July 2006, Issue 56
gapw@apcity.org
 
 
  Developing Countries Shaping Future of World Agriculture Trade, Says Joint OECD-FAO Report
OECD Invites Public Comment on Draft Guidelines on the Funding and Benefit Security of Pensions
UN Approves Modest Management Reforms by Consensus
 
  CHINA: Animal Husbandry Law Effective July 1
China Adopts Amendment to Compulsory Education Law
Anti-Corruption Drive a Strategic Task
China to Push Forward Rural Taxation Reform
Emergency Response Law 'Will Ensure Accurate Info'
Regulation Raised to Promote Fair Competition
China's First Internet Regulation Protects Search Engines
Income Distribution Reform Targets Equality
Regulation Issued to Monitor SOEs' Investment
Housing Security System Takes Shape
Legal System to Ensure Honesty in Tourism
National Soil Pollution Survey Planned
JAPAN: Unions, Business Halt Panel's Attempts to Change Labor Law
City to Vote on 'Defenseless' Plan
Japan to Curb Welfare Spending Next Fiscal Year
Inflation Target Plan Floated in New Govt White Paper
Japan Govt Adopts Fiscal 2007 Budget Request Guidelines
SOUTH KOREA: Assembly Approves Judges, 11 Bills
Court's Ruling Will Mean Revision of Newspaper Law
Proposal Alters Estate Division for Intestates
Proposal Would Permit Foreign Medical Practice
New Global Competitiveness Measures
Grandiose Plans for &Innovative' Towns Scaled Back
Korea to Legislate New Drug Pricing Policy
MONGOLIA: Draft Law on National Anthem Submitted
 
  CAMBODIA: Public Financial Management and Accountability Project
INDONESIA: Aceh Governance Law Set for Enactment
New Policy Package on Financial Sector Issued
PNew Law Mandates Witness, Victim Protection Body
Govt Adopts New Education Standards
PHILIPPINES: GMA Vows to Share Power with Provinces
 
  BANGLADESH: Parliament Passes Public Procurement Bill
Draft of Constitution Amendment Bill Okayed: No By-Polls During Last 180 Days of Parliament
Draft Law Proposes to Make National ID Card Mandatory for All
INDIA: Bengal Govt Sets Up Committee to Review Land Ceiling Act
National Policy on Panchayati Raj Governance Soon
Get Ready for New Income Tax Laws by July End
National Policy on Voluntary Sector Soon
Cabinet to Take Up Changes to Right to Information Act
SRI LANKA: Anti-Dumping Bill to Take Effect Soon
Tougher Laws to Curb Child Labour
MALDIVEVS: National Housing Policy to Be Revealed This Year
Majlis Approves Bill Relating to Police Act
NEPAL: House Scraps 50 Articles of 1990 Constitution
Government Decides to Scrap 16 Laws, Amend 23
PAKISTAN: Bill on Mps* Emoluments Passed
NA Body Approves Draft Medical Device Bill
Trade Policy for 2006-07 Announced
 
  AFGHANISTAN: President Concedes a Degree of 'Dissatisfaction'
Afghanistan Plans to Revive Religious Police
IRAQ: Sunni Parliamentarian to Propose New Reconciliation Plan
KAZAKHSTAN: President Signs Controversial Changes to Media Law
UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek Head Signs Decree to Establish New Order
Justice Ministry Registers Order on Single Tax
 
  AUSTRALIA: Setting for More Tax Cuts and Benefits from 1 July 2006
Media Law Reform Plan Goes off Air Indefinitely
New Rules on Welfare
Plan to Find Phantom Army of Kids
Waste Levies Rise as Government Waves Green Flag
PM to Increase Government Backing for Biofuel Use
Federal Govt Won't Fund Public Transport
FIJI: Cabinet Approves Health and Safety at Work (Diving) Regulations
NEW ZEALAND: to Tighten Up Anti-Terrorism Act
Carbon-Tax Option Back on Agenda
Government Opens $12m War Chest to Tackle Pests
 
  World Bank Graft Plan Looks to Work with Countries
ICTs Help Poor Get Access to Public Services: OWSA Report
Better Governance Is Way Out of Poverty - World Bank
Two-Year Term Extension for ADB Vice-President
 
  CHINA: HK Govt's 5-Day Week Pattern Smooth on 1st Saturday
Healthcare Finance Scheme to Be Unveiled
Promotion of Governance Transparency Called
China to Promote AIDS Awareness Among Local Officials
China Allocates US$175 Bln to Environmental Protection
Govt to Promulgate New Standards for Drinking Water
Local Gov't Tries to Curb Commercial Bribery
HK Gov't to Help People Understand GST
Civil Servants' Pay Adjustment on the Way
China Recommends Margaret Chan to Run for WHO Director-General
JAPAN: Slight Raise Seen as Civil Servants Get Summer Bonus
Tadaki to Be New Top Prosecutor
Salary Cuts for Governors
BOJ to Name New Exec Director
Transport Bureaucrats Got 4.4 Million Yen in Fund Abuse
LDP Sets Sept. 20 for Election to Pick Koizumi Successor
Govt Faces Headache over Personnel Cuts
Govts Team Up in Bids to Host '08 G-8 Summit
Defense Expert Set to Head Academy
91% of Local Leaders Fear Their Cities Won't Survive
SOUTH KOREA: President Names New Cabinet Members
Audit Board ID*s 50 Wasteful Projects
Roh to Appoint 5th Education Minister
New GNP Chief Was Selected
Foreign Minister Submits Job Application to UN
Finance Minister to Tackle Myriad Economic Issues
New Tax Chief Promises Fewer Audits
Gov't to Spend W200 Billion on Flood Relief
Government Crisis Management Lacking
Justice Minister Offers Resignation
 
  INDONESIA: SBY Orders Better Migrant Services
Govt Needs to Provide Incentives to Promote CSR
Indonesia Vows to Speed Up Tsunami Warning Network
Broadcasters Recruited to Tsunami Early Warning System
MALAYSIA: Ensuring Easy Access to Government Healthcare
Plan for More Community Colleges
All States to Have Road Safety Departments
Ipoh Gets New Mayor
PHILIPPINES: Business Sector Rates Govt Agencies Low on Corruption
Villar Takes Over Senate Presidency
SINGAPORE: New Govt Dept to Save Public Sector Millions of Dollars in Costs
Singapore Human Resources Institute Does Survey on Employee Engagement
Environment and Water Industry Devt Council Set Up to Grow Water Industry
THAILAND: Cabinet Has New Secretary-General
PM: Political Reform Will Let Govt and Its Foes Reconcile
State Urged to Improve Controls on Land Use in Thailand
VIET NAM: Govt Supports Creativity, Arts
 
  Transparency International Bangladesh Statement Regarding Its Corruption Database Report 2005
BANGLADESH: 64 pc Govt Officials Corrupt:TIB
BHUTAN: 'Corruption in All Public'
INDIA: Govt Proposing to Set Up a 'Law Commission': M Vijayakumar
SC Panel to Suggest Measures to Weed Out Corruption in PDS
Administrative Reforms Commission Gets One-Year Extension
Public Administration Revamp Panel Gets Extension
SRI LANKA: Nine New President's Counsel
MALDIVEVS: System of Government to Be Determined Before Ramadan
Changes Made to Administrative Structure of President*s Office
Nepal Focuses on Rural Development, Cuts Royal Income
NEPAL: 301-Member Constituent Assembly Proposed
PAKISTAN: Rs350m for Municipal Services
Executive Officers Get Magisterial Powers: Price Control
160 Candidates Allocated Groups: Competitive Exam 2005
 
  AFGHANISTAN: Former President Identifies Causes of Security Deterioration
Six New Members of Afghan Supreme Court Introduced
AZERBAIJAN: New Vise-President of Azerbaijani Bank Association to Be Elected in July
IRAQ: Iraqis Take Charge of Province's Security for First Time
IRAN: Cabinet Okays New Technical, Executive Body
KAZAKHSTAN: Constitutional Court Rejects Broader Role for Ombudsman
TURKMENISTAN: President Appoints New Deputy Premier
 
  Fix Constitution to Pull States into Line: Costello
AUSTRALIA: $2 Million to Deliver Scouting to Indigenous Communities
Post Office Tightens ID
Ombudsman to Protect Mail Users
Smartcard Gurus Appointed
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Sir Michael Makes Major Cabinet Reshuffle
 
  Key ICT Players Meet to Discuss Future: CEOs and CTOs to Provide Unique Vision
APEC Supply Chain Security Seminar Strengthens Regional Security
Smart Passport Technology to Expand Further Around the APEC Region
ADB Setting Up Public Finance Knowledge Hub at the AIM in Manila
 
  CHINA: Shanghai Plans Traffic Info Website to Tackle Congestion
Farmers Encouraged to Set Up Economic Cooperatives
New System to Warn of Tsunamis
JAPAN: Cabinet Endorses 5.7% Cut in State Employees over Five Years
Japan 95th in Environmental League Table
SOUTH KOREA: Lawmakers Call for Nomination Reform
Civil Servants* Pension Likely to Be Changed
MONGOLIA: Project on Pasture Management in Province
 
  INDONESIA: Govt Holding Science Writing Contest
Govt Rolls Out One-Stop Investment Service for SEZs
PHILIPPINES: ADB Setting Up Public Finance Knowledge Hub at the AIM in Manila
SINGAPORE: New SMART Centre to Be Set up to Drive R&D
National Qualifications System to Boost Non-Traditional Trades
Singapore Aims to Build Strong Research Talent Pool
VIET NAM: First Corporate Credit Ranking Institute Set Up
 
  BANGLADESH: Reform Measures Underway to Revamp Capital Market
INDIA: Kerala a Model for Women Empowerment: Minister
National Agricultural Innovation Project Approved
Govt Sets Up 321 Help Centres for Filing IT Returns
Innovative US$15 Million Grant to Strengthen ADB's Program in India
SRI LANKA: Tsunami Newsletter Launched
Importance of Harnessing Human Resources Stressed
PAKISTAN: Young Leaders Conference Starts
Code of Ethics for NGOs to Be Introduced
16000 Lady Councillors to Get Training
 
  KYRGYZSTAN: NGOs Allege Government Campaign Against Civil Society
TURKMENISTAN: President Calls for New Energy Policy
UZBEKISTAN: Workshop Held at Oliy Majlis Senate
UZBEKISTAN: Judicial-Legal Reforms Great Response to Criticism of West
 
  AUSTRALIA: Commonwealth Welcomes Advances in Policing Policy at Australasian Police Ministers* Council
Star Rating System Proposed for Hospitals
Property Registration Scheme to Ease Business Loans
New Model for the Learning and Teaching Performance Fund
More than $10 Million Awarded for Renewable Energy Projects from Ethanol to Wind Power
Northern Territory Crocodile Industry Benefits from Innovation
Bishop Tells Unis: Merge or Reform
Councils Face New Test of Planning Efficiency
NEW ZEALAND: Televising Parliament Back in Focus
 
  Inequalities Hindering South Asian Growth: World Bank
Unemployment Increasing Globally: Annan
Women Entrepreneurs in e-Business Training Program Concludes
Poverty Rate Could Diminish by Two-Thirds in South Asian Countries
Emerging East Asia to Post Strong Growth in 2006, Says ADB
7 South Asian Finance Ministers to Meet in Pakistan to Discuss Poverty Fund
 
  CHINA: Chinese Will Pay More for Green PCs
Shanghai Gov't Website Ranks 3rd in UN Evaluation
China Approves First 30 National Heritage Sites
Search Engines Get Internet Regulation Protection
HK Realty Sector Sixth Most Transparent in the World
SMEs to Spend 500 Bln Yuan on IT Products
China Has 123 Million Netizens
New Policy Expected to Aid Semiconductor Industry
20 Mainland Firms Among 500 Largest
JAPAN: Population Now World's Grayest
Manufacturing, Construction Workforce Down to 1965 Levels
SOUTH KOREA: Online Health Consultation Service for Foreign Workers Begins
Medical Officials Warn Travelers of Health Risks
Mutual Banks Expand with Mergers and Acquisitions
MONGOLIA: Internet Center Opened in Soum
Top 100 Enterprises Nominated
Loan to Help Reform Mongolia's Education System
 
  INDONESIA: Govt to Issue New License for Int'l Call Services
House to Debate Draft Law on Electronic Transactions
MALAYSIA: Jobless ICT Grads Took Outdated Courses
State Govt in Pact with AGC to Develop Wireless Perak
PHILIPPINES: State Softens Stance on iTV Fee Payment
SINGAPORE: New Web-Based Digital Tidal Atlas Launched
Singapore Signs Latest UN Convention to Boost E-Commerce
Singapore's Call Centres Ranked No 2
Subordinate Courts Harnesses Technology to Improve Court System
THAILAND: Judging Begins for ICT Awards
Thai ICT Events and Training
VIET NAM: Estimated 45% Expected to Live in Cities by 2020
Govt to Help Business Develop IT, E-Commerce
 
  Poor to Benefit from New BRAC Micro Credit
BGSM Users Reach 78.5 Million
New Amended IT Act to Book Cyber Criminals
INDIA: 166 Million Socially Marginalized: Indian Government
SRI LANKA: Economic Growth Exceeds 8 Per Cent
PAKISTAN: Pakistan May Become Fourth Populous Country by 2050
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Local TV Channels and Radios to Be Opened in Several Regions
IRAN: Cellphone Production Failure Will Increase Prices
KAZAKHSTAN: "E-Government" Portal to Be Ready to Provide Interactive Services This December
 
  AUSTRALIA: Government Frameworks on Smartcards, Authentication and Public Service ID Management
The Future of Electronic Payments Keeps Growing
Heritage to Be Digitised
Watchdog to Vet Internet Content
Australian Banks 'Fail' in Online Mission
NEW ZEALAND: Wireless Broadband Paper Released
SOLOMON IRLANDS: Femm Concludes with Resolution for Further Cooperation on Regional Economic Integration Issues
 
  $37 Billion Debt Cut for Poor Nations
APEC Finance Ministers Discuss Taxes and Capital Flows
SAARC Finance Ministers Agree to Set Up SDF
 
  Gov't Takes Aim at Banking Problems
Report Shows Income Tax Problems
Cap on Tax-free Housing Funds
Bank Sector Opened to Money Brokers
China to Issue 10th Batch of T-bonds
Bank Gets 'Public' Go-Ahead
Henry Tang Unveils GST Scheme
CHINA: 2005 Fiscal Revenue Hits Record High of $395 Bln
JAPAN: Cutting Corporate Taxes Best Course for Japan
SOUTH KOREA: New Bank Supervision Rules to Fuel Housing Prices
Central Bank Freezes Rates
MONGOLIA: Negotiation of 10 Million USD Grant Loan Approved
 
  INDONESIA: Bank Inaugurates New Credit Information Bureau
Govt Urged to Provide Tax Incentives
MALAYSIA: Four Foreign Banks Offer Shared ATM Network
 
  BANGLADESH: Credit-Rating Mandatory for Commercial Banks
INDIA: Centre Increases National Old Age Pension to Rs 200 a Month
SRI LANKA: New Laws to Recoup Rs.20 B Bad Debts
IMF Mission Gives Positive Report on Sri Lanka
PAKISTAN: Accounts Training System to Be Strengthened
 
  IRAN: Gov*t to Issue Participation Bonds
KYRGYZSTAN: World Bank Supports Entrepreneurship and Trade in the Kyrgyz Republic
KAZAKHSTAN: ADB Signs Second Private Sector Loan for Kazakhstan to Boost Financing for SMEs
TAJIKISTAN: World Bank Supports Tajik Government*s Reform Program
 
  AUSTRALIA: Tax Cuts Could Push RBA to Rate Rise
Bank's Relocation Plan for 12,000 Staff
Productivity Commission Research Paper on the Financial Performance of Government Trading Enterprises
NEW ZEALAND: Tax Changes Likely to Fire up Housing Market
 
 
 
  CHINA: First Railway IPO Set to Launch Major Expansion
Guangdong's Private Sector Sees Rapid Progress
China to Auction One Unprofitable State-Owned Railway
JAPAN: Businessmen to Head 4 Postal Entities
Private Universities Tie Up with High Schools
Postal Bank, Life Insurer to Complete Privatization Earlier
SOUTH KOREA: KEPCO Keen to Join CUC Privatization Bid
Government to Block Further Privatization of Hospitals
 
  MALAYSIA: Ministry to Ensure Private TV Stations Air 70% Local Ads
Government Needs Support of Private and International Schools
THAILAND: To Ask Larger Private Sector Role in ASEAN Projects
FTI Airs Concerns on Private Sector Competitiveness
 
  BANGLADESH: Quality Education in Pvt Varsities Emphasised
INDIA: To Tap Funds from the Private Sector for Infrastructure Development
Sale of Government Stocks
BPAKISTAN: Govt Urged Not to Privatise Wapda
 
  IRAN: TSE Unable to Process New Privatizations
UZBEKISTAN: Presidential Resolution Says 102 Strategic Enterprises to Be Privatized
 
  AUSTRALIA: SP Ausnet Well Placed for Privatisation
Bosses Shy from Push for Tougher Work Laws
Sale Threatens Health Costs
NEW ZEALAND: Telecom Could Still Deal Its Way out of Enforced Regulation
Minister Cleared over Telecom Comments

Developing Countries Shaping Future of World Agriculture Trade, Says Joint OECD-FAO Report

Production and consumption of farm products are expanding faster in developing countries than in developed economies. But a new, joint report by the OECD and the UN*s Food and Agriculture Organisation says productivity growth in the poorest nations is not keeping pace with the food needs of their rising populations. Because of this, the poorest developing countries will be increasingly dependent on world markets for their food security and so more vulnerable to international price fluctuations, according to the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2006-2015. To improve domestic production capacity in these countries, greater investment in education, training and infrastructure development is needed. The report adds that Brazil, India and China are of increasing importance in shaping the future of world agricultural trade. In developing countries as a whole rising incomes and increasing urbanisation are causing changes to people*s diets. This leads to greater demand and imports for meat and processed foods particularly, but also for the animal feed needed for their production. Growing market opportunities in certain developing countries are coupled with a shift in production and export of farm commodities away from OECD countries and more towards other developing economies. This is expected to increase over the next 10 years and as a result, global competition among exporters will get tougher, the report says. The traditional main wheat exporters 每 Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union and the US -- are likely to maintain their dominant positions, but output from Ukraine and Kazakhstan is creating growing competition. The US is expected to remain the largest wheat exporter over the coming years, but its market share is likely to fall. Similar trends prevail in other commodity markets, with rapidly growing exports from Latin American countries in particular. The report estimates that average yields for wheat and coarse grains such as maize should rise by around 1.0 % a year globally between 2006 and 2015. Wheat output by 2015 is expected to be 13 percent higher than in 2005. Coarse grain production is estimated to rise by 18 percent over the same period. In a context of assumed strong energy prices, production of bio-energy from coarse grains and other cereals as well as from oilseeds and sugar is expected to grow, creating additional demand for these commodities. Growth is expected to continue in international meat markets in the medium term, but they remain vulnerable to animal disease outbreaks in key supplying countries. Potential further outbreaks of BSE (mad cow disease), foot and mouth disease, and avian influenza will challenge markets and affect trading patterns, requiring greater international attention and cooperation. Continued productivity growth and increased competition in international trade are expected to offset rising demand. World agricultural commodity prices, adjusted for inflation, are mostly expected to continue 每 albeit slowly - their long-term decline towards 2015.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 07/04/2006


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OECD Invites Public Comment on Draft Guidelines on the Funding and Benefit Security of Pensions

The OECD is inviting public comment on draft guidelines to help governments and regulators improve the way certain types of pension funds are run in order to make workers* pensions more secure. They build on analysis from a series of policy papers that are being released with the guidelines and are part of a broader OECD effort to restore public confidence in pensions. The draft guidelines contain a series of recommendations on how the funding of occupational pension plans, and in particular defined benefit pension schemes, should be regulated. Such schemes are common in Canada, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States, though many are now closed to new employees. Issues covered by the guidelines include the funding and valuation of pension plans and how the money paid by employees into their company pension scheme should be protected if their employer or the company that finances their pension plan goes bankrupt.


From http://www.oecd.org/ 07/10/2006



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UN Approves Modest Management Reforms by Consensus

※The UN General Assembly approved limited UN management reforms on Friday#§ reports Reuters (07/08). ※# In a move that surprised some delegates, the United States did not formally distance itself from the assembly decision, as it did last week when member-nations lifted a budget ceiling meant to put pressure on governments to go along with reforms. # Friday's package was approved without the rancor seen in earlier assembly deliberations. Nonetheless, diplomats from the US, Australia, Japan, Canada and Finland -- representing the EU's 35 member-nations -- expressed disappointment with the results and said they hoped the pace would accelerate in 2007. #§ The Associated Press (07/08) and Dow Jones (07/08) write that ※# the resolution authorized some improvements to the UN's oversight system, approved internationally accepted accounting standards for the organization, established an information technology chief, and decided to replace the UN's long-outdated information management system. It authorized Annan &on an experimental basis,* to spend up to $20 million in 2006-2007 and again in 2008-2009 to meet the UN's needs, giving the UN chief some budget flexibility. It also gave Annan $706,600 to strengthen the UN purchasing system, pending action by the General Assembly at its next session, which starts in September, on his upcoming report on procurement reform. #§


From http://www.worldbank.org/07/11/2006


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CHINA: Animal Husbandry Law Effective July 1

China's Law on Animal Husbandry, a milestone legislature that will improve the raising of livestock, will take effect on July 1. The law will ensure sound breeding conditions of livestock and livestock product quality, Vice Minister of Agriculture Zhang Baowen said on Monday. Zhang said China's animal husbandry industry has been faced with several new problems in recent years such as the existence of fake livestock species, increased risks of animal diseases and outdated rearing methods. The eight-chapter law includes regulations on livestock breeding, raising and production, transportation and product quality protection. According to the new law, to ensure the quality and security of livestock products, the use of foodstuff, additives and medicines should be in accordance with legal and technical standards. The new law will help facilitate the modernization of China's animal husbandry industry by encouraging the development of large-scale and highly productive livestock farms. Many farmers still raise their livestock in their households. Animal husbandry has become a pillar industry of China's rural economy. Its output value exceeded 1,300 billion yuan (US$162.5 billion) last year, accounting for 35 percent of the total agricultural output value. Currently, there are more than 100 million farmers engaged in animal husbandry in China, and a farmer's average annual income from the industry is about 600 yuan, or 30 percent of total household income.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 06/27/2006


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China Adopts Amendment to Compulsory Education Law

Beijing: The Chinese parliament has adopted an amendment to the Compulsory Education Law, aiming to give equal nine years of free compulsory education to children in China's cities and countryside. The Compulsory Education Law was promulgated in 1986 and the revised law passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) yesterday will come into effect on September 1, 2006. The revised law aims to give children in both cities and the countryside nine years of free compulsory education but the tuition charges will not be completely waived for a few years as clauses in the law still have to be approved by the State Council, the cabinet.The expenditures will be jointly shouldered by the central government and local governments. And local governments should put the expenditure for compulsory education in their budgets. If the local governments fail to pay for the compulsory education in time, they will be disciplined, Vice-Minister of Education Chen Xiaoya said. The revised law states migrant workers' children would enjoy equal education rights as children in cities and that education rights of children with disabilities should be also secured. The revised law states that in cities, education resources, such as teachers, school facilities, programmes designs and investment, should be equally allocated among schools and there should be no division of schools into key and common ones. In a bid to improve education quality in rural schools, the law also requires teachers in urban schools to work in rural schools for a certain time to make up for the inadequate rural education resources.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 06/30/2006


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Anti-Corruption Drive a Strategic Task

Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Friday called for the fight against corruption, which he said is "rampant in some fields," to be intensified. "Anti-corruption and building a clean government are an important strategic mission. We cannot slack off for one moment," Hu said in a nationally televised speech at a grand rally to mark the 85th anniversary of the CPC. Hu, also president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the strength of the Party is its vanguard character. He said the CPC must always keep and develop such a character to "consolidate its governing status and improve its governing capability." All nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee attended the rally. Hu called on the 70 million Party members to fully realize the importance of the anti-corruption drive. Hu noted that there still exist some prominent problems that do not conform with the vanguard character of the CPC. Some Party members do not stand firmly for their political belief, some do not abide by the Party's discipline, and some grassroots Party organizations are weak. "Cases of cadres abusing power for personal gains are frequently reported," Hu said. He made the remark after former deputy commander of the Navy of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Wang Shouye, was expelled on Thursday from China's top legislature on charges of economic crimes.

According to documents submitted to the National People's Congress, an unmarried young woman admitted to authorities that she had been keeping an "improper relationship" with Wang "for a long time." Also on Thursday, a court opened in East China's Anhui Province to hear the case of former deputy head of the provincial finance department Kuang Bingwen and his son Kuang Zhongpin, who were charged with taking bribes of 861,000 yuan (US$107,600) and US$51,000, and embezzling public funds. Last year, China's procurators investigated 8,490 government officials, including eight at the ministerial level. China's courts convicted 1,932 government officials of graft, six of them ministerial-level officials. Hu stressed that Party members should make painstaking efforts to combat corruption. They should fully realize that the campaign of maintaining the vanguard character of the Party is a long-term task of historic importance. Hu said the campaign should be accompanied by implementing the scientific viewpoint of development, building a socialist harmonious society and enhancing the Party's governance capability. The cadre selection system should be reformed to make the process more transparent and allow the public more say and a greater supervisory role. Inner-Party supervision should be strengthened, Hu said, adding the Party welcomes supervision from the media and the masses.

"We should be alert against greedy desires, discipline our acts, resist money worship, hedonism and egoism," he said. Keeping the vanguard character is integral to the success of the CPC, said Hu. He urged Party members to always use their power for the people, care about the people and work to benefit the people. "Hot issues and difficult issues facing the masses should always be made the emphasis of our work," said Hu. Past experience has proven that in order to maintain its progressive nature, the Party must keep pace with the times, setting goals and implementing strategies in accordance with the reality and will of the people, he said. The CPC Central Committee issued awards to outstanding grass-roots organizations of the Party and Party members at the rally. People's Daily, the mouthpiece of CPC, publishes an editorial on Saturday, saying the Party's advanced nature will remain forever if it keeps pace with the times, and the Party's vitality will exist forever if it shares the future with the people.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 07/01/2006


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China to Push Forward Rural Taxation Reform

A State Council executive meeting on Sunday discussed ways to push forward taxation reform in China's countryside. A statement from the meeting, which was presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, said that the key to implementing the rural taxation reform lies in advancing comprehensive rural reforms in township government organs, rural compulsory education and the financial systems of township and county governments. The statement stressed the need to test the rural comprehensive reforms in more regions and encourage township governments to focus more on rural social management and public services by reducing personnel and expenditure. The statement also called for the improvement of rural compulsory education reform to ensure financial resources for free compulsory education for rural students. On reforming and improving the financial systems of township and county governments, the statement promised to transfer more funds to the local governments after the rural taxation reform cuts a large chunk of their tax income. The statement also proposed the establishment of a mechanism to monitor farmers' debts. The meeting also discussed and adopted the draft anti-drug law, which will be submitted to the Standing Committee of National People's Congress for deliberation after further revision.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 07/03/2006


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Emergency Response Law 'Will Ensure Accurate Info'

The proposed new law on dealing with emergencies is not designed to prevent the truth being revealed, but to allow the timely release of accurate information, said a senior official yesterday. Under the law media outlets could face fines of up to 100,000 yuan (US$12,500) if they "report the development and handling of emergencies without authorization." But Wang Yongqing, vice-minister of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office, yesterday said that under the new law, it was local governments that will shoulder responsibility for increasing transparency in the reporting of emerging disasters. Wang said governments should take responsibility because they have access to the most information about response plans. "The key lies in imposing a heavier obligation on the government and urging it to release accurate and timely information, and provide a satisfactory service for news media covering emergencies," he said. Wang is the major official responsible for drafting the Law on Response to Contingencies, which was submitted to the law-making Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for review last week.

He made the remarks yesterday at a news briefing organized by the State Council's Information Office to allay concerns on an article threatening fines for news outlets that report emergencies without authorization. The 57th article stipulates "news media violating certain rules to report the development and handling of emergencies without authorization, or releasing fraudulent reports, will be fined between 50,000 yuan (US$ 6,250) and 100,000 yuan (US$12,500), if the reports lead to serious consequences." The draft law defines emergencies as industrial accidents, natural disasters, and health and public security crises. In the past some regional governments have failed to report, circulate or release information about an emergency, or have even issued false reports or concealed information, said Wang. The proposed law prods governments to release information in a "uniform, accurate and timely manner," and violation may result in administrative punishments such as "a demerit or a serious demerit" of government officials, or even removal from office. Amendment VI of the Criminal Law, which was adopted by the NPC Standing Committee last week, allows a maximum seven-year jail sentence for officials.

"This provision will not have any adverse effect on the regular reporting of emergencies by news media. It will, on the contrary, help enhance the accuracy and authority of such information, making news media more accountable," said Wang. He said the original intention of the legislation was to "prevent certain news media from disseminating groundless news or rumours, or reporting false information which may mislead the public and cause social panic." Wang added that the fines are applicable "only when the circumstances are serious or any grave consequences have been caused." During the panel's discussions last week, some lawmakers still had different views on the provision. For example, NPC Standing Committee member He Keng disagreed with it. He said journalism has its own rules and argued that media supervision was not strong enough in China. Wang said the proposed law prohibits governments and officials from abusing their law enforcement powers during emergencies. Protection of civilian's rights and restraining governments' behaviours have been the guidelines of the proposed law, according to Wang. "This represents great progress for China's democratic development and legal construction," he noted. Under the law, people will be compensated if their properties are damaged during government authorized emergency responses. Wang predicted that the law may be passed by the NPC Standing Committee this year. Under China's legislation, a law usually goes through three rounds of reviews before it is passed.

From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn 07/04/2006


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Regulation Raised to Promote Fair Competition

The government yesterday released the Competition Policy Review Committee's report, which recommends regulation of seven types of anti-competitive behaviours. The report also suggests forming a Competition Commission which has the statutory power to investigate anti-competitive complaints. The power of investigation includes the authority to ask the suspected persons to provide oral information, written documents. Besides, the commission may also apply for court warrants to enter premises to search for evidence. If the complaints are found justified, they will be referred to a Competition Tribunal to hear the cases and hand down sanctions in accordance with civil proceedings. Public reaction to the report was, however, a mixed one. Despite support of the Consumer Council and academics, business chambers were in general against the proposal. As proposed by the report, the behaviours of price fixing, bid-rigging, market allocation, and sales and production quotas shall be sanctioned. Other types of conduct to be put within the regulatory framework are joint boycotts, unfair or discriminatory standards, and the abuse of a dominant market position. However, one can only be found breaching the law if he is proved to have the intent to distort the market or if his conduct will cause market distortions. The new legislation will be applicable to all industries but will not apply to natural monopoly. It will contain certain exemption clauses to allow the government to grant exemption to the application of the law on public policy or economic grounds.

Professor K.C. Chan, a member of the Competition Policy Review Committee who drafted the report, believed legislation would make business operators more careful. Chan, chairman of the Consumer Council, also agreed to have a Competition Tribunal to hear the cases similar to the pattern of the Equal Opportunities Commission. "As the gatekeeper, the commission will investigate complaints and then refer the cases to the tribunal. "We don't need the complainants to pay for the litigation costs because we don't have to see a lot of meaningless litigations," he added. In the view of Consumer Council chief executive Pamela Chan, consumers will certainly benefit from a fair market condition. "If there is fair competition, the malpractice of bid-rigging, market allocation and deliberately raising the prices will no longer exist," she said. Quoting foreign examples, Chong Tai-leung, economics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said it would be very difficult to prove against anti-competitive behaviours of the large consortiums. It is therefore necessary to impose heavier penalties, he said, and only when there is fair competition will consumer rights be protected. "If the law is enacted and implemented successfully, petrol stations will not increase or decrease prices at the same time and I believe the oil price will drop by and large. "As for supermarkets, the smaller ones will come back again after many years of a severe monopolized market condition by the large supermarkets," he said.

But Democratic Party legislator Fred Li said civil proceedings were not a good deterrent against monopolized behaviours of the consortiums. He said: "They may just treat the fines as part of their operating expenses and so the government must consider declaring these behaviours as criminal offences." The business sector, however, was less than positive when asked about their reaction. Chan Wai-kwan, deputy chief executive of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, said a competition law was not a panacea that could solve all problems. The Federation of Hong Kong Industries had great reservation about such law and it would consult views of its members. "A single legislation cannot cater to the special competition scenarios of different sectors," said Cliff Sun, its vice chairman. David Wong, vice-president of Chinese Manufacturers' Association, said the report had not provided clear definition of the seven 'banned' behaviours. "In fact, the so-called anti-competitive behaviours are quite normal market practices. They will make the life of business operators very difficult if they are deemed illegal," he said.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn 07/05/2006


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China's First Internet Regulation Protects Search Engines

Beijing, July 5: China's first regulation on online copyright will protect search engine operators from infringement accusations and give them a legal status. "Search engines providing links can be exempted from copyright infringement of the content under the regulation," secretary general of on-line copyright alliance of Internet Society of China, Wang Bin said. Last September, seven record companies accused Baidu.Com, the largest Chinese search engine, of offering pirated free downloads of their songs, triggering a spate of legal cases against search engine operators. However, the new regulation stipulates that Internet service providers which merely offer search services and links are not liable for links to pirated content if they delete the links after being informed by the copyright owners. If the search engines continue to provide links to pirated content, they take on the infringement responsibility along with the pirate websites. "It means search engines would not be directly responsible for pirated products they provide links to," Wang was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency. Government statistics show that China has over 111 million Internet users and Internet companies are beginning to focus on providing sound and image content. "Copyright has become a prominent issue for websites and laws and regulations are needed to guarantee the websites' legal right to provide content," he said.


From http://www.newkerala.com07/06/2006


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Income Distribution Reform Targets Equality

Reforming and standardizing income distribution system are very important to China as the country's economic reform and development is at critical juncture, participants of a high-level symposium agreed on Thursday. President Hu Jintao, also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), presided over the symposium where China's democratic parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and non-party personages were invited to give their opinions on the upcoming income distribution reform. A release from the symposium said that the CPC would "seriously consider and absorb" the comments and advice which Hu said were "full of insights". Calling the reform "an important issue in China's political and economic life", Hu said in a speech that the CPC Central Committee would strive to defend social equality and close the wealth gap by raising the income of the low-paid, expanding the size of the middle classes, wiping out illegitimate incomes and putting a curb on excessively high salaries. A source close to the meeting said that reforming the payment system for civil servants was high on the agenda of the symposium. Under the Civil Servants Law implemented on January 1, China must have a uniform salary system across the country.

This would mean there would be no gap in salaries for civil servants of the same rank. Currently, the salaries for civil servants of the same rank mainly depend on the well-being of local government finances and therefore their pay varies with regions. To remedy the situation, Hu proposed that extra stipend should be granted to civil servants working in poor areas and in the regions. He said that "a rational and scientific" salary system for civil servants and "a reasonable pay rise mechanism" not only suit China's economic system but will also help secure a steady and robust civil service and facilitate reforms of the income distribution system across the country. Hu said that the core issue was to establish a good framework which could turn wages into effective incentives inspiring civil servants to serve the country honestly and industriously. The framework should also include a system that will penalize those who violate their jobs, he said. The President said that China faced "a rather complicated situation" while advancing the salary reform on civil servants and must proceed from actual conditions to map out a plan allowing the country to take the very first step and make continuous improvement. He said that to resolve the salary issue of civil servants, efforts must be made to coordinate the interests of all walks of life, especially those of the low-income, so that "the achievements of China's economic reform could benefit everyone".

To phase out the disparity, Hu said the policies must be made with the full consideration of the needs of the grass-roots and remote and poverty-stricken areas. He said that the pensions for retirees of public institutions must be adjusted to a more reasonable level while those for retired company employees should be properly raised. Hu also noted the stipend standards for disabled servicemen, family members of revolutionary martyrs and servicemen, retired veterans and cadres and the basic subsistence for urban dwellers need to be adjusted. Given that the reform concerns the essential interests of every Chinese, the President urged domestic parties, All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and people with non-party affiliations to keep a close eye on this issue and timely transmit the opinions at the grassroots to the government departments concerned. Jia Qinglin and Zeng Qinghong, members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee attended the symposium at which Premier Wen Jiabao introduced the situation on income distribution reform.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/07/2006


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Regulation Issued to Monitor SOEs' Investment

China has issued its first regulation to standardize the investment activities of the 166 major state-owned enterprises (SOEs) under the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. The regulation described the "significant responsibility" of the commission to supervise the investment activities of major SOEs as these companies, with combined assets of 10.6 trillion yuan, had a great bearing on the country's economic health and industrial safety. Although most SOEs already conform to the standards and channel investment into their core businesses, problems such as blind investment and ineffective capital management still exist. About 5 percent of the 1 trillion yuan invested by major SOEs in 2004 went into sideline businesses. A source with the commission said a few companies had branched into "too many sideline businesses" and failed to make good use of their resources. The regulation will apply only to the most frequent activities such as investment in fixed assets, property rights purchases and investment in long-term stockholder's rights. Other activities, especially complicated monetary investment, will be standardized through other regulations. The document said the right of companies in making independent investment decisions must be respected by the supervising authorities. The role of the commission was "not to make decisions for enterprises", but to "examine and verify their developing strategies, help sharpen their cutting edges by focusing on major business and to secure the value of state-owned assets". It also stipulated that the commission must track the whole process of investment activity so as to identify flaws and suggest feasible improvements.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/07/2006



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Housing Security System Takes Shape

BEIJING, July 11 (Xinhua) -- A three-tier housing security system is now in place in China but there is still a lot of work to be done to temper public concern over soaring property prices, according to an expert with the Ministry of Construction. Wen Linfeng, head of the research division with the ministry's policy research center, said China's housing security system is made up of the public housing fund (PHF), and the affordable housing and low-rent housing projects. The PHF is the most wide-reaching housing security system in China. Under the system, each urban employee has an account with the local PHF management center and deposits a portion of his monthly salary into the account. The same amount is contributed by his employer and the money can be used to apply for mortgage loans from the PHF center. Wen explained that the PHF works on three levels. Firstly, it forces people to save part of their income for purchasing houses. Secondly it works like a cooperation, with all members contributing to the same pool and receiving help from the fund when necessary. Thirdly, the PHF is free of personal income tax and its mortgage loans carry a lower interest rate than commercial mortgage loans. According to the Ministry of Construction, by the end of 2005, 63.3 million employees nationwide had contributed 976 billion yuan (122 billion U.S. dollars) to the PHF, which approved mortgage loans worth 459.9 billion yuan (57.49 billion dollars) to5.24 million people. Affordable housing project is another part of the housing security system. Under this system, the government encourages the building of houses affordable to middle and lower-income groups by providing cheap or free land or tax rebates for developers. By the end of 2005, about 470 million square meters of affordable houses were built nationwide, helping 5.7 million urban households improve their housing conditions.

However the system is riddled with defects particularly as investment in affordable housing project has dwindled in recent years. In 1999, affordable houses accounted for 16.6 percent of the total investment in new houses. But the figure dropped to less than five percent in 2005. The management of the affordable houses also needs to be improved, Wen said. Currently many high-income earners are buying affordable houses, due to the lack of a comprehensive personal credit record system and poor enforcement of income evaluation standards. The third form of housing security is the low-rent houses designed to help the poorest urban group. Such houses are built or sourced from the market by the government and then allocated to competent applicants. Authorized applicants can also source houses for themselves and receive rent subsidies from the government. According to the Ministry of Construction, government had spent4.74 billion yuan (593 million dollars) on low-rent houses by the end of 2005, benefiting 329,000 households. However, this system is not available to everyone in China. By 2005, 70 of the 291 cities at or above prefecture level still had not established the low-rent housing system. Following a recent order from the central government, these cities should establish the system by the end of 2006.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 07/11/2006


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Legal System to Ensure Honesty in Tourism

Over the next three to five years, China will establish a better and more comprehensive legal system to ensure honesty and reliability in the tourism industry, according to a source from the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). "The legal system is fundamental to this system-establishing process," said Zhang Xiqin, deputy director of CNTA. Zhang said the government continues to revise regulations and urges more provinces to pass laws regulating tourism. China will also train tourist guides leading up the 2008 Beijing Olympics.


From http://english.gov.cn06/13/2006


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National Soil Pollution Survey Planned

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and the Ministry of Land and Resources will jointly launch a three-year soil pollution survey, at a cost of 1 billion yuan (US$125 million), it was announced on Tuesday at a national video conference. The survey will cover the Chinese mainland only, excluding Taiwan, and Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions. The survey will focus on achieving the following: First, to analyze the contents of heavy metals, pesticide residue and organic pollutants in soil, and to study the physical-chemical properties of soil based on utilization and type of soil. Second, to follow up on the National Soil Environmental Background Investigation completed during the 1986-1990 period, collecting and testing soil samples to compare results, and to analyze soil quality changes, if any, over the last 20 years. Further, to update and expand the national soil sample database. Third, to classify risk evaluation and soil pollution in key regions including areas close to where heavy pollution enterprises, industrial sites, solid waste disposal sites, oilfields, mining areas, and major vegetable growing bases are located. In addition, to collect samples of soil, agricultural products and groundwater using controlled methods, and to test and analyze them to identify types, scope, degree, distribution and causes of pollution. Fourth, to launch pilot programs to rehabilitate and treat polluted soil, for research and development, and the import of techniques and technology. Fifth, to establish a soil environmental quality monitoring and management system and emergency plan. The plan would include soil pollution prevention strategies, policies, legislation, and assessment systems. In addition, to improve the national soil pollution monitoring network and to spearhead soil environmental security education projects.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/19/2006


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JAPAN: Unions, Business Halt Panel's Attempts to Change Labor Law

A government advisory body discussing changes to working hours and an increase in overtime pay has become bogged down in opposition from both companies and labor groups. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry wants a bill to revise the Labor Standards Law ready by the end of the year so it can submit it to the next regular Diet session, in the new year. But at present, no one even knows when the Labor Policy Council will have its next meeting. The government is proposing that high-earning white-collar workers no longer have regulated working hours. Under this system, people will not be able to claim overtime. This idea is being resisted by labor groups. At a meeting sponsored by labor lawyers in Tokyo on June 25, one trade union executive said not regulating hours will make workers more vulnerable. "We will be unable to expose overtime that violates the Labor Standards Law. It will also become extremely difficult to recognize death from overwork, as we will be unable to show the working hours." At the same time the ministry has upset business by suggesting an increase in overtime pay to 50 percent of a person's wage from 25 percent, for overtime in excess of 30 hours a month. And this is upsetting business.

"The topic of an increase in the rate of overtime pay, which has rarely been discussed, suddenly came up. That is a helter-skelter method," Takashi Kuriki, managing director of the Japanese Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), said at a subcommittee meeting June 27. One Labor Policy Council member representing labor said the ministry apparently hopes unions will agree to the new system by holding out the carrot of higher overtime pay. "But (the basic plan) will legalize unpaid overtime, and the rate of increase will become meaningless," he said. "The increase to 50 percent for overtime pay is an international standard," said Yuichiro Mizumachi, an assistant professor on labor law at the Social Science Institute of the University of Tokyo. "Although resistance by medium-size and small enterprises may be strong, it is a measure that will curb long working hours."


From The Japan Times 07/07/2006



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City to Vote on 'Defenseless' Plan

Amid growing conflicts and threats around the world, a petition drive is spreading nationwide with the message: Being defenseless is not necessarily a bad thing. The idea is that any military attack against an area that has declared itself "non-defended" would violate international law, specifically the Geneva Conventions. The Kunitachi city assembly in western Tokyo will vote on such an ordinance today. The Kunitachi petition states: "We declare this city a non-defended locality under the Geneva Conventions, Protocol I, Article 59, and that we will not cooperate with any military action should hostilities break out." Angered by military emergency legislation passed by the central government in 2004, the grass-roots Non-Defended Localities Movement Network formed in Osaka to urge local governments to declare themselves "non-defended localities" as defined in the Geneva Conventions. Such a declaration would place the town, city or prefecture under special protection from military attacks by removing any military bases from its precincts, the peace network says.

"Military bases and facilities will only enhance the threat to us," said Hirato Iesaka, 59, who heads the Kunitachi petition movement. "It is much safer to declare ourselves non-defended under international law, so that we won't be targeted." The network's strategy aims to start small and win big. Its proponents want to prevent Japan from becoming a "normal" military power that can become fully embroiled in world conflicts. The Conventions' Article 59 sets out four conditions defining a non-defended locality. They are: ?All combatants have been evacuated; ?No hostile use is being made of military bases; ?No hostile acts are committed by authorities or citizens; and ?No activities supporting military actions are undertaken. The Additional Protocol was adopted in 1977 and took effect in 1979. Japan ratified the Protocol in 2004. Since then, a wave of "direct petitions" by Japanese citizens has spread among communities--but no municipal assembly has adopted a non-defended locality ordinance.

The network is concerned not only with North Korea's missile launches, but also the reaction of some Japanese government officials. In the tense days after Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles on July 5, some officials suggested Japan gain the military capability to launch pre-emptive strikes. Proponents of the petition drive believe that if all communities declared themselves non-defended localities, meaning they allow no military bases in their borders, conflicts could be avoided. On the Kunitachi petition, local peace advocates collected signatures from 4,362 eligible voters--far more than the 1,193 required to force a vote. Even Mayor Hiroko Uehara has spoken out in favor of the ordinance, an unusual step, say the network advocates. However, many assembly members say the matter is best left up to the central government to decide.


From THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 07/19/2006


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Japan to Curb Welfare Spending Next Fiscal Year

Japan's government will curb the expansion of social welfare spending in next fiscal year's budget to reduce its swelling public debt, the largest in the world, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said. The government plans to contain the increase in welfare spending to 550 billion yen ($4.7 billion) in the year ending March 2008, almost a third less than the 770 billion yen earlier forecast, Tanigaki said today after meeting with Health and Welfare Minister Jiro Kawasaki. ``Japan has made efforts to curb social welfare spending for years,'' Tanigaki said. ``But the government has also tried hard to limit other spending.'' Japan's public debt is expected to reach 151 percent of the economy by March, according to a Ministry of Finance forecast. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said stopping the growth of government debt is his top policy priority. The Ministry of Finance will outline next year's budget and present a general allocation plan to government departments on July 21. The ministry will draw up the final budget plan in late December after negotiating with other ministries and agencies.

