicing that debt. Non-governmental organizations, including Oxfam, Save the Children and Action Aid, criticize the practice of counting debt relief as aid, arguing that official commercial debt, such as export credits, subsidies the companies of the wealthy countries and is not comparable to spending on activities such as combating HIV-Aids. Reuters adds “Brian Hammond, head of statistics and monitoring in the secretariat of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, told Reuters ‘it is good news and the underlying trend is good b