June 2006, Issue 55
gapw@apcity.org
 
 
  An Interdependent World Will Help Combat Terrorism: PM Lee
Tokyo Inks Action Plan with Central Asian Nations to Combat Terrorism and Drug Trafficking
OECD Urges More Dynamic Government Policies on Employment and Incomes
 
  CHINA: Circular Economy Law to Improve Efficiency
State Council Approves Emergency Response Draft
China Issues White Paper on Environmental Protection
Nobel Prize Winner Robert A. Mundell to Address Asian Economies Speaker Series
Cabinet Approves Draft of Anti-monopoly Law
China's Fiscal Policy Shift Successful
China Considers Ethanol to Supplant Oil, Coal
Chile Vows To Eradicate Child Labor By 2010
China Issues Emergency Bird Flu Control Order
Energy Conservation Law to Be Revised
Officials Expect Energy "Basic Law" in 2 Years
Education of Law-enforcing Personnel Urged
Legislature to Discuss Draft Law on Coping with Emergencies
Draft Law on Legislature's Supervisory Rights Discussed
JAPAN: Law Enacted to Slim Bureaucracy Avoids 'Amakudari,' DPJ Charges
Lawmakers Seek Political Solution to Emigrant Suit
Japan to Conduct 3 Major Antiterrorism Drills
Japanese Gov't Proposes Measures to Address Declining Birthrate
LDP Eyes New Law for SDF Overseas Security Operations
Diet Set to Enact Law to Stem Gender Discrimination at Work
Diet Carries Over Bills to Revise Basic Education Law
20 Laws on Deregulation Tightened for Safety
SOUTH KOREA: Government's Real Estate Policy Dilemma
New Loan Interest Rate Ceiling: 40%
New Fertility Rate Measures Announced
Tougher Measures Set on Corruption in Schools
Minister Forecasts Flexible Financial Measures
BOK Avoids Price-Oriented Monetary Policy
Payments for Councilors Draw Public Outcry
Korea Adopts Social Pact to Battle Low Birthrate
Incorporation Regulations to Be Eased
 
  INDONESIA: House to Fast Track New Disaster Bill
Govt to Increase Education Spending to 10% of Budget
Government Prepares Subsidy for Farmers
Govt May Issue Short-Term Treasury Bills in Fourth Quarter
MALAYSIA: Ministry Draws Up Flu Pandemic Action Plan
Abdullah: 9MP Projects to Start Next Month
PHILIPPINES: House OK¡¯s Bill on Full Poll Automation in 2010
Clark Ecozone Bill Set for Senate Deliberation in July
THAILAND: Govt Unveils Package of Populist Measures
Thai Government to Impose Environmental Taxes
 
  BANGLADESH: Ensuring Governance Key to Development in Bangladesh
BHUTAN: 85th Session to Discuss Media Bill
INDIA: A Need to Re-emphasise the Role of Public Health Care in India
Indian President Advocates ICTs in Police Reform
US Congress Cautious on Indian Nuclear Energy
MALDIVES: Cabinet Recommends President to Ratify SAARC Agreement
DRP Condemns MDP for Role in Blocking Bill on Political Parties
NEPAL: Nepal Government and Rebels to Draft a Constitution
Interim Constitution Drafting Committee to Begin Formal Work from Monday
PAKISTAN: Pakistan Government Allocates Rs 20 Million for Bird Flu Protection
 
  IEAQ: PM to Unveil Reconciliation Plan
IRAN: SEC to Finalize Anti-Drug Policies
KYRGYZSTAN: Premier Submits Draft Constitution
Kyrgyz Parliament Votes for Public Television
Kazakh Parliament Passes Controversial Media Amendments
 
  AUSTRALIA: Govt to Push to Break Up Unviable Camps
Ruddock to Rewrite Sedition Laws
Move to Ease Water Conflict
IR Laws Get Tick from Business Satisfaction Index
Media Reforms Next Year: Coonan
Coonan Details Porn Laws
Govt E-Buying Revised
Government Rejects Early Super Access
Plan to Tie Funds to Bush Hospitals
New Employees to Pay More Towards Super
$51bn Military Plan Unveiled
Spam Act Continues to Protect Australians
Tax Legislation to Be Cut by More than 4,100 Pages
Fuel Tax Concessions Pass Parliament
FIJI:¡¡Social Justice Act and Affirmative Action Under Review
NEW ZEALAND: Govt Wants Toll Cut to 300 by 2010
Small Employer Payroll Subsidy Set
 
  SEAN in Action: Coordinated Emergency Response for Earthquake Victims in Indonesia
Official: SCO Not an Eastern Version of NATO
Asian Development Bank Makes Fighting Corruption a Key Priority
New UN Rights Body Kicks Off, Seeking to Avoid Past Failures
 
  APEC Anti-corruption Officials Pledge Action
Guangdong Province: Improving Accountability
China to Appoint One Mln Construction Safety Supervisors
State Research Plans to Be More Transparent
China Vows to Deepen Int'l Co-op in Anti-corruption
JAPAN: Funding New Customs Centers
Japan to Submit Bills Upgrading Defense Agency to Ministry
Aso Announces Run for LDP Presidency
Students Shying Away from Public Servant Work
Japan to Give Priority to Reform of Police Dept
Koizumi Wants Successor to Continue Reforms
Former President of UFJ Bank Tapped to Head Privatized Japan Post
Gov't Mulling Ex-UFJ Holdings Head as Postal Savings Bank Chief
42 Public Works Projects, Worth Y840 Billion, Axed in 2005
SOUTH KOREA: High Officials Get New Pay Grades
Insurer: Retirees Need More Financial Choices
Innovation Czar Quits, Leaves Void
Roh Names New Procurement Agency
Roh to Public Sector: Compete or Else
Seoul Seeks Welfare Spending Hike
Assembly Approves 19 New Committee Leaders
 
  INDONESIA: Govt Establishes Police Commission
Bird Flu Information Drive a Failure: Govt
LAO: ADB Boosting Lao PDR's Legal System for Dispute Resolution
PHILIPPINES: P2B Now Available for War Vs. Corruption
Customs, BIR Still Corrupt
SINGAPORE: E-Filing to Leverage AI in Government Agency
Singapore Announces US$1.27 Billion E-govt Masterplan
Ministry of Manpower Receives UN Public Service Award
THAILAND: Govt Legal Expert Visanu to Quit
Vietnamese Chief Leaders Appeal to Resign Formally
Vietnam Has New State President
 
  BHUTAN: Civil Service Performance to Be Assessed
INDIA: Education Minister to Strengthen Public Education System
Democracy Searches for Space in India
SRI LANKA: Public Servants Need Not Be 'Tied' Down
MALDIVES: Government Welcomes Inauguration of New Human Rights Council
NEPAL: Government Appoints New Member Secretary in NSC
Govt Forms Committee to Amend Educational Policies
High Level Commission Set to Summon Ex-ministers
 
  AFGHANISTAN: President Replaces Kabul Police Chief
IRAQ: Cabinet Completed, Plans Outlined
IRAN: Majlis Presiding Board Reelected
KAZAKHSTAN: President Sets Up Anticorruption Commission
TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Plans New Prison-Oversight Body
TURKMENISTAN: Officials Prepare for Local Elections
 
  AUSTRALIA: Citizen Rule Eased in Search for Public Servants
Appointment of Member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
COAG Likely to Back Finance Reform Plan
Government Introduces Further Improvements to the Tax System
Re-Appointments to the Administrative Review Council
Howard Staffers Cost $52m a Year: Labor
NEW ZEALAND: New Health Ministry Chief Is Focus of Great Expectations
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Govt Remains Firm on Finance Management
 
  NGOs Lead by Example: World¡¯s International NGOs Endorse Accountability Charter
ITU and Infodev Launch New Module of Online ICT Regulation Toolkit
OECD Offers Guidance for Multinationals in ¡°Weak Governance¡± Zones
Experts and Policymakers Visiting ADB for Clean Energy Week
Innovation a Must for Companies: Nilekani
 
  CHINA: Studing to Reform for Fairer Income Distribution
Hotline for Reporting Party Election Malpractice
Top Chinese Leaders Attend Science Summit
Tianjin: A City of Bold Reforms
China Lags in Global Urban Competitiveness
State Enterprises Launch Public Recruitment
Energy-efficiency Adopted to Evaluate Officials' Performance
Chinese Communist Party Undergoes Democratic Reform to Meet Challenges
JAPAN: LDP Panel Considering Using Consumption Tax for Social Security
LDP Chapters Want Reform Policies Reformed
Medical Reforms Need Work: Editorial
SOUTH KOREA: Roh Stresses Reform Despite Resistance
Consensus on Pension Reform
Economist Urges Reform to Inheritance Tax Laws
 
  INDONESIA: Govt Told to Share Forest Management with Communities
CAMBODIA: Innovative Approaches to Increase Access of Poor Girls to Secondary Education in Cambodia
MALAYSIA: Witness Protection Plan
Government to Mull Over Call to Let Undergrads Join Societies
MCA Plans Political School for Members
PHILIPPINES: Govt Subsidizes Call Center Job Training
SINGAPORE: S$602m Saved Last Financial Year in Government's Economy Drive
GEMS Launches Second Phase of Awareness Programme
More Schools Encouraged to Work with VWOs to Have Social Work Services
LTA Introduces One-Stop Portal for Road Works Approval
New Security-enhanced Malaysian Passport Launched in Singapore
 
  BANGLADESH: Think-tank Identifies 14 Problems Hampering the Country's Economy
BHUTAN: Relocation for Balance Development
INDIA: Knowledge as a Tool Against HIV and AIDS in Rural India
India NGO Launches Disaster Management Initiative
Idea to Provide Shared Access to Rural India
SRI LANKA: Awareness Programme on HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka
Promotion of Accessibility to Built Environment for Persons with Disabilities
 
  AFGHANISTAN: Big Conference on Media Assessment and Planning Due Wednesday
AZERBAIJAN: First Caucasus Banking Show Starts in Baku
IRAN: Economic Policies Need Transparency
TURKMENISTAN: Central Asia Education Forum Wraps Up in Ashgabat
UZBEKISTAN: Forum Considers Reforms in Tax System in Uzbekistan
Round Table Focuses on Financial Sector Reforms in Uzbekistan
 
  AUSTRALIA: Land Rights Reforms in Parliament
Child ID Cards in Swipe at Fraud
Bracks Wants Grants Tied to Performance
Howard Backs School Chaplain Bid
Telstra Changes Long-Distance Charges
Howard Demands State Reform Plans
NEW ZEALAND: Government Plans Fast Track for Medical Training
SOLOMON ISLANDS: First Step Against Corruption: Tax and Duty Exemption Guidelines
 
  Asian Economic Growth May Have Peaked for This Year
Making the Best Choices for Infrastructure
Asian Highway Network Gathers Speed
Critical Choices Today Will Define The World in 2050
Digital Broadcasting Set to Transform Communication Landscape by 2015
Chinese President Calls for Building Harmonious Asia at CICA Summit
E-Commerce Picking Up in Asia
India, China Top Asian Outsourcing Destinations OECD Governments Gave € 225 Billion in Support to Farmers in 2005
Economic Outlook Update Shows Pacific Rim Economic Growth Still Robust
South Asia Can Reduce Poverty by Two-Thirds in a Decade
 
  CHINA: To Reform E-business Education
Bureau Chief Blogs to Protect Environment
China Promises No-barrier Environment for Disabled in 100 Cities
China Dedicated to Raising Women's Economic Status
Online First for Chinese Book
UNESCO Estimates 120M Migrant Workers Contribute 16% of Country¡¯s GDP Growth
Chinese Leaders Call for Better E-governance
Better Online Government China's First Provincial Development Program Passes Environmental Assessment
'Top 10 Executive Brands in China' Survey Shows Nokia, Lenovo, Air China Among Leaders
China¡¯s Population to Peak at 1.5 Billion In 2030S
JAPAN: Government to Nudge Women Back into Workplace
ASEAN Urges Japan to Open Market Wider to Spur Regional Integration
SOUTH KOREA: Female Employment Rate Hits Record High
Korea¡¯s Jobless Rate Falls
MONGOLIA: The World Bank Supports Development of Information and Communications Infrastructure in Rural Areas
Organized Training on Intellectual Property
 
  ATM Networks Unite to Lower Transaction Costs, Service Fees
Local Officials See Positive Impact of Computerization
$200-M World Bank Loan for RP Education
1.6 Million Move Up from Poverty
SINGAPORE: Shared Services Lab Established in Singapore
Coming Soon: High-Definition Programmes on Your PC
National Cyber-Threat Monitoring Centre to Open Next Year
Singapore's Network Vision
VIET NAM: Vietnamese SMEs to Invest $263.3 Million in IT in 2006
 
  BANGLADESH: 'ICT Best Means' to Eliminate Poverty in Bangladesh
Bangladesh Telecom Infrastructure Development Key for Poverty Alleviation
INDIA: Digital Mapping of India on Fast Track
Regulator Issues Wireless Broadband Consultation Paper
India Orissa e-Governance Strategy Identified
Indian State Launches e-Governance Software
Public Private Partnership for e-Governance Enhanced
Millionaires in India Grew by 19.3% in 2005
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka Aims to Attract Fifth Mobile Operator
PAKISTAN: Pakistan¡¯s Varsity Enrolment Among World¡¯s Lowest
PAKISTAN: Online Recruitment Service Unveiled
 
  UZBEKISTAN: ICT Exhibition to Take Place in Mid-September
 
  AUSTRALIA: Stop Aboriginal Culture Lessons: Report
Investment Grows at China Rate
Customs Report on IT Fiasco
Minister Offers $900m for Broadband
Free Software Shields Kids from Cyber Smut
NEW ZEALAND: Zip Codes to Be Introduced Across NZ
 
  IMF to Give More Weight to Asian Vote
East Asia Urged to Develop Equities and Bonds by World Bank
 
  CHINA: Cabinet Gives Go-ahead to Postal Bank
ICBC Prepares for Corporate Restructuring
Yuan Gains on PBOC Hands-off Signal
China Issues 30 Billion Yuan T-bonds
Shanghai Plans Stock Trading Reforms
JAPAN: New Budget Plan Eyes Surplus by 2011
Gov't Planning Budget Reforms
Central Bank's Move Could Be Delayed
BOJ Members Say Need to Gauge Impact of Stocks Fall on Economy
Japan Eyes Sales Tax Revenues for Welfare Costs
Japan Offers Y800 Bin in 2.3 Pct 20-Year JGBs
Massive Budget Cuts Set for '11
SOUTH KOREA: National Debt Continues Its Rapid Climb
High International Interest Rates are Coming
Banks Compete for Residents' Compensation Funds
MONGOLIA: World Bank Contributes $2 Million to Development Gateway Foundation
 
  INDONESIA: Govt Restructures Debts Owed to Central Bank
MALAYSIA: Trust Index for Financial Services
Towards a Developed Bursa Malaysia in 2020
PHILIPPINES: Kiss ¡¯06 Budget Goodbye¡ªDrilon
Govt Marks BOC to Shoulder Tax Collection Burden for 2007
THAILAND: Govt Mulls Pooling State Funds to Finance Loans
Tax Breaks Proposed
VIET NAM: Stock Market Growth Tops 100% Since February 2006
Taxes Cut Under ACFTA
 
  BANGLADESH: World Bank Approves US$111.5 Million for Local Governance Program
Country Is Top Bank Outsourcing Destination, Beating Out China and Singapore in Survey
MALDIVES: Reunion Group Finds $50,000 in Bank
PAKISTAN: World Bank Plans 6.5 Billion Dollar Lending to Pakistan
Pakistan Announces Budgetary Allocation for 2006-07
 
  IRAN: New Tax Law Must Precede Money-Laundering Campaign
KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhstan Aims to Grow Economy by More than One-Quarter by 2008
TURKEY: Babacan: We Completed a Package of Financial and Public Sector Structural Reform with World Bank
Turkish Central Bank Keeps Interest Rates Steady
UZBEKISTAN: Bank Ipak Yoli Introduces New Tariff on Anelik Remittance System
National Television and Radio Company Receives Tax Benefits
 
  AUSTRALIA: Growth and Employment Push Tips for Rate Rise
NEW ZEALAND: Government Surplus above $9 Billion
Inflation Pressures a Growing Spectre
Chronic Deficit Pressuring Credit Rating, S&P Says
 
  Private Capital Flows to South Asia More Than Double Since 2000: Global Development Finance 2006
While Telecom Liberalization and Privatization Are Taking Place in the ASEAN Markets, Korea Has Become a Power House
ADB Warns Privatization of Railway Assets Too Risky
12 Asian Countries Sign Agreement to Combat Piracy on High Seas
 
  CHINA: Farmers Encouraged to Set Up Own Business
Private Sector Contributes to Protection of Historic Buildings
Ding Zuyi: Pioneering Private Education in China
JAPAN: Postal Savings Bank to Seek to Join All-Bank Fund Transfer System
Japan Post to Up Spending, Adds Pressure to Yamato
SOUTH KOREA: BAI Finds Bribery in Private Schools
 
  THAILAND: Private Sector 'Must Lift Its Act'
Thailand's Public, Private Sector Agreement at Cha-Am Meeting
 
  BHUTAN: Private Hostel to Ease Sherubtse's Lodging Pressure
SRI LANKA: Private Medical Bill Before House Today
PAKISTAN: Partnership with Private Sector Vital to Eliminate Poverty
Private Sector Urged to Help Develop Health Financing System
 
  AFGHANISTAN: Power Sector Attracts First Major Investment
IRAN: Private Bank Ambiguities Removed
KYRGYZSTAN: Parliament Approves Privatization Program
KAZAKHSTAN: ADB First Private Sector Loan to Boost Financing for SMEs
 
  AUSTRALIA: Health Ombudsman's Powers to Be Boosted
Private Schools Receive 'Excess Funding'
PM Defends Medibank Privatisation
FIJI: Fijian Govt Moves to Sell Stake in Local TV Firm
NEW ZEALAND: Government to Fund Parkinson's Drug Trials
Telecom Told to Give Callplus and Ihug Greater Internet Access

An Interdependent World Will Help Combat Terrorism: PM Lee

Tackling terrorism and ensuring a global security landscape is not just about taking care of the physical aspects. It also depends on how countries remain interdependent on each other. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made this assessment when he delivered his keynote address on Friday at this year's Shangri-la Dialogue. Mr Lee also noted that ASEAN has a central role to play in this. His message: continue to promote free trade and keep an open trading environment. Mr Lee says with a more globalised world, nations, more than ever, need to cooperate with each other. With a greater stake in each other, countries have more reasons to ensure growth and prosperity. Mr Lee also believes ASEAN can contribute to global stability. The grouping, he noted, has been promoting economic cooperation, which leads to a more stable region. PM Lee said: "Economic frictions and obstacles to trade and investment weaken countries' stakes in one another, and their incentive to uphold the global order. The more we restrict the flow of trade and investments, the more likely that we will have rivalry and tensions, rather than shared interests in one another. "The challenge is to find the right balance - we cannot ignore security considerations; but if countries override the rules citing security too often, even when it is not involved, we will weaken the international system, and make ourselves less rather than more secure."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com¡¡ 06/02/2006

 


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Tokyo Inks Action Plan with Central Asian Nations to Combat Terrorism and Drug Trafficking

Foreign Minister Taro Aso on Monday signed an action plan for regional cooperation with four Central Asian nations to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and secure stable energy supplies among other topics. The agreement was reached in Tokyo with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Under the terms of the plan, Tokyo will offer equipment and support for border controls in the region as part of a move to fight terrorism and drug trafficking. Also under consideration is Japan's cooperation in building alternative oil and natural gas transportation routes, such as roads or pipelines, which would bypass Russia. This would also help secure stable energy sources for oil-hungry Japan, officials said. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan also confirmed their support for Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N Security Council. The action plan mapped out a framework of cooperation and confirmed the importance of democracy and developing market economies in the region. This is the first time that Tokyo has signed a cooperative action plan with any Central Asian nation. The plan was also signed by Elyor Ganiev, Uzbekistan's foreign minister; Alikbek Djekshenkulov, foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan; Talbak Nazarov, foreign minister of Tajikistan; and Kariat Abdrakhmanov, Kazakhstan's vice foreign minister. "We confirmed that these Central Asian nations and Japan have an interest in, and expectations of each other," Aso told a news conference after the meeting. "This will serve as a good message to the rest of the world." Monday's meeting was the second of its kind, following one held in 2004 at Tokyo's suggestion. Although present at the 2004 meeting, there was no official to represent Turkmenistan present on Monday.


From http://www.asahi.com ¡¡06/05/2006



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OECD Urges More Dynamic Government Policies on Employment and Incomes

OECD countries urgently need to get more people into paid employment if they want to boost living standards and keep welfare systems afloat. They can do this by moving away from policies that discourage people from working and companies from hiring and by doing more to raise workers¡¯ skills. That is the message from this year¡¯s edition of the OECD¡¯s annual Employment Outlook and an accompanying report, Boosting Jobs and Incomes. At present, the OECD says, many people on welfare find little financial advantage in taking a job. What¡¯s more, even those who do seek work often find their chances of getting a job hampered by poorly designed regulations, lack of job-search support or their own lack of skills. The result is to hold down economic growth and put a brake on increased prosperity. ¡°Getting people who want to work into jobs is one of the biggest challenges facing many OECD governments,¡± OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurr¨ªa said. ¡°Systems that exclude people from employment are unfair and need to be changed.¡±

¡°The key is to ensure that all economic policies are in line with and supportive of measures to boost employment and incomes. We believe that countries that take action along the lines we are recommending will be rewarded by a stronger labour market and, most importantly, improved living standards.¡± The two new reports encapsulate the outcome of a two-year assessment of employment policies in the OECD¡¯s 30 member countries and of the effectiveness of the OECD¡¯s Jobs Strategy launched in 1994.Their recommendations take account of what has been learned about what works over the past decade and changed conditions since then, including ageing populations and the effects of globalisation. They make clear that there is no magic bullet or single set of economic policies that can solve a given country¡¯s employment problems. Some countries achieve good employment results by maintaining relatively low welfare benefits and implementing light regulations, but at the expense of relatively wide inequality in earnings. Others obtain similar success with generous welfare benefits andstrong activation of job seekers, but at a high cost in terms of public spending on labour market policies.

But a number of basic conditions are needed. Countries that have succeeded in boosting employment share an emphasis on macroeconomic stability and strong product market competition, the OECD says. In addition, most of them provide strong job-search support combined with strict requirements on the unemployed to accept job offers. Some countries, the OECD notes, have introduced reforms that boost employment without cutting welfare benefits, for example by accompanying welfare benefits with measures to ensure that recipients look for work and have a financial incentive to take a job. Family-friendly policies such as support for child-care can also help in boosting employment, especially among mothers. Drawing on such examples, the OECD urges governments to: set macroeconomic policies which aim to achieve price stability and sustainable public finances; ensure that recessions do not lead to permanent falls in employment; make it more attractive for people to work than to stay on welfare benefits; make sure that benefit recipients receive high-quality services, particularly in relation to their quest for jobs, and that this is monitored closely, backed up by the threat of benefit sanctions; adapt regulations and tax policies so as to encourage companies to take on staff rather than to shun new hires; strengthen competition in product markets; ensure that legislation to protect job security does not undermine the dynamism of the labour market or lead to discrimination in hiring and firing; provide people of working age with the education and training opportunities that they need to get jobs and raise their incomes.


From http://www.oecd.org¡¡06/13/2006


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CHINA: Circular Economy Law to Improve Efficiency

A circular economy law to improve efficiency in the use of resources is expected to come into force in 2008, a member of the country's top environment protection body said on Friday. Speaking from the sidelines of a forum on China's circular economic development, Qian Yi, deputy director of the Environment and Resources Protection Committee under National People's Congress (NPC), said they are cooperating with the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Environment Protection Administration (SEPA) to enact such a law. The initial draft is expected to come out around the end of the first quarter of the next year and will be submitted to the NPC standing committee for supervision, she said. The law will mandate a clean development mode to produce the maximum amount of products with the minimum resources, she said. "The country's goal of increasing energy efficiency will definitely get a shot in the arm if we enhance it to the height of a national law," Qian said. China currently consumes about 11 times the energy in producing US$1 worth of gross domestic product (GDP) as Japan, and five times that of the United States, she said.

Sun Youhai, who heads the legislative office of the environment protection committee, said the law would include systems to evaluate the environmental friendliness of products before they enter the market, to supervise resource property, to require the proper disposal of waste, and to establish an accountability system for manufacturers. China has mapped out a plan to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent and main pollutants by 10 percent while still maintaining an average of 7.5 percent in GDP growth. "It's an ambitious plan, and a difficult one," Qian said. But she remained upbeat. "We could achieve it by upgrading the technology and standard of energy-guzzling industries, such as steel production," said Qian. Jiang Yaoping, deputy minister of the information industry, said China's information industry faces mounting pressure for more recycling and disposal of obsolete and ageing electrical appliances. China produced 300 million mobile phones last year, half of which are for sale domestically. It is estimated that 60 million will be sold to new subscribers, and the rest to people replacing old phones, he said. "We can achieve sustainable development only by improving quality and working out new ways to recycle old phones," said Jiang. Also on Friday, Zhou Shengxian, head of SEPA, vowed to stick to efficiency, transparency and fairness in SEPA's future environmental evaluation work.


From China Daily ¡¡05/27/2006


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State Council Approves Emergency Response Draft

The State Council on Wednesday discussed and approved a national emergency response draft at an executive meeting on reforming the country's insurance industry. During the meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, participants said the draft was necessary to help China prevent and reduce natural disasters, accidents and public health epidemics. The draft has been submitted by the State Council to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for deliberation and approval. During the meeting, participants also discussed other issues relating to the insurance industry. They noted that the sector's development was not compatible with the building of a "well-off" and "harmonious society" despite its remarkable achievements in recent years. With China's economy growing so rapidly, ordinary people have the opportunity to gain a better understanding and knowledge about insurance. Moreover, their demand for insurance continues to grow. Therefore, insurance companies should establish a market-oriented system, be honest and put people first. The industry's main tasks for now are to develop pensions and health insurance schemes in urban and rural areas to improve China's overall social security system. Efforts should also focus on ensuring production safety. Insurers were also urged to deepen reforms and better prepare themselves for competition from international players.


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/02/2006


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China Issues White Paper on Environmental Protection

Environmental protection, now one of the "brakes" in China's economic macrocontrol policies, will play a more prominent role in the approval process for large construction projects, a Chinese official said on Monday. Projects will be cancelled if they either overdevelop land resources or may affect surrounding eco-environment negatively, said Zhu Guangyao, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), at a press conference releasing the country's second white paper on environmental protection since 1996. Stricter assessment of construction projects, as Zhu illustrated, is just one of the government's measures to realize the environmental protection goals highlighted in the white paper. The 45-page white paper, titled "Environmental Protection in China (1996-2005)" and released by the Information Office of the State Council, China's central government, says that the situation of environmental protection in the country is still "grave". The paper points out that since the late 1970s, China's economy has developed rapidly and continuously. During the process, many environmental problems that haunted developed countries in different phases of their 100-year-long industrialization occurred in China all at the same time.

The conflict between environment and development is becoming ever more prominent. Relative shortage of resources, a fragile ecological environment and insufficient environmental capacity are becoming critical problems hindering China's development, it says. The Chinese government has attached great importance to environmental protection and set it as a basic national policy and sustainable development as an important strategy. Thanks to these efforts, although the amount of resource consumption and pollutants is increasing greatly, the trend toward aggravated environmental pollution and ecological destruction is slowing down, says the white paper. According to the white paper, since 1996, the State has formulated or revised major laws on environmental protection, such as those on prevention and control of water pollution, marine environment protection, prevention and control of air pollution, as well as evaluation of environmental impact. For three years in a row, the state has launched special environmental protection campaigns to rectify enterprises that have discharged pollutants in violation of the law and to protect people's health, closing down 16,000 enterprises.

Statistics in the white paper show that the amount of industrial waste water, oxygen for industrial chemicals, industrial sulfur dioxide, industrial smoke and industrial dust discharged in generating one unit of GDP in China in 2004 dropped by 58 percent, 72 percent, 42 percent, 55 percent and 39 percent, respectively, from 1995. Compared with 1996, in 2005 the proportion of cities with air quality reaching Grade II of the state standard increased by 31 percentage points, while that of cities with air quality lower than Grade III decreased by 39 percentage points. In recent years, China has completed more than 800,000 rural drinking water projects, solving difficulties and insecurity in this regard for 67 million rural residents. The white paper also says that the total newly afforested area has reached over 6.67 million hectares every year since 2002. At present, the national forest acreage is 175 million hectares, the forest cover 18.21 percent. By the end of 2005, there were 2,349 nature reserves of various kinds and levels in China, covering 1.5 million square km and taking up about 15 percent of the country's land territory.

The last decade has seen the largest increase ever in China's investment in its environmental protection, says the paper. Between 1996 and 2004, China's investment into environmental pollution control reached 952.27 billion yuan (119 billion U.S. dollars), amounting to one percent of that period's GDP. The year 2005 alone saw a total investment of 238.8 billion yuan (29.9 billion U.S. dollars), with its ratio in GDP up to 1.3 percent. The white paper, however, also notes that the government is fully aware of the grave situation of environmental protection in the country. Earlier statistics show that rivers that go through cities are polluted in sections of the downtown areas; one fifth of Chinese cities suffer from serious air pollution; one third of the land area is affected by acid rain; 3.56 million square kilometers of land suffer soil erosion; 1.74 million square kilometers of land experience desertification; more than 90 percent of natural grasslands have degenerated and biodiversity has decreased.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in April at the sixth national environmental protection conference that environmental protection will become part of the assessment system of economic and social development and the performance of officials. Zhu Guangyao showed a deep concern over local officials' emphasis on economic development. "The 7.5 percent annual growth rate set by the 11th Five-Year Plan will keep the country's development at a stable pace. But some local governments, especially those in remote and backward areas, are still pursuing rapid economic development, giving more pressure on local environment and resources," he said. He suggested more efforts should be devoted to maintaining a reasonable and ordered development level and to enhancing the awareness of the importance of environmental protection among local officials and the public. In the 11th Five-Year Plan, China has clearly set forth its main goals for environmental protection for the next five years: by 2010, while the national economy will maintain a relatively stable and fast growth, the environmental quality of key regions and cities will be improved, and the trend toward ecological deterioration will be brought under control.

The blueprint for the country's development in the next five years also requires energy consumption per unit of GDP to decline by 20 percent, compared with the end of the 10th Five-Year Plan period. The total amount of major pollutants discharged will be reduced by 10 percent, and forest coverage will be raised from 18.2 percent to 20 percent, according to the plan. Zhu also listed seven tasks as the major environmental protection work to ensure the fulfillment of these goals. The most important task is water pollution control, with focus on drinking water security. Other tasks including urban and rural environmental protection, air pollution control, eco-system protection, enhancement of nuclear and other radioactive sources security and implementation of the state environmental protection projects. In China's future development, environmental protection will become a more and more important standard for the government to adjust its macrocontrol policies, which will ensure a balanced, healthy and sustainable economic growth, Zhu said.


From www.chinaview.cn¡¡ 06/05/2006


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Nobel Prize Winner Robert A. Mundell to Address Asian Economies Speaker Series

China¡¯s macroeconomic policies will be the focus on June 9, when Nobel Prize winner Dr. Robert A. Mundell delivers the latest in a series of high-profile public lectures on Asian Economies presented by the Asia Pacific Foundation and Simon Fraser University¡¯s Economics Department. Dr. Mundell will pay special attention to China¡¯s exchange rate policy and comment on China¡¯s monetary relations with the rest of Asia and the world economy. Dr. Mundell received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1999 for ¡®his analysis of monetary and fiscal policy under different exchange rate regimes and his analysis of optimum currency areas.¡¯


From Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada Press¡¡ 06/05/2006



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Cabinet Approves Draft of Anti-monopoly Law

Yesterday approval in principle was given to a draft anti-monopoly law by the Sate Council, China's central government, which would provide a free and fair competitive environment to all enterprises. A statement from an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao said the draft law, after revision, would be submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the top legislature, for deliberation. "Monopoly is not an offence in itself," said Huang Yong, an anti-monopoly consultant at the Ministry of Commerce. "The trouble arises when monopolies wield their dominant status to curb competition." He explained the law does not specifically target multinationals. The draft law contains articles regulating monopoly agreements, abuse of dominant market status and large-scale consolidation. It defines "monopoly" as a single operator controlling half or more of an industry's overall market share, two operators colluding to hold two-thirds or three enterprises holding three-quarters. While multinationals are reluctant to publicly discuss the proposed anti-monopoly law, in private, many executives are extremely interested in every detail of the draft, said Lester Brown, a Beijing-based lawyer at law firm Allen & Blake LLP.

"Some foreign-invested businesses have become a little uneasy about the law in the wake of a State Administration for Industry and Commerce report in 2004 which warned that foreign business giants were building monopolies in China," said Wang Xiaoye, a law professor at the ChineseAcademy of Social Sciences who participated in drafting the law. According to the report some transnational companies have been using their dominant positions in technology, brand recognition and capital and management to suppress competitors and maximize their profits on the Chinese mainland. For instance Kodak and Fuji account for about 75 per cent of China's film and bromide-paper markets. The report lists a number of industries where free competition may be threatened by multinationals. This includes software, photosensitive materials, mobile phones, cameras and soft packaging. "Though the law may not be to the advantage of multinational companies China needs a comprehensive and enforced set of competition laws to become a fully developed economy," said Wang. He observed that China remained very supportive of overseas investment.

Chinese enterprises, too, face problems. "To some extent Chinese enterprises are more vulnerable to the anti-monopoly law given their relative lack of experience in this area," Wu Xiaochen, a lawyer with Seafront Law Office told China Daily. For instance it was common practice for some leading enterprises or industry associations to agree on pricing which was typical monopoly behavior, Wu explained. "And they'll have to think twice when taking over other companies when the new law is enforced," Wu added. According to the draft companies seeking mergers or acquisitions will require notifying the authorities if one or more of the parties involved has a turnover of 1.5 billion yuan (US$185 million) or more. Anti-trust legislation is regarded as a basic requirement of markets in developed economies. China started work on the law in 1994 and the first draft was completed in 2003.

From China Daily ¡¡06/08/2006



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China's Fiscal Policy Shift Successful

Vice Minister of Finance, Zhu Zhigang said on Tuesday that China's shift over the past couple of years from a proactive fiscal policy to one that is more prudent has proven successful. China began to pursue a proactive or an expansionary fiscal policy in 1998 in a bid to address the impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis on the domestic economy. It meant increased government spending to stimulate economic growth. A prudent fiscal policy is designed to avoid dramatic government intervention in the economy. Addressing a national meeting of officials from the central and provincial finance departments, the vice minister said the central government slashed its treasury bond-funded investment in infrastructure projects to 60 billion yuan (US$7.5 billion) in 2006 from 150 billion yuan in 1998. The cut in government spending on infrastructure projects was made in order to balance the country's economic and social development after its economy got back on track and some sectors started to overheat. Reduced government spending on industrial sectors has meant more spending on agriculture, education and social security, the vice-minister said. China's overheated sectors such as iron and steel, aluminium and cement have resulted in power shortages, rising prices of raw materials and overcapacity.


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/08/2006


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China Considers Ethanol to Supplant Oil, Coal

China is considering a change in energy policy to encourage the wider use of ethanol in a bid to allievate the nation's worsening air pollution, the website of Financial Times reported on Monday. The Chinese government policymakers may set a target by the end of this year for the share of ethanol in the nation's energy mix, Fabrizio Zichichi, head of ethanol at Noble Group, one of the world's largest commodities traders, was qouted as saying by the report. Ethanol, a clean fuel made from agricultural products, not only could help the country wean itself off its dependence on oil and coal, but a large ethanol market in China could help spread wealth to the rural poor, as Brazil has shown, he said. Zichichi also brushed off criticism that a programme to encourage farmers to sell their products to ethanol plants would cause food shortages. "A higher profit margin could only encourage farmers to raise their yield," he said. "And the benefits in Brazil have shown that there is little to fear." Beijing's move to look closely at ethanol could indicate crucial political support for investment in the production, import and distribution of the biofuel in China and could have an impact on world ethanol prices, according to Financial Times.

China is already the third-largest ethanol producer in the world behind the US and Brazil, using mainly corn, cassava and sweet potatoes. Currently, eight of its provinces have made E10, a 10 per cent ethanol and petroleum blend, mandatory at local petrol pumps. China's central government has tried for years to popularise the use environment-friendly fuels, such as natural gas. However, its efforts have been curtailed by the difficulty of securing supplies and developing a substantial local market. Analysts say it is easier to implement an ethanol policy in China by making E10 mandatory at petrol stations and by encouraging local production, Financial Times reported. "There is talk of the National Development and Reform Commission introducing E10 in three key cities - Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin," Christine Pu, a researcher at Deutsche Securities Asia was quoted as saying. She added that there remained a number of barriers to the production of ethanol in China. Owing to pricing regulations, ethanol producers are dependent on government subsidies to avoid losses.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn¡¡06/12/2006


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Chile Vows To Eradicate Child Labor By 2010

The Chilean government plans to abolish the employment of laborers under 15 by 2010 and establish rules to protect workers aged between 15 and 18, Labor Minister Osvaldo Andrade said on Monday. "We are aiming for the definitive eradication of child labor...with the intention of raising consciousness on the circumstances with respect to children who should not be working," Andrade said at a ceremony marking the 5th World Child Labor Day. He said it was sad that Chile's conservative opposition is fighting a government which has worked out plans to punish inappropriate employment of laborers under 15, and to govern the working hours for older teens so that they can still study if they wish. Guillermo Miranda, director for Latin American affairs of the International Labor Organization (ILO), praised the Chilean initiative, saying, "It is a goal that is within reach." The ILO data showed that Chile has the lowest child labor rates on the Continent, with 196,000 working minors, of whom 107,000 working under unacceptable conditions. Chile's National Minors Service has said 66 percent of working children are boys and 34 percent are girls, noting that 74.1 percent are aged between 15 and 18, of whom 55.7 percent do not attend school. According to the same data, nearly 20 percent of Chile's working children are in some way involved in illegal activities, including sex work.


From www.chinaview.cn¡¡ 06/13/2006


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China Issues Emergency Bird Flu Control Order

China's Ministry of Agriculture issued an emergency order Monday for local governments to tighten controls over poultry stocks to prevent bird flu The order calls for strict supervision of areas below all possible flight paths of migratory birds, lakes and other sites with a record of bird flu infection. Farmers living in these areas are advised to keep their poultry in coops to avoid contact with the migratory birds. The ministry also ordered immediate reporting of any dead poultry or wild birds to county-level animal epidemic prevention agencies, and suspected cases must be reported to the state-level bird flu laboratories. A new case of H5N1 bird flu was discovered in Xinjiang's HotanCounty last Wednesday, but it had been contained by Friday, said a source with the Ministry of Agriculture. Experts and veterinarians had disinfected the area and more than 17,100 poultry birds were culled to prevent further contamination. No new suspected cases had been discovered near the infected area, said the ministry. HotanCounty is on a flight path for migratory birds between East Africa and West Asia, said the ministry source.

The virus in HotanCounty was similar to that found in migratory birds in western part of Qinghai and Tibet earlier this year, indicating it may have come from the same source. Xinjiang was taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus through migratory birds. Agriculture Minister Du Qinglin told a ministerial conference on bird flu last week that prevention would be a long-term task and local governments should remain alert. More effective measures would be taken to stop its spread from migratory birds to poultry, with some large bird habitats to be closed, said Du. The government would reform its veterinary management system, said Du, adding more favorable policies would be implemented to help farmers who suffered losses from bird flu. More than 80 cases of the virus have been reported in China since February 2004, affecting 24 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. Eighteen confirmed human cases with 12 fatalities have been reported since September.


From www.chinaview.cn ¡¡06/13/2006



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Energy Conservation Law to Be Revised

China's legislature is studying how to revise the country's energy conservation law to meet the goals of both economic development and energy conservation, a senior Chinese legislator said on Monday. Li Tieying, vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said that the current energy conservation law no longer meets the country's development needs. Li said that changing the focus of economic development from energy and resources consumption to energy saving will have a profound effect on relations between people, society and nature. The NPC Standing Committee enacted the Energy Conservation Law of China in November 1997. It governs the administration of energy, the proper use of energy resources, promotion of energy-saving technology and protection of the environment. Research into the effectiveness and enforcement of the law is being conducted by the NPC Standing Committee, he said. The NPC Standing Committee also wants to revise the Energy Conservation Law to secure a strong legal framework for building an energy-saving society, he said. Li called for the law and policies to encourage economic growth and energy conservation, noting that economic development that features high energy consumption which results in serious pollution and waste is not sustainable. Li made the remarks at a seminar on energy conservation and legislation. Li noted that development can not only be concerned with the growth of the GDP, it must also be in harmony with nature.

According to a report released by the DevelopmentResearchCenter of the State Council, energy supply uncertainties can be effectively addressed with a comprehensive national energy policy that stresses energy efficiency, renewable energy and a more market oriented oil and gas sector. China should more aggressively promote energy efficiency and commercialization of its national oil and gas companies by opening the sector to international oil companies. This will attract investment and needed new technologies, said the report. The country should clarify the security-enhancing roles of both international and national companies. This could lead to the creation of a market-oriented, multi-source, robust national energy economy that would provide an important basis for security of supply, the report said. The "right mix" of a specific security of supply measures should be selected according to China's needs from a suite of measures that includes: maintaining spare domestic production capability; protection of its import oil transport channels; accumulated reserves; allocation and possibly rationing systems to share scare supplies equitably; and close international cooperation with trading partners for whom secure oil supplies are essential for their economic well being and with energy exporters who have a similar interest in secure markets, the report stressed. Recognizing the country's interdependence in the global energy sector and incorporating security of supply into the country's long term strategy could be the first steps on the road towards a stable energy supply, which is one of the pillars of sustainable development for the sector and the overall economy during the coming decades, the report said.

From Xinhua News Agency¡¡ 06/13/2006


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Officials Expect Energy "Basic Law" in 2 Years

Chinese officials plan to see the country's first energy "basic law" passed by the legislature in two years, laying the groundwork for future national energy policies, said sources with the group drawing up the legislation on Tuesday. In its first public discussion of the proposed law, the office of the energy leading group under the State Council disclosed how the legislation would affect government policy and national energy use in the years ahead. The government has set the goal of reducing national energy consumption by 20 percent in the five-year period from 2006 to 2010. The goal, as well as the strategy of forming an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly society, would be an important part of the Energy Law, said a senior official with the office. The law would stipulate articles to encourage domestic energy exploration and international energy cooperation, optimize energy reserves and emergency response systems, develop renewable and new energies and enhance energy efficiency, he said. The improvement of China's economic structure depended on improving its energy structure, which required integrated energy policies, he said. The Energy Law would ensure those policies were implemented more effectively, he said.

The law also aims to give outline the government's role in the energy market, regulations for a competitive market, improvements to China's production safety and encouraging technological innovation, he said. The law would incorporate experiences of other countries, including the 2005 Energy Policy Act of 2005 of the United States, he said. China now has four specific energy laws, covering the coal industry, electric power, energy conservation and renewable energy as well as local rules and regulations on energy. However, the country has yet to officially legislate on petroleum and natural gas. Without a basic law and a complete energy law system, China had to rely on policies to solve its energy problems, which were "inconsistent and unstable", said the official. China is the second largest energy producer and consumer in the world after the United States. The government launched the draft work of the Energy Law in January with the establishment of a drafting group drawn from 15 state ministries or institutions. From this May to December, a survey on proposals and suggestions to the Energy Law is being conducted through the Internet and newspapers across the country by the office of the energy leading group and the National Development and Reform Commission. This is the first time the government had solicited public opinions on such a large scale before drafting an important law, said Wang Mingyuan, associate professor of the Center for Environmental, Natural Resources and Energy Law of Tsinghua University. It showed the importance the government attached to the law and the great public significance of the energy basic law, said Wang.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com¡¡06/13/2006



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Education of Law-enforcing Personnel Urged

A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official has called for educating law-enforcing personnel with socialist theory on the rule of law, so that they will meet the requirements for dealing with changes in the current situation. Luo Gan, a member of the Standing Committee of the of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and secretary of the CPC Central Political and Legislative Commission, has issued this call in an article to be published in the 12th edition of the Truth Seeking magazine. As China is undergoing profound social changes, says the article, law-enforcement personnel should be clear about socialist ideas in rule of law and they will be equipped with the correct ideas in this regard. This will help to ensure that the law-enforcing personnel will always be faithful to the Party, the country, the people, and the law, Luo says in the article. Luo pledges to further promote justice in law enforcement and judicial reforms and spur innovation in the law-enforcing work, so that social stability will be safeguarded. Truth Seeking magazine is a monthly periodical under the CPC Central Committee.


From Xinhua News Agency¡¡ 06/16/2006


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Legislature to Discuss Draft Law on Coping with Emergencies

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, will deliberate the draft law on coping with emergencies and draft farmers' cooperatives law at an upcoming legislative session to begin on June 24. According to a source from the NPC, the law on coping with emergencies will focus on the prevention of disasters and accidents.

China is frequently hit by natural disasters and other accidents but its emergency response system has been criticized for not being well enough developed. Governmental departments failed to coordinate emergency response and their ability to prevent, monitor, warn and handling emergencies remains weak, the source said, adding that "the draft law on coping with emergencies is of great importance." According a meeting of the chairman and vice-chairpersons on Friday, the NPC Standing Committee has decided the 22nd session of the 10th NPC Standing Committee will be convened from June 24 to 29. During the legislative session, the legislature will continue to discuss the draft sixth amendment to Criminal Law, the draft amendment to compulsory education law, the draft law on supervision, the draft partnership law.

The legislature will also discuss and ratify the convention on the proposed Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters, Treaty on Transfer of the Sentenced Persons between China and Spain, the Treaty on Criminal Matters between China and Mexico. Also during the session, the State Council will deliver a report on the 2005 final accounts and a report on the execution of 2005 central budget. The enforcement reports of the patent law and the law on the protection of the rights of returned Chinese, made by the law enforcement inspection groups under the NPC Standing Committee, will be heard and discussed during the legislative session.


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/17/2006



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Draft Law on Legislature's Supervisory Rights Discussed

Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) held a conference Sunday, to discuss the draft Law on Supervision, a law to secure legislatures of all levels to exercise their rights of supervision over administrative and judicial organs. Wu Bangguo, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, presided over the meeting. At the discussion, the third since 2002, the senior legislators reiterated the importance of legislature's supervisory rights, saying a unified law is in need to regularize the constitutional rights of lawmakers, so as to ensure administrative departments to work in accordance with law and judicial departments to work in a just way. The third draft, which has been revised after consulting local legislators, Party and government officials and experts and scholars, is quite mature and should be officially issued, after further modifications, as early as possible, they held.


From www.chinaview.cn¡¡ 06/26/2006


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JAPAN: Law Enacted to Slim Bureaucracy Avoids 'Amakudari,' DPJ Charges

The Diet enacted key legislation Friday that lays out a timetable for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's efforts to reform and slim down the government over the next several years. The bill easily cleared the Upper House, where the ruling coalition, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, holds a majority. The bill aims to create a "simple and efficient government" by cutting the state's heavy debts and reducing the size of state-held assets. But the Democratic Party of Japan criticized the bill, saying it fails to deal with core issues, including the corruption that arises from cozy ties between the government and industry, as seen in recent bid-rigging scandals and "amakudari" -- the practice of placing former government officials in companies they once regulated. "The government's bill lacks the basic principles of administrative reform, a concept of ideal government, and a (definition of) the functions it must fulfill," DPJ lawmaker Toshio Ogawa told Friday's plenary session. "Through the deliberations over the bill, it has become obvious that the government and the ruling bloc actually have a halfhearted attitude toward true administrative reform."

The bill calls for the government to cut the number of bureaucrats by 5 percent, merge four state-run financial institutions into a single body by fiscal 2008, and assess the effectiveness of semigovernmental bodies. Shoko Chukin Bank and the Development Bank of Japan will be fully privatized, while Japan Finance Corp. for Municipal Enterprises will be abolished. The aid loan division of Japan Bank for International Cooperation will be transferred to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Specifically, the number of government employees are to be reduced by more than 16,600 from the current 332,000, with this retrenchment also applied to Self-Defense Forces members. Local governments are seeking to achieve a net cut of more than 4.6 percent. The law also aims to slash the number of special state accounts -- which currently total 31 -- to 12 to save 20 trillion yen while reviewing the management of independent administrative agencies often criticized as being inefficient. Information from Kyodo added


From The Japan Times ¡¡05/27/2006


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Lawmakers Seek Political Solution to Emigrant Suit

Lawmakers said Thursday they will seek a political solution to the compensation demand by Japanese emigrants to the Dominican Republic in the 1950s.The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday rejected a damages lawsuit filed by a large group of emigrants and their families. It ruled that the state had acted illegally in its promotion of a postwar plan to send Japanese to the Dominican Republic, but that their right to claim damages had expired. The plaintiffs filed an appeal Thursday. The 1956-1959 program, the biggest failure of Japan's postwar emigration policy to deal with the population rise, did not deliver on its promise of free titles to rich farmland on the Caribbean island. "The ruling was unjust," said Hidehisa Otsuji, a former welfare minister who heads the lawmakers' group working on behalf of the emigrants and their families. "There is no statute of limitations on political responsibility." Otsuji told reporters the group will consider the possibility of initiating a bill to pay compensation to the emigrants, adding that a quick political resolution to the issue is necessary as many of them are elderly. "We would like to study other examples of state compensation, for example for Hansen's disease and atomic bomb victims, in considering what direction to take," he said. "Many of the plaintiffs died during the (litigation), and I don't think we have time to spare."


From www.japantimes.co.jp¡¡ 06/09/2006


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Japan to Conduct 3 Major Antiterrorism Drills

Japan will conduct three major antiterrorism drills from August to November under a law to protect the people and their assets in the event of a national emergency, the government said Tuesday. The drills, including ones in which residents will be required to "evacuate," will be held in Hokkaido in August, Ibaraki Prefecture in September and Tottori Prefecture in November, it said. The scenarios involve a terrorist attack on a petrochemical complex in Hokkaido, an attack on nuclear facilities in Ibaraki and a chemical terrorist attack against a large facility packed with people in Tottori, it said.


From Kyodo News ¡¡06/13/2006


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Japanese Gov't Proposes Measures to Address Declining Birthrate

The government proposed measures Wednesday to address Japan's declining birthrate, featuring offering preferential treatment in the state's public works tenders to companies according to their provision of childrearing support for employees. Among other measures presented by cabinet minister Kuniko Inoguchi is one for providing the parents of preschool children with more public childrearing allowances, compared with those of school-age children. They also include extending financial assistance for the construction of houses to accommodate three-generation families ¡ª grandparents, parents and children ¡ª as grandparents are seen as playing an essential role in helping rear the children, according to the government.

From www.crisscross.com¡¡ 06/14/2006


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LDP Eyes New Law for SDF Overseas Security Operations

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party is considering crafting a permanent law that would allow the Self-Defense Forces to carry out security operations abroad. According to a draft of a bill on the law on the SDF's overseas missions, worked out by an LDP panel Wednesday, the SDF can also guard personnel from other countries, help disarmament, support former soldiers' transition to civilian life, provide assistance for the establishment of security forces and implement forceful ship inspections to prevent cross-border moves of terrorists. All those activities are not permitted under existing laws on SDF dispatches abroad, including a law on support for U.N.-led peacekeeping operations, and a temporary law on cooperation in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism and another on assistance for Iraq's postwar reconstruction. The draft also calls for easing restrictions on SDF troops' use of weapons in overseas activities, saying that they can use force to protect personnel from other countries who are not under their supervision and U.N. staff officials, as well as for self-defense and in emergency cases as stipulated under the existing laws.

The LDP plans to further flesh out the draft by the end of July and then start full-fledged internal debates. The draft bill allows Japan to send SDF troops abroad when there are U.N. resolutions and requests from parties involved in conflicts, the same conditions as those spelled out under the current laws. In addition, the draft says that SDF dispatches are possible in situations, where such action is deemed necessary, a condition not seen in the existing laws, thus effectively paving the way for the government to send troops abroad based only on its decision. The LDP is believed to be thinking that such situations refer to unexpected events in high seas, sources familiar with the matter said. The draft says that prior parliamentary approval is required for SDF dispatches while limiting SDF troops'' operational areas to places where there are no international conflicts. The LDP's leadership is aiming for an early enactment of the bill. But a bumpy road is seen lying ahead because of caution in the party's coalition partner, New Komeito, and even within the LDP, observers said.


From jiji press ¡¡06/14/2006


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Diet Set to Enact Law to Stem Gender Discrimination at Work

The Diet is set to enact a revised law to guarantee equal employment opportunity in a move to curb gender discrimination in the workplace, including plans for facilitating maternity leave, banning indirect discrimination and reinforcing measures against sexual harassment. Employers will be prohibited from, without rational reason, seeking potential staff based on height and weight, hiring career track employees with the prerequisite of domestic transfers and looking at past relocation records in deciding promotions.


From Kyodo News ¡¡06/15/2006


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Diet Carries Over Bills to Revise Basic Education Law

The Diet decided Thursday to carry over two separate bills aimed at revising the country's post-World War II basic education law to the next Diet session. The two bills, submitted by the government and the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, would be taken up at an extraordinary Diet session expected in the fall. The current Diet session adjourns Sunday.

From http://www.crisscross.com¡¡06/16/2006


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20 Laws on Deregulation Tightened for Safety

Putting public safety and trust ahead of free competition, the Diet revised 20 laws to prevent a recurrence of the accidents and scandals plaguing the deregulated transportation and housing sectors. In the 1990s, the government strongly pushed for eased regulations to promote efficiency and competition in various fields. But government officials recently felt they had no choice but to shift their policies because deregulation has apparently prompted a number of private companies to focus more on profits than safety and ethics. "It is important to relax economic regulations, but social regulations concerning safety should not be relaxed," Kazuo Kitagawa, minister of land, infrastructure and transport, said. Twelve of the 20 laws revised in the Diet session that ended Sunday were related to transportation. Under the revisions, railway operators, airlines and other transportation companies are required to include an expert on their boards as director in charge of safety operations. The companies are also obliged to conduct internal inspections on their safety management systems, and face harsher penalties if they disobey a government order to improve operations.

In April 2005, a speeding West Japan Railway Co. train derailed and crashed into a building in Amagasaki, HyogoPrefecture, killing 107 people and injuring 555 others. Regulations concerning the weight and measurements of train cars, wheel size and other specifications were abolished in 2001. But the train disaster shows that railway operators used the eased rules to reduce costs and promote efficiency at the expense of safety measures, observers said. The government had also allowed new entrants in the airline industry to lift competition and improve services. Instead, Japan Airlines Corp. and Skymark Airlines Co. have been hit by mechanical failures and other problems. The taxi and trucking industries were also deregulated. Yet now, the number of accidents caused by overworked drivers has increased. Some truckers are on the road for long hours--and falling asleep at the wheel. Concerns about safety have also increased in other areas. The nationwide scandal involving structurally defective buildings showed that private inspection companies commissioned by public authorities failed to detect falsified quake-resistance data. Private agencies in 1999 were allowed to conduct building inspections and endorse the start of construction. But some of these agencies have shown that they were in over their heads. Four relevant laws, including the Building Standards Law, were revised during the Diet session to clean up the mess, with measures including tougher penalties and a required recheck by a third organization.


From The Asahi Shimbun ¡¡06/20/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Government's Real Estate Policy Dilemma

The Korean government seems to have fallen into a dilemma with its own policies after getting the means and goals of its economic policies entangled. Ever since the government declared it would settle housing prices, the leadership has been unable to tighten the money market and is rather releasing more money during the process of impeding the value increase of the Korean won. It is evaluated that the simultaneous promotion of three separate policy goals; the stability of housing prices, the exchange rate and the interest rate, have intersected causing conflictive phenomena. With forecasts claiming the decline of the Korean economy during the latter half of the year being presented amidst this vortex, the application range of the policies is becoming ever narrower. Specialists assert that this when the government should set clear policy goals and establish a structure of a virtuous economic circle with an appropriate policy mix. In other words, the government must use a policy which harmonizes various external and internal variables with a single policy goal. Recently, the government is concentrating on soothing real estate prices and has created a newly coined word, 'Bubble 7', to indicate the seven regions with the greatest price jump.

Several government officials did not hesitate to threaten that the bubble in these seven regions will burst in an instant once the tax "bomb" such as possession tax and general realty tax, takes effect. The trouble is however, the fact that liquid funds worth over 400 trillion won play a role in real estate price increases as well. An expert from a national research institute pointed out, "There is nothing comparable to interest rate increases in settling real estate prices. Raising interest rates is more effective in stabilizing prices than the government's mixture of tax-related measures." In other words, absorbing liquidity is the most essential tool in stabilizing real estate prices and the best policy for this would be to increase call rates.


From http://www.mk.co.kr¡¡05/29/2006


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New Loan Interest Rate Ceiling: 40%

A law restricting the maximum annual interest rate of private loans below 40 percent is planned to be implemented late next year. The Interest Rate Restriction Law was abolished in 1998 when there was an economic crisis. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) declared on June 4 that it would prepare improvement laws related to lives and economy of common people and that it would submit them until the end of this year. Focused On Protecting the Economic Rights of the Disadvantaged¡ª The Interest Rate Restriction Law¡¯s key point is: ¡°Under presidential decree, when borrowing and lending loans, the maximum annual interest rate should not surpass 40 percent.¡± It is a measure to protect common people who are relatively highly dependent on private financial institutions. Since the restriction law is civil law, violators will not face criminal charges, but annual interest rates over 40 percent will not be recognized. The bill will be applied to private loan lenders such as individuals and unregistered lending businesses, and will exclude businesses that have registered under the Loan Business Law implemented since 2002. The MOJ also stated that it will pursue measures to lower the current annual interest rate ceiling of 66 percent for loan businesses.

The Interest Rate Restriction Law was created in 1962 but abolished in January 1998 by IMF request. After the abolishment, the established financial businesses¡¯ average annual interest rate for loans was between 40 to 50 percent, but the average interest rate of private loan businesses was an astounding 223 percent, exacerbating the problems of common people.

Adoption of Insurance to Return Rent Deposit Money¡ª Tenants renting housing will be obliged to sign up for deposit money return insurance. If the renting period is over and the owner of the house does not return the deposit money, the insurance company will pay the tenant the money and receive the deposit money from the owner. Hence, the Housing Tenant Protection Law will be revised. In addition the enactment of the Special Law to Protect Guarantors will be pursued. This is a system that notifies a debtor¡¯s credit record and amount to guarantee to financial institutions when they are concluding a guarantee agreement with the debtor. This will prevent cases where people are unable to refuse the requests of family members or friends to become guarantors and suffer losses. Methods to pressure the payment of debts such as going to the homes of debtors in the middle of the night will also be completely forbidden.

Furthermore, in order to eliminate the unfair practice of farmers receiving prior payments and selling their entire crop in their fields, the MOJ decided to revise the Law on the Stabilization of Prices and Circulation of Agricultural and Fisheries Products. One of the major revisions in the case of sales of fields is guaranteeing prior payment to be over 30 percent of current prices, and if the prices of crops increase after the contract, the buyer and farmer divide the profit. Revision of Commercial Law Aimed at Increasing Transparency¡ª The commercial law on corporations will be revised and will adopt an executive committee system and a dual representative lawsuit system. The executive committee members will be appointed by the board of directors selected by the shareholders and will include the CEO and CFO, who have the responsibility to report to the board of directors. Currently, the board of directors has all the authority on the corporation¡¯s decisions, and the implementation of decisions and supervision, but when the executive committee system is adopted, it will only function as a supervisor while decision-making and implementation will be conducted by the executive committee. The corporations, however, are free to decide whether or not to adopt this system.

The dual representative lawsuit system allows the shareholders of the parent company to file class action against the head of the branch company, in case the branch company does not hold liability against its own malpractices. The dual representative lawsuit system will only be permitted if the parent company holds over 50 percent of the branch company¡¯s shares. In order to revitalize the economy, the current minimum required amount of capital, which is 50 million won, will be abolished. The U.S., Japan and Hong Kong do not have laws requiring a specific minimum amount of capital.


From english.donga.com ¡¡06/05/2006


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New Fertility Rate Measures Announced

The childcare allowance which has been provided mainly to low-income classes so far will be also given to families earning less than 130 percent of the nation¡¯s average urban household income. In addition, bills prohibiting discrimination in workplaces based on age will be institutionalized, and adopting employment guarantees to a certain limit of age will be taken into consideration. Above is the outline of the ¡°First Basic Plan for Low Fertility and Aging Society¡± (Saeromaji Plan 2010) announced by the government on June 7. Starting from this year, the government will invest 32.746 trillion won until 2010 in attempt to boost the nation¡¯s total fertility rate to the OECD average of 1.6 by 2020. According to the measures, beneficiaries of childcare and education allowances for children aged four or under will be extended to households earning less than 130 percent of the nation¡¯s average household income. This is assumed to increase the portion of beneficial families from the current 50% to 90%. The number of daycare facilities will also grow to 2,700, doubling the current level until 2010. In order to encourage childcare leaves, conditions to apply for them will be eased. From 2008, parents of children ages less than three will be applicable compared to the current one. In case of birth, the new measures will allow fathers to have three days of paternity leave.

In addition, in order to reduce private education costs, after-school classes, currently given in a small number of model schools, are to be spread to all elementary schools until 2010. As a countermeasure against the aging society, the government has also decided to legislate against age discrimination in workplaces. The government will also discuss about obliging age limits to guarantee elderly employment. There is criticism, however, that measures announced this day were restricted to partial matters such as childcare allowances. Jo Yeong-tae, a professor of demography at the Graduate School of Public Health at SeoulNationalUniversity, indicated that ¡°although childcare allowances are required, they had little effect in countries such as Spain, Japan and Italy. Instead of investing money in trivial projects, we should take a long-term view and create a cultural atmosphere for gender equality.¡±


From english.donga.com ¡¡06/08/2006


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Tougher Measures Set on Corruption in Schools

In an effort to root out corruption in schools, the Education Ministry yesterday drew up a set of standards and disciplinary measures for teachers who are found accepting bribes from parents of students of all ages. The classification of disciplinary measures is based on the size of the bribe, who initiated the bribe and whether illegal acts were committed in return for the bribe. Until now, a bribe of 100,000 won ($105) led to light punishment, up to a warning. However, under the new regulations, a more significant standard is whether a teacher had solicited the bribe and in return performed illegal actions on duty. These actions include manipulating a student's grades or leaking examination questions in advance. However, the punishment is lighter if the parents initiated the bribe offer. Kang Jeong-gil, an official at the education ministry, said, "There has been no coordinated standard of punishment for teachers accepting bribes and education agencies had their own different sets of rules." Currently, the education office in Seoul gives a warning for a bribe of up to 1 million won, whereas the Busan office imposes a pay cut. Mr. Kang added that the court system was used as a reference, because it has the "most stern standard of punishment against corruption."

The new set of standards were sent out to 16 education offices in cities and provinces yesterday. However, some civic groups were critical of the plan, voicing skepticism over its effectiveness. In a statement, a civic group called Education and Civil Society called the ministry's plan a "makeshift policy to put down parents' complaints." The group's head, Yoon Ji-hui, said, "There is no clear way to tell whether a teacher first demanded a bribe. No teacher would voluntarily admit that they asked for a bribe." Kim Dong-seok, a director at the Korea Federation of Teacher's Associations, did not welcome the new policy, urging a cautious approach, "as it may well lead to a stereotype that all teachers accept bribes."