The government on July 7 outlined measures to find 16.5 trillion yen to balance the budget by 2011 by cutting spending and increasing revenue. Japan needs to reduce spending by as much as 14.3 trillion yen over the next five years and the rest should be covered by additional revenue, the government said. Social welfare spending should be trimmed by 1.6 trillion yen over the next five years, according to the government's outline. Spending on welfare already eats up a quarter of this year's 80 trillion yen budget. Welfare expenditure including public pension payments will climb to 43.5 trillion yen by 2015 from this fiscal year's 28 trillion yen if no extra efforts are made to contain it, a government fiscal reform panel said in a paper last month. Tanigaki said the government will also slash spending for education by about 3 percent next year, about the same rate as this year. The budget for research and development will be little changed, he added.


From http://www.bloomberg.com/ 07/18/2006


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Inflation Target Plan Floated in New Govt White Paper

A government white paper released Tuesday suggests setting an inflation target as a way of stabilizing financial markets, following the Bank of Japan's decision to end its zero-interest rate policy. In its 2006 Annual Report on the Japanese Economy and Public Finance, the government said that the economic recovery had been maintained, and an end to deflation is in sight. It goes on to say that the government and the Bank of Japan need to continue working together to stabilize prices and achieve sustainable growth. The report presents three policy measures to stabilize markets, one of which is inflation targeting. Observers say it is unusual for an official report such as this to suggest concrete policy measures, adding that the proposed measures are likely to draw public debate. The report was submitted by Kaoru Yosano, state minister for financial, economic and fiscal policy, to a Cabinet meeting and is the sixth, and likely last, to be published by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's administration. The report included analysis of not only current economic conditions, but also income inequality and other potential problems facing the economy.

The report listed the following factors as contributing to the current recovery: -- Corporate and household finances have improved to healthy levels through restructuring efforts in the private sector. -- Currency exchange and domestic financial markets have been relatively stable. In the wake of the central bank's decision Friday to end the zero-interest rate policy, the report said, "It is essential that an alternative framework, which is designed to stabilize market expectations, be presented." The report followed with three possible measures to achieve this goal: -- The Bank of Japan could pledge to keep interest rates low for a period of time. -- An inflation target could be set with desirable price rate increases shown. -- A policy to allow high rates of price increases could be implemented until prices reach a point they might have done if deflation did not take place.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 07/19/2006


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Japan Govt Adopts Fiscal 2007 Budget Request Guidelines

The Japanese government at a cabinet meeting Friday approved a 46,806-billion-yen ceiling on government agencies' requests for general expenditures, or spending to implement policy measures, in fiscal 2007. The ceiling for the year from next April slipped below 47 trillion yen for the first time in nine years, reflecting a five-year expenditure reduction plan included in the government's economic and fiscal policy guidelines adopted earlier this month. The government aims to realize a primary budget surplus in fiscal 2011 so that it can cover expenditures other than debt-servicing costs without issuing fresh government bonds. Fiscal 2007 will be the first year of the five-year process to achieve the target. Still, the fiscal 2007 budget request ceiling is about 440 billion yen higher than the previous year's initial budget. By the end of August, government ministries and agencies will submit their requests to the Finance Ministry, which will screen them in order to curb spending under its national budget proposal to be compiled late this year. The government set a 300-billion-yen special quota of budget requests to help Japan achieve real economic growth of at least 2.2 percent a year through 2015, a target stipulated in a growth promotion program adopted by the government and the ruling coalition in late June.

Among major budget items, the budget request ceiling calls for a cut of 220 billion yen in social security costs for fiscal 2007 mainly by slashing state contributions to the employment insurance program and applying stricter criteria for welfare payments. But as Japan's population is aging, social security costs are expected to increase a net 550 billion yen to 20.4 trillion yen. The government plans to reduce public works spending and official development assistance outlays by 3 percent each. It will make a cut of one pct in defense expenditures, excluding costs related to the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.


From http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp 07/21/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Assembly Approves Judges, 11 Bills

Over the next three to five years, China will establish a better and more comprehensive legal system to ensure honesty and reliability in the tourism industry, according to a source from the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). "The legal system is fundamental to this system-establishing process," said Zhang Xiqin, deputy director of CNTA. Zhang said the government continues to revise regulations and urges more provinces to pass laws regulating tourism. China will also train tourist guides leading up the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

From http://english.gov.cn 07/18/2006


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Court's Ruling Will Mean Revision of Newspaper Law

Both major parties plan to revise the newspaper law following a ruling by the Constitutional Court that parts of it were unconstitutional, but that's where the similarities end. The Grand National Party, which tends to be friendly to the major newspapers, is calling for a completely new law. The Uri Party, which passed the law last year as a centerpiece of its media reform plans, wants minimal tweaks. The court ruled last week that several key clauses of the newspaper-related laws are unconstitutional, and sent it to the National Assembly to be fixed. The Grand National Party's floor leader, Lee Jae-oh, said on Friday that his party would present the laws in September to the regular assembly session, seeking to "guarantee the freedom of the press under the principles of market economy." He did not offer more specifics. Currently, neither party has a parliamentary majority, so the issue could be contentious. Woo Sang-ho, an Uri Party spokesman, said on Friday, "We respect the ruling, but we will work to revise the law in order to meet the intent of the current laws." The Grand National Party's legislator and publicity director Choung Byoung-gug argued that the current laws "fell to pieces" after the court ruling. Some academics predicted more court fights over the law. One clause, for example, bans newspapers and broadcast companies from being jointly owned.

Chang Ho-sun, a professor at the Soonchunhyang University, said the law should be changed. "A newspaper company must have the right to run a broadcasting company as well, under the condition of a market share limit," Mr. Chang said. Many other observers said that the convergence of media ownership is a worldwide trend. The court also ruled it is constitutional for newspapers to be required to make detailed reports about their operations to the government. Kang Kyung-keun, a professor of Soongsil University, said, "Another petition could be made to the Constitutional Court if the government asks for an excessive amount of information on management." Meanwhile, the Seoul-based association of newspaper and broadcast editors said it is sorry that the court ruling made it constitutional for a person or agency to demand that the other side of an article be printed, even if the original article does not contain any factual errors. The association said the ruling may lead to a possibility of a misuse of the laws.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com 07/03/2006


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Proposal Alters Estate Division for Intestates

The Ministry of Justice is proposing legislation to guarantee that widows and widowers would receive at least half of the estate of a spouse who dies without leaving a will. The proposal would also force an even division of marital property when a couple, one of which had not worked during the marriage, is divorced. Under current law, a non-working spouse usually receives only 30-40 percent of assets accumulated during a marriage, depending on the decision of the judge. Divisions of assets when both partners hold a job is decided on a case-by-case basis in a court. The revision would also require court approval of child custody arrangements. The ministry said it would seek a revision of civil law to change the present system in which a surviving spouse gets 1.5 times the inheritance of children and parents when a person dies intestate. Under some circumstances, perhaps unusual given Korea's current demographics, a spouse would be entitled to only 23 percent of an estate if the deceased spouse were also survived by two parents and three children.The proposal would give the surviving spouse half the estate, with the other half divided equally among surviving parents and children. The bill, the ministry said, will be presented to the Assembly in September; if approved, it would come into effect beginning next year. Some surviving spouses might be disadvantaged by the proposed revision, however. Now, if there is only one other family member surviving, the spouse receives 60 percent of the estate. That would drop to 50 percent under the proposal. All estates covered by wills would not be affected. "The revision recognizes that a married couple works together to earn their assets during their marriage. It aims to secure a spouse's right to property regardless of the number of children," said Park Min-pyo, a ministry official.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com 07/03/2006


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Proposal Would Permit Foreign Medical Practice

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has proposed regulatory changes that would allow Korean hospitals to hire foreign medical doctors to treat foreign residents and visitors here. "The revision would improve medical services for foreigners living in the country," said Lim Jong-kyu, head of the ministry's medical policy department. The doctors would have to be affiliated with hospitals, and would be limited to treating foreign patients of the same nationality or who speak the same language, the ministry said. It is inviting public comments on the proposal until July 24, and will announce the final regulations in September. According to the Justice Ministry, more than 6 million foreigners visited the country last year and 800,000 foreigners were resident here as of March. Health Ministry officials said any hospital with more than 30 beds would be eligible for the program. Details such as the approval of foreign medical qualifications and insurance coverage for foreign residents with Korean national health insurance are still to be decided. Mr. Lim said the ministry has been working with an advisory committee since May to find ways to improve medical service for foreigners. "This has nothing to do with the opening of the medical services market," Mr. Lim added. The ministry also proposed regulatory changes to strengthen standards for Korea's intensive care units. It would set standards for the number of medical personnel per patient in those units and for the facilities such units must provide.

From http://joongangdaily.joins.com07/04/2006


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New Global Competitiveness Measures

The Office for Government Policy Coordination has ordered ministries to represent and manage several provisions as successful achievement indicators in an official document titled, ※The major goals to achieve international competitiveness in 2006.§ The provisions include systemic management of the national competitiveness index of areas requiring special attention, strengthening of responses to international competitiveness assessment conducted by IMD and WEF, and the national competitiveness index. In particular, it has identified fields of environment, women affairs, and corruption as ones available for enhanced improvements out of 16 major management-requiring areas and ordered to strengthen their strong points while reducing the weak points. The document points out in the 2005 reflection provision that some ministries still focus on enhancing indexes such as false statistical correction and suggestions for improving evaluation measures by international credit rating agencies. As a result, it has led to the lack of practical efforts. The Office for Government Policy Coordination has ordered to acquire and analyze this year*s results of international competitiveness evaluation conducted by IMD and WEF in advance through the Korean partner (IMD surveys it through Korean partner, the Korean industrial institution) and overseas government establishments.

In other words, the government has requested ministries to highlight merits while downplaying faults in order to prepare for an international survey on international competitiveness instead of promoting substantial efforts to enhance the nation*s competitiveness. Korea, however, has declined from the 29th place to 38th in the 2006 international competitiveness yearbook released at the beginning of last May by IMD. Government ministries have rushed to downplay the decline in the ranking. ※It is not fair to say that Korea*s international competitiveness has reduced only based on a change in the international ranking during one year,§ said the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. ※It is the result of some media*s attempts to downplay the government reform efforts,§ the Office for Government Policy Coordination announced. Even some have raised doubts on the possibility that it is trying to direct reports of media to justify government*s stance as it has ordered to recommend the media a specific direction in interpreting the result and systemically respond to false-interpreted reports. Rep. Kim Jung每hoon, who acquired and released the government document, has criticized the government for trying to downplay the weak points instead of making efforts to improve economic fundamentals. He added, ※When economic fundamentals become strong and improve, the competitiveness index naturally rises.§


From http://english.donga.com 07/12/2006


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Grandiose Plans for &Innovative' Towns Scaled Back

The Construction Ministry announced yesterday that the combined size of what are known as "innovative towns" has been reduced by more than 1,480 hectares (3,676 acres) to 4,317 hectares, as the government is dealing with the unused lands, rising real estate prices, and a growing number of unsold apartments in those towns. The "innovative towns" are a Roh Moo-hyun administration initiative to promote balanced regional development by relocating 175 public organizations and state-run companies from the Seoul metropolitan area to the 10 designated innovative towns across the nation by 2012. The size of the project has been under question. In 2004, the government initially planned to limit the size of each innovative town to 165 hectares, but the regional authorities, hoping to bank on the opportunity to grow with the presence of state-run enterprises, requested an increase in the figure. However, the size of most development projects is far larger than what will be necessary for the relocating public companies. For instance, the Jeonju-Wanju area in North Jeolla province will host agriculture-related agencies such as the Rural Development Administration and the National Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology. The size of the area's development is roughly 926 hectares, with the estimated capacity of 20,000 persons. However, the total number of employees from the agencies moving to the area is just over 3,000.

A recent survey by Korea Planners Association showed that less than one-third of those working for companies moving to the Jeonju-Wanju area plan to relocate with their family, and another 27 percent said they won't move at all. Also, efforts aimed at regional balance could backfire, further hurting rural areas when the land prices shoot up, forcing poor farmers to pay much more in taxes. "Much of our rural areas are already being deindustrialized with the outflow of population," said Kim Hyun-ah, a researcher with the Construction and Economy Research Institute of Korea. "And now with the development of all these new towns, the rural regions around them will suffer even more." Another side effect from the innovative towns project is that the number of apartment units available there has thus far outnumbered the demand. According to the Construction Ministry, the number of empty apartment units in the 10 towns earmarked for development has jumped from 3,163 at the end of last year to 5,007 at the end of April. "A lot of construction companies have flocked south [of Seoul] to those innovative towns, hoping to cash in on what they think will be a huge inflow of people," said Park Woon-chang, a senior executive with a constructor Kumkang Kunup. "The restrictions on housing construction are tighter in the metropolitan Seoul area than in other regions, and so I expect this trend to continue." The project has also driven up the real estate price in selected areas, with the majority of them having experienced a double-digit growth in their land prices over the last three years. "The word &innovative' seems to have been a symbolic one for the Roh administration, and I think the president is caught up in the idea that he has to pull off something big during his regime," said a representative in the Construction Ministry. "I wish that the government would take some time and be more meticulous in its projects."


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com07/13/2006


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Korea to Legislate New Drug Pricing Policy

The government yesterday said it will legislate a proposed drug pricing and reimbursement policy next week, despite criticism by multinational pharmaceutical companies and the United States. The announcement came after Alexander Vershbow, U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, unofficially visited Health and Welfare Minister Rhyu Si-min on Wednesday to ask Seoul to reconsider the plan. "U.S. Ambassador Vershbow visited Minister Rhyu and delivered (Washington's) position over Seoul's new drug policy," said a high-ranking Ministry of Health and Welfare official. The meeting was requested by the U.S. Embassy, he added. In response, Minister Rhyu reaffirmed the government's will to implement the plan. But he promised the U.S. envoy that American pharmaceutical companies would not be discriminated against by the new drug policy. Seoul has been pushing ahead with cutting the prices of medicine produced by foreign companies and only covering costs for high-quality yet cost-effective drugs. Insurance experts estimate that the reform will drastically reduce the nation's medical insurance burden.

But Washington and U.S. drugmakers oppose the plan, claiming that several costly American-made drugs may lose insurance benefits due to the new policy. Currently, under the public health insurance system, new drugs - mostly produced by foreign enterprises - are priced at the average cost of drugs in seven advanced countries. Under the new scheme, the government will negotiate the prices of new drugs with foreign firms. During the second round of talks held in Seoul last week, delegates from the United States boycotted talks on the pharmaceutical and medical equipment sector, pushing the Korean government to temporarily drop the reform plan. According to participants, the U.S. negotiators asked the Korean government to consider the drug pricing issue in the free trade agreement, requesting that the plan's procedures and legislative timelines be reestablished. However, Seoul has been firm in saying that the policy is a domestic issue.


From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr 07/21/2006


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MONGOLIA: Draft Law on National Anthem Submitted

President N.Enkhbayar has submitted a draft law on amending the National Symbol and the National Anthem to the Parliament. A working group was set up according to decree by the President to revise the National Symbol and the National Anthem. After having studied result of selecting draft projects on lyrics for the National Anthem, the group offered to add one more stanza by changing some expressions and lines of verse in the National Anthem. The new stanza will glorify the Mongolian tradition, literature and culture. Despite the minor yet significant changes, the name of the author of the Anthem s lyrics will remain--Mongolian famous writer late Ts.Damdinsuren. The above draft bill was discussed at the Parliament Standing Committee on State Structure.

From http://www.montsame.mn 07/23/2006


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CAMBODIA: Public Financial Management and Accountability Project

The following project was approved today by the World Bank*s Board of Executive Directors: IDA GRANT: US$ 14 million. Project Description: The objective of the project is to strengthen public financial management by strengthening: (1) the mobilization of public resources, (2) the management of public resources, (3) the management of human resources, and (4) external audit.


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


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INDONESIA: Aceh Governance Law Set for Enactment

The House of Representatives is scheduled to endorse the long-awaited and much-debated Aceh governance bill on July 11, with the main focus then on holding the first direct gubernatorial election in the province. The chairman of the House's special committee on the bill, Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, said in a discussion here Friday that a team was honing the wording of the 261-article bill before it was brought to a plenary session for endorsement. "The special session will leave for Aceh on July 13 to hand over the bill to the Aceh administration for its enforcement and dissemination among the Acehnese," he said. Acehnese legislators and legislators who opposed the content of the original bill also said they would endorse the rehashed version, which was completed last week four months overdue. Communications Minister Sofyan A. Djalil said the bill was not only a "golden gift" to the Acehnese, but also marked the full realization of the August 2005 agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to build a lasting peace and spur the post-tsunami rehabilitation program in the province. He said the bill ushered in a better future, with the first objective to hold the landmark direct gubernatorial elections and implement special autonomy under the new law.

Ferry and Sofyan said the Aceh governance law, in addition to providing more authority and funding to the regional administration than under the 2001 Autonomy Law, also absorbed more of the GAM's interests. "Under the Indonesian Unitary State principle and the Constitution, it is impossible for us to comply with all the things GAM has demanded. But in certain fields, including education, fiscal balance and religion, the government has given more political concessions than the GAM sought," Ferry said. In ending tough, protracted negotiations last week, the government and the House managed to resolve 10 crucial issues, including on the police, sharia, management of the exploration of natural resources, local parties, independent candidates and supervision of qanun (bylaw) enforcement. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) originally opposed the conditions of the peace agreement signed in Helsinki, and also faulted the original bill for giving too many concessions to the GAM. However, PDI-P legislator Irmadi Lubis said it now accepted the bill because it focused on the improvement of the Acehnese people's social welfare and the upholding of justice. He also believed the bill would help resolve the lingering issues from the almost 30-year insurgency.

"The bill asserts the Acehnese people's rights to enjoy their rich natural resources and, one year after its enforcement, it also orders the establishment of an independent commission of truth and reconciliation to handle unresolved human rights abuses and arrange compensation for those who suffered injustice in the past." Nasir Djamil, a member of the Joint Forum for Acehnese Legislators (Forbes Aceh), claimed that the GAM accepted the bill despite its absence during the deliberation process. "We met with GAM officials here three days ago to communicate the latest developments in the bill's deliberation and, although there was disappointment on certain issues, they could accept the bill's contents." Nasir, who is also deputy chairman of the special committee on the bill, said many elements of Acehnese society were ambivalent about its contents due to a lack of information. But he acknowledged that the bill could not fully meet the demands of the government or the GAM, but they should compromise for peace in the province. Sofyan said he was optimistic all law enforcement-related problems could be settled because the government and the GAM had established a joint forum, called the Committee of Security Arrangements, in which both sides could raise issues to be resolved.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/07/01/2006


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New Policy Package on Financial Sector Issued

The government and Bank Indonesia (BI) have signed a joint decree to improve coordination between fiscal and monetary authorities and help reform financial markets. Announcing the package Wednesday, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono said it was expected to accelerate reforms in the banking sector, non-bank financial institutions and in capital markets. It would also enhance businesses' access to capital, he said. "The package is also aimed at establishing a stronger, more balanced and stable structure in the financial markets," he said. The writers of the decree expect the country's improving macroeconomy to become a solid basis for an economic recovery, fueled by adequate financing from financial institutions and capital markets. Boediono said the decree would complement two previously issued packages on investment and infrastructure development. It sought to strengthen the coordination between fiscal and monetary authorities after the "small financial crisis" late last year, he said. Coordination will occur through the creation of laws on sector "safety nets" and a stability forum, which will draft "financial architecture" and implement an assessment program. For the banking sector, the package will formulate policy to improve the performance of state-owned banks, through regulatory changes on non-performing loans.

The government will also improve prudential measures for non-bank financial institutions, such as insurance, pension fund and finance companies, and venture capital firms. It will also include protections for policyholders in the insurance industry through a mediation agency. The package will help improve the liquidity, efficiency and integrity of capital markets, and develop infrastructure to improve price transparency in the trading system. Boediono said the package would reconfirm the government's privatization policy for state enterprises by setting up a privatization committee and creating a blueprint on strategy. At present, the government's policy on privatization remains unclear, with some nationalist politicians strongly opposed to the idea. Those in favor of privatization note that most state enterprises have a history of performing badly under the government's management. The government also plans to draft a law on the National Export Financing Agency to help boost the country's exports. Boediono said the implementation and monitoring of the package would be coordinated by a team he led, with members including BI governor Burhanuddin Abdullah, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and State Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto. Progress on the implementation of the package will be reported periodically to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the public.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/07/06/2006


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New Law Mandates Witness, Victim Protection Body

The final draft of a bill makes provisions for an institution to be set up to ensure that witnesses and victims are protected throughout their encounters with the justice system. It is expected that the draft of the witness and victim protection bill will be endorsed by lawmakers Tuesday in a plenary session of the House of Representatives. Deliberations on the bill started six years ago. Article 27 of the bill states that witnesses and victims in the cases of terrorism, gross violations of human rights, money laundering, drug crimes and human trafficking are entitled to protection from the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK). "A witness or victim may receive protection after the significance of their testimonies, the severity of the threat against them, medical or psychological records and their police record are considered," the bill says. The bill also compels the LPSK to provide protection for the relatives of witnesses and victims. The independent body would have seven members, to be appointed by the President with the approval of the House. Members would be chosen for their experience in human rights activism or work for a non-governmental organization, prosecutor's office or the police force. Membership would end after five years.

The LPSK would also ensure victims were informed of their rights and received the appropriate assistance, such as reparation in criminal cases. A number of factions in the House, however, are campaigning to diminish the role of the LPSK in acting as a mediator in the expending of compensation. The National Awakening Party (PKB) faction, for instance, has said the LPSK should only be given the authority to determine how much money the government has to pay out in human rights abuse cases. "Reparation for victims in criminal cases is a matter for the courts," PKB faction spokesman M. Mahfud said. The draft bill has also drawn criticism from a coalition of NGOs. The Coalition for Witness Protection said that in spite of the planned establishment of a witness and victim protection body, the bill only provided "half-hearted" protection. "The lawmakers seemed to have succumbed to the government's attempt to water down the definition of witness and victim. There are numerous articles that put limits on how much the two should be compensated. But there is no mention of medical or psychological assistance," the coalition said in a statement.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/07/19/2006


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Govt Adopts New Education Standards

The National Education Ministry is introducing a new national standard that will allow teachers to set their own curricula. The previous centralized curriculum system directed schools to teach their students with textbooks chosen by the ministry. Now, educators can choose their own textbooks and supporting materials for their schools. Students will continue to take the standardized national final exam administered by the central government. Officials said there would be different versions of the exam to accommodate schools that are not ready for the new system, which was launched just a week before the start of the current academic year. "We will provide examinations for each school based on its own curriculum, regardless of whether they have applied the new system or not," said Bambang Suhendro, the head of the National Education Standard Board, which coordinates the annual final exams nationwide. He said the board had no trouble providing materials for this year's final exams based on the two existing curricula of 1994 and 2004. The recent national exams drew strong criticism from the public. Hundreds of thousands of students failed the standardized tests, forcing them to wait until next year to continue their studies.

Under the new standard, the Education Ministry would give at least three versions of the standardized national exams. The new, less restrictive curricula could require even more versions. "We realize that the new system may be complicated, but we are considering tracking similarities among the subjects in those schools which apply the new standards, in order to draw up one standardized examination model," Bambang said. Schools and teachers will implement their own curricula, programs and review systems. The ministry will provide only a national standard for each grade level outlining the basic material that must be taught for each subject. "Favorite schools, of course, can develop their own curricula with high standards," he said, referring to schools with higher-quality facilities that charge higher tuition. He added that the ministry plans to phase in the new system from now until 2010. Bambang said the changes are aimed at reforming the existing education system, which has been criticized for taking a top-down approach that leaves little room for students to develop their own skills and creative approaches. The government is also trying to reduce the number of required subjects and inspire teachers and students to participate more actively in the learning process.

"We can say that the new standard erases the centralized curriculum system," said the head of the Ministry's curriculum development center, Diah Hariyanti. She conceded some schools would have difficulty applying the new system because they did not have enough human and financial resources to develop their own curricula. Furthermore, Lodi Paat, a pedagogic expert from the Jakarta State University, doubted that teachers could act as independent curriculum designers. "In our last 20 years of pedagogic history, teachers have not been taught to create their own ways of teaching; they have been taught to follow others," he said. Lodi was pessimistic that teachers could adapt to the system even given a five-year transition period. He noted they would still have to teach students during this period. He also criticized the new freedom to design the curriculum since the government will continue imposing national exams that can prevent students from graduating. "The system is totally catastrophic. In the end, as usual, students and parents will surely be the main victims of our education policy failures," Lody said.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/07/25/2006


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PHILIPPINES: GMA Vows to Share Power with Provinces

President Arroyo’s sixth State of the Nation address on Monday, loaded with concrete details about her plans for the prosperity of the country in the next five years, was applauded 167 times. It was a 22-page speech that took her more than an hour to deliver. At the very outset she stressed that she had not come to the opening of the joint session of Congress to discuss politics but to talk about what the Filipino people want and should have. She thanked her friends in Congress “who in the face of grave political consequences, championed and passed some of the most severe and critical fiscal reforms” to save the economy and called them “true friends.” She announced that the government is now financially able also  to finance constitutional and electoral changes.

Decentralizing power The President reiterated her commitment to decentralize power and share it with the provinces and end the system where power and resources are centered in the capital, which, she said, has become the center of destructive politicking. She outlined a massive spending program to kickstart the economy and urged opponents demanding her ouster to give up what she described as a lost cause. Mrs. Arroyo said the government would build or upgrade at least 20 airports as well as roads, railways, bridges, ports and ferry services, tap water and irrigation projects. “Because of our economic reforms, we now have the funds to address social inequity and economic disparity,” she said, alluding to key tax legislation passed in the previous two years. “Now we can fund our medium-term public investment program.” Ten months ahead of mid-term elections set for July 2007, Mrs. Arroyo was in a triumphant mood after surviving an impeachment attempt last year over allegations she stole the May 2004 presidential election. She also weathered an alleged coup plot by men of the military and the political Left that forced her to declare a state of emergency for a week in late February.

Unperturbed Political foes, including a number of influential Roman Catholic bishops, have filed a fresh impeachment complaint on nearly the same charges. The House of Representatives must tackle the complaint in upcoming sessions, but a defiant Arroyo appeared unperturbed. “For those who want to pick up old fights, we’re game,” she said to loud applause. “But what a waste of time. Why not join hands instead? Join hands in the biggest challenge of all, where we all win or we all lose the battle for the survival and progress of our one and only country.” University of the Philippines economist Benjamin Diokno said he doubted the government had the financial means to carry out the massive public spending program laid out by the President. “This will cost a lot of money—half a trillion pesos [$9.58 billion] at least,” he told local television, noting that Congress had yet to pass the 2006 national budget. Mrs. Arroyo said her spending initiatives would be tailored to boost the competitiveness of four key areas of the country. Agribusiness would be promoted in the northern Philippines and the southern region of Mindanao, tourism in the central islands that welcome half the country’s foreign tourists, and lower electricity costs and cheaper food for Manila and the surrounding industrial belt. Beyond the economic focus of the speech, Mrs. Arroyo said peace talks with Muslim separatists brokered by neighboring Malaysia should yield a negotiated settlement soon. “We should reap dividends in resources invested in agribusiness, not aggression,” she said.

‘The law of oppression’ She also vowed to end what she called “the law of oppression” imposed by communist guerrillas elsewhere in the country. After shelving peace talks with the Left in 2004, Mrs. Arroyo wants to rid the area around the capital of guerrilla influence within two years, and has pledged to give the military and police more resources to get the job done. She also made a fresh pitch for amending the Constitution, which she said created the “most prohibitive red tape” that was hindering business in the Philippines. She said that last year she wanted to remove provisions of the Constitution that bar foreign investment in many poorly developed sectors of the country’s economy, but that her campaign had not made much headway. The President congratulated the newly installed Senate President Manuel Villar.  She thanked House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Vice President Noli de Castro, former President Fidel Ramos, Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and other personages for their help in making the successes of her administration possible. She spoke about the Filipino workers in Lebanon, the first batch of whom  safely returned home on Sunday. She added that around 500 additional OFWs are set to arrive in Manila this week from the battle-torn country.

Work for the national good Mrs. Arroyo challenged her critics to work with her for the good of the country, saying, “There must be a better way to do politics, so that those who lose elections do not make the country pay for their frustrated ambitions.” She said that “bickering in politics may delay but not derail the initiatives that need to be taken on the economy and our 10-point pro-poor, pro-growth and pro-peace agenda.” She also happily announced her administration’s having exceeded by billions the revenue collection targets, which she is able to match with fiscal savings of the same amount. The money will be used, she said, for programs that push more reforms and solve the problems of social inequity and imbalances. “We have achieved record revenue collections. And finally earned the respect of the international community as a serious and viable state for our fiscal discipline and billions of pesos in annual interest saving that are now going into necessary public investment,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Strong-willed CEO of Philippine Inc. She also reported that her government has now money to stamp out terrorism, lawless violence and irregularity in the bureaucracy. She explained that the reforms introduced by her finance managers have earned the country P1 billion from the US Millennium Challenge Account that would bring in more investigators, prosecutors and new technology to strengthen the government’s fight against corruption. The image she projected was that of a strong-willed and competent CEO of Philippine Inc.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/07/25/2006


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BANGLADESH: Parliament Passes Public Procurement Bill

Parliament passed Sunday night the Public Procurement Bill 2006 seeking to bring efficiency, transparency and accountability in government purchases, reports UNB. The bill also provides for "equal opportunity" for those who will intend to participate in the procurement and open competition. On behalf of Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman, State Minister for Power Anwarul Kabir Talukder, who had been earlier in the Finance Ministry, piloted the bill that was passed by voice vote without much discussion, as the main opposition Awami League was not present because of their walkout. Talukder said the bill was prepared with the opinions of officials from different ministries and corporations as well as the good practices followed at national and international levels and guidelines of country's development partners. The House accepted an amendment to the bill moved by Kader Siddiqui. Earlier, two bills were introduced in the parliament. Law Minister Maudud Ahmed introduced 'The Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Bill 2006' and State Minister for Labour and Employment Aman Ullah Aman introduced 'The State-owned Industrial Workers (Service Conditions) Bill 2006.'


From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 07/03/2006


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Draft of Constitution Amendment Bill Okayed: No By-Polls During Last 180 Days of Parliament

A constitutional amendment bill will be placed in the Jatiya Sangsad today (Tuesday) with the provision of not holding by-elections in the vacant seats during the last six months or 180 days of parliament. According to the amendment bill, no by-election will be arranged if parliament has only six months or 180 days in hands to complete its tenure. The amendment bill is likely to be passed in Jatiya Sangsad in the current session of parliament provided if it is extended. The business advisory committee will decide about extending the duration of the current session at a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday). With only three and a half months left in power, the government has taken the initiative to amend the constitution in the backdrop of the death of two MPs--Shipping Minister Col (Retd) Akbar Hossain of Comilla Sadar constituency and Women and Children Affairs Minister Khurshid Jahan Huq of Dinajpur Sadar constituency. It will be the 2nd constitutional amendment during the present four-party alliance government and 15th constitutional amendment in the history of Bangladesh. The draft of the amendment bill was approved at the weekly cabinet meeting at the cabinet room of Prime Minister's Office with Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in the chair. The new law would be known as Constitution (15th Amendment) Bill, 2006. Narrating the government's move in the context of two constituencies fell vacant recently, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed said when a lawmaker is elected for a short period before dissolution of parliament, he or she does not get any scope to represent his or her respective constituency. 'It would be possible to avoid spending of a large amount of public money and administrative hazards for holding the by-elections through the proposed provision,' he said. Moudud also said the current parliamentary session, scheduled to be concluded on July 12 might be extended for a few days to get the bill passed. The Section 4 of the Article 123 of the constitution provides for holding by-election in a constituency within 90 days of becoming vacant due to any reason. If it is not possible following 'any act of god, 90 more days are allowed.

The Law Minister said it has been proposed in the amendment that no by-election would be held in any vacant seat if the tenure of a parliament remains for only 180 days or less. In this regard, Moudud cited the examples of different countries, including Malaysia, where the approved period for holding the by-election is two years. In some countries, the respective political party nominates another as MP following the death of one of its sitting lawmakers, he said. Moudud also said the bill would be sent to the parliamentary standing committee for necessary scrutiny after presenting the bill before the house. The Law Minister expressed the hope that the bill would be passed in parliament through consensus as it is not a matter of any particular party, but of national interest. The cabinet also gave approval of the 'Commercially Important Person (Non-Resident Bangladeshi) Selection Policy 2006.' Under the policy, commercially important persons from the non-resident Bangladeshis would be selected every year in recognition of their contribution to the country's economy. Cabinet members and state minister concerned attended the meeting. Cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the Prime Minister and secretaries concerned were also present at the meeting.


From http://nation.ittefaq.com/07/10/2006


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Draft Law Proposes to Make National ID Card Mandatory for All

The home ministry is seeking approval of the cabinet purchase committee today for a Tk 1,561 crore programme on machine-readable passport (MRP), visa and national identity card (NID) along with a draft law on registration and NID. Sources said the draft law, first of its kind, seeks to make NID mandatory for every citizen when they apply for a passport, open a bank account, obtain Tax Identification Number (TIN) or while dealing with similar issues. However, this draft was hurriedly made as a supporting draft legal document for the massive MRP and NID programme. "The draft law borrows the concept of social security card used in the western countries. But this law was not based on any independent social and demographic survey as was required. It has been framed so that the purchase committee gets the idea about the legal premise on which the MRP-NID programme is based on," said a competent source. The MRP-NID programme demands a legal framework making national ID cards mandatory for every citizen. The home ministry believes that the MRP and ID cards will increase acceptability of Bangladeshi passport internationally, which will eventually increase overseas employment, help implementation of the government's national security policy, boost direct revenue earning, and resolve international pressure on Bangladesh on introduction of such passports. The home ministry has selected German company Giesecke and Devrient (G&D) GmbH for the job through a tender. Once the contract is awarded, the G&D would implement it in five years. However, the finance ministry has not cleared this scheme while the current budget has no allocation for it. The home ministry will also have to establish a National Registration Department (NRD) to implement the programme and issue the ID cards to the citizens. The government initiated the project for the machine-readable passport a few years back. The home ministry later tagged the national ID card issue with it, although the two schemes are very different from each other.

On April 24, 2004 the home ministry formed a 13-member committee along with representatives from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) and headed by the ministry's additional secretary. This committee was assigned to determine how the government can introduce MRP, visa and NID. The committee in its report recommended setting up of the NRD and restructuring of the immigration and passport department and suggested how these should deal with the new passport, visa and ID card. The home ministry accordingly submitted a proposal to the cabinet committee on public administration reforms and good governance on September 25, 2004. The cabinet committee recommended its approval in principle and the prime minister approved it on October 16, 2004. As per the prime minister's approval, 15 lakh new applicants and 35 lakh old passport owners will be given machine-readable passports in the first phase of the project, which may be implemented with the revenue budget. The prime minister did not decide on setting up the NRD, neither did the ministry take any initiative to set it up. The home ministry's proposal to the cabinet purchase committee notes that the first year of the five-year programme will be considered as testing period. During this phase, the contractor will provide necessary hardware, software, local and foreign manpower and consumables to the immigration and passport department. The offices to be covered by it include the head office in Dhaka, the national issuance centre, and offices at six divisional headquarters and 12 district headquarters. (by Sharier Khan)


From http://www.thedailystar.net/07/17/2006


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INDIA: Bengal Govt Sets Up Committee to Review Land Ceiling Act

Kolkata: West Bengal government has decided to consititute a four-member committee to review the Land Celing Act in view of the recent urbanisation and economic activites in the state. "We have decided to set up a four-member committee under S S Chattopadhay who will recommend whether we require to continue with the Land Ceilng Act or repeal it," Municipal Affairs and Urban Development Minister Asok Bhattacharya said here today at a meeting with the members of BNCCI. Chattopadhay is ex-secretary of the state development and planning and has also served for the Centre in poverty allevation. The other members of the committee would be P K Pradhan, secretary to state urban development department, with representation from state development and planning department and industry. "The report was likely to be submitted over next three to four months," he added. Bhattacharya said the government was still in favour of continuing with the act but due to pressure from the Centre and investors we have been forced to review. "The scope of work for the committee would be to evaluate whether the act was needed under the present urbanisation and economic activities in the state," Bhattacharya said. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said that "we would need to take a balanced approach over the issue of land ceiling act," he added. The Government would be cautious over the issue and would see that repealing of act should not impact social security issue, the minister said.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 06/29/2006


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National Policy on Panchayati Raj Governance Soon

New Delhi: The Centre has decided to constitute a committee to draft a national framework policy on training and capacity building in Panchayati Raj, Minister for Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar said here today. Addressing the concluding session of the three-day Workshop of Writers and Thinkers on Local Governance and Panchayati Raj, Aiyar said without Central assistance, Panchayati Raj institutions were not going to develop its infrastructural facilities.This was essential for implementing schemes formulated under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme and the Bharat Nirman programmes, he said. The Minister said he would request International agencies like the UNDP and World Bank to assist the grassroot development programmes to be undertaken by the Panchayati institutions. Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy in her address urged the people to effectively use Right To Information Act for making Panchayats truly empowered agencies. She said the "Right to Know" was equivalent to "Right To Live" and the social audit should be used as a tool to fight against corruption and strengthen democracy at the grassroots level.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 06/26/2006


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Get Ready for New Income Tax Laws by July End

New Delhi: The new simplified Income Tax Bill to replace the archaic and voluminous tax law will be readied by this month end, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said. "We have given extended time to draft the new Bill till July 15 and surely it will be drafted by this month end," he told reporters after inaugurating the annual conference of Income Tax Chief commissioners and director generals. The new Income Tax Bill is aimed at making the tax law more user-friendly, reduce the scope for litigation. CBDT also proposes to discard the concept of previous year and assessment year as part of the efforts to streamline the system.

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


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National Policy on Voluntary Sector Soon

NEW DELHI: The first-ever national policy on the voluntary sector is ready to be put before the cabinet for approval. Finalised by the Planning Commission with the help of experts and NGOs, the draft aims at creating an enabling environment for voluntary organisations and facilitating their partnership with the government. Till now, the voluntary sector was governed by different sets of rules. Different ministries and states had their own guidelines. Syeda Hamid, member, Planning Commission, says, "Currently, there is a lot of adhocism. So there is an urgent need to identify systems by which the government could work with these organisations based on mutual trust and respect and with shared responsibility. The government wants to encourage the voluntary sector to come forward as there's wide scope for collaboration between states and NGOs in many areas. We expect all states to follow suit once the policy is executed." The policy, she says, will encourage the voluntary sector to improve governance, accountability and transparency. "There are always complaints of misutilisation and lack of accountability in using funds, lack of cooperation and constraints in mobilising resources." The Planning Commission took the initiative in drafting the policy in February 2005. It was a lengthy process arrived at after much dialogue. While there are about six lakh registered voluntary organisations, there are an equal number of unregistered ones. These survive on local charity. Once the policy is formulated, they will be encouraged to come forward and register themselves. Pooran Chandra Pandey, chief executive, Voluntary Action Network India, says, "A policy will help growing need for collaboration between various agencies and the government." (by Arun Kumar Das)

From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/07/09/2006


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Cabinet to Take Up Changes to Right to Information Act

NEW DELHI: In a move that could anger civil society activists and individuals associated with the right to information movement, the Cabinet, in its meeting on Thursday, is scheduled to take up a proposal to amend the Right to Information Act, *05. The amendments seek to exempt ※all file-notings from disclosure, except substantial file notings on plans, schemes and the programmes of the government relating to developmental and social issues,§ and ※the examination and selection process by public authority.§ The decision to go in for the changes in the law, hailed a landmark piece of social legislation aimed at weeding out corruption from public life, was taken after it was noticed that its clauses were being misused. Ever since the law came into force late last year, the Central Information Commission and its counterparts in the states have been deluged with applications seeking information on transfers, postings and promotions.

In most cases, the file notings, it was felt, were being used to seek revenge rather than resolution of grievances. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too,is learnt to be in favour of exempting the file-notings from the category of those documents which were brought within the ambit of the Act; except those concerning ※plans, schemes and programmes relating to developmental concerns.§ The information commissions were also flooded with complaints of being left out in competitive examinations, with aggrieved parties wanting to know the reasons for their rejections. Wary of triggering an avalanche of similar grievances, the government, it is clear, has now decided to play safe by extending a proposal to exempt the examination and selection process from public scrutiny. Eulogised as a showpiece legislation, the RTI Act formed an important part of the UPA CMP. The NAC, which was then chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, played a key role in its enactment. The Act covers a wide gamut of bodies and officials from the central government, the state governments, panchayati raj institutions, local bodies and, significantly, all agencies, including NGOs, that are established, constituted, owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government. The Act already had a list of documents and deliberations that were exempted from disclosure. These included cabinet papers and discussions of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officers. It also exempted cabinet papers from being made public even after 20 years. Barring two categories, information that may affect the sovereignty and integrity of India and information related to cabinet papers, all other categories of exempted information will be disclosed after a 20-year gap.


From http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/07/20/2006


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SRI LANKA: Anti-Dumping Bill to Take Effect Soon

NEW BILL: The long overdue Anti-dumping Bill is expected to come into effect once the clarifications sought by various parties regarding the Act are made, thereby safeguarding domestic industries. The Act having completed its second reading is now under discussion in the committee to include a few amendments to clear some queries, a spokesperson for the Commerce Deapartment said. Two Bills were presented in Parliament by Minister of Commerce, Trade and Consumer Affairs and Marketing Development Jeyaraj Fernandopulle namely the Anti-dumping and Countervailing Duties Bill and Bill on Safeguard Measures. This was delayed due to various reasons in the past, but is progressing in a positive manner now, sources said. A Government can impose anti-dumping duties subsequent to an investigation which establishes that there is dumping, or injury and that injury is caused by the dumping of specified goods. The Director General of Commerce is the Competent Authority for carrying out functions under the Bill, and anti-dumping duties may be imposed after an investigation establishing the above-mentioned facts. The investigation can either be initiated on a written complaint of domestic producers or on the direction of the relevant minister. These Bills are collectively and informally known as the Trade Remedies Bills. The overall objective of both Bills is the protection of domestic industries from being harmed either by unfair business practices of foreign companies and governments by import surges.

Sources said that it is necessary to have legislation in place for Sri Lanka to have these remedies at its disposal. In general, a government can take steps to remedy effects of dumping by imposing anti-dumping duties to offset the low prices and achieve a level playing field in the domestic market. The WTO agreement on anti-dumping and consequently this Bill which is based on that agreement stipulates the manner in and the extent to which a government can respond. The Anti-Dumping Duties Bill provides for the imposition of remedial duties against an unfair competition practice known as dumping. Dumping occurs where a company sells the same product in its own country. It is a practice used often by exporters to capture a market and put its competitors out of busines. The prices of dumped goods are not market-driven or determined by efficient production practices. As a result, such practices can adversely affect domestic producers who may be unable to compete with these lower and unfairly imposed prices. Whether dumping practices are illegal or not is generally considered beyond the scope of the WTO. Instead,countries adopted the agreement on anti-dumping which regulates how governments can respond to such dumping practices.(by Ramani Kangaraarachchi)

From http://www.dailynews.lk/07/07/2006


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Tougher Laws to Curb Child Labour

Parliament yesterday passed a law making it an offense to employ those below 18 years in hazardous employment. The new law also covers recruitment of children as child combatants and the child sex trade. Under the new law which was brought in the form of an amended legislation any person employing children between 14- 18 years in the activities mentioned would be liable to a term of one year's rigorous imprisonment on conviction. Presenting the Amendment in Parliament yesterday Labour Minister Athauda Seneviratne said employment of children below 14 years is already a punishable offence under the Penal Code. He said the Amendment was introduced after several rounds of discussions with public servants, academics, professionals, trade unions and employers. The new legislation will introduce tougher punishment for those who sell children below 18 years as child slaves or into child prostitution, the Minister said. The land mark amendment will also strengthen the existing legislation to take action against recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups.


From http://www.news.lk/ 07/21/2006


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MALDIVEVS: National Housing Policy to Be Revealed This Year

MALE (HNS) 每 A National Housing Policy is being prepared and will be revealed this year, Housing Minister Ibrahim Rafeeq has said. Speaking at the meeting held on Monday by the Information Ministry to provide information to the media, Rafeeq said that there already was a policy which is being followed but said that the one currently being prepared would be the official policy. ※I am working on making the policy public before the end of the year,§ he said. Director housing, Mohamed Faiz said that the new policy will cover the whole of Maldives and that the policy will pave the way for further &extensive* discussions with other concerned authorities.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 07/11/2006


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Majlis Approves Bill Relating to Police Act

MALE (HNS) - The People's Majlis (parliament) has approved the bill relating to the Police Act at its eleventh sitting held on Thursday. Eleven members spoke on the committee stage of this bill. Minister of Home Affairs Ahmed Thasmeen Ali was present at Thursday's session and answered queries raised by members on the bill. The bill was put to vote for the approval of the Majlis and received 26 votes from the 40 members attending the sitting. Afterwards, some nine members spoke on deciding a committee for the bill. One proposal was made and seconded to send the bill to a joint committee which includes the Committee on Public Affairs and the Committee on National security. However, the chair adjourned the sitting before deciding a committee for the bill after having run out of allotted time for the day.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 07/15/2006


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NEPAL: House Scraps 50 Articles of 1990 Constitution

In the bid to cut the king's power in state affairs, the House of Representatives (HoR) declared 50 articles and 31 sub-clauses of the constitution of 1990 invalid on Monday. Monday's session of the parliament took the unanimous decision to scrap them saying they contradicted the HoR Declaration of May 18. Most of the provisions declared invalid were related to the king's powers, privileges and authority. The decision was taken based on a report submitted by HoR Declaration Implementation Special Committee headed by the Speaker of the HoR. Presenting the report at the House, the committee's vice chairperson and the Deputy Speaker of the HoR, Chitra Lekha Yadav, said the committee presented its report after identifying the need to cancel certain constitutional provisions to facilitate the government's work. The report suggested a 15-point provisional arrangement instead of those provisions. Terminologies like 'state', 'Nepal government', 'Nepali Army' and 'Nepali ambassador' are to be used instead of 'kingdom', 'His Majesty's government', 'Royal Nepalese Army' and 'Royal Nepali ambassador' respectively.