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com¡¡06/08/2006


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Minister Forecasts Flexible Financial Measures

The Korean government will maintain flexible financial measures to keep the economy on an expansionary path this year, and will adopt a "pre-emptive" monetary policy to achieve its goal of inflation-free growth, the nation's top economic policy maker said yesterday. "We will hold on to the financial policies that we set earlier this year, focusing on expansion, while taking a flexible stance in accordance with changing economic conditions," Finance Minister Han Duck-soo told a forum held in Seoul. "To achieve economic growth without incurring inflation, we need to take a pre-emptive monetary policy," Mr. Han said, adding that the central bank's recent implementation of a rate hike will help the government pursue a more flexible monetary policy later on. On Thursday, the Bank of Korea boosted the June target for the call rate by 0.25 percentage points to 4.25 percent, the highest since May 2003, to stem inflationary pressure from economic recovery and high-energy prices. Asia's fourth-largest economy grew at a fast pace this year due to robust exports and recovering domestic demand. The Korean government has predicted that the economy will attain an annual growth rate of 5 percent, following a 4-percent rise last year. On Thursday, the International Monetary Fund echoed this optimism, forecasting a 5.5 percent growth rate for the domestic economy. But rising oil prices and the local currency's ascent against the U.S. dollar are posing threats to Korea's export-driven economy.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com¡¡06/10/2006


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BOK Avoids Price-Oriented Monetary Policy

Lee Sung-tae, Governor of the Bank of Korea (BOK), announced on June 15, "It is risky to implement a monetary policy that solely focuses on prices and overlooks the national economy as a whole." In an opening speech at the 'BOK International Conference - Monetary Policy Implementation Under Low Inflation' held at the Westin Chosun Hotel in Seoul on June 16, Governor Lee expressed, "The low inflation that is currently being observed all over the world is creating a new task for central banks to deal with." "Worldwide productivity improvements during the mid-1990s have played a key role in lowering the inflation rate worldwide. In this regard, inflation that we had experienced before is not likely to return for the time being," he forecast. Governor Lee explained, "At the beginning of the 2001, the world's central banks started to lower their interest rates as a countermeasure against economic slumping, and with a low interest rate ongoing, superabundant liquidity in the market caused side effects such as a whopping increase in asset prices." "The common task that all central banks are facing these days is how to cope with such an economic disparity," he added.

He revealed that, "In the Korean case, a lasting low interest rate increased household borrowing from financial institutions, as well as boosted real estate prices, all of which became the burden for BOK to handle through its monetary policy implementation." He asserted that, "The ongoing low inflation is likely to restrict the central bank's ability to control the economic situation. In other words, if a nominal interest rate gets lower due to lowered expectations for inflation, it doesn't leave much room for central banks to take measures regarding their respective interest rate policies." Governor Lee additionally emphasized, "Central banks should watch out not to be negligent about inflation pressure, despite low inflation and low interest rates in the current market."


From http://www.mk.co.kr¡¡06/15/2006


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Payments for Councilors Draw Public Outcry

Beginning this year, local councilors will be paid salaries from taxpayers' funds _ their predecessors were given only sporadic allowances determined by the central government. Lawmakers rewrote the law on compensation for local councilors last year, giving cities, local governments and ward offices the freedom to set salaries for their councilors. The idea behind giving councilors regular salaries is to attract more professional talent to regional administrative jobs. However, with authorities counting an unprecedented number of campaign violations during the May 31 local elections, ethical concerns have been raised. According to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, over 3,100 people were booked for campaign violations related to the local elections, a more than 50-percent increase from elections four years ago. Law enforcement authorities have arrested 193 people for illicit campaign activities, while eight candidates are facing trial after being indicted. We could be looking at more campaign violators eventually, once the parties start launching complaints. A lot of the campaign results could be nullified,'' a prosecution official said, noting that the National Election Commission (NEC) had filed complaints on more than 680 campaign violations after the elections.

Critics have been arguing that allowing local councilors to be paid salaries from taxpayers' funds will increase the financial burden on local governments. With local councilors mostly earning more than that which their predecessors received in allowances, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs said taxpayers will spend up to 10 billion won annually to pay salaries to their regional representatives. And with most of the local councilors having second jobs that pay extra salaries, there are voices calling for tougher ethical measures to prevent misconduct. Lawmakers deciding to give salaries to local councilors is just part of political maneuvering to gather support ahead of next year's presidential election. It's part of the efforts of political parties to throw a carrot to local councilors to use them strategically,'' said Park Si-won, a member of the Korean Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). It is a pity that many local councilors use their positions as a stepping stone for larger political ambitions, rather than focusing on the regional issues at hand. They are supposed to be different from professional politicians such as lawmakers or party members,'' he said. According to the Home Affairs Ministry, councilors of the nine major metropolitan cities and provincial governments will earn about 46.8 million won annually, compared to the 31.2 million won in allowances paid to their predecessors.

From The Korea Times ¡¡06/15/2006


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Korea Adopts Social Pact to Battle Low Birthrate

Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, fifth from left in the front row, is hand in hand with other leaders from government, labor, business and civic groups after adopting a social convention aimed at battling falling birthrates and a rapidly aging population, at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul, Tuesday. The government Tuesday adopted a social accord aimed at battling problems arising from Korea's falling birthrate and aging population, while making room for women's breadwinning activities and constructing more public childcare facilities. Labor and business circles, for their part, will attempt to create more job opportunities for women and seniors, according to the accord. South Korea's fertility rate fell to a record-low last year, with the average number of babies per woman of childbearing age at 1.08, reflecting increased economic activities of women and their tendency to marry late. The accord results from five months discussion among business, labor, and religious and civic groups. Co-chairing the committee are Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, Lee Yong-deuk, chairman of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), Kang Shin-ho, chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), and Park Young-sook, chairwoman of the Korea Foundation for Women.

The world's worst-level birthrate and the population aging on an unprecedented scale will bring us a reduction in the productive workforce, an increased burden in supporting the aged, and lead to great pains and a crisis in the future,'' the convention said. Signing parties to the accord recognize the crisis has developed from a system that puts primary responsibility for childcare and support for the aged on women, and from the economic factors such as the instability of job opportunities and income, it said. Under the accord, the government will increase the number of public childcare facilities so 30 percent of babies aged 0-3 will benefit by 2010. The government also agreed to continue discussion on ways to extend the retirement age of workers, while labor and businesses will negotiate on how to improve the retirement and wages system. Discussion sessions on measures to reform the national pension system will be held as early as possible, with people from all walks of society participating, officials said. While the accord or convention is not legally binding, it is meaningful in that each social and economic group has come up with detailed measures under the spirit of mutual trust and compromise, the officials said.


From The Korea Times¡¡ 06/20/2006


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Incorporation Regulations to Be Eased

Starting next year, companies will be able to use similar firm names regardless of regional location or type of business. Currently, a firm cannot be established with a similar name already being in use in the same region, including Seoul, Busan and Gwangju. Measures are being pushed so that founders of venture companies which do not have the investment funds will be given management rights if the company has the technology, and small companies will be exempted from the obligation to appoint an auditor. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) and the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET) announced the above measures in its plan to reform the incorporation process on Wednesday, June 21. The MOCIE and the Ministry of Finance and Economy are planning to revise related laws including the corporation act, certified judicial scriveners act and notary public act.

No-par Stocks of Venture Founders to be Acknowledged- According to the revision, the government will not restrict the use of similar firm names even in the same type of business as long as the company¡¯s address or name is not the same. The KIET took a survey on 111 medium and small-sized companies at the beginning of this month and found that three out of 10 start-up companies were regulated for having same or similar company names at the time of incorporation. This means that many companies are having difficulty establishing a firm due to company names. Director Yang Hyun-bong of the small and venture business division at KIET said, ¡°Company establishment will vitalize if regulations are lifted at the beginning and punishment inflicted afterwards on those who make unfair profits from using similar names.¡± Also, no-par stocks of venture company founders will be acknowledged so that many of those with technology may have the chance to set up a company. Currently, stakes are calculated by the number of par value stocks, and so a sufficiently funded person who buys a massive amount of the company¡¯s stocks usually exercised management rights. Founders whom did not have the funds will now be able to keep their management rights as the revised law will grant voting rights to stocks with a par value of 0 won.

Reducing Prior Regulations Increases Autonomy- In order to establish a corporation in Korea, some 48 documents including a minute book of the board of directors and custody certificate of paid-in capital are needed. In contrast, the U.S. requires only five documents, including an application and the articles of incorporation. The incorporation process goes through 16 stages in Korea, but 13 in the U.S. An average of 995,000 won is used in expenses in Korea for incorporation, approximately 1.8 times higher than the U.S. average of 565,000 won. Considering these points, the MOCIE has decided to eliminate the process of authenticating the minute books of the inaugural meeting and board of directors. Some seven out of 10 companies responded to KIET¡¯s survey that the authentication process is perfunctory and merely confirms whether the required documents are all prepared or not, meaning the current system is not practical. MOCIE director Kim Ho-won said, ¡°The revision will cut down prior regulations and increase a company¡¯s autonomy, and so if there is not much opposition, we will go ahead with the revision.¡±

Concerns Over a Flood of Bogus Companies- However, some experts are concerned that if the incorporation process becomes too simplified, it may damage legal stability. If the registration of a similar company name is permitted, it may harm the interests of the originally registered company, and eliminating the authentication process may lead to an overflowing number of bogus companies. Lawyer Jang Jae-hyeong of Seoul Jaeil, a law firm specializing in corporate related laws, said, ¡°It is good to create more jobs, but is there really the need to revise the controversial incorporation process? Rather, the set up process for an individual enterprise should be simplified.¡±


From http://english.donga.com¡¡06/22/2006


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INDONESIA: House to Fast Track New Disaster Bill

JAKARTA : The House of Representatives wants to speed up the deliberation of the disaster mitigation bill to ensure rescue response times are quicker in the future, a lawmaker said Thursday. "We expect to pass the bill into law during this sitting period (that will end in July)," said Tjatur Sapto Edy, a legislator from the National Mandate Party, who is a member of a House team deliberating the bill. He said enacting the law was urgent because the government had shown it was ineffective in the aftermath of Saturday's earthquake, which devastated Bantul regency and parts of Central Java. "The (relief) coordination was messy there. The President went to Yogya, while the Vice President, who chairs the National Disaster Management and Refugee Coordination Board, stayed in Jakarta. Each was in the wrong place," Tjatur said. It showed that from the top down, there was no standard procedures for disaster management, he said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/¡¡06/02/2006


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Govt to Increase Education Spending to 10% of Budget

The government can only afford to increase national education spending to 10 percent, or Rp 38 trillion (US$4.13 billion), of the state budget this year, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati says. Sri said the state's limited finances meant it was impossible for the government to earmark the extra Rp 16.9 trillion needed to meet the 20 percent requirement for education spending set by the Constitution. "The government's position is that we will focus on maintaining the current electricity rates by allocating more subsidies. This, the President has made clear. So there will be no sharp rise in the budget for education," she said. The Constitutional Court has ruled the government is in violation of the Constitution for not allocating 20 percent of its budget to education. Mulyani said if the government was forced to meet the requirement, it would have to raise electricity rates and scrap funding allocations for infrastructure projects and the reconstruction of earthquake-devastated Yogyakarta.

However, during Monday's meeting between the government and House of Representatives leaders, it was agreed that the 20 percent requirement could be met next year. Separately Wednesday, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said both the government and the House should take responsibility for the violation of the Constitution. "The government cannot be dismissed for this because the budget was decided and agreed upon by the House and the government. Therefore, if there is a protest (against the education budget) it should also be directed at the House. Indonesian education budgets have long been among the smallest in Asia, with spending standing at around 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, as compared to 5.3 percent in South Korea and 2.8 percent in Vietnam, according to the 2003 data from the World Bank. Economists say the lack of skilled human resources here has contributed to the country's slow pace of development. (by Rendi Akhmad Witular)


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/¡¡06/08/2006


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Government Prepares Subsidy for Farmers

The government will provide subsidies for farmers engaged in planting palm oil, cacao, rubber and corn in an effort to boost the country's plantation output and create jobs. Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono the assistance would take the form of loans channeled by banks to palm oil, cacao and rubber farmers. Corn farmers will receive seeds. "The interest-rate subsidy will be for farmers in Sumatra and Kalimantan, while the free seeds will be for corn farmers in Sulawesi only," said Anton after meeting with Vice President Jusuf Kalla Thursday. He expected the subsidies to help the government met its target of expanding plantations by 500,000 hectares annually. The government will allocate a total of Rp 1.7 trillion (US$182 million) this year to cover the subsidies, of which some Rp 200 billion would be distributed through state-owned Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI).

BRI president director Sofyan Basir said that of the 18 percent interest rate imposed on farmers, the government will pick up 8 percent while farmers pay the remaining 10 percent. ="The amount of the subsidies will depend on developments with the interest rate. The loan will have a grace period of five years for palm oil farmers and seven years for cacao and rubber farmers," said Sofyan. The bank will use the farmers' plantations as collateral. The government has yet to finish calculating the amount of the subsidies allocated for cacao and rubber farmers. With the aid, palm oil farmers are expected to be able to establish some 50,000 hectares of new plantations this year, with as much as 300,000 hectares estimated for next year. According to the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI), there are 5.2 million hectares of palm oil plantations in Indonesia. With crude palm oil production forecast to reach 15.2 million tons this year, Indonesia is likely to overtake Malaysia as the top producer in the world. Meanwhile, Anton also said that his ministry would allocate Rp 100 billion this year for the free corn seeds, and Rp 500 billion next year to help open some 600,000 hectares of new corn plantation land in Sulawesi. Last year, the country produced 11.4 million tons of corn and imported around 400,000 tons.

Demand for corn is expected to grow by at least 10 percent this year, with around 21.17 million estimated for 2010. Due to the availability of idle land, the government has declared Sulawesi as the country's center for corn production. "The subsidies will be taken from the state budget. The government will continue providing them every year until 2009," said Anton, adding that Indonesia's agricultural sector had lagged behind in comparison to other countries in Asia. The sector's slow development is primarily due to mismanagement of resources by previous governments and corruption among officials and local regulatory bodies, who take advantage of unclear regulations. At present, the nation's agricultural growth stands at an average of 3.5 percent per annum. (by Rendi Akhmad Witular)


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/¡¡06/23/2006


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Govt May Issue Short-Term Treasury Bills in Fourth Quarter

The government is planning to issue its first short-term treasury bills (T-Bills) that could reach up to Rp 3 trillion (US$320.4 million) in the fourth quarter of this year. The director general of the treasury at the Finance Ministry, Mulia Nasution, was quoted by Antara newswire as saying Thursday the treasury bills would be issued once the primary dealers for the issue had been established. "The primary dealers will be set up in the fourth quarter at the latest," Mulia said.

The issuance of treasury bills will help develop the country's secondary bond market, analysts say. Primary dealers serve to reduce sharp price volatility of the bonds if needed. The government is relying on bonds to help finance the current state budget deficit, which is expected to widen to 1.4 percent of gross domestic product from the original target of 0.7 percent. The widening deficit is a result of higher spending on electricity subsidies, the education sector and reconstruction of quake-affected areas in some parts of Yogyakarta and Central Java. It will be the first short-term treasury bills issued by the government, which has so far issued longer-term bonds. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has said that the government would raise the size of bonds to be issued in the local market this year to Rp 38 trillion, from the original target of Rp 24.9 trillion, to help cover the greater budget deficit.

Elsewhere, Mulia said the House of Representatives had approved the planned short-term treasury bills.

Asked about the possibility of the government issuing more than Rp 3 trillion worth of short-term treasury bills, Mulia said that it was unlikely because it was the first time the government would launch such issue, and also considering the current jittery market condition.

In addition to the short-term treasury bills, the government will also issue for the first time retail bonds worth between Rp 2 trillion and Rp 3 trillion, which is expected to take place later this month. The bonds will carry face value of Rp 1 million, and investors are required to make a minimum purchase of Rp 5 million. The government has appointed 11 selling agents including Trimegah Securities, Danareksa Securities, Valbury Asia Securities, Bank Mandiri, Bank Bukopin, Bank Permata, Bank Mega, Citibank, Bank NISP, Bank Danamon and Bank Panin. Rahmat Walujanto of the Finance Ministry said that to help ensure stability in the price of the bonds, the primary dealers assigned by the government would intervene in case of a volatile market. "We have prepared a buyback program. It's our strategy to ensure price stability. So when the price plunges, we'll intervene," he said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/¡¡06/23/2006


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MALAYSIA: Ministry Draws Up Flu Pandemic Action Plan

The Health Ministry has come up with an action plan to be implemented should an influenza pandemic breaks out. The plan, which provides a policy and strategic framework for a multi-sector response, contains specific advice and action to be taken not only by the ministry but also by other government departments and agencies, as well as non-governmental organisations. Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said there was a growing concern over the imminent threat of an influenza pandemic that could have very devastating consequences worldwide. He said the plan was to ensure that resources were mobilised and used efficiently during the pandemic period. ¡°Influenza pandemic simulation exercises have been carried out at both state and national levels to ensure that the Plan of Action is workable,¡± said Chua who was speaking at the Eighth Asean Health Ministers Meeting in Myanmar yesterday.  He added that Malaysia, with its expertise from its two decades-long involvement in influenza virus surveillance, would be offering its services to the WHO Collaboration Centre for Influenza via the Institute for Medical Research.

From http://thestar.com.my/¡¡06/22/2006


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Abdullah: 9MP Projects to Start Next Month

Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Reiterating that the Government has the funds to implement the plan, the Prime Minister said the Government was not lying when it tabled the plan in Parliament. ¡°We know when we presented the plan, we have the capability, the funds to implement it,¡± he said at the Malaysian Malay Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur Award yesterday. ¡°It (the plan) is not for gimmick purposes and we are not lying about our financial capability because lying will not take us (the Government) anywhere.¡± Abdullah said the 9MP was not an empty promise by the Government. ¡°We are determined to implement it and I am very determined to see it through,¡± he said. Abdullah urged Malay businessmen to make themselves a force to be reckoned with to help realise the Government¡¯s aspiration. He said they had made tremendous progress since the launch of the New Economic Policy, and some had emerged as scientists and technocrats. If the two forces were merged, it could give added strength to the nation, he said. He asked Bumiputra businessmen to prepare themselves for the challenges of globalisation and trade liberalisation. Abdullah presented six awards to entrepreneurs for excellence in various fields. The President Award went to developer Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar of MK Land Bhd. Others who received awards were Datuk Rameli Musa (for innovation), Datuk Dr Zainuddin Wazir (originality), Amran Ahmed (young entrepreneur), Rozita Ibrahim (woman entrepreneur) and Noraini Ahmad (creativity).


From http://thestar.com.my¡¡06/24/2006


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PHILIPPINES: House OK¡¯s Bill on Full Poll Automation in 2010

THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill amending Republic Act 8436, thus paving the way to full automation of the country¡¯s electoral system in the next four years. The House leadership, headed by Speaker Jose de Venecia, expressed a sigh of relief over the bill¡¯s approval in Wednesday¡¯s plenary session. A total of 163 congressmen voted in favor, two against, and one in abstained. ¡°The House has risen to the challenge,¡± de Venecia said. ¡°Full automation is a decisive step toward achieving meaningful reforms in the way we conduct elections.¡± The bill¡¯s proponent, Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. of MakatiCity, said there is a need to rewrite the existing election law, which is  ¡°so excessively technology-specific as to render the Commission on Elections inutile to implement the law effectively and without controversy.¡± Locsin, who heads the House Committee on Electoral Reforms and Suffrage, noted that his committee, in tandem with the House Committee on Information Communication Technology headed by Rep. Simeon Kintanar, had formed a joint technical working group composed of local and international ICT and election experts. House Bill 5352, he said, a cocktail of  ¡°meaningful recommendations,¡± is the result.

Under the bill, the automation of election would be implemented on a staggered mode starting in 2007, with Metro Manila and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as pilot areas.  Full automation is to be implemented in 2010. ¡°If Comelec fails to implement the modernization program, we shall revert to manual elections,¡± Locsin said. ¡°We insisted on this. The last thing this country needs is a sweeping challenge to [the legitimacy of] all elected officials just because elections cannot be held electronically.¡± In the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Aquilino ¡°Nene¡± Pimentel said the minority bloc fully supports enactment of the Senate version of the bill, but it wants a thorough discussion of its ramifications first. Pimentel made the explanation in reaction to an accusation made by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman on Constitutional Amendments and sponsor of the Election Modernization Bill. Opposition members had refused on Thursday to vote on the proposal, prompting Gordon to charge that his fellow senators were blocking passage of the bill.

It just isn¡¯t so, Pimentel said, adding that the members of the opposition, particularly Senators Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal, Jinggoy Estrada and Alfredo Lim, want to study the bill. He allayed fears that delayed approval of the bill would imperil the election modernization program. If the bill is taken up and passed in August, he said, the government still has eight months to prepare for the May 2007 election. To be successful, Pimentel also said, the modernization program should adopt a technology appropriate to the Philippine setting. And it is also important to determine whether the automated vote-counting machines should be leased or purchased. ¡°I do not know which is the best thing to do here,¡± he said. ¡°Some people believe that perhaps leasing the equipment is the better option. Others suggest that we buy the computers and then donate them to public schools after the election.¡± (by Maricel V. Cruz)


From http://www.manilatimes.net/¡¡06/12/2006


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Clark Ecozone Bill Set for Senate Deliberation in July

CLARK ECOZONE, Pampanga: Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan has assured officials, locators and workers here that tax incentives being enjoyed by Subic Bay Special Economic Freeport Zone are likely to be approved in the Senate when the Congress resumes session on July 24. ¡°I assure you that your good intentions will not be in vain, as the tax privileges being lobbied for will gain fruition very soon,¡± Pangilinan said in a letter. The Senate is set to take up Clark bills that call for the restoration of tax incentives and duty free privileges to investors to avoid the dislocation of more than 40,000 workers at the special economic zone. Based on reports, investors in some economic zones are planning to move to other countries if no legislative measures are adopted to correct a recent Supreme Court¡¯s decision nullifying the granting of tax and duty-free privileges to other economic zones except Subic.

Senate Bill 2259, which calls for the one-time tax amnesty to the locators, and SB 2260, which calls for amendments to Republic Act 7227 are in the main agenda of the Senate when it resumes session. Senators Ralph Recto and Richard Gordon are sponsoring the bills. The absence of fiscal incentives in the four special economic zones, which include Clark, Poro Point in La Union, Camp John Hay in BagiuoCity and Morong in Bataan under R.A. 7227, should not discourage investors and locators, the senators said. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel said earlier that he favors an early resolution to the tax incentives problem in Clark but does not favor a tax amnesty that gives investors ¡°overly¡± generous benefits. He added that he would only support tax amnesties that are fair to all those concerned.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/¡¡06/21/2006


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THAILAND: Govt Unveils Package of Populist Measures

The special cabinet meeting yesterday came up with a package of economic measures that seemed specifically designed to indulge the farming sector. The meeting, chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, agreed to offer small-scale farmers a 1% cut in interest rates on loans, to reduce electricity bills by 20% and invest 130 million baht to subsidise fruit growers.


From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/¡¡06/03/2006


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Thai Government to Impose Environmental Taxes

BANGKOK, Asia Pulse - The Thai government is considering imposing environmental taxes on households and industrial businesses in order to raise public awareness on environmental protection. Finance Ministry Spokesman Somchai Sajjaponse told journalists that the ministry's Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) had studied and worked out an initial framework of the proposed taxes. "FPO has initially worked out the first phase of the new tax structure. In the second phase, we'll join with the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) to conduct a nationwide survey on what should be appropriate tax rates in different and specific areas," he noted. "The joint FPO-ADB survey will be kicked off in July and is expected to be complete by early next year and will then be submitted to the new government for further consideration and action," he added. Mr. Somchai said that the FPO-ADB study would also help classify categories of the environmental taxes, namely the taxes on industrial wastes, air and water pollution, as well as designate specific agencies in metropolitan and provincial areas to work with the Ministry of Interior's Department of Provincial Administration in collecting the taxes. The proposed environmental taxes will help change behaviors of consumers and entrepreneurs so that more public awareness on environmental protection and cooperation on product recycling will be created and sustained, which will ease social problems caused by pollution and industrial wastes, according to FPO. The government views it an urgent task in promoting the awareness among all parties concerned in the society, said the finance ministry spokesman.


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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BANGLADESH: Ensuring Governance Key to Development in Bangladesh

Maintaining good governance ahead of the national elections in the next few months is the key challenge for the development programme of Bangladesh, said World Bank Bangladesh's Country Director Christine Wallich. "Donors' money is not the binding component for Bangladesh. The important thing is good ideas, good programme and their proper functioning. Money will not be a problem," she said while speaking at a press conference following conclusion of a two-day workshop. The World Bank organised the workshop on 'Towards a Strategy for Achieving the MDG (Millennium Development Goal) Outcomes in Bangladesh' at its office. Referring to 14,000 teachers' recruitment in the government primary schools in the next few months she said no appointment should be made on political consideration, rather than professional skills. Expressing dismay over the recent labour unrest in the RMG (Ready Made Garment) sector she said this is the lifeline of Bangladesh's economy and it must be protected. "The issues of workers' wages, working condition need to be reassessed and the owners should render their corporate responsibilities," she said while asked for her comment on the issue. Asked if the multilateral financers' pressure on increasing price of the fuel is pro-poor, Christine Wallich said the government incurs huge loss for subsidising diesel, petrol and gas, and so it is forced to borrow from the nationalised commercialised banks. As a result, the small and medium enterprises cannot borrow loan for initiating and expanding their business, which is an obstacle to upgrading the status of the poor, she said.

Citing the example of India the WB country director said it is a great model where the price of fuel is 60 percent higher than that of Bangladesh. Presenting the outcomes of the workshop World Bank's Lead Human Development Specialist Qaiser Khan said Bangladesh can meet all the MDGs if accountability and transparency in public service delivery is improved and access and quality of secondary education is ensured. He also said growth rate should be sustained at more than 4 percent, infrastructure constraints are to be removed and emerging urban problems to be addressed to meet the MDGs. Terming urbanisation and lack of proper education and health facilities, especially in the crowded slums a big challenge for the country he said expansion of urban education, incentives for private schools for the urban poor are a must. On the urban education and public services UNDP Assistant Representative Karen Dunn said local government should be more active in addressing these issues. "Community mobilisation and financial credibility can play an important role." NGO activities, which has immense effect in the rural areas, should also play their due role in the urban slum areas with more emphasis, said Grameen Bank Deputy Managing Director Dipal Chandra Barua. A press release on the workshop said that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress on several MDGs and is already on the verge of achieving the targets in gender parity. It also has a good chance of reaching other targets in areas such as under five mortality and consumption poverty. "Other MDGs relating to improving maternal health, water, sanitation and environmental degradation are going to be much harder to achieve," it added.


From The Daily star ¡¡06/08/2006


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BHUTAN: 85th Session to Discuss Media Bill

The Media Bill is one of the legislations that is expected to be endorsed by the 85th session of the National Assembly that begins on June 16 in the capital corresponding to the 20th day of the fourth month of the Bhutanese calendar. Other important legislations that will put forward for endorsement include the Auditor General Bill of Bhutan, the Anti- Corruption Bill of Bhutan, and the Office of the Attorney General Bill of Bhutan. The National Assembly is the highest legislative body in the country. Of the 150 members of the National Assembly, 116 members are elected by the people and include 100 chimis (people's representatives), ten cabinet ministers and six royal advisory councillors. The rest of the 34 members are representatives of the government, which include the dzongdas, the Zhung Kalyon, the Central Monastic Body and the Rabdey, according to the Assembly secretariat. There are twenty new chimis attending this session. Of the 100 chimis four are women. Other issues for deliberation include tourism, environment, rural electrification, rural urban migration and promotion of culture and corruption. The Assembly session will begin at 9:30 am with an hour and half break for lunch and end at 4pm. The session concludes on June 30.


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/¡¡06/10/2006


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INDIA: A Need to Re-emphasise the Role of Public Health Care in India

A single factor that will play an important role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals no doubt is infrastructure. Accessibility of better infrastructure facilities creates an environment conducive for achieving this MDGs. Public intervention in health, education and nutrition is crucial for increasing life expectancy and reducing infant mortality. This paper concentrates on public health infrastructure. The health agenda is very much evident in the Millennium Development Goals (henceforth MDGs) as it is explicit in three of the eight goals. Improved health contributes to poverty alleviation and at the same time sustainable improvement of health mainly depends on successful poverty alleviation. The MDGs 4 and 5 aim at Maternal and Child health. The health of mothers and children is a priority that emerged long before the 1990s but in the last decade the health of mothers and children was transformed from a purely domestic concern into a public health priority with corresponding responsibilities for the state and there has been global focus on the Millennium Development Goals. The nature of the priority status of maternal and child health (henceforth MCH) has changed over time. Mothers and children were previously thought of as targets for well- intentioned programmes, they now increasingly claim the right to access quality care as an entitled guaranteed by the state. In doing so, they have transformed maternal and child health from a technical concern into a moral and political imperative. (World Health report, 2005) At the global level it was stressed that mothers and children are vulnerable groups and therefore priority targets for public health action. The notion of mothers and children as vulnerable groups was also central to the primary health care movement launched at Alma- Ata (now Almaty, Kazakhstan) in 1978. This paper examines important issues of health infrastructure in India with a focus on its impact on important health indicators relevant to Millennium development goals four and five.


From http://southasia.oneworld.net/¡¡05/30/2006


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Indian President Advocates ICTs in Police Reform

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has called for an integrated approach by the Intelligence Bureau and the police for tackling cross-border terrorism. Delivering the keynote address at the 37th All-India Police Science Congress here on Tuesday, he said that in the backdrop of cross-border terrorism, the nation's capabilities such as communications, rail and business infrastructure stood exposed and vulnerable. Internal security was the foundation of national integration, and with the country passing through a crucial phase following terrorist attacks, the police had an important role to play in not only safeguarding national integrity but also contributing to the development of the country. Mr. Kalam suggested that the congress generate an action plan for the progressive introduction of ICT (information and communication technology) in police forces and the establishment of an e-governance system for the police.


From The Hindu¡¡ 06/07/2006


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US Congress Cautious on Indian Nuclear Energy

Congress is unlikely to give final approval this year to the Bush administration¡¯s civilian nuclear energy deal with India, according to Senator John McCain, the influential Arizona Republican. In an interview with the FT, Mr McCain said Congress needed to scrutinise the deal rigorously because of the precedent it would set. Critics say the deal would encourage nuclear proliferation by rewarding India, a country that has developed nuclear weapons while refusing to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. President George W. Bush sealed the landmark deal during a visit to Delhi this year. Under the agreement, the US would supply India with civilian nuclear technology in return for Delhi agreeing to open most of its nuclear facilities to international inspections. ¡°I am not saying I will oppose it, but I still would like to hear more argument in its favour,¡± said Mr McCain. ¡°I understand our unique relationship with India ...but when you carve out an exemption, then of course you run the risk of others wanting the same exemption.¡± Although Mr McCain said his tendency was to support the deal, it was ¡°unlikely¡± that Congress could give final approval this year because of the time needed to examine the agreement properly. The White House has been pushing Congress to make the required changes in US law as soon as possible. However, Republicans and Democrats are increasingly reluctant to approve the deal before details such as what safeguards India would negotiate with the International Atomic Energy Agency are hammered out. Some critics argue that the deal will bolster India¡¯s nuclear weapons programme because it will allow India to import uranium fuel, freeing up its domestic supply for use in its military programme. ¡°For what it¡¯s worth, we have received assurances that India will not do that, but this is taking a risk,¡± says Mr McCain. If the Republicans retain control of the Senate in the November congressional elections, Mr McCain will become chairman of the Senate armed services committee in January. One of his priorities, he says, will be to reform military procurement. Mr McCain says: ¡°[Military procurement] has become a national scandal. Nine of the 11 major weapons systems last year were over cost and behind schedule and received incentive bonuses. I don¡¯t get it.¡±

From The Financial Times ¡¡06/15/2006


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MALDIVES: Cabinet Recommends President to Ratify SAARC Agreement

MALE - The cabinet recommended to President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to ratify the SAARC Limited Multilateral Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. The Agreement aims to promote economic cooperation amongst SAARC member countries by avoiding double taxation and promoting mutual administrative assistance in tax matters. The Maldives signed the Agreement on 13 November 2005. The cabinet also discussed today the programme, which was drawn up by the Ministry of Home Affairs, to celebrate this year¡¯s Independence Day. All Independence Day celebrations were cancelled in 2005, as part of the austerity measures to reduce public expenditures to offset the enormous budgetary pressures in the wake of 26 December 2004 tsunami. As in previous years, the President will address the nation on 26 July 2006. The annual Official Reception hosted by the President and the First Lady will be held at Dharubaaruge. This year¡¯s parade and pageantry event will be held at the Galolhu National Stadium, to accommodate a larger number of spectators. The float procession will be held on the streets of Male¡¯. From 1999, Independence Day has officially been commemorated in two different regions of the country, in addition to Male¡¯. This year, the two islands that have been selected are Lhaviyani atoll Naifaru and Gaafu Dhaalu atoll Thinadhoo, where festivities will be held to celebrate the occasion.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/¡¡06/13/2006


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DRP Condemns MDP for Role in Blocking Bill on Political Parties

MALE - Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has condemned the decision of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to block the Bill on Political Parties submitted to the People¡¯s Majlis (parliament) by the government. DRP which has as its members cabinet ministers and government executives said in the press release that ¡°the country is in serious need of a law that details registration and activities of political parties. Indeed, a Law on Political Parties is one of the most important acts that the legislative body needs to pass. Therefore, the decision by MDP Members to block the Bill on Political Parties, weakens the reform process and obstructs the wishes of the people to enjoy the benefit of a full fledged multi-party system,¡± DRP said. On Thursday¡¯s sitting of the People¡¯s Majlis when the Bill on Political Parties was put to vote 16 out of the 27 members present voted in favor. Two members voted against while nine members gave neutral votes. It was also noted that when it was time to vote on the Bill, some MPs who are senior members of DRP left the Majlis Hall.

MDP¡¯s parliamentary group¡¯s chairman and Male MP Mohamed Shihab said that MDP had no hand in the Bill not passing through the Majlis. However he said that MDP¡¯s stand is that a separate Law on Political Parties is not needed to run political parties. Political parties can be run through the current laws. ¡°In addition to that we do not hold a majority in the Majlis to make decisions. Eleven members alone cannot make the decisions of the Majlis. According to the information I have received MDP members gave different votes for the Bill on Political Parties,¡± Shihab said. DRP¡¯s parliamentary group¡¯s chairperson and Meemu atoll MP Aneesa said that the vote turned out be a surprising result as the Bill was not much of a controversial one and that as far as she knows all but one DRP MP voted in favor of the Bill. ¡°Additionally, the decision to block the Bill on Political Parties, ensures that parties will continue to work under the relevant Presidential Decree on the Activities of Political Parties,¡± DRP continued in their press release. ¡°However, the obvious inconsistency of the fact that the same members continue to deny the legality of the Presidential Decree on Rights of Assembly, further proves that the MDP is not a mature political force,¡± the press released by DRP said.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/¡¡06/26/2006


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NEPAL: Nepal Government and Rebels to Draft a Constitution

The government and Maoist rebels have agreed to form a six-member committee led by former Justice of the Supreme Court, Laxman Prasad Aryal, to draft an interim constitution. A joint statement signed by coordinator of the government negotiating team and Home Minister Krishna P. Sitaula and coordinator of the Maoist negotiating team, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, said the six-member drafting committee has been asked to present its draft to the negotiating team within 15 days. Other members of the drafting committee include senior advocates Sindhunath Pyakurel and Mahadev Yadav, president of Nepal Bar Association Shambhu Thapa, and advocates Harihar Dahal and Khim Lal Devkota. Pyakurel and Devkota are believed to be close to the CPN (Maoist) while Dahal and Yadav are said to be close to Nepali Congress and Nepali Congress (Democratic) respectively. The drafting committee will present its draft based on people's rights secured by the people's movement, 12-point understanding between the SPA and the Maoists, and code of conduct signed by the Nepal government and the Maoist rebels, the statement said.


From http://www.nepalnews.com/¡¡06/17/2006


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Interim Constitution Drafting Committee to Begin Formal Work from Monday

The Interim Constitution Drafting Committee has agreed to initiate formal works from Monday after Sunday¡¯s meeting of the committee with the Government and Maoist talks teams. Talking to Nepalnews, coordinator of the committee, former Justice Laxman Prasad Aryal said Sunday¡¯s meeting agreed to induct one woman member and another member in the committee by Sunday afternoon. He added the committee will formally start its work from Monday. He informed that they discussed the necessary requirements for the committee and the procedures to move ahead during the meeting. It is learnt that the officials of the committee raised concern over the government¡¯s delay in issuing formal letters to them. Home Minister and coordinator of the government¡¯s talks team, Krishna Prasad Sitaula, assured to issue formal letters soon. Aryal said that they have decided to start formal work from Monday after the committee gets full shape. He informed that the committee will complete the work of preparing interim constitution within 15-days from the date of starting work. The government and the Maoists, during the high level talks on Friday, had formed the interim constitution drafting committee with the mandate of submitting the draft constitution within 15-days. Confusion then emerged as the government did not provide formal letters to them to start their work. The officials of the committee refused to start formal work without formal letters to them. The government and Maoist talks teams agreed to induct two more people including a women representative in the five member committee, making it a seven member one, after controversy from the start, with no representation of women. Other people from Dalit and indigenous communities have also been organizing protests demanding their representation in the committee.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/¡¡06/25/2006


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PAKISTAN: Pakistan Government Allocates Rs 20 Million for Bird Flu Protection

Chaudhry Khalid Mehmood, parliamentary secretary for livestock and dairy development, told the Punjab Assembly in Pakistan that the government had allocated Rs 20 million in its Annual Development Programme for 2006-07 to the protection of the poultry industry from bird flu. Replying to an adjournment motion moved by Muhammad Waqas of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) on the destruction of Pakistan¡¯s poultry industry by bird flu, the secretary said there was no bird flu death in Punjab. However, he said, the government had imported vaccine worth Rs 10 million and had vaccinated about 1.8 million chickens as a precautionary measure. He said the Livestock and Dairy Development Department was monitoring bird flu in Punjab since September 2005. He said other teams had been formed under the supervision of district coordination officers to keep the department informed about the virus. He said the Veterinary Research Institute in Lahore and Poultry Research Institute in Rawalpindi had been ordered to collect data on bird flu and on losses borne by the poultry industry. He said the government was ready to compensate the owners of poultry farms who had lost thousands of chickens. The House also kept pending a privilege motion moved by opposition member Noorun Nisa Malik on the misbehaviour of the Faisalabad superintendent of police (investigation). Law Minister Basharat Raja said he would personally take up the matter with the SP and would report to the House within the next three days. Earlier, Zakat and Ushr Minister Khadim Hussain Wattoo told the House that the government was going to recommend the federal government make sure a person should hold a matriculation degree before being appointed the chairman of a Zakat Committee. Mr Wattoo also said he would recommend the federal government withdraw the condition of a bride producing a marriage certificate at the time of receiving a marriage grant from the zakat fund.


From DAILY TIMES ¡¡06/13/2006


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IEAQ: PM to Unveil Reconciliation Plan

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will present to parliament a much-awaited national reconciliation plan that offers amnesty to some rebels and calls for the disarmament of militias, in a bid to end the deadly violence plaging the country. But ahead of Maliki's announcement, a car bomb exploded against a police patrol in northeastern Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding three, a security official said. In the southern city of Amara, an Iraqi translator working for British forces was gunned down and killed as he left his home, police said. Maliki's 28-point plan aims to quell the raging sectarian violence and rein in the Sunni-backed insurgency that has left thousands dead across Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Kurdish Lawmaker Mahmud Othman said the initiative will "offer amnesty to everyone except war criminals and those who have killed innocent Iraqis". "The plan aims to open dialogue with all insurgent groups except Al-Qaeda and Saddamists, and to disarm militias," Othman told §¡F§². He said the plan calls for a "timetable for the build-up of armed forces to control the security situation so that the role of coalition forces will come to an end". A report in the New York Times Sunday said that the top US commander in Iraq General George Casey foresees a major reduction in US forces there by the end of 2007, and the first cuts in September.

Othman said the plan will offer compensation to families of civilians killed by "coalition troops and those who have been wrongly detained" and will also focus on improving Iraqis' standard of living. The plan, first mentioned by Maliki on June 6, was inspired by post-apartheid South Africa and intends to unite the warring Shiite and Sunni communities involved in tit-for-tat sectarian killings. Maliki has already approved the release this month of about 2,500 prisoners held in US and Iraqi prisons, most of them Sunnis. President Jalal Talabani, who announced his backing for Maliki's plan on Wednesday, had said an amnesty for those who had borne arms against the government will be offered provided they rejoin the political mainstream. "National reconciliation will be open to everyone and this will be explicitly stated by the prime minister when he presents it," Talabani said. Since taking office in April 2005, Talabani, a Kurd, has repeatedly called for an amnesty to be offered to Sunni insurgents. But his calls have previously gone unheeded because of opposition from the US military and Shiite hardliners who dominate parliament. But although many political leaders have voiced support for Maliki's plan, some of the strongest opposition has come from hardliners in his own camp.

"We reject this project completely -- no dialogue with Saddamists and 'takfiris'," said Falah Shanshal, a lawmaker close to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, referring to Saddam loyalists and Sunni extremists. On Saturday Qassem Dawood, another MP from Maliki's bloc, met Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and declared afterwards: "No reconciliation with terrorists. This plan may or may not pass. There is no way the government can cut deals without parliamentary oversight." Although some Sunnis have joined the political process, many have yet to reconcile themselves to losing power to the Shiite majority and continue to support the insurgency. The head of the Arab League mission to Baghdad, Mokhtar Lamani, said last week that the biggest obstacle to reconciliation was "severe lack of confidence" among the feuding factions. Many Sunnis believe they are the target of militias linked to Shiite ruling parties, while Shiites have a deep-seated suspicion towards any potential reconciliation partner after a wave of attacks that has hit the community hard since the destruction of a revered shrine in Samarra in February.

The initiative was welcomed by almost all Iraqi newspapers. "Great expectations for the national reconciliation plan today!" read the front-page headline in Al-Bayan, owned by Maliki's Dawa party. The only voice of dissent came from the independent Al-Sabah al-Jadeed. "Democracy must be built by democrats," Ismail al-Zayer, the editor-in-chief said in a front page editorial. "The question we must ask as we lay the foundations for reconciliation is whether our politicians entrusted with democratic change are qualified for this task and the answer is: No and a very big no. "They will draw a reconciliation plan that reflects the current sectarian government and parliament. It will be stale and unconvincing." Zayer called for a "precise definition" of who would be excluded from the amnesty otherwise the plan could be "a landmine that will blow everything up down the road."


From http://www.bakutoday.net/¡¡06/25/2006


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IRAN: SEC to Finalize Anti-Drug Policies

An official with the Drug Control Headquarters said on Monday policies for fighting drugs will be finalized in the upcoming sessions of State Expediency Council. Amir Hossein Mirzaei, the headquarters¡¯ deputy head for confronting drug distribution and smuggling, also told reporters that 60 tons of drugs, including cocaine, opium, cannabis and morphine, will be destroyed on June 26, which marks the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. He said according to the report of World Health Organization¡¯s Social Commission, cultivation, production, carriage, distribution and abuse of drugs are threatening human communities worldwide, ISNA reported. ¡°Drug business is the world¡¯s fourth lucrative illegal trade with a financial turnover of 1,500-2,000 billion dollars per year,¡° he said. Referring to 250 million drug users and 50 million HIV carriers globally, he said there are officially at least 1.2 million hardcore addicts in the country while twice as many addicts who abuse drugs occasionally. A majority of HIV carriers are drug users who share needles. Mirzaei also said Afghanistan is the largest drug producer supplying 80 percent of the world¡¯s drugs, adding that Iranian officials are patrolling 925 kilometers of its border with Afghanistan while they have no control on their side of the border. ¡°Although the Afghan figure on reducing opium cultivation is 20 percent, there has been a reduction of only 2 percent,¡° he said. Mirzaei stressed the essential role of NGOs and the public in preventing and treating drug addicts. Also on Monday, Kerman Police Commander Brigadier General Hamid Gorizan told ILNA four tons of drugs, including three tons of opium and one ton of cannabis, have been discovered in the province in the last ten days. Gorizan added that 40 bandits, four murderers and two troublemakers were detained during armed conflicts in different parts of this southeastern province.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/¡¡06/20/2006


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KYRGYZSTAN: Premier Submits Draft Constitution

Feliks Kulov has sent a task force charged with reforming the the Kyrgyz Constitution his draft of an improved constitution, ferghana.ru reported on June 5. In a statement, Kulov said that he "categorically" disagrees with those who argue the country needs an entirely new constitution. The changes Kulov recommends would result in a presidential-parliamentary system in which a parliament is elected on the basis of party slates. The party that receives the largest number of votes proposes a prime minister, but all parties take part in the selection of ministers. (A Russian-language file with the changes proposed by Kulov can be downloaded at http://www.akipress.org/_doc/const-kulov.doc.) DK

From http://www.rferl.org/¡¡06/06/2006


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Kyrgyz Parliament Votes for Public Television

Kyrgyzstan's parliament passed a bill on June 8 to transform the country's state-run television station, the only station that broadcasts to the entire country, into a public television station, ferghana.ru reported. Under the new legislation, which now awaits President Bakiev's signature, the public television station will be overseen by a council of which the president, parliament, and civil society will each name one-third of the members. The director of the reformed station, who is currently a presidential appointee, will be chosen on a competitive basis. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/¡¡06/09/2006


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Kazakh Parliament Passes Controversial Media Amendments

Kazakhstan's Mazhilis (lower chamber of parliament) passed amendments to the country's media law on June 21, Kazinform reported. The amendments, which were proposed by Culture and Information Minister Ermukhamet Ertysbaev and tighten regulations for media outlets, have drawn sharp criticism from journalists, the OSCE, and Mazhilis deputy Darigha Nazarbaeva (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 1, 6, and 14, 2006). The bill will now move to the upper chamber of parliament, Interfax reported. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/¡¡06/22/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Govt to Push to Break Up Unviable Camps

The federal government will encourage Aborigines living in small, unviable communities to pack up and leave in an attempt to end the cycle of poverty and welfare dependency in outback camps. Bureaucrats have been ordered to conduct an audit of remote indigenous communities, which is estimated to include about 1,000 settlements with fewer than 100 people, The Weekend Australian reports. More than 80 per cent of those camps have fewer than 50 inhabitants. A spokesman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said the audit would begin immediately. "It is part of the process to get a better handle on the state of play in those homeland communities with a view to determining the appropriate level of servicing," he told the newspaper. The NT and federal governments have agreed to jointly begin a study into 547 indigenous communities in the territory that will recommend ways to voluntarily move Aboriginal people out of unsustainable places, the newspaper says.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡05/27/2006

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Ruddock to Rewrite Sedition Laws

FEDERAL Attorney-General Philip Ruddock is prepared to revise the Government's new sedition laws after an independent inquiry found they were illogical and anachronistic. Mr Ruddock was "predisposed" to abandon the use of the term "sedition", a spokeswoman for the minister said yesterday after the Australian Law Reform Commission urged that the laws be renamed and rewritten. But because the ALRC's proposals were contained in a discussion paper, Mr Ruddock was awaiting the commission's final report. In an interim report, the ALRC urged the Government to remove the concept of sedition from the federal statute book because of the threat to free speech. The sedition laws were introduced late last year as part of Canberra's package of counter-terrorism laws. But after yesterday's damning report, the mainstream media and academics backed the commission's call for an overhaul. ALRC president David Weisbrot said yesterday there was no reason why the sedition laws could not be redrafted to avoid stifling dissent and the media. "Given its history, the term sedition is much too closely associated in the public mind with punishment of those who criticise the established order," Professor Weisbrot said.

"Under modern notions and a liberal democracy, you should be allowed to strongly criticise government." Professor Weisbrot said the commission report recommended replacing "sedition" with "offences against political liberty and public order". "It's not as elegant as one word, but probably more accurate," he said. As well as removing sedition, the commission recommended 24 other changes aimed at making it clear the new laws targeted only those who intentionally urge violence or the overthrow of the Constitution. The commission rejected calls from the mainstream media for an exemption from the sedition laws, but proposed amendments that academics said addressed the media's concerns. The commission's proposals were supported yesterday by News Limited (publisher of the The Australian), John Fairfax and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. John Fairfax corporate affairs director Bruce Wolpe said the commission's findings had vindicated Fairfax's concerns about the sedition laws. "The law reform commission is recommending the effective repeal of the sedition laws," Mr Wolpe said.

News Limited group editorial manager Warren Beeby welcomed the commission's proposals, and urged Mr Ruddock to adopt them. Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance assistant federal secretary Mark Ryan said that because the Government had referred the sedition laws to the commission, it was duty-bound to implement the proposals. Professor George Williams of the University of NSW said that while the commission had not given the media the exemption it asked for, a proposed reformulation of the sedition offence "may arguably be better". Law reform commission deputy president Brian Opeskin said the commission had proposed narrowing the offence of sedition. Another major change would mean that journalists or others charged with sedition would no longer need to prove they came within a "good faith" defence that had been introduced by the Government. The commission's discussion paper said this defence was illogical and anachronistic. Instead, courts would need to consider the context of an alleged seditious statement. They would need to consider whether the statement was made "in publishing a report or commentary about a matter of public interest", the commission said.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡05/30/2006


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Move to Ease Water Conflict

The Federal Government has hosed down speculation it might consider taking control of water policy from the states. Reports today said the Howard Government was considering moves to take control of cross-border water flows away from states to tackle water rights and drought.

But federal parliamentary secretary with responsibility for water, Malcolm Turnbull, today said that would be a timely but difficult option. "I don't think there is any prospect of a change of control of water being done other than by constitutional amendment and that is not the government policy," he said. "The path of constitutional change is a particularly difficult one." But he said he thought the system would work better if there was only one government calling the shots. "I don't think there is any doubt that if we were writing the Australian constitution today ... we would provide that water and rivers that cross state borders would be under national jurisdiction because the conflict between states and the difficulty in securing cooperation are enormous," he said.

The NSW and Victorian governments yesterday backed away from selling their stakes in the Snowy after the Federal Government announced it would keep its 13 per cent share. "It is another example of the Howard Government showing national leadership on water, and in preserving and protecting the water resources of Australia," Mr Turnbull said. "The protection of water is a national priority and it is one the Commonwealth Government takes very seriously." Mr Turnbull said state governments were failing to properly implement the 2004 national water initiative. "Some of them (the states and territories) are handling it better than others but generally the pace of water reform has been far too slow," he said. "We are very concerned that water reform proceed quickly because our climate is changing ... we are looking at having a drier and hotter future." Mr Turnbull said he would be meeting state and territory water ministers on June 16 inSydney.


From http://www.theage.com.au/¡¡06/04/2006

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IR Laws Get Tick from Business Satisfaction Index

SMALL business in Australia likes the Federal Government's industrial relations policies, but businesses in Victoria did not do well out of the Commonwealth Games. The Sensis Business Index for May also found that confidence among small and medium enterprises had been shaken by rising petrol prices, falling consumer demand and a tight labour market. The index, which has surveyed 1800 small businesses every quarter since 1993, shows confidence in the sector has fallen 11 percentage points during the February to April quarter. Report author Christena Singh said SME support for the Federal Government had risen 8 points to 17 per cent. "The Government's industrial relations policies were cited as the main reason for support," she said. But Ms Singh said more SMEs ¡ª a rise of 6 points to 68 per cent ¡ª did not think the workplace changes would have any impact on their business. "To date, only 4 per cent of SMEs claim to have made any changes," she said.

Despite the Government halving the incorporation fee to allow more small businesses to use the new system, only 9 per cent of SMEs were considering doing this. Ms Singh said the Commonwealth Games did not turn in a windfall for SMEs in Victoria. A total of 69 per cent of SMEs said the games had had no impact, while 26 per cent said they were negative, and 5 per cent said they were positive. "This is almost identical to the net impact of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games on SMEs in NSW," she said. SMEs felt their businesses slowed down during the games. People were either at the games or watching them on television, and business was lost due to disruption in the Melbourne CBD. Ms Singh said SME support for the Bracks Government rose during the quarter, but Victoria remained the second least supported state or territory government among SMEs.


From http://www.theage.com.au¡¡06/06/2006


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Media Reforms Next Year: Coonan

LAWS allowing media moguls to embark on a wave of takeovers to merge television, newspaper and radio outlets will be in force nextyear under a plan being put to federal cabinet with John Howard's support. In an interview with The Australian, Communications Minister Helen Coonan said she wanted sweeping changes to media ownership laws introduced next year, far earlier than industry expectations. And she confidently predicted the Prime Minister would back the major elements of her proposals, to be put to cabinet within weeks. But Senator Coonan still faces a potential fight with the Nationals over her proposed shake-up, with the chairman of the Government's backbench communications committee demanding measures to protect the diversity of services in the bush. Nationals MP Paul Neville, who is advising party leader Mark Vaile on the media plans, called for a "quota" to ensure local news and weather services in country areas were protected. "Regional Australia should not become the plaything of networked programming (from the cities)," Mr Neville told The Australian in his firmest comments yet on the media changes.

The Nationals have been consulting with Senator Coonan over the media reform plans, which would also allow foreign investors to take greater stakes in Australian media companies. In March, outlining her push to wind back ownership restrictions, Senator Coonan left open the possibility that the new laws might not take effect until 2012. This was interpreted by many media executives as a threat to delay altering the ownership laws unless they submitted to sweeping changes to introduce new digital channels from as early as next year. But Senator Coonan said she was now aiming for new laws to be passed by the end of the year. She admitted this timetable was "ambitious" but said she had the support of Mr Howard to push ahead with the changes. "I think the Prime Minister feels that there's an expectation that we actually move this on," she said. "It's been talked about for so long -- if we don't do cross and foreign (cross-media ownership and foreign ownership) it will just become redundant. "It matters now, at a time when investment attraction is very important for media ... it makes more sense as a total package if we do it next year."

The minister's optimistic outlook surprised several media executives, who believe the Prime Minister's office is still warming to her plans. "It sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish," one said. Mr Howard is maintaining that he does not plan to "burn a lot of political capital" on major media reforms unless a consensus is reached within the industry. The changes are likely to remove limits that prevent television companies owning newspapers in the same markets, and loosen restrictions on foreign ownership of local operations. Senator Coonan, who has received about 200 submissions from media companies, said her plan had received "general agreement" from the major media players, although some "clear points of difference" remained.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡06/08/2006



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Coonan Details Porn Laws

NEW legislation outlawing inappropriate or offensive content will soon be introduced to federal Parliament to bring regulation of mobile phones and internet portal in line with traditional media. Communications Minister Helen Coonan announced a raft of new regulatory safeguards to limit harmful material emerging on content services like 3G mobile telephony and subscription-based internet portals. While the government would seek to encourage the development of a new and innovative content industry, Senator Coonan said existing media regulation did not adequately cover convergent services. "Existing regulation in Australia has been specific to the platform over which it is delivered - for example television, internet or telephones," Senator Coonan said. "The new capabilities of mobile devices to receive and display audiovisual services means that some of these platforms - and thus regulatory - distinctions are being broken down," she said. "These developments raise the question of the way traditionally distinct content regulatory systems should apply to a single converged device." The government's immediate concern is the fast growing number of premium adult services being offered over 3G phones. But in future, converged technologies will similarly blur the regulatory lines between broadcast televisions and internet TV (IPTV).

"Therefore I can announce today that new safeguards will be put in place to protect consumers from inappropriate or harmful material on emerging content services such as 3G mobile phones and subscription-based internet portals" Senator Coonan said. "I will soon introduce to the Parliament legislation to provide content safeguards comparable to those in place for traditional media platforms." Speaking to the National Press Club in Canberra, Senator Coonan said the measures would extend current safeguards that apply to television and the internet to apply to mobile devices. They will include the prohibition of content rated X-18 or above, and will require companies to offer consumer advice and age restrictions on access to adult content. Senator Coonan also poured cold water on a push from Coalition backbenchers to force internet service providers to filter all content coming into Australia to reduce the problems of pornography. While government was prepared to take all reasonable steps to stamp out hard core internet pornography - and in particular to limit children's access to net porn - she said mandatory filtering was not effective, and had been found to degrade network performance. "I support all efforts to find the best way to make the internet a safer place and I would like to make it clear today that the government has not and will not rule out any proven measure to protect children online," she said. "But whatever actions we take must be the most effective tool at our disposal."


From http://australianit.news.com.au/¡¡06/14/2006


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Govt E-Buying Revised

GOVERNMENT has released new procurement guidelines aimed at stripping costs and cutting red tape from federal purchasing. Special Minister of State Gary Nairn, who oversees the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), said automated processes would save time and paper work, as well as improve overall governance of public spending. The new guidelines overhaul a modest e-procurement model set up in 2000. "This strategic guide is all about improving efficiency," Mr Nairn said. "The guide ... provides practical guidance and solutions for agencies that wish to perform procurement transactions electronically," he said. "This would apply to anything that the Government engages with the private sector on, whether it be invoicing and purchasing stationary, computer equipment or professional services.

"The electronic alternative may not be the most appropriate for all agencies but in a lot of cases, an automated process will save time and paperwork, minimise double-handling and lower costs." The original e-procurement strategy sought only to pay all suppliers electronically by 2000 and to enable agencies to trade electronically with all "simple procurement" suppliers. The new guide seeks to embed electronic transactions into the government processes. The guide also focuses on the audit trails and activity logs routinely used in electronic procurement to improve governance and control. It advises that where the spend in a purchasing category was high, and where there was a high amount of activity - in planning, procurement and payment - it was important to invest in systems capability. "Fully-enabled" e-procurement systems should provide direct connections between buyers and suppliers; high volumes of purchase orders; invoice-less payments using Recipient Created Tax Invoices; and specialised e-sourcing tools.


From http://australianit.news.com.au/¡¡06/15/2006


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Government Rejects Early Super Access

THE Federal Government has finally ruled out relaxing the rules for giving people early access to superannuation benefits ¡ª but it took it almost 4? years to say so. The Government yesterday released a six-page response to a report issued in January 2002 by the former Senate committee on superannuation, proposing more generous rules to allow people in severe hardship to take their super benefits before turning 55. Its brief response rejected almost every recommendation of the report, which also urged it to review the adequacy of social benefits to provide relief in cases of severe financial hardship, and impose one set of rules and administration to handle all claims for early access to super. The all-party committee, chaired by veteran Tasmanian Liberal John Watson, reported "widespread dissatisfaction with the rigidity of the current grounds for release", which require beneficiaries to have been on benefits for six months, and be unable to meet "reasonable and immediate family living expenses". But the Government said the rules "strike an appropriate balance" between allowing access in serious hardship cases and ensuring that super is used to finance retirement. The committee has now been abolished.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡06/17/2006
¡¡


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Plan to Tie Funds to Bush Hospitals

THE Howard Government will demand the states pump more money into rural hospitals as part of a radical shift in health funding being pushed by Mark Vaile. Laying down a challenge to the states, the Deputy Prime Minister wants "specific funding" for regional hospitals to be negotiated as part of the next $42billion-plus health agreement. This would, for the first time, force the states to spend a certain level of federal funding on a particular sector of the health system. The push from Canberra comes amid strong dissatisfaction over how the states spend the billions of dollars in untied funding. This is negotiated through the five-year Australian Health Care Agreement, due to expire in 2008. It also follows the horror story from Queensland of how a farmhand was forced to deliver his dead baby on the roadside after he and his wife were turned away from their local hospital and told to drive to one three hours away. In a speech to the NSW Nationals' conference in Ballina today, Mr Vaile will outline plans to change the national health funding system.

Under the plan, future five-year health agreements would detail specific funding for rural and regional hospitals. "The regional funding would be set out in a separate schedule to the agreements," he will tell the conference. "The state governments would have to provide us with detailed acquittal statements for the regional payments, so we could be sure that all of the money was going to the right place." The Nationals' leader said his proposal would particularly benefit small rural hospitals providing maternity care. "Under the proposal, the Government could require the states to direct payments specifically to those hospitals, and give expectant mothers the security and comfort of going to a hospital that is close to their family and friends." The Howard Government has been strongly critical of the states over their squandering of billions of dollars in GST revenues and other federal payments. Canberra has sought to take greater control over health funding but its efforts have so far been in vain. But there appears a renewed determination to tackle the states over the carve-up of health funding, as part of a broader push to make them more responsible for spending.

Mr Vaile told The Weekend Australian the states had a "fundamental responsibility" to deliver to all Australians, "not just a special few" in the cities and high-density areas. "I don't completely agree with the notion of completely centralising all of this, (but) I don't think we should be taking the spotlight off the states and their responsibilities as far as public hospitals are concerned," he said. "You have billions of dollars that is unprescribed, unattached, clear money - they make the decisions where they spend it." Any move by Canberra to dictate how the states spend health monies will be strongly resisted. Opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard said Mr Vaile had the "right sentiment but he's got on the wrong tram". "The biggest constraint is the lack of workforce, so you can give rural hospitals more dollars but if they don't have doctors and nurses, then they can't use it," she said. Ms Gillard said achieving reforms to "streamline" health funding between Canberra and the states was the most important change needed to the HCA.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡06/17/2006


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New Employees to Pay More Towards Super

NEW workers would be forced to contribute an extra 3 per cent of their salary to superannuation under a plan put forward by a parliamentary committee. The proposal would require all new employees to pay 3 per cent of their income to superannuation in addition to the 9 per cent paid by employers, unless they deliberately opted out of the scheme. Concerned about the paucity of retirement savings held by under-40s, the MPs on the government-controlled committee are hoping inertia will stop people opting out of the scheme, effectively forcing them to save more for their old age. In recommendations that could be far-reaching if implemented, the committee urged the Government to consider forcing employers who offer paid maternity leave to put something away for the mother's superannuation as well. It also raised the prospect of putting some of the Government's maternity payment, which will rise to $4000 a child from next month, into the mother's superannuation, to boost her retirement savings.

And it called on the Government to create a default superannuation fund for casual employees across all industries to try to reduce the numbers of multiple superannuation accounts held by individuals. The chairman of the committee, Liberal MP Bruce Baird, said he hoped the Government would consider the recommendations, including those which attempted to give mothers more super. "One of the real issues is ensuring that women don't get left behind with the possibility of divorce, so they're not disadvantaged at the end of the day," Mr Baird said. "We're looking at how we ensure that young people will meet their expectations in the future." The committee did not support a suggestion by the Government's recent review of business regulation to lift the minimum wage at which employers must start paying superannuation from $450 to $800 a month. Most Australians under 40 have spent all their working lives under the superannuation guarantee regime, which requires employers to put 9 per cent of the employee's pay into super. But the committee found Generations X and Y face significant cost pressures - such as saving to buy a house and rearing children - and are less likely to have spare cash to add to superannuation.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡06/20/2006


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New Employees to Pay More Towards Super

DEFENCE will spend $5 billion annually on new equipment in the coming decade under an updated $51 billion military capability plan. The forward spending program will include $3.7 billion for new helicopters as well as $1billion earmarked for military satellite communications and $240 million for unmanned aerial vehicles. The new defence capability plan, unveiled by Defence Minister Brendan Nelson yesterday, is bolstered by an additional $2.4 billion funding announced in the May budget for the five years beyond 2010. "This DCP brings our equipment acquisition and capability development strategy over the next decade into line with our increasingly complex security situation," Dr Nelson said, adding that 58 projects worth $11.5 billion had been approved since the last defence capability plan was released in February 2004. So far this financial year, 24 projects worth $7.2 billion have been approved. Dr Nelson said that, increasingly, major Defence equipment projects were being better managed without big cost escalations. "In fact, of the 230 projects since 2003, we have had 18 come in below cost and eight above cost," he said.


From http://theaustralian.news.com.au/ ¡¡06/21/2006


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Spam Act Continues to Protect Australians

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today tabled in Parliament a report on the review of the Spam Act 2003. ¡°The review provided an opportunity to ensure that the Spam Act was continuing to operate effectively and protect Australians from unsolicited and unwanted electronic messages,¡± Senator Coonan said. ¡°The review found that the legislation, as part of the Government¡¯s multilayered strategy against spam, enabled active enforcement, productive industry partnerships and, most importantly, international cooperation against the global problem that is spam.¡± More than 60 submissions were received in response to an issues paper released late last year. ¡°I would like to thank members of industry and the public for their valuable input during the consultation period,¡± Senator Coonan said. The review found that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has undertaken effective and appropriate enforcement of the Spam Act.

¡°Since ACMA began its enforcement activities, Australia has dropped from 10th to 23rd on the list of worldwide sources of spam. Spam from the entire Australasia region now accounts for less than 0.8 percent of global spam,¡± Senator Coonan said. ¡°The Australian legislative approach has been recommended as a template for other countries seeking to address spam by both the International Telecommunication Union and anti-spam organisation Spamhaus. ¡°The review highlighted the strong action taken by both the Government and Australian industry in combating spam. ISPs and the e-marketing industry have each developed codes of practice in support of the Spam Act,¡± Senator Coonan said. ¡°Based on contributions received during public consultation, the report makes recommendations to Government on how to continue this good work. ¡°The Government will carefully consider these recommendations, ensuring that Australia¡¯s anti-spam approach continues to be appropriately targeted and effective.¡± 


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/¡¡06/22/2006


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Tax Legislation to Be Cut by More than 4,100 Pages

The Treasurer today introduced the Tax Laws Amendment (Repeal of Inoperative Provisions) Bill 2006, which will repeal more than 4,100 pages from Australia¡¯s tax legislation. This Bill is based on a draft the Treasurer released for public comment on 4 April 2006. Inoperative provisions are those that no longer apply to taxpayers, either because they have no effect after a date in the past or because all the transactions or events they did affect have now concluded. The Treasurer noted that the Bill also makes other improvements to the tax laws such as replacing multiple definitions of some terms with a single definition for each term. Those amendments pursue the sort of standardisation recently recommended by the Banks taskforce report Rethinking Regulation: Report of the Taskforce on Reducing Regulatory Burdens on Business. The flow on effects of the repeal of inoperative provisions will provide further benefits for taxpayers and tax practitioners.