The Prime Minister will present the government's fiscal policy and programme before the House. Similarly, the House will appoint the PM and the PM will appoint the deputy PMs and ministers. The Cabinet will nominate 10 members of the National Assembly who used to be appointed by the King. The Cabinet will appoint ambassadors and special representatives to represent Nepal abroad after approval from the House. The Attorney General and Chief of the Army Staff will also be appointed by the Cabinet. The authority provided by Article 127 will be used by council of ministers and ratification by the House. As per the resolution passed, provisions like "Nepal as a Hindu Kingdom", "king as a symbol of national unity and patron of constitution", "royal family's property as non-taxable" and "king's actions unquestionable in courts" have been scrapped. The House reinstated after the success of the recent people's movement had already cut the king's power, declared itself supreme and the sovereign body of the country. The HoR had said any provision of the constitution that contradicted with its proclamation would be declared null and void.


From nepalnews.com 07/04/2006


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Government Decides to Scrap 16 Laws, Amend 23

The meeting of the council of ministers held at the prime minister's residence Monday morning decided to scrap 16 laws and amend 23 others that contradict the declaration of the House of Representatives. State Minister for Information and Communication Dilendra Prasad Badu told reporters after the meeting in Baluwatar that the cabinet also approved the resignations submitted by the chairman and members of the National Human Rights Commission, the Chief Election Commissioner and other members of the Election Commission. Similarly, the cabinet decided to appoint Bidur Prasad Poudel as the chairman of the Bagmati Sewerage Improvement Committee. A second round of cabinet meeting is scheduled this afternoon. Badu also informed that government has approved appointments in some government bodies and corporations. However, minister Badu did not elaborate on the appointments made.


From nepalnews.com 07/17/2006


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PAKISTAN: Bill on Mps* Emoluments Passed

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly passed three bills while the education minister withdrew another on Monday. A good number of treasury members remained in the Punjab Assembly till the passage of the bill increasing their emoluments, moved by Minister for Law Raja Basharat after the conclusion of the question hour. The assembly passed the Punjab Revision of Emoluments of Public Representative Bill 2006, the Societies Registration (Amendment) Bill 2006 and the Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2006. Minister for Education Imran Masood informed the house in the light of the guidelines recently framed by the Higher Education Commission, the University of Central Punjab (Amendment) Bill 2005 required some amendments and hence stood withdrawn. The chair accepted his plea. Only Rai Ejaz of the ruling PML was present in the house when the session began at 3.07pm. MMA*s Arshad Buggu and Minister for Colonies Manazir Ranjha were the first to arrive while the rest of the MPAs started arriving later.

The emolument bill was passed after a heated debate. There was no consensus among the opposition benches against the bill as Rana Sanaullah, Rana Aftab, Dr Waseem Akhtar, Saadullah Waqas and Arshad Buggu opposed its passage while Ishaq Bucha and Ashraf Sohna favoured it. Minister for Law Raja Basharat said on a point of order some opposition members, who had not come to the house, had been marked present in the attendance sheet. Rana Sanaullah said the raise had been proposed in the perks of ministers, parliamentary secretaries and advisers. No considerable increase had been proposed in the emoluments of the MPAs. ※People are committing suicides because of poverty, a majority of people do not have clean drinking water and we are increasing the perks of the rulers. The time is not suitable for the raise.§ Rana Aftab said the raise at a time when the tenure of the assembly was going to end was unjustifiable. Ishaq Bucha said the emoluments of the MNAs and government employees had been increased. ※I have not spoken in the house on any issue. The people who are opposing the raise should return the additional amount to the government if they don*t need it. The proposed increase is not in commensurate with the rate of inflation.§ APP ADDS: Revenue and Consolidation Minister Gul Hameed Khan Rokhri told the house that revenue collection of the province was being computerised. Speaking on the floor of the house during Question Hour, he said that qualified computer operators would be recruited.


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


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NA Body Approves Draft Medical Device Bill

ISLAMABAD - The standing committee on health has approved the draft medical device bill 2006 in its meeting held on Monday. According to a press statement issued here the meeting held under the chairmanship of MNA Dr Hajra Tariq Aziz and the bill was referred to the committee by the National Assembly. The Director General Ministry of Health speaking on the occasion said that improper quality of the medical devices pose threat to the public health and reuse of the disposable medical device like disposable result in Hepatitis ※B&C§, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. The bill will regulate the manufacture, import, export, sale, quality and use of medical devices. Dr Hajra said that the law would minimise the spread of these contagious and infectious diseases however, the ministry should devise a mechanism for strict implementation of laws after its enactment by the parliament. The bill would be presented in the National Assembly for enactment. The meeting was attended by MNAs Dr Doya Aziz, Miss Onza Ehsan, Malik Muhammad Saifullah Khan, Dr Noorjehan Panezai, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Dr Sayed Javed Hussein, Mrs Maimoona Hashmi and many other high officials.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 07/11/20066


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Trade Policy for 2006-07 Announced

The trade policy for 2006-07 announced by the commerce minister on Monday seeks to diversify the export base by exploring both new products and new markets. It envisages improvements in infrastructure, skill development, simplification of procedures, cost reductions and enhancing the competitiveness of Pakistan's exports. By any account, this seems like quite a wish-list. The question is whether how much of this can be done. The policy sets an export target of $18.6 billion, around 13 per cent higher than for 2005-06 and estimates imports to be around $28 billion, over three billion dollars lower than that for 2005-06. While the export increase does seem realistic, one has to wonder on what basis is the commerce ministry predicting that imports will remain static next year, especially given that oil prices are now higher than they have ever been and even the State Bank's quarterly report, citing international sources, predicts that they are not going to fall any time soon. In any case, even this optimistic prediction means that the government sees a trade deficit of over $9 billion for 2006-07. For 2005-06, the government had set an export target of $17 billion but a figure of $ 16.5 billion was achieved. Defence exports and exports from the services sector worth around $500 million were added to the total to bring it at par with the official target. This just shows how important it is to increase exports, especially of those goods which Pakistan has not exported traditionally.

The textile sector, which is the largest contributor to the total exports of the country, now has a tough challenge before it because it has to contend with a trading and export regime that is free of any quota. Textile mills will have to modernise, they will have to improve the quality of the product and they will need to find new untapped markets. The policy also lays new emphasis on the export of goods such as meat and poultry, horticulture products, carpets and leather products. This is good but since Pakistani companies are not known for this in the outside world, they will have to ensure that the quality of their goods is such that they can find ready buyers overseas. Then there is the replacement of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) with a body called the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. Will replacing the bureaucratic and mostly unproductive EPB (staffed with officers who, by and large, have no experience of commerce or economics) with another government organisation really help increase the quantum and quality of our exports? Surely the matter is not of form but of substance. With regard to that, the commerce minister's speech was found mostly wanting.

The policy is a wish-list also because many of the objectives that it seeks face considerable barriers. One is of cost. Making products in Pakistan is increasingly becoming costly, with oil and gas prices on the rise and with inflation continuing at a steady pace. Low growth in agriculture and manufacturing has reduced the exportable surplus of both sectors. The other hindrance is posed by the shortage of skilled and educated workers in Pakistan. A policy that seeks to accelerate exports has to be accompanied by considerable investment in training and skill development, especially for workers in the manufacturing and services sectors. And there is the ever-present problem of image. Countries like China and India manage to sell their goods overseas not only because they have a diversified and large industrial base and a large pool of educated and skilled workers, but also because the rest of the world does not have any problem in seeing them as viable destinations for investment. It's not easy trying to forge new trade relationships when half the world --rightly or wrongly -- thinks that the country is riven by sectarian strife, where bombings are commonplace and where religious extremists and terrorists find easy sanctuaries. As the president and the prime minister themselves often say, economic development is closely linked to the image issue and that is inextricably connected with how well a particular country can be 'sold' to the outside world. One still awaits a trade policy which takes cognisance of this.


From http://www.thenews.com.pk/ 07/19/2006


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AFGHANISTAN: President Concedes a Degree of 'Dissatisfaction'

Speaking to journalists in Tokyo on July 6, President Karzai said he has "some sense of dissatisfaction" that his country has not been rebuilt in the four years he has been in office, the "Financial Times" reported. "I had tremendous expectations myself that we would rebuild Afghanistan in four years," Karzai told journalists on the sidelines of a conference on disarming his country's armed groups. "The desire was there," Karzai said, before asking rhetorically, "Is it possible to rebuild the whole thing in four years? No." AT


From http://www.rferl.org/07/07/2006


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Afghanistan Plans to Revive Religious Police

The Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is to be reinstated in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Tolu Television reported on July 13, quoting an unmanned deputy minister within the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs. The source told Tolu that the move will enable the government to "prevent the uncontrolled spread of corruption with a sensible understanding of realities under Islamic principles." The Department of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice was first established under the Mujahedin government headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani and gained international infamy under the Taliban as the main instrument for applying draconian measures adopted by that regime in Afghanistan. Tolu reported that the Afghan cabinet has proposed the reestablishment of the department and the country's National Assembly is expected to approve the proposal. Tolu quoted an unidentified Kabul resident as saying he has witnessed "problems by some unbridled young people" and would thus be "happy if the department could tackle these [problems], but not in an extreme way," so as to avoid being rejected by the public. AT


From http://www.rferl.org/07/14/2006


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IRAQ: Sunni Parliamentarian to Propose New Reconciliation Plan

A Sunni parliamentarian, Salih al-Mutlaq, told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that he plans to present a new reconciliation plan to parliament this week, the London-based daily reported on July 9. Al-Mutlaq said the plan calls for annulling decisions made by the former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head, L. Paul Bremer, dissolving the militias, revoking the de-Ba'athification law, and abolishing the sectarian quota system on which the current government is based. He added that he will also present the plan to the Iraqi people, as he has little faith in the Council of Representatives. Al-Mutlaq said the council "votes for the party before it votes for the homeland." The parliamentarian said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national reconciliation plan contained some good ideas, but he criticized al-Maliki for backtracking on an amnesty for insurgents who had targeted U.S. soldiers. KR

From http://www.rferl.org/07/10/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: President Signs Controversial Changes to Media Law

President Nazarbaev on July 4 signed controversial amendments to the country's media legislation into law, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The changes, which tighten state control over the media sector, have drawn sharp criticism from journalists, media watchdogs, and international organizations such as the OSCE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 1, 6, and 14, 2006). In a press release on July 6, U.S.-based NGO Freedom House warned that the amendments "will greatly threaten freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the country." Nazarbaev will attend the Group of Eight (G8) summit in St. Petersburg next week, and Freedom House urged "the democratic governments attending next week's G8 Summit in St. Petersburg to voice their disapproval of this action." DK

From http://www.rferl.org/07/07/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek Head Signs Decree to Establish New Order

President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov signed a decree "On establishment of the Order of "15 years of Independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan" on 19 June, which was published on Friday, 14 July. The decree establishes the Order of "15 years of Independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan" in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and for the purpose of rewarding our compatriots who have enclosed their contributions in strengthening independence, economic, political, scientific, educational, cultural and spiritual potential and defence power of the state, ensuring the security and territorial integrity, the democratic renewal and modernization of the country, the education of a decent young generation: The Order of "O'zbekiston Respublikasi Mustaqilligiga 15 Yil" shall be awarded to the representatives of intelligentsia, workers of science and art, officers and workers, entrepreneurs, farmers, labour veterans, military men, officers of the law enforcement bodes and other individuals setting the example of altruism in strengthening independence, economic, political, scientific-educational, cultural, spiritual potential, defence power, maintenance of security and territorial integrity of the state, democratic renewal and modernization of the country, upbringing of a decent young generation.

The order may be awarded to non-residents of the Republic of Uzbekistan for service outlined in the first provision of this Regulation. The Order of "O'zbekiston Respublikasi Mustaqilligiga 15 Yil" is made from copper alloy, covered by the coating of gold up to 0.25 micron thick, constituting a circle with the diameter of 34 millimeters. The face side of the Order has the illustration of the Monument of Independence and Humanism (monuments of Independence and Happy Mother). A fragment of the Arch located on the Mustakillik Square is illustrated in the background of the monument. In the lower part of the Order, between the fragment of the Arch and the monument, there is an inscription "15 YIL" (15 Years), standing fro the jubilee of the Independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Along the periphery of the circle, there is an inscription "O'ZBEKISTON RESPUBLIKASI MUSTAQILLIGIGA". The backside of the Order has the illustration of the State Emblem of the Republic of Uzbekistan; in the lower part in the center there is an inscription "2006". The images and the inscriptions are embossed. The edges of the Order are skirting banded. The Order is attached to a rectangular ribbon using an eye and a ring. The ribbon is covered by silk sky-blue band 20 millimeters wide. The Order of "O'zbekiston Respublikasi Mustaqilligiga 15 Yil" is worn on the left side of the chest after the state awards.

From http://news.uzreport.com/07/14/2006


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Justice Ministry Registers Order on Single Tax

Uzbek Justice Ministry registered an order on calculation and payment of single tax to budget on 5 July. The order was introduced with resolution of Uzbek Finance Ministry and Uzbek Tax Committee and enters into force after 10 days registration of Justice Ministry. The order said single tax introduced instead of general state and local taxes and micro firms and small enterprises, engaged in purchase, supply, broker activity and renders services on commission agreement, are payers of single tax. The document said the single tax payers will also pay customs payments, value added tax, duty for retail trade, duty for registration of legal entities, duties to National Road Fund, payments to target funds and Fund on school education, compensation for environment pollution. Gross income is object of taxation and the rate of the single tax set at 30% from gross income.

From http://finance.uzreport.com/07/17/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Setting for More Tax Cuts and Benefits from 1 July 2006

All Australian taxpayers will be better off from this Saturday 1 July as the new raft of tax cuts, announced in this year*s Federal Budget, come into effect. The new tax cuts, worth $36.7 billion over the next four years, will benefit the lowest income earners to the highest income earners: Low-income earners will not pay tax until their annual income exceeds $10,000; Those on the lowest tax rate of 15 per cent will not go into a higher tax bracket until their taxable income goes past $25,000; Those on the 30 per cent tax rate will not pay a higher marginal tax until their taxable income goes past $75,000; and For those on the two top tax rates, both the rate is cut and the threshold is increased. This means those on incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 will see the rate decrease from a 42 cent rate to a 40 cent rate, while those on the top rate have a reduced top rate of 45 cents in the dollar which applies only to each dollar of income over $150,000. The changes mean from 1 July 2006, 80 per cent of Australian taxpayers will face a top marginal tax rate of 30 per cent or less. This latest round of tax cuts follow on from tax cuts delivered in 2000 through The New Tax System and the 2003, 2004 and 2005 Budgets.

Under the tax scales in the 2006 Budget, a person on average weekly earnings will pay $1,209 less than they would have under a 1995-96 scale indexed to inflation. These tax cuts could only have been delivered through the continued strong economic management of the Coalition Government. A range of measures to make life easier for families will also come into effect from 1 July. These changes will see: An increase in the maternity payment (Baby Bonus) 每 from $3,166 to $4000; More generous Family Tax Benefits to support Australian families in their job of raising children. The maximum payment per child (under Part A) has increased from about $2,400 in 1996 to more than $4,200 a year. Also, the maximum FTB Part A benefit will now be available to families with an income up to $40,000; The Large Family Supplement will now include families with three or more children, which will provide assistance to nearly 350,000 additional Australian families with a payment of an extra $248 a year; and The limit on subsidised outside school-hours child care and family day care places abolished 每 which is expected to increase the number of childcare places to more than 700,000 by 2009, up from 307,000 in 1996.

The new fuel tax credit system also comes into effect from 1 July, reducing the effective level of fuel tax paid by a significant number of businesses and households and replacing the existing complex system of tax concessions delivered through the Energy Grants (Credits) Scheme and the excise and customs system. The changes expand the range of activities and fuels that qualify for a credit. Australians are already benefiting from other recent measures, including a one-off payment to older Australians and an extension of the Utilities Allowance and one-off payment to recipients of Mature Age Allowance, Partner Allowance and Widow Allowance. A bonus payment has also been made to recipients of the Carer Payment and Carer Allowance. Australian business will benefit from a reduction in incorporation fees from $800 to $400 and enhanced depreciation deductions for new plant and equipment acquired after Budget night.


From http://www.treasurer.gov.au/ ??05/27/2006

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Media Law Reform Plan Goes off Air Indefinitely

MOST of the Government's planned media law reforms package will be delayed indefinitely, minister Helen Coonan has admitted. The backdown follows her statement a fortnight ago, when she unveiled what she described as an "ambitious timetable" to push through all the reforms by the end of this year. While some reforms will need to be passed this year, Senator Coonan yesterday said other crucial parts of the media package "will need a great deal more attention and detail". But she declined to elaborate on a new timetable for their passage. The sudden change of heart follows a meeting between Prime Minister John Howard and News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch in Sydney. On Monday Mr Murdoch withdrew his support for the changes and said they favoured free-to-air broadcasters. Mr Murdoch is now proposing complete deregulation of the industry, or no change at all. On Tuesday, Mr Howard said the Government would not waste "an enormous amount of time or political capital" to get the media reforms passed. But Senator Coonan refused to concede the package had been killed. "An end date hasn't been decided by the Government," she said. The package included measures to encourage the switchover from analogue to digital television by 2012 and scrapping cross and foreign media ownership rules. The Government also proposed to auction spectrum for up to 30 new digital channels and introduce multi-channelling on free-to-air TV.


From http://www.theage.com.au/06/30/2006


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New Rules on Welfare

The homeless, domestic violence victims and other badly disadvantaged people will be subject to new rules under the Government's Welfare to Work scheme. Those assessed by the Government to be so disadvantaged that they cannot meet the requirements of income support programs such as Job Network will still be subject to new participation rules. This could include punishment for not keeping Government appointments. Under Welfare to Work - which takes effect from Saturday - those applying for the disability support pension or parenting payment will be forced onto the lower Newstart allowance if they are assessed as able to work 15 hours a week. Those breaching certain rules - missing an interview, for example - three times in a year could lose payments for two months. And it has now emerged that the participation rules will also apply to clients of the Personal Support Program, who, according to a Government website, "may face homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, psychological disorders, domestic violence or other significant barriers" to participation. Through the PSP they get special help, such as psychological counselling, because they are unable to tackle normal job-seeking.

Now, under Welfare to Work, the clients will be reported to Centrelink within 10 business days if they miss an appointment. If a PSP client has three so-called "participation failures" within a year, they risk having their income support payments cut off for eight weeks. Under the current rules, the providers are meant to report a missed appointment within six weeks, after which Centrelink will investigate further. A spokeswoman for the Minister for Workforce Participation, Sharman Stone, said participants would not lose their payments if they had a reasonable excuse for not participating, such as homelessness. And according to guidelines seen by The Age, the providers can decide not to report a client as long as they give reasons for not reporting them in the client's file. The spokeswoman said the changes were designed to stop participants disengaging by ensuring more regular contact with them. But providers and welfare advocates say participants should not have to explain why they have missed appointments, saying they were part of the scheme precisely because they could not easily meet such participation requirements.


From http://www.theage.com.au/06/29/2006

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Plan to Find Phantom Army of Kids

A NATIONAL rollcall of indigenous school-aged children was agreed to at yesterday's summit to address violence in remote Aboriginal communities. The meeting of 15 state and territory Aboriginal affairs and police ministers in Canberra agreed to a national audit of indigenous school attendance, to find a phantom army of children not enrolled in school. But they baulked at a plan by the one-day summit's host, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, to give the audit teeth by having police monitor truancy to ensure indigenous children go to school. However, there was unanimous support for the establishment of a $15 million National Intelligence Unit, with 26 Australian Federal Police or Australian Crime Commission officers, to investigate abuse against women and children. As part of a $130 million commonwealth package designed to tackle abuse and neglect in remote Aboriginal communities, the federal Government will fund the national truancy unit to work out how large the problem is and how to get kids to attend school.

Mr Brough said the package was conditional on the states and territories agreeing to remove customary law in sentencing, and the strengthening of bail conditions for serious offenders. The states and territory ministers would not agree to changes on customary law yesterday, and said they would consider their response to the package at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting next month. But Mr Brough warned that the Howard Government would not allow the states and territories to "cherry pick" the package. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the commonwealth would amend the Crimes Act to delete reference to any consideration of cultural background. But the states and territories say they intend to have the issue discussed at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The national truancy unit is designed to overcome an anomaly where Aboriginal children who are not enrolled at school are statistically ignored. "I put to them that currently they report against enrolments. I said what we want to provide to you is how many school-age children there are by location. We want to have it down to how many potential children there are and then the truancy rates," Mr Brough said.

"There was a reluctance to push their own existing laws in some cases as much as we would like to see. "There was a number that expressed the view that having a policeman knock on your door was inappropriate, and that wasn't the best way to do things." NSW Police Minister Carl Scully said it was unreasonable for the commonwealth to expect a response when the states had not been given any time to consider the proposal. "Having two or three federal police in each capital city around Australia really wouldn't add much ... it's very simplistic to talk about parachuting new police stations in and opening a plaque with Mal Brough's name on it," Mr Scully said. Northern Territory Police Minister Paul Henderson said law and order was only one aspect of the 20-year plan Chief Minister Clare Martin would push at the COAG talks next month. A longer-term solution was needed. "$130 million is not going to address the tide of indigenous disadvantage across Australia," Mr Henderson said.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/06/27/2006


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Waste Levies Rise as Government Waves Green Flag

BUSINESSES are about to be hit by a four-fold increase in levies charged on hazardous industrial waste as part of a State Government plan to halve toxic waste over the next five years. The Age has learnt that the levy will rise from $30 to $130 a tonne as the Government moves to bolster its environmental credentials in the lead-up to the November state election. The higher levy is expected to raise about $6 million a year, which the Government will pledge to reinvest in programs to help businesses reduce the amount of waste they produce. But industry and the State Opposition last night criticised the move, saying it would hurt struggling manufacturers. Deputy Premier and Environment Minister John Thwaites will also announce an extra $2.5 million over four years in grants to businesses to introduce new technologies to cut waste. The Government hopes the measures will result in the amount of hazardous waste dumped as landfill being cut from 89,000 tonnes last year to about 45,000 tonnes in five years. Mr Thwaites yesterday acknowledged that industry had cut waste in recent years, down from 122,000 tonnes in 2000. "While it is clear inroads have been made, industry needs greater incentives for it to invest in new opportunities and technology for avoidance or recovery of wastes," he said. "Every dollar raised from the levy is invested back into programs that help business minimise waste."

But Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Neil Coulson said last night that increased levies were not the "magic bullet" for cutting waste. "The problem is best addressed by education and better use of technology, not by imposing charges that make Victorian manufacturers less competitive in a tough global environment," Mr Coulson said. Opposition manufacturing spokesman Richard Dalla-Riva demanded more details about how the money would be used. "I'm highly sceptical, as are most manufacturers, about this Government's rhetoric and spin about its ever-increasing tax grab," Mr Dalla-Riva said. "This is nothing more than an additional tax slug on business in Victoria." The higher levy will apply to "category B prescribed industrial wastes", the type that will be stored at the controversial dump the Government plans to build at Nowingi, near Mildura. These include waste from car manufacturing, acids and caustics generated in metals processing, and solvent recovery residues produced by paint making. The increased levy will be part of the Government's "environmental sustainability action statement", expected this month. Environmental issues will be prominent in the lead-up to the state election.

From http://www.theage.com.au/07/14/2006


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PM to Increase Government Backing for Biofuel Use

PRIME Minister John Howard is expected to boost Federal Government support for the biofuels industry in a speech to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia today. The boost will come as part of the Government's response to high oil prices. A greater commitment will boost production of ethanol fuels. It will also boost the nation's burgeoning biodiesel industry, which converts vegetable oils and waste products into a diesel substitute. The Government wants the nation's transport fleet to be using 350 megalitres of biofuels by 2010. Tax incentives are in place, but there is nothing to force this to happen. A greater commitment may see a higher target set with a mechanism to ensure it is met. Mr Howard will also reconfirm the Government's commitment to using low emissions technology to deal with greenhouse gas emissions rather than introducing emissions trading or a carbon tax. That means Australia does not plan to do an about-face on greenhouse policy and to join the Kyoto system any time soon.

Some states, including Victoria, want a state-based emissions trading system. It appears that a state-based approach will struggle to get up because the Prime Minister is believed to have discussed the issue with Queensland Premier Peter Beattie at last week's Council of Australian Governments conference. Mr Beattie told Mr Howard that Queensland would not support an emissions trading scheme. The state has a large metal smelting industry that fears emissions trading will boost power prices to the point that it becomes uncompetitive. Queensland is committed to supplying 13 per cent of its power needs from gas-fired power stations. But, it has built two coal plants in recent years with another scheduled to follow. Its coal-fired power stations are the country's cleanest because many are new and use energy efficient black coal.


From http://www.theage.com.au/07/17/2006


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Federal Govt Won't Fund Public Transport

The federal government has categorically ruled out funding state based public transport networks. NSW Transport Minister John Watkins called for federal funding to help deliver "clean, safe and attractive public transport" in Sydney. But a spokeswoman for federal Transport Minister Warren Truss said the states have billions of dollars in GST revenue to put into public transport. "The Australian governments position on this is firm," she said. Mr Watkins' suggestion was based on similar programs running in the US where Washington provides 52 per cent of the public transport cost. "I believe that's what's needed to address the growth of major cities like Sydney and to truly encourage an exodus from cars onto public transport," Mr Watkins said in Sydney. Mr Truss's spokeswoman said NSW would benefit from the dedicated Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane freight corridor. "Works on the Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane corridor would help with passenger trains and the work for us to build a dedicated southern Sydney freight line would free up existing lines for passenger trains," she said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/07/18/2006


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FIJI: Cabinet Approves Health and Safety at Work (Diving) Regulations

Cabinet has endorsed the Health and Safety at Work (Diving) Regulations. Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations, Mr Krishna Datt. Mr Datt said that the Regulations provide an effective legal and administrative framework for the sound management of risks associated with the diving industry. ※The primary objective of the Diving Regulations is to minimise as far as practicable the health and safety risks at source through the registration, inspection and certification of dive equipment; training, certification and licensing of divers and dive staff; and promotion of best dive practices and proper supervision of dive operations. ※The other health and safety control measures incorporated in the framework of the Regulations revolve around these three main areas.§ Mr Datt said that the Regulations form the basis for the development of a sound dive management system. ※This system will ensure an effective and proactive risk management approach aimed at reducing dive related incidences. ※Consequently, this will reduce the direct and indirect costs of dive related accidents, injuries and deaths.

※It will also alleviate the &drain* on tax payers* money and the social burden to Government, the nation and affected families.§ Mr Datt said that the revenue generated by the Commercial Fisheries sector such as the bech-de-mer trade averages 3.5 million dollars annually and has accumulated to more than 46 million dollars for the past 13 years. ※Clearly, the diving industry is creating employment opportunities in commercial diving industry to youths in the rural and coastal areas as well as in the tourists* recreational diving industry. ※It is envisaged that through the enforcement of the Regulations, the revenue generated by this sector will increase significantly.§ Further, the lucrative tourists recreational diving is now being advertised worldwide as a niche market for Fiji*s tourism industry. ※The Regulations will facilitate the rapid growth of recreational diving that includes scientific and technical diving in the tourism industry,§ Mr Datt said. He also said that the requirements of training, inspection, certification of dive equipment and supervision of diving operations under the Regulations will raise local diving standards to be on par with recognised international standards. This, he said, will make our diving industry more attractive and lucrative.


From http://www.fiji.gov.fj/ 07/17/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: to Tighten Up Anti-Terrorism Act

The Terrorism Suppression Act is to be significantly revised to enable the Government to better implement United Nations counter-terrorism requirements, Helen Clark says. The plan to change the law was revealed yesterday, during a speech by the Prime Minister to the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law Conference. The act implements obligations passed unanimously by the UN Security Council following the September 11 attacks. It targets those who raise funds for terrorism, and provides for terrorists' property to be frozen. It also requires New Zealand to deny safe haven to terrorists and to ensure those engaged in acts of terror are brought to justice. Helen Clark said the Government was in the process of "updating and significantly revising" the act. "Since its passage it has become clear that the legislation does not allow New Zealand to be as responsive as we would wish in implementing the changing requirements of UN counter-terrorism arrangements." Amendments would be tabled in Parliament this year, she said. Asked for further detail, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said the comments "relate to occasions when the UN adds an entity to its list of designated terrorist organisations.

New Zealand is then obliged to treat it as a terrorist organisation. Currently it's done through a process of gazetting. This is too cumbersome, and the process needs to be more automatic." A foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee review of the act last year identified other problems in the legislation, although it remained unclear yesterday whether they would also be tackled by the revision. The act requires that all designations expire after three years unless extended by order of the High Court. Officials told the committee there were a number of issues with the process. If the court chose not to renew a designation, New Zealand could find itself in breach of its UN obligations. The court's power to overturn a designation after a judicial review, and the Prime Minister's ability to revoke a designation, could also see New Zealand in breach of the UN, the officials advised. At the time, Green MP Keith Locke argued officials were pushing an "undemocratic line".

He believed common sense and international law said otherwise, and New Zealand needed to retain the power to take designations off the terrorist list. The UN had already admitted it had made erroneous designations, he said. There is no evidence the law change flagged yesterday is designed to enable more alleged terrorists to be placed on the list. However, National foreign affairs spokesman Murray McCully claimed the changes signalled were a "huge endorsement of the concerns that I've been expressing." He has raised concerns that while other countries have added extra organisations to their terrorist lists, above those required by the UN, New Zealand has not yet done so. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters last week accused Mr McCully of misleading the public on the issue. Mr McCully said yesterday: "I just hope that any terrorists focusing their attention on New Zealand are very, very lazy terrorists because this is taking a very long time."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/06/30/2006


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Carbon-Tax Option Back on Agenda

A carbon tax limited to major emitters of greenhouse gases such as thermal power stations and big smokestack industries remains an option, Climate Change Minister David Parker says. A Cabinet paper on "the way ahead" for climate change policy, released yesterday, says that "in the longer run the most effective policy mix is likely to include mechanisms that introduce a price [cost] of greenhouse gas emissions". And in order to minimise the risk of stranded assets where investments have long lives, the sooner such signals are made the better, it said. Last December when the Government scrapped plans for a broad-based carbon tax, which would also have applied to transport fuels, the option of a narrow-based tax was left on the table. Parker said yesterday that he was open-minded about the issue and that a decision could be 18 months away. Options other than a carbon tax are also under consideration as a transitional measure to prepare large emitters for whatever regime is adopted post-2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period ends, an outline of the Government's climate change work programme indicates.

They include emissions trading (such as the Europeans have), voluntary agreements (which large New Zealand emitters already have some experience of) or regulation through the Resource Management Act. Catherine Beard, of industry lobby group Greenhouse Policy Coalition, welcomed the Government's commitment to consultation, which was vital if politically durable policy was to eventuate. "There seems to be a greater willingness to look at the costs and benefits of some of these ideas," she said. "You have got to evaluate whether the price signals will have an impact. Are they enough to change behaviour or will they just add cost? Which often depends on whether there are technological alternatives available." Other policies being worked on are a regime for progressively improving the fuel economy of the national car fleet, perhaps by banning imports of vehicles over a certain age, or imposing differential fees at the border. A transport biofuels target is also being looked at. And the Government will be talking to the forestry sector on the vexed issues of incentives for planting new forests and replanting those which are harvested.

Parker emphasised the need for climate change policy to focus on the longer term, that is the period after 2012, but said it was difficult for the Government to give businesses the policy certainty they wanted when it was unclear what the international framework would be. "Whether [Kyoto] metamorphoses into something better post-2012 only time will tell," he said. The Government might have to make some assumptions about what the level of international commitment on the global warming issue would be and say that if that did not eventuate it would have to look at the matter again. Meanwhile, Parker indicated that fresh official estimates, due soon, of the extent to which New Zealand is likely to fall short of its target under the Kyoto Protocol should show some improvement on the 36 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent projected last year.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/07/05/2006


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Government Opens $12m War Chest to Tackle Pests

The Government says it will spend nearly $12 million on managing three highly invasive New Zealand pests. Biosecurity Minister Jim Anderton said $11.81 million would be spent over two years to deal with didymo, the sea squirt Styela clava and painted apple moth. The money would be spent on monitoring and slowing the spread of didymo and the sea squirt. Painted apple moth funding would be used to continue surveillance for the pest at high-risk sites. Mr Anderton said a paper on didymo from Biosecurity NZ and the Department of Conservation highlighted the need for agencies, industry and the public to work together to get the best results. Further work was continuing between the Mussel Farming Association, New Zealand King Salmon Company, Port Marlborough, the Marlborough District Council, the Cawthron Institute and Biosecurity NZ on managing a second sea squirt pest, Didemnum vexillum, Mr Anderton said. "The Government will be reviewing funding in the near future to look at the potential allocation of funds for Didemnum vexillum management."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 07/18/2006


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World Bank Graft Plan Looks to Work with Countries

※A World Bank plan to tackle corruption would first focus on working with governments in developing countries to correct graft problems before taking drastic steps to restrict or even halt lending,§reports Reuters. ※In cases where governments are unwilling to take corruption-fighting steps on their own, the Bank proposes creating a system of warnings as it moves to withdraw loans, according to a draft report obtained by Reuters. It suggests appointing an adviser in nations with weak governance records to coordinate with governments on issues. The outline of the proposal, circulated among the Bank's board of member countries. The paper further stressed the importance of coordinating the Bank's anti-corruption practices with donors and private financial markets to avoid&simultaneously losing opportunities for business and for strengthening governance.* The proposal [also] emphasizes that any such measures be part of the Bank's core lending programs to developing countries, known as Country Assistance Strategies, or CAS.§


From http://web.worldbank.org/06/29/2006


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ICTs Help Poor Get Access to Public Services: OWSA Report

New Delhi: OneWorld South Asia (OWSA), has published reports and tool kits on an four-country action research that establish the role of ICTs in enabling people, to have better access to pro-poor government services.

Using ICTs for development The two“Cyear action research - Improving transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of pro poor government services “C was supported by DFID*s Knowledge and Research (KaR) programme. The research was conducted from January 2004 in Croatia, India, Pakistan and Nigeria. OneWorld South Asia was the international management organisation and also the India country chapter of this research. The action research, established clearly that ICTs- in their broadest definition “C using VOICE as a primary interface, had a role in facilitating transparent and responsive delivery of these services to the poor. Each of the country teams chose a specific area of research. In Pakistan, the focus was on water and sanitation, in Croatia “C waiting lists for surgeries in hospitals, India on access to services in a maternal and child health hospital and in Nigeria on primary education.

ICTs for education OWSA, is keen to share the learnings from the project with the stakeholders. Towards this, individual country reports from three countries (Croatia, India and Pakistan) and an overall International report have been published to document the learnings. Importantly country specific and International Toolkits have been developed to provide a step by step guide to stakeholders “C NGOs, CBOs, Government Agencies and Policy Makers on how to use ICTs in effective delivery of public services. (by Geeta Sharma)


From http://southasia.oneworld.net/07/05/2006


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Better Governance Is Way Out of Poverty - World Bank

※Developing countries must improve business conditions and run their public and private sectors in a transparent way if they want to attract investors and fight poverty, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said on Thursday,§reports Reuters. Gazeta Mercantil (Brazil) notes that ※?- Wolfowitz told the International Corporate Governance Network in a speech: &[This] is absolutely vital for harnessing the entrepreneurial energy of the private sector. Today, the private sector accounts for 90 percent of jobs in the developing world and ultimately, it will be these jobs that offer the most promising path out of poverty.*§§Dow Jones writes that ※?- Wolfowitz noted that private investment flows to poor countries now dwarf official development aid. For every dollar of aid, there is now more than $4 in cross-border private investment from rich to poor countries, he said. Poor countries are also increasingly the source of investment in other poor countries. Countries that create the best possible investment climate will receive the bulk of this investment, leading to more job creation and better living standards, he said. Weak corporate governance standards promote corruption and undermine the private economy in poor countries, Wolfowitz said. &It drains resources and discourages investments; it benefits the privileged and deprives the poor,* he said. Investors need to be reassured they have access to information and that their rights will be protected, or they won't be as willing to invest, Wolfowitz added.§§Reuters adds that ※?- he commended Malaysia, South Africa and Mauritius for ranking among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of investor protections. Thailand requires both directors and shareholders without personal interest in a business deal to approve a related party transaction, while in Turkey companies are required to post information on ownership, board minutes and transactions on their web site, he said. Pakistan introduced penalties against self-dealings with unlimited fines and up to 14 years in jail.§§


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


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Two-Year Term Extension for ADB Vice-President

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB's Board of Directors has extended the term of Vice-President Liqun Jin by two years to 31 July 2008. Mr. Jin, 56, previously the People's Republic of China's (PRC) Vice Minister of Finance, took office at ADB on 1 August 2003 on a three-year term. As Vice-President for Operations 1, Mr. Jin is responsible for the work of ADB's South Asia Department, Central and West Asia Department, and Private Sector Operations Department. He is one of four vice-presidents serving under ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda, the others being C. Lawrence Greenwood (Operations 2), Geert van der Linden (Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development), and Khempheng Pholsena (Finance and Administration).

From http://www.adb.org/07/11/2006


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CHINA: HK Govt's 5-Day Week Pattern Smooth on 1st Saturday

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government offices rendering back-end and non-essential services were closed on Saturday after a five-day-work week system was introduced on July 1, which was coincidentally a Saturday. Before July 1, all government departments practiced five and a half days workweek pattern. The changeover was generally smooth, said a government press release on Saturday. A government spokesman said the authorities had closely monitored the development Saturday morning. A number of residents did turn up at the closed offices of some departments. Government staff stationed on site took immediate steps to provide the residents with assistance, including responding to their inquiries, handing out application forms and taking note of requests that required follow-up action on Monday. "We will keep in view the situation and continue to render appropriate assistance to members of the public in the coming weeks where necessary. We understand that members of the public need some time to adjust to the new work pattern," the spokesman said. He pointed out that even on this Saturday morning, many government offices remained open, as emergency and essential services were not affected by the new work pattern, and people in need of assistance would still be able to get help. "For instance, the opening hours of all post office counters, and all Immigration Department service counters (for registration of births, deaths and marriages), registration and replacement of identity cards, visa and travel document applications, remain unchanged. Mail delivery also continues on Saturdays."

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government offices rendering back-end and non-essential services were closed on Saturday after a five-day-work week system was introduced on July 1, which was coincidentally a Saturday. Before July 1, all government departments practiced five and a half days workweek pattern. The changeover was generally smooth, said a government press release on Saturday. A government spokesman said the authorities had closely monitored the development Saturday morning. A number of residents did turn up at the closed offices of some departments. Government staff stationed on site took immediate steps to provide the residents with assistance, including responding to their inquiries, handing out application forms and taking note of requests that required follow-up action on Monday. "We will keep in view the situation and continue to render appropriate assistance to members of the public in the coming weeks where necessary. We understand that members of the public need some time to adjust to the new work pattern," the spokesman said. He pointed out that even on this Saturday morning, many government offices remained open, as emergency and essential services were not affected by the new work pattern, and people in need of assistance would still be able to get help. "For instance, the opening hours of all post office counters, and all Immigration Department service counters (for registration of births, deaths and marriages), registration and replacement of identity cards, visa and travel document applications, remain unchanged. Mail delivery also continues on Saturdays."


From http://news.xinhuanet.com/07/08/2006


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Healthcare Finance Scheme to Be Unveiled

The government will unveil a healthcare finance scheme for public discussion within the next few months, Secretary for Health, Welfare & Food York Chow said yesterday. The fees increase for services provided by the Hospital Authority will be considered after the proposal is made. The government is collecting and analyzing relevant data, and carrying out detailed calculations with regard to different options under consideration, he said. Since the issues involved and calculations required are more complicated than expected, more time will be needed to complete the study. "Since the preliminary data obtained is unclear and a new tax may be introduced, we will have to study further the medical costs and problems we will face in the next 20 years," Chow said in reply to an oral question from Democratic Party legislator Yeung Sum. Yeung and several other legislators urged Chow not to raise medical fees before a healthcare financing package was in place to avoid financial burden of the people. Chan Yuen-han of Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions feared that the HA might increase medical fees to subsidize the costs of the healthcare financing scheme if an expensive administrative cost was involved. "There can be no direct relation between medical fees and the healthcare financing scheme. But people need to know the medical costs they will have to bear before we raise the fees," Chow said. "As some of the service users are unaware of the actual costs, abuses of services and medical resources have therefore occurred. And since the users are heavily subsidized, some patients are unwilling to go home because the hospital fees are far lower than the living expenses at home." Chow said he would try to unveil the proposal before the expiry of his tenure on June 30 next year.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn??07/13/2006


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Promotion of Governance Transparency Called

A senior Chinese official Thursday called on central government departments to make their administrative processes more transparent. He Yong, a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and deputy secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, made the remarks at a special meeting on governance transparency. "Promoting openness and transparency in the use and operation of administrative power is vital to the administration on the whole," said He, also head of a national group responsible for governance transparency work. But, he warned, the promotion of governance transparency should proceed gradually and in a considered way. The central Chinese organs should put the issues that have aroused public concerns or complaints atop their lists in order to safeguard the public's right to information and supervision, said He. The upholding of transparency should also be combined with ongoing anti-corruption moves in a bid to more effectively prevent abuse of administrative power and misinformed decision-making. "Besides, central organs are required to enhance coordination and guidance of the governance transparency work within their own industries," he said.


From http://www.china.org.cn/07/14/2006


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China to Promote AIDS Awareness Among Local Officials

China's State Council has set up a delegation on Wednesday to tour the country to promote AIDS awareness among local government officials. Ninety percent of local officials above county level will listen to speeches from the delegation from July to the end of 2007, said Wang Longde, head of the working committee of AIDS prevention and control under the State Council. The epidemic situation of HIV/AIDS has been deteriorating in recent years and has had a negative impact on the economy in the worst-affected areas. Meanwhile, it is spreading from high-risk groups to the general public, said Wang at the first meeting of the delegation. However, some local cadres are still blind to the harm of the epidemic and are not prepared for a long-term struggle, he told the meeting which was attended by more than 100,000 local officials via a tele-conference network. Local officials ought to know about the policies and guidelines of the central government in AIDS control as well, he added. China currently has about 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, including 75,000 AIDS patients, according to official estimates.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn??07/16/2006


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China Allocates US$175 Bln to Environmental Protection

China plans to invest 1.4 trillion yuan (US$175 billion) in environmental protection between 2006 and 2010 -- more than 1.5 percent of the national GDP, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The money will be spent on water pollution control, improving the air quality in cities, disposing solid waste, harnessing soil erosion and improving the rural environment, said He Bingguang, deputy head of the NDRC's environment department. At a cost of 180 billion yuan, sewage treatment facilities with a combined daily capacity of 40 million tons will be built in 10 river valleys to dispose of waste water discharged by cities, said He. And a total of 200 billion yuan will be used to treat industrial waste water, according to the official. Part of the funds will be used to reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide and dust in 113 major Chinese cities. China will also set up 31 provincial-level dangerous waste disposing centers to treat domestic garbage. According to the plan, the investment will also serve to build facilities to guarantee nuclear safety and prevent nuclear radiation, He said. Official estimates show that the annual output value of China's environmental protection industry will top 880 billion yuan by the end of 2010, with an annual growth rate of 15 percent.


From http://www.china.org.cn07/18/2006


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Govt to Promulgate New Standards for Drinking Water

China will soon promulgate a new set of national compulsory standards on drinking water quality, a senior official from the Ministry of Construction said Tuesday.The new standard represents the first revision of China's current standards issued in 1985, before rapid industrialization left most of the country's water bodies in pollution.Zhang Yue, deputy head of the ministry's urban construction department, told Xinhua that the new standards requires tests on over 100 water quality indices, far more than the current 35 indices.The new indices mainly have to do with organic pollutants and other harmful substances in the water as a result of industrial pollution, he said.According to Zhang, the new standard is on a par with that of moderately-developed countries.Work on the new standards is being coordinated by the Standardization Administration of China and involves the Ministry of Construction and the Ministry of Health, in response to rising public call for the revision of the outdated standards.The Ministry of Health published the draft version of the new standards on May 19 to solicit public opinions.


From http://english.gov.cn/07/18/2006


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Local Gov't Tries to Curb Commercial Bribery

From hero to zero in just three years: Such is the price of taking bribes. Luo Yaoxing, former director of Guangdong Disease Control and Prevention Centre's immunity planning institute and a key figure in the fight against SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, has been detained on suspicion of receiving bribes worth over 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million). Nine other persons from the centre have been detained, and in total they have racked up over 22 million yuan (US$2.71 million) in ill-gotten gains. The case is still under investigation. Luo and his colleagues are among more than 400 bribe takers authorities in Guangdong Province have uncovered during a special campaign against commercial bribery in the first half of this year. Commercial bribery occurs when a buyer takes a bribe to perform a particular transaction. "Commercial bribery is still a very serious problem in the province," noted Zhang Xuejun, chief procurator of the province. "Procuratorial organs across the province will as ever attach importance to such crimes." "Those in charge of infrastructure construction and land leasing, purchasers of medicines for the health system and governmental procurers are particularly vulnerable to bribery. Procuratorial organs will keep an even closer eye on them," he added. Official statistics indicate that the procuratorial organs in the province placed on file for investigation 408 cases related to commercial bribery in the January-June period. The cases involve 416 persons. So far in the first half of this year 10 senior provincial government officials and 70 middle-ranking officials have been removed from their positions for receiving bribes or misappropriating public funds, of which 145 million yuan (US$17.88 million) has been recovered. Ren Jiantao, a public administration professor with Sun Yat-sen University, said the campaign was needed to root out corruption. "The province's anti-bribery campaigns will prove a deterrent to government officials and other public servants and help prevent bribery from running riot," he said.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn07/19/2006


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HK Gov't to Help People Understand GST

Financial Secretary Henry Tang yesterday said he was not surprised by the criticism over the proposed goods and services tax (GST). Most people, like elsewhere, have very strong feelings about it, he said. Tang said this yesterday morning during and after a radio talk programme. He said the government would present more scenarios for public discussion next week over the rate of tax cuts and compensation measures to clear any misconception. Tang said he was not surprised by the strong reaction from the public and political parties to the government's tax reform proposal. "Hong Kong is very much like most other economies that upon the discussion of a tax reform, most people will have very strong feelings about it. This is totally within our expectation." He said the opposition from the three major political parties had been quite expected. He, however, pointed out that these parties and the private sector had misconstrued the proposals and asked them to try to understand the consultation paper first. Some felt that calculation of the new tax would entail the hiring of an additional two to three accountants for each company. But according to the Singaporean experience, the average compliance cost is only about HK$5,000, he said. Tang said he hoped the consultation process would give the government a better idea of the areas that people are most concerned about.