The Commissioner of Taxation has advised that approximately 200 public rulings, which contain references to provisions which are being repealed, will be either revised or withdrawn. The Commissioner is also working with tax professionals to improve the readability from the ATO¡¯s legal database of other public rulings affected by the Bill. The Treasurer said: ¡°This Bill is an important part of the Government¡¯s efforts to reduce the complexity of Australia¡¯s tax laws. The Government will continue to look for opportunities to improve the tax laws in the future. For example, the Government will continue to rewrite parts of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 into the 1997 Act whenever those parts are under review.¡± The Treasurer further said: ¡°I expect the Bill to be passed later this year. This will allow for next year¡¯s commercial reprints of the income tax law to reflect the repeal of the inoperative material.¡±

From http://www.treasurer.gov.au/¡¡06/22/2006


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Fuel Tax Concessions Pass Parliament

Controversial new laws simplifying fuel tax breaks have passed parliament, amid claims they will cripple Australia's emerging biofuels industry. Renegade Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce broke ranks with his coalition colleagues and voted in favour of Australian Democrats' amendments to the bill which would have maintained the biofuels industry's slight advantage over the next nine years while it established itself. He had threatened to cross the floor over the laws, but after Labor supported their passage through the Senate, Senator Joyce registered his opposition by siding with the Democrats instead. The government says the new system, to be introduced next month, would lower compliance costs, reduce tax on business and remove the fuel tax burden from thousands of businesses and households. But the minor parties argued the move would hurt the biofuels industry, as grants it already attracts would be on par with the revised cost of fuel.

Under the new system, businesses will be entitled to a tax credit on fuel used for their enterprise. Businesses will get credits on kerosene and for fuel used in electricity generation for domestic use. The move will bring ordinary fuel concessions into line with current concessions given to biodiesel fuel, effectively removing its competitive advantage. Senator Joyce argued the push would cripple the biofuels industry, which currently receives tax concessions of its own. Biodiesel is a more environmentally-friendly, alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources such as canola oils, animal fats, and waste vegetable oils. Senator Joyce says the move could be devastating for regional Australia, where a host of smaller biodiesel and ethanol producers have emerged in the last few years. "(The legislation) is not a stimulus package for a bio-renewable fuel industry," he told parliament.

"(This) is basically saying that, with your payment of capital, you have to compete with an established market that is immensely bigger than yours." Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison said the legislation had the potential to cause serious damage to Australia's biofuels industry. "As a result of this legislation, depending on a whole range of factors, biodiesel would be severely disadvantaged," she said. "At the present time the biodiesel blend has an advantage on the market - at 2007 that changes." But Liberal frontbencher Richard Colbeck said the move will continue the government's policy of providing fuel tax relief. "Under the fuel tax credit system all fuel, including petrol consumed off-road for business purposes, will become effectively tax free over time," he said. "This will provide fuel tax relief to a number of business for the first time and benefit business involved in manufacturing, quarrying, construction, primary production, mining or commercial power generation."


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡06/23/2006


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FIJI:¡¡Social Justice Act and Affirmative Action Under Review

Government will conduct a comprehensive review of the Social Justice Act and Affirmative Action policies and programmes which have been implemented under it, said President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. Speaking on government¡¯s continuing prioritisation on Affirmative Action at the opening of the new parliament today, Ratu Iloilo said this is to ensure that they conform with the requirements of the Constitution. In that Ratu Iloilo said affirmative action is integral to the government¡¯s drive towards achieve social justice and greater equality of economic and social. Any assistance under this programme will continue to apply to the needy and disadvantaged of all communities. Meanwhile Ratu Iloilo revealed more funds will be invested in rural infrastructure, basic utilities and services. Two large schemes are central to these plans for the betterment of rural areas. ¡°Two large schemes to be undertaken jointly with the Asian Development Bank are central to the plans for the betterment of rural areas. These are the Alternative Livelihood Project and the Rural and Outer Islands Project, ¡± Ratu Iloilo said. According to Ratu Iloilo the two schemes will involve extensive investment, not only in infrastructure, but also in creating livelihood opportunities through diversifying agriculture, fisheries, forestry ventures, sustainable use of other natural resources and establishment of small- to-medium-sized businesses.

From http://www.fiji.gov.fj/¡¡06/06/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Govt Wants Toll Cut to 300 by 2010

The Government aims to cut the road toll to 300 by 2010. Transport Minister Annette King said a consultation project called See You There - Safe As, designed to reduce the toll, would begin in July. "Further reductions in the road toll are very achievable and will have huge positive impacts on the health and happiness of all New Zealanders," Ms King said. "Everyone will be invited to offer their ideas through a series of meetings around the country. I hope all sections of the community will participate, especially young people." Ms King said the law could be a blunt instrument and couldn't effectively take care of every road situation. "The key to further reducing the road toll is for individuals to exercise good judgment in the millions of instant decisions they need to make when driving, walking and cycling." Road crashes were the leading cause of death to children - 45 per cent of deaths in the 0 to 14 year age group, she said. They were also the leading cause of disability for people aged 15 to 44. She said it was important to understand better the attitudes and concerns of young people. In 2005, 404 people died on the roads, the lowest toll for 42 years.


 From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/¡¡06/12/2006


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Small Employer Payroll Subsidy Set

The government's new payroll subsidy to encourage small businesses to make use of the services of payroll agents has been set by regulation at $2 per pay day per employee. "The subsidy is there to make the tax side of business easier for small employers, to give them more time for running their businesses," Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said today. "Payroll agents can free small employers from the work of managing their payroll, which involves making PAYE, child support and student loan deductions from staff wages. "Inland Revenue will pay the subsidy to listed payroll intermediaries that carry out PAYE and related payroll functions on behalf of small employers, for up to five employees per employer. The subsidy will come into effect on 1 October. "The cost of using a payroll agent will vary, of course, but the subsidy should go a long way towards meeting the cost for small employers.

"The payroll subsidy is part of a package of recently enacted measures designed to make tax easier for small businesses and thus reduce the costs of business. "The package also included changes to align the payment dates of GST and provisional tax, to reduce the number of payment dates that businesses have to cope with, and allowing them to pay provisional tax more frequently if they want to, to help with their budgeting. "Businesses will also be able to choose to base provisional tax payments on a percentage of their GST turnover, which may suit those with seasonal income. "By handing over the responsibility for payroll work to listed agents, the owners of small businesses will gain more time for the business and be certain that deductions from staff wages are passed to Inland Revenue on time," Mr Dunne said.


From http://www.taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz/¡¡06/22/2006


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SEAN in Action: Coordinated Emergency Response for Earthquake Victims in Indonesia

Indonesia was again struck by a devastating earthquake on 27 May 2006 which claimed over 5,000 lives and caused extensive damage to property in Yogyakarta and Central Java. Assisting teams from the ASEAN Member Countries were among the first to respond to the earthquake, bringing in search and rescue teams, as well as medical and other emergency supplies. Currently, teams from five ASEAN Member Countries, namely, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, are at various locations in Yogyakarta and Central Java providing medical assistance and relief efforts to the earthquake victims in close coordination with the Indonesian authorities. Other ASEAN Member Countries, including Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, are sending food supplies and cash contributions to Indonesia. The ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) coordinated the joint emergency response efforts within the framework of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response. The ASEAN Secretariat served as the ACDM Secretariat and has been on standby since the day of the earthquake, maintaining close contact with the ACDM Chairman, the focal points from the ASEAN Member Countries, the Indonesian authorities as well as the contingent commanders and team leaders to monitor the emergency response effort on a daily basis. Daily situation reports are prepared to provide information on the progress of operations, priority needs of the affected country and contact information. Administrative arrangements are also made to facilitate the receiving of assisting personnel and emergency supplies.

Indonesia¡¯s National Coordinating Board for Management of Disaster and the Handling of Internally Displaced Persons (BAKORNAS PBP), the current Chairman of the ACDM, called for an informal gathering of the contingent commanders and team leaders of the assisting teams from ASEAN Member Countries on Sunday, 4 June 2006, to touch base with the teams and monitor the progress of their respective operations since their arrival, including their accomplishments and challenges faced thus far. The gathering was held at Singapore¡¯s operation base located at the Pleret football field in Bantul, Yogyakarta, and was attended by the contingent commanders and leaders of the assisting teams from the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and an ASEAN Secretariat representative. The ACDM Chairman was accompanied by the representative from Indonesia¡¯s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ACDM Chairman and the ASEAN Secretariat also visited Malaysia¡¯s base camp, located across the official residence of the head of district of Bantul in the later part of the day, and met with the Malaysia¡¯s contingent commander on the next day (5 June 2006).

The ACDM, which championed the development of the Agreement, will use the experiences from the current joint emergency response efforts as lessons learnt to operationalise the Agreement and improve future joint emergency response. Among the issues identified were the need to realise the establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) to facilitate cross border movement of relief efforts and coordination among countries in joint emergency response. The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response was signed by the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN in July 2005. The Agreement provides a regional comprehensive platform to strengthen preventive, monitoring and mitigation measures to reduce disaster losses in the region. The Agreement will enter into force upon ratification by all ASEAN Member Countries. So far, Thailand has ratified the Agreement while other ASEAN Member Countries are in the process of ratifying the Agreement. Even as the Agreement is being ratified, ASEAN Member Countries have begun to implement many of the provisions of the Agreement. The first-ever ASEAN regional disaster emergency response simulation exercise (code-named ARDEX-05) based on an earthquake scenario was held in Selangor, Malaysia in September 2005. ARDEX-06, which plans to simulate a flood disaster, will be held in Cambodia in September 2006. ASEAN Member Countries have also started formulating standard operating procedures for regional standby arrangements, mobilisation of military and civilian personnel and assets, and coordination of joint disaster relief and emergency response operations. A regional inventory of assets and capacities is being compiled based on earmarked assets from the ASEAN Member Countries.


From http://www.aseansec.org¡¡06/07/2006


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Official: SCO Not an Eastern Version of NATO

The Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) is not an oriental version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as some claim, and it has no plans to become a military bloc, the organization chief said yesterday. Chairmen of the Parliaments of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Kremlin. Russia and China moved to fortify their growing security cooperation in Central Asia but reassured the United States that their new-found unity of purpose in the region was not designed to subvert US interests there.[AFP] The allegation that the SCO is an eastern equivalent to NATO is "totally groundless," said Zhang Deguang, the SCO's secretary-general, at a news conference in Beijing ahead of the organization's summit in Shanghai next week. "The SCO has never sought confrontation with any parties and its aims have nothing at all to do with becoming a military bloc," said Zhang. The organization will continue holding high the banner of peace, co-operation and openness, he added. The SCO, established in Shanghai in 2001, is a regional co-operation and security association comprising of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. India, Mongolia, Iran, and Pakistan are observers to the organization. The leaders of the four observer countries have been invited to attend next week's meeting, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But Zhang said the Iranian nuclear problem will not be the main issue at the SCO summit. "Given the regional nature of the SCO, I do not think the Iranian problem will be a priority," he told reporters. He added that observer countries would not have voting rights at the summit. "Their participation will be strictly in line with the agenda that is agreed on by the SCO member countries." The SCO pursues an open policy, but it has not formulated legal documents on accepting new members at present, he said. On the subject of co-operation in nuclear non-proliferation Zhang said: "A mechanism to fight the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction has been created in the framework of the SCO, but we do not yet have legal documents on the issue." The Shanghai summit marks the organization's fifth anniversary and Zhang said it would produce some crucial decisions. During the summit leaders of the member countries will review the SCO's achievements and its construction and development over the past five years. "A declaration on the fifth anniversary of the SCO will be signed at the summit," said Zhang. Important documents on the promotion of the partnership in security and economy, particularly in the energy field, will also be signed. Zhang described the past five years as "a sowing season," saying the next five years will "harvest" the fruits of the SCO's work.

He said the SCO plans to become more pragmatic in strengthening co-operation among member countries to promote economic growth. "Our present goal is to realize the free flow of commodities, capital, technologies and services in the region within 20 years," said Zhang. He said the SCO will establish an entrepreneurs committee to provide a platform for executives in the member countries to seek co-operative partners. Meanwhile "we are on the way to reaching an agreement on cross-border road transport to facilitate multilateral exchanges," said Zhang. He also highlighted the challenges the SCO faces, including the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as drug trafficking, cross-border crime and illegal weapons trafficking.


From China Daily 06/07/2006


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Asian Development Bank Makes Fighting Corruption a Key Priority

¡°Fighting corruption will be a key priority for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) under a revised medium-term plan to reduce poverty in the world's most populous region, the Philippines-based lender said,¡± reports AFX Asia (Hong Kong). ¡°¡®As the poor are often the worst victims of weak governance, the strategy has identified strengthening governance and preventing corruption as priorities,¡¯ a bank statement said. ¡®ADB is working closely with other multilateral development banks to develop a common framework for preventing corruption,¡¯ it said without giving other details. ¡­¡± Agence France Press notes that ¡°¡­ over the next three years, the bank would work to improve the region's investment climate as a prerequisite for sustaining high growth. Towards this end, ADB operations would be more selective and focused, it said, with core operational sectors to include road transport, energy, urban infrastructure, rural infrastructure, education, and financial services.¡±

The Press Trust of India Limited adds that ¡°¡­ the new medium-term strategy sets out our vision of being an institution that is more effective and more responsive to the needs of a region that is rapidly changing, said ADB president Haaruhiko Kuroda. It will strengthen the impact of our assistance on poverty reduction and better support the effort of developing member countries to attain the Millennium Development Goals, he said. The Bank has adopted five priorities namely catalyzing investment, strengthening inclusiveness, promoting regional cooperation and integration, managing the environment and improving governance and preventing corruption. It is the second in a series of medium-term strategic designed to flesh out the approach of the long-term strategic framework: 2001-2015 for shorter time periods, adjusting operational priorities in response to evolving conditions in each period.¡±


From http://web.worldbank.org¡¡06/15/2006


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New UN Rights Body Kicks Off, Seeking to Avoid Past Failures

¡°The United Nations¡¯ reformed Human Rights Council began its first-ever session Monday, with high hopes that it will do more for the victims of abuses and avoid the political horse-trading of the past,¡± reports Agence France Press (06/19).¡°Opening the two-week inaugural session of the 47-nation panel, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the world was watching -- particularly the victims of human rights violations. ¡­ The new Council replaces the former UN Commission on Human Rights which was widely regarded as discredited due to the dominant presence of countries with poor human rights records and pervasive behind-the-scenes political bargaining that helped states duck criticism. ¡­¡± The Associated Press and Dow Jones (06/19) write that ¡°¡­The council has a chance to start its work with a tangible achievement, by passing two ¡®vital documents¡¯ - one against enforced disappearances, the other guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples - and sending them for approval by the General Assembly, Annan said.¡± Reuters (06/19) adds that ¡°¡­ a host of ministers will be in Geneva to address the council, and much of the initial two-week session will be devoted to planning future work. Unlike the commission, which met annually, the council will meet at least three times a year. ¡­¡±

RIA Novosti (Russia, 06/19) reports that ¡°¡­ UN diplomats said the first session, which will last until June 30, would be largely organizational, as the member countries would have to study its predecessor's legacy.¡± The BBC (UK, 06/19) notes that ¡°¡­ human rights groups believe the council has the potential to be much more effective than the old commission. But the issues remain divisive. ¡­ The new council members' willingness to let go of narrow political interests in favor of universal human rights is being seen as a key test for the United Nations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urged members to take their jobs seriously.¡±

From http://web.worldbank.org¡¡06/19/2006


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APEC Anti-corruption Officials Pledge Action

More than 100 senior law officers attending the three-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Anti-Corruption Workshop, the first in APEC's framework, have vowed to put words into action. Li Yufu, vice-minister of supervision, said at the opening ceremony: "Only by augmenting bilateral, multilateral as well as regional and international cooperation and setting up an anti-corruption mechanism can an effective fight against corruption be possible." Co-sponsored by the Chinese and United States governments the forum highlights a number of issues including denial of safe haven, asset recovery and extradition. These issues were "of great and realistic significance," Li said. Statistics from the World Bank indicate that the value of assets which corrupt officials transfer between developed and developing countries had reached US$1 trillion annually. "Corruption jeopardizes the integrity of world markets, facilitates international crime and terrorism, (and) diverts public investment away from areas that need it most, " said Debra Wong Yang, a senior US attorney from the Central District of California.

No country or region should serve as a safe haven for criminals suspected of corruption using the excuse of differences in political or legal systems, said Dong Hai, deputy director of the General Office of the Ministry of Supervision. From 1993 to 2005, more than 230 Chinese fugitives were extradited from over 30 countries with the support of the International Criminal Police Organization, Dong said. He added that China had repatriated several foreign criminal suspects. To ensure the recovery of assets, Dong suggested that levels of cooperation be increased not only between law enforcement departments but also with auditing, financial prosecution and bank departments. The Chinese Government had signed mutual legal assistance treaties in criminal matters with 39 countries and extradition treaties with 26, said Zhang Xiaoming of the Ministry of Justice.

Participants attending the workshop agreed that the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which took effect last December 14, included principles that are critical to fighting the crime. By April 1, 140 countries had approved the convention and the number of parties stood at 50, said Fujino Akiro, representative of the Regional Center for East Asia and Pacific, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. In China, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is speeding up legislative efforts to match the situation after it approved the convention last October 27, Dong said. The three-day workshop, which concludes today, is the brainchild of President Hu Jintao and US President George W. Bush, who agreed to enhance cooperation to fight corruption when attending the APEC Summit in November 2004 in Santiago, Chile, organizers said.


From China Daily ¡¡04/26/2006


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Guangdong Province: Improving Accountability

Guangdong's legislature has changed the province's rules for the election of deputies to people's congresses at and below municipal level, allowing candidates to conduct their own promotional activities for the first time. The draft regulation, which has been submitted for examination to the standing committee of the provincial people's congress, requires election committees to organize meetings for candidates to present themselves before the electorate. Previously, although the law did not forbid such promotion campaigns, candidates seemed unwilling to present themselves before voters. And in some places, local authorities do not welcome such behavior, seeing it as a potential cause of instability. That is, to a large extent, due to our unique cultural and political traditions, which has witnessed few such campaigns. The move in this southern province is an inspiring sign of openness conducive to political development in our country. It may have a profound impact on the election of grass-roots people's congress deputies. If approved, the regulation will provide legal support for such promotional activities, making the process of electing legislators election more transparent and accountable to the public.

How to make people's congress deputies at all levels live up to public expectations has been a perpetual focus of legislators' work. Inadequate communication between candidates and voters often leads to a blurring of the role of the deputies, as they are not clear what their voters want and fail to present the real needs of the public at congress sessions. Conscientious deputies take the initiative to take heed of public opinion, reflect this at the legislator meetings and report to their voters on how their opinions are received. But some irresponsible deputies would not be that active without the effective supervision of their voters. By improving the electoral process, the new legislation in Guangdong will enhance interaction between deputies and voters. It will enhance mutual understanding and benefit our political life. Other places need to follow suit to provide a clear legal basis for candidates' promotional activities.


From China Daily ¡¡06/01/2006


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China to Appoint One Mln Construction Safety Supervisors

China's industrial safety agencies Friday kicked off a campaign to employ one million construction workers as safety supervisors across the country to curb the industry's high accident rate.The Ministry of Construction and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which jointly launched the campaign, authorized hundreds of construction workers as safety overseers at an Olympic construction site in Beijing Friday. The supervisors have the authority to evacuate workers in the event of any risk or imminent danger. About 35 million migrant workers are serving in China's construction sector, where they are frequently exposed to safety risks. According to the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), the construction sector recorded 2,288 accidents in 2005, involving 2,607 fatalities. Last month, a two-story building collapsed as it was being demolished in Taiyuan city of north China's Shanxi Province, killing six workers and trapping 26 others in the rubble. "Some of the accidents are attributable to the workers' lack of safety awareness and some to the companies' profit-driven psychology," said Zhang Mingqi, a member of the ACFTU Secretariat. The ACFTU and SAWS are running a safety awareness campaign from May to September to train workers and to step up supervision of employers in mining, construction and manufacturing, which have the highest accident rates.


From
Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/07/2006


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State Research Plans to Be More Transparent

China is going to make its state research plans more transparent to the public as well as the scientific community in response to repeated research frauds which have squandered millions of yuan in public funds. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) vowed on Wednesday to use public funds more effectively to boost the country's innovative capability. Xu Jianguo, a senior official responsible for allocating state research funds, said in an interview with Xinhua, "We're going to reform the state research planning in order to stimulate more innovative frontier research. "According to the Five-Year economic and social development plan from 2006 to 2010, China is expected to spend two percent of its gross domestic product by 2010 in research and development, which will be the largest ever sum of investment in scientific research. But the scientific community is seriously concerned about how to allocate such large public funds. As the top agency overseeing the research fund allocation, the MOST disseminates about 30 percent of China's total R&D funds via conduits of national R&D programs. A former hi-tech hero, the US-educated Chen Jin was sacked from his post of dean at ShanghaiJiaotongUniversity.

A inter-agency discipline team confirmed that Chen faked his research on system-on-chip development, allegedly squandering tens of millions yuan of public funds under the state hi-tech R&D program which is called the 863 Program. Xu said his ministry will post information on inviting applications for state R&D projects online. Meanwhile, they will build databases of candidate researchers and expert panels, with their credit history. Xu said in the long term, the ministry plans to ask judging experts to make their decisions over the Internet. "Non-disclosure of judges' names and distance appraisal on the Internet might help us prevent cheating and other misconduct during the decision-making procedure," Xu said. The MOST has spent more than 12 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) on state R&D programs. Lu Yongxiang, who chairs the ChineseAcademy of Sciences (CAS) which is another powerful engine for China's science advancement, said recently that a better mechanism should be designed to fight research fraud. "Dishonesty and fickleness among a few scientists as well as inappropriate distribution of public funding for research should be blamed for deteriorating ethical standards of the scientific community," said Lu.


From Xinhua News Agency¡¡ 06/08/2006


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China Vows to Deepen Int'l Co-op in Anti-corruption

One of China's top anti-corruption officials on Monday urged governmental departments to work more closely with other countries to fight corruption. Wu Guanzheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, speaking at a meeting for implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption said, "Government departments should narrow the gap between the UN convention and domestic laws and strengthen international cooperation." China became a member of the United Nations (UN) Convention against Corruption after the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) ratified the convention on Oct. 27, 2005. "We should improve cooperation in law enforcement, judicial assistance, criminal suspect repatriation and the return of illicit money with the help of other members of the convention," said Wu. China will also make joint efforts with other members of the convention to prevent corruption and curb commercial bribery. He said the country will fast track negotiations with other countries to conclude new treaties on extradition and judicial assistance.

He said China will learn from other countries' anti-corruption experiences and further improve the effectiveness of its own anti-corruption efforts. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, together with more than 20 Party and governmental departments held a meeting here on Monday on the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption. China's anti-corruption and international law experts on Tuesday said China's ratification and implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption demonstrated China is open to learn international anti-corruption experiences. Liu Wenzong, professor of the China Foreign Affairs University, said China is trying to close the gap between the convention and its domestic laws. He said China is living up to the requirements of the convention. Chu Huaizhi, professor of PekingUniversity said prevention is the most important work in the anti-corruption drive, according to the international anti-corruption experiences. The UN Convention Against Corruption includes more than 10 clauses on corruption prevention, which the Chinese government has adopted. It has put corruption prevention and punishment on an equal footing in the fight against corruption, said Chu.

He said the convention demands equal punishment for people who give and take bribes. "In the past, China has given the most severe punishment to those who receive bribes and sometimes ignored those who offered them. China is speeding up legislation and law enforcement in this field, after the ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption." The UN anti-corruption convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in October 31, 2003. Its 71 clauses details the prevention, criminalization, international cooperation, asset recovery and implementation mechanism in the fight against transnational crimes of corruption. China signed the document in December 2003. Thirty countries have ratified the convention, which went into effect on December 14, 2005. China has been active in seeking international cooperation in it fight again corruption. Chinese prosecutors have brought some 70 criminal suspects back to China from foreign countries since 1998. The successful extradition from the United States of a local branch head of the Bank of China in GuangdongProvince in 2004 was lauded as a powerful deterrent to corruption. Yu Zhendong, the banker, was convicted of misappropriating 483 million U.S. dollars before fleeing to the United States. Sources from the Ministry of Public Security said there are 800 suspects wanted for economic crimes at large in foreign countries. They are accused of embezzling nearly 70 billion yuan (US$875 million).


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/14/2006


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JAPAN: Funding New Customs Centers

The Japan Government has helped the General Department of Viet Nam Customs (GDVC) set up two modern analysis and classification centres in the north and the south in an effort to contribute to the modernization cause of Viet Nam Customs. An analysis and classification centre for the import and export of goods in the North was opened on Friday in Ha Noi. "Thanks to the equipment, the capacity of the two centres has been enhanced and therefore will shorten the time to clear goods, ensure tax collection and in particular create a healthy and transparent business environment," Deputy Director of the GDVC Vu Ngoc Anh said. The centre, equipped with modern chemical analysis facilities of US$850,000, is located at 162 Nguyen Van Cu Street, Long Bien District, Ha Noi. The centre was established under the framework of a Japan-funded project entitled "Capacity building for master trainers for the administration modernization in the period 2004-2007." The $2,300,000 projects focus on training Viet Nam customs officers in three areas: customs valuation, past clearance audit and HS classification. The project also helps strengthen building capacity for laboratory officers by providing them with modern equipment for chemical analysis. The project has carried out nine training courses for 33 customs officers since 2004.


From VNECONOMY: ¡¡06/06/2006


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Japan to Submit Bills Upgrading Defense Agency to Ministry

Japan's government will submit legislation to upgrade the country's Defense Agency to a ministry at a time when the ruling Liberal Democratic party seeks to revise the constitution to allow military forces. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet approved a series of bills in a meeting this morning and will submit them to parliament. The legislature ends its session on June 18 and the bills will probably not be voted on until an extraordinary session in autumn. The proposal comes as 600 of Japan's Self-Defense Forces are stationed in Iraq, the first overseas deployment since World War II. The post-war constitution forbids keeping a military, but courts have ruled the country can have troops for self-defense purposes. Koizumi's party last year approved a draft of a new constitution that would permit a military. ``At a time when the role of the Self-Defense Forces and defense issues are growing in importance, it make sense to rank the Defense Agency as a ministry just like other countries,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said at a regular press conference. ``This is a natural thing to do.'' Koizumi told reporters at his official residence that ``the need for this is obvious.'' The Defense Agency is currently part of the Cabinet Office. Under the proposed legislation, the defense minister would be able to oversee some logistical operations and assume some of the authority now held by the prime minister as commander-in-chief. The country has about 240,000 military personnel, including land, air and naval forces.

From http://www.bloomberg.com¡¡06/09/2006


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Aso Announces Run for LDP Presidency

Foreign Minister Taro Aso announced Friday a bid to run in September's race for the Liberal Democratic Party presidency to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Aso said in a speech that he is confident he can get the necessary support of 20 fellow party members to back his candidacy. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who is popular with the public as a candidate to succeed Koizumi, indicated last month he will announce his candidacy after the Group of Eight summit in Russia in mid-July. Polls indicate Aso lags significantly in popularity behind Abe. Yasuo Fukuda, son of a late prime minister and himself a former chief Cabinet secretary, is believed to be in second place. Aso, who became foreign minister following the LDP's crushing victory in the Lower House election last September, has irked China in recent months with a series of provocative statements. In one instance, he called China a military threat. He has also accused Beijing of using beautiful women as spies to lure Japanese diplomats into revealing classified information. He also credited Taiwan's high educational standards to Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century. Aso ran unsuccessfully against Koizumi for LDP president in 2001, but he predicted this time he would have greater support. Due to the party's Diet strength, the LDP presidency normally automatically carries with it the prime ministership. Koizumi has said he would step down when his term as LDP chief expires in September.


From The Japan Times ¡¡06/10/2006


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Students Shying Away from Public Servant Work

The number of students hoping to become public servants has sharply decreased as the economic recovery fuels prospects of more interesting work in the private sector, experts say. They also said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's policies of creating a smaller government have contributed to the trend. This fiscal year, the number of students who applied for the Category 1 tests to become future executives of the central government decreased 13.6 percent from last fiscal year. The number of students who applied for the Category 2 tests to eventually become midlevel officials of the central government fell 22.6 percent. A sharp decrease was also seen in the number of applicants for local government jobs. In the 23 ward offices of central Tokyo, for example, the number of students who applied for tests to land work in the clerical field declined 12 percent. "Since as early as April, private companies have unofficially promised students that they will employ them (next fiscal year)," said an official of the National Personnel Authority, which is in charge of employment of public servants for the central government. "Students who have received those promises do not try to take the tests for public servants."

Students tend to shy away from public servant jobs when the economy is strong. During the asset-inflated economic growth from the 1980s to the early 1990s, the number of students taking civil servant tests decreased. But when the economy sank into recession, the number increased. Tsunao Imamura, a professor of public administration at ChuoUniversity, said the latest trend among students could indicate the economy is on a firm recovery path. But he cited another factor. "The government decided to privatize postal services. As a result, it has become difficult to see the difference between the privatized postal services and parcel delivery companies," he said. "As the case shows, the reforms implemented by Koizumi have put emphasis on decreasing government jobs and revitalizing the private sector. In such a situation, students feel that public servants will not be able to do interesting jobs any more." According to Waseda Seminar KK, a Tokyo-based cram school for students planning to take exams for public-servant or other jobs, the number of students to be employed by the central government in April next year for clerical and other administrative jobs will slightly decrease.

However, hiring for similar work in the governments of Tokyo, its three surrounding prefectures, and other major cities will increase by as much as 35 percent. The rise stems from the baby boomers who will start to retire en masse in 2007. In addition, local governments have curbed their payrolls in recent years to cope with tightened budgets. Now, with the economy improving, they will increase the number of new recruits.


From The Asahi Shimbun ¡¡06/16/2006


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Japan to Give Priority to Reform of Police Dept

Japan will give priority to reform the civil service system, including police department, and help establish effective local administration for improved governance that remain a major challenge for Bangladesh, reports UNB. Japan, the single largest bilateral donor of Bangladesh, reaffirmed its support to the sector, as improving governance is indispensable for effective and efficient promotion of poverty reduction through economic growth and social development. Together with the government of Bangladesh, Japan will aim to improve governance at the central, sectoral and local levels with a focus on the challenges of governance, says the Country Assistance Programme (CAP) of Japan for Bangladesh. Japan released its new CAP recently identifying 12 priority sectors, including private sector and power sector development, to help reduce poverty in Bangladesh. Other priority sectors are information and communication technology (ICT), tourism, transport, agriculture and rural development, education, health, environment, arsenic mitigation, disaster management and governance. The new CAP put 3-priority goals for economic growth, social development with human security and governance with the ultimate target of poverty reduction.

Dealing with various issues of governance is a great challenge in realizing development including economic growth and improvements in social indicators, the CAP document says. It observes that inefficient public administration systems and institutions, corruption, poor law and order situation and the weak judicial system in Bangladesh impede efficient and effective implementation of assistance projects as well as FDI (foreign direct investment). The document, in its chapter on social development with human security, has expressed concern over depression on the minority ethnic group living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region. The issue of the CHT also poses a great challenge to Bangladesh from the perspective of human security. Even after the peace agreement was signed in 1997, ethnic minorities face various issues including oppression and hardship, it said.


From
http://www.bangladesh-web.com¡¡06/18/2006


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Koizumi Wants Successor to Continue Reforms

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday the economic and structural reforms he has pressed forward during his five-year administration must be continued by his successor after he steps down in September, saying, "There is no end to this reform." "I hope the new premier will continue to nurture this bud of reform into a big tree," Koizumi said in a news conference. "I believe the policy of implementing reforms to stimulate the economy and improve peoples' lives is on track." He said that revitalizing Japan's economy and rebuilding state finances will be the most important tasks for his successor.


From http://www.crisscross.com ¡¡06/20/2006


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Former President of UFJ Bank Tapped to Head Privatized Japan Post

A former president of UFJ Holdings, one of Japan's biggest banks, has been tapped to head the new savings bank of the privatized Japan Post, a news report said Wednesday. The government is moving to appoint Hideo Ogaswara to head what will be one of the world's top savings banks once privatization of Japan Post is complete, Kyodo News agency said.

From mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp ¡¡06/21/2006


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Gov't Mulling Ex-UFJ Holdings Head as Postal Savings Bank Chief

The government has decided to appoint Hideo Ogasawara, a former head of UFJ Holdings Inc., the predecessor of Mitsubishi UFJ Holdings Financial Group Inc., to head the bank unit of Japan Post when it is privatized in October 2007, informed sources said Wednesday. By appointing a former executive of a major commercial bank, the government hopes to strengthen the management base of the postal savings bank, according to the sources.

From http://www.crisscross.com¡¡06/21/2006


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42 Public Works Projects, Worth Y840 Billion, Axed in 2005

The number of public works projects that the government cancelled in fiscal 2005 after reexamining whether they were necessary or efficient came to 42, up from 30 the previous year, and their total budget amounted to 840 billion yen, according to a government white paper released Friday. The cancelled projects included railway and dam projects such as a subway construction project in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, to which the ministry initially earmarked 460 billion yen. A project to build industry water facilities in Akita Prefecture, for which it set aside 43.5 billion yen, was also cancelled.


From www.crisscross.com¡¡06/09/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: High Officials Get New Pay Grades

Starting from July, high-ranking government officials in Korea will be subjected to a new policy in which the salaries of high ranking officials ranging from class one to three vary with their work performance. The new system is expected to significantly shake the senior civil servant sector which has been regarded as stable lifetime jobs. The Civil Service Commission, which is under the Ministry of Government Affairs and Home Administration, stated on May 30 that the changes to 11 policies relating to high officials and a more open human resources management system were all passed during the State Council. The policy for high-ranking officials was passed by the National Assembly last December, and will commence on July 1 according to the National Law for Public Officials. About 1,500 public servants are part of the high-ranking official list, including class 1 to 3 section chiefs to director level officials at the central administration agencies, as well as officials at district administration offices and district education agencies.

With the introduction of the new policy, officials in the same class may be subject to salary differences of up to 9.6 million won per year according to their evaluations. In addition, public officials in the high-ranking official group will have to compete with officials from other ministries, and bad grading may lead to dismissal. Officials may also face dismissal if they are not assigned to a specific duty for more than two years. On another note, 20 percent of sector chief positions may be filled with open positions, and civil servants from other ministries may return to their original position if they choose to do so. A source from the Civil Service Commission said, ¡°This is a chance to alter the civil servant system which has continued in its original form since the Republic of Korea was established in 1948, to that which centers on assignments and work performances,¡± and added, ¡°from now on, we plan to expand the performance-based pay system.¡± The Civil Service Commission will pass or alter 16 relevant ordnances and policies next month, concluding the senior official policy. Some critics voice their concerns that this policy will not remedy the ¡°base pay system¡± system at once, but may lead to other side effects.

Policy for high-ranking officials: A base pay system for high ranking officials under the current system of class 1 to 3 (section chief to director levels) will now be altered to a performance-based pay system. The personnel management of high-ranking officials were previously under the management of each ministry, but will now be conducted by the central government.

From http://english.donga.com¡¡05/31/2006


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Insurer: Retirees Need More Financial Choices

Korea is emerging as one of the biggest pension markets in Asia, and the nation needs to embrace more financial products designed for the growing number of retirees in Korea's fast-aging society, Robert Henrikson, chief executive of U.S. insurance giant Metlife, said during his recent first visit to Seoul. Although a problem throughout the developed world, an aging population is considered a particularly serious issue in Korea. This is because a large portion of the nation's workers choose to plow their pension payments into real estate rather than other financial products ¨D such as insurance policies or stock investment plans ¨D that could yield a more reliable and regular income over the long term. Though many Koreans swear by it, real estate does not guarantee a comfortable level of income for retirees; its value can drop at any time, and it is not easily converted to cash. People relying too heavily on investments in property, therefore, may find themselves facing what Mr. Henrikson termed a "retirement crisis," or a lack of regular income when they are no longer working full-time. After taking the top position at the U.S.' biggest life insurer in April, Mr. Henrikson chose Korea as the destination for his first overseas business trip. Stressing that Asia is now the world's most promising insurance market, Mr. Henrikson said Korea is considered to have the biggest business potential of all for pension plans. Metlife, which has more than 70,000 employees worldwide, entered Korea, the world's seventh-largest insurance market, in 1989 in partnership with local company Kolon Group. In 1989, Metlife bought out its Korean partner and became independent. Its Korean unit is now the nation's 10th largest life insurer by sales and second-biggest foreign life insurer, after the Dutch firm ING Life.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com¡¡06/01/2006


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Innovation Czar Quits, Leaves Void

As Yoon Sung-sik, head of the Presidential Committee on Government Innovation and Decentralization, officially expressed his will to resign yesterday, President Roh Moo-hyun has reportedly begun the process of appointing Yoon¡¯s successor. Yoon said in his press release that day, ¡°Now, the big picture of government reform tasks is drawn. All the government should do is execute and assess it,¡± adding, ¡°With June 14 being my second anniversary of taking the post of the committee chairman, I decided to go back to school and focus on lecture and research.¡± After indirectly letting the president know his will to resign mid May, Yoon told the president that he would quit office over breakfast on June 1. President Roh had breakfast with some 10 members of the committee from the private sector, including Yoon, to praise their efforts on June 8. Yoon, a professor of public administration at KoreaUniversity, was named to be the chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection in September 2003, but his appointment was disapproved by the National Assembly because of opposition from the Grand National Party. He succeeded Kim Byung-jun as the committee chairman in June 2004.

As he designed the government innovation project on which the incumbent government is focusing, there are a lot of controversies over his resignation. Furthermore, as he demonstrated considerable enthusiasm to various government innovation tasks until recently, some say that there might have been something fishy about his expression of will to resign. Under these circumstances, some say that the reason behind Yoon¡¯s resignation might be the difference of views on the function of presidential committees on national affairs, including the government innovation committee, between him and Cheong Wa Dae. The government innovation committee wanted to continue the committee¡¯s activities, saying, ¡°There are tons of government innovation tasks remaining, including the self-governing police project.¡± However, Cheong Wa Dae argued otherwise, saying, ¡°The government needs to focus on managing what it has done in the second half of the president¡¯s term, rather than beginning new projects. Therefore, the government should drive the projects, rather than the committee.¡±

Also, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs and the committee were engaged in subtle psychological warfare over who will take the leading role in the balanced national development initiative immediately after the ministry reported its activities to the president on June 1. Others point out possible conflicts between Yoon and Kim Byung-jun, a former presidential chief policy adviser. They explain that Yoon complained, saying, ¡°Kim, who is the window to President Roh, blocked an opportunity to report the president and was passive in collaborating.¡± Yoon said, ¡°The speculation over possible conflicts is not true,¡± but a scholar said, ¡°Kim often made negative assessments of Yoon during the 2002 presidential election.¡± Still others say that Yoon¡¯s resignation is related to the fact that Yoon was a strong candidate for the minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs in March, but was not appointed at the last moment. Reportedly, Yoon was very unhappy when Cheong Wa Dae offered a negative opinion on his appointment, saying, ¡°It is undesirable that a person who was disapproved as the chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection would be subject to a hearing for the appointment of minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs.¡±

From english.donga.com¡¡ 06/14/2006


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Roh Names New Procurement Agency

President Roh Moo-hyun Wednesday appointed Kim Yong-min, an assistant minister of finance and economy in charge of tax policies, as the new administrator of the Public Procurement Service.Kim, who has long served at the Ministry of Finance and Economy since his graduation from Seoul National University, and Boston University in the United States, will succeed Chin Dong-soo who was recently named vice minister of finance and economy.


From The Korea Times ¡¡06/14/2006


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Roh to Public Sector: Compete or Else

On June 13, President Roh Moo-hyun, on the Senior Executive Service system to be introduced at the beginning of next month, commented, ¡°Now the public sector must compete with the private sector. If it fails to produce results, it will face a threat to be privatized.¡± Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Jeong Tae-ho said that President Roh said in a Cabinet meeting held on the same day, ¡°Top government officials who fail to produce results will now face consequences based on thorough evaluations.¡± President Roh pointed out, ¡°This system is significant in the sense that it will promote exchanges between government offices and agencies, and public officials might be removed based on their performance under the system. Unless we tackle the current in-and-in breeding type human resources management system, the public sector will get depressed and lose its competitiveness.¡± President Roh also said, ¡°Some in our society talk of fatigue from reforms. But society without changes will experience depression and fall behind. Changes are made through reforms. And reforms always run into resistance. What is most dangerous is to disrupt government polices on real estate and education reforms with dogmatism.¡± Some observers said that President Roh¡¯s remarks might be a warning to the ruling Uri Party that recently talked of a need for changes in major policies including the ones on the real estate market. In the meeting, President Roh also said, ¡°The genuine purpose of the reforms is to establish politics and markets where consumers prevail. The media¡¯s fair reporting is what matters most in realizing consumer sovereignty.¡±

From http://english.donga.com¡¡06/14/2006


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Seoul Seeks Welfare Spending Hike

The government yesterday proposed a nearly 20 percent increase in welfare spending next year to close the gap between the wealthy and poor. During a policy consultation with the ruling Uri Party, the Ministry of Health and Welfare demanded that the ruling party consider raising the ministry's current budget to 14.6 trillion won to reflect a 19.2 percent increase from the previous year's 12.3 trillion won. In 2005, the Health Ministry accounted for 6.44 percent of the country's total annual budget excluding special accounts. Officials say they need up to 30 percent more- translating into almost 4 trillion won - of support to help cover minimum expenses for the less-advantaged. In addition, they are counting on another 40 percent more in funds to support the handicapped, along with a 50 percent increase in its budget for the care of elderly citizens. Also included in the Health Ministry's proposal is a host of new welfare projects involving vouchers for senior citizens or the handicapped to allow them to seek the services of professional nurses and helpers. These programs are expected to cost around 147.7 billion won.

"This is just the beginning and we have a long road ahead of us before we reach a consensus," said Lee Young-chan, a Health Ministry spokesman. The government and political parties are expected to further discuss the issue when the September plenary session of the National Assembly begins. Customarily, it takes from then until December at the latest for the government and political parties to agree on the size of the ensuing year's budget. Last year, parliament passed the budget bill on the final day of the year. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs called for Uri to consider inflating its budget by 12.5 percent to 27.3 trillion won. At the same time, it is seeking to provide an extra 30 billion won for GyeonggiProvince to support the U.S. military camp's relocation to its Pyeongtaek area. Furthermore, the ministry said it hopes to set aside up to 230 billion won to finance the series of programs it has launched for people who suffered from past government injustice, such as those who were sacrificed during past pro-democratic uprisings or were coerced into labor under Japanese colonial rule.

In total, the amount the Home Affairs Ministry is seeking for this year's budget three times as much as in 2005. The Culture Ministry sought 100 billion won to support the local film industry, which claims to be suffering from the government's recent move to slash film quotas by half. The Labor Ministry called for a 10.8 percent increase in its budget to earmark funds for training employees at smaller companies.

From www.koreaherald.co.kr¡¡06/14/2006


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Assembly Approves 19 New Committee Leaders

After electing the heads of 19 standing and special committees yesterday, members of the National Assembly pledged to get down to business: tackling long-pending bills before its extra session ends June 30.The assembly is set to hold confirmation hearings next week for five nominees to the Supreme Court and also deal with bills targeting judicial and military reform. The Uri Party and the Grand National Party agreed earlier this month to share 19 leadership posts on the committees, with Uri taking 11 and the Grand Nationals eight. Uri holds the highest parliamentary seats, 143. The Grand National Party holds 123 seats. Each party named nominees for the committee head positions. Following established rules, the floor leader of the party with the most parliamentary seats, Kim Han-gill of Uri, took the chairmanship of the powerful House Steering Committee. The Uri Party also selected two relatively junior legislators, Kim Won-wung on the unification committee and Shin Ki-nam on the intelligence committee, after two three-term legislators decided to pass on their posts. Meanwhile, the Grand National Party filled their chairmanships with three-term senior members, except for the new legislator Moon Hee, on the gender equality committee. Ms. Moon, 70, who entered the assembly eight months ago, unexpectedly won her party's election. She was born in Jeolla province, traditionally unfriendly to the Grand Nationals. The head of a standing committee holds authority to call for deliberations on the budget of government offices, while presiding over and arbitrating in the committee sessions.

National Assembly committee leaders

Committee name/?New committee heads, their party membership and age
House Steering Committee/Kim Han-gill, Uri, 54
Legislation and Judiciary Committee/Ahn Sang-soo, GNP, 60
National Policy Committee/Park Byeong-seug, Uri, 54
Finance and Economy Committee/Chung Ui-hwa, GNP, 58
Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee/Kim Won-wung, Uri, 62
National Defense Committee/ Kim Sung-gon, Uri, 54
Government Administration and Local Autonomy Committee/Yoo Ihn-tae, Uri, 58
Education Committee/Kwon Chul-hyun, GNP, 59
Science, Technology, Information and Telecommunications Committee/Rim In-bae, GNP, 52
Culture and Tourism Committee/Cho Bae-sook, Uri, 50
Agriculture, Forestry, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Committee/Kwon Oh-eul, GNP, 49
Commerce, Industry and Energy Committee/Lee Yoon-sung, GNP, 62
Health and Welfare Committee/Kim Tae-hong, Uri, 64
Environment and Labor Committee/Hong Joon-pyo, GNP, 52
Construction and Transportation Committee/Lee Ho-woong, Uri, 57
Intelligence Committee/Shin Ki-nam, Uri, 54
Gender Equality and Family Committee/Moon Hee, GNP, 70
Special Committee on Budget & Accounts/Lee Kang-rae, Uri, 53
Special Committee on Ethics/Kim Myung-ja, Uri, 62
(Uri: governing Uri Party, GNP: major opposition Grand National Party)

From http://joongangdaily.joins.com¡¡06/21/2006


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INDONESIA: Govt Establishes Police Commission

JAKARTA: The government has announced the establishment of the Indonesian Police Commission to improve the performance of the National Police.The commission's formation is based on a 2002 law and a presidential decree signed on May 19. It is led by chief security minister Widodo Adisucipto and Home Minister M. Ma'ruf. Its other members are Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin, along with Adnan Pandupraja, Novel Ali, Sukarni Ilyas, Ronny Lihawa, Laode Husen and Erlyn Indarti. The commission is responsible for advising the President on issues related to the police's performance and can also suggest candidates to head the force. "The commission will represent the public interest," National Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Adang Daradjatun said Tuesday.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/¡¡05/31/2006



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Bird Flu Information Drive a Failure: Govt

The government has admitted its bird flu information campaign has failed to improve public awareness about the deadly disease. Director general of communicable diseases control I Nyoman Kandun said Thursday a lack of public awareness about the seriousness of the disease had played a part in causing the nation's high rate of human deaths from bird flu.

WHO spokeswoman Sari Setiogi confirmed Thursday that a seven-year-old girl who died in Jakarta had become the nation's 38th bird flu fatality after positive testing by a World Health Organization-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong. The girl's brother also died after showing bird flu symptoms but was buried before tests were taken, the Health Ministry said. On Thursday, ministry officials said a Tempo newspaper correspondent based in Tasikmalaya, West Java, was suspected to be suffering from the H5N1 virus after showing flu symptoms, including an high fever and severe breathing problems.

The journalist is being treated at the HasanSadikinHospital in Bandung. Doctors suspect he caught the virus when he covered a mass cull of flu-infected poultry in Tasikmalaya earlier this month. The virus has also killed a 15-year-old boy in the town. Kandun said villagers' fierce objections to the government's plan of a mass poultry cull in Tanah Karo, North Sumatra, proved the government's public awareness campaign had failed. The flu has claimed seven lives in the area, in the largest known human bird flu cluster ever detected. "Such a public reaction shows up the flaws in our (government) strategy," he said. On Wednesday, a group of people from Tanah Karo protested a government plan to cull poultry in the area by killing a chicken and eating it raw. They insisted there was no bird flu in Tanah Karo, a large poultry center in the country. Public health experts have also said the slow progress in combating bird flu in the country was due partly to the lack of coordination between the health and agriculture ministries.

World Health Organization experts have also expressed concerns that regional administrations are not acting quickly enough to implement the government's national bird flu strategy, faulting them for failing to initiate flu surveillance in at-risk areas. Kandun said the government would opt to intensify its information campaign rather than enforce the 1984 Plague Law, which punishes people who refuse to cooperate with the government in tackling the spread of infectious diseases. The comment came, after chief welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie said the government would enforce the law and the 1967 Infectious Disease Control Law to arrest the spread of H5N1 in the country.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/¡¡06/16/2006


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LAO: ADB Boosting Lao PDR's Legal System for Dispute Resolution

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB will help provide a reliable system for resolving commercial disputes in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), through a US$650,000 technical assistance grant package cofinanced by the Government of Luxembourg. The lack of a reliable legal system for resolving disputes arising from financial and commercial activities has significant implications, particularly for the country's financial sector, where risks for commercial lending are seen to be exceptionally high. ¡°The lack of an efficient and effective legal system not only constrains improvement in the country's overall governance, but also limits the potential for greater foreign investment inflows and private sector development,¡± says Shigeko Hattori, an ADB Principal Financial Sector Specialist. The grant project will help identify the key factors preventing the court's commercial division from functioning effectively, and recommend measures to resolve these. Self-help procedures and other alternatives prior to recourse to the courts, such as the Office of Economic Dispute Resolution, will also be reviewed and developed.

Officials and enforcement officers assigned to the court's commercial division will be trained on court proceedings and case management, particularly for cases related to commercial dealings. Furthermore, a public awareness program will be developed to help the private sector better understand and use the dispute resolution mechanisms and litigation rights available to them. Another component of the TA will support the Government of Lao to fully operationalize the secured transactions registry, and thus create an enabling environment to increase availability, affordability, and transparency of credit access, as well as facilitate domestic and cross-border investment. Finally, the grant will help the state-owned commercial banks in the country to set up or strengthen their legal departments and resolve their sizeable non performing loans, which will again increase availability of funds for the emerging SMEs. The total cost of the project is estimated at $780,000. ADB is providing $500,000 while the Government of Luxembourg is cofinancing $150,000. The Government of the Lao PDR will finance the balance of $130,000 in the form of counterpart staff, office accommodation, and logistical support.

From http://www.adb.org/¡¡06/16/2006



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PHILIPPINES: P2B Now Available for War Vs. Corruption

President Arroyo on Monday morning ordered the release of P1 billion as the Philippines¡¯ counterpart fund to the US government¡¯s $20.685-million (P1-billion) financial aid for the war against graft and corruption. She ordered Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya to release the money during the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the Revenue Command Conference at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malaca?ang. Finance Secretary Margarito Teves explained that the MCA initiative of US President George W. Bush would enable the government to accelerate and institutionalize Arroyo¡¯s efforts to stamp out corruption, plug revenue leaks and improve tax collection administration. ¡°This will help generate more resources that we can channel into health, education and poverty reduction services that will benefit the most disadvantaged sectors of our society,¡± Teves said. Mrs. Arroyo explained that Bush set up MCA as a reward to countries such as the Philippines, which is one of the early beneficiaries of the millennium account for being well-governed. The fund will be released by the budget department to the Office of the Ombudsman and the Presidential Antigraft Commission (PAGC).

Teves said $1.4 million will go to the Department of Finance, $6.5 million to the Office of the Ombudsman, $9.4 million to the Bureau of Internal Revenue and P3.1 million to the Bureau of Customs. She also announced that the PAGC would participate in the executive efforts to wipe out graft and corruption. The PAGC chair Constancia de Guzman in a press briefing said all agencies concerned would first meet to determine how they would use the money to be released by the DBM. De Guzman said they would see to it that ¡°major final outputs¡± could provide the details of the utilization of funds especially those agencies identified as beneficiaries of the program. Part of the fund will also be allocated for the training of Ombudsman employees, the report said. The US government has noted that the country ¡°suffers from persistent problems of public corruption¡± and high levels of corruption in tax and customs administration, conflicts of interest in the public sector and poor implementation of existing anti-corruption laws.

The two-year US project is expected to develop an effective mechanism for gathering and validating tax collection data, for investing in information technology, surveillance tools and customs tracking system in order to make investigations more thorough and efficient. Part of the US funding would be used to attract more local investigators by providing them with just compensation under an employment contract with well-defined performance indicators. US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney claimed the MCA program represents an important opportunity for the US and the Philippines to strengthen government institutions against corruption as well as in revenue administration. Teves also said the two-year anticorruption initiative that is in line with the President¡¯s Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan would help the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Office of the Ombudsman become more efficient, effective and transparent. (by Sam Mediavilla )


From http://www.manilatimes.net/¡¡06/20/2006


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Customs, BIR Still Corrupt

OMBUDSMAN Merceditas Gutierrez said on Tuesday that the Bureaus of Customs and of Internal Revenue still ranked number one among the most corrupt government agencies. Gutierrez told DZMM radio that her office has launched ¡°Sama-Samang Pagtulong Laban sa Katiwalian para sa Kabataan¡± to step up its anticorruption campaign in the government. After Customs and the BIR, the Ombudsman said the Departments of Public Works and Highways and of Education were second in corruption. ¡°Corruption has become rampant and we need to aggressively enforce the law and policies [against graft and corruption,]¡± Gutierrez said. She said her office will need additional investigators to handle the increasing volume of corruption cases, but the low salary offered to government lawyers makes recruitment difficult.

Gutierrez said the $6.5-million antigraft and corruption fund will be used for hiring lawyers and prosecutors. The fund is part of the $21-million aid package from the Millennium Challenge Account, a US federal agency handing out development assistance. The Department of Finance, BIR and Customs will also receive funds from the US aid package. Besides the $6.5 million, the Ombudsman will also receive a portion of the P1-billion fund released by President Arroyo Monday to boost her administration¡¯s campaign against corruption. Gutierrez said the fund was awarded to the Philippine government after the US identified the country as among those that have an increasing problem in graft and corrupt practices.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/¡¡06/21/2006


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SINGAPORE: E-Filing to Leverage AI in Government Agency

Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) pilots innovative e-filing system that mimics human behaviour. Software company, SQL View, today received S$260,717 (US$165,393) from The Enterprise Challenge, an initiative of the Prime Minister¡¯s Office, to pilot an automatic electronic filing system at the URA. ¡°The URA is proud to be a trailblazer for the adoption of advanced, innovative technology for managing documents in government,¡± said Tan Siong Leng, URA¡¯s Deputy Chief Executive Officer. "In addition to enhanced efficiency and service delivery, the piloting of the KRIS Intelligent Filer is supporting our drive to build an organisational culture that is open to new ideas and trying out innovative solutions.¡±¡°The KRIS Intelligent Filer will form an important part of URA¡¯s Enterprise Document Management System to capture and manage all its electronic records in an organised way. It will address our concerns about the integrity and authenticity of documents and at the same time, minimise our effort in classifying documents, which is a common challenge in implementing electronic document management system,¡± Tan said.

The KRIS Intelligent Filer (KIF), an innovative system that can mimic human decision-making and behaviour, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to manage electronic documents. As the system makes use of a behaviour-based AI engine, it has the capability to learn and become more accurate over time. Using the AI engine, the system is able to ¡®read¡¯ the documents to determine their content and context, and automatically classify and store the documents for convenient searches and retrieval. Through pattern recognition, it learns, remembers new filing information as well as reconciles conflicting instructions each time it files new documents. To top it all, the system is able to classify information according to the roles and the security access levels of the users. On the importance of managing electronic records, Stephen Lim, Chief Executive Officer of SQL View, said: ¡°When electronic documents are not managed and archived properly, they can get misplaced. This leads to loss of valuable corporate knowledge and evidence.¡± ¡°A well-organised repository also ensures that the knowledge and evidence acquired by the organisation is captured in the corporate repository forever, regardless of staff turnover and organisational changes,¡± he added.

During the pilot phase, the KRIS Intelligent Filer will be used by a selected group of staff. It will eventually be used by all URA employees. On the role of The Enterprise Challenge, Yeoh Chee Yan, Deputy Secretary, Development, Public Service Division, Prime Minister¡¯s Office said: ¡°The Enterprise Challenge enables anyone with good ideas to test their innovations within the public sector. We are particularly happy to support partnerships between the private, people and public sectors which push the boundaries of innovation. Such partnerships help grow a culture of innovation and enterprise in Singapore,¡± she added. The Enterprise Challenge provides grants to test out innovative ideas. It also assists applicants to identify and provide suitable test-beds within the public service. Successful trials can pave the way for wider implementation in the public sector or commercial application.


From http://www.pstm.net/¡¡05/29/2006


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Singapore Announces US$1.27 Billion E-govt Masterplan

Joint announcement by Ministry of Finance and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore heralds country's shift from e-government to 'i-government' (integrated government).Under the three-year e-Government Action Plan II (eGAPII) launched in 2003, user-friendly, accessible and convenient e-services have been delivered to citizens and businesses. Based on the annual e-Government Customer Perception Survey conducted in March 2006, nearly nine out of ten customers who needed to transact with the Government in the past 12 months had done so electronically at least once. Of those who transacted electronically, about nine out of ten expressed satisfaction with the overall quality of e-services delivered. Building on the achievements of eGAPII, a new S$2 billion five-year masterplan, called iGov2010, has been mapped out to guide Singapore¡¯s latest direction in e-Government. The plan was unveiled today by Minister for Prime Minister¡¯s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, Raymond Lim at the annual iGov Forum.

¡°Under iGov2010 we will invest S$2 billion (US$1.27 billion) to transform backend processing to achieve front-end efficiency and effectiveness. The principle to think ¡°Customer¡± and ¡°start with the user in mind¡± in everything we do remains the same in iGov2010. Rather, what is new is the strengthened focus and emphasis on transcending organisational structures, changing rules and procedures, to reorganise and integrate the government around customers¡¯ and citizens¡¯ needs and intentions,¡± said Lim. iGov2010 is developed in consultation with the people, private and public sectors. It comprises four strategic thrusts, namely ¡®Increasing Reach and Richness of e-Services; ¡®Increasing Citizens¡¯ Mindshare in e-Engagement¡¯; ¡®Enhancing Capacity and Synergy in Government¡¯; and ¡®Enhancing National Competitive Advantage¡¯.

Thrust 1: Increasing Reach and Richness of e-Services Since eGAPII, all government services that can be placed online are already available via the internet. To make Government e-services more accessible to a larger population and open opportunities to deliver innovative services not possible before, the Government will ride on Singapore¡¯s high mobile penetration to deliver services via the mobile channel. A single Short Message Service (SMS) number will be adopted for all government services delivered through the mobile channel to bring about greater convenience. In addition, greater emphasis will be placed on gaining insights into customers¡¯ needs and preferences, so that more proactive, responsive, user-friendly and integrated e-services will be delivered. In an effort to extend the reach of e-services to citizens who have no Internet access or who require help in transacting online, CitizenConnect Centres at Community Clubs will be expanded from the current five to a network of 25 CitizenConnect centres.

Thrust 2: Increasing Citizens¡¯ Mindshare in e-Engagement In eGAPII, the focus was on e-service delivery and consultation. Under iGov2010, the Government will actively engage citizens in the policy-making process and further strengthen its relationship with citizens by leveraging on infocomm technologies. Information on Government websites will be made more interesting, vibrant and easier to understand. The Government Online Consultation Portal will also be enhanced to tailor to the needs of different users groups more effectively.

Thrust 3: Enhancing Capacity and Synergy in Government Public agencies have worked together as a Networked Government under eGAPII to deliver integrated e-services through a common front for customers. Under iGov2010, the Government is taking one step further to transform its business and operating models. This will make the Government more agile and efficient in its utilisation of resources, thereby achieving a higher level of service delivery. For example, the Centre for Shared Services - Vital.org set up under the Ministry of Finance, will enable public agencies to work together to streamline common functions and integrate backend processes such as in Human Resource and Finance to improve business operations. Greater efficiency will also be created in the Government through the implementation of a Unique Establishment Identifier (UEI) for establishments in Singapore, which include companies, businesses, societies, and non-profit organisations etc. Having a UEI for establishments in Singapore, similar to the NRIC number for individuals, will reduce the number of identifiers that establishments have to use. A UEI will provide a common means of identifying establishments across public agencies, enabling them to share basic non-confidential information on establishments more effectively to deliver better and more personalised services.

Thrust 4: Enhancing National Competitive Advantage To enhance national competitive advantage, the Government will continue to facilitate the growth of the private sector through partnerships in innovative infocomm projects. Public agencies will collaborate with the infocomm industry in the co-creation, development and export of iGov solutions. In addition, the Government will allow relevant intellectual ownership to be retained by infocomm companies in Singapore to enhance business and solution export opportunities. Public agencies have also played an active role in supporting the transformation of industry sectors through infocomm. For example, TradeXchange, a project by Singapore Customs, Economic Development Board and IDA Singapore, aims to transform the trade and logistics sector. With iGov2010, similar sectoral transformation projects will be implemented. To achieve this, the Government will continue to play a major role in projects identified under iN2015, Singapore¡¯s next Infocomm Masterplan for the next 10 years.¡±iGov2010 is well positioned to strengthen Singapore¡¯s national competitive advantage, as well as its reputation as a centre of excellence and a global showcase for ideas, innovation and knowledge. Through partnerships and collaborations in the international arena, we will be a world-class city where people live, work and play through infocomm, technologically advanced and well connected to the rest of the world,¡± added Lim.


From http://www.pstm.net¡¡05/30/2006


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Ministry of Manpower Receives UN Public Service Award

The Work Pass Division of the Ministry of Manpower has been awarded the 2006 United Nations Public Service Award. The Award recognises the Work Pass Division for work done to implement the Work Permit Online System and for "improving transparency, accountability, and responsiveness in the Public Service." The award ceremony was held at the UN headquarters in New York City.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/¡¡06/23/2006


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THAILAND: Govt Legal Expert Visanu to Quit

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Visanu Krue-ngarm, the government's legal expert, yesterday announced his intention to resign in what was seen as a major blow to the caretaker administration. He gave no clear reason for the decision to quit politics for good and return to full-time teaching, but said he had served 10 governments. ''I've been working at Government House for 15 years. I've served 10 governments but only seven prime ministers, some of them repeatedly. Sometimes, changes of government came out of the blue. But I have never criticised any previous governments. If I go, I don't need to say what happened. Some people might do so. But I'm different,'' he said. However, Mr Visanu said he had yet to tender his resignation as he still had some tasks to complete. He said caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra raised no objection when he told him long ago about his intention to resign. ''He understood my reason. I'm still working because there are some unfinished tasks left to do,'' Mr Visanu said. He wished to stay away from politics and to become a full-time lecturer, saying he had always been teaching. Earlier this month, cabinet secretary-general Borwornsak Uwanno, Mr Visanu's cousin, resigned apparently after a series of differences with Mr Thaksin and his political team.

He was ordained a monk and said he would re-start his career as an independent scholar after leaving the monkhood. Outgoing senator Sophon Suphapong said Mr Visanu's planned resignation shook the government. Mr Thaksin should leave instead, he said, as he lacked the legitimacy to remain power, Mr Sophon added . Khian Theerawith, a political scientist at ChulalongkornUniversity, said the resignation of scholars from the Thaksin government would affect its credibility. The decision to leave must have come after a failure to stop things which could cause damage to the country. ''It's unusual for Ajarn Visanu and Ajarn Borwornsak, the government's legal experts, to quit. These people must have seen things we saw long ago. They came to the realisation more slowly than we did,'' Mr Khian said.Neither the government nor the three remaining election commissioners had any more legitimacy to stay, he added. Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the resignation from the government of legal experts and ex-bureaucrats reflected demands for change and also signalled that people should find a solution to political crises, especially those involving the Election Commission. Thai Rak Thai spokesman and caretaker Minister of the Prime Minister's Office Suranand Vejjajiva declined to comment on Mr Visanu's decision, but said: ''Just keep a close watch. Much more to come.''