"At the same time, it will be a very useful discussion because people will get a better understanding of what is a fair share of tax burden." To allow people to have a better grasp of the proposals, scenarios of how the tax could be implemented, including different combinations of tax rates and concessions, would be released next week for public discussion, he said. But Tang stressed that tax concessions would mean reduction in tax bands and rates only. The HK$100,000 personal allowance will remain unchanged so that no fewer people will fall into the tax net. They will only pay less tax, he added. Later in the morning, Tang met chairmen and vice-chairmen of the 18 district councils, most of which had reservation about the new tax. They said after the meeting that they were pleased that Tang had been willing to listen to them and promised to send ranking officials to each district to hold further discussions with them. Meanwhile, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma met representatives from the four major business associations. Federation of Hong Kong Industries' Vice-Chairman Lau Chin-ho said after the meeting that Ma had pledged more dialogues with the business sector. Lau said the business sector's main concerns included whether the GST was the only way to broaden the tax base, and whether it would bring any harm to retail, tourism and manufacturing industries.

From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 07/21/2006


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Civil Servants' Pay Adjustment on the Way

China plans to raise the salaries of civil servants working for the central and local governments and employees of public institutions as the government begins to reform the country's income distribution system to narrow the gap between rich and poor. A total of 34.7 billion yuan (US$4.3 billion) will be spent on salary rises for 120 million people, including six million central and local government officials, 30 million employees from public institutions, and 50 million retired military servicemen and government employees in 2006. In addition, the stipend standards for 30 million disabled military servicemen and family members of war heroes and military servicemen, and the basic subsistence allowances for urban dwellers, will also be raised. "It (the salary reform) will help create a sound environment for the income distribution system reform of the entire society," said Chinese President Hu Jintao at a high-level meeting discussing equal income distribution early this month. The reform is also necessary for the building of an efficient, transparent and honest government in accordance with the Civil Servants Law which came into force in January 2006 and stipulated a uniform salary system for civil servants across the country, Hu added. People working in remote, underdeveloped areas will also receive a special allowance and performance related pay will also be implemented.

Of the six million civil servants and 30 million personnel working in public-funded organizations across China, 60 percent work in county-level governments, whose salaries depend mainly on the state of local government finances. Figures from the Ministry of Personnel show that the income gap ratio between officials of the same ranks in Shanghai and the northwestern province of Shaanxi can be 2.8:1. The aim of the planned pay rise is to improve the welfare of government employees who work in China's poor and rural regions, according to the Ministry of Personnel. Except for nine prosperous regions including Beijing, Shanghai, and the provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu and Fujian, the cost of the salary increases will be footed by the central government. "It is very important to offer government administrative staff effective incentives to inspire more enthusiasm," said Dr. Liu Xin, a professor with the School of Public Administration at the Beijing-based Renmin University of China. He noted that it was very difficult for grassroots civil servants to secure pay rises by staying in the same position for years, while their workload and pressure continues to build up. "It has inevitably led to inefficiency and turnover of competent civil servants who believe their income should match their actual contribution," he said. Statistics from the Ministry of Personnel showed that at least 1,039 civil servants with bachelor degrees had resigned from 21 central government ministries between 1998 and 2002. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most of the officials who resigned were below the age of 35. One hundred and twenty three people who worked for the Ministry of Commerce for less than three years - 72.8 percent of the total - quit to join foreign companies, where the income level is based on performance.

The unfair income distribution system has even prompted some officials to gain personal wealth by unlawful means. The audit report of 32 central government ministries and national-level public institutions released last September by the National Audit Office showed that some organizations had embezzled public funds to pay special allowances to their employees. For example, a public institution under the General Administration of Civil Aviation had spent more than 48 million yuan (US$6 million) on special allowances for employees. Xie Zhengzheng, who works in the Beijing branch of a foreign investment bank, is skeptical of the pay rises for civil servants since "their income is actually far more than the cash they receive". "It includes various welfare like assigned apartments and automobiles," he said. But the Ministry of Personnel insists the emphasis of the reform is to quash these unofficial bonuses and curb excessively high salaries, while increasing pay for grassroots officials. "The income for government officials, which comes mainly from public funds, should be transparent and balanced, as it sets the tone for the whole income distribution reform," said Dr. Liu Xin.

From http://www.china.org.cn/07/22/2006


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China Recommends Margaret Chan to Run for WHO Director-General

China announced on Tuesday that it has decided to recommend Margaret Chan from Hong Kong to run for Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). Chan currently serves as WHO Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases. The election for new director-general will be in November this year. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China has been an active player in international cooperation on health. "China attaches great importance to the key role of the WHO and hopes to make greater contributions to the development of world health affairs," Liu said. A resume posted on the WHO website said that Chan obtained her medical degree from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She joined the Hong Kong Department of Health in 1978 and began her career in public health. In 1994, Chan was appointed Director of Health, the first female director of Hong Kong.

In 2003, Chan joined the WHO and worked as WHO's Director of the Department of Protection of the Human Environment. In June 2005, she was appointed Director of Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Response as well as Representative of the Director-General for Pandemic Influenza, according to the WHO website. Spokesman Liu said Chan has profound medical knowledge and rich experience in public health management and has thorough understanding of WHO rules as well as challenges and opportunities for the global health system. Chan has systematic and mature thinking of WHO's development, Liu said, adding, "we believe Madam Margaret Chan would help the organization play a more active role in the health sector on the world stage if she were elected WHO Director-General."

From http://en.chinabroadcast.cn/ 07/25/2006


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JAPAN: Slight Raise Seen as Civil Servants Get Summer Bonus

Most of Japan's 4 million public servants, from the nation's top leaders to the rank-and-file employees of the central and local governments, received their summer bonuses Friday. The average payment to central government employees in nonmanagerial administrative jobs is about 622,000 yen for a 34.6-year-old employee, up 5,000 yen, or 0.8 percent, from last year. The average local government employee bonus is about 597,000 yen for a 36.2-year-old employee, up 5,000 yen or 0.8 percent. Their bonus payment comes to the equivalent of 2.11 months of salary for both central and local government employees, up 0.01 month from last year, marking the first increase in three years. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Supreme Court Chief Justice Akira Machida received the largest bonuses, each getting some 5.66 million yen, while Cabinet members received some 4.13 million yen each, almost unchanged from last year, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono and House of Councilors President Chikage Ogi each got 5.06 million yen, and Diet members got 3.01 million yen. Bonuses for parliamentary leaders and lawmakers are down slightly from last year. Vice ministers received 3.33 million yen, while bureau head-class officials received 2.53 million yen.

From The Japan Times 07/01/2006


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Tadaki to Be New Top Prosecutor

The government appointed Keiichi Tadaki as prosecutor general at the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office in a Cabinet decision effective Friday, government officials said. Tadaki, 62, replaces Kunihiro Matsuo. He has been superintending prosecutor at the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor's Office since June 2004. Hailing from Saitama Prefecture, he graduated from the University of Tokyo and became a prosecutor in 1969.

From The Japan Times 07/01/2006


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Salary Cuts for Governors

The average gubernatorial salary fell to a record low 17.9 million yen in 2005, with fiscal belt-tightening affecting all but one of the governors and mayors of major cities, according to figures disclosed Monday. According to Yomiuri Shimbun research on ordinance-designated areas, the average gubernatorial salary dropped by 200,000 yen compared to 2004, based on income disclosed by 42 of 44 affected governors--their lowest levels since 1996. Meanwhile, the average income of 13 mayors in cities with a population of more than 500,000 dropped to about 20 million yen, down 970,000 yen from the previous year, when figures for 14 mayors were available.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 07/04/2006


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BOJ to Name New Exec Director

The Bank of Japan is planning to name Masahiro Samejima, director general of its Financial Systems and Bank Examination Department, as an executive director, BOJ sources said Saturday. He would replace the retiring Masaaki Shirakawa. Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki is expected to formalize the appointment Monday following recommendations put forward by the BOJ Policy Board, the sources said. Samejima, 52, joined the BOJ in 1976 after graduating from the University of Tokyo.

From The Japan Times 07/09/2006


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Transport Bureaucrats Got 4.4 Million Yen in Fund Abuse

A number of transport ministry bureaucrats misappropriated a total of 4.43 million yen through abuse of business trip expense accounts in fiscal 2004, a recent ministry probe has shown. According to the internal probe by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, 28 officials received a total of 680,000 yen for airfare costs by submitting receipts for standard plane fares when in reality they took flights using discount tickets. The officials obtained the receipts by buying full-fare tickets first and changing them later, the probe showed. The remaining 3.75 million yen went to ministry officials who traveled by plane and stayed at hotels or inns at discount package tour prices but claimed the maximum allowable amount for hotel fees under a ministry rule. The ministry discovered the inappropriate use of funds after scrutinizing records of 26,048 trips worth 1.78 billion yen for the fiscal year through March 2005.

From The Japan Times 07/09/2006


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LDP Sets Sept. 20 for Election to Pick Koizumi Successor

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided at a meeting of its senior executives on Tuesday to hold an election on Sept. 20 to pick a successor to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as the party's president, party officials said. The LDP's election board will accept candidates on Sept. 8 and hold a vote on Sept. 20 for the party presidential election, they said. The winner of the Sept. 20 election is deemed certain to be elected prime minister because the ruling bloc, made up of the LDP and its junior coalition partner New Komeito party, has a majority in the House of Representatives, which has final say in selecting the premier. The new prime minister will then form a Cabinet. Koizumi, who took office in April 2001, plans to step down when his term as LDP president expires in September. Among politicians widely seen as key candidates to succeed him are Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki. Under current party rules, the LDP president serves a three-year term for up to two terms. Candidates will make campaign speeches together around three times between Sept. 9 and 19. The new party president will be chosen by votes from the party's 403 lawmakers and 300 votes from its local chapters -- three votes each from the party's 47 prefectural branches, with the remaining 159 votes to be allocated in proportion to the number of party members and organizations that support the party at each chapter. The candidate who wins a majority in primaries will become LDP president. If no contender wins a majority, a runoff will be held.

From http://asia.news.yahoo.com 07/11/2006


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Govt Faces Headache over Personnel Cuts

The government on June 27 decided on a plan to reduce the number of national public servants by 18,936, or 5.7 percent, by the end of fiscal 2010, but it will have to clear many hurdles to achieve a small and efficient administration. The plan was devised to establish a system to attain "a goal of reducing national public servants by more than 5 percent," as stipulated in the law to promote administrative reform, that the Diet passed in May. The law includes many issues that need to be addressed, such as integrating and abolishing government-related financial institutions and disposing of special accounts. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has pushed particularly hard for a reduction in the number of government employees. Of the combined 107.3 trillion yen outlay on policy programs by central and local governments in fiscal 2006, personnel costs for central and local public servants accounted for nearly 30 percent, a total of 30.1 trillion yen. As Koizumi plans to cut government spending, it is essential to reduce the total amount of personnel costs. As such, the government should be given credit for deciding to cut the number of government employees by 5.7 percent, a figure higher than the 5 percent goal stipulated in the law to promote administrative reforms to reduce civil service jobs. However, closer scrutiny of the plan reveals many problems. With the number of employees working for central government ministries and agencies at 332,034, the Finance Ministry believes that a reduction of civil service jobs can cut government spending by about 140 billion yen.

But the figure barely makes a dent in the 30 trillion yen wage bill for government employees. Furthermore, some government organizations, such as the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's advanced national medical centers and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry's forest management departments, will be converted into administrative independent institutions, resulting in about 8,000 employees, or 42 percent of the 18,936 civil service jobs to be cut, losing their status as national public servants. The government may be able to reduce personnel costs, but since it has to provide funds for the operation of such institutions, the effect of any savings may be negated. The planned personnel cuts will be accompanied by the largest-ever transfer of 2,908 government employees, most of whom will work at local branch offices. It remains to be seen whether the government's employment coordination headquarters, headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, which coordinates ministries and agencies for the planned transfers, is capable of tackling problems associated with transfers, such as individual skills and possible effects on family life. The planned job cuts will focus on 15 areas of five ministries, including the Construction and Transportation Ministry.

A review of 54,696 employees at the Finance Ministry's regional taxation bureaus and 5,540 airport staff members of the Construction and Transportation Ministry, who initially were considered for reduction, was shelved due to opposition from the two ministries. The government will have to overcome opposition to any increase in the number of redundancies in the future. To reduce personnel costs, the government also will have to drastically reform the salary structure. Specifically, the seniority-based promotion system should be expanded to consider employees' capabilities and performance, which would be reflected in their salaries accordingly. There also are calls for a review of the National Personnel Authority's sysytem of annual salary recommendations, which determines the size of pay increases. Many experts have said that government employees should be given basic labor rights, including the right to strike, like those granted to private sector employees. The next prime minister will have to tackle these issues knowing that, should he fail, any reduction plans will be just pie in the sky.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp07/12/2006


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Govts Team Up in Bids to Host '08 G-8 Summit

Two port cities and three prefectures are already petitioning the central government to host a summit meeting of leaders of the Group of Eight major powers slated to be held in Japan in 2008. Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakata and Niigata Mayor Akira Shinoda, who have formed a union between the port cities for hosting the event, visited the Prime Minister's Office on Friday and petitioned Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso. Japan signed treaties with five countries to open five ports in 1858, including Yokohama and Niigata, and 2008 will be the 150th anniversary of those signings. Nakata said the two cities wish to tout their historical significance, where the modernization of Japan started, by hosting the summit talks. Meanwhile, Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures formed a Kansai region alliance in April last year in hopes of hosting the summit. They stressed the Kansai region as the origin of the nation's history and culture. The city of Kyoto already distributed public relations brochures to U.S. reporters last autumn that visited the city to cover summit talks between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush. The Osaka prefectural government proposed Osaka Castle as a venue for the summit meeting. Osaka Gov. Fusae Ota said the castle would provide world leaders excellent security because it was built to protect a shogun from enemy attacks. But Kyoto Prefecture has proposed Kyoto State Guest House as a venue for the summit. In addition, lawmakers from Okayama and Kagawa prefectures are reportedly interested in having their areas host the summit, while Nagoya also has started looking into the possibility of hosting the event.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp07/09/2006


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Defense Expert Set to Head Academy

A former member of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's advisory body on security issues will be the next president of the National Defense Academy, government sources said Wednesday. The appointment of Makoto Iokibe, 62, a Kobe University law professor and high-profile expert on political and diplomatic issues, particularly U.S.-Japan relations, will take effect Aug. 1 following approval by the Cabinet, the sources said. Iokibe will be filling a position vacated by Masashi Nishihara, who retired March 31. The advisory panel he was on compiled a report in 2004 proposing Japan shift its defense policy from providing minimum defense against invasion to being a multifunctional and flexible defense power. The report was the basis of the new National Defense Program Outline released by the government in December 2004. Iokibe was also chairman between 1999 and 2000 of a subcommittee that discussed policy for the 21st century under the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.


From http://www.japantimes.co.jp 07/20/2006


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91% of Local Leaders Fear Their Cities Won't Survive

Ninety-one percent of local government heads are concerned about the survival of their entities amid the aging society and shortages of fiscal funds, according to a survey released Sunday. The results reflect their fear that their governments' tough financial conditions cannot be rectified by spending cuts alone. Seventy-three percent of the municipality heads favor raising the 5 percent consumption tax in the near future. The Kyodo News poll was conducted in May and June on the governors of the 47 prefectures and 1,843 mayors, including those of Tokyo's 23 wards. Responses were received from 1,884, or 99.7 percent. Asked what policy the next prime minister should prioritize after 5 1/2 years of structural-reform initiatives under the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 31 percent, the largest group, cited the need for the central government to help rebuild their finances. Under Koizumi's efforts to expand the fiscal autonomy of local governments, a three-year program through next March is in place to transfer 3 trillion yen worth of national revenue sources to local governments in exchange for scrapping grants tied to specific national programs. The three-year program is also aimed at scrapping 5.1 trillion yen worth of local tax allocations under a mechanism to redistribute tax revenues to cash-short regions.

The survey showed 73 percent of the heads of local governments with populations of 500,000 or larger are concerned about even surviving. At municipalities with populations of less than 5,000, 97 percent of their chiefs worry about survival. Asked for one or two reasons for their worries, the largest percentage at 62 percent cited an expected deterioration in local coffers due to planned grant cuts by the central government. On raising the consumption tax, which will undoubtedly become a major issue under the next administration, 73 percent said the tax should be raised "at an early date" or "in the near future." But 40 percent of prefectural governments and heads of major cities expressed caution about an early increase in the tax, citing the need to monitor effects of ongoing efforts to cut spending. About 32 percent of those surveyed favor Koizumi's structural reforms while 65 percent said the reforms have generated negative results. Asked if they think social and economic disparities exists, 59 percent replied affirmatively, with many mayors of relatively large cities referring to an increase in the number of families on welfare. Jun Iio, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, said local governments have become distrustful of the central government's decentralization campaign due to grant cuts. Iio proposed that the central government diversify decentralization measures in light of different economic and social conditions depending on regional situations.


From The Japan Times 07/24/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: President Names New Cabinet Members

President Roh Moo-hyun nominated new cabinet members on Monday. Kwon O-kyu (54), the current chief secretary for national policy, was nominated as the deputy prime minister for economy, and Kim Byung-jun (52), a former chief secretary for national policy was named as the deputy prime minister for education. Current Minister for Planning and Budget Byeon Yang-kyoon (57) will succeed Kim, and deputy minister Jang Byung-wan (54) will be named head of the ministry. The post of Commissioner of National Tax Service will be filled by 52-year-old Jeon Gun-pyo, the current Deputy Commissioner. Kim*s nomination for Education Minister engendered controversy among both ruling and opposition parties. Some members of the ruling Uri Party complained about a ※hard-line cabinet shake-up,§referring to Mr. Kim*s controversial comment on taxation. The party*s backlash against the nomination is expected to bring about disputes at the National Assembly*s nomination hearing and might provoke conflicts between the party and the government. The nominee for chief secretary for national policy Byeon will be sworn into office upon receiving the appointment letter, as he is not required to go through a hearing. An acting minister will serve as the head of the Ministry of Planning and Budget until the nominee, Jang, is officially appointed.

The Ministry of Finance and Economy and Ministry of Education will be run by the current ministers until the new nominees are officially appointed. Regarding the Uri Party*s opposition to the nomination of Mr. Kim, Senior Secretary to the President for Personnel Affairs Park Nam-chun said, ※Mr. Kim*s real estate policy should not be labeled as a failure, and it is unclear if he is responsible for tax policies.§He added that ※Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook persuaded opposing lawmakers and as far as I understand, Lee Byeong-wan, presidential chief of staff also changed opinions with party members.§Responding to accusations that the prime minister could not fully exercise her nomination rights, he said, ※We explained several times to the prime minister the procedure of cabinet shake-up.§


From http://english.donga.com 07/04/2006


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Audit Board ID*s 50 Wasteful Projects

The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) gave the Ministry of Planning and Budget (MPB) and the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA) notice that they should select 50 repetitive or wasteful business projects pursued by the central and local governments through audits for the period from June of last year to May this year, and cut down budgets for those selected projects in 2007. Nine business projects that need to be stopped or reviewed include expanding the satellite communications system for fire fighting, establishing an institute for e-government promotion, opening a center for culture industry exchange and cooperation, and building the second campus of Korea University of Technology and Education. Also pointed out are eight projects whose budgets need to be cut down, fifteen projects whose priority and timeline need to be adjusted, ten projects whose budget-related system needs to be reformed, and six other projects to be considered. The representative business project to be reviewed overall is that of establishing the satellite communications system for fire fighting, which is pursued by the National Emergency Management Agency. It is to expand the exiting satellite communications system with 49.2 billion won in funds until 2011 after building three satellite base stations and purchasing five satellite broadcasting vehicles with 12.4 billion won last year for the purpose of providing the visual information of emergency scenes and supporting communications through satellite.

However, an audit by the BAI shows that the satellite broadcasting vehicles have been used only 6.5 percent and that the MOGAHA has built a similar satellite communications system. Concerned that the 49.2 billion won funds would be wasted away, the BAI demanded an overall review of the project. The BAI*s inspection of the Rural Development Administration*s project of building an additional 541 health centers for farmers with 27 billion won until 2008 revealed that it overlaps with another project. The BAI demanded the two similar projects be combined. Although offices of education are planning to open 260 new elementary schools in land development areas until 2008, the BAI pointed out that 21 schools should be reviewed since the number of students goes down when the birth rate is lowered. A source in the BAI said, ※Government ministries and local governments are pursuing business projects excessively out of their egoism or for display effects. Although we pointed out projects to be reviewed, we are not sure how much will be cut down. The MPB and the MOGAHA promised to reflect our audit results in their budget planning for 2007.§

From http://english.donga.com07/05/2006


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Roh to Appoint 5th Education Minister

※If I become President, I will make sure that the term of the Minister of Education and Human Resources starts and ends at the same time with that of the President, so that educational policies earn consistency and trust from the public,§said President Roh in July 18, 2002 when he was then the presidential candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party during his visit to Baemyung Middle School as a one-day teacher. After being inaugurated, when he appointed Yoon Deok-hong as the first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, he publicly pledged, ※His term will be guaranteed until my term ends.§It*s been long since his promise was not kept. However, President Roh*s promise of &maintaining consistency of educational policies* is in the news again these days, as he has announced his decision to appoint former chief secretary to the president Kim Byung-joon as the fifth Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education despite opposition from the political and educational circles. All of the former education ministers of this administration stepped down from their post in the middle of their terms, failing to fulfill their roles. Former ministers Yoon Deok-hong resigned in the wake of the educational crisis caused by problems with the National Education Information System, and his successor Ahn Byung-young was sacked for a large-scale cheating incident in the College Scholastic Ability Test.

Ahn*s replacement, Lee Ki-joon, who was previously the president of Seoul National University, resigned in only five days after inauguration due to the controversy over his first son*s dual nationality. Former Deputy PM and Minister of Education Kim Jin-pyo, who was complimented by President Roh for being &the best government official,* stepped down late June after the ministry*s new policy of restricting application for foreign language high schools by region sparked disputes. Under the Kim Dae-jung administration, people would cynically say, ※Education is an eight-month-long grand project,§as the average tenure of education ministers during that time was a mere eight months. The average tenure of education ministers under the incumbent administration is only nine months as well. It is doubtful, under these circumstances, whether President Roh will be able to regain the public trust in educational policies with his ※Kim Byung-joon card."

From http://english.donga.com07/05/2006


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New GNP Chief Was Selected

The Grand National Party (GNP) yesterday selected five party supreme council members, including Chairman Kang Jae-sup, at the 8th party convention held in Jamsil Indoor Stadium, Songpa-gu, Seoul. Eight candidates for party supreme council member are bowing and holding hands with one another to representatives before announcing their political views.


From http://english.donga.com/ 07/12/2006


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Foreign Minister Submits Job Application to UN

Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon on Thursday submitted his official application for the job of UN secretary-general to the UN Security Council. After announcing his candidacy last February, Ban launched a campaign focusing on Security Council members, who will have the final say. That brings the number of Asian candidates officially in the running to four. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who has backing from ASEAN, got there early, submitting his paperwork in October 2004. Sri Lanka*s Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN disarmament official, did the same last month, and Deputy Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor from India early this month. The council starts the selection process by recommending candidates who have the support of at least nine member nations including the five permanent council members -- the U.S., China, the U.K., France and Russia. The final candidate needs to be approved by the UN General Assembly. The council will conduct a straw poll at the end of this month and selection starts in earnest after the General Assembly meeting in mid-September. The U.S., which exerts the biggest influence over who becomes UN chief, has been saying the principle of rotation by continent, which makes it Asia*s turn, is no iron rule, but recent remarks by U.S. President George W. Bush suggest it has come round, with Bush saying Washington is looking ※into the Far East right now.§

From http://english.chosun.com 07/14/2006


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Finance Minister to Tackle Myriad Economic Issues

Korea's new Finance Minister, Kwon Oh-gyu, faces a tough job“Dcreate more jobs, maintain economic growth of five percent through 2006 and stabilize local property markets. Mr. Kwon took office after the landslide defeat in the local election that prompted his predecessor, Han Duck-soo, to resign. Local market observers urged Mr. Kwon, who took the top post at the Finance Ministry today, to push for free trade agreement negotiations with the United States, Korea's second-largest trading partner behind China. Mr. Kwon recently said he would continue the government's stance on economic policies, which emphasize balanced regional development, along with tough regulations and heavy tax on the local property market to narrow the income gap. But some market experts worry that Mr. Kwon's stance, which is not unlike his predecessor's philosophy, may not tackle the economic issues that plague Korea. "If the economic growth is slow, the number of jobs are bound to dwindle," said Bae Sang-geun, researcher at Korea Economic Research Institute. Earlier this year the government estimated that about 350,000 to 400,000 new jobs will be created in 2006. That projection, however, has been lowered to 350,000 amid slowing domestic economic growth. "In order to revive investment and consumer sentiments, it is essential to ease various regulations and create jobs," Mr. Bae said.

Kim Seung-wook, economics professor at ChungAng University, gave his overview: "He (Mr. Kwon) may have to establish his leadership by persuading the presidential office to turn their focus from narrowing down income gap to actual economic growth." Some financial experts say also note that Mr. Kwon should reconsider following the current administration's real estate policy, which focuses on raising taxes and tightening market regulations to stabilize the market. "The real estate policy is the biggest reason that caused the current administration to lose the public's support," said Mr. Kim. "The current government tried to use such unconventional measures to curb property prices, like more tax audits and heavier regulation enforcement, instead of controlling market supply and demand. But such abnormal measures have a very limited impact on the market," he said.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com??07/18/2006


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New Tax Chief Promises Fewer Audits

Jun Gun-pyo, the new head of Korea's tax agency, vowed to conduct fewer tax audits but warned that tax investigations will be more intense on his watch.Mr. Jun, officially designated as new commissioner of the National Tax Service yesterday, will "reduce the number of tax audits as much as possible," to avoid "unnecessary" inconveniences to local businesses and other disputes. "Instead, the tax audits, once they are started, will be much more intense than before," Mr. Jun said. "Also, we will slap much harsher penalties on those evading taxes," he said. Mr. Jun's predecessor, Lee Ju-sung, whose sudden departure last month caught market observers and government officials off guard, waged an unprecedented war against the well-heeled self-employed and foreign firms operating here. During Mr. Lee's 16-month-long tenure, tax officials launched full-scale tax investigations into foreign investment companies, including U.S. buyout firm Lone Star Funds and the Carlyle Group, and demanded back tax worth more than 214.8 billion won ($224.1 million). The agency also adopted measures to tighten tax on rich self-employed Korean professionals suspected of underreporting income to dodge taxes. Mr. Jun, who served as vice commissioner under Mr. Lee, pledged to reinvent the tax agency as a friendlier and more accessible place for local taxpayers

From http://joongangdaily.joins.com07/18/2006


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Gov't to Spend W200 Billion on Flood Relief

The government has decided to allocate W200 billion (US$1=W950) for recovery efforts in areas hardest hit by torrential rains earlier this week. Prime Minister Han Myung-sook held a special Cabinet meeting Friday morning and authorized the aid package. The mountainous eastern province of Gangwon will receive about W150 billion while parts of the two Gyeonsang provinces and South Joella Province will be given the remainder. The government said it will consult the National Assembly to authorize additional funds if necessary. Days of torrential rains caused flooding and massive property damage in and around Seoul, Gangwon Province and the country's southern regions.


From http://english.chosun.com/07/21/2006


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Government Crisis Management Lacking

Illegal strikes and violent demonstrations have taken place much too often since the incumbent administration took office to the extent that they are feared to be routine. The law-breaking strikes and violent protests not only cause inconveniences to the Korean people, but also harm the Korean economy. Despite the gravity of the situation, the government itself has undermined its authority as a law-enforcement body and invited the vicious cycle of illegality and violence by its tepid response. Now the public strongly calls for measures to prevent militant strikes from recurring in the wake of the nine-day sit-in by some Pohang city construction union workers armed with flamethrowers protesting at steelmaker POSCO*s headquarters. Some say that the government must take a harsh stance, pointing to the fact that unionized workers voluntarily disbanded and withdrew from the protests right after a stern warning issued by the government, which had hesitated to step in and allowed further unrest. There are many cases besides the violent demonstrations at POSCO. Members of the Korean Alliance against the Korea-U.S. FTA staged an aggressive protest at the square in front of Seoul City Hall on July 12. Some of them wielded bamboo clubs and metal pipes against the police and threw sidewalk blocks at them. Containing the illegal campaign, more than ten officers were wounded, and some of them left with their ears torn.

Protesters of the Pan South Korea Solution Committee against the U.S. base extension in Pyeongtaek also caused unrest in May, injuring over ten officers with wooden clubs. Two soldiers who had their arms broken were transported on a UH-1H helicopter to a military hospital. Up until now, the government has apparently demanded law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint rather than bringing those responsible for the unlawful activities to justice. After the demonstrations in Pyeongtaek in May, then Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung even said that he extended gratitude and sympathy toward officers for coping with the crisis peacefully and patiently, and that they had to make sure to carry around self-protection gears such as shielding equipment. Regarding this, the sitting administration*s conflict-resolving mechanism has come under fire. With the recent unrest at POSCO, the government sat on hands at first, and belatedly interfered by holding ministerial meetings after much criticism. It is a common view that the government has failed to organize systematic responses and randomly handle cases depending on public sentiment at each moment. Late last year, when two farmers died during their protests, Cheong Wa Dae was too mindful of public opinion without any principle while belatedly holding the then police chief accountable, exacerbating the situation. Another reason for the growing violence is the mild punishment on strikers and protesters. A total of 4,223 people, or 58.7 percent of7,193, over the past year have been charged for illegal demonstrations. However, only 93 were arrested, fewer than half of last year*s 221.

From http://english.donga.com07/22/2006


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Justice Minister Offers Resignation

Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae, a potential presidential candidate of the ruling Uri Party, yesterday tendered his resignation to President Roh Moo-hyun to return to his party. Chun vows he will work toward normalizing the party which has been suffering from a humiliating defeat in the May local elections and a fissure with the administration. It was not immediately known whether Roh accepted the resignation. Chun's successor will most likely be named after the July 26 parliamentary by-elections. Along with Health Minister Rhyu Si-min, Chun is being considered as an alternate for Uri's two presidential hopefuls, Chung Dong-young and Kim Geun-tae. Both Chung and Kim have low popularity ratings. Chun, who is in Roh's inner circle, was named justice minister July 2005. Candidates for the next justice minister include Kim Sung-ho, deputy secretary-general of the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption; Lim Nae-hyun, former chief of the Legal Research and Training Institute; and Moon Jae-in, former chief presidential secretary for civil affairs.

From http://www.koreaherald.co.kr07/22/2006


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INDONESIA: SBY Orders Better Migrant Services

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered the government to cut red tape for citizens wanting to work overseas, in order to help solve the unemployment problem at home.Addressing a national coordination meeting on labor export and protection here on Thursday, the President said migrant workers deserved better treatment in return for their great contributions to the national economy. Indonesian migrant workers add an estimated US$10 billion to state coffers each year. It is not known exactly how many migrant workers there are because many do not have proper permits. "The government and the bureaucracy must give migrant workers easy, cheap and rapid service and offer them better legal protection while labor suppliers must provide training to help improve their competitiveness," the President said. Also present at the meeting were several cabinet ministers, activists, regional officials, and representatives of employment agencies. The President criticized the complex and corrupt bureaucracy, saying bureaucrats frequently made the process more complicated in order to extort bribes from workers who applied for documents to work overseas. He also ordered the reform of labor export procedures and the bureaucracy in the immigration office. He said he had received complaints about red tape from migrant workers during his recent Middle East visit. Labor exporters and labor activists welcomed the President's remarks but said ongoing reforms had been poorly implemented. They said extortion was still rife during workers' departure and arrival.

Saleh Alwaini, president of PT Binawan, which supplies nurses and semiskilled workers to the Middle East, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Europe, said workers had to deal with 40 desks in the bureaucracy in order to obtain documents, costing at least Rp 8 million (US$700). "To encourage more people to work overseas, the government should give them free services and expand training centers for workers," he said. Wahyu Susilo of the group Migrant CARE slammed the bureaucracy and labor exporters for rampant extortion, which he said weakened migrant workers' bargaining power with governments, labor exporters and overseas employers. "To cope with the problem, non-governmental organizations have to be empowered to provide advocacy for troubled workers," he said. Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno said the government has taken a series of concrete steps to simplify labor export procedures so that more job seekers will work overseas legally. As a result of the ongoing reforms, Indonesia is expected to double its labor export to one million from 450,000, while the amount contributed to the economy by workers could rise to Rp 186 trillion ($20.7 billion) in the next three years. "The government hopes to send three million workers abroad in the next three years to help ease open unemployment, which now stands at 11.5 million," he said. He added that the program would help reduce the number of the poor people, which has reached some 40 million.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/19/2006


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Govt Needs to Provide Incentives to Promote CSR

The government should provide incentives to encourage companies to implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs as part of their day-to-day business activities. Noke Kiroyan, the chairman of Indonesian Business Link (IBL), a Jakarta-based CSR advocacy agency, said without incentives such as tax deductions, it would be difficult to promote CSR in the country. "The government as a facilitator and regulator could give tax incentives to companies that seriously implement CSR principles in their business activities," said Noke, who is also a senior executive of Newmont Pacific Nusantara. He said local companies' awareness of the need to implement CSR would increase if they were given tax breaks and suggested the government include such incentives in the tax bill now being deliberated by the House of Representatives. Noke made the comments while announcing IBL's plan to hold a two-day conference on CSR in September.

IBL executive director Yanti Koestoer said companies would receive social and commercial benefits from CSR programs. CSR programs improved relations with government agencies and increased NGO and community groups trust in business. This would lead to higher productivity, reduced security risks, improved customer and employee loyalty and a better corporate reputation and a good brand image, she added. Yanti said the conference with the theme "Responsible Business is Good Business" would be held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Jakarta, on Sept. 7 and 8. Scheduled to be officially opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, it will feature speakers from the private sector and government including Budiono, the coordinating minister for the economy and Aburizal Bakrie, the coordinating minister for social welfare.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/21/2006


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Indonesia Vows to Speed Up Tsunami Warning Network

Indonesia's president vowed to have a nationwide tsunami warning system in place by mid-2008, months ahead of schedule, as emergency teams dug bloated corpses from the ruins of houses and hotels along Java island's battered coast. The death toll from Monday's tsunami stood at 531, officials said, with more than 270 others missing. "We want to expedite efforts to get infrastructure for the tsunami warning system," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told residents in another coastal area that was rattled Tuesday by a powerful quake. "I will work with parliament to get the budget." A magnitude 7.7 earthquake triggered towering waves that smashed into a 180-kilometer (110-mile) stretch of Java's southern coast, destroying scores of houses, restaurants and hotels. Cars, motorbikes and boats were left mangled amid fishing nets, furniture and other debris. Thousands of frightened locals prepared to spend a fourth night in hillside camps overlooking the sea Thursday, as others did what they could to bring back a sense of normalcy to their shattered lives with the help of donations from aid agencies. The government has come under fire for failing to warn residents about the impending disaster or, in at least one case, misinforming the public about the sequence of events in its aftermath.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla claimed most people fled inland after the earthquake, so "in actual fact there was a kind of natural early warning system." But almost all people interviewed by The Associated Press said they did not feel the earthquake that struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of Java's coast. "I didn't feel the earthquake," said Michael Thomas, a German who has lived in Pangandaran since 1984. "I saw the water receding, but I was the only one running." People apparently had not learned from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 216,000 people, he said, the majority of them in Indonesia's Aceh province. When the water receded, he saw women and children picking up fish and "they paid for it with their lives." The government began the monumental task of installing an early alert system after the 2004 disaster, deploying monitoring buoys off Sumatra island, but it still needs to be extended to Java and thousands of other islands across the sprawling archipelago. Yudhoyono said the original plan called for the creation of a nationwide network by 2009, but he promised to do what he could to push forward the date by several months.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 07/21/2006


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Broadcasters Recruited to Tsunami Early Warning System

Less than 15 minutes after the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) sent text messages to the media Sunday to announce another powerful earthquake off the northern Sulawesi coast, MetroTV news channel interrupted programming to issue a tsunami warning. Several minutes later, Gorontalo Governor Fadel Muhammad appeared on the station, saying that he had instructed his subordinates to keep people away from coastal areas in the province. Deputy chief editor of MetroTV Sugeng Suparwoto said the broadcast was part of the station's public service efforts, including trying to mitigate casualties from the disasters which have devastated many parts of the country this year. "All divisions at our station agreed that news about earthquakes and other vital information could interrupt any show on the air," he told The Jakarta Post. He said it was unfortunate that it was only the station's initiative, instead of a national policy to provide important public information. "Broadcasters should be a systemic mechanisms in our early warning system because it's up to the TV stations' initiative, and another broadcaster might have different priorities in disseminating information on earthquake." The station's effort comes only a week after Monday's earthquake-triggered tsunami, with the authorities unable to alert the public in time of the impending disaster. Steps in bringing the media on board can already be seen.

On Saturday night, as the winner of the KDI singing contest final on TPI was about to be announced, a BMG tsunami test signal suddenly flashed on the screen. BMG spokesman Edison Gurning said electronic media should become an integral part of the effort to disseminate information about earthquakes and the possibility of tsunamis. "We have facilitated several print and electronic media to receive real-time information directly from our short message service server to allow them to broadcast our recent data either through breaking news or at least in their running text," he said. The cooperation, which was recently established after the Communication and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil facilitated a meeting between BMG and media executives, could be the means to convey quake information to the public before the government could fully set up its early warning system. The government said it would speed up the installation of its Rp 1.2 trillion early warning system, which is expected to be completed in 2007. However, Edison pointed out that there was no formal agreement on providing the information. Another issue is that the cooperation should be done in tandem with the upgrading of the BMG's information and communication equipment to provide real-time information to the media and public. Edison said on average, a tsunami travels about 20 minutes from the epicenter of a quake to the nearest coastal areas, and texting messages to the media would be time consuming. "At present, our SMS server can messages to only 400 government officials, related institutions and the media. For the rest, we still send them manually by our own mobile phones," he said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/25/2006


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MALAYSIA: Ensuring Easy Access to Government Healthcare

Healthcare will in future be at the doorstep of every kampung and housing estate. Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon this was to ensure the people had easy access to healthcare. He said the ministry aimed to set up clinics within a 3km radius of every kampung and housing estate. ※This is to ensure that the people need not have to travel far for medical treatment and health care,§ he said. ※More district and rural clinics will be built to instil awareness on diabetes, heart ailment, kidney failure and high blood pressure complications, and other diseases.§ Lee said to improve public healthcare, the people must understand the causes of such diseases and ways to prevent them. He was speaking to reporters after opening a gotong-royong and colouring competition at Community Poliklinik in Jalan Perak yesterday. Lee said the clinics were now within a 5km radius, adding that there were 900 district health clinics and more than 5,000 rural clinics in the country. He said all district health clinics must place high priority on promoting health, adding that the clinics should include advisory panel members in their community outreach programmes. Lee said the needy, elderly folk and disabled people must also be included in programmes to educate the public.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/03/2006


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Plan for More Community Colleges

The Higher Education Ministry plans to double the number of community colleges under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, as it is highly popular among school-leavers and young working adults. As the courses were tailored to meet community needs, many graduates could easily find jobs, Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said. At present, there are 30 colleges throughout the country catering to 10,000 full-time students and 50,000 part-timers. This year there would be an intake of 5,000 students beginning next week, Mustapa told newsmen after flagging off an Umno Jeli division expedition to Terengganu. Mustapa said that the full-time students had enrolled in two-year certificate courses in fields such as computers, mechanical engineering, fashion designing, hair styling and marketing. The courses at the various colleges would differ based on the needs of the communities in which they are located. He said graduates could also enrol in technical colleges and institutions of higher learning if they wished to enhance their academic qualifications. The community college is also a lifelong learning experience, as its entry requirement is only an SPM pass in Bahasa Malaysia.

From http://thestar.com.my 07/08/2006


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All States to Have Road Safety Departments

Road Safety Depart-ments will be set up at all states over the next two months and be fully operational by the end of September, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said. ※Each department would be headed by a director with seven support staff initially which would be increased when the need arises. ※We are still working with the Public Services Department on who to appoint as directors,§ he told reporters after opening the national 2006 bonsai and suiseki competition. The departments, Chan said, would work closely with state governments and other road safety agencies to implement strategies set out under the Road Safety Plan of Malaysia (2006-2010). A total of nine strategies had been set out under the national five-year masterplan. ;

From http://thestar.com.my/ 7/16/2006


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Ipoh Gets New Mayor

Perak Tengah district officer Datuk Mohamad Rafiai Moktar will clock in as the new Datuk Bandar at 8am on Tuesday, succeeding Datuk Hasan Nawawi Abd Rahman. Yesterday, Mohamad Rafiai surprised city council staff when he dropped by at the council here at 3.55pm. At first, Mohamad Rafiai declined to comment when met by waiting reporters at the headquarters lobby. However, in a closed-door meeting with department heads and administrative staff later, he confirmed that he had received his letter of appointment from the State Secretariat and had been told to report for duty as the new city mayor. It would be a homecoming of sorts as Mohamad Rafiai had served as the council*s secre? tary from April 2003 to November 2004, before his appointment as Perak Tengah district officer.

From http://thestar.com.my 07/24/2006


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PHILIPPINES: Business Sector Rates Govt Agencies Low on Corruption

THE business sector continues to resist corruption, but government agencies remain at the bottom level of the Survey of Enterprises on Corruption conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS). Only 2 percent of the respondents said that no government agency is corrupt compared with the 28 percent who said otherwise. According to the survey, the application of honest business practices has grown in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. It noted a 50-percent increase in companies demanding receipts, 37 percent in companies issuing receipts and 25 percent among those keeping only one set of books. The survey showed only 20 percent of the companies pay taxes honestly. SWS president Mahar Mangahas presented the findings through a videoconference with the business communities in Makati, Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro City. The survey revealed that most managers expected their net incomes to rise by 20 percent if corruption levels were brought down to the same level in Singapore. Managers in Metro Manila, Davao, Cagayan de Oro-Iligan (CDO/I), Cavite-Laguna-Batangas (Calaba) and Cebu said they would be willing to contribute 3 percent, 5 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent and 3 percent, respectively, of their net incomes if there was a program to cut corruption in the government in half in 10 years.

Majority of managers would also offer help to government whistleblowers, with 69 percent saying they are willing to give financial aid, 72 percent going for protection and 77 percent for job creation. The 2006 survey, conducted from February 18, 2006, to April 27, was the sixth of its kind since 2000 involving Filipino managers of 700 businesses in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Calaba and CDO/I. Managers said that ※most§ or ※almost all§ of the companies in their sector that used to give bribes for public-sector contracts have given up the practice. The number of companies involved in bribing government officials declined in 2006 to 46 percent in Metro Manila from 57 percent in 2003; in Cebu, to 47 percent from 62 percent in 2004; in Davao, to 49 percent from 57 percent in 2005, and in CDO/I, to 38 percent from 65 percent in 2005. The number remained the same in Calaba at 47 percent. The managers were also asked what transactions were they asked most often for a bribe by anyone in government. The highest incidence of bribery involved local government permits and licenses at 33 percent, followed by national government permits and licenses as well as income-tax payment, both at 29 percent. Import regulations got 22 percent, supplying government with goods/services, 18 percent, and availing of government incentives, 11 percent. More managers in Calaba were asked for bribes for local government permits than those in Metro Manila and Cebu. Calaba and Davao managers also reported being asked for bribes for national government permits, while more managers in Metro Manila were asked for bribes when it came to compliance with import regulations.