From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com¡¡06/23/2006


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Vietnamese Chief Leaders Appeal to Resign Formally

HANOI, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Three chief Vietnamese leaders appealed to resign at National Assembly Saturday morning. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, President of the State Tran Duc Luong and President of National Assembly Nguyen Van An had formally appealed to resign at National Assembly Saturday morning. National Assembly will vote Saturday afternoon to decide whether to accept the resignations or not, and to elect new leaders of the country. Nong Duc Manh, Secretary General of Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP), had praised highly the achievement which Khai, Luong and Anhad acquired, noting that the three leaders had the wish to resign which had been confirmed by the central committee of VCP. There was a dispute earlier within the National Assembly on whether to stop the terms of the three leaders ahead of time, so the NA determined to vote for settling down the issue.

From www.chinaview.cn ¡¡06/24/2006


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Vietnam Has New State President

HANOI, June 27 (Xinhua) -- The National Assembly (NA) of Vietnam, the country's top legislature, elected Nguyen Minh Triet as state president on Tuesday morning. Over 94 percent of all NA deputies voted for Triet, member of the Political Bureau under the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee (CPVCC) and Secretary of the Party Committee of southern Ho Chi Minh City. On Tuesday morning, Triet proposed Nguyen Tan Dung, member of the Political Bureau and Deputy Prime Minister, for the post of Prime Minister, the official said, noting that the NA will vote for the post on Tuesday afternoon.

Triet, born in 1942 in southern Binh Duong province, currently holds a bachelor degree on mathematics and another on high-level political theory from the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy. He joined the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1965. Triet, who participated in revolutionary activities in the South of Vietnam between 1960 and 1970, held the post of secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union in the 1975-1987 period, deputy secretary and then secretary of the Party Committee of southern Song Be province from 1988 to 1996. Triet became deputy secretary of the Party Committee of Ho Chi Minh City in 1997, and secretary of the committee in 2000. He has been member of the Political Bureau since 1998. Between 1998 and 1999, Triet acted as chairman of the CPVCC's Commission for Mass Mobilization. On Monday, the legislature selected Nguyen Phu Trong, member of the Political Bureau, Secretary of the Party Committee of Hanoi capital city, as the NA chairman. On the same day, the NA approved the resignations of State President Tran Duc Luong, born in 1937, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, 1933, and NA Chairman Nguyen Van An, 1937. At the weekend, they officially submitted their resignations due to age factor, paving the way for a new generation of younger leaders.

From www.chinaview.cn ¡¡06/27/2006


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BHUTAN: Civil Service Performance to Be Assessed

The performance appraisal system in the civil service which would provide employees with the best possible means to improve themselves and contribute to the overall efficiency of an organisation, will come into force from July 1,2006, according to the Royal Civil Service Commission Secretariat. Performance appraisal is defined under the PCS as ¡°the process of documenting performance accomplishments, determining whether and how well performance outputs were accomplished, and assigning appropriate ratings based upon the assessment.¡± It means civil service employees would now have to sit together with his or her manager and devise a work plan for six months, which will define the expected performance output of the employee. At the end of every six months, the employee will again sit with the manager and jointly make remarks regarding his progress against each performance output. The appraisal system also necessitates identifying 'core competencies' relevant to the employees position. ¡°It will make the whole system conducive and make it easier to rate the employee at the end of the year,¡± explained the chief planning officer of the RCSC Secretariat, Bachu Phub Dorji.

The ratings would also determine non-performers. ¡°Through the appraisal system, the weaknesses of the non-performers could be identified and defined directives and necessary trainings could be instituted to make them perform,¡± Bachu Phub Dorji said. He added that today there was a dire need for a performance culture in the Bhutanese civil service. ¡°We are fairly relaxed today and appraisals are taken only for promotion,¡± he said. Bachu Phub Dorji said the appraisal system was a strong component of performance management, which is defined under the PCS as ¡° the process of creating a work environment in which people are enabled to perform to the best of their abilities.¡± To create awareness on performance management system, the RCSC Secretariat organised an executive seminar in Thimphu on June 14, which saw dzongdas and drangpons from all over the country participate. Meanwhile, some people still feel the PCS has a long way to go. ¡°It is very difficult to understand the position classification system,¡± said a civil servant working in Thimphu. ¡°Lets see if civil servants stop playing archery during office hours.¡±


From http://www.kuenselonline.com/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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INDIA: Education Minister to Strengthen Public Education System

Education Minister M.A. Baby has asked teachers and other staff of government schools to enrol their children in either government or aided schools to set an example for others and help improve the lot of these schools. The Government will organise an awareness programme for this and if need be will also think of formulating a law to this effect. Mr. Baby was speaking at the State-level inauguration of `Pravesanotsavom,' a festival designed to welcome newcomers to schools and help them overcome the fear of going to school, here on Monday. "Those who speak about the need for uplifting government and aided schools should send their children only to these schools. The standard of government and aided schools needs to improve. There is need to strengthen the public education system," the Minister said. The Government will not close any government or aided school on the pretext that they are uneconomical and that they do not have sufficient number of students. The Government is determined that there should be at least 200 working days for schools in an academic year. While those who perform well should be encouraged, those who do not perform well should not be taunted by parents or friends. "I can understand parents lovingly chiding their wards for not performing well in studies. But if it goes beyond a limit then it will not be allowed. We will find out such parents and give them the cane treatment (chooral kashaayam)," the Minister said.


From http://www.hindu.com/ ¡¡06/06/2006


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Democracy Searches for Space in India

No one could have thought that the visit of noted Bollywood actor Aamir Khan to the site of twin agitations ¨C the Bhopal gas tragedy as well as the Narmada agitation - in April 2006 in New Delhi would spark off a furor that would refuse to die down even after two months. His comments propelled Gujarat, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, to ban his latest film Fanaa. Both the agitating groups have been protesting for their rights for over two decades and both wanted the highest authority in Indian democracy ¨C the Prime Minister¡¯s office - to give them a hearing. People from both the groups had gone on a hunger-strike to force the government to do something. On a visit to the Indian capital, Khan decided to pay a visit to Jantar Mantar ¨C India¡¯s hotspot for launching protests and agitations - where the Bhopal gas victims and the Narmada farmers had pitched their tents on opposite sides of the road. The Bhopal victims wanted compensation apart from other demands and the Narmada agitators ¨C led by Medha Patkar ¨C wanted the government to relocate people who have been ousted because of the construction of a series of dam on the Narmada river in central India. A mere comment by Khan that the Indian government should listen to the woes of the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy and should rehabilitate villagers in the Narmada valley was quickly given a political hue by the Gujarat government.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, also known for his anti-minorities stance, does not accept alternative views easily. And when Khan voiced his concern over the tardy rehabilitation process at the Narmada valley, the BJP chief minister found an opportunity to gain mileage out of the dam controversy. It is another matter that Narmada evokes such strong reactions in Gujarat that even the Congress party, which is a strong political opponent of the BJP, sided with the BJP¡¯s irrational stand. The parties roused the passions of the common Gujarati so much that a youth even set himself ablaze in front of the lone cinema hall that was screening the movie. Well, the film is doing well all over the country and as Khan said it is a loss for the Gujaratis that they could not watch it because of their government¡¯s stand. The actor also refused to apologise to the BJP for voicing his opinion and maintained his posture that he was apolitical. Khan also promised to study the controversy over Coke and depletion of groundwater as he has been endorsing that company¡¯s products. What probably the actor did not realize when he made those innocuous Narmada comments in New Delhi was that he would end up enacting a real life role from his recent success ¨C Rang De Basanti. This movie too was a roaring success and went down well with the Indian youth as its young protagonists successfully assassinate the country¡¯s corrupt defence minister. Aamir Khan would have little known that he too would end up playing a young man in search of justice for his countrymen.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ ¡¡06/16/2006


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SRI LANKA: Public Servants Need Not Be 'Tied' Down

COLOMBO: The current dress code of public officials is to undergo a change in the coming weeks a under a new Presidential directive to dispense with the standard tie in favour of the more comfortable national dress and similar attire. A circular to this effect will be issued by President Mahinda Rajapaksa next month that will see a change in the current official dress code. It was late President Ranasinghe Premadasa who soon after his victory in 1990 made the tie compulsory for all State officials during their duty hours and while attending to official tasks and a circular was issued giving effect to this Presidential decree. This circular will now be annulled and replaced with the new one giving the option to the State officials of a choice between the tie regarded as colonial relic by most and the national dress (or buttoned round collar kit). The Presidential directive is likely to find favour among many quarters especially considering that the stifling heat in a tropical country like Sri Lanka does not lend itself to overdress. President Rajapaksa told the Daily News that he felt the State officials would be more comfortable in the simple national dress than in the Western attire. He said this was by no means a frowning on any sartorial preference and there was no compulsion to change ones' preferred dress. It is only a withdrawal of the present requirement that the tie is a must. The matter is entirely optional. At the time tie was made compulsory wear for all Chairmen, directors and graded officials of all Government institutions, Boards and Corporations by the late President Premadasa there was much debate on the topic with newspapers publishing views of various leading lights of the day for and against 'institutionalising' the tie. While the more Western oriented segments spoke in favour of the tie as the epitome of respect and authority others were of the view that national symbols should receive pride of place.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ ¡¡06/15/2006


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MALDIVES: Government Welcomes Inauguration of New Human Rights Council

MALE - The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, has on Wednesday addressed the High-Level Segment of the Inaugural Session of the UN Human Rights Council, welcoming the establishment of the Council and promising to work closely with the new body in order to improve human rights protection in the Maldives. The Human Rights Council, conceived by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to replace the Commission on Human Rights, is currently holding its first ever meeting in Geneva, Switzerland; an event attended by UN Secretary General Annan, the President of the UN General Assembly Jan Eliasson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, the Director-General of the UN in Geneva Sergei Ordzhonikidze, over a hundred national ministers, and a wide cross section of international civil society. Addressing delegates, Dr. Shaheed congratulated the President of the new body, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, on his election and warmly welcomed the inauguration of the Council together with its stated aim of ¡°promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner¡±. Dr. Shaheed reminded the audience that: ¡°the inauguration of the Human Rights Council comes at an important time in the democratic history of the Maldives. The country is embarked on an ambitious reform programme designed to bring its political institutions into line with modern democratic and human rights standards. The international community has played and continues to play a key role in this reform process, offering invaluable advice, support and expertise.

Building on this trend of international engagement, it is our sincere hope that over the coming years, we will be able to work closely with the newly formed Human Rights Council to bring about real and lasting improvements in human rights protection in the Maldives.¡± Providing an early demonstration of this commitment, the Foreign Minister informed the Council that in April of this year the Maldives extended a Standing Invitation to visit the country to all UN human rights Special Procedure Rapporteurs, which it followed¨Cup with personal invitation letters to those Rapporteurs with a particular interest in the country. The Minister also recalled that the Government has made a public commitment, in its roadmap for the reform agenda, to sign up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by December 2006. Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Shaheed held a private meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, during which the Minister briefed Arbour on developments in the Maldives since their last meeting in September 2005. The Minister¡¯s attendance at the Human Rights Council was part of a four-day visit to the international organisations based in Geneva during which Dr. Shaheed also met with a number of UN Special Rapporteurs for human rights, senior representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists, Nicholas Howen. The meetings were an opportunity to discuss progress and challenges vis--vis the reform agenda, and to identify potential areas for cooperation in order to move the agenda forward.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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NEPAL: Government Appoints New Member Secretary in NSC

The Government has appointed Bodh Raj Niraula, a joint-secretary at the Education and Sports Ministry as the new Member Secretary for the National Sports Council (NSC) recently. Niraula was appointed new member secretary after the government's latest cabinet meeting on Sunday replacing Kishor Bahadur Singh. Singh had been criticized by all sports bodies for not implementing the plans and policies.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ ¡¡06/06/2006


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Govt Forms Committee to Amend Educational Policies

The government has formed a 13-member Education Policy Suggestion Committee under the leadership of Education Minister Dr Mangal Siddhi Manandhar including officials from the Finance Ministry, National Planning Commission and Local Development Ministry. The decision was taken during the cabinet meeting on Monday. The committee will provide suggestions to the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) regarding reforms that should be carried out in the changed political scenario and amendments that should be made in existing educational policies. Most of the educational programmes are in an indeterminate state after the government decided to scrap all the previous ordinances on May 7. The positions of vice-chancellors, rectors, registrars of universities and chairman of the University Grants' Commission (UGC) have been lying vacant due to the confusion over the king's role in their appointment. Similarly, the MoES also formed a nine-member team under the coordination of Laba Prasad Tripathi, secretary of the ministry, to hold dialogues for improving the quality of education, addressing teachers' quota problem and making education accessible to all. The team comprises four members from the ministry and five from the teachers' union and is given a mandate of two years. In the meantime, the ministry has announced scholarships to the offspring of martyrs. While every child of a martyr studying in primary or pre-primary level will get Rs 1,000 every month, Rs 1,500 will be given to each of martyrs' children studying in lower secondary or secondary level. Likewise, Rs 2,000 will be given to every offspring of a martyr studying in the higher secondary level. Those studying in universities will also be given scholarships. The students must get recommendation letters, which verify their relation with the martyrs, from the District Administration Office to qualify for scholarships. The government announced 21 persons as martyrs during the recent people's movement.

From http://www.nepalnews.com/ ¡¡06/07/2006


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High Level Commission Set to Summon Ex-ministers

The high-level investigation commission formed to investigate atrocities committed to suppress the people¡¯s movement of the country is all set to summon former ministers and advisors of the royal cabinet including its vice-chairman Dr Tulsi Giri. Reports quoted one of the members of the commission as saying, ¡°We will send summons Sunday ordering them to present before the commission on Tuesday.¡± According to him, the commission would also fix the time of interrogation to record their statements. ¡°The commission has already seen the necessary documents,¡± he added. Earlier the commission had recommended the government to keep a vigil on them to ensure that they do not flee the country. The commission has also asked the government to seize their passports. Those on the watch-list are Dr Giri, Kamal Thapa, Niranjan Thapa, Badri Mandal, Tanka Dhakal, Salim Miya Ansari, Shrish SJB Rana, Senate Shrestha, Jagat Gauchan, Nikshya SJB Rana, king¡¯s ADC Bharat Keshari Simha and Sharad Chandra Shah, the key advisor to the king, who has already left the country.


From http://www.nepalnews.com/ ¡¡06/25/2006


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AFGHANISTAN: President Replaces Kabul Police Chief

Hamid Karzai replaced Major General Jamil Jonbesh as chief of police in the capital on June 3, appointing Amanullah Gozar as his replacement, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. Karzai's office described Jonbesh's dismissal as long-planned, but AFP quoted an unnamed official within the Interior Ministry as saying the May 29 riots in Kabul "sped up" the plan. The same source said he thinks Jonbesh's removal was prompted by weak policing during the deadly riots that shook Kabul after a fatal traffic accident involving a U.S. military truck and civilian vehicles on May 29 (see "RFE/RL Newsline" May 30 and 31, and June 1 and 2, 2006). AFP reported that the head of Kabul's rapid-reaction force, General Mahbub Amiri, was also dismissed. Jonbesh was appointed as Kabul's police chief in June 2005 after his predecessor, General Akram Khakrezwal, was killed in Kandahar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 5, 2005). New York-based Human Rights Watch in early May urged Karzai to replace Jonbesh, accusing him of murder, torture, intimidation, and bribery; Jonbesh said those allegations were the result of a conspiracy directed against him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 5 and 12, 2006). AT


From http://www.rferl.org/ ¡¡06/05/2006


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IRAQ: Cabinet Completed, Plans Outlined

Iraq's parliament on June 8 approved the appointment of three ministers, completing the formation of the government, Western media reports. Jawad al-Bolani will be the new interior minister, General Abd al-Qadir Muhammad Jasim will serve as defense minister, and Sherwan al-Wa'ili will be the new minister of state for national security. The appointments followed months of disputes. In an opinion piece published by "The Times" of London on June 9, Prime Minister al-Maliki said his plans for reconciliation and improved security include developing infrastructure in the country's more secure regions; revamping Iraq's anticorruption watchdog body; and disbanding militias by incorporating their members into the national security services, but dispersing them to ensure that militias cannot reform. Al-Maliki also vowed to put an end to what he called "ethnic cleansing" in and around Baghdad. BAW

From http://www.rferl.org/¡¡06/09/2006


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IRAN: Majlis Presiding Board Reelected

Members of the new Majlis Presiding Board were sworn in on Wednesday without any changes, IRNA reported. The new board¡¯s composition is the same as the previous one and includes Haddad-Adel, who was reelected to the post of speaker for a third consecutive term, Mohammad Reza Bahonar and Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi as first and second vice-speakers respectively, as well as six secretaries and three clerks. Haddad-Adel took 150 votes out of a total of 257. Members of the new board are all from the rightwing majority faction. They promised to fulfill their duties for the good of the legislative body and country to the best of their abilities.

From http://www.iran-daily.com/¡¡06/01/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: President Sets Up Anticorruption Commission

In the course of a June 1 meeting of Kazakhstan's Security Council, President Nursultan Nazarbaev ordered the creation of a commission to investigate high-profile corruption cases, the president's official website (http://www.akorda.kz) reported. Security Council Secretary Marat Tazhin will head the commission, which will also include National Security Committee head Amangeldy Shabdarbaev, deputy head of the presidential administration Berik Imashev, and Sarybai Kalmurzaev, chairman of the Agency to Combat Economic Crime and Corruption. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ ¡¡06/02/2006


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TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Plans New Prison-Oversight Body

Tajik regional prosecutor Foziljon Okhunov announced on June 12 that a new state body is being formed to oversee and inspect troubled prison facilities, Asia-Plus reported. The new body, to be centered in the Khatlon prosecutor's office, is to begin a series of inspections within 10 days and has been tasked with studying measures designed to improve living conditions within the facilities. If effective, the model would be replicated in other regions throughout Tajikistan. Penal oversight is currently limited to one inspectorate in the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/¡¡06/13/2006


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TURKMENISTAN: Officials Prepare for Local Elections

Members of Turkmenistan's Central Commission on Elections and Referendums met in Ashgabat on June 10 to prepare for upcoming local elections, Turkmen TV reported. The election for local councils, set for July 23, will feature the use of transparent ballot boxes for the first time in the country. The commission reported that polling stations throughout the country have received substantial campaign material and equipment, including reference guidebooks, office equipment, and communications equipment. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/¡¡06/12/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Citizen Rule Eased in Search for Public Servants

THE commonwealth public service has relaxed its preference for its employees to be Australian citizens, in a sign that skills shortages are beginning to sting the Government. The Australian Public Service Commission has redrafted its conditions of engagement, removing several references that discourage the employment of non-citizens. Under the Public Service Act, non-citizens cannot be employed unless the agency head thinks it appropriate. The old conditions emphasised that this would be the exception rather than the rule. "Preferably this would only occur on the basis that the person is actively pursuing the acquisition of Australian citizenship," a now-deleted sentence said. Another deleted passage said "it is expected that a decision to engage a non-citizen would only occur for sound reasons and not as a matter of course". The new conditions "reflect the flexibility available to an agency head to engage a person who is not an Australian citizen", according to an APSC memo from last month. A spokeswoman for the APSC said the redrafting was done to better reflect the legislation. "It's not been in response to anything," the spokeswoman said. "I think there was a misconception of what flexibilities were available." Public service expert Stephen Bartos, director of the National Institute of Governance, said the "loosening of the citizenship requirements" had been driven by the skills shortage that has gripped the country.

"A lot of public service bodies are finding it difficult to recruit staff, particularly staff with specific skills or qualifications, which has meant they're having to look more widely," Professor Bartos said. The move was an extension of reforms introduced in 1999 that lifted a ban on employing non-citizens and part of a broader shift toward opening up the public service, he said. "The new guidelines still embody a general expectation that people will be Australian citizens. It's a change of emphasis. It's not a total revolution, it's another step forward," Professor Bartos said, adding that further reforms were likely. Opposition spokesman for public accountability Kelvin Thomson said the changes were a "consequence of the Government's decade-long failure to train young Australians". "We've seen the quadrupling of the annual skilled migrant intake, the introduction of apprenticeships for non-Australians, and now it seems you no longer have to be an Australian to join the Australian public service," Mr Thomson said. "The Liberal Government is charging young Australians $100,000 for a university degree and when young Australians can't afford to go to university the Government says, 'No problem, we'll import people from overseas who have the qualifications'." A spokeswoman for Kevin Andrews, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, said the conditions were redrafted because some agencies found them unclear.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡06/06/2006


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Appointment of Member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority

The Treasurer today announced that the Governor General has appointed Mr John Trowbridge as a member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) for a three-year term commencing 1 July 2006. This full-time appointment is made under the authority of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority Act 1998. Mr Trowbridge will replace Mr Stephen Somogyi, whose three-year appointment as a member of APRA ends on 30 June 2006. Mr Trowbridge brings considerable skill and relevant experience to this important position. The Treasurer said: ¡°I am confident that Mr Trowbridge will make an extremely valuable contribution in his new role, and I am pleased that APRA¡¯s executive group will continue to have a member that can bring considerable direct industry experience to its deliberations and operations.¡± Mr Trowbridge has had a distinguished professional and business career in the financial sector. Most recently he has been a director of Munich Reinsurance in Australia and before that he was the Group Executive for General Insurance at Suncorp Metway. He founded Trowbridge Consulting in 1981 and guided it over 20 years to become a leading Australian actuarial and management consulting firm. Mr Trowbridge has also held a number of other board and advisory positions in organisations examining financial sector issues. The Government appreciates the important contribution that the retiring member, Mr Somogyi, has made to the development and growth of APRA over the last three years. Mr Somogyi bought to APRA many years of experience in the insurance industry.


From http://www.treasurer.gov.au/¡¡06/22/2006


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COAG Likely to Back Finance Reform Plan

THE Productivity Commission will be given the power to decide how much money the commonwealth should give the states to undertake economic reform under a shake-up of the delivery of health, education and other critical services. The Council of Australian Governments meeting to be held in the middle of next month is expected to approve the most comprehensive overhaul of commonwealth-state finances since the 1920s. The special purpose payments - which funnel about $20billion of commonwealth money to hospitals, schools and other state-run services each year - will be abolished. Instead, states will propose "action plans" for areas of their responsibility to COAG and will be rewarded by the commonwealth for their reform initiatives. The reform plan has been agreed by commonwealth and state officials, including the head of the Prime Minister's department, Peter Shergold, but has yet to be signed off by John Howard.

However, Mr Howard has been supportive and is expected to seek a meeting ahead of the COAG summit with Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, who has been authorised to speak on behalf of the state governments. The reform reverses a trend for the Howard Government to become ever more prescriptive about how its money is spent by the states - for example, the requirement that all state schools erect flagpoles. The states, led by Victoria, have argued that such micro-management by the commonwealth stands in the path of reform and does not recognise the benefit of flexible strategies. Victoria cites the example of its program to reduce the road toll, which has included investment in public advertising, policing, road improvement and air ambulance and specialist road trauma hospital services. The chances of being killed on Victorian roads are now lower than almost anywhere else in the world. The commonwealth has gained from lower healthcare spending.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡06/22/2005


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Government Introduces Further Improvements to the Tax System

The Government today introduced a bill (Tax Laws Amendment (2006 Measures No 4) Bill 2006) to implement a number of changes and improvements to Australia¡¯s taxation system. Representing the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Peter Dutton, Parliamentary Secretary, Chris Pearce, introduced the bill that will amend the taxation laws as follows:

Improve the CGT marriage breakdown roll-over This measure extends the existing capital gains tax (CGT) roll-over to include assets transferred under binding financial agreements and arbitral awards. It will encourage separating couples (including de factos) to settle their own affairs rather than involve the courts. The amendments will also ensure that the CGT main residence exemption rules interact appropriately with the CGT roll-over and that marriage breakdown settlements do not give rise to CGT liabilities. In relation to the CGT main residence exemption, the amendment will take into account the way in which both the transferor and transferee spouses have used the dwelling when determining the transferee spouse¡¯s eligibility for the main residence exemption.

Capital gains tax and foreign residents The CGT and foreign resident amendments introduced today will better target and strengthen the application of capital gains tax (CGT) to foreign residents. This will further enhance Australia¡¯s status as an attractive place for business and investment. These reforms represent a further part of the Government¡¯s implementation of fundamental changes to Australia¡¯s taxation system, that arose from the Government¡¯s review of international taxation arrangements, by addressing the disincentives to foreign investment (and regional holding companies) in Australia arising from the current broad, but ineffective, application of CGT to foreign residents. The amendments address these issues by firstly narrowing the range of assets on which a foreign resident is subject to Australian CGT to Australian real property, and the business assets of Australian branches of a foreign resident. Secondly, in order to protect the integrity of this narrower CGT tax base, foreign residents will be subject to Australian CGT when using foreign entities to hold their Australian assets. Australian CGT will now be applied to non-portfolio interests (10 per cent or more) in Australian and foreign entities, where more than half of the value of the entities¡¯ assets is attributable to underlying Australian real property.

Improve the interaction between the consolidation rules and the demerger rules Currently a consolidation integrity measure causes certain CGT roll-overs to be ignored for consolidation tax cost setting purposes. Under the bill, this integrity measure will not apply to a consolidated group or multiple entry consolidated group (MEC group) that forms after a demerger, provided that the company with the rolled-over asset does not join the same consolidated group or multiple entry consolidated group as the company that originally held the asset. The amendments will apply from 1July 2002 (that is, from the commencement date of the consolidation regime).

Further enhance the simplified imputation system The amendment will ensure that franking credits are available to an Australian company which receives a franked distribution that is non assessable non exempt income from a New Zealand company that has elected into the Australian imputation system. This change will apply from 1 April 2003 (that is, from the commencement of the trans-Tasman imputation measures).


From http://assistant.treasurer.gov.au/¡¡06/22/2006


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Re-Appointments to the Administrative Review Council

Attorney?General Philip Ruddock today announced the re?appointment of Robert Cornall AO and Andrew Metcalfe as part?time members of the Administrative Review Council. ¡°Mr Cornall and Mr Metcalfe both have extensive experience in public administration and I am pleased the Council will continue to benefit from their valuable contributions,¡± Mr Ruddock said. Mr Cornall has been the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department since 2000. From 1995 to 2000 he was Managing Director of Victoria Legal Aid, and from 1987 to 1995 he was Executive Director and Secretary of the Law Institute of Victoria. On Australia Day this year he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service, amongst other things, across a diverse range of responsibilities within the civil justice system. Mr Metcalfe was appointed the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in 2005, where he had previously held various senior positions, including Deputy Secretary from 1999 to 2002. From 2002 to 2005 Mr Metcalfe was a Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Mr Cornall and Mr Metcalfe have been re-appointed for three-year terms commencing, respectively, on 25 June and 17 July 2006. The Administrative Review Council plays an important role in monitoring and advising the Government on the Commonwealth administrative law system. Through its reports and best-practice guidelines, the Council provides practical assistance on the making and review of government decisions.


From http://www.ag.gov.au/¡¡06/22/2006


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Howard Staffers Cost $52m a Year: Labor

THE Howard Government has massively expanded the number of ministerial staff at its disposal over the past 10 years, despite pledging to reduce the size of government. Since coming to power in 1996, the number of ministerial staff has jumped from 281 to 445. The Government has also made use of a growing number of departmental liaison officers ¡ª advisers who work on secondment from public service departments in ministerial offices ¡ª with a record 71 officers. According to Labor Senator Robert Ray, the salaries and on-costs of government advisers and liaison officers have risen to a staggering $52 million a year. A breakdown by Senator Ray revealed the Government executive employs five "principal advisers", 79 senior advisers, 34 media advisers, 127 standard advisers, 92 assistant advisers, 58 office managers and 42 secretarial and administrative assistants. "In addition ¡­ we now have 36 staffers on the government side with personal classifications," Senator Ray told Parliament, "35 of whom are being paid above their normal classification." In comparison, the Opposition has 90 staff allocated to it under the Members of Parliament Staff Act. The Government also established the "Government Members Secretariat", with 12 staff allocated to it.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡06.25/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: New Health Ministry Chief Is Focus of Great Expectations

Health chiefs and politicians hope the appointment of Counties Manukau District Health Board chief executive Stephen McKernan to head the Health Ministry will shake up a system which the Opposition claims is "falling to Third World status". Mr McKernan's resignation from Counties Manukau to become the ministry's director-general was announced yesterday, and brings to an end a four-year tenure in South Auckland. He will take up his new position in Wellington from July 31. "The Health Ministry desperately needs in its leadership someone with practical experience of how health services are best organised and delivered," Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said yesterday. "We hope that Mr McKernan will provide the shake-up that the ministry needs and become more acutely aware of the valuable role of health professionals in the health system." National health spokesman Tony Ryall said Mr McKernan would have his work cut out "bolstering a failing and incompetent Health Minister" and resurrecting a "Third World" health system. "He faces the challenges of improving policy development within the ministry, dealing with the wave of industrial strife, the waiting list crisis, the GP shortage, a lack of decent after-hours care, inadequate health workforce planning, and A&E departments that are not seeing patients in time."

 Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia last night welcomed Mr McKernan's appointment, and hoped he would confront racism in the system. "We will encourage the new leadership to seriously address the issues of institutional racism, which appear to be endemic in a number of institutions, including health." Mr McKernan last night rejected claims the system itself was in "crisis", but said there were issues he believed needed to be looked at as a priority. These included working with district health boards on primary and mental health care, addressing the obesity epidemic and "the chronic health burden". "I think how we measure the value that the system has provided is a key challenge in this role." He did not agree with Mr Ryall's "Third World" assessment. "I think we have to be careful with comments like that. We need to look at the programmes that are currently being delivered, and the outcomes they achieve." Mr McKernan leaves Counties Manukau "with best wishes from the board", chairman Pat Snedden said yesterday. "We know that this has been a difficult decision for Stephen to make and not one that has been taken lightly. We thank Stephen for his leadership over the past four years and wish him and his family well for the future." An appointment to the role of acting chief executive at Counties Manukau is expected in the next week.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/¡¡06/14/2006


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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Govt Remains Firm on Finance Management

The Grand Coalition for Change Government is determined to remain watchful in protecting and managing public finances with a view for shielding a source of sustenance for its people. The determination had transpired from recent experiences which messes up government finances and attracted wider public criticism on previous governments. This policy was outlined in the GCCs recently established Policy Framework Document. While acknowledging the need for proper running of finances, the document highlighted that areas involving tax reform, monetary and fiscal policy management, access to credit, debt management and the need to upgrade the capability of local skills to manage the country¡¯s financial system with integrity remains a top priority. Among others, the government is ambitiously planning to enhance on-going efforts to improve the management of government finances at all levels by maintaining strict accountability and transparency and to create an environment conducive to both domestic and foreign investment to broaden the country¡¯s economic base.

A further effort will be placed on ensuring that the management of the Solomon Islands¡¯ exchange rate policy is closely attuned to the country¡¯s international trade and development needs and to devise effective revenue collection methods to eliminate tax evasion and dubious money collection points. The GCC government is also enthusiastic to adopt a less complicated budgetary format that provides a standardized and transparent financial reporting mechanism to all levels of government and to introduce specially designed credit facilities to encourage wider and optimum participation of locals in development. To ensure that Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) achieves its purpose, the government will introduce an administrative mechanism for the disbursement of the RCDF and ensure that proper planning and accounting procedures are followed. The other major plan of the government is to introduce legislation for the establishment of a Prices and Income Board to regulate prices and incomes for all Solomon Islanders.

From http://www.pmc.gov.sb/¡¡06/07/2006


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NGOs Lead by Example: World¡¯s International NGOs Endorse Accountability Charter

The heads of 11 of the world's leading human rights, environmental and social development international organizations have today publicly endorsed the first global accountability charter for the non-profit sector. International NGOs play an increasingly influential role. Global public opinion surveys show higher trust in NGOs than in government and business. In addition to an internal desire to be transparent and accountable, the Accountability Charter also seeks to demonstrate that NGOs deeply value public trust, do not take it for granted and are committed to sustaining and deepening that trust. This initiative comes at a time when the non-profit sector is coming under closer scrutiny, both from those who want it to flourish and those who seek to curtail NGO activities. ActionAid International, Amnesty International, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Consumers International, Greenpeace International, Oxfam International, the International Save the Children Alliance, Survival International, International Federation Terre des Hommes, Transparency International and World YWCA today endorsed the first international, cross-sectoral code of conduct for NGOs. In an unprecedented step, international civil society organizations have come together to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability. This initiative builds on the individual, national and sectoral initiatives taken by international NGOs to set standards of accountability and codes of conduct.

Although NGOs are subject to national regulations within the countries in which they operate, the International Non-Governmental Organizations Accountability Charter is the first such initiative to set out international, cross-sector standards for the non-profit sector. The Accountability Charter sets out core values and operating principles for international NGOs. These include good governance and management; fundraising and multi-stakeholder engagement. It also makes specific reference to respect for universal principles (such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), independence, responsible advocacy, effective programmes, non-discrimination, transparency and ethical fundraising. The Accountability Charter shows that international NGOs are, and are committed to remain, transparent and accountable, and merit the respect and support they have. All international NGOs -- across different sectors -- will be invited to sign-up to the Accountability Charter. The Accountability Charter is only the first step. Next steps will involve putting in place a robust system for reporting and review of the Charter so that it can be improved and updated in light of experience.


From http://www.transparency.org ¡¡06/06/2006


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ITU and Infodev Launch New Module of Online ICT Regulation Toolkit

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for telecommunications, and infoDev, a multi-donor programme focusing on information and communication technologies (ICT) for development, today launched the second module of their collaborative online ICT Regulation Toolkit, the Legal and Institutional Framework. "This is the single most helpful regulatory tool that I have seen", said Dr. Salom?o Manhi?a Chairman, Instituto Nacional de Telecomunica??es de Mo?ambique, Mozambique. "It has such a tremendous potential to assist all the staff at the INCM, as well as to help me too", he added. Tracy Cohen, Councillor of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, agrees: "The ICT Regulation Toolkit is a critical resource for regulators, both in developed and developing countries. With its origins in the well known 2000 Telecommunications Regulation Handbook, its credibility and usefulness is already established. The revised toolkit builds on this reputation and is essential reading for all regulators needing to gain access to the leading thinking on effective regulation, especially in a converging environment."

The ICT legal and institutional framework determines how rapidly markets grow in different countries and how many users have access to ICT. An enabling environment is key to reaching the goal of connecting all the world's villages to ICT by 2015, as agreed by world leaders at the World Summit on the Information Society. The Legal and Institutional Framework Module of the joint ITU-infoDev ICT Regulation Toolkit addresses all of these issues and more. This free online resource brings best practices to the fingertips of policy makers, regulators and stakeholders anywhere in the world. It includes in-depth analysis of the key issues, and real examples of how best practices have been put into action in over 50 countries in both the developed and developing world. It contains a portfolio of over 500 references to laws, regulations, regulatory consultations, proceedings, decisions, licenses and case studies. It is the most comprehensive study of its kind, presenting a wealth of information in a manner that allows for systematic synthesis of regulatory concepts against a backdrop of tried and tested scenarios in developed, transitional and developing economies. To buttress against uncertain change, the module also looks at the future, identifying flexible legal and regulatory solutions to benefit economic growth and consumer welfare.

Developing countries are hungry for in-depth information on best regulatory practices, such as financial and structural independence, organizational structure, corporate governance, enforcement and dispute-resolution procedures, staffing, ethics and appraisal processes. They seek answers to questions such as, what responsibilities should regulators be granted in today's converged ICT world? Who has the power to authorize market entry ¡ª the regulator or the ministry? What mechanisms can regulators adopt to provide consumer protection in a competitive environment? What qualifications do regulators require? How much should they be paid? What guidelines apply to public consultations with ICT stakeholders? What new regulatory frameworks have been implemented to address technological changes in today's converged ICT sector? How can regulators resolve disputes quickly and efficiently to continue to attract investment in services and infrastructure? This latest module of the ICT Regulation Toolkit was developed by a team of experienced regulatory advisors from Telecommunications Management Group, Inc. (TMG), on the basis of an internationally competitive process. Extensive inputs on the module's content were received from seasoned regulators, the business community, and regulatory experts at ITU, infoDev and the academic world. It was presented to the wider community of regulators and policy makers at the 2005 ITU Global Symposium for Regulators. Their feedback was utilized to further enrich the module. Designed as a living resource, the module will continue to reflect changes as they impact the sector in the quest to achieve effective and efficient regulation worldwide.

From http://www.itu.int ¡¡06/12/2006


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OECD Offers Guidance for Multinationals in ¡°Weak Governance¡± Zones

Multinational enterprises investing in countries characterised by weak or non-existent government need to take special care in handling a range of risks and ethical dilemmas not usually encountered in countries with stronger governance arrangements. A new Risk Awareness Tool for Multinational Enterprises in Weak Governance Zones from the OECD is designed to help them. Around 900 million people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world's population, live in so-called ¡®weak governance' zones, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where governments are unwilling or unable to assume their responsibilities in relation to public administration and protecting human rights. The OECD Risk Awareness Tool is designed to help companies to think about the risks and dilemmas they may face in such zones and how they can respond to them. The Risk Awareness Tool was developed as part of work by the OECD Investment Committee, which groups all 30 OECD countries and a number of non-OECD participants. It also responds to a request by participants in the 2005 G8 Gleneagles Summit which called for "OECD guidance for companies operating in zones of weak governance." One of the OECD Investment Committee's principal instruments is the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a government-backed code of conduct for international business widely used as a yardstick for responsible business conduct, including in developing countries.

Consistent with the objectives and principles of the Guidelines, which are voluntary rather than binding, the Risk Awareness Tool is non-prescriptive but sets out a range of questions for companies to consider in such areas as: 1) obeying the law and observing international instruments; 2) heightened care in managing investments, 3) knowing business partners and clients; 4) dealing with public sector officials; and 5) speaking out about wrongdoing. The countries responsible for drawing up the Risk Awareness Tool recognise that building governance and economic, political and civil institutions is the task of the political leadership and the citizens of the countries concerned: only they can formulate and implement necessary reforms. But multinational enterprises operating in such countries have influence, and the Risk Awareness Tool can help them avoid actions that may hinder efforts to build better governance while at the same time encouraging them to consider whether there is a positive role they can play. The Risk Awareness Tool has benefited from inputs from business, trade unions and civil society representatives from both OECD and non-OECD countries and economies. It also draws on the work of other OECD bodies, notably in the areas of public governance, anti-corruption and development assistance for conflict prevention. In the next phase, business and stakeholders will work with the OECD to identify sources of practical experience in meeting the challenges that it addresses.


From http://www.oecd.org ¡¡06/12/2006


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Experts and Policymakers Visiting ADB for Clean Energy Week

ADB will play host for three days next week to experts and policymakers on clean energy development, climate change, energy access and security, and energy governance. They will be taking part in a Clean Energy Week on 20-22 June, at ADB Headquarters, Manila, where the major players in the Asian energy agenda - including representatives of developing countries, donor governments, nongovernment organizations, and the private sector - will discuss, debate and exchange experiences. Clean Energy Week will mark the start of consultations on the review of its energy policy as it moves to develop a more strategic approach to addressing the energy needs of its developing member countries. There will also be consultations on ADB's Energy Efficiency Initiative, under which it plans to expand its investment in clean energy projects to $1 billion a year, as well as an introduction to its planned Carbon Market Initiative. The next steps for ADB to further develop clean energy projects will also be discussed, as lessons are shared on ADB's technical assistance project for the Promotion of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Abatement (PREGA). The event precedes the July 2006 meeting of the G8, for which ADB and other international finance institutions are developing an Investment Framework on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development.


From http://www.adb.org ¡¡06/14/2006


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Innovation a Must for Companies: Nilekani

As they climb the value ladder, Asian companies must be innovative not only with the products and services they provide but also with how they deliver them and manage their operations, senior government and corporate leaders told participants at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, which opened on Thursday. "The notion that companies in Asia are winning market share only on cost is obsolete," said meeting co-chair Nandan M Nilekani, president, chief executive officer and managing director, Infosys Technologies, India, and Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum. "We tend to think of innovation in terms of products and patents. But it's also about business models and processes. Anything that allows faster or better solutions for customers is what it's all about. "The two-day World Economic Forum on East Asia has brought to Tokyo more than 300 business, government and civil society leaders from 35 countries to discuss the theme 'Creating a New Agenda for Asian Integration.' Asian companies are redefining their roles in the global marketplace, according to Lee Boon Yang, minister of information, communications and the arts of Singapore.

Companies such as Korean electronics maker Samsung and Singapore's Hyflux, which is developing membrane technology for water treatment, demonstrate that investment in R&D is crucial to promoting innovation, he said. Added Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice chairman, National Development and Reform Commission, People's Republic of China: "R&D investment allows companies to improve their competitiveness. "The age of the multinational and the traditional country representative with limited geographic responsibilities is over, panellists agreed. Instead, enterprises will be "globally integrated", argued Hirotaka Takeuchi, dean, Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University, Japan. Networking, collaboration and partnering will be keys to success. In the same way, remarked meeting co-chair Kunio Nakamura, president, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Japan, each economy will have to find its niches and take advantage of them, competing and collaborating with others at the same time.

Asia's manufacturing sector is developing along those lines, he explained. In future, Japan could generate growth by using its expertise in environmental management to contribute technology and skills to promote sustainable development elsewhere. As they become globally integrated, companies will develop a common culture. "Values are going to be extremely important," Takeuchi observed. "You can't have an integrated enterprise without a commonly shared set of values." But there could be such a thing as "too much globalization", warned meeting co-chair Sir Martin Sorrell, group chief executive, WPP, United Kingdom. Cultural differences should not be underestimated, particularly when companies are fighting to hire the best talent, Sorrell suggested.


From http://www.rediff.com ¡¡06/15/2006


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CHINA: Studing to Reform for Fairer Income Distribution

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) met in Beijin Friday to look at ways to more fairly distribute incomes in society. Chinese President Hu Jintao presided over the meeting. A news release from the meeting said that China should uphold and improve the system in which distribution according to work is dominant and coexists with other modes of distribution. The release said future reforms should concentrate on increasing incomes of poorer people, expanding the moderate-income population, effectively taxing high-income earners and banning illegal income. The discussion was aimed at finding ways to narrow the income gap between people in different regions and within certain social sectors. The government will deepen its reform on the income system of civil servants, and government employees should be paid according to their occupation and rank and a unified standard should be adopted, the released said. It said the country will adequately increase the incomes of government workers at the grassroots level. It also stressed that people working in remote areas should be provided subsidies and the incomes of employees of enterprises and its retirees also need to be improved. Basic pensions, subsidies provided to retirees of enterprises should be properly raised, it said.


From GOV.cn ¡¡05/27/2006


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Hotline for Reporting Party Election Malpractice

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has issued a circular reminding the public of a hotline to report corrupt and illegal practices during the election of local party committees. Party members will elect senior cadres in provincial, municipal, county and village committees throughout this year and next. The organization department of the CPC Central Committee has decided members of the public could call the "12380" hotline to report any breach of discipline, but in particular, it was seeking information on:

-- Leading officials violating the regulations on cadre selection;
-- Instances of candidates violating discipline, being dishonest or failing to implement the conception of scientific development;
-- Nepotism, or appointments in return for bribes or favors;
-- Bribery of election officials;
--defamation and smear tactics by officials.

The organization departments of local Party committees were instructed to deal promptly with information, to thoroughly investigate all reports and to punish corrupt and dishonest officials accordingly. The organization department of the Central Committee opened the hotline in March 2004. Since then, organization departments have investigated 27,616 allegations via the hotline, and 3,591 officials have been penalized or prosecuted.


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡05/27/2006



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Top Chinese Leaders Attend Science Summit

Top Chinese leaders, including Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee e/48915.htm" target=_blank>Hu Jintao, attended on Monday the academician conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE).Other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee who were present at the opening ceremony of the science summit are Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Zeng Qinghong, Huang Ju, Wu Guanzheng, Li Changchun and Luo Gan. At the four-day conference, the CAS is to revise its constitution, elect new leadership for its academic divisions, and elect the seventh batch of its foreign associates. The CAE will elect a new leadership for its presidium. A total of 20 senior engineers will be awarded the Sixth Guanghua Engineering Science and Technology Prize at the conference. Academic workshops will also be held during the conference. Under the CAS and CAE constitutions, the two academies must organize conferences of Academicians once every two years. The CAS has 704 academicians and foreign associates while the CAE has 701 academicians and foreign associates.


From Xinhua News Agency¡¡ 06/05/2006


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Tianjin: A City of Bold Reforms

The Chinese government's approval for Tianjin's development zone is not only a boon to this port city in north China but also a call for greater national efforts to pursue sustainable development through bold reforms. By officially designating Tianjin's Binhai New Area as an experimental zone for comprehensive reform, the central government is attempting to create a new growth engine rivaling Shenzhen in south China and Shanghai in east China. By pioneering reforms over the past two decades, these two cities have served as powerful locomotives for regional and national economic development. Now, it is time for the country to foster new economic powerhouses. Geographically, a new bridgehead of reforms in northern China will help balance the pace of regional development across the country's coastal areas. On the one hand, the development of Binhai New Area will naturally promote the growth of Beijing and Tianjin municipalities, Hebei Province, and areas around the Bohai Sea. On the other hand, a modern gateway to north China, which is also a manufacturing and research base and an international shipping and logistics centre, will enable the country to better tap the growth momentum of the economies in northeast Asia.Apart from the obvious benefits related to the new development zone's location, the more compelling reason for the Chinese government to approve the plan is a strong desire to speed up key reforms.

By allowing Binhai to pilot key reforms related to financial services and the capital market, the country is bracing itself for the challenges its opening-up brings about. Though details of experimental schemes to be launched in the new development zone are still not available, it is fairly certain that experiences gained here will be of great value to the entire country. For instance, it is reported that experimental schemes in Binhai will cover areas such as venture capital, foreign exchange administration and offshore banking .As the country's banking sector is to be fully opened to foreign competitors very soon, Tianjin's trial of major financial reforms is more than needed. The success of Shenzhen and Shanghai in boosting regional progress has already demonstrated the necessity and feasibility of accelerating economic growth through bold reforms. Tianjin's new development zone is both a result of and a new test of that strategy. Let us wish Tianjin well as it embarks on these bold reforms. The success of the new area will encourage policy-makers across the country to press ahead with reform issues at hand.


From China Daily ¡¡06/08/2006


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China Lags in Global Urban Competitiveness

The Third International Forum on Urban Competitiveness was held in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province from June 10 to 11. More than 100 experts and scholars from the US, UK, Italy, Canada, Netherlands, Mexico, South Korea, Hong Kong and Sichuan Province in China attended the forum and discussed the issues relating to urbanization and urban competitiveness. Released at the forum was the Global Urban Competitiveness Report 2005-2006. The driving force behind the report was Professor Peter Karl Kresl from Bucknell University in the US, and Dr. Ni Pengfei from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Scholars from around the world including the US, Canada, Italy, the UK, and China contributed to the report. The report assesses competitiveness standards in 110 cities in Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. According to the report, of the top 20 cities in the world, 10 are in Europe, eight in the US, and two in Asia -- namely Tokyo and Hong Kong. New York, Dublin and London were ranked the top three in their comprehensive competitiveness. China's cities were ranked relatively low globally in terms of their overall competitiveness. Taipei was ranked 48th, Shanghai 69th and Beijing 70th.

Also included in this report is an interpretive index of six dimensions including human resources, entrepreneurship, living standards, business environment, innovation and technology, social and public welfare to measure and analyze city competitiveness. The index shows that cities in North America and Europe take the lead in most indexes, and have their respective advantages. In Asia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong approach or surpass several key European or American cities in some indexes. The Asian cities, in particular, performed remarkably well in terms of social and public welfare. In general, cities on the Chinese mainland faired poorly. The competitiveness of Chinese cities is comparatively weak, and the gap between the average Chinese city and the international metropolis is still wide. The report also includes a quantitative analysis according to industry -- manufacturing, transportation and communications services, consumer services, social services, and business services. According to this analysis, the industrial competitiveness of the US is fairly strong, and many EU cities also returned excellent results. Asian cities performed well only in certain categories, and those that did have good industrial structure and high levels of industrial productivity. Further, Asian cities performed well if they had a notably developed service sector which, in turn, has a significant influence on the economy.

The report draws the conclusion that human resources are crucial for boosting the overall competitiveness of a city. Ideal conditions for conducting research, and pleasant and comfortable living environments are important prerequisites for attracting talent. Further, enterprises also exert an influence on overall competitiveness that cannot be underestimated. Tax collected from enterprises accounts for a large proportion of revenue for cities. Enterprises provide work opportunities for local and foreign talents and contribute to social stability. The report also points out that advances in global technology innovation are challenging the traditional urban system. In addition, some cities' competitiveness levels are enhancing so fast that they also pose new challenges to the global city network.

From China.org.cn ¡¡06/12/2006


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State Enterprises Launch Public Recruitment

Members of the general public are being encouraged to apply for senior management positions in ten of China's largest State-owned enterprises including six positions which foreigners may apply for, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) explained yesterday. Seven enterprises are each recruiting a vice-general manager or a vice-president while the other three are seeking chief accountants. The six roles open to foreign candidates include vice-general managers at Wuhan Iron & Steel (Group) Corp and working with audio video product developer China Hualu Group Co Ltd. Also vice-presidents are sought by the Sino-coal International Engineering Design & Research Institute and the Shanghai Institute of Pharmaceutical Industry. China Eastern Airlines and forestry machinery manufacturer China Foma (Group) Co Ltd are also both looking globally to recruit chief accountants, said sources with SASAC. The organization supervises 160 of China's largest State-owned enterprises. . Power giant China Huaneng Group is seeking a chief accountant and China Aviation Oil Holding Company requires a vice-general manager but both these positions are only open to applicants of Chinese nationality. Details of these jobs will be released on Monday.

In the past such senior management positions were direct government appointments. This latest round of recruitment is the fourth occasion that SASAC has organized such a campaign since 2003. In the coming months more central enterprises will participate in the hunt for top executives, said SASAC sources yesterday. The recruitment drive aims to assist central enterprises acquire outstanding executives from the labor market and enhance their ability to compete globally. The three previous campaigns attracted around 2,600 applicants including foreigners and overseas Chinese. Fifty executive positions were filled and these have included general managers, vice-general managers and chief accountants. A spokesman for SASAC said yesterday the executives recruited in previous campaigns had won high praise from their employers. Though the majority of candidates were chosen from State companies or government departments and no foreigners had yet been selected some of the executives did come from private and overseas companies. Fluency in a foreign language, overseas work experience and familiarity with the management of large State-owned enterprises are the common criteria for such positions. SASAC Minister Li Rongrong said the recruitment process was fair and based on applicants' experience and ability. Insiders said factors such as salary demands and an ability to adapt to cultural differences also had some impact on the selection process.


From China Daily ¡¡06/15/2006


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Energy-efficiency Adopted to Evaluate Officials' Performance

China is encouraging officials to spare some of their attention, usually focused on GDP growth, for energy conservation. Zhejiang, an economically booming province in the country's east, has decided to add energy efficiency to the evaluation system on local officials' performance. Eleven mayors and 58 county heads in the province have recently been appointed as top officials in charge of local energy-saving work. The new indicator is intended to encourage officials to score more by lowering enterprises' costs, promoting technological innovation and adjusting industrial structures for energy and ecological security, according to Lu Zushan, the province's governor. The coastal province, like most developed areas in the country, is suffering from a sharp conflict between energy shortage and galloping economy. The average per capita GDP in Zhejiang exceeded 3,400 U.S. dollars in 2005, while 95 percent of its resources relied on imports or transfer from other places in China. The province has set a goal which requires the energy consumption per unit of GDP in 2010 decline by 15 percent from 2005, Lu said. Some government officials used to be indifferent to energy conservation, as exemplified by their ignorance of energy wasting in government buildings they worked every day. A survey showed that the daily per capita electricity consumption by the provincial administration center building in 2004 was nine times that of common residential buildings. The building was later driven to upgrade its energy-saving measures, including raising the temperatures of air-conditions, using central heating system and power-saving lights.


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/19/2006


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Chinese Communist Party Undergoes Democratic Reform to Meet Challenges

While large-scale re-elections of local leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are proceeding at provincial, municipal, county and township levels nationwide, some new methods have been employed to improve Party democracy in the process. Most noteworthy is the introduction of a new cadre appraisal system characterized with more democratic features, involving public opinion poll, political achievements analysis, face-to-face talk and comprehensive assessment, before the officials are elected or appointed. Sources with the Party organization departments said that the 2006-2007 re-elections, a major political event before the convening of the 17th national congress of the CPC, underscore guarantee of ordinary party members' right to know, to participate, to select and to supervise. Meanwhile, grassroots people outside the Party have also been granted a say in the campaign through public opinion polls. As a new test, the CPC provincial committee of the booming Jiangsu in east China has ordered all the local Party committees at township level to adopt an open candidate selection system in the ongoing re-elections for new Party leaders. Various means, including questionnaire-based survey, door-step investigation, online research and symposium, are being employed in Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces to invite ordinary people to assess cadres performance, sources said.

Under a cadre achievement hearing system in Donghai County in Jiangsu, eight people were scored low and have been accordingly removed from leading posts. Founded in 1921, the CPC now has 70.8 million members and 3.52 million grassroots organizations. Its whole regime came into being in the past revolution era and it had for decades followed the Soviet model. A highly centralized leadership with the worship of former Chairman Mao Zedong had served as a key element bringing China into the chaotic Cultural Revolution between 1966-76, with tens of thousands of people including many loyal Party members being persecuted. As China has entered a new epoch for creating economic miracle, the Party is faced with various problems such as corruption, low efficiency and bureaucracy, and thus a self-improvement is being urged. The Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee in 2004pointed out that developing democracy within the Party was an important part of political restructuring and building of political civilization in China. "The CPC would push forward China's political restructuring through reform and improvement of democracy within the Party, " said Li Junru, vice president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.


From Xinhuanet ¡¡06/25/2006


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JAPAN: LDP Panel Considering Using Consumption Tax for Social Security

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party is considering setting aside consumption tax revenues for social security when the tax is raised in the future, an internal document showed Wednesday. The consumption tax reform is part of a tax overhaul outline that has been prepared by the party's Research Commission on the Tax System and made available to Kyodo News. The outline falls short of specifying when and how the consumption tax, now at 5 percent, should be raised.


From Kyodo News¡¡ 06/14/2006


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LDP Chapters Want Reform Policies Reformed

The response to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's reform strategy has come in from his party's prefectural chapters, and the verdict is: Change it or risk losing elections. An Asahi Shimbun survey has found that more than 90 percent of the prefectural chapters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) want Koizumi's successor to modify his structural reform policies, which many of them say have widened the gap between urban and rural areas. They think that unless changes come soon, the LDP will find it difficult to win next year's Upper House and unified local elections. As for September's LDP presidential election, 23 of the 47 prefectural chapters named Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe as the most popular contender in their prefectures. The Asahi Shimbun interviewed prefectural chapter executives, including many secretary-generals, seen as representative of LDP members in their districts. The survey was conducted from June 9 to 16; a similar one was done in March. The executives were asked whether the next prime minister should stay the course on Koizumi's structural reform policies.

None said the policies should be maintained and developed. The majority, 32, said the policies should be slightly modified. A further 12 said drastic changes should be made. Those who called for slight modifications said the structural reform policies have led to economic recovery, but also pointed to problems they say the policies are causing--particularly in rural areas. "The drastic reforms, including reducing grants from the central government to local governments, have caused strain in rural areas," said the executive of the Ishikawa prefectural chapter. "The structural reform policies could further widen the gap between urban and rural areas," the Kagawa prefectural chapter executive said. The 12 who called for big changes were sharply critical of Koizumi's reforms. "I wonder whether the reduction in public works projects is really a good thing," said the executive of the Aomori prefectural chapter. And the Miyazaki prefectural chapter representative said: "If the structural reform policies are maintained, hard times will continue for rural areas." In September's LDP presidential election each of the 404 lawmakers will have one vote. The 47 prefectural chapters will have a further 300 total votes, divided according to the number of LDP members and associate members.

The survey asked the executives which candidate was most popular with LDP members in their prefectures. Twenty-three said Abe was most popular, five said former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and three Foreign Minister Taro Aso. The survey also asked the executives who was their personal favorite to succeed Koizumi. Eight named Abe, seven Fukuda, and five Aso. None named anyone other than Abe, Fukuda and Aso. In the March survey, 13 chapter representatives picked Abe. (IHT/Asahi: June 19,2006)

From http://www.asahi.com/english ¡¡06/19/2006


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Medical Reforms Need Work: Editorial

The laws passed last week by the Diet to curb the growth in the nation's medical spending testify to the government's determination to solve the problem. While the laws include positive elements, they are not problem-free. The government needs to continuously review the nation's medical system. Rationalizing medical services will be important. At the same time, utmost care should be taken so that the people will be able to receive satisfactory medical services at a reasonable cost. The reform program under the laws take a two-prong approach. One will increase the financial burden on elderly patients and on those who receive expensive medical treatments. Medical services for elderly people, usually costly, are pushing up medical expenditures. The other prong beefs up measures aimed at curbing future rises in medical spending. Starting in April 2008, every person aged 40 or older must undergo a medical test. Those with metabolic syndromes that may lead to lifestyle-related diseases, such as some types of diabetes and cancer, will be given advice. One worry is that the compulsory medical test will push up medical expenditures. Health workers who can help people with metabolic syndromes will have to be trained.

Taking a rather radical approach, the program has set a numerical target for reducing the number of hospital beds used by elderly people with chronic diseases because their long stays are pushing up the nation's medical spending. The program envisages reducing the number of such beds from the current 380,000 to 150,000 by the end of fiscal 2011. Most of the patients will be sent home or moved to facilities covered by the nursing-care insurance. Forcing patients out of medical institutions without taking into consideration their family situation and other relevant factors should be avoided. The government must improve alternative services and facilities for them. As another step to cope with the aging of the population, the current medical insurance program for elderly people will be abolished in fiscal 2008 and a new insurance scheme will be introduced to cover people aged 75 or older. Municipalities in each prefecture will form an association to administer the new insurance. The plan, however, lacks details. To ensure accountability, the government needs to work out the concrete structure of such an association as soon as possible. Another problem is that the new system will need financial assistance from the health-insurance schemes for company employees. The government needs to disclose full information on this point to gain the people's understanding.

The reform program also assigns more responsibility to the prefectural governments to reduce the growth in medical spending. Each prefectural government will have to work out a program to reduce the average number of days that patients stay in medical institutions and the number of people suffering from lifestyle-related diseases. The central government should avoid imposing a uniform formula that ignores local situations. Both the central and local governments need to work out reform plans that fully take into account the actual situations of medical institutions. Problems like a shortage of obstetricians and pediatricians cannot be solved by medical institutions. This is one area where both the central and local governments must rack their brains and cooperate.


From The Japan Times ¡¡06/21/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Roh Stresses Reform Despite Resistance

President Roh Moo-hyun Tuesday stressed the need for his administration to continue reform measures without vacillation, despite some resistance, Chong Wa Dae said on Tuesday.Citing ``reform fatigue¡¯¡¯ in a Cabinet meeting, Roh cautioned against the attempts of some opponents to check government policies to curb real estate speculation and reform the educational sector, his spokesman Jung Tae-ho said.``A society without change gets stagnant and falls behind,¡¯¡¯ he was quoted as telling the Cabinet ministers. ``Change comes through reform and there is no reform that is not resisted.¡¯¡¯ Jung told reporters that Roh¡¯s remarks are not related to any specific political or social situation after the May 31 local elections. But they attracted attention as Chong Wa Dae has been at odds with the governing Uri Party over several major policies. The Uri Party suffered a crushing defeat in the mayoral and gubernatorial polls last month, which many opinion surveys described as a public judgment on the Roh administration¡¯s policies on the real estate market and property tax. Faced with internal feuds over post-election policy directions, the Uri Party has recently indicated that it would move to soften its previously strong measures aimed at curbing real estate speculation.

However, Roh has shown a different approach, accusing some conservative news media of trying to incapacitate the administration¡¯s policies and help those with vested interests retain their advantageous position. Roh told the ministers that the real reform is to make markets where consumers dominate. ``Voters are consumers in politics,¡¯¡¯ he said. ``But in order to realize the rights of consumers, the fair provision of information is more important than anything else.¡¯¡¯ A self-made man born to peasant farmers, Roh was elected president in the Dec. 19, 2002 election, as a number of Internet-savvy youths joined forces with reform-minded voters in South Korean politics. His notable preference for the online media to offline ones became more conspicuous when he took office in early 2003 for a five-year tenure after he began waging a war against some conservative newspapers, which he accused of ``ill-intended distortions.¡¯¡¯ Widely regarded as a champion of the underprivileged, Roh also actively championed the alternative mass media in South Korean society where the so-called big three dailies account for more than 70 percent of the nation¡¯s print newspaper market share. He launched an online news site of his own office, dubbed the ``Chong Wa Dae Briefing,¡¯¡¯ as relations between the conservative media and the presidential office went from bad to worse in his first couple of years in office.

From The Korea Times ¡¡06/13/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Roh Stresses Reform Despite Resistance

Immediately after the May 31 local elections, Health-Welfare Minister Rhyu Si-min announced a pension reform plan designed to prevent the National Pension Fund from going bankrupt. The fund is predicted to have no cash left by 2047 amid falling birthrates and the increasing number of aged persons. Company workers and other subscribers to the National Pension Scheme held high expectations for pension reform after Rhyu took the helm of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in February. However, they are now disappointed with his reform package because it focuses only on the scheme's financial stability by proposing an increase in subscriber contributions to the fund coupled with a steep cut in pension benefits. The minister proposed the contribution rate should increase from the current 9 percent of a subscriber's wage to 12-13 percent, and that pension payouts be reduced, albeit gradually, from the present 60 percent of a subscriber's average wage to 40 percent. Rhyu also suggested the government pay 80,000 won a month in basic old age pension to low-income senior citizens 65 and older to help them meet their living costs.

But, people ask: ``Could his reform plan transform the National Pension Scheme into a welfare mechanism designed to help the elderly lead decent lives without worrying about their minimum cost of living?'' Many beneficiaries complain the current level of pension payouts is insufficient to cover minimum living costs. They claim that if the government cut the payout level by about 33 percent, the pension scheme would not work to help retirees live without their children's support. The government originally planned to stabilize the fund by raising the contribution rate to 15.9 percent on a step-by-step basis, while cutting pension payouts to 50 percent of a subscriber's average wage. Minister Rhyu seemed to change the original plan due to strong opposition from the public and the opposition parties, especially the Grand National Party (GNP). However, Rhyu's proposal is not much different from the government's original plan. Because pension reform is a highly sensitive issue, he is trying to revamp the scheme before the December 2007 presidential election. In a desperate bid to woo public and political support, he offered to introduce a basic old age pension of 80,000 won per month by mobilizing taxpayer money.

But, the amount is too low to cover minimum living costs. And it cannot serve as pension as its beneficiaries will account for only 45 percent of senior citizens aged 65 and more. Critics point out that over 80 percent of the elderly need to receive it if it is to serve as pension. When the National Pension Scheme was introduced in 1988, the government painted a rosy picture of it in a bid to encourage more employees to subscribe. Since then, the government has taken a few steps to ensure its financial stability. At first, subscribers could start getting pension benefits at age 60 but the government gradually revised the age upward to 65. Although recognizing the urgency for pension reform, people now feel the government is again trying to force subscribers to shoulder more of the fund's financial burdens while cutting benefits. To achieve consensus on pension reform, the government must map out more fundamental measures which could not only stabilize the fund's financial health but provide the appropriate level of payouts to pensioners.

Policymakers said the government will have to curtail the payout rate because the fund is expected to dry up in 2047 amid falling birthrates and a soaring elderly population. But, many subscribers do not easily understand why the fund is expected to go bankrupt under a current system that only allows those who pay premiums to get pension benefits. Although the elderly population continues to increase, those who have not paid premiums into the scheme are not entitled to pension benefits. So, people wonder why they might not get their contributions back when in need of a pension. They also distrust the government in its operation of the fund. They also criticize the government for delaying more urgent reform of the Government Employee Pension and the Military Personnel Pension. Both have long suffered huge deficits, making up losses with taxpayer money. The Government Employee Pension ran out of money in 2000 after it went into the red in 1993. It received 197.2 billion in state funds. The Military Personnel Pension is in a much more serious financial condition after it started recording shortfalls in 1977. To ensure welfare for retired company workers and self-employed, the government needs to introduce the so-called ``three pillar'' approach recommended by the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Under this approach, retirees would potentially have three sources of pension income: from a pay-as-you-go pension, from a compulsory pension plan, and from a voluntary pension scheme. Policymakers might consider integrating the separate pension schemes of company workers, civil servants, teachers and soldiers, allowing them to get a basic old age pension, a pay-as-you-go pension, and a voluntary pension. Besides, policymakers ought to focus on what is most important: to build national consensus on how to reform the pension scheme to ensure its success.