The survey found that reporting of bribe solicitation to authorities is very low in all the places sampled. The prime reason for this has not changed with 69 percent, up from 60 percent in 2005, believing that nothing would come out of reporting bribe solicitation. Some 54 percent of the respondents cited fear of reprisal, while 52 percent saw bribery as standard practice. The respondents gave 14 out of 23 government agencies or institutions got failing scores on their sincerity to fight corruption, the number sliding from 2005 marks. Local Church leaders got the highest approval with a very good classification (over +50 net points). The Supreme Court and the Social Security Service (SSS) got a good rating (+31 - +50); the Department of Health, Sandiganbayan and city/municipal government received a moderate rating (+11 to +30); trial courts, Commission on Appointments (COA), Ombudsman, GSIS, Department of Education and the Department of Budget and Management got a Mediocre mark (-10 - +10). The PCGG, Office of the President, Senate, PAGC, AFP, DOJ, DOTC, DA were all rated poor (-11 - -30). DILG, PNP, LTO, DENR, House of Representatives on the other hand received a Bad rating (-31 - -50). The lowest was the BIR, Comelec, DPWH and the BOC who were all rated Very Bad (below -50). The local church leaders, SSS, GSIS, DOTC, DA and the Comelec were not included in the 2005 net sincerity rating. Dr. Mangahas said the Securities and Exchange Commission was not included on the 2006 list as it had always received the highest marks in previous surveys. National Movement for Free Elections chairman Joe Conception said that instead of focusing on charter change, some of these government agencies should start answering the issue of corruption in their departments. (by Euan C. Anonuevo)

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 07/07/2006


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Villar Takes Over Senate Presidency

SEN. Manny Villar on Monday replaced Sen. Frank Drilon as Senate president. Keeping his part in a gentleman*s agreement with Villar, Drilon resigned as Senate president and nominated Villar right after the Third Regular Session of the Thirteenth Congress opened. He was elected by acclamation; no one ran against him. Villar, who started his political career in 1992 when he was elected congressman of Las Pi?as City, is the ninth Senate president after the People Power Revolt of 1986. He vowed to continue his predecessors* stance of upholding the independence of the Senate. ※The independence of the Senate is not dictated by any political configuration. ※Rather, it springs from the basic philosophy of separation of powers of the coequal branches of government〞it is a constitutional mandate.§ ※Walang personalan, trabaho lang,§ Villar said as he gave the assurance that under him the Senate inquiries will work to check whether government officials and offices are ※performing under the rule that a public office is a public trust.§ The mother-and-son senators Estrada explained their vote. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada denied reports his father had struck a deal with Villar about his plunder case pending at the Sandiganbayan. ※My father will never strike a deal with anyone, because he is confident that he will be acquitted and vindicated,§ Es?trada said. He explained that voting for Villar doesn*t mean he is abandoning the opposition. He warned that he would withdraw his support from Villar if he saw the Senate*s independence being ※compromised.§ Sen. Loi Ejercito Estrada said she admired Villar*s persistence in persuading former President Estrada to forgive him after Villar turned his back on him at the height of the public clamor for Erap*s ouster. But voting for Villar doesn*t mean she has allied herself with the administration, she stressed.

A rough road Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that Villar got the three ※swing votes§ of the opposition〞the Estradas and Sen. Alfredo Lim. ※It would be a very rough road for the Senate with all the talk about us becoming more cooperative [with Malaca?ang]. What if the three senators in the newly formed majority decide to oppose major administration initiatives?§ she asked. ※Either the Senate president supports President Arroyo and then runs the risk of losing his three swing votes and thus getting kicked out of office or he accommodates the three swing votes and thus alienate President Arroyo. This will affect his plan to be the administration candidate in the 2010 presidential election,§ Santiago said. Villar, Nacionalista Party president, is expected to be challenged by Sen. Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party in the 2010 presidential election, Santiago said.

No committee revamps Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the minority did not challenge Villar*s Senate presidential bid because of the prior arrangement that there will be no revamps in committee assignments. ※The rule about putting up a candidate did not apply anymore, because the position of pro tempore, Senate majority leader and minority leader and all committee assignments and Commission on Appointments membership will be respected by the new Senate president,§ he explained. Pimentel said Drilon will take over the Committees on Finance and on Public Order and Illegal Drugs vacated by Villar. Villar seconded Pimentel that there will be no revamp in the Senate assignments ※except, maybe, for little changes.§

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 07/25/2006


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SINGAPORE: New Govt Dept to Save Public Sector Millions of Dollars in Costs

A new government department has been launched and it looks set to save the public sector millions of dollars. Called Centre for Shared Services - Vital.org, it comes under the Finance Ministry. The CSS aims to cut costs by pooling resources within the public sector to improve processes. It will bring together hundreds of staff from 38 ministries and agencies. The CSS aims to generate 15% cost savings or some $4m across the agencies from the second year of its operation. Over 300 Human Resource and Finance officers had already crossed over from these agencies to CSS. And the CSS is set to take in another 200 officers from 20 agencies next May. Lim Hup Seng, Chief Executive of Vital.org, said: "They will continue serving their own agencies first. Over a period of time, we will transform that into functional specialisation, and then they no longer serve the agency, they will conduct certain functions across agencies. So this is a gradual process of change." But will such deployment result in retrenchment?

Mr Lim said: "It's a matter of last resort. It's not an objective to retrench people but when they can't fit in......we will retrench them. But we hope to minimise this as much as possible." The CSS was launched by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, the Minister of State for Finance and Transport. She said that the CSS must deliver faster, more convenient and customer-oriented services, by leveraging on technology and applying best practices across all agencies. She said: "Currently what is happening is that it's fragmented. Each ministry is doing its own HR and finance. It means resources are spread out." But the CSS brings together resources for better utilisation, she said. "Also you can do even more with the same resources." For a start, the CSS will focus on HR and finance transactional services, but it is expected to expand its scope in the future so as to allow the various Ministries and agencies to focus their attention on their key priorities.

ight">From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/05/2006


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Singapore Human Resources Institute Does Survey on Employee Engagement

SINGAPORE: In a first time ever comprehensive survey on engaging the employee, conducted by the Singapore Human Resources Institute, one interesting finding was that money was not the most important motivating factor to remain committed in the job. Taking part in the employee engagement survey were about 130 companies employing between 50 and 800 people, and almost half the respondents are from multi national companies or MNCs. 75 percent of them said they were engaged in the organisation and work, meaning they were loyal, productive and satisfied, and those employed in local companies felt more engaged than those working in the MNCs. "From the engagement perspective, we found that many employers are ready to undertake job redesign; another finding is that the employers find they have good experience taking on retrenched and older workers. In fact, one in two or slightly higher find that there is better experience with older than younger workers," said David Ang, Executive Director, Singapore Human Resources Institute.

The survey also found that some of the motivating factors that led to job commitment include a good working environment, good career prospects and employers getting their employees involved in the decision making process. Interestingly money was no longer a major motivator in job commitment. Only 24 percent viewed money as an important factor in driving job satisfaction, compared with 56 percent who chose having a good working environment as the most important motivating factor. The institute also did a second survey on the profile of the Singaporean workforce, interviewing 60 employers. Half of the employers say the Singaporean worker is generally the preferred choice for all positions. But employers would rather not have them for overseas assignments as the workforce is not willing to undertake jobs overseas on a local salary package. "With this survey finding results, we hope that HR practitioners will look at the various factors and see how the findings and perceptions can be aligned for what they are planning for the organisation," said Mr Ang.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/13/2006


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Environment and Water Industry Devt Council Set Up to Grow Water Industry

An Environment and Water Industry Development Council (EWI) has been set up to spearhead the growth of the environmental and water industry in Singapore. It will help drive Singapore's goal to be a global hub for environment and water for business, investment, research and technology. One of the key thrusts of the council will be to get more water technology companies to come to Singapore to build up the capabilities in the water sector. It will also find ways to export Singapore's capabilities to growing markets especially in the Middle East and China. Its launch follows the recent announcement by the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC) to provide $330 million over the next five years to boost the development of the local environment and water industry. The money will go towards R&D.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/17/2006


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THAILAND: Cabinet Has New Secretary-General

The Thai government on Tuesday officially appointed a new secretary-general to the cabinet, said an official here. Mr. Rongphol Charoenphanthu, former permanent secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister, was appointed to be the new Secretary-General to the Cabinet, replacing Mr. Borwornsak Uwanno who resigned last month, Deputy Government Spokesman Danuporn Punnakan told a press conference after a cabinet meeting. Maj. Gen. Peeraphan Prempooti, advisor to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was appointed to be the new Permanent Secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister, replacing Rongphol. The cabinet also endorsed a prime minister's order on authorizing Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop to oversee government agencies which were previously under the supervision of former deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam, who also resigned last month. The agencies include the Office of the Council of State, the Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC) and the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission (OPSDC). Meanwhile, the cabinet authorized Minister Attached to the Prime Minister's Office Newin Chidchob to look into draft cabinet resolutions, a task formerly handled by Wissanu, the spokesman said. Newin was also authorized by the prime minister to supervise Mass Communication of Thailand (MCOT), the country's largest media organization.

From http://english.people.com.cn/07/05/2006


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PM: Political Reform Will Let Govt and Its Foes Reconcile

Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday he expects that a new round of political reform will pave the way for a reconciliation between his administration and its opponents. ''What is happening in Thailand now is unbelievable to me, but there's nothing I can do. It's a lesson that we need a new round of political reform. Then we can reconcile to build up a set of fair rules for all,'' Mr Thaksin said in his address to 78,540 officials from 7,854 local administration bodies nationwide. The officials were from provincial and tambon administration organisations, municipalities and special administration areas around the country. They gathered for a seminar, ''All Religions for Community Development, A Tribute to the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King's accession to the throne'', at Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani province. Mr Thaksin presided over the closing ceremony during which he commented on the application of religious principles in public administration and national development. ''Today, to be or not to be the prime minister is no longer important for me. But the country must be strong. I stand here because I want to safeguard democracy. ''I won't allow democracy to be absent from this country, even for only three months,'' Mr Thaksin said. His speech emphasised reconciliation. ''We don't want different opinions to lead to discord in the country. Difference is beautiful in a democracy. Everybody has his or her own rights. Don't be so self-absorbed. Everybody has to respect one another. Don't regard people outside your own group as enemies.''

Local and national politicians should not allow differences in terms of party membership to cause discord in the country. ''We have to hold on to the reconciliation principle,'' Mr Thaksin said. Thai politicians disrespect each other, he said. They did not respect political rules in the same way that athletes respect the rules of their sports. ''When they lose, they don't accept their defeat. They keep scolding their opponents on the street, and this has tainted the country's political image,'' he said. Nevertheless, Mr Thaksin concluded that he believed a new round of political reform will be underpinned by the principle of reconciliation. ''The new rules created by the reform will be fair. They are not for politicians' interests, but for the people's,'' he said. Somchai Sunthornwat, caretaker deputy interior minister, who earlier opened the seminar, reaffirmed that the gathering was not intended to show the government's political power as had been alleged earlier by the government's critics. ''I won't allow anybody to use local administrative bodies as a tool to serve any political interest,'' said Mr Somchai

From http://www.bangkokpost.com 07/19/2006


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State Urged to Improve Controls on Land Use in Thailand

The government should improve controls on land use rather than move to clamp down on foreign investment, according to the real estate company Knight Frank Chartered (Thailand). Foreign investors can buy land in Thailand by two means _ through a long-term lease or through setting up a company that is at least 51% owned by Thais. Foreign land ownership, always a politically sensitive subject, has returned to the spotlight following allegations of forest encroachment and illegal foreign ownership on Koh Samui. Property value on the island has skyrocketed in recent years, spurred by a boom in luxury resorts and vacation homes. But Phanom Kanjanathiemthao, managing director of Knight Frank Chartered, said authorities would do better to look at zoning and land use rules rather than seeking to curb foreign investment. ''It's very common for foreign investors to invest in Thai properties like this. You can't block them. It's legitimate. Freehold or leasehold plots have no difference because they will use the land,'' Mr Phanom said. ''Instead, the authorities should find ways to make land utilisation and zoning regulations stricter and more effective, so that you can control them.'' Mr Phanom said foreign investors were becoming confused since the government was a declared supporter of more foreign direct investment. ''The government has to make itself clear about this. What is the policy priority? Promote foreign direct investment and tourism or prohibit foreign investment in land?'' When foreign investors buy Thai properties or land, it spurs economic activity and creates jobs, he said. Real estate-related businesses such as construction, gardening, security, property management and maintenance benefit as well.

''Most foreign investors have high purchasing power and they really develop the land they bought into very good resorts or villas. But Thai landlords have limited funds to develop the way foreigners do,'' Mr Phanom said. Currently, high-end villas on Samui are selling for up to 40 million baht to foreign buyers. The most attractive areas for foreigners are beachfront land on Chaweng and Lamai beaches and some areas on hills. The most expensive land is 20 million baht per rai on Chaweng beach, followed by Koh Tao at around six million baht per rai, according to the Agency for Real Estate Affairs Co. Mr Phanom said the current land encroachment on Samui was not different from what happened on Phuket a few years ago, but the activity on Samui has been on or near hills. The rising popularity of Samui and the consequent property boom has fuelled demand for land but good sites are scarce. ''If the government wants some land back, it could pass a special law to expropriate the land,'' he said. A member of the National Human Rights Commission earlier this week accused local politicians, including members of the Thai Rak Thai party, of being involved in forest encroachment and land speculation on Samui. Chaiyapan Praphasawat, a member of the commission's sub-panel on land, water and forest issues, said numerous complaints had been made by island residents about wealthy politicians encroaching on forest land for sale and development. Corruption at the Lands Department had resulted in the issue of ownership documents for areas designated as public property, the panel said. One village official said more than half of the ownership papers on Samui were unlawfully issued.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 07/19/2006


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VIET NAM: Govt Supports Creativity, Arts

HA NOI 〞 The Government will continue supporting activities at culture and art organisations at all levels to create art, literature and journalistic works during the 2006-10 period. The project, approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung with an estimated capital of VND210 billion, aims at supporting creative activities in the fields of literature, art, music, theatre, filmmaking, architecture, photography, dance, traditional folklore, ethnic minorities folklore and journalism. Special attention will be given to those reflecting history, periods of resistance to serve the country, national cultural traditions, the doi moi (renewal) process, national construction and defence, and progressive elements and exemplary people in society, young people, children and ethnic minorities. The support is expected to help the public access high-quality artworks and journalistic works focusing on important issues. The Ministry of Culture and Information has been assigned to disseminate the Party and State*s encouragement policies for the activity, and propose proper commendations and rewards for distinguished works to the Prime Minister.

From http://vietnamnews.vnagency 07/12/2006


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Transparency International Bangladesh Statement Regarding Its Corruption Database Report 2005

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has been producing the Corruption Data-Base Reports since 2000. The Data Base Report has since been included in Transparency International*s Anti-Corruption Toolkit. Some other countries have also recently started to replicate this tool in their work. The Corruption Data Base is one among many other on-going research and communication activities conducted by TIB. While all other research like household surveys and diagnostic studies undertaken by TIB are based on combination of primary and secondary data, the Corruption Data Base rests on secondary data 每 a collection and analysis of reports on corruption published print-media in a given period. Although the source of information is secondary, in order to ensure the methodological validity of the Data Base Report a rigorous process of corroboration is undertaken before the data are included in the analysis. Reports scanned for the database are taken from newspapers irrespective of their political or other leanings. Detailed information are contained in the report. The total number of newspapers scanned in this report was 26, of which 19 were national dailies and 7 regional daily newspapers. This time we have ensured corroboration of as high as 20 percent randomly selected reports by cross-checking with documentary evidence of reporters and those individuals or institutions reportedly involved in incidents of corruption. The main objective of the Corruption Data Base is to inform the public in a consolidated and analytical form about the nature, type, actors and implications of corruption as reported in the media, and sensitize and motivate the stakeholders, especially the concerned authority to undertake preventive and corrective measures. The eighth report in the series released on July 5, 2006 presented a collection and analysis of the reports on corruption published in daily newspapers during January to December 2005.


From http://www.transparency.org/ 07/12/2006


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BANGLADESH: 64 pc Govt Officials Corrupt:TIB

The Transparency International Bangladesh's (TIB's) latest Corruption Database Report 2005 said 64.1 per cent government officials and employees are involved in corruption the country. But in stunning contrast, the report identified politicians, who are generally blamed for all the evils, including corruption, for which Bangladesh is suffering, to be the least corrupt people. In all the cases studied to prepare the report MPs were involved in 8.2 per cent corruption, the figure is 4.7 per cent for the ministers and a mere 1.2 per cent mayors of City Corporations. It categorised the Election Commission among the least corrupt organs of the state while political parties as high corruption-prone. However, it identified saying "Absolute power of the people at the (top) is the main reason for the spread of corruption in Bangladesh." TIB Trustee Board Chairman Prof. Dr Muzaffar Ahmad released the report at a Press Conference at the National Press Club.

The Report, released yesterday, said 26.9 per cent of the high officials and 25.7 per cent of their subordinates are corrupt while 14.3 per cent officials of the private sector are corrupt. The report, prepared on the basis of 2,128 news items on corruption published in 26 newspapers during January1 to December 31 last year (2005), shows that the elected representatives of the people are the least corrupt. "Only 08.1 per cent elected representatives were found involved in corruption," it said. Of the elected representatives, 43.5 per cent are Union Parishad (UP) Chairmen, 27.1 per cent UP members, 11.8 per cent municipal Chairmen and 1.8 ward commissioners apart from politicians. The report said the government had to suffer a financial loss to the tune Tk 526. 27 crore in 423 cases of corruption in the 2005 calendar year. As per the World Bank and UNDP World Development Reports, Bangladesh loses over 1.8 to 2.2 per cent of its GDP annually due to corruption. TIB identified the Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) sector as the most corrupt where misappropriation of Tk 208.9 crore accounted for 39.54 per cent of the corruption reported in the newspapers. It identified power, forest and environment, and non-government sectors except NGOs as well as financial sectors as the other prominent areas of corruption. "The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) cannot function properly for last 19 months because of inadequate manpower and rules," Prof. Muzaffar Ahmad told the press conference. "I think, the quantum of corruption will decrease. if the ACC functions properly," he added.

TIB classified the corruption prone sectors into four classes--maximum, high, medium and minimum. It identified education, police, health and family planning, LGRD and private sectors as the maximum corruption-prone sectors. The report identified the land, political party, forest and environment, finance, communications and power sectors as high corruption-prone areas. While the ministries of relief and disaster, water resources, home, agriculture, post and telecommunications, direct and indirect taxes, food, NGOs, fisheries and livestock and water-transports as the medium, while fuel and mineral resources, industries, law and justice, housing and public works, civil aviation and tourism, information, youth and sports, jute, culture, religion, textiles, establishment, foreign service, and women and children affairs and the Election Commission as minimum corruption-prone sectors. The report said 39.9 per cent of the common people of the country have suffered the most due to such corruption while the government suffered in 31.8 per cent of the cases.


From The New Nation 07/05/2006


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BHUTAN: 'Corruption in All Public'

THIMPHU: If everybody restrained themselves from being corrupt there would be no need for an anti-corruption commission. But the reality is that corruption is rampant in both the private and public sector and those who engage in corrupt practices are aware of what they are doing. The need for public support, which according to the Anti-corruption Commission is self restraint, is a tall order. ※The commission has a big job to do,§ said the Samtse chimi, Sangay Khandu. ※You can curb corruption but I don*t think you can eradicate corruption like polio.§ ※People have very high expectations from the commission,§ said an Assembly member. ※People expect so much from us before we can even walk,§ said the commission*s chairperson, Aum Neten Zangmo. ※Heaping all the responsibilities on the commission would not help curb corruption.§ Since its inception the commission has received a few complaints on its website and through anonymous letters. A few people have also personally visited the commission to lodge complaints. However, most of the complaints were on management and other issues that could be easily resolved with the ministries and agencies concerned and the complaints were also unclear with no concrete information.

※Complaints on elections, court cases and management issues would only bog down the commission but we do not disregard even a single complaint no matter how trivial it is,§ said Aum Neten Zangmo. She said that people refrained from logding complaints on corrupt practices that were being done clandestinely because they were fearful of the repercussions. The chairperson said that people should be encouraged to come forward and reveal corrupt practices but that would only happen if they were given the protection and assurance by the state. ※The state should build confidence in the people and let them know that it is serious about corruption,§ she said. ※Forget about speeches and discussions, the government needs to put all these into action, action and action.§ On whether the &big fishes* would be caught Aum Neten Zangmo told Kuensel it was a universal phenomena where the big and powerful usually went scot-free. ※But we are very mindful of it and want to prove this phenomena wrong and we will do our best.§ ※People want the commission to act and that is what we will do, we have done enough talking. Now we mean business.§ The commission will soon conduct a nationwide survey to determine the people*s perception of corruption. Among other indices, the survey will also determine which institutions the people thought were the most corrupt. The findings would be made public.


From http://www.southasianmedia.net/ 07/09/2006


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INDIA: Govt Proposing to Set Up a 'Law Commission': M Vijayakumar

Kochi: The Government is proposing to set up a Law Commission to review the existing laws and suggest changes needed in tune with the times, Kerala Law and Sports Minister M Vijayakumar said today. Addressing a meet-the-press programme of Ernakulam Press club here, Vijayakumar said the Commission would undertake a comprehensive look at all the existing laws and come out with suggestions regarding amendments to them in required cases. He said the proposed commission would also identify the laws which had become redundant. Laws will have to be proactive and pro-people, benefiting the people, he said. The Government would ensure the competence of government pleaders to be appointed by it and there would be "a mechanism" in the offices of the Advocate General, Law Department and Law Minister to monitor their performance. The Minister said the Institute of Parliamentary Studies, instituted sometime ago in the secretariat complex, has not been functioning. It would be revived and would be made as a study and research centre, he said. Vijayakumar said he had held talks with the state assembly Speaker to find a permanent place for the Institute. On the government decision to drop the Goonda ordinance, he said there were several loopholes in the previous ordinance that could be misused. The Government would bring in a new ordinance with necessary changes, he said. Earlier, the Minister had also called on former judge V R Krishna Iyer, who was the first Law Minister in the state.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/03/2006


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SC Panel to Suggest Measures to Weed Out Corruption in PDS

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today set up a a two-member panel headed by a former judge of the apex court to examine the maladies afflicting the public distribution system (PDS) in the country and suggest remedial measures. A Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia, which asked the committee to submit a report to it in four months, observed that it was an accepted fact that there was widespread corruption in the PDS and the foodgrain was not reaching the common man. The former Judge to head the panel would be named by the Chief Justice of India while N C Saxena will be the other member. Saxena is the court's Commissioner in another case filed by PUCL relating to starvation and right to food. Apart from examining the issue of corruption and diversion of foodgrains and kerosene at the level of ration shops/dealers, the panel will also go into the issue of transparancy in the system. It will examine as to how vigilance committees set up under the Public Distribution System (Control) Order were functioning. The order came on a PIL filed in 2001 by People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which alleged widespread corruption in PDS and diversion of foodgrains from ration shops to open market. The petitioner urged the court to direct the Government to initiate criminal proceedings under the Essential Commodities Act against the guilty officials and register FIR on the information provided by an aggrieved person or any recognised consumer organisation. It also wanted an effective monitoring mechanism to be in place to check diversion of foodgrains and kerosene.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/12/2006


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Administrative Reforms Commission Gets One-Year Extension

New Delhi: The tenure of the Administrative Reforms Commission, tasked to prepare a blueprint for revamping the public administration system, was today extended by one more year till August 31 next year. The approval for the extension was given at a meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters here. The six-member Second Administrative Reforms Commission, headed by former Karnataka Chief Minister Veerappa Moily was constituted on August 31 last year and was asked to submit its report within a year. The Commission is tasked to suggest measures to achieve a pro-active, responsive, accountable, sustainable and efficient administration for the country at all levels of the government. Among other things, the Commission was asked to go into areas like organisational structure of the Central government, ethics in governance, refurbishing of personnel administration, strenthening of financial management systems, crisis management and public order. The Commission has already given its first report on Right to Information to the Prime Minister and would be submitting its reports on other issues shortly.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/13/2006


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Public Administration Revamp Panel Gets Extension

New Delhi: The 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), set up to prepare a blueprint for reforms to improve governance and delivery system, has been given one year extension till Aug 31, 2007. "The cabinet has approved extension of the term of the ARC by one year up to Aug 31, 2007. The commission was set up to prepare a detailed blueprint for revamping the public administration system," Information and Broadcasting Minister P.R. Dasmunsi told reporters here Thursday. "Implementation of its reports after due consideration is bound to improve service delivery," the minister said. The commission was constituted on Aug 31, 2005, with the approval of the cabinet, as a commission of inquiry, under the chairmanship of Veerappa Moily. On June 6, the commission presented its first report to the prime minister titled "Right to information - master key to good governance". The second report will focus on organisational infrastructure, ethics in governance, refurbishing public administration and local-self government of panchayati raj institutions are some of the areas.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/13/2006


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SRI LANKA: Nine New President's Counsel

COLOMBO: Nine newly appointed President's Counsel were sworn in before Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva PC at the ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court yesterday. Attorneys-at-Law Marshall Perera, Winston Peries, Razik Zarook, Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, Denzil J. Gunaratne, Shantha Abhimannasingham, Palitha Mendis Kuamarasinghe, Manohara R. de Silva and Dr. Harsha Cabral were sworn-in as President's Counsel. Abhimannasingham from Jaffna is the first President's Counsel to be appointed in the history of the Jaffna Bar. She is also the third woman President's Counsel in the country's judicial history. Marshall Perera and Winston Peries are from the Kegalle Bar and Badulla Bar. Marshall Perera is Deputy Minister and Badulla District MP Dilan Perera's father. They were sworn-in as President's Counsel before a gathering attended by Judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Colombo High Court, District Court and Magistrate Court, President's Counsel and members of the Official and Unofficial Bar. President Mahinda Rajapaksa made the appointments on May 26. Supreme Court Registrar Bandula K. Atapattu officiated. (by Wasantha Ramanayake)


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 07/08/2006


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MALDIVEVS: System of Government to Be Determined Before Ramadan

MALE (HNS) 每 The Administrative Committee of the People*s Special Majlis wants a system of government to be decided by a public referendum before next Ramadan, member of the committee Shaheen Hameed said on Thursday. Speaking at Wednesday night*s meeting of the committee to decide on how to process the public referendum, Shaheen said that some things have already been agreed upon, like the date of the public referendum. However he did not give further details as the whole process has not been finalized yet. ※All members support finishing the process (of public referendum to determine a system of government) before Ramadan. Even though a deadline has been set the active implementation of the process is still to start,§ Shaheen said. The holy month of Ramadan will begin on September 24.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 07/08/2006


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Changes Made to Administrative Structure of President*s Office

MALE (HNS) - Changes have been made to the administrative structure of the President*s Office. According to these changes, the office has now been divided into four main divisions and sections. The four main divisions, according to this new change, are Cabinet Office, Political Affairs Division, Presidential Protocol and Public Service Division. According to guidelines set up by the President, the four divisions and the sections will function under the supervision of the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Minister at the President*s Office and the Executive Secretary to the President. To function according to the new changes made to the administrative structure of the President*s Office, three deputy ministers have been appointed. The new deputy ministers are, Nahid Ali, Hala Hameed and Isam Mohamed. In addition four executive directors have also been appointed. They are Abdulla Shareef, Mohamed Hunaif, Ahmed Hassan Didi and Moosa Fathy. Other Heads to the divisions and sections will be appointed shortly.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 07/09/2006


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Nepal Focuses on Rural Development, Cuts Royal Income

There is a lot of optimism in Nepal that the shaky peace process, born out of a ceasefire some months ago, will lead to improved security in rural areas as well as more public money for development projects that the country sorely needs. The Nepalese government*s US$ 1.9 billion ※peace budget§ for 2006-07 will give a fillip to rural development and leave the monarch of the newly-declared democratic republic with less cash in the current fiscal year. Presenting the budget to parliament in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on July 12, Nepal*s Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said that around US$ 17 million had been allocated to the Poverty Alleviation Fund, which aims to benefit over 50,000 low-income households. Mahat said the interim government was committed to rural advancement at a time when Nepal was moving towards peace after several years of civil unrest. ※Economic activities, suspended during the period of conflict, insecurity and absence of peoples* representatives, are waiting to pick up. The rural areas need new opportunities for employment and income-generation,§ the minister said, referring to the impact of the decade-old conflict between Maoist rebels and the government. The newly-created fund will implement 667 income-generating programmes and 379 community infrastructure development programmes in the poorest 25 districts of the country. The minister added that around US$ 54 million had been set aside for irrigation development, a key sector in a country where agriculture remains a major economic activity, employing over 76% of the population. In addition, around US$ 122 million has been earmarked for rural infrastructure development, including building roads in 20 remote districts of the Himalayan kingdom.

In all, the government says it has allocated around US$ 700 million for education, health and drinking water supply projects. Around US$ 24 million has also been earmarked for rural electrification, to benefit over 200,000 poor households. There is a lot of optimism in Nepal that the shaky peace process, born out of a ceasefire two months ago, will lead to improved security in rural areas as well as more public money for development projects. Meanwhile, the interim government has cut King Gyanendra*s allowance by 70%. Mahat said the royal palace would get US$ 3.1 million for 2006-07, down from US$ 10.5 million in the fiscal year about to end. The move follows stripping the king of most of his powers, including crucial control over the army.


From http://southasia.oneworld.net/ 07/20/2006


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NEPAL: 301-Member Constituent Assembly Proposed

A study conducted by Freedom Forum 每 a non-governmental organisation-- has proposed that elections should be held for 301 member constituent assembly in order to ensure more practical, comprehensive and inclusive representation of all section of people in the state affairs. The report -- prepared by a team led by former Election Commissioner Prof. Birendra P. Mishra and published last week -- regarding the structure of the constituent assembly and electoral system, concluded that eight point agreement reached between the seven party alliance and the Maoists should form the basis of constituent assembly elections. The report suggested that elections to the constituent assembly should be held by mid- May 2007 based on proportional representation model. The study proposes that a total of 250 members should be elected directly by the people on the basis of adult franchise. Other 20 members should be elected from among the communities having more than 100,000 population, 15 from among the trade unions, intellectual and professionals and 10 more from remote mountainous districts with the population of less than 100,000. Similarly, the all party interim government should nominate six persons representing disabled, marginalized groups, religious groups and any other community that is not represented. There should be at least 33 percent representation of women in the assembly, the study suggested. The report also suggests for finding solution to the citizenship problem and carrying out census before going to the elections for the constituent assembly.


From nepalnews.com 07/16/2006


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PAKISTAN: Rs350m for Municipal Services

RAWALPINDI: The Punjab government has allocated Rs350 million for municipal services in Rawalpindi after the city district government took control of revenue sources from towns. Speaking at a press conference here on Friday at Cricket Stadium, City Nazim Raja Javed Ikhlas said that from today (July) his administration would perform various municipal services in the district. DCO Hamid Ali Shah, Adviser to Chief Minister Punjab Rahat Qudoosi, the newly appointed EDO (municipal services) Iftikhar Shalwani, DO Solid Wastes Dr Mazhar, DO Fire Brigade Aziz Ahmad, Nazim Potohar Town Hamid Nawaz Raja and Rawal Town Nazim Sheikh Rashid Shafique were also present on the occasion. The city nazim said that from July 1, the city government would undertake sanitation, drainage maintenance, commercialisation fee and board tax fee collection, fire brigade and other civic services which were earlier performed by town municipal administrations (TMAs). He said EDO Iftikhar Shalwani would supervise and monitor the municipal services and would manage the staff transferred from TMAs to city district government. Mr Ikhlas said that Rs10 million would be spent on cleansing of all drains in the city before the start of monsoon rain adding that the district administration would utilise all its resources to improve the sanitation in the city. The nazim said that the city government would carry out feasibility of recycling polythene bags and plastic through an automatic machine, would soon be made functional.


From http://www.dawn.com/ 07/02/2006


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Executive Officers Get Magisterial Powers: Price Control

LAHORE: The Punjab government on Wednesday notified to appoint four officers of district governments, including DCOs, as special magistrates to enforce price control laws and punish violators in the province. The government had so far been expecting the National Reconstruction Bureau to provide it with a pattern to amend the Local Government Ordinance-2001 to appoint price magistrates. The NRB was also supposed to get prior approval of the president for the purpose. ※The government has now through an executive order appointed special magistrates to control prices after lack of response from the NRB that appeared to be reluctant to amend the ordinance,§ official sources said. The move, however, faced objections from some senior government and judicial officers who said the executive could not assume judicial powers in view of the Supreme Court*s decision of 1995 whereby it had separated the judiciary from the executive. According to the notification, the government appointed district coordination officers, executive district officers (Revenue), district officers (Revenue) and deputy district officers (Revenue) as special magistrates with the powers of 1st class magistrates, exclusively for the trial of offences relating to price control. These officers are supposed to control prices under the existing provincial or federal law having the powers to raid and try the offenders on the spot in their areas of assigned jurisdiction in addition to their own duties. The appointments were made by the competent authority in exercise of powers conferred upon it under Section 14-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. The authority also authorised all the DCOs in the province to define the local areas of jurisdiction, from time to time, for such magistrates, within which they might exercise all the powers as provided Under Section 14-A of the CrPC.

Opponents of the move question its legality in the light of the Supreme Court decision separating the judiciary from the executive. The court had disallowed the exercise of judicial powers by the executive officers, they said. Penalizing or punishing was the exclusive job of the judiciary, while the NRB too had been foiling attempts by the provincial governments to restore the executive magistracy, they said. Some provincial officials too wondered as to how the government would meet the legal requirements to implement the decision. They said instead of issuing an executive order, the government could appoint judicial magistrates for controlling prices as provided in the local government ordinance through the latest amendments made to it in June last year. The amendment had allowed the government to appoint one or more 1st class magistrates at tehsil or town headquarters, who would work exclusively under the sessions judge, and not perform any executive function, to deal with the cases relating to local and special laws, and offences under the (local government) ordinance. ※Application of this clause of the ordinance would have been better for the provincial government as it would not invite opposition from any quarters including the judiciary,§ the officials claimed. Announcement regarding the appointment of price magistrates was made by the federal government at the time of the presentation of its 2006-07 budget last month. (by Intikhab Hanif)


From http://www.dawn.com/ 07/13/2006


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160 Candidates Allocated Groups: Competitive Exam 2005

ISLAMABAD: Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) on Tuesday allocated occupational groups to 160 successful candidates of the Competitive Examination 2005 against 185 sanctioned seats, leaving behind 25 vacant positions. The government had this year sanctioned 169 vacancies, while 16 seats were carried over from last year, thus bringing the total to 185. FPSC, in accordance with the instructions of Establishment Division, included fraction in the final determination of the quotas for different provinces, an official told Dawn. The issue of inclusion of fraction or otherwise had delayed the group allocation this year. An important feature of this year*s allocation was that no one from AJK qualified for appointment and all their five seats remained unfilled. Besides AJK, Sindh Urban*s 76 per cent of the allocated seats remained vacant. Two hundred seventy seven candidates had cleared the written examination, while one was rejected. Of the 276 who appeared for viva, 51 failed and one did not appear before the panel for interview. A total of 224 finally qualified for group allocation. The tally of the qualified candidates, the official said, included 26 repeaters, who had previously qualified CSS, but were desirous of changing groups. (by Baqir Sajjad Syed)


From http://www.dawn.com/ 07/05/2006


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AFGHANISTAN: Former President Identifies Causes of Security Deterioration

Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani (1992-96) said in an interview with Mashhad-based Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran on July 2 that only Afghans may be saviors of security in their country. Rabbani who leads the Jami'at-e Islami-ye Afghanistan party and is also a member of the Afghan National Assembly, told the Iranian broadcaster that the "many factors" behind the worsening security situation in Afghanistan include interference by foreigners, "people's dissatisfaction with the policies of" the Karzai administration, and "willful decisions of the foreign troops" in Afghanistan. Rabbani blamed the post-Taliban Afghan administrations for trying to "get rid" of the mujahedin. "The government could use [the] mujahedin as an asset for defending the country or bringing security and peace," added Rabbani, whose party played a prominent role in resisting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. In a separate interview with Tehran-based Arabic-language Al-Alam Television, Rabbani said that unnamed parties are responsible for the deterioration of security in Afghanistan because they excluded mujahedin leaders from the country's decision-making process. The exclusion of these leaders created a political vacuum, claimed Rabbani, whose own government was ousted from power by the Taliban in September 1996. AT


From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/03/2006


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Six New Members of Afghan Supreme Court Introduced

Afghan Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Faruq Wardak told a news conference in Kabul on July 6 that six candidates to the Supreme Court have been introduced to the National Assembly for confidence votes, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. The six include three new names (Zamen Ali Behsudi, Gholam Nabi Nawabi, and Omar Barakzai) and three nominees who have already been rejected by the National Assembly because they hold dual citizenship (Bahauddin Baha, Abdul Rashid, and Mohammad Qasem Hashemzai). The Wolesi Jirga (People's Council) previously rejected seven of President Hamid Karzai's nine nominees for the Supreme Count, including an ultraconservative, Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari. According to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Karzai nominated Abdul Salam Azimi on July 3 to be the new chief justice. Azimi reportedly also has dual citizenship. Article 118 of the Afghan Constitution requires members of the Supreme Court to be Afghan citizens but -- unlike Article 72, which explicitly bans foreign citizenship for cabinet ministers -- does not appear to rule out dual citizenship. It is unclear when the Wolesi Jirga might vote on the nominees. AT


From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/07/2006


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AZERBAIJAN: New Vise-President of Azerbaijani Bank Association to Be Elected in July

In July, at the first meeting of presidium of Azerbaijani Bank Association (ABA) created at the electoral conference of ABA on June 27, the new vise-president will be elected, Eldaniz Mammadov, the executive director of ABA, told Trend. Earlier this position was held by the department chief of the Azerbaijan International Bank Jahangir Askerov and the head of the Supervisory Board by PM Chingiz Asadullayev. According to Mammadov, the election of the vise-president will be held from the composition of the presidium consisting of 11 persons. Yunus Ildirimzade, the chairman of the Supervisory Board of Amrah Bank, and Oruj Heydarov, chairman of SB of Standard Bank were also included in the composition of the presidium during the conference. The composition of the inspection commission was kept as the previous and it was fored form the representatives of three banks 每 Azerdamiryolbank, Turanbank and United Credit Bank.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 06/29/2006


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IRAQ: Iraqis Take Charge of Province's Security for First Time

Iraqis have taken charge of security in the southern province of Muthanna, replacing British and Australian forces in the first such transfer of responsibility in Iraq, even as violence continued elsewhere. "I warn you that the terrorists will do their utmost to make this experiment fail, but we promise that we will stand beside you and give you all the support you need," Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told provincial governor Mohammed Ali al-Hassani at the handoverThursday. Speaking during a colourful ceremony featuring dancing tribesmen and displays of martial prowess from local security forces, Hassani said "the transfer of security will make the Iraqi people understand that the occupation will end." Coalition forces will, however, remain in the province but will be pulled out of urban areas and largely assume a supporting and advisory role. The transfer means that the governor will maintain security with provincial police forces and can call for help from central government, which remains in command of army and national police forces located in the province. "We saw that in Muthanna province all the conditions required were met so we handed the security to Iraqi forces," said Major General John Cooper, with British forces in the south. "Other provinces in the south are making progress, though of course we still need to work more on Basra -- especially the police."

Aside from Basra, most southern provinces are considered fairly stable and several are slated for security handovers in the next few months -- though coalition force officials admit that immediately following the handovers security may decline as insurgents test the system. The implications of the ceremony for the south could not have been in greater contrast to the situation in the capital and nearby provinces, where in the past few days sectarian violence has claimed over 100 lives. A highly touted security plan named "Together Forward", launched a month ago and putting 50,000 US and Iraqi troops on Baghdad's streets, has been unable to restore stability. In a visit to Iraq on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that militias as well as insurgents were undermining affecting security. Rumsfeld said that in addition to the security measures, the issue of the militias -- most of whom are connected to political parties -- had to be solved through the prime minister's national reconciliation plan. "The political process is critical to success on the security side," he said.

Coalition force commander General George Casey said during Rumsfeld's visit that coalition forces had recognized the threat to stability of the militias. "What we are doing and have been doing is continuously adjusting the plans to target the death squads... and that will continue." One of the militias that has most often been accused of taking part in the rash of sectarian revenge killings sweeping Baghdad is the Mehdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. On Thursday, Sadr issued a statement from his headquarters in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf condemning the killings and attributed them to the "enemies of Iraq" seeking to divide the country. "I call for all Iraqis to reject such activities and to unite for Iraq's security, stability and unity, and all its sectarian and ethnic groups to stand against the politics of violence, kidnapping and killing," he said. Security experts note that the militia, found throughout much of the center and south of the country, is only loosely organized and may not be entirely under Sadr's control. Violence continued on Thursday, with a bomb killing five municipal road sweepers in eastern Baghdad, while six people were killed elsewhere in the country.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 07/13/2006


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IRAN: Cabinet Okays New Technical, Executive Body

The cabinet has ratified the State Technical and Executive System, paving the way for further organizing project management systems for investments. ILNA quoted a report by the Cabinet Information Dissemination Council*s Secretariat as saying that the system includes managing and creating investment projects, drawing management-related documents and making investment projects operational. It said the system, announced officially by First Vice President Parviz Davoodi, was devised on a proposal by Management and Planning Organization (MPO). The State Technical and Executive System is a compilation of principles, processes and documents pertaining to managing, creating and implementing investment projects in the frameworks of development plans, it said, adding that the system takes into account the mechanisms for improving productivity and efficiency of investment projects. It further noted that the system has devised such mechanisms in compliance with Iran*s economic, social, cultural and environmental situation. The system also considers quality, cost, time and safety factors in its pursuit for maximum safeguarding of national interests in investment projects.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 07/17/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: Constitutional Court Rejects Broader Role for Ombudsman

Igor Rogov, chairman of Kazakhstan's Constitutional Court, announced in Astana on July 13 that the court has ruled that amendments broadening the powers of the country's ombudsman are unconstitutional, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Rogov said that the amendments, which would have given the ombudsman the right to play a role in court cases and appeal court decisions, incorrectly used the term "legislation" to mean not only laws but also resolutions issued by the executive branch. Rogov said that this usage, if applied to legal proceedings, represents a violation of the constitution. Previously, the Supreme Court and Prosecutor-General's Office earlier expressed their objections to the amendments. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/14/2006


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TURKMENISTAN: President Appoints New Deputy Premier

President Saparmurat Niyazov has appointed Gurbanmurat Ataev, minister of the oil and gas industry, deputy prime minister, the Turkmen government reported on July 10 on its official website (http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm). DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/11/2006


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Fix Constitution to Pull States into Line: Costello

PETER Costello has flagged constitutional change to "fix the problem of federalism" and ensure the states are more accountable for spending billions of dollars. In a wide-ranging speech, the Treasurer repeated his hopes of an Australian republic and of lifting indigenous people "from the margin to the mainstream". Addressing The Bulletin's Top100 Most Influential Australians lunch in Sydney yesterday, he lambasted the failure of federalism - and thestates - to deal with servicedelivery. He also emphasised the water shortage and fertility decline. In 2003, Mr Costello criticised the states for how they spend billions of dollars in health and drought funding. His stance has not softened. "We are no longer dealing with self-governing sovereign colonies. I believed that by giving the states a revenue base - a financial free kick - we would restore that sense of sovereignty," he said. But this had been a "failed hope", he said. "States are moving towards the role of service delivery more on the model of divisional officers thansovereign independent governments. Legally, constitutionally and practically we must fix the problem offederalism." He couched his remarks in the context of who might appear on The Bulletin's list in 100 yeas. Mr Costello said the magazine might reserve a place on its list for someone "who provides a model capable of winning genuine public support to improve and preserve our democracy and translate our current legal arrangements into those of a republic".


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 06/27/2006


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AUSTRALIA: $2 Million to Deliver Scouting to Indigenous Communities

The Australian Government will deliver $2 million in funding to Scouts Australia for the National Indigenous Scouting Programme in isolated Indigenous communities. The Minister for Community Services, John Cobb, today welcomed the announcement that the Australian Government would provide funding from the 2005-06 Budget Surplus to Scouts Australia. "Scouts Australia has developed a culturally specific leadership and community development programme for young Indigenous people in a number of remote North Queensland and Northern Territory including Bamaga, New Mapoon and Nauiyu," Mr Cobb said. "This additional funding will enable the Scouts to continue in those communities and will allow for the expansion of the programme into other isolated and remote Indigenous communities. "The Australian Government will work with Scouts Australia to identify those communities which will benefit most from the addition of Scouts. "Scouts benefits young people by providing the opportunity to learn new skills, leadership, self-motivation and teamwork. "It also benefits adults and young people in the community who are trained and supported by Scouts to take on leadership roles with young people and within their communities. "The effort of Scouts Australia in seeking to strengthen leadership capacity and community engagement among young Indigenous Australians in isolated communities is commendable and I wish them well in progressing this initiative," Mr Cobb said.


From http://www.facs.gov.au/ 06/29/2006


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Post Office Tightens ID

AUSTRALIA Post will to launch an online authentication system to be used by government agencies and businesses in the next three months. It has been working on the system for two years and is in final negotiations with preferred supplier VeriSign. The token-based system would interface with online services and networks requiring strong authentication, according to Australia Post. Customers would be able to use one authentication device to access multiple online services. "The utility will provide business and government with a low-cost, easily accessible system to prevent unauthorised access and use of online accounts and corporate networks," an Australia Post spokesman said. Talks were continuing with VeriSign but no contract had been signed, he said. Australia Post expects to announce a launch date in the third quarter. The system used for the service is not expected to receive or store identity or customer account information. Australia Post had claimed earlier that the service would be largely invisible to consumers.


From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 07/04/2006


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Ombudsman to Protect Mail Users

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today launched the office of the Postal Industry Ombudsman (PIO) in Sydney. ※We already have one of the best postal systems in the world and I am very pleased to be able to launch a dedicated Ombudsman for the industry,§ Senator Coonan said. ※The Postal Industry Ombudsman will be a recognisable, dedicated, experienced and independent entity to help maintain high standards in our postal system and ensure it meets the future needs of consumers,§ Senator Coonan said. The PIO will be able to investigate and act on complaints about the delivery of postal services by Australia Post and any private postal operators who register to be part of the scheme. After extensive consultation, the Government decided the PIO was best established as a separate office within the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

※A dedicated office within the Commonwealth Ombudsman*s Office brings the same benefits as a high profile and independent body like the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, in an efficient manner,§ Senator Coonan said. ※There is also significant benefit in drawing on the Commonwealth Ombudsman*s existing expertise in dealing with complaints about postal services. Consistent with the Government*s election commitment, the costs of the PIO scheme will be recouped from Australia Post and any other postal service providers who register. Cost recovery will be based on the costs incurred by the PIO in investigating complaints. The PIO scheme will become operational later this year. Private postal service operators who choose not to join the scheme will still be subject to state and territory consumer protection legislation, with consumer complaints handled by the relevant state or territory Office of Fair Trading.