From The Korea Times¡¡ 06/15/2006


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Economist Urges Reform to Inheritance Tax Laws

Taxes on inheriting companies should be lowered to match those in developed countries in order to encourage better corporate management, a Korean economist said yesterday. At a forum organized by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an Chong-bum, an economics professor at Sungkyunkwan University, argued that the current inheritance tax is excessive. "It is extremely difficult to maintain management rights [within a family] after fully paying company inheritance taxes of up to 50 percent and an additional surcharge of between 10 and 30 percent when transferring stocks," Mr. An said. Business groups have long argued that high taxes levied on stock transfers and other exchanges between family members have left those companies vulnerable to hostile takeovers. The professor pointed out that in order to crack down on deadbeats, the remit of inheritance taxes had been widened in 2002 to include cases that were inheritance in all but name. And in 2004, he added, the law was amended again to cover all businesses not explicitly mentioned in inheritance tax laws. Despite this, he said, the tax take has actually fallen, as more taxpayers found ways to avoid paying. The only way to tackle this problem, Mr. An said, was though root reform.

"Germany, whose inheritance tax rate is very similar to Korea's, provides various options such as special tax cuts to reduce a company's financial burden when it is passed from one generation to another," Mr. An said. Many developed countries, Mr. An said, include inheritance taxes as part of capital gains tax. Some delegates at the meeting even argued that inheritance tax should be scrapped altogether. "Due to changes in real estate taxation, numerous building owners and businessmen that own several properties are also subject to property inheritance tax," said Lee Sang-don, a professor at Chung-Ang University. "The inheritance tax harms both companies and other economic actors," Mr. Lee said. "It should be abolished." Yet Kwon Young-joon of the Citizen's Coalition for Economic Justice said that simply abolishing the inheritance tax would not solve the problem of tax evasion. He urged the government to reform capital gains tax, which could incorporate inheritance tax if need be.

From http://joongangdaily.joins.com ¡¡06/21/2006


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INDONESIA: Govt Told to Share Forest Management with Communities

Granting local communities the rights to manage forests would reduce poverty, boost economic growth and curb extensive deforestation, environmentalists say. Speaking at the International Policy Seminar on Land Tenure Reforms in Bali on Monday, visiting environmentalists said the government should institute regulations that recognize community-based property rights. The seminar preceded the five-day Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, which begins Tuesday (today). Some 700 participants from 60 countries are attending the event to discuss environmental and natural resource management issues. A researcher with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Petrus Gunarso said the change would represent a paradigm shift for the government, which had traditionally favored large-scale, capital-intensive industries that had monopolized the forest economy, resulting in serious ecological and economic problems. "The country's policy-makers have adopted the Dutch colonial style of centralized management ... despite the fact that most of the nation's resources are managed by local communities using traditional tenure rights systems," he said.

Petrus said community management could have prevented the massive forest fires of 1997, which left much of Southeast Asia blanketed with choking haze and affected some 70 million people. "There is evidence local fire management regimes run by villagers can be highly effective, provided they are not in conflict (with each other)," he said. Forest fires contribute to Indonesia's rapid deforestation rate, which stands at about 2.8 million hectares a year. Illegal logging and land conversion have degraded or destroyed around 130 million hectares of forests, or about 70 percent of the country's green land area, over the past 50 years. Soraya Afiff, an expert from the Institute of Rural and Agrarian Change, said government officials should abandon a cynical mindset, which said communities could not responsibly manage their natural resources. "The government should realize that forest destruction is being caused by its own flawed policies, which have allowed room for massive illegal logging and land conversion operations," she said. Soraya said transferring forest management rights to communities would also benefit the economy.

"All the timber in Java is supplied from domestic forests, all of which are planted by people. But there is no mechanism to acknowledge their products, so they have to bribe corrupt police officers and gangsters to market their timber. Imagine how much the government would reap in tax revenues if their products were recognized," she said. A properly managed, renewable regional forestry resource would also reduce unemployment, she said. She said community-based forest rights could be granted by revising the 1999 Forestry Law. "Clearly, the Forestry Ministry is unwilling to do this, so it will only be done with an initiative from legislators," she said. Washington-based Rights and Resource Group president Andy White said forest tenure reform was a global phenomenon. However, Indonesia had done little to reform the management of natural resources and was way behind other countries, he said. He said the government should allow the rural poor to own, use and sell forest products and services because it would reduce poverty.

Forestry Ministry spokesman Masyhud denied the ministry had disregarded locals in forestry management. One of its five priorities was to empower people living in and nearby forests, he said. This included granting management concessions to local communities to rehabilitate some 25 million hectares of the more than 59 million hectares of critical and damaged lands across the archipelago. "We have social forestry programs and have instituted collaborative forest management with communities. The bottom line is the community can use the forests but the state still holds ownership rights," he said. (by Tb. Arie Rukmantara)


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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CAMBODIA: Innovative Approaches to Increase Access of Poor Girls to Secondary Education in Cambodia

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - An US$800,000 grant will help increase access to upper secondary education for poor girls in Cambodia through the provision of residential facilities with media learning centers. While primary education enrollment rates have improved significantly, with participation rates of 84% for boys and 81% for girls, the enrollment rates for secondary education have dropped drastically over the last six years to 17% for boys and 8% for girls in upper secondary grades. This is the lowest in the Southeast Asian region. Poor families cannot afford to keep their daughters in school and consequently, girls in Cambodia drop out of school after grade 6. In addition, for reasons of personal security, girls are generally not permitted to travel long distances and live away from families to attend upper secondary schools because there are no secure residential facilities away from home. To date, residential facilities have been established in Cambodia for primary schools and a few lower secondary schools. These facilities have been primarily used as accommodation for students but do not offer any training opportunities such as life skills training. ¡°Evidence shows that the expansion of such residential facilities to learning centers, which provide life skills training through the use of information and communications technology (ICT), has the potential to broaden their knowledge, thus improving their chances of career development,¡± says Barbara Lochmann, an ADB Social Development Specialist. ¡°If adolescent girls are to be able to compete for new employment opportunities, they will need greater chances for higher education and access to training outside the curriculum. Residential facilities combined with medial learning centers are one way to expand the training of ICT in education and career development.¡±

The grant, from the Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund, financed by the Government of the United Kingdom, will identify and pilot a prototype for residential facilities and learning centers for girls in three upper secondary schools - one each in the provinces of Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, and Siem Reap. The project will finance the construction of residential facilities and media learning centers, including the provision of ICT equipment, training of trainers on basic computer literacy, and life skills training for students and community members. The grant will help about 300 poor girls in the selected pilot schools, who will be chosen based on merit, the distance of their homes from the school, and the socioeconomic status of their families. In addition, the grant will provide scholarships for the selected students. The Government will contribute $150,000 towards the project¡¯s total estimated cost of $950,000, in the form of counterpart staff, office accommodation, and administrative support. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is the executing agency for the project, which will be implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Women¡¯s Affairs.

From http://www.adb.org/ ¡¡06/06/2006


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MALAYSIA: Witness Protection Plan

The Government will consider implementing the witness protection plan for those who come forward and give information to the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. He said the most important thing was for the information to reach the agency accurately. ¡°The people do not have to be afraid. Come forward and pass us the details. The agency will protect them and not leak out the source of the information,¡± he said. Najib was commenting on Pahang ACA director Abdul Rahim Mustakain¡¯s statement that the people were scared to give information as the agency did not have any ¡°witness protection¡± programme. Abdul Rahim said that anonymous letters could not be used as evidence. Najib was speaking at a ceremony to hand over land titles to 540 settlers of Felda Lui Timur here yesterday. He urged Felda settlers not tomortgage or sell their land after getting their titles, even if they were desperate.

He said the settlers should instead consider the land as their asset and continue working hard on it. ¡°I hope you will not just pass the work to the foreign workers and relax. You should cultivate the land with your own sweat.¡± He urged settlers not to forget how difficult it was to cultivate the land, especially in the past when there were no basic amenities like electricity and proper roads in the settlements. ¡°I hope all of you will carry on with the aspiration to cultivate the land, from generation to generation. Najib urged the settlers to seek help from the agency if they encountered any problem. ¡°Refer your problems to Felda and we will consider them,¡± he said and also promising to inject new life and bring development to Felda settlements in the country.

From http://thestar.com.my/ ¡¡06/24/2006


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Government to Mull Over Call to Let Undergrads Join Societies

The Government will consider a call by the Malaysian Youth Council (MYC) to relax the prohibition on university students joining bodies outside the campuses. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said consideration would also be given to MYC's request that its role be stated clearly in the proposed National Youth Bill 2006 and the appointment of its members to the National Youth Consultative Council (NYCC). He said he would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. ¡°I will weigh the requests carefully and I understand (why the requests were made),¡± he said at MYC's 56th annual general meeting here. ¡°The message is loud and clear,¡± he said to applause from members of 40 organisations affiliated to the MYC. On Saturday, outgoing MYC president Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo said the Universities and University Colleges Act should be amended so as not to deprive the nation of a pool of talented youthful leaders.

Dr Khir urged the Government to recognise MYC as a mainstream youth organisation in the Bill. Earlier in his speech, Najib said the Government recognised MYC's relevance in national development. He said today¡¯s changing world entailed a paradigm shift to keep up with the times. ¡°In the old days, we can be contented once we obtained a (academic) qualification but now it is not enough. ¡°We want youths to be creative, innovative, critical and constructive. Once we are creative and innovative, bigger changes can take effect.¡± ¡°The perception that the Government provides life-long employment must change and youths should instead go for self-employment,¡± he added. Lenggong Umno Youth chief Shamsul Anuar, the former MYC deputy president, has taken over the president's post voluntarily vacated by Dr Khir. The deputy president post went to Tangga Batu MP Datuk Idris Haron and the secretary-general post to Tajudin Ahmad.

From http://thestar.com.my¡¡06/26/2006


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MCA Plans Political School for Members

The MCA plans to set up a school to increase its members' knowledge on politics and humanities and to conduct other professional studies. Secretary-general Datuk Ong Ka Chuan said a site for the school had not been identified and the party was now conducting the courses at MCA branches throughout the country. He said the courses might be made compulsory for potential MCA municipal councillors and general election candidates. ¡°The courses have received good response since the trial run in November last year,¡± he told reporters at the Nibong Tebal MCA division delegates convention in Sungai Bakap on Friday. ¡°So far, we have conducted 120 courses all over the country. If the response gets better, we might look for premises to set up the training school,¡± he explained. The courses are held in line with the MCA¡¯s Lifelong Learning Campaign, which was launched two years ago.

From http://thestar.com.my/ ¡¡06/26/2006


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PHILIPPINES: Govt Subsidizes Call Center Job Training

President Arroyo last May announced that she had released half a billion pesos (P500 million) for what she exuberantly dubbed ¡°call-center finishing schools¡± through a program called ¡°Training for Work Scholarships.¡± Education and BPO (business-processes outsourcing) experts told The Times the project, which aims to sharpen the English of applicants who ¡°nearly got hired¡± by call centers were it not for their lack of English proficiency, was ¡°a misallocation of funds.¡± Pro-globalization officials, economists and businessmen agree that the BPO industry is the key to arresting the unceasing growth of joblessness in the Philippines. When a BPO company hires a Filipino, it is veritably exporting the Filipino¡¯s service. BPO companies in the Philippines are either foreign-owned or partnerships between foreign and local companies. Therefore, the BPO universe¡ªof which the call-center industry is a subset¡ªhelps the economy in two ways: it reduces unemployment and earns foreign exchange for the country. The administration identifies call centers as the fastest and most immediate job-generator, an arena in which the Philippines could wrest¡ªfrom India, Australia and China¡ªglobal supremacy. This dream of call-center supremacy is, however, being threatened by the dwindling supply of English-proficient Filipinos. An educational problem what we have, then, is an educational problem.

To solve this problem and to attain global Filipino call-center leadership the President and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (Tesda) have launched the P500-million ¡°Training for Work Scholarships¡± program. It is a program that grants scholarships to 100,000 Filipinos who want to work for BPO companies, call centers in particular. It offers full or partial scholarships to Filipinos aged 18 to 55. They should at least be high-school graduates. They can be employed or unemployed, with or without any previous job experience. Tesda and call-center industry sources reveal that at the very most only 5 out of 100 Filipinos who apply for call-center jobs qualify. The often mentioned hiring rate is even shockingly lower: two percent of all applicants a year. The program¡¯s objectives in the President¡¯s ¡°finishing school for call centers¡± vocationally-oriented lessons will be offered in Tesda-accredited institutions all over Metro Manila. The program has two objectives: ¡°(1) to provide skills and competencies to job seekers through appropriate training programs that are directly connected to existing jobs for immediate employment; and (2) to empower institutions to offer relevant programs in line with job demands,¡± to quote from a Tesda handout. In general, the training program aims to facilitate English-proficiency training for ¡°near hires,¡± or those applicants who missed but are near the two-percent hiring rate of the industry. Applicants belonging to the top three percent to 10 percent in terms of ranking are considered by companies ¡°near hires¡± or ¡°people who almost got hired.¡± In 2006 these more less make up a total of 100,000. The Philippines¡¯ English-proficiency decline is such a grave problem that it affects not only economic matters like the employability of more Filipinos in call centers and other BPO jobs.

The problem influences also the quality of Philippine citizenship, democracy, the judiciary and the criminal justice system, the dignity of Filipinos as members of the increasingly English-speaking human race. President Arroyo¡¯s Training for Work Scholarships program is obviously not concerned with the larger issue of the decline of English in this country, which until now keeps telling the world that it has an English-speaking population. Economic-growth driver but even in solving the problem of winning the battle to become the BPO business champion of the world, will this program work at all? The Arroyo administration sees the BPO industry as the new ¡°growth driver of the economy,¡± the solution to the problem of massive unemployment. A National Economic and Development Authority report says call centers created 103,000 jobs and earned $3.7 billion for the Philippines in 2005. The country¡¯s economy rarely manages to achieve such figures. It is therefore right that the government exerts efforts to aid the BPO industry. But is it using the right approach and going in the right direction? The BPO industry, more than any other in the Philippines, feels the impact of the Filipinos¡¯ general incompetence in English. According to the Commission for Information and Communications Technology (CITC), from 2006 to 2010 the Philippine BPO industry could face a recruitment shortfall of 273,000 English speakers. This could drive alien-owned BPO firms to other countries. The CITC estimates that call centers will account for 55 percent of the skilled labor shortfall.

This must be the reason for President Arroyo¡¯s decision to spend half a billion pesos on ¡°finishing schools for call centers.¡± The John F. Kennedy Center Foundation-Philippines, a company that designs training programs for call centers in the Philippines and seeks to ¡°revolutionize¡± the Philippine call-center industry, recently released alarming data to the media. Only 11,526 applicants on the average are hired as call-center agents in the country yearly. This is equivalent to only about two percent of all applicants annually. It is a worse figure than the 5 out of 100 earlier mentioned. Jim Santiago, president and CEO of the John F. Kennedy Center Foundation-Philippines, says, ¡°Most applicants fail because they fail to understand the requirement of global interviews, testing and processing. Secondly, their spoken English becomes a challenge to the examiner, in terms of conversational fluency, tone and accent.¡± Ed (not his real name), 25, has applied with three call-center companies since September 2005. He invariably got a ¡°Wait for our call¡± response. But no call ever came. But all three companies, he said, put a premium on English proficiency. Interviews, he added, were conducted entirely in English.

Asked how he assesses himself in terms of English-speaking skills, Ed admits that he is not able to sustain a conversation exclusively in English. 100,000 near hires A former call-center trainer told The Times it merely takes seven minutes for a company to determine whether to accept or reject an applicant. Ed confirms this fact, saying, ¡°There was an instance when I spent more time waiting for the interviewer than the interview itself.¡± One of the call centers Ed applied at required skills not only in English proficiency but also in typing, data encoding and writing a simple composition. An HR executive in one of the country¡¯s largest call centers reveals that 95 to 98 out of 100 applicants are not hired, because they don¡¯t meet the minimum requirements of fluency in oral and written English. She adds, ¡°For every new hire, we have about five ¡°near hires,¡± or applicants who must undergo extensive training in oral English and keyboarding to meet the minimum job requirements.¡± These are the approximately 100,000 people who will receive Tesda training under the President¡¯s ¡°finishing school¡± program. This does not at all solve the bigger problem of clinching BPO industry supremacy for the Philippines. Had the President¡¯s planners pondered the issue of ¡°General versus Specific training¡± they might have arrived at a more correct approach and advanced to the right direction. (by Sherryl A.G. Quito)

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ ¡¡06/18/2006


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SINGAPORE: S$602m Saved Last Financial Year in Government's Economy Drive

Government agencies saved S$602 million during the last financial year in a drive led by the Ministry of Finance to reduce government spending. The Accountant-General's Department is one of the government agencies that has taken on the cost-cutting initiative. The department outsourced the hardware and operation of its financial computer systems to a private IT company. The savings over the five-year contract are expected to be S$5.5 million. Said Cher Ming Hui, head of IT in the Account-General's Department, "We will actually use those resources to focus on our core functions, because running a computer centre is really not our core business. We are actually looking at providing services, doing more policy work." The MOF calculates that S$602 million has been saved for 2005 to 2006. The savings are on top of a three percent budget cut for all government agencies, except for the Ministry of Defence. Even so, the amounts saved range from thousands to tens of millions of dollars. The savings make up close to two percent of the agencies' total cash budget. Said Doreen Tan, deputy director (value management), Ministry of Finance, "Ultimately it's about value for money. It could be in terms of better effectiveness in terms of the delivery of the service, not necessarily measured in terms of dollars and cents. The ultimate beneficiaries are the members of the public." Since the Economy Drive was implemented three years ago the various agencies have saved more than two billion dollars.


From http://sg.news.yahoo.com/ ¡¡06/08/2006


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GEMS Launches Second Phase of Awareness Programme

Go-the-Extra-Mile for Service (GEMS) has launched the second phase of its Service Awareness Programme (SAP). It is showcasing warm interactions and service moments in a bid to spur service staff to do their part as gracious hosts to the 16,000 delegates and visitors coming for the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group. Commercials will be aired from June 21 to September 3 on the main TV channels in four official languages. Copies of the commercials and posters will also be distributed to companies to reach out to service workers at their workplace. The first GEMS promotional blitz reached out to some 90 percent of Singaporeans to inform them of their responsibility in delivering great service.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ ¡¡06/21/2006


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More Schools Encouraged to Work with VWOs to Have Social Work Services

More schools are being encouraged to work with Voluntary Welfare Organisations to introduce social work services in school. These programmes are designed to complement the school system by focusing on the students' social and emotional health. Some 300 teachers, social workers, counsellors and other professionals are having a two-day symposium to find ways to better work together to help problem students. They hope to learn from overseas experts and enhance professionalism in the field. Over a hundred schools are already collaborating with VWOs under a government funded programme called "STEP-UP" set up in 2004. Schools on the programme say they have seen a reduction in anti-social behaviour among the target student group. The Community Development, Youth and Sports Ministry is setting aside some $5.9m to expand this programme over the next two years. "Schools focus on academic excellence, and that is understandable. Generally they want the school population to do well and to be equipped with the right skill sets. Whereas for VWOs, they have their professional expertise in social work and counselling, that is where they play their part. "So if you look at it, the core competency of the school is in education, and education is so broad. There are certain parts that the school knows it may not be their core competency so they outsource it to the VWOs, so they can close that gap for them," said Teo Ser Luck, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ ¡¡06/21/2006


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LTA Introduces One-Stop Portal for Road Works Approval

The Land Transport Authority has launched a new online portal to help cut down red tape. Called LTA.PROMPT, it enables applicants to apply for all road permits from all necessary agencies in one online application, and applications will be processed within 14 working days. "In the applications for road works, applications go to many agencies and this work process takes 2 to 3 months for approval. LTA.PROMPT aims to have a one-stop application portal," said Yam Ah Mee, Chief Executive, Land Transport Authority. Previously, contractors who wanted to carry out work on public streets or other areas would first have to seek permission from various land-management agencies, such as the LTA, HDB, JTC, PUB, SLA, National Parks. In addition, every agency had its own requirements and service standards for opening roads. Not only will applicants enjoy the convenience and ease of submitting their applications online, they can also check on the status of their applications, view what other work has been approved and learn about upcoming approved works to help them plan and coordinate road works better. LTA.PROMPT is one of a series of "e-measures" that LTA has undertaken to streamline administrative processes and improve communication by making use of the Internet.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ ¡¡06/23/2006


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New Security-enhanced Malaysian Passport Launched in Singapore

SINGAPORE: The Malaysian High Commission here will begin issuing the new security-enhanced and machine-readable Malaysian international passport from Monday ¨C making it the first foreign mission to do so. Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who launched the document, said Malaysians in New York, Hong Kong, London, Canberra and Jakarta would also be able to apply for the new passport soon through their respective Malaysian missions. He said the passport, which is embedded with a computer chip and has a host of their improved security measures, will also be introduced in Kuala Lumpur soon. Radzi said Singapore was chosen for the launch of the passport because of the large number of Malaysian workers here. Currently, applications made through the High Commission are only processed by Immigration staff here, while the actual passports are issued by the Johor Baru Immigration Department. This normally takes about 10 days. But now, with the installation of a machine here, the passport can be issued within 24 hours. The equipment can process the passports within two minutes. The new passport also has holographic coating on the page bearing the holders' particulars, rendering forgery impossible.

Meanwhile, Radzi said the ministry was concerned about the high number of Malaysia Passports reported lost or stolen every year. This averages about 10,000 annually out of a total of six million issued to date. ¡°We take a serious view of this. Malaysians who lose their passports will find it hard to get replacements. When they reapply, the case will be vetted thoroughly and it will take anything between one and three years to get replacement passports, depending on the merits of the case,¡± he said. He said the Immigration Department was concerned about Malaysian passports being sold to foreigners. Each passport reportedly can fetch between RM30,000 and RM50,000 in the international black market. "It is very much sought after, especially by those who want to use it to go to places like Europe," said Radzi. (by Ravi Nambiar)

From http://www.nst.com.my/ ¡¡06/23/2006


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BANGLADESH: Think-tank Identifies 14 Problems Hampering the Country's Economy

The non-government research organisation, Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad (BUP), identified 14 problems in the Bangladesh's economy. The problems were presented at a post budget discussion yesterday at Jatiya Press Club. The problems include massive poverty and corruption, discrimination in the society, terrorism in the name of Islam, lack of confidence in Jatiya Sangsad and election commission, population boom, lingering fuel and water crises, devaluation of local currency, rise in inflation and absence of participatory democracy, food security and social safety net. BUP Chairman Dr Quazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad chaired the discussion. BUP Executive Director Dr Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, Director Saleh Ahmed and banker M Taher Uddin also participated in the discussion. The speakers said though these problems are hindering the progress of the national economy, there was no reflection of those in the budget placed before the parliament. Even those are not reflected in the policy guidelines of the government's development programme, they pointed out. They observed that the problems must be resolved in the interest of economic growth. "There are three major risk factors in the economy which include rising fuel price, decline in foreign currency reserve and price hike of essential items, " Kholiquzzaman said, making an observation that fuel crisis cannot be solved only through increase in the price of kerosene. Kholiquzzaman said, "We cannot say that there was no progress in the last three decades but the country cannot achieve the desired goal ignoring the above problems. Those are the basic problems and the budget should have some directions to solve those immediately." He also called upon the government to bring reforms on the basis of reality, saying "We are going to opposite direction and the country is heading towards a conflicting situation".

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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BHUTAN: Relocation for Balance Development

National Assembly: The 85th National Assembly session on June 23 resolved that all the ministries planning to have new office should try as far as possible to locate them in dzongkhags other than Thimphu. ¡°Many offices will be established due to our rapid development and these offices if placed in the dzongkhags will create more developmental opportunities like earning rental income,¡± said the Speaker Dasho Ugen Dorje. The resolution was reached after the Trashigang chimi, Sonam Dorji, submitted that the relocation of central government offices and agencies in the dzongkhags would encourage equitable development around the country. Chimi Sonam Dorji said that the representation of all the central government agencies would help the general public to better understand the plans and policies of the various ministries. ¡°Autonomous and important non-governmental organisations should also be represented at the dzongkhag level,¡± he said. According to the chimi, the relocation of agencies like the Dzongkhag Development Authority in East Bhutan would greatly help enhance the understanding of the national language, Dzongkha, among the people. ¡°Eastern Bhutanese are not very well versed in Dzongkha since it is not their mother tongue and when they speak in faltering Dzongkha during important occasions like the National Assembly people get offended,¡± he told Kuensel.

¡°Relocation of the headquarters would help curb rural-urban migration and also bring respite to the hundreds of students who have to travel all the way to Thimphu in search of opportunities like further studies and jobs,¡± he said, adding that this also fuelled youth related crimes like drug abuse, thefts and gang fights. The Royal Advisory Councillor Dasho Sigay Dorji said that huge number of people rushed to Thimphu because of the high concentration of all the government headquarters and centres creating pressures on the existing infrastructure. ¡°Office that needs to be based in Thimphu should be kept here and the rest should be relocated to the rest of the dzongkhags,' he said. Trade and industry minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said that the situation was not entirely true since there were numerous offices like agriculture, health, education and even colleges and general hospitals in the dzongkhags, which has helped in the overall development of the dzongkhags. He said that in the past there were around 18,000 civil servants in Thimphu alone but today there were only about 5000 civil servants in the capital. The rest were in the dzongkhags. Meanwhile, the education minister Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho said that the erstwhile Dzongkha Development Commission was brought under the education ministry as an authority as per good governance policy. ¡°We therefore cannot relocate DDA in other dzongkhags.¡±

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/¡¡06/26/2006


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INDIA: Knowledge as a Tool Against HIV and AIDS in Rural India

In rural India, where HIV infection is increasingly common, the disease is spreading to a large number of women via their partners. Knowledge is the main, critical step towards stopping the spread of HIV to women. What factors prevent women from gaining and using knowledge of HIV and AIDS to protect themselves and others? India has one of the highest numbers of HIV infected people in the world, estimated at 3.82 to 4.58 million people. HIV infection is spreading from high risk to low risk population groups, to rural areas and to women in large numbers. A report in 2000 showed that around 40 percent of women in India were aware of AIDS. While knowledge of AIDS appears to have improved overall since then, a gap still exists between women and men. Research by the UK's University of Southampton identifies the social, cultural and reproductive health factors associated with awareness of HIV and AIDS among rural women in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, where urban HIV infection is relatively high. It also looked at factors associated with women¡¯s knowledge of whether AIDS can be avoided and awareness of what steps can be taken to avoid infection. The study found women¡¯s knowledge of HIV and AIDS is increasing but this is not taking place in a uniform manner, with significant differences noted across sub-groups of people.

From http://southasia.oneworld.net/¡¡05/31/2006


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India NGO Launches Disaster Management Initiative

Tejus Crisis and Trauma Foundation, a non-governmental organisation of Bangalore, has launched "Prerana," a disaster management initiative. The objectives will be to prevent disasters, offer rescue services, train citizens to handle natural calamities and help others in times of need such as a major fire or floods. Citizens with training would be able to help the fire services or home guards during emergency. The NGO has been functional since 2004 and has conducted several workshops and training programmes in various educational institutions. "Our effort is to see how we can equip people in terms of education and training so that they can deal with the disasters," said E.K. Kutty, adviser, Tejas, and former Director, Indian Space Research Organisation.

From The Hindu ¡¡06/08/2006


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Idea to Provide Shared Access to Rural India

Indian mobile operator Idea Cellular has launched its Shared Access programme in cooperation with the GSM Association in an attempt to improve communications in rural areas of the country. The scheme aims to create a new breed of local entrepreneur who will lease airtime via their mobile handset to residents in remote municipalities. Idea says tailored software is being developed to provide a printable bill to customers if required, whilst transparency is ensured by the displaying of call charges on the handset itself. After a successful trial in Maharashtra, the service will now be launched across the entire Idea network.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ ¡¡06/14/2006


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SRI LANKA: Awareness Programme on HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka

The Health Ministry¡¯s HIV/AIDS Unit has arranged to conduct an effective awareness programme on HIV/AIDS to the newly elected members of the local bodies. The first programme inaugurated in Badulla Library auditorium on June 10, according to Health Ministry sources. Healthcare and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told The Island that a recent survey conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) had revealed that housewives in South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had been contracting HIV virus at an alarming rate and added that statistics had shown that a majority of housewives had been contracting the virus through their husbands. Minister de Silva stressed that the principal objective of conducting the awareness programmes for newly elected members was to get their full co-operation to alleviate social stigma and discrimination which had become a major impediment of HIV positive patients to appear in public. Referring to the effective preventive measures taken by the Health Ministry, Minister de Silva said that steps had been taken to prevent the virus with strict surveillance programmes to combat the virus and added that people in Sri Lanka were having a misconception that one would contract the virus when a HIV negative person would contract the virus by talking to HIV positive person. Minister de Silva emphasised that a person could contract the HIV/AIDS through sexual contacts, contaminated hypodermic needles and HIV positive blood products and added that people must dispel their misconception on HIV/AIDS and must treat HIV positive people alike without any discrimination against them.

From South Asia Media Net ¡¡06/13/2006


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Promotion of Accessibility to Built Environment for Persons with Disabilities

COLOMBO: The Sri Lanka Institute of Architects are working on a programme to meet an urgent problem in the country's built environment (buildings) where accessibility for the disabled is woefully lacking at present. The initial step in this regard will take place on June 20 at 5 p.m. at the auditorium of the Sri Lanka Association for Advancement of Science where the architects will be made aware of this problem at a symposium conducted by the SLIA. SLIA in a statement released on this programme says that although very little consideration has been made so far in building designs, legislation has been enacted by an Act of Parliament No. 28 of 1996 as amended by Act No. 33 of 2003 and Regulation No. 1 published in Gazette No. 1419/3 of 14th November 2005 on the access to common places and services, by persons with disabilities. These regulations make it mandatory to implement these requirements in building designs to encourage barrier free built environments. In order to create awareness among architects, SLIA in association with a few prominent professionals in the field has organised this awareness programme. The following resource personnel will address the symposium: Cyril Siriwardane - Secretary General of Disability Organisations' Joint Front, Secretary Rehab Lanka. Member National Council for Persons with Disabilities, Member of the Committee Drafting of National Policy on Disability in 2003, Samantha Whybrow - Disability Access Advisor and Occupational Therapist John Grooms Overseas and Nandana Welage - Senior Occupational Therapist, Institute of Neurology, National Hospital of Sri Lanka. The panelists at the event are - Archt. Prasanna Silva FIA (SL) Additional Director, General Urban Development Authority, Archt. Jinendralal de Silva, FIA (SL) Chief Architect - State Engineering Corporation and Archt. Vijitha Basnayake, AIA (SL) Chartered Architect.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/¡¡06/20/2006


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AFGHANISTAN: Big Conference on Media Assessment and Planning Due Wednesday

A two-day conference to discus current situation of the media and talk on future plans is to bring together representatives of more than 60 national and international media outlets later this week. A statement from the Internews Kabul office which organises the conference said Monday officials from television, print and radio outlets will join with media development agencies, government ministers, media analysts and press officers on 14-15 June to assess the status of independent media in Afghanistan and plan for the future. The Media Review and Planning Conference is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The statement quoted Jan McArthur, Country Director of Internews in Afghanistan as saying: "Media management, regulation and sustainability will be key focuses of the planning session." According to the information and culture ministry, there are 350 independent and state-run magazines and newspapers publishing regularly in Afghanistan in addition to 50 radio stations and 16 television stations. The upcoming conference is believed to be the first of its kind bringing together a large group of media officials to jointly contribute to strategic planning in the media sector. Fifteen Afghan and international representatives met in Paris in March this year to devise a "long-term media development strategy". (by Borhan Younus)


From http://www.afgha.com/¡¡06/12/2006


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AZERBAIJAN: First Caucasus Banking Show Starts in Baku

The First Caucasus Banking and Finance-2006 Conference started at the Grand Hotel Europe of Baku on Tuesday. The National Bank board chairman Elman Rustamov said in his remarks that ¡°both qualitative and quantitative¡± changes have taken place in Azerbaijan¡¯s banking system over the past years. ¡°There were over 250 banks in the country 10 years ago. As a result of the consolidation, their number reduced by five times and their capitals increased, which, in turn, led to the growing number of profitable banks,¡± Rustamov said. Deputy Economic Development Minister Mikayil Jabbarov said the two-day conference would boost the country¡¯s banking sector. He added that the advancing banking system has given an incentive to development of other sectors of the Azerbaijani economy as well. An exhibition on banking and finance is underway as part of the conference, organized by Iteca Caspian, the Baku office of the British ITE Group PLC. Visitors will be able to see the latest projects of the most advanced banks, opportunities for loans, as well as insurance and leasing services. The event will attract financial institutions from a number of countries. (by AssA-Irada)


From http://www.bakutoday.net/¡¡06/15/2006


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IRAN: Economic Policies Need Transparency

A member of Majlis Economic Commission here on Wednesday said that the government¡¯s economic policies are not transparent adding that he has not so far seen any signs of the administration materializing the slogans of justice-seeking and optimum use of resources. Speaking to ILNA, Peyman Foroozesh pointed out, ¡°Necessary means are needed to materialize the government¡¯s slogans. Without this we will not acquire justice in the national economy.¡° He recalled that in view of the ambiguous economic policies, the country is currently facing a recession in investments, which has in turn overshadowed all economic considerations. To meet with the target economic growth rate and also achieve the goals of the Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (2005-2010), the government should plan according to the market conditions, otherwise economic growth rate will continue to decline, he observed. The lawmaker recalled that the country was expected to acquire an economic growth rate of eight percent and rely more on non-oil exports.

¡°However, last year we witnessed an economic growth rate of six percent, the major portion of which pertained to oil revenues,¡° he noted. Foroozesh, an MP from Zahedan, warned that excessive imports, insecure economic atmosphere and expansionary monetary and fiscal policies will not entail favorable consequences for the economy. ¡°These problems are all rooted in the fact that our economy is dominated by the state and that it depends heavily on oil revenues. To overcome possible crises, the government must first declare its economic policies in a transparent manner and base its economic decisions on the market conditions and the private sector,¡° he pointed out. He also recalled that as long as the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) handles different affairs such as policy-making, implementing policies, supervising and measuring various indices, favorable results will not be achieved. ¡°CBI should remain independent, but the task of supervision and measuring economic indices should be assigned to another independent entity,¡° he concluded.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/¡¡06/22/2006


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TURKMENISTAN: Central Asia Education Forum Wraps Up in Ashgabat

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UNESCO and the Ministry of education of Turkmenistan hosted the 5th Central Asian Region and Kazakhstan Education (CARK) Forum. Turkmenistan has taken over as rotating chair of the CARK Education Forum. Leaders and representatives of education system of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, senior international experts from the regional divisions of UN, including UNICEF and UNESCO, as well as World Bank and Asian Development Bank representatives attended the forum. As the Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru reports, the two-day international forum was held in Ashgabat's President Hotel. It discussed issues of further development of the global project Education For All implemented in the Central Asian region and Kazakhstan as well as other aspects related to adoption of common approaches to the establishment of system of schools with children friendly environment and standards of preschool education. The forum participants summed up the results of work in this area and shared practical experience in programme designing and methodical instruments in this sphere adopted in CARK. CARK was established in 2002 as an institutional mechanism to assist Central Asian countries and Kazakhstan in fulfilling their commitments to achieve the goals of declaration Education for All adopted at the World Education Forum.

From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/¡¡06/14/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Forum Considers Reforms in Tax System in Uzbekistan

The commission of the Business Forum of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan for Improvement of the Fiscal Policy held a meeting dedicated to the "tax system reform and business activity: problems and prospects". The meeting was held on 8 June at the conference hall of the Alisher Navoi International Business Center. The aim of the meeting was to assist the development of the business environment and the private sector through improvement of the tax legislation and tax policy, as well as identification of more urgent problems in the sphere through constructive dialogue between the state agencies and enterprise entities. The UNDP Projects "Tax System Reform and Development of New Edition of the Tax Code" and "Improvement of the Tax Administration in Uzbekistan" organized the event in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan. Representatives of the Ministries of Finance and Justice, State Tax Committee, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan, Anti-Monopoly Committee, several scientific-research institutes, a number of international organizations, as well as heads of companies ¨C members of the Chamber, finance managers, auditors, accountants, legal specialists, consultants in the sphere of taxation and tax administration participated in the meeting. The administration of Uzbekistan attributes priority importance to further improvement of the tax policy.

The urgency of the topic discussed is determined by the processes of intensification of the tax reforms in the country, simplification and unification of the system of taxation, increased stimulation of the function of fiscal policy and improvement of the system of tax administration. In the framework of the meeting, participants discussed several issues, the solution of which should stimulate business activity in the country. Participants exchanged opinions abut further steps to be taken in the field of tax reforms, discussed the issues concerning the improvement of the existing system of taxation of enterprise, in particular, the establishment of the optimal tax burden. Special attention was paid to the problems in the field of direct and indirect taxation, and the system of simplified taxation. Participants also discussed the aspects of the eligibility practice in obligatory payments, the peculiarities of taxation with regards to the fulfillment of the agreements of commission and simple partnership, and other issues. The meeting was held in the form of round table discussion, the speeches of the private sector representatives were followed by open discussions, the main opponents being the representatives of the state agencies. The event allowed clarify the discrepancies and contradictions in the active legislation, develop recommendations and solutions to the problems of taxation of enterprise entities for further transfer to the governmental work group for preparation of the new edition of Tax Code.

From http://finance.uzreport.com/¡¡06/09/2006


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Round Table Focuses on Financial Sector Reforms in Uzbekistan

A roundtable on financial sector reforms was held on 15 June in the World Bank Country Office. The roundtable brought together representatives of the Central Bank, foreign and commercial banks, research institutes, the Banking and Finance Academy, the Tashkent Financial Institute other government agencies and the International Financial Institutions. "The Government has declared its intention to deepen financial sector reforms ¨C today's discussion is intended to assist in this process and to emphasize how important it is to get reforms right", said Martin Raiser, the Country Manager of the World Bank, in his opening remarks. The topic of the discussion was focused on taking stock of the level of current financial intermediation and the quality of financial services provided in Uzbekistan and examining opportunities for reform. Participants heard two introductory presentations, on the current status of Uzbekistan's financial sector, and on international experience with the reform of state-owned banks, followed by an open discussion. In the first presentation Martin Raiser noted that Uzbekistan's financial depth remains low in international comparison, but emphasized that other CIS countries had recently experienced rapid financial deepening following macroeconomic stabilization and financial sector reforms. There were some signs that Uzbekistan might follow this trend, but this would require accelerating financial sector reforms.

Martin Raiser noted in particular that banks in Uzbekistan were presently not a main source of investment capital, and that banking sector profitability was low, reflecting poor risk management in the past, distortions in the market for commercial loans, and remaining government regulations of the sector. Mr Raiser also noted the recent strong growth of private banks, albeit from a very low level, and argued that these presented both an opportunity for strengthening banking sector competition and increasing financial intermediation, but also a challenge for regulators, since some of these banks were still engaged in heavy related party lending. Other opportunities for greater financial deepening in the short run were identified in the growth of the leasing market, and the establishment of new microfinance institutions. In the second presentation, Mr. James Lacey, an experienced international banking consultant, focused on the challenge of restructuring and then privatizing Uzbekistan's still dominant state-owned banks. He examined lessons of experience from international case studies, emphasizing the importance of doing a proper analysis of state bank portfolios and options for restructuring state banks, before embarking on bank privatization. He noted that international experience suggested that the process inevitably imposed some costs on the state budget as a result of restructuring loan portfolios, but that these costs only grew if restructuring was delayed.

The presentations were followed by intensive discussion. Participants expressed gratefulness to the World Bank for having initiated the dialogue, while many noted that a much more detailed analysis was required to understand fully the functioning of Uzbekistan's financial sector and the challenges going forward. The representative from the Central Bank noted that the financial sector was already providing important impulses for economic growth in Uzbekistan, and outlined further reform measures planned over the coming year. "This is just the beginning of an important dialogue. Ultimately, we all agree that Uzbekistan should have a strong, privately owned and operated financial sector. Our task is to examine how to get there and for this ongoing dialogue is required", said Martin Raiser closing the discussion. The World Bank has provided support for financial sector reform in Uzbekistan for the past ten years. It's lending and technical assistance include: Institution Building Technical Assistance Project (approved in 1995), the Financial Institution Building Loan (approved in 1998), the Financial Sector Technical Assistance (approved in 2005). With these interventions, the Bank supported the modernization of payment system, provided training for commercial bank staff, and helped draft prudential and supervisory regulations.

From http://finance.uzreport.com/¡¡06/19/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Land Rights Reforms in Parliament

Aborigines will be offered low-interest loans and 99-year land leases under changes to land rights introduced to parliament on Wednesday. Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said the amendments were designed to give Aboriginal communities greater economic choices. "The reforms in this bill are designed to do three things: provide for individual property rights in Aboriginal townships, streamline processes for development of Aboriginal land and improve efficiency and enhance accountability of organisations," he said. "The reforms to the Land Rights Act will help to create a new environment offering better prospects and hope for the future." Provisions allowing for 99-year leases were designed to make it easier for Aborigines to establish homes and own their own businesses, while cheap loans would be an incentive, Mr Brough said. The reforms have been the subject of talks between the federal and Northern Territory governments, land councils and indigenous communities for almost 10 years.

The laws also transfer some federal power over mining and exploration to the NT government. The territory will be able to set deadlines for talks between miners and traditional owners and withdraw a company's consent to negotiate where it has not seriously pursued talks. Traditional owners would retain their veto over exploration, but the five-year moratorium triggered by such a veto could be lifted at any time the traditional owners agree. Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Chris Evans said the package contained "a number of positive measures", but the leasing scheme would have minimal impact in the short term. "The amendments in relation to mining are particularly welcomed as they help facilitate economic development on Aboriginal land," Senator Evans said in a statement. "Labor is pleased that the consent of traditional owners is still protected under the 99-year leasing scheme. "However, we are keen to ensure that traditional owners are not pressured into trading off their legal rights in return for basic entitlements like health clinics, housing and schools."

From http://www.theage.com.au/¡¡ 05/31/2006


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Child ID Cards in Swipe at Fraud

EVERY child will be tracked through the child-care system, allowing the Federal Government to simultaneously map places and shortages and crack down on fraud. Within two years parents will be issued either swipe cards or PINs. These will allow their children to clock in and out of child-care centres in a policy given "100 per cent cabinet support", government sources said. An extra $50 million has been approved to introduce a national software system that will provide the Department of Family and Community Services with information on what types of child care parents are using, the number of hours attended each week and the shortages in the system. If child-care centres are not linked to the system, they will not be approved for the child-care benefit, the Government's main payment to help parents meet the cost of care. The Government believes the move will help crack down on dishonest child-care operators who inflate the number of hours children are in their care. At present 130 Centrelink officers deal with child-care benefit payments, a system that is cumbersome and unreliable, sources say, and results in some centres profiting from the payments.

A national child-care telephone hotline begins on July 1, but this is the first phase of changes to the management of child care. Once centres are linked by the computer system, parents will be given a number for each child and either a swipe card or PIN that will monitor how many hours their children spend in care and allow for the automatic calculation of their benefit. It has not yet been decided if this will be done through the welfare smart card formally announced this month, which the Government eventually wants to use to administer all its payments. Child care is shaping as a battlefield in next year's federal election campaign as the major parties try to win over parents. The Government announced in last month's budget it would automatically fund as many approved family day care and out-of-school-hours care operators as applied, in an attempt to rapidly create more places. Two days later the Opposition revealed a plan to build 260 new child-care centres and waive the fees of people wanting to study child care at TAFE to tackle the shortage of workers. The new system acknowledges the lack of reliable information on the child-care industry.

This has partly resulted from the increase in the numbers of children attending centres in the past decade. There are only anecdotal figures on waiting lists, the types of care most in demand, and where the shortages are. In some areas, such as the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, parents say they are waiting two years for places, while centres in outer metropolitan and regional areas are operating at less than their maximum capacity. Sources said part of the Government's job is to "manage the expectations of parents". The Minister for Family and Community Services, Mal Brough, has previously said it is not possible to give every parent exactly the type of care they want. "Should there be a child-care centre on every corner?" he said in March. "You need accessible and affordable child care, but it doesn't mean you're going to have a child-care centre or the sort of care you demand right on your door step. That's just not feasible."

From http://www.smh.com.au/¡¡06/02/2006


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Bracks Wants Grants Tied to Performance

THE states would get more cash from the commonwealth for improving student literacy and cutting the number of chronic disease sufferers under a Steve Bracks plan to overhaul the federal Government's $20 billion specific purpose grants. Under the Victorian Premier's reform agenda, the states would agree to be held accountable for their performance in education and health in return for the Howard Government loosening its grip on the grants and increasing the funding pool. The ideas for the overhaul are in a new report by Vince FitzGerald that finds the federal stranglehold on the cash is too bureaucratic, inefficient, lacking in focus, and not aimed at getting the best results in critical policy areas. Before next month's Council of Australian Governments, Mr Bracks will use the report, to be released today, to push his campaign to have competition policy-style payments apply across health and education. Under the new National Reform Agenda, Victoria wants financial incentives to states that deliver progress in major policy areas. For example, if Victoria improved literacy rates by 1 per cent against what would have been expected, the state would receive $50million. If it improved rates by 2per cent, it would receive $100 million.

"The system of funding from the commonwealth to the states is clearly dysfunctional and needs to be reformed," Mr Bracks said. "It's too focused on what Canberra wants, and all the red tape that goes with it, and not on achieving better outcomes for the community. Funding should be linked to outcomes that people care about, like improving literacy rates, more young people completing school, and fewer people suffering from chronic diseases." Dr Fitzgerald's report recommends a sweeping overhaul of the $20.5billion in specific purpose payments that will be delivered to the states this financial year. Unlike GST payments, which the states can use as they see fit, specific purpose payments are "tied grants" and can be used by the Howard Government to impose its policy objectives in areas that are largely state responsibility. Most payments are for health and education. The current system is inefficient, inflexible and micro-managed with a "limited focus on strategic outcomes", the report says. Many of the programs funded by the payments ran alongside closely related programs, but inadequate co-ordination resulted in less than desirable results and cost-shifting.

The report says the programs require detailed breakdowns that have "no valid policy relevance or use at the national level". "All this imposes a heavy administrative burden (and) the effect is to increase bureaucracy at both levels of government," itsays. Dr FitzGerald called for a new model that directly linked the funding to agreed outcomes and measures of progress. The payments would be renamed federal partnership agreements or Australian Partnership Agreements. In health, the objective would be to reduce the incidence of chronic disease, including coronary heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, depression, diabetes and asthma. The partnership would seek to reduce the proportion of the working age population not working due to illness, injury or disability. In education, the aim would be to increase literacy and numeracy rates, the number of children starting school with basic life and learning skills, and the number of secondary school students making a smooth transition to work and further study. Dr FitzGerald analysed a series of payments to the states. While they often provided little extra funding, the states were forced to meet a range of bureaucratic conditions, setting up separate structures, providing overly detailed reporting and attending unnecessary meetings.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡06/08/2006


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Howard Backs School Chaplain Bid

A PLAN to encourage state schools to take on full-time chaplains has won overwhelming Federal Government backing and is being seriously considered by Prime Minister John Howard. The proposal ¡ª revealed last week in The Sunday Age ¡ª was presented to a meeting of Coalition MPs on Tuesday where it received strong support from both Liberal and National MPs. Four Liberal MPs ¡ª parliamentary secretary on the Environment Greg Hunt and Dr Andrew Laming, Louise Markus and David Fawcett ¡ª have written to Mr Howard suggesting that the Commonwealth match funds voluntarily raised by state schools wishing to take on a full-time chaplain. The four MPs met on Wednesday with Education Minister Julie Bishop to discuss the details of the plan and how it could be implemented in co-operation with the states, which have formal responsibility for primary and secondary education. Ms Bishop has already publicly expressed her support for the plan, known as a National Schools Chaplaincy Program. Last week she said that "parents were looking for choice in the education and values taught to their children", and that the proposal was consistent with the national framework for values education in Australia's schools.

But the proposal was described as "sickening" by the Victorian Education Union's Mary Bluett. Other prominent Coalition MPs who support the plan include Small Business and Tourism Minister Fran Bailey, House of Representatives Speaker David Hawker, and Parliamentary Secretary to Treasurer Peter Costello, Chris Pearce. "It's an absolutely fantastic idea," Mr Pearce said yesterday. "I think it's a very positive initiative, something that the kids of Australia need in their schools." Mr Pearce said he was involved with a major chaplaincy program for government schools in his Aston electorate, all funded by donations from local parents, community, business and church groups. "I know of real-life examples where chaplains have made a significant difference to the lives of children." Chaplains have been operating in Victorian government schools since 1955 and there are 65 chaplains working in secondary schools and 17 in primary schools. Under the state's Education Act, the Council for Christian Education in Schools has been formally recognised as the body managing the chaplaincy program since 1958 and receives about $400,000 a year in state government funding. The CSES operates in partnership with Christian churches across the state. Chaplaincy programs also exist in most other states and operate largely without state or federal government funding.

One of the biggest supporters of a National Schools Chaplaincy Program is Governor-General Michael Jeffery, who in 2003 agreed to become the patron of the National Association of Government School Chaplaincy Providers. Mr Pearce said he had raised the issue several times with Major-General Jeffery. "He is about as big a supporter as you can get of this sort of program," Mr Pearce said. World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello ¡ª who is an ordained Baptist Church Minister and brother to federal Treasurer Peter Costello ¡ª said that he had been a long-time supporter of chaplains in state schools, and that Commonwealth support for a national program would be most beneficial to the community. Federal Labor's education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, offered cautious support for the proposal but said it must be executed carefully. "There are certainly many positive examples of the work already being done by chaplains in schools across Australia. Any new chaplaincy program must take into account the diversity of religious beliefs in our school system," Ms Macklin said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡06/18/2006


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Telstra Changes Long-Distance Charges

STD calls to anywhere in Australia will be untimed and fixed-line call charges will be, in effect, capped under two new subscription plans Telstra will introduce on Monday. The two new plans, plus a third introduced earlier this year as a market pilot, abolish the distance bands that have applied to telephone calls in Australia since 1960. They also remove the time-based charges that have applied to long-distance calls since the opening of the overland telegraph line in 1872. David Moffatt, Telstra's group managing director in charge of consumer marketing, said subscribers to the plans would be able to call "anywhere, any time, at very low, or no additional charges". The new plans represented a fundamental change in the way Telstra priced its home phone service, he said. The company hoped they would go some way towards arresting the steady decline in fixed-line revenue that all companies around the world were encountering as callers switched to mobile networks and to "free" internet services, he said.

They should attract customers back to the fixed-line network. Telstra's fixed-line revenue is falling by roughly 10 per cent a year. The plans range from an "all you can call" HomeLine Ultimate deal for $89.90 a month, including line rental, down to a basic $49.90 plan that includes line rental but applies some call charges but no time or distance fees. While there were some similarities between mobile capped plans and the fixed-line subscription models he was introducing, the landline rates were much lower, Mr Moffatt said. Telstra also yesterday foreshadowed a small rise, in line with the CPI, on its existing domestic plans and on home ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) connections. An Optus spokeswoman said last night the Telstra plans were "a knee-jerk reaction" to two broadly similar plans that Optus introduced in May.


From http://www.theage.com.au/¡¡ 06/23/2006


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Howard Demands State Reform Plans

JOHN Howard is pressing the states for specific plans to lift literacy and numeracy, expand early childhood education and tackle chronic disease before he promises commonwealth funding for a new wave of federal-state reforms. He is ready to commit money to these and other projects, provided the states can show how they will produce benefits on top of existing programs. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks met the Prime Minister yesterday to press the case of the Labor states and territories for an across-the-board funding mechanism to give impetus to ambitious reforms agreed to at the February meeting of the Council of Australian Governments. The reforms included a $1.1billion package of health measures over five years, further moves towards a national electricity grid, mutual recognition of trade skills, and the harmonising of regulations on roads, railways and infrastructure. Mr Bracks is suggesting a body such as the Productivity Commission determine funding according to how the costs and benefits of reforms are shared between the commonwealth and the states. Speaking before the meeting, he said the states would bear many of the costs of implementing change. "Funding is the key because it is the one way that the states and territories can be locked in," he said.

Mr Howard is prepared to offer commonwealth funding where it can be established the states bear a disproportionate share of the costs. But he believes it is premature to talk of an overall deal. Instead, he wants to see the details of specific proposals, starting in areas such as literacy and numeracy. COAG made a commitment in February to increasing the proportion of young people reaching basic literacy and numeracy standards. The meeting also promised to give priority to improving early-childhood development, saying this was critical to children starting school with the basic skills for learning. There was also an agreement that health promotion and prevention and early intervention were required to reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and mental illness. Coinciding with the COAG reforms, big business is mounting a new push to reform federal-state relations, arguing that duplication and other inefficiencies cost the economy billions of dollars. The Business Council of Australia says reform has to be driven from the top and wants COAG meetings to be held at least twice a year.

It wants COAG's work to be backed by a secretariat staffed by commonwealth and state officials and an independent federal commission with the power to initiate its own reviews, including examining ways to remove duplication and inefficiencies. The proposals are in a discussion paper circulated by the BCA to governments and other interested parties. It will follow up with further research and a set of final recommendations in October. The paper says that, more than 100 years after federation, lines of responsibility have become so blurred that it is no longer apparent which level of government is primarily responsible for areas of policy and service delivery, leading to growing inefficiencies and weaknesses in the federal system. "These weaknesses create real problems that put our economic growth and future prosperity at risk," it says. "Lack of co-ordination means forward planning and focused investment in our infrastructure has not been happening. "The regulatory burden on the community and business grows yearly as governments add to the stockpile of overlapping, duplicated and inconsistent laws. Education and health services suffer through a lack of clear lines of responsibility and inconsistent direction from different levels of government."

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡06/24/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Government Plans Fast Track for Medical Training

Health Minister Pete Hodgson has sent a strong signal that doctors' training will be fast-tracked. The announcement follows the release of two reports outlining the need for changes to the traditional system and advocating a shift away from time-based training. The reports also find that the length of training for primary or secondary specialists is longer than it needs to be. Doctors have welcomed the move - but caution that it needs to be done without compromising patient safety. Mr Hodgson told a GPs conference in Rotorua on Friday that a new committee is being formed to streamline medical education and clinical training, and to appraise the system. Indications are that some changes will happen before next year's university intake. He also signalled additional work in two areas: a clinical training pilot for overseas-trained doctors, and developing the role of medical officers. Dr Jeff Brown, president of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, welcomed the changes.

"There are areas of medicine where a lot of training is lost in chasing paper, and a lot of training is lost in risk management - keeping people who are seen to be 'in training' away from patients for the protection of the patients, but you can't learn unless you do." Training needs also differed and as such, not all doctors needed the same training, he said. "There should be options that are co-ordinated so that people can get to what they want to be or may be needed, faster, but also safely," Dr Brown said. "Because I don't believe you and I want to go along and see a general practitioner who's had two years' training in a few areas of general practice," he said. Time-based training, where doctors in training fulfilled a set amount of clinical hours, no longer guaranteed competency. "There's not the belief that you work 120 hours a week so that you can see everything and learn while you're tired - too tired to even think straight.

Those days are gone," he said. "I suppose the hard thing is whether the words and the promises can turn into action and outcomes that you and I can see. That's the big challenge." Medical Association chairman Dr Ross Boswell was also supportive. "There's probably three important components. There's knowledge, there's skill and there's experience. I think it's sensible to re-examine the balance between those and ensure that we get it right. "We want the best doctors trained most effectively in the shortest time for the least amount of money." However, he foresaw difficulties in co-ordinating training between the hospitals, medical schools and other providers. National's health spokesman, Tony Ryall, said the reports were "paralysis by analysis". "It's time Labour stopped wasting money on endless reports and actually started fixing the problem. "Without urgent action, patients will end up on a new waiting list - to see a GP. "New Zealanders would be horrified to know that in Britain it is Tony Blair's dream for patients to see a GP within 48 hours. "We don't want that in New Zealand."

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/¡¡05/29/2006


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SOLOMON ISLANDS: First Step Against Corruption: Tax and Duty Exemption Guidelines

The Acting Minister of Finance, Hon. Gordon Lilo Darcy today announced that the new Government has taken its first step against corruption and towards more ethical government. He did this by releasing Exemption Guidelines that clearly define when the Minister will use his discretionary power to give away Goods Tax and Import Duty revenue. ¡°These Goods Tax and Import Duty Exemption Guidelines will help reduce corruption in our tax system by establishing a more transparent, fair and accountable exemptions process. The release of these Guidelines demonstrates that this Government is committed to eliminating corruption and promoting ethical leadership,¡± the Acting Minister said today.

Fromhttp://www.pmc.gov.sb/¡¡06/13/2006


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Asian Economic Growth May Have Peaked for This Year

Asia's economic powerhouses, which have pushed commodity prices and regional stocks to record highs, may have spewed out some of their best growth numbers for the current four-year expansion phase during the first quarter. But India and the resurgent export powerhouses South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore are unlikely to be able to sustain such growth in coming quarters as soaring energy and commodity prices dampen consumption and stoke inflation, forcing central banks to raise the cost of money, analysts said. China, where annual growth in investment spending accelerated to almost 28 per cent in the first quarter after a 25.7 per cent growth in all of 2005, could be the sole exception as money for factories, roads and ports continued to pour in, they said. Demand from the US economy, which has powered much of the current phase of Asian expansion that followed the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002, is also set to sputter as high fuel prices and falling property prices hit personal consumption. "The best is behind us. First quarter would have been the peak," said Arjuna Mahendran, chief economist for Asia at the private banking arm of Credit Suisse in Singapore. "There will be a pause in the US economy in the third quarter. That will have ramifications for Asia." India's economy in the January-March quarter grew a stronger-than-expected 9.3 per cent from a year earlier, helped by strong manufacturing and farm output, data showed this week. Mahendran said the figures meant the Reserve Bank of India was certain to raise interest rates in July and October. China's economy was running at an annual rate of 10.3 per cent in the first quarter, raising expectations the central bank would tighten monetary policy through bank reserve requirements. First-quarter growth figures from Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, which rely heavily on trade, also beat analysts' forecasts.

Buckling under pressure
Signs of a slowdown in Southeast Asia are already apparent as energy costs and interest rates rise. The Philippines said this week economic growth crawled at just 0.9 per cent in the first quarter, on a seasonally adjusted basis, slowing from a pace of 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter. Indonesia, which doesn't report adjusted figures, said annual first-quarter growth slowed in the first quarter to its weakest pace since 2004.Next week, Thailand is expected to report that seasonally adjusted GDP rose in the first-quarter at its slowest pace in a year as consumption weakened partly owing to a political crisis that has delayed a multi-billion dollar government spending programme. Malaysia, which reported annual growth of 5.3 per cent in the first quarter, said that while it expects growth to stay above 5 per cent in coming quarters, inflation was likely to average 3.5-4.0 per cent. That means the benchmark interest rate of 3.5 per cent is below a "neutral" level, Malaysia's central bank chief Zeti Akhtar Aziz said, adding it was vital not to have significantly negative real interest rates for a prolonged period.

Full-year forecasts intact
Rising inflationary pressure and interest rates spooked investors in May, leading to a rapid sell-off in emerging market stocks, bonds and currencies. In India, more than $100 billion was wiped off stock values within a couple of weeks as the benchmark index plunged about 20 per cent from a record high hit on May 11. Indonesian stocks and the rupiah also took a beating along with emerging markets in Eastern Europe and South America. But the future is not all doom and gloom. Despite expectations for a slowdown, most analysts have maintained their full-year growth forecasts for Asia. "We continue to think the world economy is in solid shape, with growth in Japan, China and Europe offsetting a likely slowdown in the US in the second half," Goldman Sachs said in a report on Wednesday. Jimmy Koh, head of economy and treasury research at Singapore's United Overseas Bank, said Asian economies were likely to grow through 2006 and 2007 with inflation largely under control. Besides, Asian stock markets have had net capital inflows so far this year despite the sell-off in May, he said. "Once the dust settles, focus is likely to be shifted back to the still stable Asian economic fundamentals and signs of more renminbi moves," Koh said, referring to expectations that China would continue to let its currency gradually strengthen.

From http://www.hindustantimes.com ¡¡06/01/2006


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Making the Best Choices for Infrastructure

The biggest-ever Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) concluded in Tokyo May 30 with a call for new analytical and evaluation tools to help decision-makers make infrastructure choices that deliver vital services such as energy, transportation and water, to facilitate growth and achieve the MDGs, while also remaining cost-effective and friendly to the environment. ¡°Our approach to infrastructure must focus not just on economic growth or human growth,¡± said Bank President Paul Wolfowitz in his opening address to the two-day conference, co-organized by the Development Economics and External Affairs Vice-Presidencies. ¡°It must also focus on ¡®smart¡¯ growth, that is, growth that is economically sound, environmentally friendly, socially acceptable, locally desirable, and most important, growth that makes a difference in people¡¯s lives.¡± Infrastructure investments have often failed the test in the past, said Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, who posed tough questions to the more than 700 participants from around the world: ¡°Hasn¡¯t donor support simply left ¡®white elephants¡¯ behind? Have we paid enough attention to adverse environmental and social impacts? Have we had sufficient dialogue with stakeholders?¡±

The Opening Session of the ABCDE Conference, Tokyo Japan ¡°Rethinking Infrastructure for Development¡± jointly hosted by Government of Japan. Various dimensions of the challenges outlined by Wolfowitz and Tanigaki were explored in depth in four conference plenary sessions on infrastructure for growth, infrastructure and governance, rural infrastructure and agricultural development, and infrastructure and regional cooperation.In summing-up remarks Tuesday, the Bank¡¯s Chief Economist Francois Bourguignon reviewed recurring issues and what is needed to solve them. He identified a need to better understand linkages between infrastructure investments and growth; to achieve the right balance between public and private involvement; to deal with cross-border issues and ¡®externalities¡¯¨C¨Cboth positive and negative, such as shared road and rail links, but also shared pollution¨C¨Cand to establish systems that deliver better data and evaluation. Under the aegis of this comprehensive framework, he said, the long-ignored management tool of cost-benefit analysis deserves to be revived to guide policymakers who must allocate scarce resources among competing projects and sectors.

¡°If infrastructure is not going to be neglected, it must be better understood,¡± he concluded. ¡°Knowing what works and what doesn¡¯t is a key public good.¡± In addition to the plenary sessions on infrastructure, this first-ever ABCDE to be held in East Asia also featured 19 parallel seminar sessions organized by partner organizations and governments, and keynote addresses by Sadako Ogata, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Richard Manning, Chairman of the OECD¡¯s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, and Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and former Bank chief economist. The Tokyo conference was also the site of the annual meeting of the Researchers' Alliance for Development (RAD), a network of over 500 academics and researchers in development. It was also the venue for presentation of awards for the World Bank international essay competition, in which nine finalists were selected from 1,950 individual submissions from 136 countries. (See Friday¡¯s Today for the story.)?

Japan Announces New Initiatives

The Japanese dignitaries used the event to outline some of their country¡¯s recent initiatives in development cooperation. Ogata said her agency, JICA, will merge with the ODA lender Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) in 2008, forming what she said would be, ¡°the world¡¯s second-largest integrated development agency after the World Bank.¡±? She also reviewed JICA¡¯s strategy to integrate its support for human security and infrastructure though a three-focus approach: community-based, comprehensive, and cross-sectoral. Finance Minister Tanigaki, meanwhile, announced that Japan will contribute $2 million to the World Bank¡¯s Knowledge for Change Program, a partnership initiative that enables bilateral and other donors to complement Bank funds for research in areas of shared interest, such as climate change and agriculture.

From http://web.worldbank.org ¡¡06/01/2006


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Asian Highway Network Gathers Speed

More pieces of the ambitious 141,204-kilometer Asian Highway network slotted into place this month as Vietnam completed its section linking Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Do Ngoc Dung, vice director general of the My Thuan Project Management Unit (PMU), announced completion of the work. The US$144.77 million construction bill was partly financed by the Asian Development Bank. The $44 billion Asian Highway network weaves through 32 countries, connects Asia with Europe, and promises to boost regional economies by facilitating trade and tourism through its linkage of Asian seaports, airports and major tourist destinations. It also fleshes out dreams of a Pan-Asian community with a common socio-political-economic identity analogous to the European Union. "There is a 12-20% [increase in the growth of gross domestic, product associated] with greater investment in highways in India," said A Veeraragavan, a professor with the leading Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and one of the country's top experts in highway engineering. "The GDP growth rate may vary from Asian country to country, but the bottom line is [there are] more advantages with better highways, from saving lives lost in traffic accidents to economic benefits."

The Asian Highway is becoming the latest element of a growing highway economy worldwide, in which highways are increasingly operated as for-profit assets. Conceived in 1959, the Asian Highway took off with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) promoting it more ardently in the past two decades. A big breakthrough came in April 2004 when 23 Asian countries signed the Asian Highway agreement in the 60th session of UNESCAP at Shanghai. The agreement, active since last July 4, finalized the route map across Asia and established basic technical standards for roads and route signs along the Highway, such as using the initials "AH" suffixed with number codes for regions and sub-regions. So the single-digit route numbers 1 to 9 are for Asian Highway routes that substantially cross more than one sub-region. The route numbers 40-59 and 400-599 are for South Asian countries, while the route numbers 10-29 and 100-299 are reserved for Southeast Asia. Despite occasional political speed bumps (such as Bangladesh opting out of the Asian Highway, because of fears of giving India connectivity through its territory), the AH has a 2010 deadline. Though the project has yet to be promoted substantially among the Asian public, project officials say international traffic has, in fact, increased along the AH routes.

The highway has pushed regional governments to invest in infrastructure, such as in April 2002 when India, Myanmar and Thailand agreed to develop a linking road network. In 2005, the National Highways Authority of India launched the $12.54 billion Phase 3 of the National Highways Development Project, which aims to upgrade 10,000km of the country's busiest highways to four-lane status. The Asian Highway is also sustaining focus on more critical issues. Last month, UNESCAP called a meeting in Bangkok on financing highway infrastructure and improving road safety. According to the UN body, by 2020 about two-thirds of the world's road-accident deaths (or 610,000 per annum) might be in the Asia-Pacific region. This implies 440,000 deaths and more than 2 million injuries incurred in road accidents in the region,
registering economic costs of 1-3% of the GDP of UNESCAP countries, in addition to the pain and suffering of the individuals involved. "Over 100,000 people die of road accidents in India [annually]," Veeraragavan said, adding that more than 3,000 "die daily in road accidents worldwide". He dismisses ecological concerns over developing highways, saying trees can be planted in other places than by roadsides, "which only cause more accidents. In Emperor Ashoka's time people had to walk to travel across the country and so shade-giving trees by roads [were] useful. Now even tribals use transport." (Ashoka the Great was emperor of the Maurya Empire, which extended over most of South Asia from 273-232 BC.)

A total of $26 billion has already been invested in the Asian Highway and $18 billion more is needed, says UNESCAP. Eighty-three percent of the network is considered ready, but more issues need to be addressed, such as traffic-friendly customs procedures across borders, and the degree of freedom that foreign vehicles driving through Asia have to move about within individual countries.Part of the transportation "triad" launched by the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development project - along with the Trans-Asian Railway and various forms of land-transport facilitation, such as intermodal hubs - the young Asian Highway system has the potential to have a socio-economic significance in this century that equals or surpasses what the historic Silk Route had in ancient times.

From http://www.atimes.com ¡¡06/13/2006


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Critical Choices Today Will Define The World in 2050

Long-term thinking produces better decisions today. By envisioning the world of 2050, we can pinpoint the critical development choices that we have to make now to realize our vision of a wealthier, more equitable, more sustainable world, according to today¡¯s presentation of the World Bank publication, The Road to 2050: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century. The Road to 2050: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century looks at how, while gross domestic product (GDP) growth has been uneven across countries and over decades, developing countries have enjoyed significant growth in life expectancy and levels of education since 1960. According to the publication, the United Nations medium population projection suggests that world population could be 9 billion, up from 6 billion today, with almost all of that increase in the cities and towns of developing countries. With 2 percent growth of per capita GDP in rich countries (the average over the past 20 years) and 3.3 percent in low-and middle-income countries (an optimistic figure based on the growth experienced in the 1960s and 1970s), world income would be more than $135 trillion, up from $35 trillion today. With these growth rates, 40 percent of world income in 2050 would be earned in low- and middle-income countries¡ªtwice their share today, according to the document.
If per capita incomes in low- and middle-income countries do rise at 3.3 percent a year, the report argues, the average income in these countries would be $6,300 by 2050. Basic human needs for shelter, food, and clothing could be more than met. And people would be healthier and more skilled. Even pessimistic estimates place life expectancy in 2050 in today¡¯s low-and middle-income countries at 72 years (up from 64 today) and under-five mortality at 17 per 1,000 live births (down from 85 per 1,000 today). Adult illiteracy rates could be less than 5 percent, a fifth of today¡¯s 25 percent. If GDP growth in developing countries can return to the rates of the 1960s and 1970s, then the publication predicts a significantly changed world by 2050¨C¨Ca world at once wealthier, more equitable, and more sustainable, provided choices made today are the right ones. According to Tubiana, ¡°Achieving sustainable development requires strong involvement of local communities on a long-term basis, as well as a global commitment. Key to this reflection is about interaction between local and global governance, common objectives and actions, and local autonomy; it is about the local social contract and the global social contract.¡± Adding a different perspective to the debate, Collin said that, ¡°The ecological footprint of humanity is still growing, and without a real vision of change for human development linked to the capacity of our world to produce sustainable natural resources, the level of impact on natural resources and biodiversity is expected to increase over the next decades.

Today¡¯s decisions are critical to providing an efficient response to this challenge.¡± Added Jorgensen, ¡°Our optimistic vision of 2050 is achievable, but only if governments, civil society, business, and the development community work together, building action-oriented coalitions that can make a real difference. We look forward to the journey.¡± Aiming for this larger economy involves both creating opportunities and overcoming constraints: For the environment and natural resources there are clear risks tied to growth, but there are also unexploited opportunities to transform natural wealth into produced, human, and social capital. Governance is a major constraint on development today, and rectifying this will require both institutional reforms and the mobilization of civil society. Social development must encompass the goals of cohesion, inclusion, and accountability if social welfare is to rise and conflicts are to be avoided. New agricultural technologies must fill an impending gap between population growth and food supply; other sectors, including energy and water supply, face similar challenges. Further progress is required on the ¡°aid and trade¡± agenda. And climate change risks must be reduced through mitigation and adaptation.

From http://web.worldbank.org ¡¡06/13/2006


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Digital Broadcasting Set to Transform Communication Landscape by 2015

A treaty agreement was signed today at the conclusion of ITU¡¯s Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06) in Geneva, heralding the development of ¡®all-digital¡¯ terrestrial broadcast services for sound and television. The digitalization of broadcasting in Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran by 2015 represents a major landmark towards establishing a more equitable, just and people-centred Information Society. The digital switchover will leapfrog existing technologies to connect the unconnected in underserved and remote communities and close the digital divide. "The most important achievement of the Conference," remarked Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of ITU, "is that the new digital Plan provides not only new possibilities for structured development of digital terrestrial broadcasting but also sufficient flexibilities for adaptation to the changing telecommunication environment." The agreement reached at RRC-06 paves the way for utilizing the full potential of information and communication technologies to achieve the internationally recognized development goals.

The date of transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting in the year 2015 is intended to coincide with the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals. The regional agreement for digital services has been reached in the frequency bands 174 - 230 MHz and 470 - 862 MHz. It marks the beginning of the end of analogue broadcasting. The Conference agreed that the transition period from analogue to digital broadcasting, which begins at 0001 UTC 17 June 2006, should end on 17 June 2015, but some countries preferred an additional five-year extension for the VHF band (174-230 MHz). The Regional Radiocommunication Conference was chaired and brought to a successful conclusion by Mr Kavouss Arasteh of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From http://www.itu.int ¡¡06/16/2006


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Chinese President Calls for Building Harmonious Asia at CICA Summit

Chinese President Hu Jintao called for the building of a harmonious Asia of enduring peace and common prosperity, at the second summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) being held on Saturday in Almaty. "Asia is a continent of great diversity. ... Solidarity and coordination of the Asian countries and peoples are crucial for the success of Asia," Hu said at the one-day summit. The Chinese president urged Asian countries to increase mutual trust and coordination to build a new type of security architecture. "We should respect every country's right to safeguard national unity, pursue its development strategy and formulate domestic and foreign policies independently," he said. As Asian countries are diversified in culture and civilization, Hu called on different nations to "respect the diversity of human civilizations and encourage their mutual exchanges and mutual enrichment." While calling for strengthened cooperation within regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN and CICA, President Hu also urged Asian nations to uphold multilateralism and strengthen cooperation internationally to create favorable conditions for the development of Asia as a whole. Hu also stressed that the CICA Forum has become a platform where different civilizations carry out dialogues and different countries seek mutual understanding. On the economic front, Hu suggested that Asian nations bring into full play their economic synergy and actively enhance cooperation in areas such as energy, transportation, finance, agriculture, telecommunications and public health. "Asia is crucial for China's development" the president said, adding that China "pursues a foreign policy of fostering a harmonious, secure and prosperous neighborly environment." CICA, a forum aimed at increasing security in Asia, was initiated by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who called for its creation at the 47th UN General Assembly in 1992. The CICA now comprises 17 members and has nine countries as observers. Its first summit was held in Almaty in June 2002.


From Xinhuanet ¡¡06/17/2006


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E-Commerce Picking Up in Asia

Statistics from Visa Asia-Pacific showed that between July and September last year, over 3.6 million Visa-enabled online transactions were recorded, a jump of 94 percent over the 1.9 million registered in the same period in 2004. For the same period, online spending by cardholders with e-commerce merchants outside their home countries exceeded US$377 million, a Visa spokesperson noted in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia. The figure represents a 71-percent growth over 2004. "The rise in online shopping throughout the Asia-Pacific region is part of a wider global trend that has seen online sales increase dramatically over the past few years," said the Visa spokesperson. "The figures demonstrate that the online environment makes it extremely easy for consumers to purchase goods and services while traveling, or to shop overseas without leaving their homes." According to Visa, online merchants in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand also had plenty to smile about during the third quarter of 2005; they experienced a 100 percent growth in revenues over the same period in 2004. Over half, or 58 percent, of online spending in the Asia-Pacific region come from cardholders in five foreign markets--Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Spenders in these five countries forked out US$220 million between July and September 2005 for purchases made from the region, the Visa spokesperson said.

Statistics from e-commerce site eBay Hong Kong also indicate a growing community of Web shoppers. eBay Hong Kong's member base has grown "at an incredible rate", said its public relations manager Susanna Muk. Almost 80 percent of the members joined in the last two years, she noted. According to a fact sheet Muk provided, a mobile phone, camera or video game is sold every minute on eBay Hong Kong, while bridal tiaras and Tamagotchi pets are snapped up by the hour. The fastest-selling items are clothes--one article of clothing is purchased every 30 seconds. To encourage greater e-commerce adoption by small and midsize businesses in the country, the e-commerce giant launched eBay Stores in Hong Kong last month, partnering PCCW Directories to provide a custom e-shop for businesses that cannot afford to utilize their existing resources for the Web. Over in India, the India Online 2005 study by New Delhi-based JuxtConsult indicated that up to 45 percent of Indian Net users have shopped at least once online, according to a company spokesperson. The research agency estimates that one in every four Internet users purchases online regularly. Over 30,000 Internet users were surveyed for JuxtConsult's first-ever study of Internet trends in the country.

According to the spokesperson, JuxtConsult will update these findings when it releases the results of its 2006 survey in the next few weeks. The company will provide a comparison of how user Net trends have changed in the past year. In Singapore, online spending appears to hold steady after a hike from 2003. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's 2005 survey on infocomm usage by individuals and households showed the proportion of Internet users that have made online purchases was unchanged from 2004, at 27 percent. Average spending on the Web has also remained fairly constant, from 2004's S$539 (US$338.44) over six months to S$1,068 (US$670.60) over 12 months in 2005. In contrast, online shoppers in Singapore spent an average of S$336 (US$210.97) over six months in 2003. One Singapore-based hotel chain, however, has reported an increase in revenues from the Internet channel. Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts saw more than a 50-percent year-on-year increase in revenues from online transactions for five of its properties in 2005.

From http://www.zdnetasia.com ¡¡06/19/2006


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India, China Top Asian Outsourcing Destinations

India and China predictably emerged as the top two Asian destinations for bank outsourcing with Singapore in the third spot, a survey said on Tuesday. While not known for cheap labour, the city-state is becoming a favoured location by financial institutions. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Economist Intelligence Unit polled 130 senior executives in the financial services industry. Four in 10 picked India as the country where their firms are most likely to set up outsourcing arrangements. Thirty-two percent selected China and 11 percent Singapore. "Financial institutions in Singapore tend to focus on activities which involve higher value-add to an institution, such as risk management, financial analysis and control and IT oversight functions," The Business Times quoted Dominic Nixon, PwC Asia's financial services leader, as saying. Lower-cost countries tend to attract processing and operational tasks. Mainland China was also selected as the location where most banks and other financial institutions expect their next mergers and acquisitions. It was followed by India, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.


From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com¡¡ 06/20/2006


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OECD Governments Gave € 225 Billion in Support to Farmers in 2005

Government support to farmers in OECD countries totalled € 225 billion in 2005, representing 29% of farm receipts. The proportion is unchanged from the previous year and only marginally lower than the 30% reported in 2003, according to a new OECD study. Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries - at a Glance adds that 59% of government support last year was in the form of measures to boost the prices of farm products. These include import tariffs, export subsidies and domestic output subsidies which, says the OECD, badly distort production, markets and trade. Government support, measured as the overall Producer Support Estimate (PSE) varies widely across OECD countries. The PSE in the European Union was 32% of farm receipts in 2005 (compared with 33% in 2004). In Australia it was 5% (unchanged from 2004) and in the US 16% (unchanged). The largest proportions of government support are found in Japan (56% in 2005), Korea (63%), Norway (64%) and Switzerland (68%).

The report argues against the view that high levels of support are necessary to ensure the quality of the environment and prosperity in rural areas. Most support goes to those who have the largest farms while government aid often ¡°leaks¡± out those who are not the intended beneficiaries such as suppliers or people who own, but do not farm, land, it says. Policies to improve the environment are often ineffectual because they mainly offset pressures on natural resources from subsidies that stimulate production. Rural development is more effectively fostered by measures such as investment in infrastructure, education and social services. Presenting the report in Brussels, Ken Ash, the OECD¡¯s deputy director of food, agriculture and fisheries said, ¡°If governments break the link between support and production and establish better links between support and what they are trying to accomplish ¨C for instance, environmental sustainability or rural community well-being, they will improve the performance of domestic policies and avoid negative impacts on world markets.¡±

From http://www.oecd.org ¡¡06/21/2006


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Economic Outlook Update Shows Pacific Rim Economic Growth Still Robust

Pacific Rim economies have continued to show surprising robustness in the face of serious systemic risks to growth, says the June economic update from the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council. The impact of high oil prices and uncertainty over exchange rates has been muted thus far. Since their last forecast for 2006 in November 2005, PECC¡¯s forecast panel has upgraded its view on real GDP growth for the region by more than half a percentage point from 4.4% to 5.0%. East Asia¡¯s combined current account surplus will begin to decrease this year-PECC¡¯s forecast panel expects the sub-region¡¯s surplus to decrease from US$372.5 billion in 2005 to US$367 billion this year.

From Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada Press Release ¡¡06/23/2006


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South Asia Can Reduce Poverty by Two-Thirds in a Decade

Building on recent strong growth, countries in South Asia can dramatically reduce poverty by embracing policies aimed at increasing investment and productivity, and improving the quality of labor, while addressing pervasive income inequalities and poor service delivery, according to Economic Growth in South Asia, a World Bank report released today. The report finds that while countries in the region are growing rapidly, evidence shows that expansion, due to its uneven nature, is deepening income inequality and may be hard to sustain in the longer term if the key constraints are not addressed. "South Asia's decade-long economic expansion has raised the possibility that the sub-continent could eliminate poverty in our lifetime," says Shantayanan Devarajan, co-author of the report and World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia region. "But to realize this dream, South Asians must create the conditions and incentives necessary to sustain and accelerate growth that benefits all. The economic well-being of several hundred millions of people depends on it." A striking feature of the report is analysis showing that South Asian countries could see single-digit poverty rates in a decade if economic growth accelerates to 10 percent a year until 2015. This means the number of people living in poverty could go down by two-thirds in less than ten years. Looking back at the remarkable economic performance of the past decade, the report suggests South Asian countries should aspire to this goal and emulate the East Asian growth rates of 7 to 10 percent that lifted millions of people out of poverty in relatively few years.

Impressive Progress so Far: Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have all grown at over 5 percent per year on average during the last five years. Growth in both Pakistan and India topped 8 percent last year. Forecasts put South Asian economies on a steady path of expansion this year.Economic growth has already contributed to an impressive reduction in poverty. In the last decade, poverty in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal fell by 9, 10 and 11 percent respectively; in Sri Lanka it fell by 6 percent. Only in Pakistan did poverty increase by 8 percentage points due to economic stagnation throughout the 1990s. The most recent evidence (2004-5 survey), however, suggests that with the resumption of high growth, poverty is again declining rapidly in Pakistan.

Translating growth into poverty reduction: But much remains to be done to achieve accelerated growth rates that increase economic prosperity across the board, the report says. First, economic growth in the past decade has resulted in growing income inequality which may act as a constraint to higher growth in the future. Second, while conflict, corruption, and high fiscal deficits may not have constrained growth in the past, their persistence may become binding in the future. Faster growth must also be more equitably shared, the report says. With nearly 400 million poor people, poverty in South Asia is not just endemic, but increasingly concentrated in lagging regions. Not only are these regions poorer, but their growth rates are substantially slower than the better-off regions. The phrase "two Indias" that describes the great divide between those who benefit from Indian economic growth and the 300 million poor people being left further behind is a vivid example of the current challenge, repeated across South Asian countries. Also key to reaching higher growth will be addressing rural and urban infrastructure deficits. The report says around $25 billion annually is needed for new infrastructure in the region. "While the policy agenda appears daunting, the dynamism and openness that characterizes South Asia today makes us optimistic that some, if not all, of these challenges can be met and the region could be substantially free of poverty in a few decades," says Ijaz Nabi, report co-author and Sector Manager for Economic Policy for the World Bank's South Asia region.

Measuring the quality of South Asia's economic growth: A good way to measure South Asia's quality of growth and its potential impact on economic prosperity is to compare key economic indicators with those of East Asian countries growing at a similar pace.Even though recent increases in South Asian per capita incomes now match those in East Asia, data shows that East Asian levels of prosperity are associated with much higher Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), skills, infrastructure, and perceptions of the business environment than those currently present in South Asia. For example, it takes 89 days to start a business in India, compared to 41 inChina.Although manufacturing in South Asia has registered healthy growth in recent years, it needs to grow much faster for the region to catch up with their eastern neighbors. Between 1968 and 2001, the share of manufacturing value added in GPD increased 400 percent in Malaysia, 300 percent in Thailand, and over 200 percent in Korea compared to an increase of only 20 inIndia and 30 percent in Pakistan.In 2003, East Asia attracted US$59 billion in FDI; China alone attracted US$53.5 billion. In the same year, FDI inflow to South Asia was US$5.1 billion, one-tenth East Asia's, with India receiving US$4.3 billion. To catch up with East Asia, the report says, South Asian economies must save and invest a lot more. They must also increase the efficiency of investment and ensure that higher economic growth drives faster poverty reduction. The report further cites country-specific challenges that policy-makers would need to address to accelerate growth. These include reducing fiscal deficits and public debt in India; strengthening governance in Bangladesh; deepening human capital in Pakistan, and addressing civil conflict in Sri Lanka and Nepal.

From http://web.worldbank.org ¡¡06/25/2006


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CHINA: To Reform E-business Education

Electronic business graduates in China are facing low employment rates, said a senior official from the Ministry of Education. "Every year, China will have more than 10,000 e-business postgraduates. However, only 20 percent of them will find jobs, a ratio that is much lower than the 47 percent average among all of the country's graduates," said Wu Yang, a senior official from the higher education department. China has more than 180 universities with established e-business courses, since the sanction of the Ministry of Education in 2001. More than 70,000 students are taking these courses. The country needs an estimated 200,000 e-business talents every year, because it has 8.7 million enterprises. More than 100,000 among them are large scaled or medium sized businesses. The low employment rate was mainly due to the current courses and education styles, Wu said. The teaching levels in the universities' differ from each other. Some of the universities provided less practical opportunities for students. Many students lacked a full understanding of e-business and its usage, Wu said. Under the circumstances, the graduates did not meet the demands of the highly competitive industry, she added.

To solve the problem, the Education Ministry established a committee in May to guide the e-business courses in universities. E-business education should include fundamental courses on information technology, business management and Internet economy, said Chen Deren, the deputy director of the committee. They should also include professional courses to shape students' capability to use and create, as well as some avant-garde courses in-phase with social and economic developments, he added. Universities should also enhance cooperation with society and enterprises, and build practical based courses for those students. This will help them pickup the fundamental e-business knowledge as well as be capable of serving these enterprises and society, he said.


From Shanghai Daily ¡¡06/05/2006


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Bureau Chief Blogs to Protect Environment

The head of Shenyang Environmental Protection Bureau has caused a stir in the online community by launching a blog. "Social figures have no privacy. Nor should a public service department. I want to share my questions, agitation and excitement not only with my family, but also the people of Shenyang," Li Chao wrote in his first post, to explain the purpose of the blog. He then posed a question to stimulate debate: "Who is the driving force behind environmental protection? Government? Enterprises? Environmental protection bureaus? Or the public?" By Wednesday afternoon more than 1,000 people had read the blog, with 64 posting comments. It was launched on June 5, World Environment Day. So far Li has made three posts.Most netizens commenting on the blog have reported pollution cases in Shenyang. Others gave support or advice to Li, and discussed environmental protection issues. "Everyone should take responsibility in the campaign," wrote one supportive netizen, named Yiqiesuifeng. However, not everybody was impressed. "How many county- and district- level environmental protection bureaus have you ever visited? You should come here to gauge opinion, but don't patronize us," said a blogger using the name Basic EPB. Other netizens expressed doubts that Li would continue to update the blog. Li said he could take the criticism. "I am not doing this to show off, but rather to collect the public's opinions so as to take the right action." "Environmental protection is a comprehensive topic which involves law, economy and regulations. We welcome constructive and concrete suggestions," he added. "Although some netizens think the blog will bring me more trouble than good, I still want to carry it on," Li wrote.

From China Daily ¡¡06/08/2006


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China Promises No-barrier Environment for Disabled in 100 Cities

China will begin to install barrier-free facilities for the disabled in 100 cities over the next five years to make daily life and travel easier for the handicapped. Only a small number of the country's 600 cities have begun upgrading public places by making them more wheelchairs accessible and installing navigation aids for the blind, says a report on disabled people. The report, released at an on-going conference on the disabled which opened on Thursday, says that the construction of barrier-free facilities in cities still lags far behind the requirements of the disabled. Stepping onto a bus, crossing the road when the light turns green or using a lavatory are things non-disabled people do without a second thought. "But for people with impaired sight and other physical disabilities, everything can be trying," 43-year-old blind masseur Yang Xinghua said. Yang, who has worked as a masseur for 17 years, said Beijing has many more facilities for handicapped people than in the 1980s, when it was rare to see any handicapped person on the street. "At that time, they stayed at home because of the inconvenience and awkward stares of people," Yang said. Beijing is now one of 12 demonstration cities that are creating a no-barrier environment for the disabled. Other cities include Tianjin, Shanghai, Dalian, Qingdao, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou.

The report shows that by 2004, 24 percent of sidewalks had been installed with special tiles to aid the visually impaired in the 12 cities. Audio signally had been installed in 1,160 intersections to alert blind people when it was safe to cross the road. Airports all over the country have been renovated with no-barrier facilities. Straight lifts and special entrances have been built for disabled passengers in subway stations in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Buses with lower boarding platforms have been put into use along certain routes in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou, the report says. In addition, more TV stations are airing programs with sign language interpretation, and more TV dramas and movies show carry closed captioning for the deaf, says the report. "All these are a good start for a no-barrier environment, which will help the handicapped participate in the social life and enjoy public services more easily," said Deng Pufang, chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF).The report, however, says few barrier-free facilities have been built or provided in rural areas. The first national survey on disabilities in 1987 revealed that China had about 60 million handicapped people, with most of them living in rural areas. The country is currently conducting its second national survey on disabled people, with new figures likely to be released at the end of this year.

From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/10/2006


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China Dedicated to Raising Women's Economic Status

China is committed to raising women's economic status, Vice-Chairwoman of China's National Working Committee on Children and Women Hong Tianhui said in Cairo on Sunday. China has been dedicated to protection of women's rights and raising their economic status by cooperation with enterprises, Hong told Xinhua on the sidelines of the 2006 Global Women Summit, which was opened Saturday in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.? Hong attributed China's significant achievements in this field to its constant efforts to realize gender equality. China has done its utmost to ensure women's rights to job opportunities and fair sharing economic resources and social progress since China hosted the fourth UN women's conference in 1995 in Beijing, she said. During a pre-summit ministerial roundtable meeting on Saturday, Hong told 43 other participants that China has taken three measures to raise women's economic status, including implementation of favorable policies to support women entrepreneurship, providing financial and technological support for women who wanted to set up their own business, and developing women's potential to get jobs.

According to Hong, more and more Chinese women have begun to set up their own enterprises and women entrepreneurs now account for some 20 percent of total Chinese entrepreneurs. She said that China would continue to narrow the gap between men and women in possession of development resources and income distribution as the world's most populous country was building a well-off society. The three-day summit, dubbed "the Davos for Women" in reference to the men-dominated annual economic forum, was attended by some 900 leading women from 88 countries and regions. This year's summit, the 16th one since its first meeting in Canada's Montreal in 1990, has drawn record number of representatives. Led by Hong, China sent a 35-member delegation to the meeting.

From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/12/2006


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Online First for Chinese Book

China has for the first time published a book online before publishing it on paper. Although online reading is catching on as a trend, publishers still tend to publish hardcopies before launching the electronic versions, said Pan Xianli, deputy editor-in-chief at Writers Publishing House. The publishing house, which edited and published the e-book "Not Angel, Not Devil," will publish the paper version only 90 days after the e-book launch. The electronic version will sell for just 6 yuan (US$0.75) because of its low cost of production, while the book will be sold for 19 yuan (US$2.4)."The launch of the electronic version first is a trial for us," Pan said. "We hope the electronic version and paper version will establish a good interaction for sales." A national survey on people's reading habits in the Internet era conducted by Beijing Founder Electronics Co. Ltd showed that 27.8 percent of Chinese were accustomed to reading books and articles on the Internet in 2005, while the figures in 1999 and 2003 were 3.7 percent and 18.3 percent respectively. China currently has 110 million Internet users and the number is growing steadily. By May 2006, China had more than 400 publishing houses operating online publishing businesses.

Zhou Jin, vice president of Founder Electronics, which provided technical support to the publishing of "Not Angel, Not Devil", said that publishing houses were not very active in publishing e-books back in 2001. "But we had established cooperation with more than 100 publishing houses by the end of 2005. It takes about three months for a published book to have an electronic version online," Zhou said. "The launch of this book is an important signal for the publishing industry that electronic publishing will play a major role in the future," Zhou said. "Not Angel, Not Devil" is a story set in a Chinese university about two sisters' different attitudes towards life and love. The author, Zhu Xingchen, said that she thinks publishing the e-book first won't affect the sales of her book. "Internet users can read a few paragraphs online before their purchase, which I think will promote the sales of my book."


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡05/15/2006


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UNESCO Estimates 120M Migrant Workers Contribute 16% of Country¡¯s GDP Growth

Migrant workers have contributed 16 per cent of China's gross domestic product (GDP) growth over the past 20 years, according to a new report. The report, released by the United Nation's Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) and the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, showed that migrant workers made significant contributions in the industries of construction, commerce, catering and urban environment cleaning. China has 120 million rural laborers working in cities and the figure is likely to reach 300 million by 2020. At least one-third of the migrant workers are women aged 17 to 25.Zhan Shaohua, assistant research fellow of the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the promulgation of policies concerning migrant workers by the State Council earlier this year provides a guarantee for all-round protection of migrant worker's legitimate rights and interests, including their rights to getting on-time payment, social insurance, and education for their children in cities. ¡°The problem is how to ensure the policies are earnestly implemented. It requires government supervision and migrant workers' awareness of safeguarding their own rights," said Zhan.In a bid to help improve migrant worker's living status, the UNESCO and the institute jointly launched a research project on protecting migrant workers' rights and interests in 2002, running to 2007.Eight cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Dalian and Kunming, have been picked as pilots to study the living status of migrant workers, especially the status of female workers. So far, nearly 80,000 female migrant workers from all over the country have benefited from the project.

From China Daily ¡¡06/12/2006


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Chinese Leaders Call for Better E-governance

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-Premier Huang Ju have called for faster and more comprehensive development of government websites in order to provide the public with better, more transparent on-line services. At a national meeting on Monday, Premier Wen, who is also the head of National Leading Group on Information, said e-governance should be accelerated to boost the reform of government administration and management, improve efficiency and services to the public and allow the public to participate in the decision-making process. E-governance allows governments to use information and communication technologies to improve delivery of information and services, encourage citizen input and make governments more accountable, transparent and effective. Vice-Premier Huang Ju, deputy head of the leading group, told the meeting that e-governance is an important aspect of government reform and it can improve government administration and efficiency. China has made a lot of progress in e-governance, Huang said while calling on governments at all levels to further coordinate development of e-governance with economic and social development. According to a recently released survey by the information office under the State Council, China had more than 2.6 million websites by the end of 2005, of which more than 100,000 are government portals.

Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, who is also a deputy head of the leading group, said at the meeting that the goal of e-governance development is to set up a nationwide electronic governance network by 2010 to provide a mechanism for information sharing. Government web portals should become an important channel for the public to access government information and more than 50 percent of administratively approved programs will be published on line by 2010, Zeng said. China launched the central government website, www.gov.cn, on Jan. 1, 2006. The website, in both Chinese and English, contains links to all provincial and city-level governments.


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/13/2006


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Better Online Government

A consensus has been reached among government officials that a well-operated e-government network will benefit both the government and the public. This comes after Premier Wen Jiabao's message to February's national e-government meeting, in which he called for the country's e-government to be more efficient and provide better services to the public. E-government will simplify the delivery of services to citizens, streamline the operation of government and enhance government's responsiveness to the public. We live in an increasingly interconnected society, where the Internet has brought great convenience to our social and economic life. And now the government has realized the importance of smooth communication with the public through cyber technology. The central government and some local authorities have established websites to make their services more accessible to the public. These online initiatives improve the effectiveness of government in a number of ways, such as increasing public participation, improving access to public services and reflecting public opinion in a more timely manner.

But such functional government websites do not seem to account for a major proportion of the nation's e-government activities. Many government websites seem unable to post basic public information in a timely manner, let alone use the new channel to improve access to public services. In some areas, e-government facilities are nothing more than "image projects," installed as a token response to the central government's call for the promotion of electronic public services. Such a qualitative change in the style of government will require massive investment. CCID Consulting, a famous consulting company based in Beijing, estimates that the price tag for China's e-government efforts in 2005 may have been as much as 48 billion yuan (US$6 billion). Bolder estimates from other sources even put the figure in excess of 200 billion yuan (US$25 billion) a year. If efficient use is not made of e-government facilities, this will mean that millions in taxpayers' money have simply been poured down the drain. The central government has realized the problem and called on local governments to pay more attention to making e-government work. Local governments need to grasp the importance of providing good services both via the Internet and in the real world.


From China Daily ¡¡06/14/2006


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China's First Provincial Development Program Passes Environmental Assessment

The five-year development program of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has included proposals from a strategic environmental impact assessment (SEIA), the first development program in the country to do so, a senior environmental official said in Beijing Wednesday. "This is the first time that a SEIA has formed part a province's economic and social development program," said Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). "The practice will pave the way for the country to combat environmental degradation at the source," he said. The environmental assessment attempts to predict and assess the environmental impact of economic policies and programs before they are implemented. China is facing severe environmental degradation, which many blame on the lack of environmental assessments during the drafting of development programs. Inner Mongolia has suffered environmental deterioration in recent years due to over-zealous industrial development, intensive farming and over-grazing of the grassland. Pan said Inner Mongolia's new five-year development program had adopted most of the proposals put forward in the SEIA report which was prepared by the SEPA and regional environment departments. The proposals try to balance environmental protection with economic growth by establishing five major ecological regions and cutting coal production to 400 million tons from 500 million tons. Inner Mongolia, which accounts for one-eighth of China's land mass, is rich in mineral resources and is an ecological sensitive area. It acts as a barrier preventing sand storms from reaching Beijing and other parts of China.


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡06/15/2006


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'Top 10 Executive Brands in China' Survey Shows Nokia, Lenovo, Air China Among Leaders

Chief Executive China magazine, published by Global Sources Ltd., has released the results of its Second Annual "Top 10 Executive Brands in China. ¡°(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20030303/LNM011LOGO-b ) Among surveyed China executives, the top local and overseas brands are: -- Business Hotels -- Shangri-La -- Cell phones -- Nokia (Nachrichten/Aktienkurs) -- Desktop PCs -- Lenovo (Nachrichten) -- Digital Cameras -- Canon -- Domestic airlines -- Air China (Nachrichten) -- Express Delivery -- FedEx -- Management Consulting -- McKinsey -- Men's clothing -- Armani -- Personal Banking -- China Merchants Bank -- Wine&alcohol -- Wuliangye The survey drew responses from 2,452 business managers on 19 categories of products and services they regularly use. Criteria included brand admiration, brand advantage, brand preference, brand vitality and relevance.Publisher of Chief Executive China magazine, Craig Pepples, said: "The only Chinese brand on last year's list was Beijing University's Guanghua School of Management. This year, local brands have gained traction with executives, with China Merchants Bank, Lenovo, Air China and Wuliangye taking top spots in their categories.¡±

By product category, the survey shows China's top brands are: -- Cell phones: Nokia (50 percent), Motorola (17 percent) and Samsung (13 percent). -- Desktop PCs: Lenovo (29 percent), Dell (27 percent) and Apple (13 percent) ranked highest. Lenovo (36 percent), Dell (29 percent) and HP (9 percent) are the top three choices for a new purchase. -- Digital Cameras: Sony and Canon have the same market share at 31 percent. However, Canon is the most admired brand (26 percent vs. Sony's 24 percent) and the first choice for new purchases (28 percent vs. Sony's 21 percent). -- Domestic Airlines: Air China (23 percent), China Southern Airlines (19 percent) and China Eastern Airlines (17 percent) are the top rated local brands. Lufthansa is the top brand among foreign airlines. -- Express Delivery: FedEx (44 percent), China Post EMS (19 percent) and DHL (15 percent). Ninety-six percent of respondents use these services, and 95 percent plan to use them in the next 12 months. -- Men's Clothing: Armani (23 percent), Valentino (14 percent) and Dunhill (11 percent) are the three brands among China's executives. -- Personal Banking: China Merchants Bank (35 percent), Bank of China (19 percent) and The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (13 percent) are the highest ranked local brands. HSBC and Citibank are the top two overseas brands. -- Wine and alcohol: Wuliangye (27 percent), Mao-tai (25 percent) and Great Wall Wine (14 percent) are the top three local choices for wine and alcohol, while Chivas Regal, Hennessy and Remy Martin are the top three overseas choices. The survey was conducted in May and June. Complete results are scheduled to be published in the August 2006 issue of Chief Executive China.


From http://www.finanznachrichten.de ¡¡06/20/2006


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China¡¯s Population to Peak at 1.5 Billion In 2030S

China's population will peak at 1.5 billion in the mid-2030s, experts predict. According to a research report released yesterday, the population will begin to gradually drop after reaching the peak. Meanwhile, the number of new-born baby boys will continue to outstrip that of baby girls, with 119 boys for every 100 girls, according to the national population development strategy research report. The ratio has remained stable, with a national census six years ago yielding roughly the same figure, but is still worrying, according to the report. The internationally recognized normal ratio is 103-107 of one sex against 100 of the other. But in China, for every 100 new born baby girls, there were 109 baby boys in 1982, and 111 in 1990. Foetus gender identification and non-medical abortion, which continue despite being illegal, are blamed for the unbalanced gender figures. A draft of a revision to the Criminal Law, which was discussed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress late last year and this April, proposes that those who help identify the gender of a foetus for non-medical purposes face criminal charges. Approved by the State Council, the report aimed to investigate population development trends, as well as the relationship between population, the economy, resources and the environment.

More than 300 scholars, including 11 academicians, spent two years compiling the report, which also involved more than 70 governmental departments and organizations. Their research won an award yesterday at a national conference on population and family planning. "China has now entered its fourth birth peak," said Jiang Fan, vice-director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, yesterday. The previous three peaks occured in 1949, 1962 and 1987. China's population stood at 1.307 billion in late 2005, according to census figures. The research report urged the government not to change current population policies. In the coming 30 years the average fertility rate will be about 1.8 children for every woman, it said. "A higher or lower fertility rate is not beneficial for economic and social development in China," it added. China's labour forces will become the largest in history in the next 30 years, said Chen Li, director of the national population development strategy research project.


From China Daily ¡¡06/23/2006


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JAPAN: Government to Nudge Women Back into Workplace

Expanding support to women re-entering the labor market after giving birth or raising a child will ease the shrinking of the labor force exacerbated by the falling national birthrate, the government said in a report released Friday. The fiscal 2005 white paper on gender equality, approved Friday morning by the Cabinet, emphasizes the importance of offering second chances to women wishing to return to the workplace. A Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications survey showed that the labor force totaled about 67.66 million workers in 2000, of which 49.3 percent were women. If that percentage remains static, the labor force could shrink by 7.29 million workers in 2020 to about 60.37 million, according to an estimate by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in the report. The Cabinet Office Gender Equality Bureau, however, said the shrinkage could be eased to 1.58 million if the gender gap in labor force participation rates, in which women trailed men by about 27 percentage points in 2000, is halved. "Paving the way for women to use their greater potential will energize the society," the report says.

The report also cites a health ministry survey in 2003 that said 23 percent of women who worked a year before giving birth to their first child continued to work a year and a half after giving birth. Citing also a 2005 survey by the internal affairs ministry that 13.2 percent of nonlabor force among women age 30-34 said they wanted to work, the report surmises that women in their 30s raising children are highly motivated to work. The white paper says the government will introduce measures in fiscal 2006 to support women, including a job-placement service named Mothers' Hello Work, job skill seminars for those who temporarily left work, and instructing small to midsize companies to draft action plans to help working parents.

?From The Japan Times ¡¡06/10/2006


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ASEAN Urges Japan to Open Market Wider to Spur Regional Integration

The chief of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Friday urged Japan to open its market further so as to promote regional economic integration for eventual creation of an East Asian community. Ong Keng Yong, head of the Jakarta-based ASEAN Secretariat, told a press conference during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Tokyo, "Japan should show the lead in opening its market because for ASEAN as well as for the East Asian community to prosper, we have to do a lot of trade among ourselves." ASEAN, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has been playing a central role in regional efforts to establish an economic community. Last December, the East Asia Summit was launched in Kuala Lumpur at the initiative of ASEAN, with membership of 16 countries -- the 10 ASEAN members plus Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Asked how to handle the U.S. presence in the region as the momentum to advance regional integration increases, Ong said the Southeast Asian nations' body is "not designed to exclude anybody." ASEAN, set up in 1967, is "open, outward-looking" and wants to be "inclusive," he said, adding U.S. policymakers have so far reacted positively to ASEAN's views on how to proceed with regional integration. At the same news conference, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said of the East Asian community,

"There is a consensus among countries of East Asia that it should be driven by ASEAN." "The common denominator is ASEAN itself. We believe we can provide leadership," he said. On the nature of the envisioned East Asian community, Razak said it should follow the "ASEAN model," which is based "on a step-by-step consensus." In order to accelerate regional integration, strong political commitment is needed, he added. Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu underlined the importance of the ASEAN market, at a time when the emerging Asian economies of China and India are grabbing global attention because of their potential to become major economic powers. "Don't forget about Southeast Asia. We have a 600 million population with increasing purchasing power," Pangestu said. "We are committed to strengthening and accelerating the ASEAN economic, social and security community no later than 2020," she added, stressing the regional body's competitiveness.


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com ¡¡06/16/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Female Employment Rate Hits Record High

Female employment in Korea reached its highest level ever last month, indicating the role of women in the national economy is growing rapidly. The National Statistical Office (NSO) said Thursday that the number of employed females in Korea amounted to an all-time high of 9.9 million last month, up 2 percent from 9.7 million a year earlier and higher than the previous record of 9.77 million in October 2005.The female employment rate reached 49.8 percent in May, meaning nearly half of Korea¡¯s female population aged 15 years and above are earning wages. The rate rose 0.5 of a percentage point from 49.3 percent a year earlier. The female unemployment rate dropped to 2.7 percent in May from 3.3 percent a year earlier, staying at its lowest level since the 2.5 percent seen in December 2002, the NSO said. Meanwhile, the number of male employees in Korea inched up 0.7 percent year-on-year to 13.59 million in May. The male employment rate dropped 0.4 percent year-on-year to 72.1 percent in May from 72.5 percent a year ago. The agency said recent hikes in economic participation by women reflect higher female education and a change in public perception toward women in the workplace. Rising household expenses, particularly high real estate prices and rising educational expenses, were another factor encouraging more women to get jobs, it said.

Preparations for High-Paying Jobs: Of the notable job market trends, the NSO also pointed out that the number of people quitting jobs to get higher paying jobs has increased rapidly and the average time spent by fresh high school and university graduates searching for jobs has grown longer. The number of people who are quitting jobs to prepare for examinations and interviews for higher paying jobs increased to a historic high of 303,500 in May, up 27.9 percent from a year earlier,¡¯¡¯ said Choi Yeon-ok, NSO director for employment welfare statistics. Until 2004, the number of jobseekers hunting for higher-paying jobs stood at 100,000 a month, but doubled to 200,000 in January 2005 and surpassed 300,000 in May for the first time. It indicates that the lifetime job concept that once prevailed among Korean workers has faded rapidly.

 

From The Korea Times ¡¡06/15/2006


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Korea¡¯s Jobless Rate Falls

Korea's unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent in May, matching a three-year low, as retailers, finance companies and builders hired workers to meet the rising consumer demand in Asia's fourth-largest economy. The jobless rate dropped from 3.5 percent in April, seasonally adjusted, the National Statistical Office said yesterday. The unemployment rate matches January's figure, which was the lowest since February 2003.Higher employment can boost wages and help shore up spending by consumers, as rising oil prices and global interest rates threaten Korea's economic growth. The Bank of Korea last week joined central banks in Europe and Asia in increasing benchmark rates to dampen inflation. "The decline in the jobless rate will help the economy in the second half," said Kim Seng-hyun, an economist at Woori Investment & Securities Co. "People are getting more jobs, and that will probably result in more income and consumer spending." Increased consumer spending and exports helped Korea's economy expand 6.1 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the fastest rate in more than three years. Asian economic growth might slow, as governments pass on rising oil prices to consumers and higher interest rates increase the cost of household debt, economists at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said this week. The number of people employed in construction rose 0.2 percent in May from a year earlier. Employment in service industries gained 4.9 percent. Jobs in transport, telecommunications and finance gained 4.2 percent.

From http://joongangdaily.joins.com ¡¡06/15/2006


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MONGOLIA: The World Bank Supports Development of Information and Communications Infrastructure in Rural Areas

The World Bank¡¯s Board (International Development Association) has approved an investment grant of US$ 8 million for the Information and Communications Infrastructure Development Project (ICIDP). The project aims to significantly increase the coverage and use of relevant information and communications technology (ICT) among the rural population and improve e-government services by encouraging private sector participation in information communication services in Mongolia. CT infrastructure in rural areas is the most challenged issue in Mongolia. Although teledensity in Mongolia has increased substantially for past ten years, there are virtually no services available outside of the soum (sub-provincial district) centers. At the bagh (village) level, the vast majority of residents are seasonally nomadic. Over 90 percent of all subscribers of telecommunications are in the capital, provincial capitals, and large districts. Ulaanbaatar itself accounts for over 60 percent. The World Bank is committed to support Mongolia¡¯s rural community to reap the benefits that ICT provides, namely through improved access to information or better delivery of public services. The Bank considers that information and communication technologies are important tools, not only for communications but also as an enabler for socioeconomic development in the country. In addition to that, the private sector will be empowered to play an even greater role in the provision of ICT infrastructure and services in Mongolia.



From http://web.worldbank.org ¡¡06/08/2006


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Organized Training on Intellectual Property

On June 16, within the framework of the New Path Business Incubator project the MnDG organized training on "Commercialization of scientific researches" jointly with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Technology Transfer Center and Academy of Intellectual Property Owners. More than 40 researchers and scientists from five institutes and four research corporations of the MAS attended this training. The training covers basics of intellectual property, its economic and management issues, and management of technology transfer.


From http://www.gateway.mn ¡¡06/22/2006


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ATM Networks Unite to Lower Transaction Costs, Service Fees

AFTER much hemming and hawing, the operators of the Philippines¡¯ three automated teller machine (ATM) networks finally have interconnected, promising what the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said would be lower transaction costs for the depositing public. On Tuesday Bancnet and Expressnet formally launched their interconnection, completing the link-up among the three major players. In 1997 Expressnet interconnected with Megalink. ¡°This sharing of network infrastructure is a strategic move that is expected to reduce transaction costs, which in turn would translate to lower service fees for all ATM-related transactions,¡± BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said during the launching ceremonies of the Bancnet-Expressnet interconnection at the BSP compound. The network interconnection aims to provide convenience across cardholders of the three networks. It will allow ATM cardholders to access over 6,500 ATMs nationwide. The BSP chief, however, failed to say by how much transaction costs would go down as a result of the interconnection.

Tetangco, said however, the central bank will craft relevant regulations that would ensure that risks inherent in electronic banking are adequately managed and depositors are protected at all times. The BSP has issued a memo advising banks to exercise vigilance in their operations and to educate the public against fraudulent practices involving ATM transactions, he said. Earlier, the BSP required banks to display ATM transaction charges. Aurelio Montinola, president of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), which is part of the Expressnet, said the convergence of the ATM networks encourages the use of alternative channels. BPI and unit BPI Savings Bank introduced Expressnet in 1990. At end-May, Expressnet had 2,538 ATMs connected, giving it a 39-percent share of the market, with almost 6.58 million cardholders, or 46 percent of the total active cardholders in the country. The Bancnet and Expressnet interconnection provides more than 2,000 additional ATMs for Expressnet and Bancnet cardholders to use. (by Maricel E. Burgonio)


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ ¡¡06/21/2006


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Local Officials See Positive Impact of Computerization

APALIT, Pampanga: The P13.8-million computerization project here is expected to increase the town¡¯s revenues especially on real-property tax (RPT) collection. During the project¡¯s recent launching at the town¡¯s hall here, Mayor Tirso Lacanilao said the project aims to promote openness in government operations and generate more funds for projects in the province. He told reporters that Systems and Plan Integrator and Development Corp. (SPIDC) has installed the equipment on May 18. The contract signing between Lacanilao and the project proponents was held at the municipal hall on April 26. The engineer Julieta M. Cunanan, SPIDC president and CEO, said at least four main systems would be installed, which will include the real-property tax administration, business permit and license tax administration, treasury operations and income monitoring and the government appropriations and accounting management system. The municipality is expected to generate at least 30-percent collection on RPT at the end of 2006 and a possible 100-percent increase by the end of 2007. The local government could test the revenue-collection capability of computerization early next year since people often pay taxes during the first quarter. The SPIDC is specializing in government-based information and communications technology infrastructure development for local governments.

At least 18 LGUs have testified that their systems are working well as they noted an increase in their revenues from tax collections. ¡°I am pleased with the results of the city¡¯s investment in computerization. There was a 134 percent increase in revenue from business permits alone within six weeks of having the city¡¯s tax system automated,¡± Mayor Arlene Zambo of Toledo City, Cebu, said. In a feasibility study conducted by the SPIDC, the municipal treasurer¡¯s report on total revenue collection from 2000 to 2004 indicated an efficiency rate in RPT collection of 75.37 percent for the basic and special education fund, and an average of 24.63 percent per annum for the actual RPTs that are due for collection. The report also suggested that systematic measures should be done to stabilize the growth rate and provide exact figures to forecast and plan other strategies for boosting revenue collection. The installation of information systems that is best suited for the task is imperative, as it will guarantee lesser time for paperwork preparation and allow more time for planning and field work (tax campaign), this will also provide executive with prompt and exact information for efficient and effective decision making, the study suggests.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ ¡¡06/19/2006


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$200-M World Bank Loan for RP Education

The World Bank has approved a $200-million loan to help address the declining quality of elementary and secondary education in the Philippines, the bank said Wednesday. For decades the Philippines has been acclaimed as one of the most highly educated countries, the bank said in a statement. But in recent years national and international tests have shown that its human capital is slowly eroding. World Bank country director Joachim von Amsberg suggested that inadequate state revenues were to blame. ¡°The recent fiscal reforms and the resulting fiscal improvements have created a more favorable environment to support strategic reforms for better public services, such as education-sector reforms,¡± he said. ¡°Increased tax collection can have a direct impact on better public services such as education.¡± The loan, the biggest for the Philippines in recent years, is repayable over 20 years.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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1.6 Million Move Up from Poverty

Extreme poverty levels in the Philippines have declined slightly to about 30 percent of the population, with minority Muslims improving their lot significantly, the government said Wednesday. ¡°In terms of population, 30 out of 100 Filipinos in 2003 had income short of the minimum cost of satisfying the basic requirements, an improvement from 2000 [when] 33 out of 100 Filipinos [were] . . . below the poverty threshold,¡± the National Statistical Coordination Board said. That improvement took 1.6 million Filipinos out of poverty. The board puts the per capita poverty threshold at P35.93 a day in income, enough to buy about 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of rice, the staple cereal. The World Bank estimates that 40 percent of Filipinos live on $2 a day or less. Three predominantly Muslim provinces in the south¡ªSulu, Lanao del Sur and Tawi-Tawi¡ªhauled themselves off the 2000 list of the 10 poorest, with double-digit declines in the incidence of poverty, the board said in a statement.

These areas, which form part of a Muslim self-rule area called the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, have benefited from large-scale government and international aid since the signing of a peace treaty between Manila and the separatist Moro National Liberation Front in 1996. The government is observing a three-year-old ceasefire in the area with another separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and hopes to sign a wider political settlement later this year. However, the government survey also found that six other provinces in the south, many of them with substantial Muslim populations, are now among the 10 poorest provinces in the Philippines. The Philippines has a population of 76,500,000 as of 2000, and a growth rate of 1.8 percent.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ ¡¡06/08/2006


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SINGAPORE: Shared Services Lab Established in Singapore

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and HP Labs have signed a three-year research agreement to establish the HP Shared Services Platform Laboratory (HP SSP Lab) in Singapore. This initiative is expected to help put Singapore on the world map in frontier research work on next-generation data centre and grid-related technologies. The agreement was signed by Boon Swan Foo, Managing Director of A*STAR and Dick Lampman, Senior Vice President of Research, HP, and Director, HP Labs. The joint R&D laboratory will initially be located at A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC). IHPC and the laboratory will be relocated to Fusionopolis when Phase 1 of Fusionopolis opens in late 2007. Fusionopolis is an info communications and digital media hub where companies, corporate labs and A*STAR's research institutes will co-locate, sharing state-of-the-art facilities and test-bedding infrastructure. The HP SSP Lab, powered by machines like HP Blade servers running on AMD processors, will drive technologies to meet the demands of a diverse and multi-disciplinary community in physical sciences, engineering, info-comms, digital media and enterprise. This is a major step in advancing grid utility technologies in Singapore.

A combined team of more than 30 researchers from IHPC and HP Labs will develop technology-based software tools and platforms that are intended to provision compute capabilities and software in a shared services delivery model. This collaboration is aimed at developing management software for "next-generation data centres" that run continuously, reliably and securely with minimal staffing. Boon Swan Foo, Managing Director of A*STAR said, "Singapore recognises the importance of utility computing in the scientific and business communities. We hope this collaboration will position Singapore as one of the leaders in cutting-edge data management service technologies." "This is the culmination of a year's collaboration based on a virtual lab concept. We are pleased that HP Labs has decided to join us as a major partner in Fusionopolis," Boon added. IHPC has been engaged in developing various software components that could be used to coordinate distributed resources and services. These components enable the resources to communicate in standard language, discover available resources and services in a virtual, dynamic environment, whilst co-operating with one another to execute an IT/compute job. Significantly, these components allow virtual resources to be shared within a multiple domain community of users in a transparent manner. As such, IHPC will be working with HP Labs to fully automate the creation, deployment, monitoring and management of such shared services deployed at Fusionopolis.

"HP wants to help our enterprise customers solve their business challenges through automation tools that will allow them to create an agile, cost-effective and predictable IT service environment," said Dick Lampman, Senior Vice President of Research, HP, and Director, HP Labs. "We hope through this collaboration with A*STAR in Singapore that we can generate some of the next-generation IT technologies, that will serve the needs of the public and business communities here and around the world." The HP SSP Lab brings new research capabilities to the company's already established R&D, manufacturing, Asia Pacific and Japan hub facilities in Singapore. HP has been in Singapore for the past 36 years and this HP SSP Lab builds on long-established relationships with the Singapore government agencies.


From http://www.pstm.net/ ¡¡06/15/2006


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Coming Soon: High-Definition Programmes on Your PC

Some of you will soon be able to watch high-definition (HD) programmes on your personal computer. Between August and September, the Media Development Authority (MDA) plans to start a trial of HD programmes using Internet Protocol (IP), a standardised method of transmitting information across the Internet in packets of data. MDA chief information officer Yeo Chun Cheng, 46, revealed this to TODAY in an interview on the sidelines of BroadcastAsia, an annual exhibition and conference on the latest technologies in digital and interactive media. He said the initiative would involve at least 1,000 households and last about six months. The trial comes shortly after similar HD trials were recently launched on terrestrial and cable TV by MediaCorp and StarHub, respectively. Both companies are collaborating with MDA, which is spearheading moves to introduce Singaporeans to HD programming, a digital technology promising pictures that are about five times sharper than analogue broadcasts, and in a wide-screen format with surround sound. ¡°We can deliver content in various platforms ... We create a trial to give an occasion for broadcasters to test out what is the right platform, the right business model, the right kinds of content that consumers actually want,¡± Mr Yeo said.

He added that Singapore Telecommunications was among ¡°a number of very interesting players¡± ¡ª both foreign and local ¡ª that wanted to get involved in the trial. The eventual commercial rollout would probably see competition among several service providers, Mr Yeo said. When asked how much HD programming over the Internet would cost, he said it was hard to tell as the market was new and had no existing business model. But he expects broadband prices, which have been on the decline over the past two years, to continue falling. As for the price of viewing HD content over the Internet, Mr Yeo said: ¡°My feeling generally is that some content may be free, some you will have to pay, some may be paid for by company advertisements.¡± Mr Yeo joined MDA in 2004, after spending about eight years in Silicon Valley working for start-ups including D2K, a data warehousing firm, and Life Capital, which provides business-to-business services.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ ¡¡06/21/2006


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National Cyber-Threat Monitoring Centre to Open Next Year

A high-tech National Cyber-threat Monitoring Centre will start operations early next year to keep Singapore's electronic networks safe from cyber hackers and terrorists. It is all part of the National Trust Framework under the new IT masterplan unveiled on Tuesday. The aim of the centre is to protect online assets and boost the confidence of companies looking to move their data systems here. The national cyber-threat monitoring centre will be one of the first in the region, and will be manned by infocomm security experts 24 hours a day 7 days a week at a location yet to be confirmed. "The centre will give us early warning about impending cyberthreats, and we should be able to disseminate such information and advise users on what sort of action they can take to mitigate such threats. The final outcome would be a safer cyber environment. As more services go online, a more pervasive use of such services can only come about when users are assured of the integrity safety of information and transactions online," said Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive, Infocomm Development Authority.

The Infocomm Development Authority was also quick to reassure users that the centre will only monitor activity that could be of threat, and not personal traffic. "Such a centre is not meant to monitor anybody's traffic. On the contrary, we want to monitor activity that could be of threat. Certainly, users can be assured the monitoring centre can only do more service to them, and increase assurance when they go online," added Mr Leong. Industry players welcomed the move. "If we can monitor things like hackers, terrorism and so on, we are able to give investors a peace of mind when they come to Singapore to invest and make Singapore the heart of their banks, the hub of research centre and so on. This would mean Singapore is very secured, so investors are willing to come in and invest more in Singapore," said Jeannie Tan, Senior Director, Asia-Pacific, PM-B Innovative Data Centre Designs.

"We will have a place where many of these data feedback come in, and emerging threats can be integrated so we have a better picture of what's really going on out there. If anything vital happens in the world, it will find its way to our shores very fast. If we are not able to discern what's happening quickly, we will be in a fair bit of trouble, so it will go some way to make it a safer place to operate in," said Tan Sian Lip, Director, Consulting, CrimsonLogic Pte Ltd. The national cyber-threat monitoring centre will work with other similar centres all over the world to come up with a coordinated response to viruses, hackers and terrorists in cyberspace, and protect the interests of businesses, individuals and the government online. Under the masterplan, IDA is also studying the possibility of a Cybersecurity Act to protect data and privacy, and is also pushing for spam control to be legislated.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ ¡¡06/21/2006


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Singapore's Network Vision

Singapore has become the latest country to push an initiative creating a next-generation network within a decade. At the CommunicAsia conference this week, Singapore government officials outlined a multibillion dollar IT and telecom plan to build a wired ¡°Intelligent Nation¡± by 2015. The ambitious IN 2015 plan, drafted by the government with plenty of consultation and feedback from the private sector, will start with local service providers offering free Wi-Fi access, initially partly funded by the government, throughout Singapore by Sept. 2007. By 2012, officials promise that an \open-access, next-gen wired network (probably fiber based) will be put in place, delivering broadband speeds up to 1Gbps and hosting a variety of nifty applications ranging from telemedicine and digital learning to IPTV and video conferencing.In the process, the initiative is expected to create 80,000 jobs, including 55,000 in telecom and infocomm, as well as double the size of the industry and nearly triple the amount of current infocomm export revenue. Nine service providers already have put in bids for the wireless portion of the network and nearly three dozen companies have weighed in with ideas on how to build it. It¡¯s certainly a complicated and ambitious effort Singapore is undertaking, done in part to stay competitive with regional powerhouses like India and China. And it¡¯s another indication that some of the world is outpacing the US in its ability to tap private and public sectors to move forward and capitalize on new technology to boost trade and business. Last year British Telecom announced its own multi-billion dollar plan to wire the UK with a 21st Century network.

Meanwhile the US is bogged down with scandalously low and expensive broadband penetration; a raging political battle over telecom reform on Capital Hill; a fractured potpourri of competing new technologies; an increasingly vocal municipal vs. private sector battle over wireless broadband access; and no centralized plan or vision to embrace the future. Some may celebrate this as a free-market achievement, but looking at how other nations are embracing telecom¡¯s promise, it seems more like the wheels are falling off the American cart. To be sure, it¡¯s not really fair to compare Singapore or the UK (with their much smaller populations and land mass) to the sprawling US. But ¡°the vision thing¡± is certainly relevant. Singapore has blended private sector initiatives with public sector needs and brought both sides together to develop an exciting future vision. US service providers and the federal government, in contrast, seem to take a one-step forward, two-step back approach, content to let the unbridled ¡°free market¡± determine what technologies survive, seemingly with no direction or underlying design. This may please certain political constituencies in the US, but looking around, it¡¯s easy to see the world is indeed flattening and whatever technology lead the US may have is quickly being squandered as others move aggressively to seize the initiative. Singapore deserves praise for at least trying to define its future IT agenda and espousing a cooperative model that just might turn out to be the correct one.


From http://www.americasnetwork.com/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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VIET NAM: Vietnamese SMEs to Invest $263.3 Million in IT in 2006

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Vietnam will purchase around 450,000 computers this year according to a recent survey conducted by US-based Access Markets International (AIM) Partners. The survey says that only 11% of 730,000 SMEs in Vietnam, which have from 1 to 99 employers, use computer for business. More than 40% of SMEs that do not have a computer now plan to purchase one within the next 12 months. On the other hand, an amount of $263.3 million will be spent on IT. The survey shows that Vietnamese SMEs are now in the first stage of adopting IT and constructing fundamental infrastructure for IT. According to AMI Partners, SMEs in the world would apply IT in 3 stages, from setting up infrastructure to connecting and then applying advanced IT solutions to expand their business network. In the first stage, SMEs invest in PCs, printers, and other IT products to improve their business efficiency. They purchase IT products mostly from retailers and have high demand for basic services and supports.

¡°As the rate of Vietnamese SMEs applying IT is low and the Government has many initiatives in using IT as a tool to push up socio-economic development, SMEs will have so many IT investment plans, focusing on purchase of computers, especially PCs rather than laptops¡±, said Ms. Diana Ng, an AMI Partners expert at the firm¡¯s Singapore office. ¡°Moreover, Vietnamese SMEs that have computers say that replacement of backward hardware with new ones and expansion of hardware facilities are 2 out of 10 strategic points for 2006¡±, she further said. Nearly three quarters of computers to be produced this year are to meet businesses¡¯ demand for additional PCs, only 18% are for replacement of backward PCs. In the next 12 months, more than 80% of Vietnamese SMEs will purchase PCs from retailers. The remaining 20% say they will buy PCs directly from manufacturers.


From http://www.vneconomy.com.vn/ ¡¡06/21/2006


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BANGLADESH: 'ICT Best Means' to Eliminate Poverty in Bangladesh

Information and communication technology (ICT) is the best means to eliminate poverty. Microsoft Bangladesh Limited Country Manager Feroz Mahmud said this while speaking as the chief guest at the certificate distribution ceremony of the trainees of 'Partners in Learning.' The ceremony was jointly organised by Northern University Bangladesh (NUB) and Microsoft Bangladesh at the NUB auditorium in the city Monday. IBAT Trust Chairman M Shamsul Haque, chaired the ceremony. Microsoft Manager (Public Sector) KM Imran Al-Amin and NUB Treasurer M. Abu Bakar Siddique among others spoke at the function. Microsoft Bangladesh Education Programme Manager Farid Ahmed was also present on the occasion. The Microsoft country manager urged the teachers and students to be equipped with modern technology so that they can face the challenge of the 21st century. ICT education is urgently needed to promote all sectors of the country, Firoz Mahmud said. Bangladesh is the 101st country, which signed the 'Partners in Learning' programme, he pointed out. Teachers as well as students will be benefited from the training and it will help create an IT-based new generation in the country, he said. About ten thousand teachers will be given training under this programme across the country, he added. IBAT Trust chairman expressed the hope that this programme would be expanded to the village level schools and colleges so that the rural students would get the benefit of the information technology. The function followed by a ceremony to award certificates among two hundred participants, who completed the training programme.


From http://www.digitalopportunity.org/ ¡¡05/31/2006


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Bangladesh Telecom Infrastructure Development Key for Poverty Alleviation

Rural infrastructure development, particluarly improvement in road, telecommunication and electricity, has increased livelihoods opportunities for the rural citizens in Northern Bangladesh, concluded the participants in a recent workshop organised by Care Bangladesh. The workshop, entitled 'Urban-rural linkages in Bangladesh: Impact of infrastructure and the food value chain on the livelihoods and migration of landless households, women and girls in the northern region' also observed that many poor households have little access to these facilities, hence, they remain unable to take advantages of the infrastructure development.


From http://www.digitalopportunity.org/ ¡¡06/05/2006


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INDIA: Digital Mapping of India on Fast Track

India hopes to complete digital mapping of around 70 percent of the country in a year, leading to leveraging data assets for multi-functions like traffic management and infrastructure development. An example of its multi-dimensional use would be illustrated with the completion of a three-dimensional model of Chandni Chowk neighbourhood in the walled city area of the national capital by next month, Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal said here on Monday. The 3D model being developed with an investment of around Rs.100 million would enable civic authorities to not only chart the development that needs to be undertaken in one of the most densely populated parts of the capital but also monitor any violations of the city norms, Sibal said. On the digital mapping of the country, he said with the approval of the ministry of defence, task is to be undertaken by an autonomous body, the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), to be created under the ministry of science and technology. The cabinet had approved June 2 a proposal to set up the NSDI, which is to be manned by a 10-member panel headed by a CEO. "NSDI is a kind of soft infrastructure to be built at the national level for coordination, acquisition, processing, storage, distribution and improved utilisation of spatial (geographic location) data," said Sibal. A liberalised National Map Policy, approved last year, has helped India emulate the success of several developed countries, many of which are helping create a Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI).