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 07/10/2006


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Smartcard Gurus Appointed

GLOBAL technology consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton has been appointed lead advisor to the Office of Access Card and will act as project manager for the $1.1 billion implementation. The announcement is the first of several key appointments to be made for the fast-tracked government health and welfare services smartcard. Human Services Minister Joe Hockey said the tender for lead advisor attracted a strong response from around the world. "The access card is being approached as a critical piece of national infrastructure," Mr Hockey said. "Booz Allen Hamilton was judged as the best choice, being both a global player with a strong local presence, and having overseen the implementation of 25 smartcard programs in the US and Europe. "The lead advisor will co-locate its project team within the Office, and bring key people into Canberra." The deal involves "a series of contracts over the life of the project", with an initial $4 million over the next three months to outline the project plan, business architecture, technology specifications and budget. This work will be subject to review by the yet to be announced program monitoring and assurance consultant. Further appointments include a deputy secretary to take charge of the Office, and a chief technology officer. Mr Hockey said the department undertook a thorough evaluation of all prospective advisers, including direct enquiries of government and private sector project sponsors and an independent probity review. "This appointment is a key step in moving the project forward," he said. "The card will make life easier for users of health and social services by streamlining how people register for and access payments and services."


From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 07/19/2006


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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Sir Michael Makes Major Cabinet Reshuffle

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare today announced several changes to the Cabinet during the swearing in of three new ministers at the Government House today. The three members sworn in as ministers are Martin Aini (Kavieng) Sam Abal (Wabag) and Andrew Kumbakor (Nuku). "I have made the changes to my Cabinet with the consideration that these will best suit the evolving circumstances within PNG today. These changes built around a core team are necessary to convert our hard earned gains achieved during this term into substantive returns and benefits for the people of Papua New Guinea in the remote rural and urban communities". "We need team players who are able to network and bring about pragmatic and innovative approaches to government to ignite these changes and also to meet the new challenges PNG will face in the future," said Sir Michael. The changes announced today by the Prime Minister are: Don Polye - Deputy Prime Minister, Transport and Civil Aviation ﹞ Sir. Rabbie Namaliu 每Treasury ﹞ Sir. Moi Avei 每Petroleum ﹞ Sinai Brown -Public Service and Acting Minister for Lands ﹞ Melchior Pep -Correctional & Administrative Services ﹞ Martin Aini 每Defence ﹞ Mark Mapakai -Higher Education ﹞ Sam Abal -Inter- Government Relations ﹞ Andrew Kumbakor -Housing and Urban Development ﹞ Arthur Somare -State Enterprise, Communication and Information ﹞ Roy Biyama -Minister for State Assisting the PM on State Services Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

'We have laid the foundations to allow a dynamic new period in the growth of our economy for our next term in office. I can say that today we understand better how the business of government should be run. Today there is a greater need to make substantive improvement to governance in Papua New Guinea and by appointing appropriately qualified elected representatives to office we stand a better chance of making more improvements. "We have managed 13 coalition parties during the term of this parliament. We have maintained political and policy stability to contribute towards providing an overall stable environment for business and investment to re-engage in an economy that today shows greater signs of sustained resilience. "We remain committed to our coalition partners and acknowledge their support and commitment. As a team we have achieved stability to protect our gains and I can assure you that this stability will remain right up to the 2007 elections. "I would like to thank Sir Moi Avei for his term as Deputy Prime Minister. As we come to the end of the term of the current Parliament, I have decided to take this position back to the National Alliance Party and appoint one of my Deputy Leaders. I have therefore appointed my deputy from the Highlands Region Hon. Don Polye the new Deputy Prime Minister. He said Ministers who were decommissioned are Bart Philemon, Aitimeng Buhupe, Mathew Gubag, Brian Pulayasi and Posi Menai. "I would like to thank the four former Ministers for their contribution and services to Cabinet in running of the nation's affairs.


From http://www.pm.gov.pg/ 07/05/2006


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Key ICT Players Meet to Discuss Future: CEOs and CTOs to Provide Unique Vision

What: Celebrating ITU*s leading role in setting standards in communications: one day event to hear what some of the top executives from the world of ICT have to say about the future of this remarkable industry. When: 20 July 2006. Where: International Conference Centre Geneva, (CICG), Geneva. Why: In 2006, ITU celebrates its leading role in making the standards that have played a massive role in shaping the information and communication technologies (ICT) and services of today. In 1924/5, two technical committees were created to set standards regulating technical and operating questions for international long-distance telephony and telegraphy. Fifty years ago, in 1956, these two technical committees were merged to become CCITT (Consultative Committee for International Telegraphy and Telephony) which later became ITU-T, where all standards-setting activities of ITU were consolidated for wire and wireless networks. While celebrating the past achievements of ITU in the field of standardization, the event will be forward looking in focus. The morning will see keynote speeches from among others the Chairman of the Board of China Netcom and the CEO and President of NTT and CEO of Svyazinvest. In the afternoon there will be two executive round table discussions on the future of ICTs. The discussion panels will consist of CTOs and other senior experts from some of the world*s major ICT companies, including Alcatel, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, France T谷l谷com, KDDI, Korea Telecom, KPN, Nortel, Rostelecom, Siemens, Telef車nica and ZTE. Who: Study group chairs and experts attending the meeting on next generation networks 〞 global standards initiative (NGN-GSI) will be present. The event is free and open to any interested party but only a limited number of places are available, so please register online as soon as possible. An audio webcast of the entire event will be available here. Journalists interested in attending should contact the ITU Press Office.


From http://www.itu.int/ 07/03/2006


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APEC Supply Chain Security Seminar Strengthens Regional Security

The preparedness for the region to protect sea, land and air transportation supply chains from serious threats has been strengthened during a two day symposium that concluded in Singapore today. Attended by more than 350 policymakers, government officials and private sector representatives, the APEC Symposium on Total Supply Chain Security covered a range of topical issues relating to threats and vulnerabilities in the global supply chain. Delegates exchanged views and information on best practices for implementation in their economies and companies. The Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, Ambassador Tran Trong Toan, welcomed Singapore's initiative to hold the Symposium on an issue that is of core importance to the Asia-Pacific. "As most of the world's largest seaports and busiest airports are located in APEC economies, ensuring the stability, security and efficiency of supply chains has become an issue of vital significance for APEC," Ambassador Toan said at the Symposium. "APEC Member Economies account for 40% of world population, 56% of world GDP and 48% of world trade, so our region depends heavily on the efficiency of supply chains to fuel our long lasting and high rate of economic growth. "With the increased trade flows, protecting the sea, land and air lanes that transport goods and materials has become crucial for stability in the global economy. "Even the slightest interruption to a supply chain can produce a multiplier effect that damages the business activities of a range of suppliers, transportation companies, production houses and retailers of the goods that are delayed or lost. As a consequence economies face potential downturn, business growth is undermined and jobs are lost." In his keynote speech, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister, Professor S Jayakumar, identified some of the threats and areas of vulnerability in regional supply chains. "As terrorism itself has globalised, we have witnessed a spate of horrific and sophisticated attacks in many parts of the world including Southeast Asia," Professor Jayakumar said. "Notwithstanding recent successes in counter-terrorism, the threat from international terrorism is real and will remain with us for the long-haul. "Whether we are public or private sector, we all have a stake in keeping this supply chain intact." The symposium included more than 20 speakers from government agencies including representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, New Zealand and China. Senior industry figures from companies including Sony, IBM and Federal Express also presented the business perspective on regional supply chain security issues and the future improvements that they felt were required.

From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 07/07/2006


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Smart Passport Technology to Expand Further Around the APEC Region

The adoption of smart passports by all APEC Member Economies will be advanced with a three day capacity building exercise to be attended by regional immigration officials in Hong Kong on July 18-20. Taking place as part of an APEC Business Mobility Group (BMG) project, the Workshop on Biometric Technology in Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) is an opportunity for all APEC economies to work through the challenges that may be experienced as they introduce biometric passports. Mr. Raymond Wong, Assistant Director, Hong Kong Immigration Department, and the Chair and Host of the Workshop, welcomed the event as an opportunity to enhance security and make it easier for legitimate travelers to move around the region. "APEC Member Economies are leading the world in introducing passport technology that will undermine the activities of terrorists and other criminals," Mr. Wong said in the lead-up to the workshop. "The improved passport technology also speeds up immigration checks at airports and other borders. "Passports are among the most valuable documents in mass use today and it is essential that we use the latest technology to protect them from theft and fraud. "There are a number of issues to consider when economies introduce the new machine readable travel documents. This includes the deployment of the right biometric systems to best suit the needs of their border conditions and traffic. "The introduction of biometric technology in passports and other travel documents is a complex and challenging process but is rewarded by increased protection from terrorist attack and criminal actions."

The workshop in Hong Kong, China will cover areas such as the manufacture and storage of MRTDs, choosing the best biometrics that might include face, fingerprint and iris information and privacy issues. All APEC economies have agreed to issue MRTDs by 2008 and will accelerate the replacement of older passports with MRTDs. The APEC BMG is also working to assist APEC Member Economies adopt International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for the issuing of smart passports.


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 07/16/2006


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ADB Setting Up Public Finance Knowledge Hub at the AIM in Manila

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB has signed an agreement to establish a knowledge hub on public finance, at Philippines' Asian Institute of Management's Roberto F. De Ocampo Center for Public Finance and Regional Economic Cooperation (AIM-RFO Center). Signing a letter of intent at ADB Headquarters in Manila on Friday were Bindu Lohani, Director General of ADB's Regional and Sustainable Development Department, and Robert De Ocampo, Chairman, of the Board of Advisers at AIM-RFO Center. The public finance knowledge hub at AIM-RFO Center will serve as a knowledge and information gateway on fiscal policy and practice, anti-corruption, and privatization. ※AIM-RFO will function as a regional think tank in a number of important areas identified in ADB's Medium Term Strategy II [MTS II] as well as act as a focal point for the collection, structuring, and dissemination of knowledge from a variety of resources,§ says Mr. Lohani. The Center conducts research and studies, organizes conferences, roundtables, lecture series, and distance learning symposia on a variety of public finance topics. Backed by a regional technical assistance grant of US$990,000 approved in December, AIM-RFO will house one of four to six knowledge hubs to be set up throughout the region over two years. A letter of intent for a first knowledge hub on clean energy at India's The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) was signed at ADB Headquarters last month. Other existing research networks that have expressed interest in hosting a knowledge hub include UNEP and AIT in Bangkok, Thailand, on reduce, reuse and recycle (3Rs), and Tsinghua University in Beijing, People*s Republic of China, on climate change. It is planned that the hubs will act as centers of excellence on emerging development topics, such as clean development mechanism, use of compressed natural gas and hybrid technologies in the transport sector, renewable energy, environmental technology, information and communications technology, as well as management techniques. ADB will provide the technical and training support for the functioning of the hubs. To ensure high synergy and knowledge sharing, the hubs will be linked with each other, as well as with relevant national organizations. To promote regional cooperation and integration, they will collaborate with existing knowledge networks in the Asia and Pacific region. Further, they will be linked to international academic and research organizations so that they can adapt the latest international development concepts to regional or local needs and demands.


From http://www.adb.org/ 07/18/2006


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CHINA: Shanghai Plans Traffic Info Website to Tackle Congestion

Shanghai plans a new Website and a phone hotline late this year to help drivers avoid congestion during rush hour, municipal officials said yesterday. The Chinese language service will be frequently updated depending on traffic situations, project officials said. "The service system will provide drivers with quick and accurate traffic information," said Wang Zijin, an official of the government-backed Shanghai Electrical Apparatus Research Institute - which develops the system. She said users of the service will be able to get timely and free updated traffic information and advice before driving on street. The timely traffic information will be collected by traffic police, automatic cameras and road-embedded sensors. And all the information will be handled and delivered to the service operators. Preparation of the Website and hotline was begun in 2004. Wang said the research institute is planning to add the municipality's network of cycling lanes to the system so that cyclists can also check the route beforehand. Some transport experts are urging the government to encourage public transport and cycling. Zhao Guotong, a local transport expert, said, "Encouraging locals to ride a bike, bus or Metro is the most effective way to alleviate traffic congestions." Currently, the metropolis has more than 2 million vehicles, with 10,000 vehicles added each month. In addition to the traffic guidance service, the municipal government is also planning to provide similar information updates on parking availability by 2008. The parking information system will allow residents to look for and reserve parking spots over the Internet or by phone.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/11/2006



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Farmers Encouraged to Set Up Economic Cooperatives

The Chinese government will further encourage more farmers to set up economic cooperatives, according to a government official. Chinese Vice Minister of Agriculture Yin Chengjie recently told 50 Chinese mayors at a seminar that the ministry will offer more training and guidance to farmers in the coming years to encourage more farmers join economic cooperatives. Yin said the cooperatives have become an important link between farmers and the market, which is vital if China is to boost modern agriculture and build a new socialist countryside. According to ministry statistics, the 23 million members enrolled in the country's 150,000 economic cooperatives now account for 9.8 percent of the total rural households. These economic cooperatives have also benefited 32.45 million non-member households. Statistics show that the economic cooperatives can bring an average increase of 500 yuan in annual income for each of their members. Last year the average income of China's farmers only increased by 300 yuan. Development of these cooperatives is a key element of the country's drive to build a new socialist countryside, which is one of the government's priorities. Yin recognized that the government needs to create a more favorable environment for the development of farmers' cooperatives. He called for a new law on farmers' cooperatives to be issued and put into operation as soon as possible. A draft law on farmers' professional cooperatives has been submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), or China's legislature, for the first deliberation on June 24, which will improve farmers' legal rights.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/12/2006



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New System to Warn of Tsunamis

People living in coastal areas are to be protected from tsunamis by a new early warning system. The warning system will allow the Oceanic Environment Forecast Centre to alert coastal towns when a tsunami is about to strike, promised an expert with the centre. "We will be able to send short messages to residents in coastal areas, or send a warning to a satellite which will broadcast it on the radio," said Yu Fujiang, an expert on forecasting tsunamis and other oceanic disasters. Work is expected to start on the new system by the end of the current five year plan in 2010. Currently China uses a system where warnings for tsunamis or other disasters can be sent to coastal areas in half an hour. The time was checked in a practice which 36 member countries of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) took part in during May, said Yu in a phone interview with China Daily. In the practice information from the centre was faxed to provincial emergency offices and other local departments detailed in the national emergency plan. The warning was then spread to residents at county level. "If a tsunami did hit China, we would not see a tragedy on the same scale as the one in Indonesia," said Yu.

But the system does need improving, because with news of an incoming tsunami taking 30 minutes to reach settlements, some people may not have enough time to evacuate. The two new methods of spreading warnings will reduce the time news takes to reach people, said Yu. As a member of the PTWC, China receives data from a series of monitors floating in the ocean. Every centre member has set up a series of monitors and all members share information about underseas earthquakes or other events which could trigger a tsunami. Although all the nations send each other the information they receive, experts in each country still have to make their own minds up about how serious the disaster is and when it will hit their coast. China has not been hit by a tsunami for a hundred years. And because the killer waves are not as frequent as storm surges, studies into tsunamis weren't launched until 1983 when China joined the PTWC. At that time the United States and Japan had both begun investigating the chances of tsunamis striking their coasts. At present, there are no provincial monitoring and forecasting systems specifically set up for tsunamis.

There is also no monitoring platform for oceanic earthquakes, a major cause of tsunamis, except for a few floating monitoring facilities, reported Xinhua News Agency. "The tragedy in Indonesia has urged the country to take steps in improving its own monitoring system for oceanic disasters," said Yu. After all, provinces like Hainan, Fujian and Guangdong are all very likely to be threatened by tsunamis, he added. The project will install warning buoys in the South China Sea to monitor changes in the ocean. Meanwhile, the country also plans to set up an oceanic earthquake monitoring platform on the East China Sea bed. "Construction was expected to start on the platform in September," said an official with the Shanghai Municipal Earthquake Bureau who only gave his surname as Zhao. "But with the complications we have encountered, it could be postponed to next April." According to Zhao, the oceanic administration will carry on an environment evaluation for the project to ensure it will not effect fishing or shipping.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 07/24/2006


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JAPAN: Cabinet Endorses 5.7% Cut in State Employees over Five Years

The Cabinet endorsed a plan Friday to cut the number of central government employees by 5.7 percent in the next five years as a streamlining measure.In line with an outline for the personnel reduction adopted by the Cabinet, a government task force subsequently held its first meeting to begin discussing the details of the measures to facilitate the overall plan, particularly the transferring of employees and scaling back of the number of new hires. The outline will remove 18,936 people, or 5.7 percent, from the government payroll, which covers about 332,000 employees. The outline was formulated under the administrative reform promotion law that was enacted in May and called for a more than 5 percent cut in the number of state employees. The plan calls for 2,908 employees at the Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry are to be transferred to other sections, particularly in the fields of public security and tax authorities. The task force, which is headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, plans to formulate a framework for the transfers, including retraining employees and enabling transfers to private companies or local governments if the employees so choose. It will work out annual time schedules on the transfers from fiscal 2007 to 2010. The task force was set up at the request of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which has asked the government to make efforts to carry out the transfers based on the consent of affected employees.


From The Japan Times 07/01/2006


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Japan 95th in Environmental League Table

Japan has fared relatively poorly in a new index which measures a country's ability to keep its citizens happy while at the same time being environmentally friendly. The findings are contained in the "Happy Planet Index" which has this week been published by the New Economics Foundation, an independent British think tank. The index is calculated by taking a life satisfaction score and multiplying that with a country's life expectancy. This is then divided by the nation's ecological footprint (basically how many resources it uses). NEF wants to get away from traditional measures of a country's worth such as GDP. Instead, it wants to judge the relative success or failure of countries to support a good life for its citizens while at the same time respecting environmental resource limits. The report's authors admit the results may appear to be counter-intuitive at first sight. Many of the countries at the top of the table are developing nations, while lots of developed countries -- and members of the Group of Eight industrialized nations club -- are placed in the middle and toward the bottom of the table. The South Pacific island of Vanuatu has come top of the table with a HPI of 68.2. In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam comes top. It's overall position is 12th (61.2). China is 31st (56) and Japan is 95th (41.7).

Britain is 108th (40.3) and the United States is 150th (28.8). Bottom of the list is Zimbabwe at 178th place (16.6). NEF say that its findings show high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being, and that it is possible to produce high levels of well-being without excessive consumption of resources. The report shows that Central America is the region with the highest average score in the index with a relatively good life expectancy, high life satisfaction scores and an ecological footprint below its globally equitable share. Another unexpected finding is that island nations score well above average in the index. The report speculates that perhaps a more acute awareness of environmental limits has helped these island societies to bond better and to adapt to get more from less. NEF says the findings also show that it is possible to live long, happy lives with a much smaller environmental impact. For example, in the United States and Germany, people's sense of life satisfaction is almost identical, yet Germany's ecological footprint is only about half that of the United States'. The findings also show that countries with the same ecological footprint can produce lives of greatly differing length and well-being. For example, Russia and Japan have almost the same footprint, but the average Japanese can expect to live 17 years longer and have a life satisfaction rating nearly 50 percent higher than the average Russian. NEF is calling on policy makers to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, as well as identify environmental limits and design economic policy to work within them.

From http://asia.news.yahoo.com 06/07/13


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SOUTH KOREA: Lawmakers Call for Nomination Reform

A former member of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's advisory body on security issues will be the next president of the National Defense Academy, government sources said Wednesday. The appointment of Makoto Iokibe, 62, a Kobe University law professor and high-profile expert on political and diplomatic issues, particularly U.S.-Japan relations, will take effect Aug. 1 following approval by the Cabinet, the sources said. Iokibe will be filling a position vacated by Masashi Nishihara, who retired March 31. The advisory panel he was on compiled a report in 2004 proposing Japan shift its defense policy from providing minimum defense against invasion to being a multifunctional and flexible defense power. The report was the basis of the new National Defense Program Outline released by the government in December 2004. Iokibe was also chairman between 1999 and 2000 of a subcommittee that discussed policy for the 21st century under the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.


From http://english.donga.com 06/30/2006


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Civil Servants* Pension Likely to Be Changed

The government is planning to reform the state pension system for civil servants, aiming to cut their retirement payments over concerns about shrinking pension fund assets, according to the Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs Wednesday. Meeting with reporters over lunch, Home Affairs Minister Lee Yong-sup confirmed that policymakers are looking to rewrite the law regarding state pensions for civil servants and reduce their benefits, moving in response to criticism that public workers earn more than the public itself after retirement. “We have asked the Korea Development Institute (KDI) to conduct a study on the present pension system for government employees and how to add more financial stability to the funds,'' said Lee, adding that the ministry is now running an independent committee of government officials, scholars, public workers and civic group members to work out the reform package. The KDI is expected to reveal the results of its study sometime in September. “The idea is to combine the conclusions reached by the KDI and the ministry's committee and come up with something that is both effective and comprehensive,'' said Lee. The calls for reforming the current pension system for public employees have been based on worries over a shrinking pension fund that seems to be falling into a crisis.

The country sustained a 609.6 billion won ($637 million) deficit in the Government Employee Pension last year. The deficit is expected to grow to about 1.47 trillion won in 2007, 3.35 trillion won in 2011 and 13.81 trillion won in 2020, according to government estimates. Critics have been pointing out that the country's generous public workers' pensions, which provide better pay and benefits compared to the National Pension Fund for ordinary citizens, could put a serious financial burden on future taxpayers. Under the current pension system, public workers are required to pay a premium rate of 17 percent, while receiving up to 76 percent of their average wages during the last three years at work. In comparison, the National Pension Fund requires a contribution of 9 percent, with the retirement payouts ranging from 30 percent to 60 percent of their average wages. ``Things changed drastically when state pensions for public workers were introduced in the 1960s,'' said Lee. ``The top-heavy population trend, which brought an increase in the number of people receiving pension payments, low interest rates, and the growing number of people forced into early retirement, are putting further strain on the system,'' he said.


From http://times.hankooki.com 07/05/2006


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MONGOLIA: Project on Pasture Management in Province

The Sustainable Management of Mongolian Grasslands Project is being carried out for the third year in the country. It is funded by non-refundable aid of the Government of Netherlands under the activities of UNDP. The goal of this project is to increase the welfare of herding families through sustainable management of the Mongolian grasslands. The main mechanism to achieve such a goal is to strengthen and formalize existing customary herder community institutions, and to reinforce links between them and formal governance structures and the private sector. At local level, the work of institution building and pasture management was stabilized with 64 herding communities. 9 herder-based pasture monitoring system was established that later significantly improved technical knowledge of herder communities. Goal of this activity is to evaluate both positive and negative changes in pasture resources and to improve pasture-monitoring system.

Currently, 65 pasture monitoring /monitoring-evaluation/ sites and transects were established in 3 ecological zones for regular pasture monitoring purposes. One of the project result in 2005 was assisting soum to have a proper policy on use and planning of soum grazing area and on facilitating herder groups to attain higher productivity in livestock husbandry and range management through better management of range resources. For that, mapping of soum pasture resources and particularly herder group s land use was the critical need for sustainable use of land resources. To date, 12 soum and 29 herder group pasture use maps have been developed at scale 1:100,000 and 1:50,000 respectively, which enables beneficiaries to have a tool to develop soum land use policy and to have an integrated planning approach for sustainable management of land resources based on interactive partnership between local government and herders. A coordinator of the project N.Batjargal said 98 percent of total fodder usage for livestock is provided from pasture. According to survey, the number of livestock per 100 ha pasture increased by 28 heads in forest steppe zone, in particular, 28 in Bulgan Province, 32 in Arkhangai Province and 17 in Ulaanbaatar


From http://www.montsame.mn 07/15/2006


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INDONESIA: Govt Holding Science Writing Contest

JAKARTA: As part of its campaign to encourage innovation in applied technology, the State Ministry for Research and Technology is holding a science writing competition for journalists and the general public. The contest is open to participants living in Indonesia. Those interested in taking part must submit their work before the July 22 deadline. A cash prize of Rp 7.5 million will go to the winner of the journalist category, while the winner of the general public category will receive Rp 5 million.


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


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Govt Rolls Out One-Stop Investment Service for SEZs

The government will set up a "one-stop investment office" for the newly declared special economic zones (SEZs) of Batam, Bintan and Karimun islands, as a first step to making the area a magnet for foreign direct investment. Immigration procedures and labor permits concerning foreign workers -- along with taxation and customs services -- will be simplified through the integrated investment service, which is expected to be up and running in Batam by September. Speaking after a meeting Saturday of a Joint Steering Committee for the development of the SEZs, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono said the establishment of the one-stop investment office would be among concrete action taken to fix any remaining bureaucratic snags still hampering investment into the pilot-project area. "We are taking immediate steps (to develop the SEZs). Even before the meeting, we have been working to set up the integrated investment system," he said. "In the medium-term, we would like the SEZs to be a working model, suitable for application in other areas." Indonesia and Singapore signed last month a framework agreement on economic cooperation to transform the three major islands of Riau Islands province into SEZs. A Joint Steering Committee was established for policy-making and oversight, whose members include Boediono, Trade Minister Mari E. Pangestu, Investment Coordinating Board head M. Lutfi, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno, and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati. Singaporean counterparts include Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Khiang, Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen and Singapore Economic Development Agency head Lim Siong Guan. Singaporean Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Khiang said both sides had been working hard to improve the area's investment climate, expecting implementation results over the next three months.

"We are looking at all issues related to how the SEZs can enhance Indonesia's competitiveness in attracting foreign investment. "First is the institutional framework; second, policies that have to be put in place; third, the regulatory framework according to which the policies are being implemented; fourth is the infrastructure, and fifth is incentives," he said. Further explaining the one-stop investment office, Trade Minister Mari E. Pangestu said the government was in the throes of integrating the online systems of the tax and customs offices, and would continue to address problematic regulations, as well as looking into possible incentive policies. "But it is more about creating certainty and consistency, and how to develop the area's bonded zone concept last year to create a better flow of goods for both exports and domestic needs," she said. Meanwhile, concerning labor issues, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno said his ministry would assign officials at the one-stop investment office to facilitate foreigners applying for their work permits on the spot, rather than having to process them in Jakarta. The ministry recently issued a decree slashing the processing time for work permits to only a week from two months, although foreigners will still be subject to the country's other labor laws and regulations, Erman said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 07/17/2006


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PHILIPPINES: ADB Setting Up Public Finance Knowledge Hub at the AIM in Manila

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB has signed an agreement to establish a knowledge hub on public finance, at Philippines' Asian Institute of Management's Roberto F. De Ocampo Center for Public Finance and Regional Economic Cooperation (AIM-RFO Center). Signing a letter of intent at ADB Headquarters in Manila on Friday were Bindu Lohani, Director General of ADB's Regional and Sustainable Development Department, and Robert De Ocampo, Chairman, of the Board of Advisers at AIM-RFO Center. The public finance knowledge hub at AIM-RFO Center will serve as a knowledge and information gateway on fiscal policy and practice, anti-corruption, and privatization. ※AIM-RFO will function as a regional think tank in a number of important areas identified in ADB's Medium Term Strategy II [MTS II] as well as act as a focal point for the collection, structuring, and dissemination of knowledge from a variety of resources,§ says Mr. Lohani. The Center conducts research and studies, organizes conferences, roundtables, lecture series, and distance learning symposia on a variety of public finance topics.

Backed by a regional technical assistance grant of US$990,000 approved in December, AIM-RFO will house one of four to six knowledge hubs to be set up throughout the region over two years. A letter of intent for a first knowledge hub on clean energy at India's The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) was signed at ADB Headquarters last month. Other existing research networks that have expressed interest in hosting a knowledge hub include UNEP and AIT in Bangkok, Thailand, on reduce, reuse and recycle (3Rs), and Tsinghua University in Beijing, People*s Republic of China, on climate change. It is planned that the hubs will act as centers of excellence on emerging development topics, such as clean development mechanism, use of compressed natural gas and hybrid technologies in the transport sector, renewable energy, environmental technology, information and communications technology, as well as management techniques. ADB will provide the technical and training support for the functioning of the hubs. To ensure high synergy and knowledge sharing, the hubs will be linked with each other, as well as with relevant national organizations. To promote regional cooperation and integration, they will collaborate with existing knowledge networks in the Asia and Pacific region. Further, they will be linked to international academic and research organizations so that they can adapt the latest international development concepts to regional or local needs and demands.


From http://www.adb.org/ 07/18/2006


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SINGAPORE: New SMART Centre to Be Set up to Drive R&D

A new major research centre called SMART will be set up by next year in a collaboration between Singapore's National Research Foundation (NRF) and the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT. The centre is the first of several world class centres planned by NRF as part of its billion-dollar Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise programme. The high-powered Research, Innovation Enterprise Council stressed that Singapore needs to build strong links with global centres of research. So Singapore is kicking that off with this joint collaboration with MIT. MIT has been in Singapore since 1998 but this will be its largest international endeavour. Dr Tony Tan, Chairman, National Research Foundation, said: "Following the establishment of SMART Centre, we also look forward to other world class institutions from Europe and possibly from Israel setting up their own institutions here and our own universities NUS and NTU setting up complementary facilities so this will mark a major turn in uplifting R&D in Singapore." The overall programme is meant to foster joint research programmes worldwide as well as recruit young talent who can become extraordinary scientists and whose discoveries could generate new growth engines for the country. But will Singaporeans, traditionally wary of a career in research, bite? Dr Susan Hockfield, President, MIT, said: "Opportunity is the most powerful motivator. As Singapore builds its entire innovation economy, continuing on with studies to get a PhD in science or engineering that allows them to be part of this innovation economy becomes increasingly attractive." The centre, when fully established in a few years, is expected to have 300 to 400 researchers as well as collaborations with local centres.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/07/2006


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National Qualifications System to Boost Non-Traditional Trades

SINGAPORE : The national qualifications system to upgrade workers' skills will soon cover the relatively new area of digital media, one of the hot new sectors earmarked to drive Singapore's economy. Ngee Ann Polytechnic is now developing a national standard for digital animators. The training, which started about a week ago, involves 26 students for a start. Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who launched a similar scheme in the food and beverage sector, stressed that work skills cannot be built solely on the education system. "We need to develop a formal skills qualifications framework for adult workers to complement our formal education system. We want to signal to Singaporeans that regardless where they start from, or how they choose to progress in their lives and careers, they always have an avenue to learn, to excel and realise their aspirations," said the Education Minister. At the launch of the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) System, staff from various F&B companies showed off their skills. But these F&B workers can only get better with proper training and certification. They will also be able to widen their career choices if they continue to upgrade their skills and services.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/12/2006


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Singapore Aims to Build Strong Research Talent Pool

Building a strong research talent pool is going to be a cornerstone of Singapore's policy to boost the sciences, and the numbers have been encouraging. Minister of State for Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran said that between 1990 and 2004, the number of research scientists and engineers had increased four-fold to 19,000. And the bulk of these came from the private sector. Mr Iswaran was speaking at a UK-Singapore conference on building science and technology capacity with South East Asian partners. The Minister of State also said scientific capability needed to be built up - either through research or collaborations with industry. So far, Exploit Technologies, the commercialisation arm of Singapore agency A*STAR, set up to translate research into marketable products and services, has licensed more than 120 technologies and spun out 8 companies since 2002. More than 160 local companies have also benefited from a scheme that provides them with technological assistance and manpower to boost their competitive edge.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/14/2006


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VIET NAM: First Corporate Credit Ranking Institute Set Up

HA NOI 〞 The Credit Information Centre (CIC) is to become the first Vietnamese institution permitted to conduct corporate credit assessments following official approval from the State Bank of Viet Nam to begin offering the service. The central bank said it expects the establishment of the new centre will enhance State management throughout the country*s banking system by providing the Government with a detailed assessment of enterprises* financial standing. The CIC credit ranking system will target State-owned, limited-liability, private, joint stock and foreign-invested companies, and offer its assessments to the State Bank of Viet Nam and other credit institutions, it said. Enterprises will also be able to contract the CIC to rank their own credit status, a useful tool for accessing loans or conducting internal financial performance reviews. However, the State Bank of Viet Nam has required the CIC to disclose its findings only to appropriate agencies, and is prohibited from forwarding information to any third parties. The nation*s demand for corporate credit ranking information is growing, and is seen as an important instrument in helping banks develop in the face of increasing international competition. The State Bank of Viet Nam decision is due to be implemented next week, said the deputy director of the CIC, Dao Quang Thong.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/ 07/08/2006


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BANGLADESH: Reform Measures Underway to Revamp Capital Market

The country's capital market watchdog - the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) - has undertaken several reform measures to check capital flight and manipulated accounting by listed companies and to ensure transparency in share transactions. The Commission also undertook reform measures for smooth floatation of initial public offerings (IPO) by prospective business enterprises and to ensure better evaluation of financial statements of the listed companies. "We have embarked on these reforms to bring about transparency and accountability and ensure corporate governance practices by the listed companies," SEC Chairman Faruq Ahmed Siddiqui told the FE. He said the existing SEC rules and regulations are being examined to find out the loopholes, if any. "The Commission will amend the provisions if any loophole is found in the existing regulations," the SEC chief added. Elaborating the mode of reforms on 'related party transaction' the SEC chairman said, "a committee has already been formed to make suggestions and take other necessary actions to check it." Due to absence of any such provisions, the unscrupulous businessmen are diverting their capital from their core companies, which are listed in the stock exchanges, resulting in closure or weak-performing of such companies, he said. Sources in the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) said there were a number of incidents where the listed companies were found diverting their capital to their non-listed companies and later declared the listed companies non-performing or sick. This malpractice helps the unscrupulous businessmen not to offer dividends to the shareholders of the listed companies though their non-listed companies earn huge profits. Under the existing SEC rules, the Commission now can only de-list the non-performing companies from the stock exchanges as punishment without protecting the interest of shareholders, which in turn encourages malpractices, a senior SEC official said.

The Commission so far de-listed some 30 listed companies from the bourses. To ensure better and unmanipulated accounting by the listed companies, a new organisation titled "Financial Reporting Council (FRC)" will be established under a new act. "The draft of this act has already been finalised and is now awaiting the approval by the cabinet", the SEC Chairman said. He said the FRC will be entitled to oversee the audited financial statements prepared by chartered accountants. Currently, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) oversees the audited financial statements. But people have little faith in it as the ICAB is run by an elected body that prefers to fulfil voters' demand to be re-elected. The chartered accountants are the members of the ICAB. For smooth floatation of IPOs by prospective business enterprises, the Commission is considering introduction of book building system. Besides, direct listing has already been introduced resulting in the prompt listing of the Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO) in both the bourses. Commenting on the prevailing stock market situation, the SEC chief termed it 'normal and as usual.' When contacted, the DSE Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Salahuddin Ahmed Khan hailed the SEC's reform measures, saying "reforms are necessary to put the stock markets on a sound footing." Besides, these will ensure check and balance in the capital market, he told the FE. (by M Azizur Rahman)


From http://www.financialexpress-bd.com/ 7/21/2006


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INDIA: Kerala a Model for Women Empowerment: Minister

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala has done exemplary work in the field of women's empowerment, Union Minister of State for Planning M V Rajasekharan said today. Inaugurating a discussion forum held as part of the `Vayana Vaaram' (Reader's Week) programme here, he said Kerala could be taken as a model in the area of women's empowerment activities. He said the decentralisation process was aimed at eradicating poverty and inequality in order to bring in social change and development. He said with decentralised planning, democracy would be strengthened and people would get more opportunities for participation in developmental activities. Pannian Raveendran, MP, presided over the function.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 06/26/2006


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National Agricultural Innovation Project Approved

The Union Cabinet today gave its approval to the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP). The Project would be of four components, viz. (i) ICAR as the catalyzing agent for the management of change of the Indian National Agricultural Research System; (ii) Research on production to consumption systems; (iii) Research on sustainable rural livelihood security; and (iv) Basic and Strategic research in the frontier areas of agricultural sciences. The different components of the Project would be implemented by a large network of Public research institutions, Private sector, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and other stakeholders. Since the Project implementation would involve major management responsibility for the Indian Council of Agricultural Research/Project Implementation Unit-National Agricultural Innovation Project (ICAR/PIU-NAIP), the PIU will have core staff supported by need based consultants and contractual staff. This decision would result in about 15 value chain development reports for serving as models for other potential areas and planning for investment, about 20 sustainable rural livelihood models for replication in other disadvantaged areas and generation of about 25 patents of scientific and economic significance besides about one hundred research papers published in high quality and impact research journals. The Project is planned to start with effect from 1st July 2006 and the completion period is six years. The total project cost is US$250 million out of which the World Bank*s share would be US$ 200 million as credit and Govt. of India*s share would be US$ 50 million. In Indian Rupees, the Project cost is equivalent to Rs.1189.99 crore based on the prevailing exchange rate of 1 US$ equivalent to Rs.46.24 as on 7.12.2005 (the pre-appraisal date to determine the Project cost) Of this Rs.685.86 crore is towards investment cost and Rs.504.13 crore is towards recurrent cost.


From http://pib.nic.in/ 06/29/2006


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Govt Sets Up 321 Help Centres for Filing IT Returns

New Delhi: In a bid to facilitate small income tax payer, the government has set up 321 Help Centres across the country for filing tax returns. Announcing this, the Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairperson M H Kherawala told reporters that the centres would charge no fees from the tax payers for filing returns. There would be atleast one Help Centre under every Direct Tax Commissionerate and the centres are set up outside Income Tax Offices, chambers of commerce and Chartered Accountants offices. "All informations to be provided free of cost and no small fee will be charged by the centres for helping in filing tax returns," she said. These centres have stared functioning from June 15. The facility will be available till August 15 and then for one month from March 1-31, she said. The Help Centres were first started last year. The last date for filing return is July 31. The were 2.64 crore income tax assesses who filed returns last year and the government has targeted 15 per cent incremental growth every year. This year the government expected number of persons filing income tax return to go up in the face government's two -pronged strategy, she said. As per the strategy all the partnership firms are required to file returns irrespective of profit or loss. It is also mandatory for all those who get income beyond threshold limit of Rs one lakh for men, Rs 1.35 lakh for women and Rs 1.85 lakh for senior citizens to file income tax returns. For implementing this strategy necessary amendments have been made in the Income Tax Act.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 07/03/2006


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Innovative US$15 Million Grant to Strengthen ADB's Program in India

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - An innovative US$15 million cluster grant will help strengthen ADB*s program in India by improving the preparation of projects and developing the capacities of local government agencies to implement them. The grant, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom, will finance the feasibility studies, due diligence, capacity development, and detailed design needs of 15 projects identified in ADB*s Country Strategy and Program for India for 2006-2008. The grant will bring all 15 projects to a higher level of project preparedness without any dilution of social safeguard requirements. By placing various projects under one cluster grant, proper quality control will be assured in the preparation and delivery of projects. ※The cluster grant will greatly enhance the quality and speed of delivery of over $3 billion of proposed infrastructure and development investment essential for sustainable growth and poverty reduction in India,§ says Tadashi Kondo, Country Director at ADB*s Resident Mission in India.

With the average loan size in ADB*s program for India increasing significantly from $148 million in 2000 to a proposed $321 million in 2006, more elaborate project preparation is required. ADB is also moving to newer, smaller, and less-developed states, which have limited financial and technical capacity to undertake detailed project design. ※The cluster grant offers the flexibility to meet diverse and fast emerging requirements, and will be relevant, responsive, and results-oriented,§ adds Mr. Kondo. ※Also, given the wide range of executing agencies in India, a comprehensive and focused intervention such as this grant is much needed.§ Among the 15 projects under the cluster grant are a proposed $250 million road development project for Madhya Pradesh, $300 million for a roads development project for Northeastern States, $200 million urban infrastructure project for Rajasthan, $300 million urban development project for Jammu and Kashmir, and $250 million agriculture and water management project for Orissa. The Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance is the executing agency for the cluster grant, which will be carried out over two and a half years to December 2008.


From http://www.adb.org/ 07/19/2006


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SRI LANKA: Tsunami Newsletter Launched

COLOMBO: The Steering Committee of the Tsunami Housing Support Project (THSP) together with all government institutions which were engaged in housing and other development activities in tsunami-affected areas have published a special tsunami newsletter carrying the detailed information of tsunami housing reconstruction activities implemented in devastated areas. The Tsunami Housing Support Project of the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Corporation and Development has helped with the publication of this newsletter. The launching of the first issue of the newsletter was held at the Steering Committee meeting of THSP at the Ministry of Housing and Construction recently. The first issue of the newsletter was handed over to the Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Construction, P. Veerahandi by the Editor of the Newsletter, Deputy General Manager (Information and Publicity) of National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) L.S. Palansuriya and Senior Advisor to the THSP of GTZ, Mrs. Hilke Ebert.

This newsletter has prepared reflecting the Performance of the government institutions as well as the other participatory organisations in the housing development process in the tsunami devastated areas. In addition to the article of the Rehebilitation and Development Agency (RADA) which is the most important institutions engaged in tsunami reconstruction activities has published a special article on the new housing policy of the government regarding tsunami housing. Officials of the Ministry of Housing and Construction, Ministry of Urban Development and Water Supply, Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs, Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government, RADA, the External Resources Department, National Planning Department, NHDA, the Urban Development Authority (UDA), GTZ-THSP are the participants of this Steering Committee of the THSP which is chaired by the Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Construction. This newsletter will be distributed free of charge and those who wish to get a copy of this newsletter can contact the Deputy General Manager (Information and Publicity) of the NHDA, Sir Chittampalan A Gardiner Mawatha, Colombo 02.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 07/03/2006


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Importance of Harnessing Human Resources Stressed

COLOMBO: Human resources have to be harnessed properly oriented, trained and guided in order to provide a better service to the society, said Ariyarathne Hewage, Secretary to the Education Ministry addressing Labour Officers present at a seminar held under the theme" Human Resources in Gaining Competitive Advantage" organised by the Labour Officers' Guild at the Hotel Trans Asia, Colombo on Friday. Hewage went on to say that a Human Resources Manager should know to assist the career development of the employees and give his subordinate officers an opportunity to make their individual contribution towards providing a quality service. He said money, material, and human resources are the three main components of human resources management. Human resources was pivotal as that is alive, able to think, speak and also react to the environment. Each one differs from the other. Hence we are bound to manage them in such a way to bring those qualities in the human person.

Senior Consultant M. Thilakasiri attached to the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA) said that knowledge has turned to be the basis of the present day trend in development and Sri Lanka has to be conscious of that fact. He said that we Sri Lankans have to move with that trend and be able to manage the human resources available in the country. However, he regretted to note that the scope of work using the available human resources in respect of the Labour Officers was very much limited to officers appearing in Labour Tribunals, as they lack expertise of human resources management. Senior Consultant went onto say that to get the best of the employees assigned for a particular task, the managers should know better about the abilities of their subjects or else they would just do what they were asked to do, even if they have no interest in the sort of work they do. The failure on the part of the managers to recognise these abilities of the workers causes internal problems. "Recognition of the capabilities of workers by the managers help both the workers and the institutions they work", he said. M/S Slim Line and Unichela Ltd. Managing Director Dian Gomes highlighted the importance of understanding the emotional state of the workers, the usefulness in having direct dialogue with them on official matters and their personal matters. International Labour Organisation (ILO) Consultant Sharmalee Ranarajah, explained the legal aspects of employee and employer relationships specially regarding labour disputes. Labour Relations and Foreign Employment Ministry Secretary Mahinda Madihahewa also participated at the seminar. (by Shirley Wijesinghe)


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 07/12/2006


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PAKISTAN: Young Leaders Conference Starts

RAWALPINDI - The fifth Young Leaders* Conference (YLC) 2006, was inaugurated on Saturday at a local hotel aiming at bringing out the best in the brightest and most talented of the nations* youth. The theme of the first day was how the young participants are urged to cultivate distinction within them and inspire others to make a difference in the world. The objectives of this enlightened programme are to create awareness of the immense leadership possibilities within the youth, in a multidisciplinary context and also to inspire young participants to discover, practice and apply their potential. This YLC 2006 will be attended by more than 300 young men and women from all parts of country over the six days that it is conducted. The programme helps to bring about an overall change in the attendants by inspiring them to have a higher degree of self-confidence, belief in their abilities and the ability to see problems as opportunities. Other important factors taught to the young participants are the ability not to fear failure, realise their capacity to make decisions and aspire for higher goals and define a purpose to their lives. This conference would help them to learn live, share, and grow together with fellow participants from all over the world, nurtures great recognition, understanding and respect of alternative point of view. In the inaugural ceremony, CEO of Ufone Babar Khan was the chief guest. Speaking on this occasion, he said that every aspect of society requires leaders, from the school level to a corporate level to a national level. He applauded the School of Leadership for successfully putting on the YLC for six years while congratulated them on the success they had achieved and hoped that they would continue to churn out outstanding leaders in the future. Babar Khan added that to develop into a true leader a person has to completely believe in himself hoping that the young people here would gain the maximum they could out of this once in a lifetime experience, and use the lessons taught to help them extract the most out of life.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 07/02/2006


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Code of Ethics for NGOs to Be Introduced

ISLAMABAD: A comprehensive code of ethics for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would be introduced soon in order to make them more accountable and public welfare-oriented, Minister for Social Welfare and Special Education Zobaida Jalal said here on Sunday. ※We are in the process of preparing code of ethics for NGOs with their consultation to make their registration and working process more efficient and transparent,§ she said in an exclusive interview with this agency. She said in order to finalise the code of conduct there had been two meetings with the representatives of NGOs from Peshawar and Islamabad in the first round, while several other meetings would be held with NGOs of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan as part of the next round. Zobaida Jalal said there were about 100,000 NGOs in the country and the government was in the scrutiny process to distinguish between the efficient and defunct NGOs. She said all stakeholders, including major and small NGOs, regional NGOs and civil society organisations throughout the country were being involved to finalise the code of ethics. She said the government had also planned to table the Child Protection Bill during the next session of the National Assembly which would really help safeguard the rights of children and protect them against social evils like child abuse and child trafficking. ※We have also held meetings with parliamentarians belonging to both treasury and opposition benches and all of them have extended full support in introducing this bill,§ she said. The minister said Child Protection Bureau and Child Protection Centre would be set up in the capital as well as in Turbat while five special education centres would be established in Sindh, southern Punjab, Balochistan and tribal agencies.〞APP


From http://www.dawn.com/ 07/10/2006


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16000 Lady Councillors to Get Training

ISLAMABAD (APP) 每 Minister for Women Development and Youth Affairs Sumaira Malik on Monday inaugurated the Women Political School in Rawalpindi in which upto 16000 women councillors of Punjab would be educated on leadership as well as their legal and constitutional rights. The 4.5 million-dollar project has been funded by Norway and is being implemented by the Ministry of Women Development in collaboration with UN Development Programme. The inaugural ceremony was held at Divisional Public School, Shamsabad which was also attended by Provincial Minister for Law and Local Bodies, Punjab Raja Basharat, Ambassadors of Canada and Norway, UNDP*s Country Representative and National Project Manager Rehana Hashmi. Among other projects of the Ministry of Women Development, Women*s Political School (WPS) is being widely appreciated for its crucial role to groom women councillors for assuming role of leadership as public leaders and educate them about their legal and constitutional rights. Addressing the ceremony, Sumaira Malik said female councillors would have better understanding of women*s constitutional and legal rights as a result of the training under the project besides developing capacity for public service. ※The programme is expected to usher in a silent revolution for uplift of womenfolk as it also aims at moulding women councillors into a dynamic female leaders at grassroots for uplift of their fellows, which would lead to development and prosperity of the whole nation,§ she observed. She said the government was committed to empowering women at grassroots level and the project would go a long way in this regard as it had been designed as sustainable and a long-term initiative to institutionalize the process of enabling and empowering women in public office so that their issues and concerns were raised in policy agenda and addressed through public policy.

The one year performance report of the government from August 2004 to August 2005 says, ※an important project entitled Women Political Schools (WPS) under the Ministry of Women Development has been initiated with the aim of promoting gender balance in political sphere.The programme helps the women in public offices so that they can contribute in raising and addressing their issues and concerns in public forums§. National Project Manager Rehana Hashmi said women councillors being public representatives at grassroots level would have better understanding of their constitutional and legal rights as a result of training under the project besides developing capacity for public service. She said under the project as many as 400 women councillors had been prepared as master trainers who would impart training to as many as 28,0000 women councillors across the country through 4-day workshop in subsequent phases of the programme. Elaborating, she added that from Punjab and Sindh a total of 130 and 100 master trainers (Lead Mentors) had, respectively, been prepared while 50 and 120 women councillors were groomed as master trainers from Balochistan and NWFP to train rest of the councillors. She said that in Punjab the training for the councillors had been kicked off while in other three provinces it was underway with logistic arrangements of the local government officials.

About the training course, she said that a comprehensive syllabus, in line with lady councillors* requirements in public offices, had been worked out while thoroughly studying course contents of those organizations that imparted training to women councillors in past. She said training course of WPS covered all aspects related to public office at local government, including gender sensitization to let them know about their legal and constitutional rights. The councillors, she added were also being enlightened about local government system and role of all public machinery whether discharging administrative or legislative duties besides ways as to how discharge their responsibilities effectively. She said that they were also being educated on the process of preparation and approval of budget after passing through various stages, beside responsibilities of monitoring committees for effectively utilizing the national resources.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 07/11/2006


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KYRGYZSTAN: NGOs Allege Government Campaign Against Civil Society

Representatives of many of Kyrgyzstan's NGOs held a press conference in Bishkek on July 17 to warn that the government is attempting to discredit NGOs, fergana.ru and akipress.org reported. Speakers cited the government's recent decision to expel two U.S. diplomats who were reported to have had improper contacts with local NGOs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 13, 2006). Edil Baisalov, head of the coalition For Democracy and Civil Society, called the government's actions a "stage-managed campaign" to present NGOs as a "fifth column." Noting that the regime of former President Askar Akaev made similar efforts, Baisalov commented, "Even under Akaev, the authorities didn't go so far as to forbid us from speaking with diplomats." DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/18/2006


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TURKMENISTAN: President Calls for New Energy Policy

Saparmurat Niyazov told a cabinet meeting on July 10 that Turkmenistan needs a new energy policy, ITAR-TASS reported. Noting that energy disputes are a "big problem," Niyazov stated that, "There are some people who say that difficulties emerged because Turkmenistan raised somewhat the price for gas." He continued, "In order to remove this misunderstanding and empty talk, we should work out and debate a state policy in this sphere at the People's Council to be held in Ashgabat on October 25." Turkmenistan recently attempted to raise the price of gas it sells to Russia and Ukraine from $65 per 1,000 cubic meters to $100, but talks have failed to secure a new agreement with either country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 30 and July 3, 2006). DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 07/12/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Workshop Held at Oliy Majlis Senate

A training workshop was held at the Senate of Oliy Majlis (parliament) of Uzbekistan. The representatives of the Active Legislation Monitoring Institute attended the event, the Senate's press service said. The workshop was organized on the initiative of the Committee for Agrarian, Water Management Issues and Ecology. The deputies of the Legislative Chamber, representatives of ministries, regional administrations, and lawyers participated in the meeting. Participants discussed regional problems and methods of effective interaction between the regional Kengashs (Councils). A rough work schedule of local Kengashs of National Deputies was developed and approved. Recommendations with regard to their standing commissions were provided for the purpose of ensuring their close cooperation wit the Senate Committees, participation in the preparation of the documents for the meetings, and integration of the practice of senators' regular reporting to the deputies who elected them. The finalized recommendations worked out at the workshop are intended to develop the dialogue between the Senate and the Deputies' Corps of Local Kengashs.


From http://news.uzreport.com/ 07/17/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Judicial-Legal Reforms Great Response to Criticism of West

Uzbekistan adopted several legislative acts, which serves as evidence of serious reforms in judicial-legal system, Russian political scientist and chairman of commission on international cooperation and public diplomacy of Public Chamber of Russia Andranik Migranyan told to Jahon news agency.As an example, Migranyan recalled recent decrees on transfer of rights to issue sanctions for detention to courts and abolishment of death penalty, as well as order on measures on preparation of legislative acts, necessary to abolishment of capital punishment. Migranyan said abolishment is very serious and courageous decision. He added that Russia is not ready to abolish death penalty despite judicial-legal reforms, which are carried out for a long time. He said the State Duma (lower house of Russian parliament) resists to this issue. He added that Russia joined European Council and undertook obligation to harmonize its legislation to its requirements. Russian pundit said the reforms will impact to general development of political situation of Uzbekistan. He added that the reforms are also great response to West for its criticism.


From http://news.uzreport.com/ 07/21/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Commonwealth Welcomes Advances in Policing Policy at Australasian Police Ministers* Council

Important developments in indigenous policing, enhanced police information and intelligence systems, missing persons investigation, and the management of firearms, at the Australasian Police Ministers' Council (APMC) today, have been welcomed by the Federal Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison. ※Day to day policing throughout Australia should be more efficient and safer following the outcomes of today's meeting,§ Senator Ellison said.

Among the resolutions reached today were the following:

CrimTrac APMC agreed to a national roll out and cost sharing arrangements for CrimTrac's Minimum Nationwide Person Profile (MNPP) initiative. This clears the way for the new system to boost crime clear-up rates, enhance investigation efficiency and provide a safer working environment to every front-line officer. ※CrimTrac was established to facilitate data and information sharing for Australia's police: the support MNPP provides will be accurate, immediate and tangible for the men and women who need it most,§ Senator Ellison said. ※Information provided through the MNPP initiative will provide police with richer, more accessible and comprehensive information, giving police in the field instant access to nation-wide policing information on persons of interest.§ The Commonwealth provided $11 million for a successful New South Wales and Victoria pilot, and had offered an additional $7.4million for the national roll-out. Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania should roll out the MNPP over the next year, with New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland joining by mid 2008.

Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Taskforce APMC has proposed for consideration by COAG on the 14th July 2006 an Intelligence Taskforce on indigenous violence and child sex abuse which will have a dedicated national capacity to collect, collate, analyse and share information in relation to incidents of family violence and child abuse in remote indigenous communities.  ※Such a Taskforce would provide all jurisdictions with better information to target communities experiencing the most serious problems, and a better basis for developing policing strategies in this difficult and complex area,§ Senator Ellison said.  Commonwealth funding and personnel from the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police and the States and Territories is also proposed. 

National firearms management system The Federal, State and Territory governments agreed in principle to a business case to examine, in detail, the cost of designing and implementing a national firearms management system. Senator Ellison said he was pleased that States and Territories had agreed to contribute to this vitally important project. ※I also note that members of the Sporting Shooters and Firearms Advisory Council, which includes representatives of sporting shooters, firearms dealers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, farmers, the security industry and film armourers, have actively and constructively contributed to the discussions about a national system,§ Senator Ellison said. ※I am confident this resolution represents a positive development in firearms management in Australia. "A national firearms management system will provide substantial benefits for the Australian, State and Territory governments and all firearms stakeholders, and this business case is a very important step forward in achieving a national system." Senator Ellison also took the opportunity to update the States and Territories on the excellent work being done by Australian police officers in East Timor and to thank participating jurisdictions for their contribution to this important task.


From http://www.ag.gov.au/ 06/29/2006


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Star Rating System Proposed for Hospitals

HOSPITALS should be given star ratings based on factors such as death and infection rates, to improve performance and help patients make better informed choices, a leading health academic says. Giving the best hospitals a five-star rating would be one option. Another would be a league table ranking the best and worst performing hospitals, according to La Trobe University dean of health sciences, Hal Swerissen. Hospitals could be rated as above, below or at acceptable standards. Professor Swerissen, a senior adviser to Carmen Lawrence when she was federal health minister, said areas that could be rated included surgery mortality rates, medical errors, readmission rates and negligence when a court had found the hospital was at fault. He said public reporting would improve the quality of the health system and could reduce complications and mishaps. "I am very keen to see the health system have much stronger reporting on patient outcomes," he said. "You would expect that it would be a publicly available, easily accessible set of information which would be regularly reported."

The State Government releases each year a report on "sentinel events", in which serious errors are reported, but the information does not identify hospitals. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare yesterday released a report on medical indemnity, which also did not identify hospitals. Professor Swerissen said the proposed system would help hospitals to know their status in terms of quality and where they needed to improve. He said hospitals had a different mix of patients, which needed to be factored in to how they were ranked. But the difficulties of ranking were outweighed by the potential benefits. Another concern was that incorrect data could lead to a hospital being misrepresented. The rating idea was supported by Justin Oakley, director of the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University. But Dr Oakley said it should be taken further, and individual surgeons should be publicly rated, similar to a system recently introduced in Britain.

"I think the public are entitled to know where their money is going and how effectively it's being spent, and I also think it helps patients make more informed decisions and choices between hospitals," he said. But others were more cautious about the proposal. Deakin University dean of health sciences John Catford said league tables could have a demoralising effect on hospitals and might not be helpful. He said hospitals might be prompted to choose patients who were more likely to get well, to improve their rating. The Australian Medical Association Victorian branch president, Mark Yates, also believed the proposal could give hospitals a "perverse incentive" to discriminate against patients at greater risk of dying. Ben Hart, spokesman for Health Minister Bronwyn Pike, said the Government preferred a more collaborative approach rather than a "dog eat dog competitive approach" to improving hospital performance. "Hospitals are part of a system and need to work together instead of against each other," he said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 06/29/2006


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Property Registration Scheme to Ease Business Loans

BUSINESSES will find it easier to borrow against their assets under a national scheme for registration of personal property. But while the scheme will encourage business lenders to part with their cash, it could take years to implement, with banks unwilling to suddenly register millions of existing debts because of the cost. The new system is expected to be endorsed by this month's meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, as is a streamlined method for registering business names that was welcomed by small businesses yesterday for potentially saving them thousands of dollars. COAG will consider a plan to set up a national register for property, other than real estate, that is being held as security fordebts. A partner in law firm Piper Alderman, Craig Wappett, said this would make it easier for businesses to borrow against their tangible assets - such as cars, planes and ships - or their intangible assets, such as money owed to them by customers. Australian Bankers Association director Ian Gilbert said that at present some assets could not be registered because no register existed for this purpose.

A national register would allow lenders to know if an asset had money owed on it, he said. "For lenders, there is greater certainty with a registration system that deals with all personal property securities." An asset could only go on the register if it was worth something, Mr Gilbert said. "Goodwill is not generally something that a business can fully leverage," he said. "Some intellectual property rights, for example, might become more acceptable as securities". Mr Gilbert said it was important to examine whether existing debts needed to be moved on to the register. "We would not support a regime that required banks overnight to re-register all their existing securities under a new system," he said. "That would be a massive exercise involving millions of securities." Another proposal expected to be approved by COAG is to bring together the registration of business names and ABNs into one process, which the chief executive officer of the Council of Small Business, Tony Steven, said was a significant step forward in cutting red tape. If done in a user-friendly way through the internet, Mr Steven said, this could help reduce business set-up costs, which could run into the thousands when accountants' charges and start-up consultants' fees were included with the registration charges.


From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 07/06/2006
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New Model for the Learning and Teaching Performance Fund

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, today announced changes to the Learning and Teaching Performance Fund, which will further support diversity in the higher education sector and reward excellence in particular disciplines. The Minister made the announcement at the annual conference of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia in Perth, to an audience of over 200 senior academics and Australian University Quality Assurance representatives. Last year excellence in teaching and learning was recognised on a whole-of-institution basis. The most significant change will be to allocate the $82 million available for 2007 on the basis of four broad discipline areas: science, computing, engineering, architecture and agriculture; business, law and economics; humanities, arts and education; and health.

※The discipline-oriented format will encourage universities to play to their strengths and focus their teaching and learning efforts in particular areas,§ Minister Bishop said. There will be changes to the performance indicators and all indicators will be given equal weighting. ※Changes to the methodology will address some of the concerns raised by universities in the review of the 2006 fund,§ Minister Bishop said. ※In cooperation with the sector, further work will be undertaken on the measurements of excellence. It is essential that we are able to assess the attitudes of all students to the quality of the education they receive. We must continue to improve our ability to track the success of students post-graduation,§ Minister Bishop said. The purpose of the fund is to reward higher education providers that best demonstrate excellence in learning and teaching. The Minister will announce the outcome of the fund later this year.


From http://www.dest.gov.au/ 07/10/2006


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More than $10 Million Awarded for Renewable Energy Projects from Ethanol to Wind Power

The Australian Government has today awarded funding to another six renewable energy projects, including ethanol, biodiesel, wind and solar power operations, under its $100 million Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI) program. Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, and Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, have announced the successful round two recipients while also calling for round three applications for the program which supports projects at the cutting edge of renewable energy development. The $100 million REDI program has so far delivered grants in excess of $33 million to 16 renewable energy Australian companies nationwide. "The diversity in this round's recipients bodes well for development of future energy technologies from alternate transport fuels through to wind farms, solar energy, geothermal and biomass technologies. All of which will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Macfarlane said. "REDI*s focus on R&D and commercialisation of renewable technologies fills a niche in Australian Government support for the sector and complements other Australian Government renewable energy and low emissions program," Senator Campbell said.

The six projects awarded funding are: Australia Renewable Fuels, South Australia, $348,100 for micro-algal feedstock biodiesel production. CSR Sugar Pty Ltd, Queensland, $5 million to develop its Ethanol Energy Production using its sugar booster technology. Geothermal Resources Limited, South Australia, $2.4 million for its project involving the heat-generating capacity of buried hot radiogenic granite. New Energy Partners Pty Ltd, NSW, $258,000 for its parabolic solar collector for medium temperature application.Powercorp Pty Ltd, Northern Territory, $2.34 million to develop an electricity grid stabilising system for large wind farm interconnection. SQC Pty Ltd, Queensland, $200,000 for production of hydrocarbons from algae. "The Australian Government is committed to encouraging development of the full suite of energy options as our future energy, and climate change, needs will be met by a combination of traditional and renewable energy technologies," the Ministers said.


From http://www.deh.gov.au/ 07/20/2006


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Northern Territory Crocodile Industry Benefits from Innovation

The Australian crocodile industry has benefited from innovation to make an important contribution to the regional economy of the Northern Territory, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry the Hon Sussan Ley MP said today. Ms Ley was launching a new Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) project to develop improved precision feeding systems for farmed crocodiles, to lower the overhead costs and improve the performance of the animals. ※This project is a great example of the partnership between the Australian Government and rural industries bringing value to rural Australia.§ ※The funding for the project, to be conducted over the next three years, is supplied by the Government, through RIRDC*s investment, in partnership with industry and research providers. ※Feeding the animals is a major expense for the industry, so any research which allows them to lower the cost and simultaneously improve the nutritional value of feed will be of great benefit,§ Ms Ley said.

※With RIRDC*s support through research and development, the crocodile farming industry has shown remarkable growth, and in 2003 had exports worth $5.2 million,§ Ms Ley said. ※RIRDC has already contributed to a number of innovations for the crocodile farming industry, including the development of nutritious pelleted feed for crocodiles, a stun-gun that allows for more humane and safer handling of crocodiles without damaging the valuable hide, and intensive farming systems.§ ※As well as their commodity value, crocodile farms are a tourist attraction, bringing further revenue to the Northern Territory,§ Ms Ley said. Ms Ley also visited RIRDC projects in the Darwin area associated with the tropical fruits, hardwood, cocoa and native bushfood industries. ※All of these emerging industries are important in giving options to Australian farmers, and attract tourism by providing a strong regional flavour.§


From http://www.psmaff.gov.au/ 07/20/2006


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Bishop Tells Unis: Merge or Reform

UNIVERSITIES will be encouraged to merge or specialise under a push by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop to reduce the number of traditional public institutions to about 12. Australia had too small a population and not enough high-quality academics to justify continuing with 37 generalist universities, Ms Bishop said. "There is a place for perhaps a dozen universities like that," she told the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy in Perth. Ms Bishop said she did not plan to force mergers but would give funding priority to universities prepared to specialise. "I encourage universities to look at their future and determine which direction to take 〞 merge or reform. Standing still is unlikely to be an option." The speech, Ms Bishop's most in-depth on higher education since taking over the portfolio six months ago, comes at a time when vice-chancellors are arguing that universities are underfunded, over-regulated and increasingly reliant on fees. Labor launched its reform agenda last week, embracing the idea of diverse institutions to ensure Australia can compete internationally.

It set itself apart from the Government by pledging to increase funding, abolish full-fee places for local students, reduce HECS rates in areas of national priority, and create a new standards watchdog. The Coalition remains committed to full-fee places for students who are prepared to pay up to $200,000 for a degree. Ms Bishop yesterday said she would do everything possible to encourage a diverse system that gave students greater choice, increased competition and led to more innovation. "As a result of this relentless pursuit of sameness, we miss some of the great heights of our international competitors," she said. The Australian university sector had nothing to compare to specialist technological, aeronautical, arts or medical research institutions overseas, she said.

Ms Bishop said some Australian universities were moving towards diversification, and more specialisation would be encouraged by: ← Letting universities that enrolled fewer students than planned keep some of the excess funding if they agreed to spend it on "identifying and pursuing their strengths". ← Increasing funding for universities that underwent structural reform and collaborated with other institutions. ← Basing teaching funding on performance in specific disciplines. ← Finalising an overhaul of research grant funding so it was dedicated to research excellence. ← Increasing competition from specialised private institutions and overseas providers. The main vice-chancellors' body disputed Ms Bishop's claim that all Australia's public universities were comprehensive, generalist institutions. But Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee chief executive John Mullarvey said helping universities diversify would be good for Australia and students.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 07/25/2006


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Councils Face New Test of Planning Efficiency

A NEW system of monitoring the planning performance of councils is in operation, replacing one that had been manipulated by some local governments to understate the time they took to assess development applications. The new system will identify underperforming councils. Under recent legislation, the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, will be able to appoint external panels to take over their planning functions. When announcing the new system, Mr Sartor said it had been developed in consultation with the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW. However, the association has protested to Mr Sartor about the hasty implementation of the new monitoring system. Councils have been given until August 31 to supply a much wider range of information on their planning and development assessments than in the past. This includes: ←Numbers of development applications in each category. ←Approval and refusal statistics. ←Average and median processing times. ←Legal costs. ←Number of staff employed on assessing applications. ←Number of court appeals and their outcomes. ←Significant departures from an officer's recommendation. ←The extent of referrals to government agencies and reliance on "stopping-the-clock" processes. The association had wanted a pilot scheme in selected councils before the system was extended to all councils, so as to assess the usefulness of the data collected and test the process for its collection.

The new performance-monitoring regime is part of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act 2006, which came into force on June 30. Like the system it replaces, the regime appears to rely on the integrity of information supplied by councils - but will require them to provide more data on the processing of development applications. The Department of Planning will track the progress of councils' local environment plans as part of its monitoring of the planning system. Councils will be able to comment on factors that may justify longer processing times such as substandard applications or non-compliance with council plans and policies. As with the old system, statistics on each council's performance will be published annually. A review of the new system will be conducted at the end of this year to check that information provided by councils is accurate and that the system is working effectively. Mr Sartor said that NSW's 152 councils dealt with 125,000 development applications a year - or about 340 a day. "This new system will help identify systemic problems and specific bottlenecks at councils across the state," he said. "These delays can cause considerable frustration for families wanting to renovate, or businesses trying to invest and create new jobs for NSW. "The Government wants to work with councils to fix these problems and will only intervene as a last resort."


From http://www.smh.com.au/ 07/25/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Televising Parliament Back in Focus

A proposal for in-house televising of Parliament is back on the agenda and is going to a Cabinet committee for consideration. The proposal was first put forward by Parliament's multi-party standing orders committee in 2003. The Cabinet last year approved spending $6.2 million to set up in-house television coverage of Parliament. But the idea was shelved, in election year, when media objected strenuously to plans for Parliament to take over the coverage of its own proceedings. While the footage would have been made available free to networks, media complained it was at the expense of access for TVNZ and TV3. During the scrap, TV3 broadcast a shot of Cabinet minister David Benson-Pope asleep in his seat. The Dominion-Post and the Press also published the photograph. There are rules for filming in Parliament, including that the focus must be on the MP speaking, no close-ups and only occasional wide shots. A spokeswoman for Speaker Margaret Wilson said the proposal to televise the whole of Parliament was back on the table. It was going to a Cabinet committee, she said. Currently only question time - which lasts about 1 1/2 - is broadcast on a Sky channel. Parliament is broadcast on radio. The idea is for television broadcasts of the debating chamber, and later, of select committee hearings that are open to the public.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 07/06/2006


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Inequalities Hindering South Asian Growth: World Bank

New Delhi: Deepening income inequalities in South Asian countries may impede the recent strong economic growth witnessed in the region, a new World Bank report cautioned Monday. "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," states the new report, "Economic Growth in South Asia". With nearly 400 million poor people, poverty in South Asia is not just endemic, but increasingly concentrated in lagging regions, the report states. "Not only are these regions poorer, but their growth rates are substantially slower than the better-off regions," the report states. "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."

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 labour, while addressing pervasive income inequalities and poor service delivery, says the report. "South Asia's decade-long economic expansion has raised the possibility that the subcontinent 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 realise 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." The World Bank envisages an annual investment requirement of around $25 billion for new rural and urban infrastructure in the region to reach higher growth targets.

The report 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. Giving an optimistic projection, the report shows that South Asian countries could see single-digit poverty rates in a decade if economic growth accelerated 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 a decade. Looking back at the economic performance of the past decade, the report suggests that South Asian countries should aspire to this goal and emulate the East Asian growth rates of seven to 10 percent that lifted millions of people out of poverty in relatively few years. "Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have all grown at over 5.0 percent per year on average during the last five years. Growth in both Pakistan and India topped 8.0 percent last year. Forecasts put South Asian economies on a steady path of expansion this year," the report points out. Economic growth has already contributed to an impressive reduction in poverty. In the last decade, poverty in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal fell by 9.0, 10 and 11 percent respectively; in Sri Lanka it fell by 6.0 percent. Only in Pakistan poverty increased by 8 percentage points due to economic stagnation throughout the 1990s, the report highlights. The most recent evidence (2004-5 survey), however, suggests that with the resumption of high growth, poverty is again declining rapidly in Pakistan. "But much remains to be done to achieve accelerated growth rates that increase economic prosperity across the board," the report says. "Faster growth must also be more equitably shared."

From http://www.newkerala.com/06/26/2006


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Unemployment Increasing Globally: Annan

Dharam Shourie, United Nations: The number of unemployed people across the world touched 192 million last year and the figure is on the rise, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned. "In 2005, about 192 million people were out of work. Almost half of the world's unemployed are young people even though youth make up only a quarter of the working-age population," Annan said in a report presented at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) annual session yesterday. Three times as many people are doing jobs that do not allow them to escape from extreme poverty, he said. "Greater attention, therefore, needs to be paid to decent work, defined as opportunities for men and women to obtain productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity," Annan told delegates at the opening day of the session. The issue, he stressed, is not just about jobs, but about employment that can generate sufficient income for individuals and households to move out of poverty. UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown inaugurated the meet with a call for ECOSOC to sharpen its focus on reaching the development goals agreed upon at the 2000 Millennium Summit. The goals call for halving or eliminating several social and economic ills by 2015 to better the lives of billions of poor worldwide.

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


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Women Entrepreneurs in e-Business Training Program Concludes

The work of women e-Commerce entrepreneurs from around the Asia-Pacific has been given a boost this week with the "APEC Women's e-Biz Training 2006" that concluded today in Seoul, Korea. Held over six days, the training program sought to increase the competitiveness of women entrepreneurs, women leaders and policy makers involved with gender issues to improve their knowledge and skills in e-business. Delegates from APEC Member Economies participated in a range of e-lectures that covered topics such as emerging technologies in e-Business, business planning, branding and marketing strategy development, skills sessions on building websites and group sessions where participants were to formulate a collaborative business plan based on the learning they've acquired throughout the training course.

Dr. Kio Chung Kim, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Women's Network Center of Sookmyung Women's University and the organizer of this meaningful event said the training has sought to impart new knowledge and skills for women to prosper in the new world of online business. "This APEC program has equipped a number of women with e-business skills that they can use and impart to women in their economies so that they can succeed in the knowledge based economy," Dr. Kim said. "A number of the participants were from areas where opportunities had often been denied to women in the past. Now the women who attended this APEC training will have an opportunity to return home and make a difference." One of the participants, Ms Josepina D. Parilla, the Founder of 'A Women's Livelihood Project' in the Philippines said the training would provide a boost to her and other women in her economy. "I've been encouraging each and every woman in my country to be entrepreneurs," Ms. Parilla said at the conclusion of the Women's e-Biz Training 2006 Week. "I feel like I am finally able to conduct business with other parts of the world now that I'm finally connected to the online business world. "So I am happy that I got to create my own website for my business. "I am also very happy that I have networked with different business women from all over the world." Dr. Kio Chung Kim also highlighted the potential of women entrepreneurs in the APEC region. "Women in the Asia-Pacific have tremendous entrepreneurial zeal and when barriers are overcome, are stepping up to the challenges of online business," Dr. Kim said.

Lectures covered areas such as the development of entrepreneurship, Internet security and ethics, intellectual property rights and managing customer relations online. The training also included business matching sessions where a number of Korean women CEOs introduced their products and services that had proved successful in the Korean market and sought business partners among the participants. The training program was held at the Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul and was organized by the APEC Women's e-Biz Center in association with the Asia Development Bank Institute (ADBI), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The APEC Women's e-Biz Center was established at the Asia Pacific Women's Information Network Center of the Sookmyung Women's University of Korea with the sponsorship of Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and APEC. The core role of the centre is to implement the APEC project 'Initiative for APEC Women's Participation in the Digital Economy' that is running from 2005 to 2009. The initiative is involved in research, e-Business Training, eBiz Community Building and policy forum aimed at enhancing the participation of women in the digital economy.

From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 07/08/2006


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Poverty Rate Could Diminish by Two-Thirds in South Asian Countries

Le Monde (France) writes that the growth sustained by South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) over the past five years is reassuring to World Bank economists. At this rate, if the region maintains a 10 percent growth per year until 2015, the poverty rate could diminish by two-thirds, according to the Bank*s ※Economic Growth in South Asia§ report released last month.

From http://www.worldbank.org/07/11/2006


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Emerging East Asia to Post Strong Growth in 2006, Says ADB

HONG KONG, CHINA - The economies of emerging East Asia will grow 7.5% as a group in 2006, drawing strength from a sustained, broad-based economic expansion in major industrial countries that are key export markets for the region, and a rebound in the global information technology industry, according to a new ADB report. ※The region has adjusted well to a challenging first half characterized by high energy costs, persistent inflationary pressures, tighter monetary conditions, and financial volatility,§ says Masahiro Kawai, head of ADB*s Office of Regional Economic Integration, which produces the Asia Economic Monitor (AEM), available at aric.adb.org. ※There was a revival of external demand in the first half of the year and domestic demand is also now strengthening in several economies. Together these factors will help drive growth in the second half.§ 2006 will be the third consecutive year of average GDP growth above 7% for emerging East Asia, which comprises the 10 ASEAN countries; People*s Republic of China (PRC); Hong Kong, China; Republic of Korea (Korea); and Taipei,China. Together, these economies posted 7.2% growth in 2005, and 7.9% in 2004. The AEM forecasts 6.9% growth for emerging East Asia in 2007 on an anticipated easing of growth in the US, Japan, and PRC.

The outlook for the PRC economy is a key element of the region*s prospects. AEM forecasts GDP in the PRC will grow a strong 10.1% this year and 9.0% in 2007. Importantly for the rest of emerging East Asia, PRC imports are expected to rebound from exceptionally low growth in 2005. PRC demand, with the global rebound in IT and improving domestic demand, is expected to propel growth in the three newly industrialized economies (NIEs) - Korea; Hong Kong, China; and Taipei,China. GDP growth in the NIEs is forecast at 5.1% in 2006, up from 4.5% in 2005. ASEAN economies can expect steady GDP growth of 5.5% in 2006, reflecting the stable external outlook, with slight variations up or down across economies, according to AEM. ASEAN growth is forecast to rise slightly to 5.7% in 2007 as Indonesia recovers from the effects of its August 2005 mini-financial crisis. The broadly favorable outlook for the region is subject to two types of risks. Near-term cyclical risks would include a sharp fall in external demand, faster-than-expected correction of an overheating PRC economy, higher-than-expected energy prices, and a significant deterioration in global financial conditions. Deeper structural, low probability but high impact risks would include a sudden and disruptive adjustment of the global payments imbalances and the outbreak of an avian flu pandemic.

Against the backdrop of robust growth and higher inflation, emerging East Asia*s policy options for managing near-term risks comprise a combination of further monetary tightening - through interest rate hikes or currency appreciation, or both - and, in some cases, additional efforts to narrow fiscal deficits and reduce public debt. For example, in the PRC, both interest rate hikes to cool domestic demand and currency appreciation to address external imbalances are appropriate. At the same time, increasing exposure of banks to real estate in some economies needs close monitoring and appropriate measures to reduce risks, AEM says. To address deeper vulnerabilities, the region*s policy priorities should be to boost domestic demand - consumption in the PRC and investment in most other economies, increase exchange rate flexibility, improve the region*s energy efficiency, and prepare for the possibility of an avian flu pandemic. ※The strengths of emerging East Asia*s economies and the risks they face are relatively clear,§ says Mr. Kawai. ※With sound policy decisions the region should be able to maintain its strong growth and continue setting the trend for rapid development and poverty reduction.§

From http://www.adb.org/07/18/2006


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7 South Asian Finance Ministers to Meet in Pakistan to Discuss Poverty Fund

※Finance ministers of seven South Asian nations will meet in the Pakistani capital this week to discuss a proposed fund to help them jointly fight poverty, Pakistan's Finance Ministry said Monday,§ reports The Associated Press (07/10). ※The ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives will begin the two-day meeting on poverty reduction on Tuesday, the Pakistani ministry said in a statement. The poverty fund will be part of the SAARC Development Fund that will have an initial size of $300 million, according to the Pakistani Finance Ministry statement, but it did not specify the size of the poverty fund. The seven nations are members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) organization that was set up to help promote economic cooperation and improve ties among member states. The SAARC countries have a collective population of some 1.5 billion people, most of whom live on less than a dollar a day. At the meeting in Islamabad, the SAARC finance ministers will discuss operational issues of the poverty alleviation fund that was proposed to be set up in the last SAARC summit in Dhaka in November 2005, the statement said. The fund, which would comprise financial contributions by SAARC countries, will offer loans and grants to the bloc's members for projects to help reduce poverty, it said. #§

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 07/11/2006


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CHINA: Chinese Will Pay More for Green PCs

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace International claimed this week that Chinese consumers are prepared to pay up to US$200 for environmentally friendly PCs--more than any other country surveyed. The group commissioned Ipsos-Mori to look into whether consumers around the world were prepared to pay more for greener technologies and, if so, how much. Chinese consumers came out on top, claiming to be prepared to pay up around US$200 compared to just US$118 in Britain. The results may appear surprising, as the average Chinese consumer earns significantly less than their U.K. counterpart. However, Greenpeace claims the result can be explained by the fact only relatively wealthy urban Chinese consumers were surveyed, and also because China has become a dumping ground for foreign waste IT, which has made locals more sensitive to the issue. "Chinese consumers have seen the impact of waste IT in their own backyard and so it's not surprising that they are prepared to pay something for greener technology," Greenpeace campaigner Zeina al-Hajj told ZDNet UK. In August last year, Greenpeace released the results of a study claiming workers in China employed in the recycling of mostly western electronic devices were being exposed to potentially hazardous toxic substances, due to the careless manufacturing practices of technology makers.

The authors of Recycling of Electrical Wastes in China & India: Workplace & Environmental Contamination claimed to have detected high levels of toxic metals in the environment around Guiyu Town in southern China. Although green campaigners are keen to see an end to exports of e-waste to China, an outright ban has been hard to enforce as the trade is orchestrated by organized criminal gangs. Also, breaking down waste tech is often the only work available in some areas, so removing a vital source of income, no matter how hazardous to health, is not a simple matter. According to Greenpeace's al-Hajj, there has also been an increase in locally produced e-waste as China becomes an increasing user of modern technology. Environmental campaigners are pushing for technology manufacturers to move beyond simply talking in terms of more recycling to creating greener products to begin with. Greenpeace's drive for cleaner technology will no doubt receive a boost from incoming European Union legislation called the ROHS Directive. It will restrict the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, and comes into force from July 1.

The directive will ban the sale of new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than agreed levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame. Greenpeace claimed a small victory recently when the world's largest PC maker, Dell, announced plans to phase out the use of two key groups of hazardous chemicals from its equipment. By 2009, all types of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and plastic polyvinyl chlorine (PVC) will be banned from Dell machines. "Dell's decision to remove these harmful chemicals reflects a move within the electronics industry in the right direction to become cleaner and it is clearly the direction that consumers want. Consumers not only want greener PCs but they are willing to pay extra for them," said Al-Hajj.

Large amounts of electrical waste and electronic goods are shipped, often illegally, to poor or developing countries to be recycled by local inhabitants who are usually ill-equipped to handle hazardous waste and ignorant of the potential effects of such activity on health, according to Greenpeace. Despite the announcement of the successful implementation of ROHS, the UK has repeatedly failed to implement the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive. It was meant to be enforced under UK law last year but has been consistently delayed. WEEE aims to reduce the impact of waste technology by forcing manufacturers to pay for collection and recycling schemes. Companies that Greenpeace claims have made efforts to make their products more green include HP, LGE, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Sony Ericsson. Companies the environmental group claims need to clean up their act include Acer, Apple, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Toshiba and Siemens.


From http://en.chinabroadcast.cn/ 06/29/2006


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Shanghai Gov't Website Ranks 3rd in UN Evaluation

The Shanghai government's Website (www.shanghai.gov.cn) ranked No. 3 in a United Nations' public administration Website evaluation, according to a report released by the UN Online Network in Public Administration and Finance. The survey was conducted in 81 cities worldwide. The Website ranked No. 2 in terms of practical evaluation, No. 6 in service quality, No. 8 in security, No. 9 in content and No. 9 in public participation. About 37.36 million unique visitors use the Website and monthly page views now exceed 15 million. It ranked No. 5 in the same survey in 2003.

From http://www.china.org.cn/07/04/2006


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China Approves First 30 National Heritage Sites

The Chinese government has approved the first batch of 30 national heritage sites, including 17 natural heritage and 13 natural and cultural heritage sites, the Ministry of Construction said Wednesday. Among the 30 sites are Qinghai Lake in northwest China's Qinghai Province, Wutai Mountain known for its many ancient Buddhist temples in north China's Shanxi Province, and Jiuhuashan Mountain in east China's Anhui Province. Chen Xiaoli, the ministry's chief planner, said the establishment of the national heritage system was an important development in China's national heritage protection system. Sites on the national heritage list would have priority for candidacy for world heritage sites, she said. Candidates for national heritage sites would receive guidance and assistance from the ministry regarding the protection of resources, establishing an administration, and the World Heritage Committee rules, to pave the way for their inclusion on the World Heritage List, she said. China has 31 world heritage sites, second only to Spain and Italy. Chen warned that all national heritage sites must strictly observe the rules for their management, or risk removal from the list.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/06/2006


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Search Engines Get Internet Regulation Protection

China's first regulation on online copyright, implemented on July 1, gives search engine operators some legal status and protection from copyright infringement claims, according to industry experts. "Under the regulation, search engines providing links can be exempted from copyright infringement claims," said Wang Bin, secretary general of the Online Copyright Alliance of the Internet Society of China. In September 2005, seven record companies accused Baidu.com, China's largest search engine, of offering free pirated downloads of songs. The claim triggered a spate of legal cases against search engine operators. However, the new regulation stipulates that Internet service providers which merely offer search services and links are not liable for copyright infringement if they remove links to pirated content at the request of copyright owners. However, if the search engines persist and provide links to pirated content, they would be deemed to share liability for infringement along with websites that offer the pirated content. "It means search engines would not be directly responsible for pirated products they provide links to," Wang explained. Government statistics show that China has over 111 million Internet users and Internet companies are beginning to focus on providing sound and image content. "Copyright has become a prominent issue for websites and laws and regulations are needed to guarantee the websites' legal right to provide content," Wang said. He believed the new regulation would encourage Internet content providers to view intellectual property rights protection more seriously.

Baidu.com welcomed the new regulation and believed it would give search engines a legal status and help promote cooperation with copyright owners. "Baidu hopes to enter into mutually beneficial cooperation agreements with record companies. The protection of online copyrights requires the coordination of the whole industrial chain," said Wang Dong, brand and marketing director of Baidu. Music searches are Baidu's most popular service after website searches. Last October, it launched an alliance with six record companies. That number has since increased to 30. The regulation spells opportunity and responsibility for search engines, according to He Qifeng, an analyst with the China Center for Information Industry Development. "It lays a framework for Internet service providers and clarifies their liabilities." But the regulation was hard to implement to some extent, He said. Due to the large number of pirate websites, copyright owners are finding it difficult to list them all, and even if they could, search engines might be reluctant to remove all the errant links, particularly if this affects general search results, He said. "Search engines might find themselves in a dilemma then." However, Wang pointed out that if copyright owners fail to first inform the search engine operator of the infringement and chose to proceed immediately with legal action, the regulation gives no guidance to courts on how to rule in such cases.Wang said the Online Copyright Alliance would discuss the issue with Internet companies, and judicial and legislative departments.


From http://www.china.org.cn 07/06/2006


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HK Realty Sector Sixth Most Transparent in the World

Investors' confidence in Hong Kong's real estate market should get a boost because it's now sixth in the world in terms of transparency. Hong Kong's position rose one step in a survey conducted by Jones Lang LaSalle. The international property surveying firm determines market transparency by studying factors such as availability of accurate information, regulatory and legal infrastructure, security of title and enforceability of property rights, governance and disclosure of property traders, zoning and building certainty. The head of research of Jones Kang LaSalle, Greater China (South), Kenneth Tsang, attributed Hong Kong's progress to a number of factors such as "local accounting regulations' move to encompass international standards, government mandating higher transparency on property transactions and the emergence of REITs. These have led to stricter disclosure requirements". But keeping in mind the challenge from regional competitors such as Singapore, Tsang said Hong Kong market still had room for improvement. Hong Kong and Singapore both are in the top tier of Jones Lang LaSalle's Real Estate Transparency Index.

Suggesting that landlords have to disclose details such as their assets' operation figures to the public, he said: "For commercial and retail properties, figures on human flow, tenants' turnover and occupancy rates should be made accessible to the public." He urged the government to increase the transparency of the land sale process and lease modification processes further. "The survey is carried out every two years to study the transparency of a country's housing market in terms of availability of fundamental data and investment performance indices and professional and ethical standards," the head of research of Jones Lang LaSalle, Asia Pacific, Jane Murray, said. The markets are ranked in one of five tiers, depending on the extent of their transparency. The mainland is categorized in the fourth tier of low transparency. But Tsang said the mainland market was making remarkable headway in improving its transparency. "We are not surprised to see the market going up to a higher tier in our next survey," he said. The mainland market needed to increase its transparency and accuracy on information flow and land administration, he said.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn 07/14/2006


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SMEs to Spend 500 Bln Yuan on IT Products

China's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are likely to spend 500 billion yuan on IT products in the next two years, according to a report released by a research company. The IT expenditure by the companies is expected to grow 16.5 percent this year over last year to 142.77 billion yuan. Expenditure will likely rise to 186.92 billion yuan in 2008, said the report released by the China Center for Information Industry Development Consulting. Spending on computer hardware accounted for 67.6 percent in last year's IT spending by SMEs but its rate of growth is lower than that of the IT market as a whole. IT services grew by 20 percent last year, said the report.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/19/2006


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China Has 123 Million Netizens

The number of Chinese netizens reached 123 million as of June 30, 2006. This is a 19.4 percent rise compared with the same period last year, according to report released on Wednesday by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). The report states that China saw an increase of 12 million netizens in the first half of 2006 -- 1.5 times up on the increase for the second half of 2005. About 77 million netizens connect to the Internet by broadband. This is up 24 million -- 45.3 percent -- compared with the same period last year. The international bandwidth of China's Internet has hit 214,175 megabytes -- a 159.2 percent rise compared with same period last year. The report includes for the first time statistical analysis of young citizens. Among 200 million primary and middle school students, 30 million, or 15.4 percent, have Internet access. The percentage zooms upwards to over 50 percent among high school students. The report shows that on average netizens use the Internet 16.4 hours per week which is a new high and even longer than figures for some Internet developed countries.

The number of computers connected to Internet by broadband has reached 28.15 million. And various applications of the CN domain name have been further developed; the application of the Blog CN and individualized mailboxes, in particular, have brought a further increase of websites with separate domain names. The report says the number of websites in China has reached 788,400 of which 90,000 were added in the first half of 2006. According to an online survey conducted by CNNIC, about 15 million netizens use online education tools very often, 25 million often surf the Internet for job services and those who use blog and online shopping services have reached 28 million and 30 million respectively. Compared with the same period last year there's been a 50 percent rise in netizens who always shop online. The report says that the Internet in China has developed quickly, but compared with developed countries it still had a long way to go to improve Internet coverage and solve the problems in services between urban and rural areas. This is the 18th statistical report on China's Internet development released by CNNIC.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/20/2006


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New Policy Expected to Aid Semiconductor Industry

A new policy guideline for the semiconductor industry is expected later this year, as China looks to the sector as a core part of its high-tech strategy. Li Ke, an official with the China Semiconductor Industry Association, said the National Development and Reform Commission has organized a fresh round of consultation with experts and ministries, to figure out a policy for the development of the semiconductor business. The consultations have been held over several rounds, and ministries and organizations are now thought to be quite close to reaching an agreement on the guideline. In 2000, China announced a guideline to encourage the development of the semiconductor and software industries, but plans for a value-added tax (VAT) reduction sparked angry complaints from the United States, Japan and the European Union. The guideline said the VAT burden of semiconductor companies in China should not exceed 3 percent, but it was believed to give an unfair advantage to domestic products over imported products, which are required to pay 17 percent VAT. Although China claimed the actual tax burden was different to the tax rate, the government agreed to scrap the proposed VAT reduction.

However, semiconductors, known as the heart of modern technology, are such a high priority that since 2004 the government has been considering new measures to support the semiconductor industry, without infringing the World Trade Organization's principles. Li said yesterday that there are several drafts of the new measures and the government wants to formulate a mid-term plan for the industry, which will guide it over the coming five years. One key component is a business income tax exemption and reduction. Under the current Chinese taxation system, foreign-invested companies pay no income tax in the first two years after they begin to make a profit. In the next three years, the income tax rate is halved. The new proposal says semiconductor companies will not need to pay income tax for the first five years after they become profitable, and will only pay half their income taxes over the next five years. Yang Xueming, a member of the team drafting the 2000 guideline, said financial support for research and development is another targeted area. China has already set up a 500 million yuan (US$62.5 million) fund to help semiconductor companies' research. The proposals also include research loans, or using research expenditure to offset taxes.

Richard Chang, president and CEO of Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International, the biggest semiconductor company on the Chinese mainland, said China could learn from the Taiwan Province, where the government gave financial assistance to research and development. He added the government should also tempt experts from overseas to work in China with income tax reductions. Other proposed policies include allowing tax reductions on imported equipment, or setting up a special fund for integrated circuit design. Yang estimated that China still needs 200 billion yuan (US$25 billion) of investment in the semiconductor industry before 2010, so the Government should also work out a plan to help companies get financial backing, as the semiconductor industry, especially manufacturing, is a cash-thirsty business.