From Times of India ¡¡06/13/2006


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Regulator Issues Wireless Broadband Consultation Paper

The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued its highly anticipated consultation paper covering wireless broadband services, including UMTS and WiMAX. The paper has identified two overriding issues concerning the introduction of high speed wireless services ¨C namely, frequency allocation and licence fees. The issue of frequencies is already a hot topic in the market, with the nation¡¯s GSM and CDMA operators clashing over their preferred spectrum for 3G services. The TRAI had previously proposed allocating spectrum in the IMT-2000 standard 2GHz frequency band, for both GSM and CDMA operators, designed to support both W-CDMA and CDMA2000 1xEV-DO 3G development. Whilst the country¡¯s GSM operators supported the plan, the CDMA lobby is demanding that the 1900MHz band be made available, saying that there is a dearth of CDMA equipment and handsets available for use in the 2GHz spectrum. The issue of spectrum fees is similarly undecided and the TRAI is asking whether the pricing should be determined by an auction or other bidding process, or be cost-based dependent on the price for redeployment of spectrum. The regulator is inviting comments and suggestions on the paper by the end of the month.


From http://www.telegeography.com/ ¡¡06/13/2006


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India Orissa e-Governance Strategy Identified

Orissa today unveiled two e-governance roadmaps here to ascertain the present capacity and potential for improvements through information communication technology (ICT) intervention. "The use of ICT in administration will enhance transparency and expedite the service delivery system. As many as 15 departments have been selected at mission mode projects and over 200 services have been identified across these departments for e-governance initially," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said after releasing the two roadmaps. The suggested e-governance would have four sectors -- e-management, e-service, e-democracy and e-commerce to realise its goal. Patnaik said e-governance vision aimed at establishing a networked government for greater transparency and accountability in delivery of public services to facilitate moral and material progress of all citizens.


From The Hindu ¡¡06/15/2006


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Indian State Launches e-Governance Software

In the first step towards e-Governance, the State government has launched its own indigenous special software called 'Office Procedure Automation Software', developed by the State¡¯s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) cell. According to Lalthla Muana, Deputy Secretary, IT, all secretariat offices and departments in the state capital were now connected through computer. With the installation of this software, files would move faster and office procedures would be less burdensome, he said. The main objective of the system, Mauna said, is to monitor all pending files in the respective departments, so that the required files can be tracked later if necessary.

From The Hindu ¡¡06/15/2006


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Public Private Partnership for e-Governance Enhanced

E-governance enhances the efficacy of citizen and government interaction. This has been made possible by public-private sector partnerships leading to the availability of more affordable and rugged PCs to suit operating conditions in the hinterland and deepening Internet penetration. With the realisation of e-governance projects in India, the time has come to review the role of the public sector as well as private sector to speed up the process of implementation of different projects related to e-governance. The government agencies throughout the world are considering and conducting e-governance initiatives with the help of private players; the scene in India is much the same. The development of network-based distributed systems that serve numerous and diverse constituents and improve the overall efficiency and functioning of government is a priority. Considering these requirements, private players such as IT vendors are extending their overall support to realise e-governance projects for Indian citizens. Not just the central government, state governments are also actively participating in these projects. Today, most states have drafted state-specific IT policies that are in various stages of implementation. The central government has also taken several initiatives to advance ICT usage across all government bodies as this will benefit the common man. These include the roll-out of the National e-governance Plan (NeGP), the launch of Mission 2007, and the formation of e-panchayats across the country.


From http://www.digitalopportunity.org/ ¡¡06/19/2006


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Millionaires in India Grew by 19.3% in 2005

India seems to be minting millionaires. Its millionaire population in 2005 shot up by 19.3 per cent over the past year, second only to South Korea¡¯s 21.3 per cent on world charts. The World Wealth Report, released by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, says India had 83,000 millionaires (people with more than $1 million or Rs 4.5 crore in net financial assets, excluding their residence and consumables). The rate at which India is producing rich people is hardly surprising, says the report. It goes on: ¡°Also, according to the most recent Goldman Sachs projections, India has the potential to become the fourth largest economy by 2025 and the third largest by 2050, behind only the US and China.¡± Worldwide, the number of millionaires swelled by half a million in 2005 and there were 8.7 million of them, more than New York¡¯s population. When it comes to the number of millionaires, the US tops with 2.67 million, nearly a third of the global millionaire population. Germany, the UK, China, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Russia each have more than 100,000 millionaires. The wealth of the millionaires totalled $33.3 trillion in 2005, up 8.5 per cent. The upper crust of this league is made of 85,400 ¡°ultra high-net-worth-individuals¡± with financial assets of more than $30 million each. The Asia-Pacific region, the report says, has surpassed Europe to become the second most popular region after North America for international investment. And if the report is to be believed the India story will get better. China and India are set to drive the Asia-Pacific region, helping it capture an increased share of global output.

From http://hindustantimes.com/ ¡¡06/18/2006


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SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka Aims to Attract Fifth Mobile Operator

Sri Lanka plans to expand its mobile phone market to five players in a bid to bring down consumer telephony costs, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) announced on Monday. Following hot on the heels of a 3G licence auction, a fifth national GSM network operating concession will be offered to potential bidders that apply before the closing date of 30 June, priced at around USD4 million. TeleGeography¡¯s GlobalComms database notes that the regulator launched a 3G licence tender on 23 May by inviting expressions of interest from the country's existing four cellcos ¡ª Dialog, Mobitel Sri Lanka, Celltel Lanka and Hutchison Telecommunications Lanka. It gave the companies two weeks to respond to the offer of an unspecified number of USD5 million UMTS concessions including W-CDMA spectrum in the 2GHz band. The 3G auction is expected to be completed in July 2006. According to GlobalComms, the country¡¯s total number of mobile subscribers reached 3.6 million at the end of March 2006, a cellular penetration of more than 18%, up from 11.3% at the end of 2004. Telekom Malaysia subsidiary Dialog Telekom currently dominates the sector with 2.3 million subscribers, or 65% of the market.

From http://www.telegeography.com/ ¡¡06/07/2006


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PAKISTAN: Pakistan¡¯s Varsity Enrolment Among World¡¯s Lowest

Pakistan is ranked amongst the lowest in the world in higher education enrolment, with just 2.9 percent of students enrolled in universities in 2005. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan (2005-2006), the current adult literacy rate is 53 percent and net enrolment at primary level is 52 percent. Government spending on education in 2005-06 was just 2.1 percent of GDP, way below the regional average. The survey said that the government intends to double higher education enrolment over the next five years by increasing the capacity of existing higher education institutions and also establishing new ones. The quality of education provided is not up to the mark, which can be gauged from the fact that not a single Pakistani university is ranked among the top 500 universities of the world. According to the survey report, the government introduced several initiatives to improve the education system including free education up to matriculation, free textbooks, providing missing facilities in schools and grants of scholarships to girls. The report said a uniform academic year starting from September 1 will be introduced in 2007. Composite exams at secondary level will be introduced in 2007 and at higher secondary level from 2009. English language has been made compulsory from class one and English has also been set as the medium of instruction for science, mathematics, computer science and other subjects. Marks allocated to practical exams in science and social science subjects will be reduced from 25 percent to 15 percent in 2007, and the format of board exams will be revised by 2007. In terms of madrassa reform, the survey says the government simplified the registration process for madrassas and the Interior Ministry introduced an effective procedure for fund distribution, under which many madrassas applied to provincial/area governments for financial assistance. Some 58 seminaries in Azad Kashmir were cleared for financial assistance and cheques were distributed to 36 registered seminaries in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

From The Daily Times ¡¡06/05/2006


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PAKISTAN: Online Recruitment Service Unveiled

Pakistan's Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) has rolled out an online recruitment system for civil service jobs. The two-year, 38.6 Pakistan rupees million (US$640,000) project means that candidates will now be able to apply for civil service and other government positions online. Users will be able to create profiles and receive e-mail alerts about jobs that match their stated criteria. They can also use the system to keep track of the results of civil service examinations and to be informed of impending interviews. Previously, the FPSC had to print this information and send it to candidates by post. A computer lab has been established at the FPSC in Islamabad to manage the new system, and about 300 staff have been given basic IT training. The Government said that, in the next phase, an online examination system would be rolled out so that candidates would not have to travel in order to sit exams.

From http://www.pstm.net/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: ICT Exhibition to Take Place in Mid-September

The seventh Uzbek international exhibition "Telecommunication and information technologies - InfoComExpo 2006", place for demonstration of latest achievement of telecommunication sphere of Uzbekistan, will be held in Tashkent on 19-21 September. The largest international exhibition on telecommunication and information technologies in Uzbekistan will take place at Uzexpocentre. ITE Group Plc (Great Britain) and ITE Uzbekistan are organizers of the event. ITE Uzbekistan told UzReport.com that some 100 companies from 18 countries of the world will participate in the event this year. InfoComExpo 2006 will collect largest producers of systems and communication, information security, operators, producers of specialized equipment and software under one roof. ITE Uzbekistan said over 400 international companies, which assist to development of information-communication technologies in Uzbekistan, participated in the event since its foundation.


From http://business.uzreport.com/ ¡¡06/23/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Stop Aboriginal Culture Lessons: Report

ABORIGINAL children should not be taught their culture in schools, a report endorsed by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop says. The report, by the Menzies Research Centre, suggests removing indigenous culture from the curriculum, because it prevents Aboriginal children from progressing in their education. Ms Bishop has said she will consider using the report, by Bennelong Society president Gary Johns, to frame policy. The report also urges governments to close schools in remote communities if they are not economically viable. Indigenous leaders and academics say there is no evidence to support the report and claim that the Government is being driven by racism and a belief that Aborigines should assimilate. The report suggests students who are less "traditional" are likely to do better in school. "Western education cannot and should not preserve Aboriginal culture," it says. "Too often, educators continue to defer to Aboriginal culture without recognising that Aboriginal culture is the problem. Can a culture that is pre-literate and pre-numerate survive in an education system that is meant to make children literate and numerate?

"Can a welfare culture that has no work ethic be in a position to prepare its children for school?" Dr Johns, a former Keating government minister, said it was up to parents to teach culture. "For too long we have been in a dual world which says perhaps we can assist Aborigines to learn their own culture as well as our culture," he said. Launching the report yesterday, Ms Bishop said Dr Johns had raised "a very interesting point". "I think what he's saying is that Western schools shouldn't try to inculcate Aboriginal culture into students, that that's a role for parents and elders, and I think that's a very sensible suggestion," she said. Labor Party national president Warren Mundine said the idea that Aboriginal culture should not be taught in schools was "the most idiotic idea that I have ever heard in my life". He said culture was a way to prevent indigenous children from becoming dysfunctional, and non-indigenous teachers needed better training. "One way we can resolve the issues in indigenous communities is by instilling pride in being Aboriginal," he said.

The director of the Institute for Indigenous Leadership in Education and Development, Chris Sarra, said Aboriginal culture should be embraced and the report represented a plan to "kill off one of the most ancient societies in the world". Meanwhile, Mark Leibler, co-chairman of Reconciliation Australia, said last night that the recent debate about sexual abuse and violence in indigenous communities had blamed Aboriginal people, rather than examine the problems' underlying causes. He said Aborigines had been defamed by recent suggestions, by Government ministers and others, that child abuse and pedophilia were part of indigenous culture. "To suggest that rape and pedophilia are part of Aboriginal culture is defamation. "Whether it's used as an excuse by perpetrators or a cop-out by non-indigenous Australians who find this explanation easier than facing up to their own responsibilities, it is slanderous and it is wrong," Mr Leibler, of Melbourne law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler, told the Sydney Institute.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡05/30/2006


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Investment Grows at China Rate

COMPANIES are pouring money into new investment as quickly in Australia as they are in China and intend keeping up the pace over the next year. A phenomenal 90.1 per cent lift in mining investment over the past year led the rise, but other industries, including manufacturing, finance and transport, are also building new capacity at a rapid rate. The 28.9 per cent lift in total business investment in the year to March is the fastest on record and matches the 27.7 per cent lift in China's business spending over the same period. While China is powering the global economy, with investment from around the world giving it growth rates of 10 per cent, Australia's growth this year is not expected to surpass 2.5 per cent. However, HSBC chief economist John Edwards said the rapid growth in business investment should raise Australia's capacity for economic growth over the next few years to more than 4 per cent, delaying the slowdown that will accompany the ageing of the population.

"Investment hasn't been higher as a share of GDP in the last half century. This suggests we may be able to push out for some time the eventual downturn in our trend rate of growth," Mr Edwards said. Peter Costello said the strength of business investment highlighted a shift in the composition of Australia's growth. "What we see is the Australian economy increasingly being led by business investment. We are seeing an improvement in our export performance at the same time as we see a moderation in relation to consumption," the Treasurer said. The capital spending figures contradict the widespread view that the mining boom is diverting resources away from other business sectors and depressing the east coast economies. Although some sectors of manufacturing are buckling under the force of Chinese competition, such as the textile and car parts industries, manufacturing as a whole is doing well with 14 per cent growth in its investment over the past 12 months. Upgrading of transport infrastructure and investment by banks in information technology have raised investment by other industries by 17.6per cent. Victoria, which gains little from the resources boom, has had a 23.3per cent lift in business investment over the past year.

However, this was eclipsed by the resource-fuelled increases of 58.8 per cent in Western Australia and 53.0 per cent in Queensland. Business investment rose by 9per cent in NSW, but its share of national investment has dropped to an all-time low of 22per cent. Investment has risen by 4.1 per cent in South Australia, and 13.2per cent in Tasmania. Business expects the growth to continue, with mining, only 4 per cent of the economy, to provide a third of investment in 2006-07. Companies have, over the past three months, upgraded their expected capital spending next year by 8.8 per cent. Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics believes the surge in capital spending, which has been under way for five years, will peak next year, with manufacturing in particular dipping, some economists are not so sure. ABN Amro senior economist Felicity Emmett said there remains a massive volume of work in the pipeline for commercial building and engineering construction.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ ¡¡06/02/2006


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Customs Report on IT Fiasco

A $300,000 report on fixing the $200 million Customs Integrated Cargo System will be handed to technology companies this Friday for consultation. Customs confirmed it had received the Booz Allen Hamilton report and would fulfil its promise to have an "open and frank exchange" with the industry about continuing problems and how to improve the system. Industry sources said they expected the report to "admit the obvious mistakes of the past", and move on to fixing the system. The most stark examination of the cargo project, whose introduction caused havoc at Australia's wharves and airports in October last year, will not be released until early next year. The Australian National Audit Offices report will provide an intensive review of the start-up, including an examination of problems associated with the system's introduction, including delays, cost over-runs and performance issues. Steve Morris, executive director of the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia, said the problems had added a cost burden to importers. "There are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed with the system, including basic software problems and productivity," Mr Morris said.

"I would say productivity is still down 15 per cent from prior to the introduction of the new system, and that can only be made up by taking on extra staff on both sides." A special meeting of the Customs National Consultative Committee will be held this Friday. The Customs chief executive chairs the committee, a national forum for communicating policies, practices and procedures relevant to the trading community and to work in partnership to resolve any difficulties. The committee meets quarterly, and includes representatives of Customs, the Brokers and Forwarders Council, the Australian Air Transport Association, Shipping Australia, the Australian Federation of International Forwarders, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the International Air Couriers Association of Australia, the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Exporters and Importers Association. Opposition customs spokesman Joe Ludwig said the Booz Allen Hamilton report would be a positive step. "Labor looks forward to the release of the Booz Allen report because it will be directed to getting the system back on track," Senator Ludwig said.

"As it is focussed on the future, we do not expect it to be particularly scathing or critical. "In identifying what went wrong, we expect the ANAO report due in January, to be more robust in examining how critical failures occurred." Meanwhile, Customs CIO Murray Harrison is also under scrutiny. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee was asked by Senator Ludwig to examine evidence from Mr Harrison to see if Customs misled the Senate. Mr Harrison said differences in answers he gave at Senate Estimates in person and in Customs answers to questions on notice were terminological. "The definition of critical incidents that we have given you in the answer to your question is not the same," Mr Harrison said. "My point is that I think they were used in different contexts." Customs minister Chris Ellison backed his man: "The description of critical incidents, so I am told, was one provided by the software system and not by Customs. "The cover sheet answer was at odds with the heading of a chart," he said.


From http://australianit.news.com.au/ ¡¡06/06/2006


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Minister Offers $900m for Broadband

The federal government has called for expressions of interest in using an $878 million fund for major broadband projects. Communications Minister Helen Coonan said she wanted to hear from companies, as well as local and state governments, on possible projects to be funded under the Broadband Connect program. "There is a unique opportunity to use a substantial proportion of these funds to leverage private investment in Australia's regional broadband networks and improve access to broadband services across the country," Senator Coonan said in a statement. Senator Coonan said she hoped the new projects would link with other government subsidised projects under the $1 billion Connect Australia program - a fund which came out of talks with the Nationals to ensure the passing of laws allowing the full sale of Telstra. She said the projects would also need to ensure fair and reasonable wholesale access and competition at the retail level. The expressions of interest close on July 14.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡06/08/2006


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Free Software Shields Kids from Cyber Smut

PARENTS will be given free software that prevents their children viewing internet pornography and other offensive material on home computers under a $117 million commonwealth crackdown on cyber smut. The three-year National Filter Scheme, announced by Communications Minister Helen Coonan yesterday, will also include the rollout of "child-friendly" filtering programs to all internet terminals in libraries across Australia. The Government will spend $20 million on a nationwide advertising campaign to promote the benefits to parents of using online filters, with an estimated two million families expected to take up the offer. The filter software will be able to be downloaded from internet service providers' websites or posted out as a CD to parents who call a 1800 hotline. The software, which looks for key words and certain types of images to block websites containing offensive or illegal material, must be installed on each separate home computer or library terminal.But church and family groups say the measures do not go far enough, and the Australian Consumers' Association has warned parents that only direct supervision will save their children from internet nasties.

And the federal Government does not have the power to compel state and local government libraries to install the software. The Government will also trial a bigger and much more controversial scheme that would result in filters being applied on the computer servers of ISPs, as already occurs in Britain and Indonesia. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will conduct the trial in Tasmania to assess the technology that can filter the internet before ISPs place it on their networks for access. The move is a partial victory for a vocal block of 63 Coalition backbenchers led by Tasmanian Liberal senator Guy Barnett, who wrote to John Howard in December calling for mandatory ISP filtering to tackle internet porn. Senator Coonan said the package was the biggest single commitment by government to "protecting families online in the history of the internet in Australia". "This is not a one-size-fits-all approach to protecting Australian families and we are not dictating to every Australian internet user what they should and shouldn't see," she said.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/¡¡ 06/22/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Zip Codes to Be Introduced Across NZ

As if recalling phone numbers, passwords, pin numbers and access codes is not enough, a new set of digits is about to be thrown into the mix. New Zealand Post will announce tomorrow a new postal system for delivering to street addresses, introducing "zip codes" to the country for the first time. Four digits will help an automated mail sorter to channel personally addressed envelopes to one of 1800 different zones of New Zealand. Within each of those zones, there will be about 10,000 separate mailbox addresses. In a similar arrangement to telephone STD codes, the first number of the four-digit postal code will identify the general area of a person's address, with 0 signifying Northland to the North Shore and 9 the code for Dunedin, Otago and Southland. Auckland city addresses will have a postcode that begins with 1, Manukau and East Auckland codes will start with the numeral 2 and Waikato/Bay of Plenty 3. The remaining digits will narrow the focus of where the letter is destined, down to at least the suburb or street level.

Z Post communications spokesman Richard MacLean said new suburbs and the burgeoning new "lifestyle" market of apartment and rural living made the system necessary. Mr MacLean said there was no need to worry about not knowing the postcode. "The mail is still going to get through." About 1.8 million information sheets will arrive in every mailbox from Thursday, outlining the changes and specifying each address's new postal code. The new system comes with an $80 million price tag. It will revolve around one of six "state-of-the-art" processing machines in six urban areas. Mr MacLean confirmed hundreds of jobs throughout New Zealand would be lost as a result, many of them in provincial areas such as Tauranga, Taupo and New Plymouth.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ ¡¡05/30/2006


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IMF to Give More Weight to Asian Vote

¡°Asian countries that are under-represented at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including China and South Korea, should in the future see an automatic increase in voting shares if their economies continue to strengthen, according to Anne Krueger, the IMF¡¯s First Deputy Managing Director,¡± reports The Financial Times (UK). ¡°IMF members meeting in Singapore in September are expected to agree to an ¡®ad-hoc¡¯ quota increase for such sidelined countries, and vote on further future amendments to the system. ¡­ Krueger added that she ¡®would like to see something that ... more accurately reflects appropriate weight in the international economic system. In addition, I hope that when we get that ¨C which won¡¯t happen in the first stage ¨C we can agree on some sort of automatic adjustment mechanism so we would not run up against this problem again.¡¯ Krueger stressed that the final decision would be taken by the IMF¡¯s membership, not its management, and that ¡®we need to get a fairly high percentage or we can¡¯t go forward.¡¯

Several European countries have lobbied against any drastic change to the current system, arguing that initial quota adjustments should be kept to a minimum. However, Krueger said it was well understood that some Asian countries had far less influence within the IMF than their global clout merited. Krueger said there might be other ways of addressing unfairness against Asia, including a rebalancing of IMF chairs on the Executive Board. Europe has eight chairs against Asia¡¯s five. The IMF is also discussing an eventual overhaul of procedures by which its managing director and senior executives are elected. Under present convention, the top slot goes to a European, with the US generally occupying the deputy role. Reform could open up either job to Asians. ¡­¡±


From http://web.worldbank.org ¡¡06/07/2006


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East Asia Urged to Develop Equities and Bonds by World Bank

¡°The World Bank on Thursday said East Asian banking systems had been revived since the late 1990s financial crisis but they needed to further develop equity and bond markets in order to achieve more robust financial markets,¡± reports Agence France Press. ¡°The World Bank said there was $1.6 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in East Asia and $9.6 trillion in financial sector assets at the end of 2005 -- the most significant development in the region since the financial crisis began in mid-1997. ¡®These assets reflect not only the resumption of large capital inflows but also the regions own savings -- which amount to almost a quarter of that of the US financial markets, and half that of Japan,¡¯ said Kenneth Lay, the World Bank¡¯s Acting Vice President and Treasurer. ¡®This is a tremendous achievement,¡¯ he said, speaking in Hong Kong during the release of the new report titled: ¡®East Asian Finance: The Road to Robust Markets.¡¯ ¡­¡± AFX Asia (Hong Kong) and Forbes write that ¡°¡­ however, to make the most of the foreign reserves and assets, East Asia needs to further diversify its financial markets. It should do so by developing its securities markets, in both equities and bonds, to improve intermediation, and provide a market price for risk, the report said. Although securities markets have grown by 300 percent in the last nine years, the banking sector, with $5.5 trillion in assets, still dominates East Asia¡¯s financial sector, it noted. To further develop the securities markets, it needs to foster greater liquidity and efficiency, it said.¡±

Reuters adds that ¡°¡­ the Asian corporate bond market particularly needed developing, the Bank said. Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia have sizeable corporate bond markets, but markets are small elsewhere. ¡­¡± Xinhua (China) notes that ¡°¡­ Homi Kharas, the World Bank's Chief Economist for East Asia and the Pacific, said much of the growth in the bond markets have been on account of bonds issued by governments, largely to restructure the banking system. ¡®While progress has been made in strengthening the banking sector in the region, policy makers need to focus on further developing the securities market and the bond market in particular,¡¯ he said. ¡®The key issue is the lack of liquidity in the secondary market, which affects the efficiency of these markets, and limits the overall size of corporate bond markets,¡¯ he added. The report noted that the efficiency and liquidity of these markets is affected by the availability of information to price securities accurately.¡±

From http://web.worldbank.org 06/22/2006


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CHINA: Cabinet Gives Go-ahead to Postal Bank

China Daily reports that ¡°China's cabinet, the State Council, has given the go-ahead to the establishment of the country's fifth-largest bank, China Postal Savings Bank, as a result of the restructuring of the country's postal system. ¡­ An earlier report from China Business News said that China Postal Savings Bank would start business at the end of this June if everything moved ahead smoothly.¡± Shanghai Daily adds that it ¡°will specialize in retail banking and intermediary services and serve rural areas and other communities with its extensive network. The new bank will take advantage of its far-reaching network to promote the development of the country's rural areas in conjunction with other commercial lenders¡± said Cai Esheng, vice chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission. ¡°The reorganization of the Postal Savings and Remittance Bureau, part of the China State Post Bureau, is part of China's efforts to reform its financial sector, which is scheduled to open fully to overseas institutions by the end of this year under China's commitment to the World Trade Organization.¡±

However, the Financial Times further reports that ¡°some analysts believe that the savings bureau, which has long been run as a cash-generating arm of the opaquely managed China Post, is ill-prepared to take on a lending business. The CBRC has granted the postal savings bureau unprecedented permission to offer small loans to rural customers under a trial intended to give it experience in lending under tightly controlled circumstances. However, in a sign of regulators' anxiety about the risks involved, the experiment has been extended to few depositors at the bureau, which manages a total of about 270m accounts involving Rmb1,300bn (Dollars 162bn, Euros 127bn, Pounds 84bn) in funds through its more than 36,000 branches. Most of the bureau's income comes from long-standing deposits with the People's Bank of China, the central bank, on which it earns highly favorable interest rates. Asia Pulse notes that ¡°as they are part of the postal system, postal savings lack sound corporate governance and an internal control system. Also, since the sector is not a real financial entity, it is difficult to open up investment channels. Another important obstacle in the path of reform is that staff in postal savings can move to other departments without too much trouble. Other workers can also move into the banking sector. Therefore some workers will lack necessary skills.¡± ¡°According to statistics from the CBRC, the postal savings service in China has more than 36,000 outlets nationwide, with two thirds of them in counties and rural areas. It oversees 1.22 trillion yuan (US$152.3 billion) of savings deposits, occupying 9.25 per cent of China's banking market.¡±


From http://web.worldbank.org ¡¡05/25/2006


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ICBC Prepares for Corporate Restructuring

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country's biggest lender, will restructure its head office this month to improve corporate governance and operating efficiency. The revamp of the bank's corporate structure will mainly involve three key areas: corporate business, financial affairs and capital transaction, ICBC said in a statement yesterday. It will add 10 new departments, including credit approval, risk management, asset and liability management, and will cut seven other divisions. The restructuring is in line with demands from the bank's clients, as well as its management and business processes, the bank said. "The corporate restructuring shows that the largest State commercial bank is transforming itself into a modernized bank with international standards," said Zhao Xijun, deputy director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Renmin University of China. He said that although ICBC started its shareholding reform later than the other two State commercial banks, namely China Construction Bank and Bank of China, it has carried out changes at a relatively rapid pace. The bank emerged as a joint-stock company last October and introduced overseas strategic investors Goldman Sachs, Allianz Group and American Express earlier this year.

"The corporate restructuring is a deepening of its shares reform, paving the way for its initial public offering this year," Zhao said. "2006 is listing year for ICBC," the bank said. "This restructuring is to clarify the functions of its business departments, and to enhance corporate governance and operating efficiency." ICBC's restructuring plan stresses client-oriented marketing, risk management and comprehensive business development. The bank said that corporate restructuring at its head office will be completed in June. Its branches nationwide will be restructured accordingly, based on their own situations and local market demands. However, Zhao said that the bank's most important and more difficult tasks will be how to integrate its resources, further expand its business and provide necessary services to enhance its competitiveness after the restructure. ICBC said that in addition to corporate restructuring, the bank will rebuild its business processes to better serve its clients and increase benefits. Chinese banks have been urged to improve their competitiveness to deal with challenges from overseas lenders when the country fully opens up the sector to international competition at the end of the year. The banks have sought public listings to improve financial standing. It has been reported that ICBC could raise between US$10 and 12 billion in a Hong Kong listing as early as September. The lender has hired China International Capital Corp, Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank AG, ICEA Securities Ltd and Merrill Lynch & Co to manage the initial public offering. Bank of China raised US$9.7 billion in Hong Kong last month and plans to issue around 20 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) in A-shares this month.


From China Daily 06/01/2006


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Yuan Gains on PBOC Hands-off Signal

A more hands-off approach from China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, towards the yuan sent the currency to its biggest gain in six weeks Wednesday, when the bank presented its first-quarter report on the mainland monetary market. The central bank said it would start withdrawing from the country's currency market, giving investors a greater role in setting exchange rates. "The frequency and strength of the central bank's open market currency operations will gradually weaken and be phased out," the bank said in its quarterly monetary policy report. The yuan gained 0.1 percent to 8.03 after the market closed in Shanghai, up 1.1 percent since the end of the US dollar peg on July 21 last year. Last month, the yuan fell 0.1 percent to 8.0219 against the US dollar. "The appreciation of the yuan [Wednesday] certainly was a result of the central bank's comment about its less interventionist policy," said a currency trader at a US bank. "The yuan could test a level above 8.00 against the dollar within six months. "The daily rate is calculated by the central bank through a weighted average of quotes from commercial banks, which are allowed to act as yuan market makers. The reference rate Wednesday was fixed at 8.0188 against the greenback, compared with a close of 8.0320 on the interbank currency market. Last July, the central bank replaced the dollar peg with a basket of currencies to determine the value of the yuan. It then introduced more market participants, including 15 banks as market makers. The central bank said Wednesday it would increase contacts with several market makers to help it better monitor supply and demand for the yuan.

In its report, the central bank also said it would introduce a series of measures to reduce liquidity in the banking system. "The report is not a surprise and echoes the currency policy," said Qu Hongbin, HSBC chief economist for China. "The direction is clear, to mop up excess liquidity in the banking system and cool off investment overheating.¡±Qu said the central government would possibly initiate two measures to reduce liquidity in the banking system. One would require banks to submit greater reserves towards their deposits to the central bank as backup funds. The central bank increased the rate of reserves against deposits from 6 percent to 7 percent in 2003, and to 7.5 percent in 2004, in attempts to restrain overheating in the economy. The other expected measure was the issuing of more government bonds or treasury bills to commercial banks in exchange for cash, Qu said. The bank expects the economy to grow by about 10 percent this year. Meanwhile, investment is also rising too quickly, stoking inflation fears. The yuan strengthened Wednesday after the euro and yen, which the central bank had included in the basket of currencies to manage the exchange rate, rose against the US dollar.


From http://www.thestandard.com.hk¡¡ 06/01/2006


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China Issues 30 Billion Yuan T-bonds

China began on Tuesday to issue 30 billion yuan (US$3.75 billion) worth of book-entry treasury bonds with terms of maturity of three months. The T-bonds, the seventh batch of its kind issued this year, carry an annual par interest rate of 1.66 percent, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement posted on its website. The issue of the T-bonds, whose interest will be calculated from June 6, will be completed by June 9, said the ministry. The ministry said the T-bonds are available to investors with accounts for investment in fund, share and bonds investment at China Securities Depository and Clearing Co. or China Treasury Bonds Depository and Clearing Co. The bonds will also be floated for cash trading from June 13 at the national inter-bank bonds markets or the stock markets. The ministry said that 24 of the 61 members of those selected through public bidding as underwriting institutions were awarded the rights on Monday to distribute the T-bonds. Major underwriters for the issue of the T-bonds include the China Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China and the Industrial Bank Co. Ltd.


From Xinhua News Agency¡¡06/06/2006


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Shanghai Plans Stock Trading Reforms

The Shanghai Stock Exchange is looking into widening the daily price band for blue chip companies, according to China Securities News, the exchange's official publication. The newspaper said the exchange was also hoping to allow investors to buy and sell shares on the same day in a bid to boost trading and liquidity. In addition, the exchange is drafting new rules on the introduction of margin trading, the buying and selling of stocks with borrowed funds provided by stock brokers. While analysts expect margin trading to be introduced in the second half of this year, there is not yet any indication of a timetable for the other two market proposals. However, analysts said the introduction of measures to increase market liquidity is just a matter of time given the near-completion of share reforms. These involved converting non-tradable State-held shares into regularly traded equity and the lifting of a year-long ban on initial public offerings. The exchange has proposed widening the daily price band the daily price limits within which the price of a security is allowed to rise or fall for the SSE 50 Index from the current 10 percent to 20 percent. The change would be applied to the bourse's top 50 firms, whose management is more transparent and whose stock prices are more stable.

"Widening the price band to 20 percent would reduce the number of times the price limit is reached by over 90 percent," Liu Ti, of the exchange, was quoted as saying in China Securities News. The move would attract more funds, especially from institutional investors, into blue chip stocks and boost the index as a whole, according to analysts. "Increased liquidity for the 50 blue chip stocks would boost their market multiples, many of which are relatively low as compared to developed markets," said Wu Jianxiong, an analyst with Guotai Jun'an Securities. Allowing investors to buy and sell stocks on the same day will provide investors with greater flexibility to take advantage of short-term swings in share prices, while margin trading will give them the leverage to play the market, said analysts. Currently all stock trades on the mainland market are settled on the next business day following a transaction. Only stock warrants are allowed to be traded on the same day. "Given the tremendous popularity of stock warrants, we could imagine what a big impact the proposed trading rule would have on the market," said Chen Li, an analyst with Shenyin Wanguo Securities. Since the introduction of stock warrants in August last year, the combined turnover in Shanghai and Shenzhen has overtaken Hong Kong, making the Chinese mainland the biggest market for the investment instrument. The latest trading indicates that the combined turnover in stock warrants on the China market now equals stock warrants traded everywhere else in the world put together. However, the proposed same-day trading is expected to apply only to a selected number of stocks, said Chen. The Shanghai bourse revealed these trading plans a day after it released its first-ever market quality report, which has provided the basis for further improvement, said the exchange official Liu.

From China Daily ¡¡06/14/2006


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JAPAN: New Budget Plan Eyes Surplus by 2011

The government has come up with a new budget reform proposal aimed at achieving a primary budget surplus by fiscal 2011 by cutting spending and raising taxes, government sources said Thursday. The plan slashes the government's projected revenue needs for all policy-related spending in fiscal 2011 (without issuing government bonds) to about 16 trillion yen from the initially projected 20 trillion yen. This reflects expectations for higher tax revenues from the economic recovery and additional efforts to cut government spending. The proposal also emphasizes an overhaul of local public finances. This includes reducing the statutory percentage of national tax revenues used for grants to local governments, and cutting wages for local public servants, the sources told Kyodo News. It also calls for securing stable financial resources to cover rapidly increasing social security costs, they said. This is being interpreted as a request for a consumption tax hike linked to social security spending.

The Fiscal System Council will submit the proposal to Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki next Wednesday. The government will have its contents reflected in its annual economic and fiscal policy guideline to be adopted by the Cabinet in early July, the sources said. At the same time, the government and ruling parties will work out the specific spending reductions and tax increases required to produce the primary budget surplus by fiscal 2011, they said. A primary budget surplus means revenues (other than government debt issues) will exceed expenditures (excluding debt servicing), giving the government a chance to prevent its debt from snowballing further. The proposal emphasizes that if a primary budget surplus materializes, it should be expanded to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in order to significantly reduce the government's outstanding debt, the sources said. In addition to the local public finance overhaul, the proposal calls for reforming the public assistance program, ending government contributions to unemployment benefits, continuing an annual 3 percent cut in public investment and streamlining the medium-term defense buildup program.

Separately, government sources said the annual policy guideline will be presented to the Cabinet on July 7. The date was set in line with the urging of several key figures, including trade and industry minister Kaoru Yosano, who wanted it to clear the Cabinet before the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, they said. The guideline, which forms the backbone of the state budget for the following fiscal year, is usually drawn up and endorsed by the Cabinet in June. However, the process has been delayed this year due to protracted discussions on fiscal reconsolidation within the ruling parties.


From The Japan Times ¡¡06/09/2006


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Gov't Planning Budget Reforms

A government panel has worked out a budget reform proposal combining spending reductions and tax increases to achieve a primary budget surplus by fiscal 2011, government sources said Thursday. The proposal emphasizes a local public finance overhaul including a reduction of a statutory percentage of national tax revenues for grants to local governments and a wage cut to local public servants, the sources told Kyodo News.


From Kyodo News¡¡ 06/10/2006


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Central Bank's Move Could Be Delayed

Weakness in Japanese stocks and political problems involving the Bank of Japan's governor are fanning speculation that the central bank will hold off on raising interest rates, analysts said. Few expect the bank to announce a rate hike at the end of its two-day policy meeting Thursday, but many analysts had expected the BOJ to raise rates to 0.25 in July amid signs of recovery in Japan after a decade of slow or no growth. Now, with Tokyo's stock market in a tailspin, market players are pushing those expectations back some. Japanese government officials are also continuing to put pressure on the bank to hold off so as not to strangle the country's recovery. Until the recent tumble in the stock market, which has fallen to eight-month lows, "it was nearly a 100 percent given that the BOJ would hike rates in July," said Makoto Yamashita, a Japanese government bond strategist at Lehman Brothers. But now "investors are starting to factor in the chance that there may not be a series of hikes this year," he said. While Japan's economy has been growing steadily the last year, the recent drop in Japanese stocks, along with declines in global equity markets, has sparked worries about a worsening in consumer and corporate confidence as well as instability in the financial system, making it harder for the BOJ to justify an early interest rate hike. On top of shaky markets, BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui's revelation this week he invested in a fund run by a major share investor arrested on suspicion of insider trading could slow the BOJ's policy moves, analysts said.

Opposition party leaders on Wednesday called for Fukui to resign after he revealed he had invested 10 million yen (US$87,000; euro69,000) in a fund operated by Yoshiaki Murakami, who was arrested last week for alleged insider trading. Members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government expressed their satisfaction with Fukui's explanations of the investment, and said there was no problem with his continuing in the post. "I hope he will complete his tenure as the head of the BOJ. I feel that he has given a sufficient explanation," top Cabinet spokesman Abe told reporters Wednesday morning. Fukui's five-year term as governor runs until March 2008. Analysts, however, said the issue could have policy implications. "As Governor Fukui's credibility could be questioned ... in reality, it could be hard for the BOJ to pull off a large policy shift under such conditions," said Yasunari Ueno, a chief market economist at Mizuho Securities. "In terms of the power struggle between the central bank and politicians who want to delay an end to zero-interest-rate policy, it could work against the BOJ," Ueno said. In March, the central bank said it was abandoning its five-year super-easy policy and would raise rates at some point in the future, but made it clear that it would act only after deflation, or falling prices, had clearly been defeated. Recent data has shown that consumer prices are rising, although some indicators show lingering deflation.


From biz.yahoo.com ¡¡06/14/2006


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BOJ Members Say Need to Gauge Impact of Stocks Fall on Economy

Bank of Japan policy makers said they need to closely watch the impact of a global decline in stock prices on the world's second-largest economy. ¡°Members pointed to the weak movement in stock prices at home and abroad, and agreed that they required careful monitoring,'' according to minutes of the central bank's May 18- 19 board meeting released today in Tokyo. One member said Bank of Japan policy should ``give consideration'' to stock declines and fluctuations in global commodity prices, which were ``causing anxiety among market participants.'' The central bank's policy board, which ended its five-year- old policy of pumping extra cash into the economy in March, voted unanimously to hold interest rates near zero at a regular board meeting last week. Governor Toshihiko Fukui said on June 15 he doesn't have any preconceptions about when the central bank will raise borrowing costs from near zero, where they have been since March 2001. Nine of 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News last week said they expect the bank may raise rates from near zero percent as soon as next month. Borrowing costs in Japan have been near zero since March 2001


From http://www.bloomberg.com ¡¡06/20/2006


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Japan Eyes Sales Tax Revenues for Welfare Costs

Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said on Friday that revenues from the nation's consumption tax should be earmarked for covering rising social welfare costs as a way to gain public understanding for a future rise in the politically sensitive tax. There is heated debate in Japan over when and by how much the consumption tax -- currently 5 percent -- should be raised, but such a hike is seen as inevitable as the country looks to cut its mountain of public debt. Any rise in the tax isn't expected to come until at least fiscal 2008/09, which starts in April 2008. "Speaking from a politician's point of view, if we need to ask the public to bear the burden of a higher tax, which would come after drastically cutting spending, we should try to gain public understanding by using the consumption tax as a revenue source of social security costs," Tanigaki told a news conference. But Tanigaki, a leading advocate of raising the consumption tax as a way to tackle the government's swelling debt, did not comment on the specific timing or pace of rises in the tax. Many lawmakers still have bitter memories of how the last sales tax hike in 1997 pushed a recovering economy back into the doldrums by hurting personal consumption. Japan's outstanding public debt, including that held by central and local governments, is expected to rise to 775 trillion yen ($6,757 billion) at the end of fiscal 2006/07, roughly 151 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. ($1=114.69 Yen


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com ¡¡06/16/2006


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Japan Offers Y800 Bin in 2.3 Pct 20-Year JGBs

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said on Tuesday it offered 800 billion yen ($6.93 billion) in 20-year Japanese government bonds (JGBs) with a 2.3 percent coupon. The issuing date is June 26 and the maturity date is June 20, 2026. The MOF will close the auction at noon (0300 GMT) and announce the results at 1 p.m. (0400 GMT).


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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Massive Budget Cuts Set for '11

The government and the ruling coalition parties decided on Monday to cut expenditures by 11.4-14.3 trillion yen in fiscal 2011 to achieve a balanced budget that year. The target for spending cuts was slightly lowered from the initial proposal of 11.5-14.5 trillion yen because of strong opposition by the Liberal Democratic Party's Upper House caucus, which is concerned about adverse influence on the Upper House election in summer 2007. Without spending cuts or revenue increases, the government projects a 2011 deficit of 16.5 trillion yen in the primary balance--the difference in revenue, minus that from newly issued bonds, and spending, minus debt-service costs. If spending is reduced by 11.4-14.3 trillion yen as planned, the government would have a deficit of 2.2-5.1 trillion yen to cover by increased revenue, including possible tax raises. The consumption tax rate would have to be raised to 6-7 percent from the current 5 percent to offset the remaining deficit. However, because of political sensitivity, the government and the ruling coalition avoided specifying a timetable or a rate of increase in Monday's agreement.

Target rates for spending cuts will be included in the annual economic and fiscal reform package the Cabinet will adopt in July. The fiscal reform plan was reported on Monday to the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. Prior to the panel's meeting, Cabinet ministers and executives of the ruling parties held a working-level meeting to coordinate opinions on spending cuts by fiscal 2011. The meeting was temporarily suspended after senior LDP members in the Upper House opposed the proposed cut in public works projects and in tax allocations for local governments. In compliance with opponent demands, the two initial proposals were modified. Concerning tax grants to local governments, the initial proposal for keeping the amount at the level of fiscal 2006 for five years through fiscal 2011 was retracted. The plan also stipulates vaguely that appropriate measures will be taken, taking into account the fiscal situation of local governments and the national government's general-account budget. Regarding the initial proposal to cut the budget for public works projects independently planned by local governments by 3 trillion yen in the five fiscal years, no numerical target was set. There was agreement to cut local-government public works projects at the same pace as cuts in the projects by the central government.


From www.asahi.com¡¡ 06/27/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: National Debt Continues Its Rapid Climb

Korea's national debt surged last year on the increased sale of bonds to finance currency market operations and make up for a revenue shortfall, a government report showed yesterday. The country's debt stood at 248 trillion won ($261 billion) at the end of last year, up 44.9 trillion won, or 22.1 percent, from the previous year, according to the report compiled by the Finance Ministry. The figure was equal to 30.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005, also up 4.6 percentage points from the previous year, the report showed. The latest findings showed the national debt is rising more rapidly every year. The nation's national debt has been on a sharp increase, reaching 165.7 trillion won in 2003 and 133.6 trillion won in 2002, according to the ministry. On the other hand, the country's credit edged up 2.5 trillion won, or 1.9 percent, to 130.9 trillion won, it said. The central government's debt reached 238.8 trillion won at the end of last year, also up 42.7 trillion won, or 21.8 percent, from the previous year. The sale of currency bonds increased 15.8 trillion won, and the government sold more bonds worth 13 trillion won to refinance funds spent to bail out troubled companies hit by the financial meltdown in late 1997. Also, the government sold bonds worth 9 trillion won to make up for a revenue shortfall, the ministry said. Meanwhile, revenue in general accounts reached 136.5 trillion won last year, while spending amounted to 134.3 trillion won. Also, a total of 60 state-run funds suffered a combined loss of 5.4 trillion won last year. The National Pension Fund posted a profit of 11.4 trillion won during the year and about 38 public funds reported profits exceeding 16.2 trillion won.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com¡¡ 06/09/2006


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High International Interest Rates are Coming

Lee Sung-tae, president of Bank of Korea (BOK), has announced that the interest policy will be attentive to economic trends and that he will take preemptive measure to subdue inflation. Lee stated firmly on the fact that he will no longer be passive on interest rate hikes, despite the fact that the property bubble had hit the nation hard due to the possibility of sparking economic recession. Rapid changes in monetary operation policy after 2000 and an interest rate hike executed to curb excessive liquidity in the U.S. and Europe has instigated Korea to realize the need to cooperate with the international tight-money theory brought up by Lee. For past few decades, economists were used to a high-liquidity environment with low interest rates and have enjoyed the spot asset bubble. However, Lee's statement of subduing excessive liquidity through tight currency control is anticipated to hit the financial market hard and change the current trend. If so, the government must outline an appropriate guideline and local companies must get used to the possibility of an interest hike.

A high international interest rate and tight-currency measurement targeted to reduce the U.S. economic deficit will eventually lead to a slowdown in domestic economic growth in the export market. Thus, local companies must prepare firm measures to combat such a possible scenario and adjust their investment plan on their facilities. Execution of wise judgment is suggested to individuals and households who are to invest in the real estate market and securities. The government must prepare for the possible destruction of the economic bubble.


From http://www.mk.co.kr ¡¡06/12/2006


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Banks Compete for Residents' Compensation Funds

Commercial banks are competing for the 4.5 trillion won ($4.7 billion) in funds that local governments are offering in compensation for residents in districts to be redeveloped in Gyeonggi province. Gwanggyo, a "new town" being developed by the government, stretches between Suwon and Yongin cities. Compensation is being paid to those already living in the designated area to help them relocate. Banks naturally want to manage the funds, which would give them a sudden infusion of cash. Early last month, Shinhan Bank opened a branch named "Gwanggyo New Town Financial Support Center" near the development site. Hana Bank has also followed suit in its southern regional headquarters and nine regional branches. Woori Bank sent an employee to the development site last month and began offering consultation services to help people invest their compensation money wisely. The National Agricultural Cooperative Foundation, or Nonghyup, moved fastest. Given that many of the people who had to move out were members of local Nonghyup boards, it has already attracted 250 billion won to its local offices and another 20 billion won to central headquarters. The Gyeonggi Innovative Corp., which handles the project, began handing out compensation funds on May 22.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com ¡¡06/17/2006


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MONGOLIA: World Bank Contributes $2 Million to Development Gateway Foundation

The World Bank has contributed $2 million to the Development Gateway Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides Internet-based solutions to strengthen governance and improve aid effectiveness in developing countries. The Development Gateway was created within the World Bank and became an independent entity in 2001.Its programs help partner countries increase transparency and build capacity in procurement, financial management, civil society relations and other key areas. The Foundation also provides funding for e-government projects, and works with a network of 45 Country Gateways focused on local development needs.


From Mongolia Development Gateway newsletter ¡¡06/22/2006


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INDONESIA: Govt Restructures Debts Owed to Central Bank

The government has wrapped up the restructuring of its legacy debts to the central bank arising out of the support extended to ailing banks during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. It now plans to issue Rp 54.8 trillion (US$6 billion) in "softer" bonds to partly replace existing debts, whose interest rate levels have been causing problems for the state budget. The new SU-007 series of non-tradable securities will replace accrued inflation-adjusted principal and interest from the remaining SU-002 and SU-004 bonds that are held by Bank Indonesia, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told a hearing Tuesday with the House of Representatives finance commission. The central bank will still hold the SU-002 bonds at their initial Rp 20 trillion face value, as well as the SU-004 bonds, which are worth Rp 53.7 trillion. The new bond issue has been agreed by the Finance Ministry and BI, but needs approval from the House.

Mulyani said she expected the new bonds to help reduce the current excessive financial burden on the budget as a result of their lower interest rate of 0.1 percent, as compared to the SU-002's 1 percent and SU-004's 3 percent. The SU-007 bonds will also extend the maturities of the previous bonds from 2018 to 2025. "The total repayment costs on the restructured debts will be Rp 154 trillion, as compared to Rp 247.9 trillion if they were not restructured," she said. "So, we can save about Rp 90 trillion -- some Rp 14 trillion alone this year." Between 1998 and 2001, the government sold six series of bonds -- SU-001 to SU-006 -- worth Rp 238.27 trillion to BI for the purpose of covering the cost of the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI) scheme for troubled banks, and for the deposit and foreign credit blanket guarantee program that was introduced following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which devastated Indonesia's banking industry. This was besides the more than Rp 400 trillion in "recapitalization bonds" that BI then injected into the banks to help prevent them from collapsing.

The issuance of the SU-007 bond to restructure the SU-002 and SU-004 bonds follows a similar replacement in 2003 of the SU-001 and SU-003 bonds with the SRBI-01 bond worth Rp 144.5 trillion. The government had hastily issued the bonds as it was at the time short of hard cash to cover the huge cost of the BLBI scheme and the recapitalization program. Harsh criticism of the scheme has since emerged, however, with the repayment of the bonds being a major burden on taxpayers. Like foreign debt, the bond repayments soak up funds that could be otherwise used to improve the country's education and healthcare sectors. Many of the major banks that received recapitalization funds have also been accused of relying on the interest from the bonds for their profits rather than lending to the real sector. The now-dissolved Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, which was set up to, among other things, recover BLBI and recapitalization funds from recipient banks only managed to recover 30 percent of the funds, with the remainder now being dubbed "the cost of crisis." (by Urip Hudiono)

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ ¡¡06/16/2006


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MALAYSIA: Trust Index for Financial Services

Local financial services providers will soon be able to find out how much their customers trust their products and services in a Trust Index planned later this year. A Britain-based research outfit, the Financial Services Research Forum (FSRF), will start collecting data in October or November for analysis to measure consumer trust of local financial institutions. The index, already in place in Europe, could be used by local institutions to benchmark themselves against the international norm, said Nottingham University Business School marketing professor Christine Ennew. She said the research team would collect data on various aspects and rank the level of trusts the customer had on a scale from one to 10. ¡°Aspects that we will cover when rating the trust levels between customers and their financial services providers are expertise, communications, integrity and honesty,¡± she told reporters after the launch of a collaboration of FSRF with Institut Bank-Bank Malaysia (IBBM) yesterday. FSRF, established in 1993, is an independent body hosted by the University of Nottingham. Ennew said the information could then be benchmarked against similar indexes set up in Britain, Oman and Switzerland, countries where the FSRF piloted these initiatives. Other aspects that can be covered under this index are differences between customers of conventional banking products and customers who use Islamic banking products. 

Ennew, who is also the university¡¯s Law and Social Sciences Faculty dean, said the information collected could then be channelled to members of IBBM upon request, adding that this index was possibly a first of its kind in Malaysia. Information from such an index will allow financial service providers to gauge their relationships with their customers and manage them more efficiently. IBBM chief executive officer Dr Kamal Khir said such information would be conveyed to its members. He added that this cooperation with FSRF would allow sharing of knowledge among its members, thus fitting in IBBM¡¯s educational role. Bank Negara deputy governor Datuk Zamani Abdul Ghani said the FSRF-IBBM partnership would pave the way for higher value-added products and services. He also said the central bank would assist in providing the necessary statistics on market trends and developments to support such research. Ennew said the other research programme planned for Malaysia was to study consumers¡¯ preference of delivery systems offered by financial services providers. ¡°This include Internet banking and services at the banks¡¯ branches. This will allow us to understand the effectiveness and profitability of the different delivery systems, which allow financial institutions to serve their clients better,¡± she added. Based on the experience in Britain, Ennew also said the information gathered would be worth twice the value of the subscription to the research services. This meant that it would be more cost-effective for financial institutions to obtain the data from such a research outfit than to commission research on their own. 


From http://thestar.com.my/ ¡¡06/24/2006


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Towards a Developed Bursa Malaysia in 2020

In line with the government's aspiration to become a developed nation by 2020, Bursa Malaysia too aspires to evolve into a more developed market within the next 14 years. With this in mind, it has teamed up with London's Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) to create a more attractive trading platform, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia (FTSEBM) Index Series, which would make Malaysia a more viable place for investment by foreign entities. The three benchmark indices are the FTSEBM Emas Index, FTSEBM Small Cap Index and FTSEBM Fledgling Index. The three tradeable indices are the FTSEBM 100 Index, FTSEBM Large 30 Index and FTSEBM Mid 70 Index. ¡°Global investors are asking for more. Previously they were happy with capitalisation benchmark. Now they are asking for more in terms of free float and liquidity,¡± Bursa Malaysia chief operation officer Omar Merican told Bernama in an interview. ¡°Asian investors are also asking for syariah compliant indices or what is known as socially responsible indices,¡± he said. The indices would start with a base value of 6,000 points at the launch of the FTSE Bursa Malaysia Index Series this Monday. Omar said the FTSEBM helped the local bourse to address the way the market was viewed especially in having a more liquid market. 

¡°The FTSE is globally recognised and they have won awards for their index design and calculation. They have ground rules that are transparent. ¡°The way they calculate their indices is quite kosher. And we feel it will provide us a good long-term trading basis. It gives us a fresh new view which is good for both local and international perspective,¡± Omar said. The current Bursa Malaysia indices do not follow the International Index Construction Standards, but with the FTSEBM, free floats and liquidity tests will be included, which are important for indices. The free float shares exclude the stakes held by strategic investors. As for the liquidity test, should any securities fail by not having a turnover of at least 10% of its free float adjusted shares in issue in the next 12 months, it would not be eligible for inclusion in the indices. After the first phase of the FTSEBM launch, Omar said Bursa Malaysia would be working towards launching new products. ¡°Some investors look for customised indices, just to suit the needs of their particular organisation. We would be looking at some possible launch of new products, including customised indices,¡± he said. Omar said some developed markets had several indices, citing the Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S&P in the US. ¡°As our market grows, we too will have more (indices), even though one very old friend, the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI), has treated us very well for the last few years,¡± he said. 

The KLCI would not, however, be phased out, as it was still deemed important by local investors. In the second phase of the FTSEBM to be introduced in the second half of the year, Omar said the existing Mesdaq, second board, syariah and the sectors would be replaced by FTSE Bursa Malaysia Mesdaq, FTSE Bursa Malaysia 2nd Board, FTSE Bursa Malaysia Syariah and FTSE Bursa Malaysia Sectors. ¡°Once we have all these out, there will be international classification with all the sub-sectors. Currently we have 14 sectors and this would be increased to 18 sectors, to give better definition of the various sub-sectors,¡± he said. 
He said that the KLCI was widely followed locally and remained a good benchmark and a terrific platform. ¡°But we also want a terrific platform which is a better basis for the domestic and international investors. It is our hope that FTSE Bursa Malaysia will be a great focus for both local and foreign investors,¡± he said. Currently the KLCI has a two-tier classification while the FTSEBM has a four-tier classification. Technically also, he said, the FTSEBM index would be calculated every 15 seconds, instead of every 60 seconds now. Omar said that as the market grew, there would be more needs to be addressed. 

¡°It is okay to have many indices as you can look at the same thing in many ways. For example, if we want to see what was happening to the capitalisation of the market and you aren't concerned about liquidity or free float, the KLCI for the top 100 stocks would be a splendid index. ¡°If you want additional filtering then you can look at the FTSEBM Malaysia. Capitalisation is the value of those companies in absolute terms,¡± he said. He said that non-strategic investors could only buy free float shares. ¡°For them, to look at FTSEBM will give an indication of the market performance which they can have access to, because they can't buy the shares of strategic investors,¡± he said. Omar said the new indices would have knock-on effects, including possible new structure products such as FTSEBM Futures.

From http://thestar.com.my/ ¡¡06/25/2006


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PHILIPPINES: Kiss ¡¯06 Budget Goodbye¡ªDrilon

SENATE President Franklin Drilon has resigned himself to another year of a reenacted national budget. On Thursday Drilon said there is no way Congress could still pass the trillion-peso budget when it resumes session next month. He said the Bicameral Conference Committee for the Budget would not be able to break the impasse during the congressional break and even when the Thirteenth Congress starts its third regular session on July 24. ¡°I don¡¯t think there is any hope that we will have a budget for 2006. I don¡¯t see the Bicameral Conference Committee working during this break. When we come back in July, the President will have submitted the 2007 budget. There is no sense in passing the 2006 budget anymore,¡± Drilon said. The President, by constitutional mandate, must submit the budget for 2007 between July 24 and August 24. ¡°We start working on that [2007 national budget] when we come back. There is no more sense in having the budget for 2006. We have only five months to go for the year,¡± he said.

Holding out hope But Sen. Francis Pangilinan still held out hope that Malaca?ang would soften on its stand on the restoration of the P26 billion the Senate slashed from the P1.053-trillion budget the House of Representatives had approved. ¡°We¡¯re still hoping that the executive department would have a change of heart. We hope to find someone in Malaca?ang who could take a middle ground. The Senate is looking for a middle ground or a common ground for the budget impasse. We are hoping that the moderate people in Malaca?ang will prevail to change its hard-line position,¡± he said. Pangilinan said the Senate is also open to the realignment of the budget but said they will see to it that the expenditures will be open. The Senate may also look into the way the executive department spends the reenacted budget.

¡°In the same way the Senate conducts its investigation in aid of legislation, we will exercise our oversight function to monitor public expenditures involving more than P20 billion that can be realigned,¡± Pangilinan said. Rep. Jesli Lapus of Tarlac sees no problem with a reenacted budget, believing the President could efficiently run the government with it. Lapus, who heads the House Committee on Ways and Means, said that although the reenacted budget gives the President immense fiscal power, this doesn¡¯t mean she has a license to use the budget irresponsibly. ¡°The President has already shown sound discretion in allotting enough funds for the government¡¯s priorities like counterinsurgency and antigraft and corruption campaigns. These are the programs that are on the executive¡¯s priority agenda but which used to be constrained for lack of funds,¡± he said. (by Ronnie E. Calumpita)


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ ¡¡06/23/2006


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Govt Marks BOC to Shoulder Tax Collection Burden for 2007

The Department of Finance plans to raise its tax collection target for 2007 to further improve the government¡¯s revenue program, a finance official said. From the original revenue target of P1.103 billion, the DOF is likely to increase its revenue program by P10.8 billion to P1.124 billion next year. This will accelerate tax collection effort to 17 percent next year, the actual tax effort in 1997, from the programmed 15.7 percent. Tax collection began its decline in 1997, which continued until 2004 when it recovered at 12.4 percent and slightly increased in 2005 at 12.7 percent. It is expected to increase to 14.46 percent in 2006. For next year, the DOF has proposed to collect P793.3 billion from the Bureau of Internal Revenue and P231.1 billion from the Bureau of Customs, which will shoulder the additional revenue of P10.8 billion. The BIR, meanwhile, will maintain its program. The proposal is in line with the government¡¯s aim to lower the budget gap to P63 billion in 2007 from P125 billion this year.

The government expects to increase total revenue in 2007 by P150 million over the estimated P975.6 billion revenue target this year. In DOF¡¯s latest report, the national government posted a fiscal surplus in April although it registered a shortfall in BIR revenue collection. In April, budget surplus reached P17.6 billion, five times higher than the P3.3-billion surplus recorded in the same month last year. This brought the January-to-April fiscal deficit to P50 billion, lower than the deficit of P60.1 billion in the same period last year. Fitch Ratings, Inc. has cited the government¡¯s poor revenue collection as the main concern of international credit rating agencies. Fitch particularly is focusing on public finance, specifically the revenue collection performance of the Philippines in its assessment of the country¡¯s credit rating. It has affirmed the country¡¯s BB rating and upgraded the country¡¯s credit rating outlook to stable in February from negative in July 2005. (by Maricel E. Burgonio)

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ ¡¡05/30/2006


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THAILAND: Govt Mulls Pooling State Funds to Finance Loans

The government is thinking of pooling state funds, including money in the Social Security Fund, now held by various financial institutions with state banks to help finance low-cost loans to consumers

From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/ ¡¡05/30/2006


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Tax Breaks Proposed

People who buy insurance policies for their parents and workers who are covered by their employers' group plans may receive personal income tax breaks if a new government proposal is approved. Caretaker finance minister Thanong Bidaya said the proposal was expected to be submitted to the cabinet today. "The measure will allow people who have bought policies for their parents to have their expenses waived from personal income tax," he said. Chaiyos Sasomsab, the caretaker deputy finance minister, said that premiums for health and accident insurance policies bought for parents aged 60 or above would be deductible from personal taxable income, to a maximum of 30,000 baht per household, or 15,000 baht for one person. Other tax breaks for the support of parents were also introduced recently. Unmarried taxpayers can claim a 30,000- baht deduction per parent, while married taxpayers filing jointly may claim up to 120,000 baht for parents and in-laws. Parents must be aged 60 or older with annual incomes of no more than 30,000 baht for the taxpayer to qualify for the tax deduction. Mr Chaiyos said the tax break for employees would help reduce the burden for salaried workers. Most group insurance plans are paid by employers but premiums are a taxable benefit. The ministry also plans to study whether the tax breaks might also encourage more businesses to use health coverage to attract employees.

From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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VIET NAM: Stock Market Growth Tops 100% Since February 2006

LOS ANGELES, CA and HANOI, Jun 9, 2006 -- Cavico Corporation (Other OTC:CVCP.PK - News), a Vietnamese company working in the fields of infrastructure development, including the construction of hydropower facilities, dams, bridges, roads and urban buildings throughout Vietnam and the Pacific Rim, commented today on the rapid appreciation of the Vietnamese VNINDEX, the stock market index representing Vietnamese publicly traded companies and the growth within the country. This past week, the U.S. and Vietnam signed a groundbreaking trade agreement aimed at increasing trade between the two nations that could fast-track Vietnam's accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO). In an April 2006 Merrill Lynch Investment Strategy Report, Merrill's analysts commented that Vietnam is, "One of the most dramatic, but underinvested, growth stories in Asia..." "The growth of the VNINDEX has been nothing short of astounding this year," commented Timothy Pham, Assistant Secretary for Cavico Corp. "Vietnamese society is quickly adapting Western business practices and working toward creating a stable and accessible financial market for not only its own people, but foreigners as well. This is a significant change from the policies of the not so distant past." He added, "Privatization of many of Vietnam's largest companies is coming and foreign investment bankers and brokerages are actively looking for ways to participate in the growth that is, and should continue to occur as the markets mature."

From http://biz.yahoo.com/iw/ ¡¡06/09/2006


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Taxes Cut Under ACFTA

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has announced a list of categories of products that will enjoy special preferential tariff under the ASEAN ¨C China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). Vietnam will cut taxes on several categories of products imported from ACFTA countries. Goods must be sourced from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and China, and be carried directly from the export country to Vietnam. The owners of the goods must present documents proving the origin of the imported goods to enjoy the preferential tax rates. Accessories and separate components will be imported into Vietnam to serve production of mechanical, electrical, and electronic products, while CKD (complete knock down) automotive parts will be imported for domestic assembly. In addition, goods processed in the non-tariff areas imported into the domestic market will also be subject to the preferential tariff. The 0% tax rate will be available for the majority of products imported from ACFTA countries, including products belonging to the fertiliser group, substances for producing dyes or tanning leather, and paint. However, high tax rates will be maintained on several categories of products, including textiles and garments (30-35%), tea, roast coffee, processed or slaughtered meat products (35%), pepper (25%), and coffee (20%). The 35% tax will also apply to vegetables, fruits and products created from fruits and vegetables, and beverages. Beer and liquor will be taxed at 50%.

From http://www.vneconomy.com.vn/ ¡¡06/23/2006


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BANGLADESH: World Bank Approves US$111.5 Million for Local Governance Program

WASHINGTON: The World Bank approved today a US$111.5 million credit to support the Government of Bangladesh¡¯s program to develop an accountable local governance system whereby Union Parishads (UPs) can better respond to community needs and deliver services through a transparent fiscal transfer system. Bangladesh¡¯s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) has identified community participation and oversight as an important element for strengthening local governance. The Government has already taken important steps to achieve this, particularly through the introduction of the Union Parishads block grant from 2004. During the Poverty Reduction Strategy Implementation Forum in November 2005, the Government and development partners committed to support expanded accountability of local governments. In its first year, the Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) will focus on capacity building in Union Parishads, particularly regarding financial management and procurement. Following this capacity building period, UPs will receive additional fiscal transfers through the Government¡¯s block grant system. This new initiative will increase equitable distribution of financial resources to UPs. It will also strengthen local governments¡¯ ability to respond to community development priorities, and build the capacity of Union Parishads to undertake strategic planning and design, and to manage scheme implementation. Alongside the block grants, a safety net program for the rural poor will also be piloted through 15 Union Parishads.

Christine Wallich, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh noted that expanding the block grant program of the Government provides an important and strategic opening to strengthening local governments and catalyzing the emergence of an effective system of local governance. ¡°The emergence of effective local governments can create space for broader political participation and bring with it a chance for greater accountability of the state to citizens,¡± Wallich said. The project draws on the Government¡¯s own framework, as well as pilots such as the Sirajganj Local Government Development Project (funded by UNDP/UNCDF) and Tangail Rural Development Project (funded by the Japanese Government). In these pilot programs, UPs were empowered through discretionary funds and capacity enhancement. Local governments ¨C responding to community needs ¨C were able to improve service delivery and build infrastructure at 30 percent lower cost than line agencies. ¡°There is increasing recognition that effective local governments can provide citizens an alternative locus of political participation,¡± said David Savage, the project team leader. ¡°Empowered local governments are more likely to be held accountable for their performance by both central government and communities.¡± In addition to the World Bank credit, in a parallel but coordinated initiative, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the European Union (EU) will contribute US$16 million for ¡°second generation¡± pilots. These pilots will focus on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through enhancing UPs role in service delivery, rural infrastructure development and linking local economy with markets for poverty reduction. The credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank¡¯s concessionary arm, has 40 years to maturity with a 10-year grace period; it carries a service charge of 0.75 percent.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ ¡¡06/15/2006


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Country Is Top Bank Outsourcing Destination, Beating Out China and Singapore in Survey

India and China have emerged as the top two Asian destinations for bank outsourcing with Singapore coming third, a survey said. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 130 senior executives in the financial services industry. Forty per cent picked India as the country where their firms are most likely to set up outsourcing arrangements. Thirty-two per cent selected China and 11 per cent Singapore. "Financial institutions in Singapore tend to focus on activities which involve higher value addition to an institution, such as risk management, financial analysis and control and IT oversight functions," The Business Times quoted Dominic Nixon, PwC Asia's financial services leader. China was also selected as the location where most banks and other financial institutions expect their next mergers and acquisitions. It was followed by India, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.


From http://hindustantimes.com/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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MALDIVES: Reunion Group Finds $50,000 in Bank

Organizers of a high school class reunion made a surprising discovery while looking for classmate names and address - a forgotten bank account containing more than $50,000. The Wausau East High School class of 1986 started the bank account 20 years ago with $210 raised during a bake sale. About 10 years ago, someone anonymously made a $50,000 donation to the account. The account largely went unnoticed by class members until Wausau East alum Wendy Moore, 37, of Minneapolis, called the school district's foundation looking for names and addresses of former classmates. Foundation members had received interest notices from the bank but didn't know who to contact about the account. After learning about the account, Moore called Michael Welles, the former class president. "My first reaction was, 'This has got to be a mistake,'" said Welles, 38, of Chicago. The account is now worth almost $56,000 after interest. The class reunion committee decided to use the money to set up a scholarship fund for future Wausau East graduates. "I don't know if it was a former classmate or parent who donated this money, but whoever it was obviously chose our class because they thought we'd do the right thing with it," Moore said.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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PAKISTAN: World Bank Plans 6.5 Billion Dollar Lending to Pakistan

The World Bank has unveiled a lending program of up to 6.5 billion dollars for Pakistan under a new four-year aid strategy showing a significant increase in funding aimed largely at beefing up the country's infrastructure. The 2006-2009 strategy's blueprint, discussed at the bank's board of executive directors, envisaged "a flexible lending program of up to 6.5 billion dollars," the Washington-based institution said. The new lending shows "a substantial increase over the previous period," the bank said in a statement. Pakistan received about 2.73 billion dollars from the bank over the last four years, a bank spokesman told AFP. Under the new strategy, the bank said it would place "immediate priority" on addressing the impact of an October 2005 earthquake, which led to a massive rehabilitation and reconstruction effort. Up to one billion dollars will be used to support reconstruction and recovery efforts, with 840 million dollars already approved, it said. The 7.6 magnitude quake claimed more than 73,000 lives and left 3.3 million people homeless. The World Bank also said that based on the Pakistani governments priorities for sustaining growth and poverty reduction, its lending increase would be primarily in infrastructure, including energy and transport. "This strategy is designed to help Pakistan prosper," said John Wall, World Bank country director for Pakistan.

"The country has moved from crisis to growth, laying the groundwork for sustained economic growth and significant poverty reduction," he said. The bank, he added, "will substantially ramp up support to Pakistan and focus on the areas that are most critical for the country¡¯s poor and most vulnerable." While Pakistan's economic growth accelerated from an average of 3.3 percent during 1997-2002 period to 8.4 percent in 2004-2005, the bank cautioned that sustained growth would require continued sound macroeconomic management and improvements in the investment climate as well as the quality of life. "Pakistans recent growth performance is encouraging, but its continuation is by no means assured," said Praful Patel, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia region. Around half of the bank's lending is to be channeled to provinces which bear most the responsibility for delivering public services such as irrigation, education, health, water supply and sanitation. At present, infrastructure services, including electricity, paved roads, municipal services, and telecommunication reached a relatively low proportion of the population, the bank said. "Moreover, inefficient operations in key sectors, like power and transport, adversely affect competitiveness," it said. In discussions to devise the aid strategy, the bank board also approved four new projects totaling 340 million dollars for Pakistan. They included reform, education, irrigation development projects in the largely conservative North West Frontier Province (NWFP), bordering Afghanistan, as well in Punjab.

From Yahoo News ¡¡06/02/2006


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Pakistan Announces Budgetary Allocation for 2006-07

Pakistan government recently announced the highest ever Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for financial year 2006-07 at Rs 435 billion (gross), with a federal share of Rs 320 billion and focus on infrastructure and social sector development. Out of this, the Information & Broadcasting sector has recieved an allocation in the amount of Rs 834.437 million for 35 new and ongoing projects of Information and Broadcasting Division during 2006-07 under PSDP.

From http://www.digitalopportunity.org/ ¡¡06/06/2006


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IRAN: New Tax Law Must Precede Money-Laundering Campaign

Amendments to the Direct Tax Law must precede the implementation of the law on combating money-laundering, said an expert here on Wednesday. Mansour Shams-Ahmadi, a senior accountant, told Moj news agency that issues pertaining to direct taxes, most notably income tax, need to be rectified, if the law on fighting money-laundering is to be enforced properly. ¡°One of the ways to fight money laundering is to keep track of sources of money through income tax reports,¡° he said, adding that as long as the income tax related laws are lacking, it will be difficult to implement the law on fighting money-laundering. He said many people would be unwilling to disclose the sources of their wealth and pay tax accordingly, adding that the money laundering law will never be enforced as long as it remains on paper. ¡°Legal action must be taken against those who produce false income tax reports,¡° he said. Money laundering campaign is yet to get a move on as the Parliament and the constitutional supervisory body, Guardians Council (GC), remain at loggerhead on the legislation.
Earlier this month, the parliamentarians decided not to make repeated revisions to the controversial bill on fighting money laundering after the bill was rejected for a second time by the GC. The issue will now be referred to the arbitrating body, State Expediency Council, for a final decision. The Guardians have this time rejected the bill on grounds that it has called for judicial interaction with other countries and that it has delegated the task to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance and not the judiciary. The Guardians contend that judicial interaction with other countries on the campaign against money laundering remains unlikely as the conformity of their judicial laws to the Islamic Law is unclear. The lawmakers have reportedly failed to convince the Guardians Council. Experts say the bill on fighting money laundering, once it becomes a law, will help bring transparency to capital and monetary markets and regulate the capital accumulation systems.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ ¡¡06/01/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhstan Aims to Grow Economy by More than One-Quarter by 2008

Karim Masimov, Kazakhstan's economy and budget-planning minister, told a development forum in Astana on May 31 that Kazakhstan hopes to achieve more than 27-percent GDP growth in 2006-08, Interfax reported. "Overall economic growth of more than 27 percent by 2009 is planned," Masimov said. "Per capita GDP should be more than $5,500 by 2009." Masimov's deputy, Marat Kusainov, told Interfax in March that GDP growth in 2006 will be 8.3 percent, and average annual GDP growth over the 2007-09 period 8.8 percent. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/ ¡¡06/01/2006


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TURKEY: Babacan: We Completed a Package of Financial and Public Sector Structural Reform with World Bank

''We have completed a package of financial and public sector structural reform with the World Bank as of overnight. The World Bank will release the second and last tranche of the package worth of 500 million USD later today,'' said Turkish State Minister Ali Babacan on Thursday. Speaking at a joint news conference with Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan, Babacan said, ''the World Bank Executive Directors approved the package overnight, and decided to release the second and last tranche of the package worth of 500 million USD later today. The package includes many important elements about reconstruction of financial sector and banking sector in Turkey.'' ''Meanwhile, we have begun working on a new package of structural reforms with the World Bank. The package contains a number of changes in public spending management, social security and social solidarity. We expect the World Bank to release the first tranche of the package worth of 500 million USD in July. All these developments are tangible signs of our reform process,'' he stressed.

Babacan told reporters, ''Turkish banking sector currently stands at the most powerful point of its history. Despite interest rates and foreign exchange rates, the banking sector has a quite sheltered budget structure. As a result of its operational and financial reconstruction, the banking sector has gained a serious momentum. Turkish banking sector has the highest value among member countries to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in regard to ratio of capital adequacy. Recent financial figures revealed that the sector had a quite sound structure.'' ''We have also taken significant steps to reconstruct and privatize the public banks. Public banks, which have suffered liquidity problems for years, have begun transferring their profits as budget income,'' he said. Babacan said that the Third Investment Advisory Council would convene on June 29th. ''Under the light of all these developments, we expect the inflow of direct foreign capital, which was 9.7 billion USD in 2005, to increase further in the coming years,'' he said. ''Our inflation rate could be a little higher than the targeted rate for the year 2006 due to recent fluctuations in global markets.

However, there is not any change in our targeted inflation rates. Targeted inflation rates for the years 2007 and 2008 are set as 4 percent. We will determine all our monetary policies in line with this rates,'' he said. Referring to the relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Babacan said, ''the third and fourth review will be completed soon. IMF Executive Board will convene in July to finalize the review. The most important targets of our economic program with IMF are disinflation and price stability. We achieved a considerable success in our disinflation program in the last 3-4 years.'' Babacan highlighted importance of continuation of sound monetary policy, budget discipline, Central Bank's monetary policy and structural reform process for the future of Turkish economy. ''Rate of net public debt stock to the gross national product reduced from 78 percent to 55.8 percent between 2002 and 2005. Such a debt structure makes our debt stock more secure against fluctuations in interest rates and foreign exchange rates,'' he said. Referring to Turkey's EU accession process, Babacan said, ''the process has been continuing in line with the envisaged schedule.'' Babacan added that their future program with the World Bank would focus on development of employment in Turkey.

From http://www.turkishpress.com/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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Turkish Central Bank Keeps Interest Rates Steady

Turkish Central Bank Monetary Policy Committee did not change short term interest rates in its regular meeting today. Overnight borrowing interest rates remained at 15 percent. Releasing a statement, Central Bank said on Tuesday that inflation rate may continue to rise in June and July, stressing that the bank would not hesitate to tighten policy if it were necessary amid rising inflation. It also added that drop in annual inflation rate could start before 2007.

From http://www.turkishpress.com/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Bank Ipak Yoli Introduces New Tariff on Anelik Remittance System

Bank Ipak Yoli introduced new tariff Anelik-Super on Anelik remittance system from 15 June 2006. Earlier, clients of Anelik paid 3% of fee from any sum of transfer, now the fee will depend on the sum of the remittance: higher remittance sum, lesser commission fee.
Commission fee between Bank Ipak Yoli and Anelik RU (Moscow) made up 0.5-3%, while the fee comprised 0.7%-3% with other banks, members of the system.

From http://finance.uzreport.com/¡¡ 06/22/2006


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National Television and Radio Company Receives Tax Benefits

"Changes introduced to the Tax Code of the republic, regulate the issues of taxation of certain categories of companies. In particular, amendments introduced to the Article 71 of the code exempt National Television and Radio Company of Uzbekistan, as well as companies and organisations included in its structure from the tax on value added," President's press service said Thursday. It is noted that the law adopted by the Legislative Chamber and approved by the Senate of the republic had been signed by the President of Uzbekistan the day earlier and published by local media. The press service reminded that the amendments were developed in accordance with the Presidential Resolution of 27 December 2005 "On the forecast of key macroeconomic indicators and parameters of State Budget of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the year 2006" and the Decree "On measures on reformation and development of independent television and radio broadcast channels." Meanwhile, it was noted that the additions introduced to the Tax Code do not exempt microfirms and small companies from the payment of taxes on value added.

However, the payers of single tax payment are given the right to independently reduce the amount of the single tax payment by the amount of VAT paid to the budget. At the same time, the size of the amount deducted should not exceed 50% of the total amount of the single tax payment due to payment to the budget. Press service said that the law on introduction of additions to the law "On population's employment", housing and tax codes also signed by the head of the state also entered into force. "Additions introduced will allow to involve unemployed population in the production activity, increase the income of families, raise the profitability of the large industrial objects through the organisation of the production of certain types of component parts, and finished products and services using home-based labour. Moreover, amendments will improve the conditions for the attraction of a wide range of companies to the development of cooperation with home-based workers through provision of benefits and preferences, eliminate bureaucratic barriers in the use of housing space for home-based labour," press service emphasised.

The law was prepared in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan of 5 January 2006 "On measures to stimulate the expansion of cooperation between large industrial objects and services production on the base of development of home-based labour." For the purpose of legislatively support of the new tax benefits introduced, Article 92 of the Tax Code is expanded with the provision envisioning the fact that legal entities that transfer their equipment, tools and other facilities for non-refundable use to the citizens engaged in the home-based labour in accordance with the established order to fulfil works based on orders will be freed from tax on property for the period of their utilisation. Meanwhile, it is worth noting that if the home-based labour is performed in the living quarters, this does not require such space to be transferred to the category of non-living quarters.

From http://business.uzreport.com/ ¡¡06/23/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Growth and Employment Push Tips for Rate Rise

A SURVEY has found that most economists now say the Reserve Bank will raise interest rates before the end of the year, amid a 30-year-low unemployment rate and faster-than-expected economic growth. Thirteen of the 24 economists surveyed say the central bank will raise the overnight cash rate target to at least 6 per cent by the end of the year. The Reserve Bank board raised the benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point last month, to 5.75 per cent, to stem inflation, which was at the top of the bank's target range in the first quarter.

Australia's economy expanded faster than expected in the first quarter and jobs surged last month, prolonging a worker shortage that is fuelling wages growth fears. "The next inflation report, due in July, will be the smoking gun for the central bank and will make them want to move again," Jarrod Kerr, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, said. He predicts a rise by September. "The economy's bouncing into capacity constraints in the labour market.

To try to keep inflation below 3 per cent, the bank will have to tighten monetary policy further." Ian Macfarlane, 59, who retires in September after 10 years as RBA governor, left the benchmark rate unchanged this month. The annual inflation rate was 3 per cent in the first quarter. The central bank aims to keep inflation between 2 and 3 per cent. The Federal Government's second-quarter inflation report is due on July 26. All 24 economists surveyed expect the bank to leave rates unchanged next month, and only seven forecast a rate increase by September. The RBA's board next meets on July 4. The economy created 56,000 jobs last month, more than four times as many as expected. The unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent was the lowest in 30 years. Economic growth was up 0.9 per cent in the first quarter from the previous three months. The economy expanded 3.1 per cent from a year earlier, the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2004.

Wages grew 4 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, just below the record 4.2 per cent pace of the previous quarter. Inflation has become a global issue. Consumer prices in the 30 nations that form the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rose 0.7 per cent in April from the previous month, the fastest since September, the Paris-based agency said last month. Sixteen of 28 central banks monitored by JPMorgan Chase have raised interest rates this year, including those of the US Canada, China, Europe and India. JPMorgan forecasts that number will rise to 21 by the end of the year. The US Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark rate 16 times since June 2004, to 5 per cent, the longest streak of increases since the 1970s. The European Central Bank has raised its rate three times since December, to 2.75 per cent.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡06/20/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Government Surplus above $9 Billion

Treasury has reported the Government had an operating surplus of $9.4 billion for the 10 months ending April, but is still predicting this will fall back before the end of the year. Finance Minister Michael Cullen has taken exception to media headlines about the size of the Government's surplus saying it does not take into account wider investment he has to make such as putting money into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. The books show the tax take was $2.8 billion higher than the comparable period from the previous financial year - growth of 7.1 per cent. This growth reflected strength in the labour market, growth in companies tax driven by strong returns, and growth in goods and services tax. Treasury officials said they were sticking to their Budget day forecasts with all measures of the surplus falling back slight in the last two months of the financial year.

Treasury said there had been delays in capital spending on District Health Boards and purchases of physical assets including Defence equipment and Corrections facilities. "A portion of this delay in investment is expected to reverse in the coming months," Treasury said. The surplus is still expected to fall back to $8.5 billion by the end of the financial year in June. The Crown accounts update May's budget and says by the end of April the $9.4 billion surplus was $0.1 billion higher than the Budget day forecast. Treasury said after stripping out revaluations and investment gains, such as Meridian Energy sale of Australian assets, the surplus was $7.4 billion. After taking into account investments and capital spending, the Government's cash surplus was slightly ahead of forecast at $3.2 billion. Government spending was $4.8 billion, or 13.3 per cent, higher than the comparable period from the previous financial year.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ ¡¡06/02/2005


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Inflation Pressures a Growing Spectre

Inflation fears are expected to outweigh concerns about economic growth in the Reserve Bank's monetary policy statement this Thursday, with market economists expecting no change to the official cash rate. But even though the Reserve Bank is expected to maintain its tough stance on the inflation and interest rate outlook, it is likely to revise down its forecast for short-term economic growth. Westpac's Nick Tuffley expects the growth forecast for the year to March 2007 to be closer to 1 per cent than the 1.5 per cent published in the March statement. When Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard reviewed the official cash rate (OCR) in April (at 7.25 per cent it is among the highest in the developed world) he acknowledged that the economy had weakened more rapidly than the bank expected but said short-term inflation pressures had intensified. In the housing market, turnover has continued to slow, as has the trend for building consents, while house prices show signs of starting to level off. Although house prices are not part of the CPI, they matter for monetary policy because in a period of rapid house-price inflation, people are more inclined to borrow and spend on other things on the strength of their increased housing wealth.

The bank is counting on that "wealth effect" on consumption being turned off as higher effective mortgage rates cool the housing market. In the March quarter, retail sales adjusted for inflation, grew at the weakest rate for four years. Business investment in plant and machinery is also weaker. But the growth indicators are not all pointing south. Net immigration is rising again, wages growth is strong, and the Treasury estimates that fiscal policy will provide a net boost to demand in the economy of about 1.5 per cent of GDP over the year ahead. Tuffley said the disinflationary drag of anaemic economic growth would eventually dominate the Reserve Bank's decisions, but not until late 2006. "The longer the wait the harder the fall in economic growth and interest rates." But in the meantime, all 14 economic forecasters surveyed by Reuters expect the OCR to remain on hold on Thursday and all but six expect no cut until the first quarter of next year. Financial markets were pricing in only a one-in-three chance of a 25 basis point cut by the end of this year, Tuffley said. Bank of New Zealand economists think annual inflation is running at 3.7 per cent right now and that while that is about as high as it gets, they do not expect it to fall back below 3 per cent until early 2008.

 The slowdown in domestic economic activity that is now clearly well under way will relieve inflationary bottlenecks on the non-tradeables side, but so far the improvement has been modest. So far this year the exchange rate has been about 2.5 per cent lower on a trade-weighted basis than the bank assumed in March. But the weaker dollar pushes up the cost of imported goods at a time when world oil prices are at near-record highs. Inflation has been above the top of the bank's 1 to 3 per cent target zone since the middle of last year, even though for most of that period prices of imported goods have been restrained by a high dollar. The increase in overall headline inflation will occur against a backdrop of a tight labour market, with unemployment low by historical and international standards and workforce participation high. This raises the risk of inflation becoming more persistent as higher inflation expectations influence wage and price-setting behaviour.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ ¡¡06/06/2006


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Chronic Deficit Pressuring Credit Rating, S&P Says

New Zealand's "chronic" current account deficit was putting pressure on its AA-plus sovereign credit rating, Standard & Poor's said today. The international credit rating agency put out a statement after New Zealand posted a seasonally adjusted $4.1 billion deficit in the March quarter which swelled the annual deficit to $14.5b. The annual deficit is equivalent to 9.3 per cent of GDP and the worst since the first oil shock in 1975. "At 9.3 per cent of GDP, Standard & Poor's regards the current account deficit as high and unsustainable, placing pressure on the AAA/Stable/A-1+ local currency and AA+/Stable/A-1+ foreign currency credit ratings on New Zealand." Credit analyst Kyran Curry said that importantly, the Government had maintained a steady course of fiscal discipline, which had provided the vital buffer needed to mitigate the effects of the country's high external debt. "The high external debt presents ongoing contingent risk to the Government. This relates to pressure the Government may face to assist borrowers if they suffer financial distress, as well as any wider impact on the economy from a major downturn in activity. "Consequently, maintaining a strong fiscal position remains a critical factor underpinning the AA-plus foreign currency rating," Mr Curry said.

Surveys indicated the current account deficit could gradually narrow as the effects of the weaker New Zealand dollar stimulated export growth and trimmed the appetite for imports. "This would be a welcome development, but New Zealand has a significant way to go before its current account deficit and foreign debt levels recede to more sustainable levels," Mr Curry said. Finance Minister Michael Cullen said the today's figures underscored the "wisdom of the Government's fiscal strategy". He said that higher oil prices had aggravated the goods balance, but there were some hopeful signs with the trend on goods flattening out. "This should improve over the next year as the lower exchange rate boosts export returns," Dr Cullen said. He said the National Party's "reckless" multi-billion dollar tax cuts would have aggravated the deficit while the policies of debt reduction, investing in infrastructure and building assets in the New Zealand Superannuation Fund assisted. "It's why Standard & Poor's recently said we have the balance right, being one of the 'best placed' nations in the world to cope with future challenges."

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ ¡¡06/22/2006


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Private Capital Flows to South Asia More Than Double Since 2000: Global Development Finance 2006

Net private capital flows to developing countries reached a record high of $491 billion in 2005, driven by privatizations, mergers and acquisitions, external debt refinancing, as well as strong investor interest in local-currency bond markets in Asia and Latin America, says the World Bank¡¯s annual 2006 Global Development Finance report. Private capital flows to South Asia reached a record $23.6 billion in 2005, up from $9.7 billion in 2000. This growth was largely driven by India, which received the majority of capital flows to the region. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in South Asia rose to $8.4 billion in 2005, an increase of $1.2 billion from in 2004. In India, investment rose in industries such as cement, sugar, plastics and rubber, and hotels. In Pakistan, privatization and resource-related FDI led to a doubling of foreign investment from $1.1 billion in 2004 to $2.2 billion in 2005. The surging flows, including record bank lending and bond issuance, among others, coincided with 6.4-percent economic growth in the developing world last year, more than double the 2.8-percent growth in developed countries.

¡°These increased capital flows reflected greater confidence in the economic prospects of several developing countries,¡± said Fran?ois Bourguignon, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Development Economics. ¡°Countries are benefiting from improved global market conditions and investment climates, while closer global financial integration is posing difficult challenges to policymakers in both developed and developing countries to sustain economic growth and financial stability.¡± In 2005, as in the recent past, portfolio equity investments remained concentrated in major emerging markets. The Asia region continued to account for the lion¡¯s share (about 63 percent) of total portfolio equity flows. Portfolio equity investments in India hovered at $12.2 billion, up from $8.8 billion in 2004. The sharp rise in private flows to developing countries came despite uncertainties caused by high oil prices, rising global interest rates and growing global payments imbalances. Private debt flows to developing countries rose to an estimated $192 billion, up from $85 billion in 2003, driven by abundant global liquidity, steady improvement in developing-country credit quality, lower yields in rich countries, and expansion of investor interest in emerging market assets. Many developing countries have received credit-rating upgrades to accompany record-low spreads on their bonds, enabling them to raise a record $131 billion in bond issues in 2005, up from $102 billion in 2004.

These gains reflect estimated GDP growth of 6.4 percent in low- and middle-income countries in 2005, buoyed by China and India, whose output grew, respectively, by 9.9 and eight percent. Excluding these two countries, growth in other oil-importing developing countries was 4.3 percent, down from 5.7 percent in 2004. Growth is expected to exceed five percent through 2008 in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, and close to four percent in Latin America." In the South Asia region, GDP growth in 2005 accelerated to an estimated 7.7 percent, driven by very strong growth in Afghanistan (13.8 percent), Bhutan (8 percent), India (8 percent), and Pakistan (7.8 percent). GDP growth in Sri Lanka slowed to 4.1 percent, as strong service sector growth failed to completely offset the negative impact of the December 2004 Tsunami. Slower growth in Bangladesh was tied to flooding, while political strife in Nepal cut into tourism, slowing GDP growth to 2.5 percent. ¡°Managing the very strong growth of the past few years and ensuring that an inflationary spiral or unsustainable external deficits do not develop, represents a serious challenge for the region,¡± said Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia Region.? ¡°With higher oil prices and other external shocks, forward-looking monetary and fiscal policies are in order to avoid overheating and a hard landing.¡±

Economic activity in the region is projected to slow in 2006 through to 2008 as private consumption demand eases to a more sustainable pace in response to a tightening of monetary and fiscal policies. The report forecasts South Asia to grow at 6.8 percent in 2006 and 6.5 in 2007. Weaker global demand is projected to slow export growth and although consumer demand is expected to decelerate, continued robust investment demand should keep imports expanding faster than exports. ¡°High oil prices, rising interest rates and building inflationary pressures are expected to restrain growth in most developing regions over the next two years, but these regions are still expected to outperform high-income economies,¡± said Hans Timmer, manager of the Bank¡¯s Global Trends team, which produced the economic outlook section of the report. ¡°While current account deficits in developing countries¡ªas a whole¡ªare close to balance, deficits in oil-importing countries have increased substantially, reflecting both higher oil prices and, in several cases, unsustainably rapid growth.¡± The surge in capital flows also reflects rising trade flows and financial integration among developing countries. South-South trade rose to $562 billion in 2004, up from $222 billion in 1995, and in 2004 accounted for 26 percent of developing countries¡¯ total trade. South-South FDI also rose, reaching $47 billion in 2003, up from $14 billion in 1995, and in 2003, accounted for 37 percent of developing countries¡¯ total FDI.?

¡°While these South-South flows are a relatively small share of total private flows, they have the potential to change the face of development finance, particularly if growth in developing countries continues to outpace that in the developed countries,¡± said Mansoor Dailami, lead author of the 2006 Global Development Finance report. Much South-South FDI originates with middle-income country firms, and is invested in the same region, for example, Russian and Hungarian firms investing in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South African companies investing elsewhere in southern Africa. About half of China¡¯s FDI, however, went to natural resources projects in Latin America. ¡°While this favorable economic performance was backed by good policies, it also reflects favorable external conditions that are expected to weaken. Many developing countries have exhausted surpluses and other cushions that allowed them to absorb higher oil prices, while growing quickly. As a result, they remain vulnerable to further shocks,¡± said Uri Dadush, Director of the Bank¡¯s Development Prospects Group, which produces the GDF. ¡°These could include overheating in some economies, a disorderly unwinding of global imbalances, a sudden disruption in global oil supply, and the possibility of a decline in the prices of other commodities which have supported incomes in many developing countries.¡±

Amid the encouraging trend of increased capital flows to developing countries, a gap in access to international credit persists among these countries. One group has issued bonds regularly since 2002. It includes ¡°stars¡± such as China, Chile, Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Thailand, which are rated investment-grade, and enjoy lower bond spreads than the overall developing-country bond issuers¡¯ average. A second group has access to bank lending because of well-defined revenue streams such as exports, remittances or extractive industries, but lacks access to bond markets. A third group of low-income countries has no access to private capital except short-term trade finance or FDI, and depend mainly on official financing for their long-term capital needs. This last group benefited from gains in development aid and debt relief. Donors increased official development assistance (ODA) to 0.33 percent of their gross national income (GNI) in 2005, up from 0.22 percent in 2001, and just below the early-1990s high of 0.34 percent. Most of the record $27-billion increase is due to debt relief provided to just two countries, Iraq and Nigeria. Still, the trend indicates that donors are enhancing their aid effort. ODA likely will decline in 2006¨C7 from its record level of $106.5 billion in 2005, as debt relief falls, but rise again gradually to reach 0.36 percent of GNI in 2010. Donors plan to allocate at least half of the $50-billion increase in ODA by 2010 to Sub-Saharan Africa, doubling aid to the region. In addition, debt relief provided under the Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Reduction Initiative (MDRI) will significantly reduce the debt service of poor countries that qualify, providing additional finances needed to support progress on the Millennium Development Goals.


From http://web.worldbank.org¡¡ 05/30/2006

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While Telecom Liberalization and Privatization Are Taking Place in the ASEAN Markets, Korea Has Become a Power House

Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c37983) has announced the addition of Asia-Pacific Telecom Newsletter to their offering. The Asia Pacific region has become the fastest growing telecom market in the world. Not only does the region contain two of the world's most populous and emerging countries - China and India, it is home to some of the world's most sophisticated telecom markets such as Japan, Singapore and Australia. While telecom liberalization and privatization are taking place in the ASEAN markets, Korea has become a power house for CDMA technology. This region offers major business opportunities for telecom equipment manufacturers, operators, and financing organizations.


From http://biz.yahoo.com ¡¡06/02/2006

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ADB Warns Privatization of Railway Assets Too Risky

While the administration is bent on pursuing the privatization of the Philippine railway system, the Asian Development Bank has warned governments in Asia about rushing to privatize their railway assets. "[The] full divestiture of railway assets may not be feasible or desirable, given railway¡¯s role as a public good," Lawrence Greenwood, ADB vice president for operations, said in a statement. The government plans to privatize the operation of Light Rail Transit¡¯s Systems 1 and 2 and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) to eliminate fare subsidies. Earlier, Guiling Mamondiong, transport undersecretary for rails, said the national government could save at least P2.5 billion if rights related to the operation and maintenance of the country¡¯s train systems are sold to a private party. But Greenwood stressed that even mature economies such as the United Kingdom have found full divestiture to have substantial risks and unintended negative consequences. "There will continue to be an important role for the public side of the public-private partnership in national railway systems," he added.

Greenwood said there are many successful models that Asian countries can consider such as the government holding a minority share in a new railway company while retaining arms-length regulatory oversight for safety and monopolistic abuse or, as in the case of China, a public listing of shares on the stock exchange. Another approach that Greenwood has proposed is concessioning, in which the public sector retains ownership and oversight of infrastructure, but transfers operating responsibility and the delivery of service to the private sector. He explained that concessioning "enables governments to retain ultimate control, while private operators can enter the market on a competitive basis, without a large initial investment." Greenwood further noted that the rail transport serves as a catalyst to a nation¡¯s growth, provides access to markets and opens opportunities to expand trade and industry. To further stress his point, Greenwood pointed out that the publicly owned railways in most countries today are in deep financial trouble. "Inefficient, deficit-ridden, underfunded and plagued by low productivity, these vital transport links are struggling to meet growing demand, keep up with technological change, and compete for finance with other important public priorities," he said.


From http://www.abs-cbnnews.com ¡¡06/16/2006

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12 Asian Countries Sign Agreement to Combat Piracy on High Seas

Singapore has signed and ratified an agreement to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia, or ReCAAP will take effect on 4th September. 11 countries - Cambodia, Japan, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Korea, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka - have ratified the agreement while Brunei is in the process of doing so. This agreement is the first such government-to-government arrangement. The countries involved will also set up an Information Sharing Centre in Singapore with full-time staff. Singapore will also host the first meeting of the ISC governing council towards the end of the year.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com ¡¡06/21/2006

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CHINA: Farmers Encouraged to Set Up Own Business

Chinese Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu on Sunday encouraged farmers to start their own businesses as a way out of poverty. He said increasing farmer's income is a strategic and important task for governments. "The construction of a new socialist countryside and the comprehensive and sustainable economic and social development require new types of farmers who have basic knowledge of both farming techniques and business," he said. He said at a national meeting for awarding elite private businessmen on Sunday that governments at all levels should establish favorable policies and laws to encourage farmers to start their own businesses. He said China has a huge rural market that offers big potential for rural labor employment and farmer-initiated businesses. Governments should provide technical education to farmers who want to cultivate the land and to farmers who want to start their own business, Hui said. He asked farmers to strictly abide by laws and regulations when operating their own business.(by Lin Li)


From Xinhua News Agency ¡¡05/29/2006


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Private Sector Contributes to Protection of Historic Buildings

The private sector is playing an important role in protecting historic buildings in Suzhou, an ancient city in East China's Jiangsu Province, it has been revealed. Statistics show that among the 42 million yuan (US$5.25 million) invested into the preservation projects of more than 100 historical buildings in Suzhou during the past three years, one-third of it came from private enterprises. According to Chen Rong, vice-director of the city's cultural relics protection bureau, the city issued a policy in early 2004 to encourage private companies to preserve the historical buildings owned or rented by them. It has enabled them to draw loans for up to 2 million yuan (US$250,000) from banks for special preservation projects, with reduced interest rates. The municipal government will also pay up to 10 percent of the costs as a prize if projects pass certain conditions once they have been completed, according to the policy. "The annual 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) governmental fund in heritage protection was not enough," said Chen. "The support of private capital helps protect more ancient buildings."

According to Chen, the protection efforts made by the private sector mainly focuses on non-listed historical sites and buildings, as cultural relics at provincial and national levels are usually covered with funds given by the State or provincial financial bureaux. More than a dozen private enterprises have been involved in projects, and more than 30 ancient sites in the city have been preserved due to their efforts during the past three years, said Chen. New Canglang Real Estate Company completed a renovation project of two ancient courtyards last year. "By restoring the buildings to their original style, visitors can sense the strong flavour of ancient culture. They are also of high market value because they have been equipped with modern equipment during the restoration," said Shi Jiandong, general manager of the company. Some companies have also taken steps to improve public ancient sites. Last year, Dongting Mountain Mineral Water Co Ltd set up a fund to donate 100,000 yuan (US$12,500) annually to preserve hundreds of ancient wells in the city. The preservation efforts made by private enterprises have been welcomed by local residents. Liu Xi, a 22-year-old woman, said the measures not only benefited historical sites, but also improved the living conditions for citizens in old areas of the city. With a history of 2,500 years, Suzhou now boasts 539 listed cultural relics and 1,270 non-listed but recognized cultural relics.


From China Daily¡¡ 06/12/2006


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Ding Zuyi: Pioneering Private Education in China

A spot of rain at the end of May cooled things down a little in Shanghai, a city that has soldiered on unfazed by Typhoon Chanchu that hit its shores earlier in the month. Sitting comfortably in his Shanghai hotel room, Ding Zuyi, president of Xi'an Fanyi University, recounted the countless hardships of the last 20 years while running a private school in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province: "I am no stranger to adversity. Sometimes misfortune toughens a man's will better than anything else." Ding, also vice president of the Translators Association of China (TAC), was in Shanghai to attend the China International Forum on Translation Industry that was held from May 28 to 29 at Tongji University. "Those who fail the college entrance examination are like water boiled to 70 or 80 degrees," he said in an exclusive interview with china.org.cn. "If we put in more firewood to help them continue their education at private schools, they, too, can become talented people. This is actually another 'Project HOPE'."

An academically gifted student, Ding graduated from the No.11 Middle School in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, and in 1957 was admitted to Tsinghua University. However, a routine investigation, which was common practice during those absurd years, showed that he was "politically unqualified" to be admitted to Tsinghua because of his family background. He was eventually denied admission. Standing on the bank of the Qinhuai River that runs through downtown Nanjing, a distressed Ding swore to himself: "Today, I am not allowed to go to college, but sooner or later, I'll mount the rostrum of a university to deliver lectures! "His pledge became a reality in 1983 when he was engaged by Xi'an Petroleum Institute as a teacher. Four years later Ding, already 48 at the time, decided to take a bold step. He established Xi'an Fanyi University. In order to do so, he resigned from the institute and divorced his wife who opposed the idea. "Perhaps because of similar personal experiences, I cannot help but think about the fate of students who are refused by state-run colleges and universities. So, I'm determined to offer them a second chance to become useful members of society," he said.

Citing his school as an example, Ding said: "College education costs the state an estimated 10,000 yuan (US$1,250) per student per year. To date, 32,000 graduates have left our gates, and we still have some 38,000 undergraduates studying at our school. They didn't or will not spend a penny of state funds for their four-year studies. That means we've saved the country about 2.8 billion yuan (US$350 million)."Xi'an Fanyi University's annual revenue of 300 million yuan (US$37.5 million) has given great impetus to the development of the local economy, Ding said. A growing number of private institutes also creates a huge college admission market and employment market, and promotes the publishing and advertising industries. But Ding lamented that even today private schools are still victims to discriminating policies. "For instance, our students don't enjoy preferential fares for public transport given to students from state-run schools, and we aren't given access to grant-in-aid loans for impoverished students. "Yet, despite these difficulties, education provided by the community is a growing trend, and the tide cannot be restrained."


From China.org.cn 06/20/2006


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JAPAN: Postal Savings Bank to Seek to Join All-Bank Fund Transfer System

A postal savings bank to be launched via postal services privatization starting in October 2007 will seek to join an all-bank interbank online fund transfer system sometime in 2008, Japan Post officials said Sunday. Its participation in the Data Telecommunications System of All Banks would enable remittances between the postal savings bank and other banks through automatic teller machines. Japan Post has begun studying the feasibility of having the postal savings bank join the network of more than 1,560 banks to enhance customer convenience after privatization, they said. The network, known as Zengin System and one of the world's largest interbank computer networks, connects banks on-line to allow domestic interbank fund transfers with the Bank of Japan acting as the settler of funds, according to the website of the Japanese Bankers Association. There had been a proposal within Japan Post to have the postal savings bank join the system right from its launch, but Japan Post has forgone the plan to give precedence to building up the framework online system, they said. The postal savings bank will succeed Japan Post's postal savings business. Japan Post has concluded deals with more than 1,700 financial institutions to enable crediting to and withdrawing money from customers' accounts via ATMs using cards either at Japan Post or other banks. But customers basically cannot remit money from Japan Post's accounts to accounts at other banks. This is possible only with 29 financial institutions, mainly trust banks and regional banks with deals to connect networks with Japan Post.


From asia.news.yahoo.com¡¡ 06/11/2006


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Japan Post to Up Spending, Adds Pressure to Yamato

Japan Post [JP.UL] said on Thursday it plans to invest some $1.6 billion to strengthen its mail operations before it is gradually privatised from next year, intensifying competition with parcel delivery firm Yamato Holdings Co. . The national postal service, which still has a monopoly on the delivery of letters, said it wants to boost competitiveness with new services, including frozen-food delivery and an online package tracking system. Yamato pioneered private delivery services in Japan. It has clashed with Japan Post in the past, including losing a court battle where it said the postal service could unfairly undercut private companies by using public funds. The news weighed on shares of Yamato, which fell 0.11 percent to 1,875 yen against a 1.1 percent rise for the benchmark Nikkei average. Japan Post said it will borrow money from its postal savings division, avoiding potential funding problems if it tried such a large-scale investment after the privatisation process began. Japan Post, which has 25,000 post offices and some $3 trillion in assets, will be split into four entities. A new holding company will sell off the postal savings and life insurance businesses by 2017. Yamato last month cut its rates on direct mail and catalogues to levels sharply below that of Japan Post. It has agreed to form a venture with Seino Holdings Co. to strengthen distribution services for corporate customers and has taken a small stake in Japan's biggest shipping firm, Nippon Yusen K.K. , to gain access to its international shipping network. Yamato also launched a postal joint venture in Japan with German mail and logistics giant Deutsche Post to offer direct marketing services for national and international customers in Japan. ($1=114.91 Yen)


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com/ ¡¡06/15/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: BAI Finds Bribery in Private Schools

State auditors yesterday found that a number of private schools embezzled school funds and received bribes from contractors in exchange for business favors. Some school owners and officials accepted tens of millions of won in return for taking in new teachers and students, the Board of Audit and Inspection said. "We found 250 cases of corruption while conducting investigations on 124 problematic private schools. (The BAI) has referred schools and officials involved for criminal investigations to the prosecution," Lee Chang-hwan, a senior BAI official, told reporters, announcing the result of its three-month-long special audit of private schools nationwide. The BAI found nearly 100 schools with managerial problems, but demanded criminal investigations into 22 schools which have severely violated the law. The total financial loss caused by irregular activities by the 22 schools amounted to 95.3 billion won ($95 million), it added. The agency said it has found cases of owners forcing schools to purchase unsuitable land for sums far higher than market price and embezzling money collected from students, spending it for its own use.

It also found that some private schools were maintaining close ties with local education offices so that they would disregard their illegal activities. "The BAI asked the local office to discipline education officials for neglecting their duty to supervise schools," said the official. Since mid-March, the agency has been investigating 124 problematic schools and their foundations, suspected of misappropriating school funds, unfair personnel practices and other irregularities. Among the schools are universities and middle and high schools operated by religious groups. It has also probed the Education Ministry for possible corruption in dealings with private schools, but said there was no specific wrongdoing involving the ministry. Private schools and the opposition Grand National Party have been criticizing the extensive inspection, claiming it was intended to quell their opposition to a controversial school law. The new law requires private schools to fill a quarter of their management boards with parent and teacher representatives. The ruling party says that the new law will help prevent corruption by ensuring greater transparency in school management. Private schools and the party have demanded that the school law be scrapped or revised. They claim that the legislation infringes on their property ownership rights and could allow activist teachers to interfere with management About one-third of all Korean schools are private. Among higher-education institutions such as universities, the rate is more than 80 percent. There are 1,998 private schools across the country.


From www.koreaherald.co.kr ¡¡06/23/2006


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THAILAND: Private Sector 'Must Lift Its Act'

Vietnam's economy will surpass Thailand's in five years unless the private sector boosts its efficiency, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak warned yesterday. Competitiveness, human resources and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were the key areas which needed improvement. ''If Thailand fails to boost private sector competitiveness, the strength of SMEs and human resource development, the economy will be outstripped by Vietnam in the next five years,'' he told a public and private partnership meeting in Cha-am, the resort district of Phetchaburi. Executives of state agencies, the Federation of Thai Industries, Thai Bankers Association, Thai Chamber of Commerce, and Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations joined the session to find ways to strengthen SMEs, which represent 90% of the country's business operators. Mr Somkid urged them to quickly improve their performance instead of relying on the government's help. Firms must work more closely with education providers to produce skilled workers to match demand in the market, he said.

''Most of the government's role in helping the private sector will cease, except the role in strengthening and stabilising the macro economy,'' said Mr Somkid, who is also commerce minister. State financial institutions, including the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME Bank), the Small Industry Credit Guarantee Corporation, and the Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank), should play a bigger role in promoting small- and medium-scale businesses. They must change their lending criteria for SMEs and new entrepreneurs, most of whom lack experience in writing business plan proposals and financial records required by banks, he said. ''Exim Bank need to extend its financial support schemes to SMEs. It should find ways to lend to them and take them to join overseas trade fairs and exhibitions to promote Thai SMEs.£¨by Aranee Jaiimsin£©

From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/ ¡¡06/25/2006


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Thailand's Public, Private Sector Agreement at Cha-Am Meeting

PETCHABURI, June 24 (TNA) - The Thai government and the private sector agreed on Saturday to cooperate in setting up the so-called Public Private Partnership (PPP) aimed at further developing local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Mr. Somkid told journalists after presiding over the opening of a meeting between the public and the private sectors on finding ways to boost the Thai economy at this resort district of the upper southern province of Petchaburi that the PPP would include a new generation of business persons invited to participate as working committee members. The development of local SMEs, also aimed at boosting the country's competitiveness in international trade, would be a government priority, he said, explaining that the development would involve information technology (IT), finance and management. He said that American and Japanese experts would be invited to join as advisors, and that successful SME businesses in other countries, namely South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore, would be used as models.

The focus will be first made on developing processed agricultural and food products, automobile and IT products. The working committees will submit their proposals to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for his approval during a meeting in July, Mr. Somkid indicated. "Thailand's needs to accelerate creative cooperation," Mr. Somkid said, "otherwise the Thai economy could encounter problems within the next five years and Vietnam can surpass Thailand," Mr. Somkid said. Meanwhile, Pramon Suthiwong, Chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said that the private sector is ready to cooperate with the government, and that he fully agreed on the setting up of the PPP to help strengthen the Thai SMEs to penetrate more overseas markets. Mr. Pramon said local political uncertainty, rising oil prices and inflation, as well as baht appreciation remain negative factors for private investment, as they would slow down domestic consumption. He said that Thai exports during the second half of 2006 would slow down when compared with those in the first half of the year due to these factors. At the same time business owners would also face higher costs which could lead to layoffs of workers, he cautioned. (TNA)--E111, E002

From http://etna.mcot.net/ ¡¡06/26/2006


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BHUTAN: Private Hostel to Ease Sherubtse's Lodging Pressure

Come next academic session in March 2007, students coming to Sherubtse College on day scholarships will not have to foray deep into rural Kanglung to look for accommodation. The students can lodge in a private hostel being constructed in Rongthung Naktshang, some four kilometers from the college. The six-unit fully furnished hostel will take in about 100 students, half of them girls, and will have all necessary facilities that students require. The proprietor of the project, Kunzang Dorji, told Kuensel that the project would have been completed by now, had it not been for the lengthy bureaucratic processes that delayed the construction. The construction is expected to begin within this week. The hostel, occupying an acre of pristine environment, will have six units of cottages. Each unit will accommodate 16 students who will share eight bedrooms, four toilets, four kitchens, four bathrooms, and four sitting rooms. Kitchens will have gas stoves and liquid petroleum gas cylinders. The visiting parents can use a guesthouse close by. The guesthouse will also run a mess for those students who find it burdensome to cook. A grocery store, a telephone booth, an Internet caf¨¦, and a basketball court are also part of the plan. Two mini buses will ferry the students back and forth. Students will be charged a rent of about Nu. 1,000 a month. The Sherubtse vice principal, Lhatu Jamba, told Kuensel that the College supported the project. ¡°It will not only help students find easy accommodation but will also contribute to quality student service which is part of our mission of quality education,¡± he said. The vice principal added that when the College started the day scholar programme, it was thought that the nearby houses in Kanglung would accommodate the students.

¡°However, several organisations set up their regional offices here in the last few years,¡± he said. ¡°Rents began to be dictated by market forces and our students were left out.¡± Thirty percent of students admitted to Sherubtse each year are dayscholars. Currently the college has 258 day scholars out of the total strength of 1,045 students. About 60 more day scholars are expected to join the college by mid July this year. Day scholars students started occupying rural homes in places like Rongthung, Thargom, Khangma and even Yongphula, about 10 kilometres away from the college. Although the far-flung rural houses are cheap in rent, many of them have no proper toilets and often a fairly large group of students are cramped in a small room. Initially, the house owners also quickly jacked up the rents, especially those closer to the campus. Most house owners also preferred women students to men ¡°since girls take better care of the house¡±. Students who fail their university examinations are also asked by the college authorities to stay as dayscholars and this aggravates the housing crunch. Students whom Kuensel spoke to said that each year almost 80 students failed their examinations. ¡°This adds pressure to the problem as it often happens in the middle of the academic session,¡± said one student, who pays Nu. 1,000 for his two-room flat. ¡°This adds a lot of psychological pressure on us.¡± The other concern raised by the dayscholars was their difficulty in commuting to the college during the monsoon. ¡°Many students walk for kilometres and sometimes they reach class drenched,¡± said Sonam Dorji, who stays in Khangma. ¡°On the other hand, we cannot afford to miss classes since we need minimum of 90 percent attendance to qualify to sit for examinations.¡± Some house owners also often took advantage of the situation. One time about five girls were reportedly asked to vacate the flat they were renting within a few hours notice since the house owner wanted to repair the place.

From http://www.kuenselonline.com/¡¡ 06/10/2006


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SRI LANKA: Private Medical Bill Before House Today

COLOMBO: The Private Medical Institution Bill to streamline all private institutions providing medical services in Sri Lanka would be taken up for the second reading in Parliament today. Health and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva expressed confidence that the Bill would be unanimously approved today. The Bill was originally presented in Parliament on May 9 and was postponed due to objections raised by the Opposition saying that the new amendments in the Bill needed to be discussed in the Health Ministry Consultative Committee before gaining Parliament approval. According to Minister de Silva the Bill had been discussed and approved by the Consultative Committee before presenting today. The Minister pointed out that the new bill contained regulations to solve the long standing problem of quacks which has become a very serious issue all around the country. "All the private medical institutions should be registered under the Private Health Services Regulation Council which would be appointed under the new Bill. Thereby all private medical institutions and the people operating them would be regulated and there would be no room for quacks," Minister de Silva said.

He observed that there were more than 2,000 private medical institutions including private hospitals, nursing homes, private medical laboratories, private dental surgeons, general surgeons and other private medical institutions at the moment. Minister de Silva added that once the bill is implemented the Nursing Home Ordinance of 1994 would be repealed. The bill would also focus on the collective regulation of the private medical sector, he said. "It will monitor the functioning of the private medical institutions and the grading and pricing of private medical services would be available for the public in advance," he added. According to the Minister the Private Health Services Regulation Council comprising 24 members would have the authority to raid and monitor private medical institutions. "Until now the Ministry had no authority to raid private medical institutions so Government doctors practising in private institutions during working hours were not detected. But the new bill would bring discipline to the health sector and provide a highly efficient health care service to the public," Minister de Silva said. The Private Health Services Regulation Council chaired by the Director General of Health Services would consist of eight members from private hospitals and nursing homes, representatives from accountancy, management and nursing fields, representatives from the Sri Lanka Dental Association, Independent Medical Practitioners' Association and many other fields related to the health sector.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/¡¡ 06/08/2006


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PAKISTAN: Partnership with Private Sector Vital to Eliminate Poverty

LONDON: State Minister and Chairman, Human Development Commission of Pakistan, Dr Nasim Ashraf has said that partnership between the government and private sector is vital to make poverty history by ensuring education for all. He was speaking as a keynote speaker at the Pakistan Society's 53rd annual dinner at the majestic and historic hall of the Lincoln Inn here on Thursday. The motto of the society is to "bringing Pakistan and Britain together." PML (Q) Secretary General Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman of the Society Lieutenant General Anthony Palmer (Retd) and Honorary President and Pakistan's envoy to London Dr Maleeha Lodhi, members of the society both British Pakistanis and Whites were present on the occasion. Ashraf said education was the only way to empower people and that was the reason Human Development Commission had launched countrywide drive particularly in the neglected areas to enroll children. He said human development commission was able to get support of one hundred thousand volunteers, opened up at least 10,000 primary schools and established hospitals to realise its goals of spreading literacy and providing basic health facilities to the poor across Pakistan. The task is so enormous that the government alone will not be able to accomplish it. Education is critical for a just and tolerant society.

He said the UN Development Millennium Goals could not be realised by 2020 unless the developed world helped the developing countries to achieve the target of education for all, said the minister. Today half a billion people live on one US dollar a day while 2.5 billion people across the globe did not have access to clean drinking water, he said. Poverty is a punishment inflicted on people for no crime of theirs. He said the European countries were giving $2 dollar subsidy per cow and the US Government was spending $3 billion to support its farmers while millions of children were dying of hunger every year. The globalisation of the world, he said, had a huge potential provided it was implemented in the way where human capital should be given a top priority. But people needed to be motivated to adopt the principle of self-help because even one committed individual, like the way Abdul Sattar Edhi did, could transform the society by engaging in social welfare activities. Referring to the devastating earthquake of October 8th last year, he praised the British Department of International Trade, non-governmental organisations, British people and British Pakistanis for all what they did to help the victims of the worst disaster in the history of the country. Pakistani Society gives an annual award and this time it has been given to Dr David Matthew for promoting understanding between Britain and Pakistan.

From http://www.brecorder.com/¡¡ 06/17/2006


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Private Sector Urged to Help Develop Health Financing System

ISLAMABAD: Health Minister, Muhammad Nasir Khan on Wednesday urged the private sector to play its role in government's efforts to develop a health financing system that would ensure access to health facilities all over the country. Addressing the inaugural session of a three-day meeting on health financing organised by Agha Khan Development Network (AKDN) here, he said, both the government and private sector should join hands to fulfil their responsibility. He said there is evidence that health systems that are predominantly funded by private sources are facing challenges in providing equitable and accessible health services to the entire population. When private financing, as a percentage of total health expenditure, exceeds 60 percent-70 percent, low-income and vulnerable populations are often pushed into poverty because of ill-health and catastrophic expenditure. Although, many countries are undertaking fundamental reforms to ensure stable and adequate funding with equitable access and financial protection, especially for their poor and low-income populations, there are still many challenges, which need to be tackled effectively.

He hoped that deliberations of this meeting will help the government of Pakistan consider innovative models for financing health care delivery in the country. He informed the Ministry of Health has undertaken numerous steps for addressing such issues. A National Health Policy Unit has been formed which would guide the policy makers on key issues, he added. He said National Health Account study, burden of disease and Demographic and Health survey are important initiatives being undertaken by the government to enable informed decision making. Nasir Khan said it is obvious that no single model offers a solution for all, as healthcare financing priorities vary from one country to another. In this respect, we are keen to learn from regional and international experiences and available evidence, as well as enhance country-specific data and information. He said the conclusions from this meeting may be broad, but priorities should be focussed on key issues such as increased public financing and health investment, universal coverage, social safety nets anti-financial protection for poor and low-income populations. He said the main outcome from the meeting would be strategies for stronger public private partnership with operational links to the key development goals and targets, as outlined in the Report of WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health and the Millennium Development Goals.

From http://www.brecorder.com/¡¡ 06/22/2006


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AFGHANISTAN: Power Sector Attracts First Major Investment

Two private companies have agreed to launch three big projects, including a hydropower plant, construction of cold storages and establishment of a cement factory in the country. The pact was signed by a Russian company IFPEEC, a local company in the name of Ittefaq Group and the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) here on Monday. Speaking on the occasion, director of the Russian company said that 100 and 500 KW electricity would be produced with the help of turbines and coal generators respectively. He said the three parties agreed to establish a cement factory with the production capacity of 1,000 metric tons per day. He said the proposed cold storages would have the capacity of storing 18,000 tons of food items. Asked about the amount to be spent on the three projects, he said presently they did not estimate the money required for the projects. He said sites for three projects were yet to be selected.

He said both the Russian and Afghan company would contribute 50 per cent amount each for the projects, work on which would be launched in the next three months. Addressing the ceremony, Mohsin Amiri, director of the Ittefaq Group, said investment would be made in the power sector in the first phase. Mohammad Tahir Hamadi, official of the AICC, said the Ministry of Water and Energy had assured of its cooperation. Director of the AICC Hamidullah Farooqi, who was also present during the ceremony, said the agreement would prove beneficial both for Russia and Afghanistan. He hoped completion of the hydropower project would solve problems of people up to some extent. He described establishment of the cement factory as beneficial for the country, which is in the rebuilding process and annually required 700,000 tons of cement, presently being imported from abroad. It merits a mention here that this is the first major private investment in power sector in the last four years. (by Mustafa Basharat)


From http://www.afgha.com/ ¡¡06/19/2006

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IRAN: Private Bank Ambiguities Removed

IMinister of Economic Affairs and Finance Davood Danesh-Jafari said here on Friday that the government has removed the ambiguities about the conformity of private banks to laws on lowering lending rates. The minister told ISNA that private banks will have to cut lending rates down to 17 percent. Rates currently range between 24-30 percent. ¡°Lending rates offered by private banks will be calculated on the basis of the recent ratification of the Money and Credit Council,¡° he said, adding that the banks were unclear about whether the ratification would apply to them or not. However, ISNA reported that some private banks are still reluctant to lower lending rates. This is while a senior private bank advisor said this week that private banks will start cutting lending rates from September. Farid Ziaolmaleki, an advisor to Bank Saman managing director, said private banks will follow the council¡¯s directives despite the fact that they believe that they should not cut lending rates. ¡°We have discussed this with the members of the council but they insisted that lending rates should be reduced,¡° he said, adding that the government and the Parliament have also supported the decision. On June 5, the Guardians Council (GC) approved the high-profile parliamentary plan to make bank rates logical. According to the law, banks rates will have to come below 10 percent by the closing year of the Fourth Plan (2005-2010). Lending rates currently stand at 16 percent.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ ¡¡06/17/2006

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KYRGYZSTAN: Parliament Approves Privatization Program

Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted on June 5 to approve the government's privatization program for 2006-07, news agency 24.kg reported. Legislators initially rejected the program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 2, 2006), which was subsequently reworked in committee. The amended program broadens the list of state-owned facilities deemed "strategic" and thus subject to privatization in accordance with a parliament-mandated development program. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ ¡¡06/06/2006

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KAZAKHSTAN: ADB First Private Sector Loan to Boost Financing for SMEs

ADB and JSC Alliance Bank (ALB) of Kazakhstan have signed a $50 million five-year senior loan. The loan, signed on 15 June, represents ADB's first private sector financing and first financing without central government guarantee in Kazakhstan. The diversification of the Kazakhstani economy toward non-oil investments, particularly through the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, is a crucial factor for Kazakhstan¡¯s sustainable and inclusive economic development, especially after the oil boom recedes. ¡°To achieve sustainable and inclusive economic development, creating conditions for growth of the SME sector is of key importance,¡± says Stephen Wermert, Country Director of ADB¡¯s Resident Mission in Kazakhstan. ¡°The loan will help ALB grow its SME loan portfolio by providing part of the needed debt funding. It will also demonstrate viability and boost investors¡¯ and creditors¡¯ confidence in the country¡¯s banking sector. As a result, this would also increase depositor confidence in the local economy and in the banking sector.¡± The loan will help to bridge an unwarranted maturity gap, allowing the bank to match its assets and liabilities more closely. ALB is strategically committed to the SME and retail segment, and believes that the demand for SME and retail banking services will continue to grow. In the coming years, ALB intends to substantially increase its SME loan portfolio and establish a leading position in the market, as the bank believes this sector represents one of the most important areas of growth in the Kazakh economy and banking system.


From http://www.adb.or¡¡ 06/23/2006

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AUSTRALIA: Health Ombudsman's Powers to Be Boosted

New laws giving the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman greater powers to investigate and resolve consumer complaints have been introduced into federal parliament. Health Minister Tony Abbott said the Health Legislation Amendment (Private Health Insurance) Bill would improve consumer protection, enabling the industry umpire to better investigate complaints against health funds. At present, the ombudsman's power is limited to investigating disputes, but he has no power to resolve them. "The bill, therefore, aims to ensure that the ombudsman will be able to represent effectively consumer interests arising from all aspects of their privately-insured experience," Mr Abbott said. "Currently, the ombudsman's powers centre on complaints and investigations relating to the activities of health funds. "The bill expands the responsibilities of the ombudsman to include receiving complaints by, and in relation to, health care providers and health insurance brokers." The ombudsman will be able to compel parties to produce documents such as records held by health funds, health care providers and insurance brokers, and penalties will exist for failing to comply. The legislation allows for parties involved in a dispute to be compelled to undertake mediation, and will give the ombudsman greater scope to make recommendations about the practices and procedures of health funds. The ombudsman would not (not) be able to intervene in matters of clinical care, which would remain the responsibility of medical registration boards and state health complaints commissions, Mr Abbott said. Debate on the bill was adjourned.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡05/31/2006

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Private Schools Receive 'Excess Funding'

One in four Sydney private schools are receiving more money than they are entitled to under the federal government's funding formula. Some of the city's most expensive schools, including Ascham, Cranbrook and Presbyterian Ladies College, have had their funding frozen at 2004 levels despite a review of needs showing they should receive less. Department of Education data, published in The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, shows their funding has been guaranteed at the inflated level until 2008 under the socio-economic status (SES) formula introduced in 2001. SES allocates funding according to the relative wealth of parents, based on surveys of the postcode where they live, irrespective of school fees. The proportion of independent schools funded above their entitlement under the SES scale has grown from 23 to 39 per cent in five years. The federal government has just announced it will spend more than $2 billion in 2005-08 in funding maintenance for independent and Catholic systemic schools. Education minister Julie Bishop has requested a review of the SES system and will soon announce the terms of reference for an inquiry. Ms Bishop has defended the model, saying it allows needy schools to receive funding increases in excess of the general 6.4 per cent all schools get.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡05/29/2006

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PM Defends Medibank Privatisation

Health premium increases under a privatised Medibank Private will be no greater than if the government-owned insurer were kept in public ownership, Prime Minister John Howard says. Mr Howard today defended the government's planned sale of Medibank Private, but warned there was no guarantee premiums would not rise. "I can't give a guarantee of that, no," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting. "Competition is the best suppressor of unnecessary and unjustified price increases but I can't promise the Australian public that if Medibank Private is sold its premiums won't go up. "Inevitably there will be some adjustment in premiums over time because the cost of things always rises somewhat. "The premium increases in relation to a privatised Medibank Private are not going to be greater than they would be if the body were retained (in public hands)." There was no reason "of competition or of efficiency" why Medibank Private should be retained, Mr Howard said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ ¡¡06/02/2006

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FIJI: Fijian Govt Moves to Sell Stake in Local TV Firm

SUVA, June 20 Asia Pulse - The Fiji government has sought Parliament's approval to sell its Fiji TV shares. Finance Minister Ratu Jone Kubuabola tabled the motion in Parliament yesterday, Fiji Times reports. He said the government was divesting from Fiji TV because the industry was now driven by the commercial sector. "Government seeks this honourable House's approval to sell the shareholding in Fiji Television Limited with an objective of maximising revenue and wider participation of the public in buying shares," Ratu Jone told parliament. "Government being the regulator of many industries including that of television broadcasting must not hold interests in any such company, so as to be free of conflict of interest," he said. He said Fiji TV has enjoyed a monopolistic position in the television industry and the company now was well established and had the capacity to continue to perform well if competition is introduced.

Kubuabola said Fiji TV had recorded more than a 400 per cent increase in pre-tax profit over the past five years. Fiji TV operates on a 12-year exclusive licence and it has a 15 year tax exemption which expires in July 2009. Since 1994, Fiji TV's income tax exemption has amounted to more than FJ$2.6 million (US$1.4 million), an average of $264,102.3 per year. The Fiji Government obtained its 14 per cent share of Fiji TV in 1999 from Telecom Fiji Limited due to telecommunications restructuring. Ratu Jone said government was going to open up the television broadcasting industry and had already granted a TV broadcasting licence to Ba Provincial Council Holdings Limited on behalf of the Pacific Broadcasting Services.


From Pacnews/ ¡¡06/20/2006

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NEW ZEALAND: Government to Fund Parkinson's Drug Trials

The Government is to invest $1.27 million in clinical trials of a potentially ground-breaking drug for Parkinson's disease. Approval of the second phase of clinical trials of MitoQ was granted last week, and screening for the 120 mainly New Zealand patients has already begun. The latest cash boost comes on top of $2.5 million of Government funds invested in Auckland biotechnology company Antipodean Pharmaceuticals to develop the drug.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ ¡¡06/01/2006

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Telecom Told to Give Callplus and Ihug Greater Internet Access

Telecom has been told to allow internet service providers ihug and CallPlus regulated bitstream access to its network, enabling them to provide higher speed broadband. The Commerce Commission today released a final determination providing ihug and CallPlus with regulated access to a wholesale bitstream service from Telecom. Bitstream was a form of transmission capacity on Telecom's copper local access network, the commission said. CallPlus and ihug would be able to combine it with their national and international transmission capability and ISP services to support their retail broadband services. They would be able to expand their retail service offerings by providing higher speed broadband. The result would be more choice and greater competition in the broadband market. The commission decision closely followed a similar decision late last year that allowed TelstraClear the right to obtain a regulated bitstream access service.

Telecom was required to provide nationwide bitstream access to ihug and CallPlus with the maximum downstream speed technically available and an upstream speed of 128kbps, at a GST-exclusive price of $28.04 per month, the commission said. The wholesale price for bitstream access was not to distinguish between customer type or speed. The commission had concluded that a uniform wholesale price would not remove incentives for ongoing diversity in retail broadband services available at different prices. Telecom was to provide the bitstream access within 18 weeks. CallPlus and ihug applied to the commission for the determination in March. Today's decision was yet another blow to Telecom, already hammered on the sharemarket following the Government's announcement early last month of a more heavy handed regulatory environment. Before the announcement Telcom's shares were at $5.75. Yesterday they hit a 13-year low of $4.06, meaning $3.3 billion has been wiped off Telecom's value in six weeks.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ ¡¡06/22/2006

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