From http://www.china.org.cn/07/20/2006


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20 Mainland Firms Among 500 Largest

Twenty Chinese mainland companies, including four newcomers, rank among the 500 largest firms in the world as listed in Fortune magazine's latest Global 500 published on Wednesday. China's three largest state-owned construction firms ascend to the list for the first time, with China Railway Engineering ranking 441, China Railway Construction 485, and China State Construction 486. Shanghai Automotive, at 475, is another new firm and the second Chinese auto maker on the list. China First Automotive secures its place, but drops from 448 last year to 470. All the Chinese mainland firms on last year's list maintain their places this year, with most moving up in ranking. Sinopec, rising from 31 to 23, remains the largest Chinese company on the list. State Grid, up from 40 to 32, and China National Petroleum, up from 46 to 39, retain second and third Chinese placings respectively.The four state-owned commercial banks of China move up substantially on the list from the previous year. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China jumps from 299 to 199, the Bank of China from 399 to 255, China Construction Bank from 315 to 277, and the Agricultural Bank of China from 397 to 377. Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa also rose from 347 to 259. The Fortune Global 500 also includes three companies from Taiwan Province of China. According to Fortune magazine, five of the top 10 companies on the list came from the oil industry. US-based Exxon Mobil, with 339.94 billion US dollars in revenue, overtakes Wal-Mart Stores as the world's largest company.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/05/14/2006


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JAPAN: Population Now World's Grayest

The proportion of people age 65 and older in Japan reached the world's highest at 21 percent in 2005, surpassing Italy's 20 percent, the government said Friday in a preliminary report. At the same time, the percentage of people under 15 in the total population hit the world's lowest at 13.6 percent, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said. For both men and women, the percentage of unmarried people went up in all groups age 20 to 64, the report says. The preliminary figures were obtained by tallying 1 percent of survey samples collected from every village, town or city. The report underscores the steady aging of Japanese society with its shrinking child population. It is also the first time the percentage of elderly topped the 20 percent threshold. In 1960, 30.2 percent of the population was under age 15, while only 5.7 percent were age 65 or older. According to the preliminary report, of Japan's total population of 127.76 million, the elderly account for 26.82 million, up 3.7 percentage points from the previous census in 2000. On the other hand, the number of people under age 15 decreased 1 percentage point from the previous census to the record low 13.6 percent. By prefecture, Akita has the highest proportion of elderly, at 28.1 percent, followed by Shimane at 28 percent and Kochi at 27.1 percent. Saitama had the lowest proportion of elderly, at 16.9 percent, followed by Kanagawa, at 17.3 percent, and Okinawa, at 17.4 percent.

Since the previous census, the proportion of elderly increased in all 47 prefectures, with Nara seeing the largest rise, of 5 percentage points. Meanwhile, the number of elderly living alone totaled 4.05 million, topping the 4 million mark for the first time since the census began in 1920. The average number of family members per household also hit a record low 2.6. The proportion of unmarried women was 59.9 percent in the age 25-29 bracket, up 5.9 percentage points from the previous census, showing that roughly three out of five women in this bracket are unmarried. The proportion was 32.6 percent among those age 30 to 34. The proportion of unmarried men was 47.7 percent among the age 30-34 bracket, up 4.8 percentage points, and 30.9 percent among 35- to 39-year-olds, up 5.2 points. Observers say Japan needs to redesign national pension and health insurance programs according to the changing population structure. Because the current system depends on revenues from the working generation, many do not trust the system and refuse to pay premiums.

From The Japan Times 07/01/2006


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Manufacturing, Construction Workforce Down to 1965 Levels

The number of mining, manufacturing and construction workers has reverted to mid-1960s levels, according to a preliminary report on the 2005 census the government released last week. The drop in the so-called secondary sector is being caused partly by the shifting of production overseas and accelerated workforce reductions, the report says. The secondary sector, which covers the mining, manufacturing and construction industries, had 15.93 million workers in 2005, down 14.2 percent from 2000, when the previous census was conducted, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. In 1965, the sector employed 15.12 million, it said. The number of workers in the sector exceeded 20 million in the 1990s, but has dropped because Japanese manufacturers have been transferring operations overseas. Manufacturers therefore accounted for 10.46 million workers in 2005, down 12.8 percent from 2000. The number of construction workers also suffered a sharp drop, slumping 14.4 percent to 5.43 million. Although workforce reductions have prompted many manufacturers to farm out entire operations to contract workers, employees of the contractors are being classified as service industry workers, thus part of the tertiary sector. Hisashi Yamada, a senior economist at Japan Research Institute, a private think tank, warned that the sharp drop in skilled laborers will make it impossible for future employees to upgrade their manufacturing skills, which he called the very base of Japanese competitiveness.


From The Japan Times 07/06/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Online Health Consultation Service for Foreign Workers Begins

Foreign workers in Korea will be able to consult with experts about health and safety conditions regarding their working environment through various means from July 6. The Ministry of Labor and the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) Wednesday announced that to prevent and reduce foreign workers' occupational health and safety problems, they will operate a consultation service via the Internet, fax and telephone from Thursday. ``Due to language barriers and their social status, foreign workers have experienced difficulty in getting access to information related to preventing occupational disease or safety problems,'' KOSHA spokesman, Park Kil-sang, said. ``Especially for the convenience of foreign workers, the online service will allow them to submit their questions under anonymity.'' The web address is www.kosha.or.kr/foreignworkers. The fax number is (032) 5100-718 and the telephone numbers are and (032) 5100-718/719/720. The service will mainly inform workers of whether chemicals used in a particular workplace are harmful, while providing knowledge on health problems and symptoms caused from a worker's work environment. Foreigners can use the consultation service with only Korean and English languages recommended.

From http://times.hankooki.com 07/05/2006


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Medical Officials Warn Travelers of Health Risks

As international travel increases, a growing number of travelers have been contracting infectious diseases, a state-run health agency said Thursday. The Korea Center for Disease Control & Prevention yesterday urged overseas travelers to take preventative measures against infectious disease, pointing out that in the past three years an increasing number have contracted infectious diseases or diarrhea symptoms while traveling abroad. While the number of people going abroad increased only 14.1 percent from 2004 to 2005, the number who caught infectious diseases abroad increased as much as 44.1 percent. As of June, five tourists had contracted cholera whereas there was only one case in 2004. Typhoid, paratyphoid and malaria infections are steadily increasing too. Last year, the countries where travelers contracted infectious diseases most were India and the Philippines with 27 people each, followed by Indonesia, China, Cambodia and Thailand. The agency said it is important to be fully aware of diseases before traveling and to take precautions such as frequently washing one*s hands, drinking boiled water and taking care not to be bitten by mosquitoes when heading for South East Asian or tropical countries. To help prevent malaria, preventive medicines and medical advice are vital. Information on preventing infectious diseases while traveling overseas is provided through the Internet website http://dis.cdc.go.kr.


From http://times.hankooki.com 07/06/2006


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Mutual Banks Expand with Mergers and Acquisitions

Korea's mutual savings banks are gradually expanding their presence in the local financial market as they beef up business with mergers and acquisitions. Now many mutual savings banks' assets exceed those of regional banks. According to the Korea Federation of Savings Banks, the total assets of Solomon Mutual Savings Bank, the nation's biggest single mutual savings bank, was 2.4 trillion won ($2.5 billion). That is more than the assets of Jeju Bank, one of the nation's regional banks. Korea Mutual Savings Bank Group, a group of Korea Mutual Savings Bank, Junheung Mutual Savings Bank Co. and Gyeonggi Mutual Savings Bank, has total assets of 4.2 trillion won, not far behind Jeonbuk Bank at 5.2 trillion won. Korea's mutual savings banks face heavier consumer protection measures and other regulations than local commercial banks because mutual savings banks write riskier loans than big commercial banks. In addition, a mutual savings bank is prohibited from establishing branches across more than one province. To get around those obstacles, mutal banks may acquire industry peers in other regions. For instance, Solomon Mutual Savings Bank took over ailing Hanmaeum Mutual Savings Bank last year, renaming it Busan Solomon Mutual Savings Bank. Solomon also took over its struggling industry peer, Nara Mutual Savings Bank, last May and renamed it Honam Solomon Mutual Savings Bank. "Although Busan Solomon and Honam Solomon are still separate legal entities from Solomon Mutual Savings Bank, Solomon can operate business across three regions by taking advantage of its two new subsidiary banks," a local bank representative said.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com07/21/2006


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MONGOLIA: Internet Center Opened in Soum

The Internet center--now the second one--been opened by the Agricultural Bank of Mongolia in Gurvansaikhan soum, Dundgobi Province. The project on opening the center was initiated by the Bank and was carried out by the Incomnet cmpany at the supports by the US Peace Corps and the soum s Governor Office. The project was first time implemented in September 2005 in Battsengel soum, Arkhangai Province. The aim of the project is clear--to offer low-priced Internet services to the locals. "We plan to set up such centers in many places in 2006", the AG Bank IT Department Director D.Enkhbold says. G.Sainbayar

From http://www.montsame.mn07/03/2006


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Top 100 Enterprises Nominated

The fifth nomination of top 100 enterprises has been held. The Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Government conducted the nomination. The main goal of the measure was to value the top enterprises contribution to this year s economic and social development and to increase their business reputation. Besides the top 100, were selected other 50 enterprises that have introduced definite contribution to the development of economy and business. On July 6, certificates will be granted to these enterprises.


From http://www.montsame.mn07/04/2006


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Loan to Help Reform Mongolia's Education System

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB will help boost job prospects for graduates in Mongolia through a $13 million loan to improve the quality and relevance of education. The Government is extending the country's education system from the current 10-year program to a 12-year system in 2008, in line with international standards. The project will therefore develop a new national curriculum framework for the new system and strengthen standards, as well as improve training and establish an accreditation system for teachers. ※Education is perceived to be an important vehicle to reduce poverty and promote human development,§ says Wolfgang Kubitzki, an ADB Project Economist. ※However, the country*s education system is constrained by the limited capacity and poor condition of school facilities and outdated education programs. As a result, graduates have difficulty finding jobs.§ The project will improve teaching and learning environments in primary and secondary schools by rehabilitating facilities and providing furniture and educational equipment in about 45 schools. At least 30 schools will also be upgraded with ICT equipment and other teaching facilities to serve as models for effective teaching. Nationwide, about 560,000 students 每 including about 21,000 students from poor families 每 will benefit from the improved curriculum, well-defined education standards, and enhanced assessment systems, while about 21,400 teachers throughout the country will benefit from in-service teacher training programs.

The project will also rehabilitate and modernize six institutions to serve as models for vocational education, benefiting about 21,900 vocational students. ※Graduates of vocational and technical education institutions entering the labor force will soon possess knowledge and skills in line with industry requirements, contribute to higher labor productivity, and increase economic growth,§ adds Mr. Kubitzki. ADB has been supporting work in Mongolia*s education sector since the early 1990s. The loan is the third in a series following one, approved in 1996, to support fundamental policy reforms and a second, approved in 2002, focused on school and kindergarten rehabilitation, provision of learning materials, and limited support in curriculum development and teacher training. To accompany the project, a $150,000 technical assistance grant will help strengthen the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and enable it to set up a sector wide approach in the education sector. The total cost of the project is estimated at $16.4 million, of which the Government of Mongolia will shoulder $3.4 million. The German Agency for Technical Cooperation and UNICEF will provide $600,000 and $90,000 grants, respectively, for consulting inputs. ADB*s loan comes from its concessional Asian Development Fund. It carries a 32-year term, including a grace period of 8 years, and interest charge of 1% per annum during the grace period, and 1.5% thereafter. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences is the executing agency for the project, which will be carried out over five years to September 2011.


From http://www.adb.org07/11/2006


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INDONESIA: Govt to Issue New License for Int'l Call Services

The government plans to allow another telecommunications company to provide direct international call services in competition with the two existing operators, PT Indosat and PT Telkom Indonesia. Information and Communications Minister Sofyan Djalil said in Jakarta on Tuesday that the new license would be sold by way of auction to an existing telecommunications firm. "But, as the issuance of the new license is aimed at reducing Internet bandwidth tariffs, the license will only be given to a company willing to develop a fiber-optic network connecting Indonesia and other countries," he said after inaugurating a new Information Access Center (IAC) at the head office of state postal services operator PT Pos Indonesia. He said that existing telecommunications companies would be allowed to participate in the auction. However, he added that the government would give priority to firms with large customer bases. In Indonesia, 50 percent of Internet access uses global bandwidth. Sofyan said that if Indonesia had fiber-optic connections to countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, bandwidth tariffs could be reduced. For example, the bandwidth tariff in Indonesia (using Telkom's Speedy service) was about Rp 300,000 (about US$32) for internet use of 500 megabytes per month, with a connection speed of 20 kilobytes per second, while in Australia customers could access unlimited bandwidth for only $45 per month. Sofyan said that the government was making serious efforts to increase Internet access in Indonesia.

According to figures supplied by the Indonesian Association of Internet Providers, 16 million people in Indonesia currently have access to the Internet. Sofyan also said that a new joint venture between local and foreign companies would build an undersea communications network connecting Java and other islands in Indonesia. "We will sign an agreement with the joint venture next week," he said. However, he did not name the companies. The Information Access Center (IAC) was developed using a design produced by the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion (KADO), which donated 55 linked personal computers and one server worth Rp 5 billion, with broadband Internet access facilitated by Wasantara.net. The center consists of an Internet lounge, seminar room, business center and workshops. Sofyan said that this integrated model should serve as an example for other internet and telephone rental providers throughout Indonesia.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/07/10/2006


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House to Debate Draft Law on Electronic Transactions

It has been said that the wheels of the market turn on an invisible track called trust. Especially so in Indonesia where there are no laws to protect consumers from electronic errors made by banks, automatic teller machines or through Internet banking. While the wheels run smoothly most of the time -- on trust, between banks and customers and between different financial institutions, the lack of these laws can cause problems. Their absence mean that most people here are unable to buy goods and services over the Internet using local credit cards, because the electronic systems used here are not judged to be safe enough by most overseas financial institutions. To overcome this problem, the government recently proposed a Law on Information and Electronic Transactions to the House of Representatives. The draft that is currently being discussed by a House special committee will spell out the standard legal grounds for all electronic transactions and allow the country's banks to meet overseas requirements. It would make all transactions and all persons or institutions involved in electronic transactions subject to the law, and ensure these transactions are legally protected. Two years in the making, the draft clearly defines terms such as information technology, computers and electronic information, signatures, and certificates -- all requirements for international certification.

It would also create a certification body to trust mark all companies involved in electronic transactions, and with the power to audit errant firms. House committee head Soeparlan told The Jakarta Post last week the committee had distributed the draft bill to the business community and wider public and had already received numerous responses. "We have summoned several important institutions and community groups to hear what they have to say about the draft. Their input will help us to formulate the final resolution of the law," he said after a hearing with officials from the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX). Soeparlan said the law would help meet the public demand for goods and services bought electronically and would be an important way to gain the trust of foreign investors and generate more inter-market transactions with local bourses. JSX chairman Erry Firmansyah said the contents of the draft would largely accommodate the demands of capital markets but said there were still some flexibility issues that needed to be addressed. "Information technology is advancing rapidly. Therefore, I suggest the regulation be designed in a way so it can adapt to new technological advancements," Erry said. He said the capital markets were currently implementing the Straight-Through Processing (STP) system, an advanced stock trading system that was more efficient, low cost and could accommodate higher transaction volumes. Soeparlan said the JSX was the last group the government would consult. He said the committee would recess before taking the draft law to a House plenary session next month.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/07/17/2006


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MALAYSIA: Jobless ICT Grads Took Outdated Courses

The majority of the 20,217 registered unemployed graduates in the country are those who took Information Communications Technology (ICT) courses in local institutions of higher learning. They are jobless because what they had learnt has become obsolete. Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said the courses they studied were not the latest because the institutions had not kept up with changing technology and job market requirements. Stating that such graduates had to upgrade themselves to meet current demands, he added that the Government was also having dialogues with various institutions including the Higher Education Ministry to solve the problem of outdated syllabus. It is learnt that 67% of the jobless graduates studied in public universities and 33% at private institutions. Dr Fong said that many potential employers dealing with ICT had called the Human Resources Ministry, seeking graduates who took certified professional software development courses under the ministry*s Graduate Retraining Scheme. The scheme offered ICT courses that were in accordance with what ICT-based companies wanted, he added. ※The demand is very good. These companies want people in the hundreds at any one time,§ he told reporters after a post-Cabinet meeting at his ministry here yesterday. Dr Fong also said that many graduates did not know how to get information on job vacancies advertised in the ministry*s electronic labour exchange. He said the electronic kiosks would now be placed at places frequented by youths such as shopping complexes.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 07/06/2006


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State Govt in Pact with AGC to Develop Wireless Perak

The Perak government expects 60% of the populated areas in the state will go wireless in September, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali. With Perak's own Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) in place and businesses coming in, the state was expected to become the next regional hub for telecommunication services, he told a press conference yesterday. He said the Perak MSC, located at Meru, Ipoh, was expected to be launched in September by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. ※We hope he will also launch Wireless Perak then,§ said Tajol Rosli, adding that about RM24mil was invested to establish the Perak MSC. Wireless Perak will be managed by Asia Gateway Communications (AGC), which owns wireless broadband solutions provider Red Snapper. Following yesterday's signing of an agreement with AGC, Perak State Economic Development Corp (SEDC) now owns 40% equity stake in the company, which is slated to be the flagship enterprise for Perak MSC. Tajol Rosli said AGC would be allowed to use SEDC's Perak Techno Trade Centre and two pieces of land totalling 22 acres for its future business. §When the service is fully deployed, it will allow users to have Internet access everywhere in Perak,§ he said. AGC chief executive officer Braham Singh said the company expected the wireless project to contribute US$10mil to revenue in its first year of operation and about US$100mil within the next five to 10 years.


From http://thestar.com.my07/14/2006


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PHILIPPINES: State Softens Stance on iTV Fee Payment

The Prime Minister's Office yesterday appeared to compromise on the iTV concession dispute, saying it was now awaiting a ruling from the Office of the Attorney-General on how much the television station must pay in back-dated fees. Yesterday iTV Plc paid a 230-million-baht annual fee to the PM's Office as required in the concession contract dated July 3, 1995. The management maintained the Administrative Court's ruling on increasing the annual fee was not yet in effect. The Administrative Court last month overruled an arbitration panel's decision in 2004 which cut iTV's concession fee from one billion baht to 230 million baht a year and altered the news-to-entertainment ratio from 70:30 to 50:50. PM's Office permanent secretary Rongpol Charoenpan said iTV could not be forced to pay the higher concession fee at this time. "We have to wait. Right now we still don't know how big a fine the company is liable to," he said. There were also certain dubious points in the concession contract. The attorney-general had been asked to make a ruling on the fee and the Council of State would be asked to review the whole contract.

Mr Rongpol said the new committee set up to look into the concession dispute by caretaker Minister of the Prime Minister's Office Newin Chidchob had not yet discussed the matter with him. The office earlier calculated overdue concession fees over 20 years at 20 billion baht, but iTV argues the fine should be substantially lower, at 100 million baht a year. The TV station may also be subject to a penalty for having changed its news programming ratio. The concession dispute has gone to the Supreme Administrative Court after iTV appealed the lower court's ruling. Somkiat Tangkitvanich, director of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the reaction of the PM's Office could be reflected in the fine imposed on iTV. "It's rather fishy from the beginning that the PM's Office sent a letter informing iTV about the fine, but did not set a deadline for a reply," he said. "Usually the office has to set a clear deadline for a response." Jon Ungpakorn, outgoing Bangkok senator and chairman of a campaign for independent television, wondered why the government agency initially insisted on an actual amount that iTV was obliged to pay. Mr Jon believed political influence was being brought to bear on the dispute. "From now on, all the government's procedures will be in favour of iTV, not in the best interests of the public," he said. Mr Jon planned to call a meeting of representatives of the people's sector, including the mass media, to look into this issue next week.


From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/07/04/2006


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SINGAPORE: New Web-Based Digital Tidal Atlas Launched

SINGAPORE : Homegrown company Info@SEA has unveiled a Digital Tidal Atlas that can to provide timely information about tides and currents in Singapore waters. This Web service, the world's first, can in turn help ship and berth operators save time and money. The newly-launched company is a joint venture of the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore and its two European partners, British Maritime Technology and Denmark-based DHI Water and Environment. The Digital Tidal Atlas can give ship and berth operators timely information on tides and currents, with a 10-minute time delay. Its creators say this is a marked improvement over a bi-annual tide timetable book. Said Mark Womersley of BMT Asia Pacific, "For large ships, for terminals it's difficult for them to get detailed predictions of the water movement hour by hour, minute by minute. The industry has been extremely interested in what we've been doing. They've also been part of the process of what we've been doing." The project costs SS$1 million and has taken two years to develop. The online portal relies on underwater sensors and hydraulic formulas to calculate tidal conditions.

It has applications in search and rescue missions; search areas can be narrowed because of more accurate and timely data on current and flow direction. It is also expected to save fuel costs for ships and turnaround time at docks. Said Donald D'Cruz, CEO of Info@SEA, "Ship captains have to make a certain time at the pilot station. If he does not make the berth on time, penalties may be imposed on the ship because contain cranes are waiting, the berth is empty and there is a lot of cost involved. Secondly, he saves fuel because he doesn't have to burn excessive fuel to get there on time." The next logical step for Info@SEA is to do tidal forecasts over larger stretches of waters. It expects to work with marine authorities in neighbouring countries to do more research and development. It also plans to explore other technologies, like satellite, to complement the measurements from its underwater sensors. For a start, the online tidal almanac can only be used to check the currents in Singapore, but there are plans to expand its coverage to China and Australia.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/05/2006


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Singapore Signs Latest UN Convention to Boost E-Commerce

Electronic commerce in Singapore will now benefit from even greater legal and business certainties after Singapore signed the latest Convention by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on Thursday. The Convention was signed by Mr Vanu Gopalan Menon, Singapore's UN Permanent Representative in New York. The Convention, which Singapore played a part in developing, aims to further facilitate electronic commerce by building upon earlier UNCITRAL instruments such as the Model Law on Electronic Commerce. Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to base its Electronic Transactions Act (ETA) on this Model in 1998. The Information, Communications and The Arts Ministry says the signing reaffirms Singapore's commitment to establish itself as a trusted hub for electronic commerce, by aligning its ETA with international standards. Extensive public consultations were carried out in a review of Singapore's ETA with a view to adopting the Convention. The Ministry says a final consultation on the proposed amendments to the ETA will be conducted shortly.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 07/06/2006


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Singapore's Call Centres Ranked No 2

Singapore was rated as the overall No 2 performer in a recent study on contact centres in the Asia-Pacific region. The Aspect Contact Center Index, a study developed by callcentres.net for Aspect Software, assesses the performance of call centres across categories such as customer service, sales, revenue, operations, technology and human resource. The study covers all industry segments in India, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. South Korea and Singapore led the pack with scores of 75 and 71 respectively while relatively new entrants like Malaysia and Thailand scored 65 and 59 respectively. India and the Philippines, markets that have higher levels of outsourced contact centres, scored 64 and 66 respectively. Singapore's good placing was brought about by high scores in areas such as productivity, first call resolution rates, right party connect, sales conversion rates and low staff turnover rates. Although outsourced markets like India and the Philippines were placed low in the index, these markets saw the highest growth in profitability and revenue generation. Apart from their competitive wages, Dr Catriona Wallace, managing director of callcentres.net, explained that outsourced contact centres have a "significantly higher level of advanced technologies", which might provide cost savings.

The study pointed out that high turnover rates and agent absenteeism were some common problems plaguing the call centre industry in some countries. These were attributed to low wages and limited career advancements. However, the conclusions from the study suggest that the industry is aware of such shortcomings caused by the lack of initiatives in human resources. Mr Pramod Ratwani, vice-president of Aspect Software (Asia-Pacific and Middle East), noted that call centres are working on solutions to address the challenges faced in human resources. These solutions include "improving internal processes and investing in technology" to improve productivity and customer satisfaction. Technologies such as workforce management and quality monitoring software saw the highest usage among call centres, with the latter scoring the highest usage of 58 per cent among call centres. Dr Wallace also noted that "training and the implementation of new technology were two key initiatives that encouraged growth in all call centres".


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/07/11/2006


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Subordinate Courts Harnesses Technology to Improve Court System

The Subordinate Courts is looking to harness the latest innovations in technology to improve the court system. That is the idea behind iCourt, in which the Subordinate Courts is working with industry partners to implement technology like 3G mobile. The 3G application allows participants in court, like lawyers, to contribute to a case while on the move. The court wants to use the technology to reduce costs and improve communication. The 3G system, which will be integrated with a video conferencing facility, is due to be in use by next year. The Subordinate Courts and its partners will test the technology with the aim of putting it on the market. Said Senior District Judge Richard Magnus, "The outcome must be therefore beneficial to the justice system and process. And we realise there is a need to be of comparative advantage to our stakeholders. especially continue to be valuable and sustainable by the industry. I think therefore there is a recognition that this is going to be commercially driven." Another product the iCourt will be testing is the Mobile Barcode. The technology enables users to find out information like court time and number by taking a photo on their mobile phone of the barcode, which has an Internet link.

You will have to scroll to the link in order to download the information required. Among the other products being tested is the FTR Link, which provides tools like a digital audio recording function, so audio recordings of the proceedings can be copied and shared. And the system comes with an electronic pen, so that judges and court officers can link notes and take down court proceedings. Said District Judge Toh Han Li, "What we want to do is to be a catalyst for the private sector to see how they can apply their technologies to the justice sector. They may have a very good product but they may not understand how things work in a court. So by bringing them into the lab it is really a win-win solution." The Subordinate Courts plans to have some of the applications ready by the end of this year.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/07/19/2006


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THAILAND: Judging Begins for ICT Awards

Teams of judges are now reviewing over 130 entries in the 2006 Thailand ICT Awards (TICTA), with the next round of judging to take place during the Bangkok ICT Expo in early August. A total of 137 entries, the highest number ever, are in 15 categories, spanning applications across all industry sectors along with categories for student projects, start-up companies and one for research and development. This year is the fourth time these awards are being staged by the Ministry of ICT, the Software Industy Promotion Agency (SIPA) and the Association of Thai Computer Industry (ATCI) and they are limited to locally-developed software that allows for a maximum of 25% of the code to be foreign modules. Last week and this week separate teams of three to four judges for each category were reviewing presentations and engaging in a question and answer session lasting a total of 35 minutes for each entry. There will be a trophy for the winner in each of the 15 categories, along with awards for two runners-up as well as a prize for the most popular vote.

The final judging will take place on August 31 at TICTA Award Night 2006 and the winner in each category will have the opportunity to travel to Macau for the Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA 2006) in early November. Most participants will have a booth at the ICT Expo August 2-6. Judges will score the entries for their uniqueness, proof of concept, functionality and for the quality of the software presentation, with points for the presentations as well. Presiding over the team of judges is ICT Minister Dr Suchai Charoenratanakul while his deputy is Software Industry Promotion Agency president Manoo Oradeedolchest. The categories comprise application and infrastructure tools, communication applications, education and training, e-government and services, financial applications, general applications, healthcare, industry applications, media and entertainment, research and development, secondary school projects, security, start-up company, tertiary student projects and tourism and hospitality.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/07/19/2006


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Thai ICT Events and Training

PALA and Install Asia 2006 will be held on July 20-22 at Royal Paragon Hall, 5th floor, Siam Paragon. The event highlights include a Smart Home Installation Area, Digital Studio Showcase, Station PALA Powered By Gen-X Academy and a large LED screen - 6 metres x 3 metres - which will be displaying live feeds of show activities from the three exhibition halls, beamed onto the screen in realtime.
Information: 02-632-6728-9 and http://www.palaonline.com

Bangkok International ICT Expo 2006 will be staged on August 2-6 at the Challenger Hall 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani.
Information: 02-505-7370, 02-663-3226 ext 64.

TRAINING
National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec) will hold a series of training courses as follows:
- PC Cloning & Data Backup on July 21
- Linux System Administration on July 24-26
- Digital Document Creation Techniques on July 24-26
- Designing and Implementing Databases with Microsoft SQL Server 2000 on July 24-28
- Developing Portal ASP.NET Web Application by Example Using ASP.NET, VB.NET and VS.NET on July 24-28
- Advanced Crystal Report Using ASP.NET (VB.NET) for Web Applications on July 24-28
- Advanced JAVA Servlet and JSP for Web Application Development (J2EE) Level II - Advanced Web Applications on July 2 24-28
- Fundamentals of Wireless LAN Security on July 27-28
- Network Management, Monitoring and Troubleshooting Workshop on July 31
- Java Application & Applet Programming (J2SE) Level I - Basic Application Programming on July 31
- Macromedia Flash MX 2004 Application for e-Learning on July 31
- Fundamentals of Visual Basic 6.0 on July 31-August 4
Information: Khun Samanya at 02-642-5001-10 ext. 123, fax: 02-642-5014 or web site http://www.nectec.or.th/ite.

ACIS Professional Centre will hold a training course on Intrusion and Log Analysis In-depth on July 24-26
Registration and information: 02- 650-5771. Email: wittaya@acisonline.net, or http://www.acisonline.net.
Aptech-Arena will organise a series of training courses as follows: - 3D World with 3D Animation on July 19
- VDO Editing with Adobe Premier Level-1 on July 19, 21
- VDO Editing with Adobe Premier Level-2 on July 26, 28
- ASP.NET (with VB.Net) on July 6, 7, 11
- ASP.NET (with C#) on July 6, 7, 11
- Oracle SQL & PL-SQL on July 4, 7, 11, 12, 14
- Oracle Database Administration I on July 19, 20, 21
- Oracle Database Administration II on July 24, 25, 27, 28
- 3D Studio Max (Character Design & Animation) Level 1 on July 28, 29, 30
Information: 02-654-4900 ext. 102, 104, 107, 114 or email: training@aptech.co.th


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/07/19/2006


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VIET NAM: Estimated 45% Expected to Live in Cities by 2020

HA NOI 〞 The total amount of people living in Viet Nam*s urban areas is projected to reach 30.4 million by 2010 and it is estimated that there will be 46 million urban dwellers by 2020. The urbanisation rate is expected to increase to 33 per cent by 2010 and 45 per cent by 2020. In 2000, 19 million of the country*s 80 million people lived in urban areas, with an urbanisation rate of 22 per cent. In that year, urban land accounted for 63,300 ha, or about 0.2 per cent of the country*s total area. The figure is expected to rise to 243,000 ha or 0.74 per cent by 2010 and to 460,000 ha, or 1.4 per cent, by 2020. Director of the Centre for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Professor Dr. Le Hong Ke said that Viet Nam had formulated specific policies on infrastructure development in its socio-economic development strategy. These included water supply and sewage systems, electricity and post and telecommunications, particularly those at the national, regional and provincial levels. Ke said that a good plan for future development was an important factor in shaping a sound urbanisation process.

Urbanisation was part and parcel of the country*s industrialisation and .modernisation, he said. However, the urbanisation process has further widened the development gap between urban and rural areas. He said that the flow of migrants from rural to urban areas had put pressure on the already poor infrastructure in major cities. This was also one of the factors driving property prices in urban areas to "artificial" heights. Ke was appreciative of the Government*s policies to give special treatment to project developers involved in infrastructure construction with concession credit schemes through Official Development Assistance (ODA), or the State budget. Ke said that most of the funding for the country*s infrastructure system came from ODA funds. Ke said that Viet Nam had set the target to irradicate slum dwellings in urban areas by 2020. Following that dictum, while building many more new towns, Viet Nam was paying attention to restoring or upgrading old streets, residential areas and slums. Ke said that any urban development plan had to, under the master plan for urban development by 2020 and the sustainable development strategy, satisfy the three conditions of establishing good living, work and relaxation environments. Sustainable urbanisation, Ke said, should be understood as a combination of sustainable development between the economy, society and eco-biological environmental sustainability.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/07/08/2003


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Govt to Help Business Develop IT, E-Commerce

HA NOI 〞 The Government has approved a plan submitted by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry to support Vietnamese enterprises in applying information technology. The Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and relevant sectors would carry out the plan to help enterprises through the year 2010, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, in building data and applying information technology (IT) in production and business with the goal to improve competitiveness in a period of economic integration into the world market, the VCCI said. The plan would also boost development of the IT sector and the process of industrialisation and modernisation in Viet Nam. Under the plan, enterprises would receive consulting on suitable IT solutions for their business needs, as well as IT training courses for the enterprises* workers, and economic information for the enterprises. Seminars and exhibitions would be held to bring product introduction and opportunities to exchange experiences to the businesses. The plan would also help enterprises implement e-commerce activities by helping them build websites to show products and services on the internet and connect with world markets. The VCCI will also conduct surveys of IT application in enterprises as well as study IT application in some foreign countries to help the Government in building policies applicable to the domestic business community.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/07/08/2006


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Poor to Benefit from New BRAC Micro Credit

Speakers at a conference said about 40 per cent of the population of the country, who are living under the poverty level, would get benefit from BRAC micro-credit securitisation programme. The investors' conference on 'BRAC Securitisation' was held at the Conference Room of Citibank in the city yesterday. Citibank, NA Bangladesh, a global financial service company, organised the conference with support from the City Bank Ltd and Pubali Bank Ltd. Mamun Rashid, Citigroup Country Officer, Robert Annibale, Global Director of Citigroup Micro-finance Group, Helal Ahmed Chowdhury, Additional Managing Director of Pubali Bank Ltd, Abbas Uddin Ahmed, Managing Director of the City Bank Ltd, among others, were present at the conference. Speakers said the main objective of the conference was to highlight all the opportunities that the investors could take to bring about changes in the economy through securitisation. All banks should come forward for alleviating poverty from the country and people who are living under the poverty level would get loan easily under the micro credit securitisation for their future development, they also said. Under the programme Bangladesh would continue and collaborate in the banking sector around the world, they added. Through the launch of BRAC micro-credit securitisation, the world has come to see the first rated innovative transaction for the micro-finance sector in the founding country of micro-credit.


From The New Nation 07/07/2006


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GSM Users Reach 78.5 Million

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents India's nine GSM mobile operators, says the country's GSM customer base reached 78.5 million at the end of June. Monthly data for June for subscribers on the rival CDMA platform have not yet been released. There were 90.14 million GSM and CDMA mobile users in India at the end of March.


From
http://www.telegeography.com/07/10/2006


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New Amended IT Act to Book Cyber Criminals

The Information Technology Act, 2000 is being amended with a view to provide legal frame work for certain types of cyber crimes such as data theft, transmission of images, video voyeurism, etc. The major cyber crimes reported in India are denial of services, defacement of websites, SPAM, computer virus and worms, pornography, cyber squatting, cyber stalking and phishing. The amended Act will further envisage to appoint an examiner to examine the digital evidence and render all necessary assistant to the Police authorities, as well as to the courts. Due to lack of training of the Police officials in the field, many of the cyber crimes in the country are booked under Indian Penal Code, rather than Information Technology Act. This was stated by Shri Dayanidhi Maran, Minister of Communications & Information Technology while speaking at the seminar on ※Cyber Crime: Today and Tomorrow§, organised by NASSCOM, here today. Speaking further on the theme of the subject, Shri Maran said that while the computers are used to commit acts of blue-collared crimes such as pornography, threatening e-mail, defamation, etc., the same computers are made the target of crime in the form of viruses, worms, industrial espionage, software piracy and hacking of websites, etc. Websites with the addresses 每 co.in and gov.in mostly fall prey to the targets as about 1400 Indian websites have been attacked in the first half of this year alone. The intrusion originates both from within the country and outside the country, Shri Maran said. 55% per cent of such threats are from outside, he added. The Minister further said that the Government on its part has taken a number of initiatives. Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is operational and provides necessary assistance to prevent security breaches. It also regularly monitors cyber security scenario in the country to protect critical information infrastructure. It has proposed to impart training in the field from the 3rd week of August. The Minister lauded the NASSCOM*s initiative ofA?1?????c?t?????unemploya?谷“????? creating an industry-wise Registry of IT professionals. Shri Kiran Karnik, President NASSCOM and Shri Pradeep Udhas, Executive Director, KPMG India also addressed the Seminar.

From http://pib.nic.in/07/12/2006


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INDIA: 166 Million Socially Marginalized: Indian Government

New Delhi: More than 166 million of India's one billion plus population belong to the scheduled castes or socially marginalized groups, an official statement Tuesday said. Quoting from the 2001 Census, a labour ministry statement said Uttar Pradesh had the largest number of scheduled castes, with more than 35 million from this category followed by Bihar with 13 million. The scheduled caste populations of other states are: Andhra Pradesh 12.3 million, Arunachal Pradesh 6,188, Assam 1.8 million, Chhattisgarh 418,722, Goa 23,791, Gujarat 3.5 million, Haryana four million, Himachal Pradesh 1.5 million, Jharkhand 3.1 million, and Jammu and Kashmir 770,155. Karnataka has a scheduled caste population of 8.5 million, Kerala 3.1 million, Madhya Pradesh 9.1 million, Maharashtra 9.8 million, Manipur 60,037, Meghalaya 11,139, Mizoram 272, Nagaland nil, Orissa 6.2 million, Punjab seven million, Rajasthan 9.6, Sikkim 27,165, Tamil Nadu 11.8, Tripura 555,724, Uttaranchal 1.5 million and West Bengal 18.4 million. Among the union territories Delhi has a scheduled caste population of 2.3 million, Chandigarh 157,597 and Pondicherry 157,771. Scheduled caste is the official name for the Dalits, the so-called untouchables. People from scheduled caste backgrounds are accorded special status, including reservations in educational institutions and government jobs.


From newkerala.com 07/04/2006


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SRI LANKA: Economic Growth Exceeds 8 Per Cent

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan economy expanded by an impressive 8.1 per cent in real terms in the first quarter of 2006, the Central Bank said yesterday. This compares with the relatively low growth of 4.4 per cent in the corresponding quarter of 2005. In nominal terms this was equivalent to a 15.1 per cent growth against the first quarter of 2005, the Bank said in a statement. "The impressive growth in the first-quarter of 2006 reflects continuation of the growth momentum, in response to consumption and investment demand, in the post-tsunami recovery period, as well as economic opportunities that arose from a highly favourable agricultural performance under conducive weather conditions, coupled with economic access across most of the country," the Bank added. Early indicators are that the overall growth during 2006 would be around 7 per cent.

Sector-wise, the Services sector recorded the highest growth rate of 9.5 per cent while the Agriculture and Industry sectors grew by 7.3 per cent and 5.9 per cent, respectively. The Services sector continued to dominate, contributing 63 per cent to the growth, while the Industry and Agriculture sectors contributed 20 and 17 per cent, respectively. However, the shares of these sectors in GDP remained unchanged. The GDP deflator, which measures the price changes of all goods produced in the economy, increased by 6.4 per cent during the quarter compared to the 14.1 per cent increase in the corresponding quarter of 2005. The deceleration in price increases at primary market level was mainly due to the significant decline in paddy and coconut prices. The two consumer price indices, SLCPI, and CCPI, recorded commensurate increases, 3.6 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively, on average, for the first quarter of 2006, compared with 17.2 per cent and 15.3 per cent in 2005. The agriculture, fishing and forestry sector grew by 7.3 per cent compared to a contraction of 0.7 per cent during the corresponding quarter of 2005, the bank said. With higher production volumes of plantation crops and paddy, the agriculture sub sector recorded a growth of 1.2 per cent. However, the main impetus to growth came from the fishing sub sector. This sector, which was adversely affected by the tsunami of December 2004, grew by a significant 250 per cent during the first quarter of 2006, over the particular low base in the corresponding quarter of 2005. In domestic agriculture, paddy production continued to perform favourably with a growth of almost 6 per cent over the previous record Maha 2004/05 paddy harvest. Correspondingly, paddy producer prices declined by 17.4 per cent. The 'other' agriculture sub sector, which covers all the other crops in domestic agriculture and animal husbandry, recorded a contraction of 3.7 per cent over a high growth of 10.4 per cent during the first -quarter of 2005. The industry sector recorded a growth of 5.9 A?1?????c?t?????unemploya?谷“?????per cent, while contributing 20 per cent to overall growth in GDP, compared to a contribution of 45 per cent during the corresponding quarter of 2005. The lower contribution to GDP growth could be seen in all four sub sectors of the industry sector, particularly the manufacturing sub sector, due to the relatively low growth of the apparel industry. The Bank cautioned that the recent escalation of violence and resultant increased security measures would somewhat constrain economic activities, particularly agricultural production and tourism invulnerable areas,while trading, transport, communication and distribution activities would be dampened. It is therefore necessary to make all efforts to maintain peace, it said.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/06/30/2006


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PAKISTAN: Pakistan May Become Fourth Populous Country by 2050

Islamabad: Pakistan is likely to become the world*s fourth most populous country by 2050 having a population of 305 million, with the current population growth rate of 2.1 per cent per annum, reveals the World Population Chart issued by the United Nations Population Division. The country is already the sixth most populous country in the world with a population of 158 million, and the high annual population growth remains a cause of concern for government and its planners, as Pakistan joins the international community to commemorate World Population Day on July 11. Government officials have identified population as the single most pressing issue in the country*s development. Pakistan still has an unacceptably high rate of growth compared to other developing countries, it says. Latest official figures, according to the Dawn say that while mortality has been decreasing and fertility has shown a significant decline over the recent years, the crude death rate (CDR) of Pakistan is estimated at 8.2 (per thousand) in 2005-06. The decline in mortality rate is due to the elimination of epidemic diseases and improvement in medical services, it says. However, despite a considerable decline in the total mortality, infant mortality still remained high at 77 per thousand live births in 2005. The major reasons for this high rate of infant and child mortality are diarrhoea and pneumonia. Maternal mortality ratio ranges from 350-400 per hundred thousand births per year leading to about 17,000 newborn babies being born motherless, the figures reveal. The maternal health situation is cause of concern. The maternal mortality ratio is estimated to be 500 deaths per 100,000 births. Over 75 per cent of deliveries take place at home and skilled personnel attend only about 20 per cent of them. The development of the first National Maternal Health Policy is under way. At the same time, population and reproductive health issues have been given significant weight in Pakistan*s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. According to the Ministry of Population Welfare, over one- third of Pakistanis are living in poverty. The impact of population growth on poverty is obvious, since poorer families, especially women and marginalised groups bear the burden of a large number of children with much fewer resources further adding to the spiral of poverty and deterioration in the status of women.

From Asian News International 07/11/2006


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AZERBAIJAN: Local TV Channels and Radios to Be Opened in Several Regions

Local TV channels will start to be opened in the cities of Shaki, Yevlax, Shamakhi, Imishli and Ali-Bayramli, Nushiravan Maharramli, the chairman of the National TV and Broadcasting Company of Azerbaijan, told Trend. He noted the company tries to raise the quality of the TV channels in the regions. According to him, there are not TV channels in the above-mentioned regions. Therefore, a tender will be announced for the opening of TV channels in several regions. Besides, a phase of opening radio-waves will start in regions. Maharramli noted the period of license of several regional and capital TV channels haven*t been prolonged yet. ※The question about the license of several TV channels has remained unresolved. Their question will be settled in fall. Because, in connection with the summer season, everybody has gone on holiday. The license issue of channels ※ANS§ and ※Lider§ and the radio ※Europe+§ which are transmitted in the territory of the country remains unsettled. But, I think that there will be no problem in this direction,§ told Maharramli.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 07/17/2006


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IRAN: Cellphone Production Failure Will Increase Prices

Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi said here on Tuesday that if the Ministry of Industries and Mines fails get domestic companies to manufacture the required eight million mobile phone handsets by next March, the people will have to purchase handsets at higher prices due to the recent hike in import tariffs. According to ILNA, the minister told reporters on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony of the 12th International Elecomp Exhibition that if domestic industries cannot produce handsets, the tariffs will have to revert to previous levels. ※Mobile phone handset tariffs went up (by 56 percent to reach 60 percent) in a bid to protect domestic industries,※ he said. He said e-commerce development would require certain infrastructures, including high-speed data transfer systems and greater networking facilities. The minister added that network security is the key to development of online trade, adding that virtual interactions need to be created among various organizations. ※IT sector can reduce many social problems,※ he said, adding that the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is trying to create the required infrastructure. He further noted that the government has braced for privatizing the ICT sector and preliminary steps will be taken this year. ※The country will be able to manufacture IT products within the next three years,※ he said, adding that the ministry is planning to prepare the ground for greater foreign investments. ※Our Export Guarantee Fund can protect foreign investments,※ he said.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/07/19/2006



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KAZAKHSTAN: "E-Government" Portal to Be Ready to Provide Interactive Services This December

The "e-government" portal is going to be ready to provide interactive services this December. Askar Zhumagaliyev, chairman of the Agency for computerisation and communication of RK, has stated this today, July 19, at a round table "Development of the e-government of RK and Kaznet," Kazakhstan Today correspondent reports. "Currently the portal is providing more than 500 services, but virtually all of them are of informational character, which complies with the strategy of the "e-government" development in the republic," - he has said. He has reminded that the strategy of the "e-government" development in Kazakhstan suggests four phases: a informational phase (currently), an interactive phase (planned for late 2006 - 2008,) a transaction phase (2008 - 2009,) and an "information society" phase (2009.) "The transition from the informational to the interactive phase suggests an opportunity of receiving certain permitting documents, references, and licenses via the internet and the "e-government" portal, - the Agency chairman has explained. He has also said that during the transition to the transaction phase of the "e-government" development it is planned to use the existing electronic payment system of the second level banks as a basis. "By 2009 the number of services provided by the "e-government" portal is going to increase to 900 services," - Mr. Zhumagaliyev has concluded.

From http://eng.gazeta.kz/07/19/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Government Frameworks on Smartcards, Authentication and Public Service ID Management

The Special Minister of State, The Hon Gary Nairn, speaking today at the Australian Smart Cards Summit 2006, released a number of major documents relating to authentication and security in government. ※The range of documents I have launched here today 每 the Australian Government Smartcard Framework, the AGAF for Individuals: Overview and Principles, and the first five elements of IMAGE - all represent significant commitments on behalf of the government towards improving the way we conduct business§ Minister Nairn said.

1. Smartcard Framework Minister Nairn said that the Australian Government was releasing the first two parts of the Smartcard Framework, the &Overview and Principles* document, and the &Smartcard Handbook*, which has been designed as an educational tool on smartcards. Minister Nairn also announced the release of a third part of the framework for comment, the &Standards and Model Specification*. ※The vision for the Smartcard Framework is to ensure that government adopts a consistent and interoperable approach to the use of smartcard technology,§ Minister Nairn said. "It is important to note that AGIMO began work on the Smartcard Framework prior to the Government decision on the Health and Social Services Access Card. The Government decision on the permitted use, scope and limitations of the Access card bound its use. ※Importantly, the framework will assist agencies to utilise smartcard technology so that personal information can be appropriately secured and partitioned from other information on the smartcard.§

2. Australian Government e-Authentication Framework (AGAF) for Individuals Minister Nairn also released the &Overview and Principles* section of the Australian Government e-Authentication Framework (AGAF) for Individuals. AGAF(I) deals with the full range of issues associated with people logging onto e-Government websites - a key part of the e-Government strategy. ※This document is the first element in a framework that will provide guidance to agencies whose online services require authentication of an individual*s identity,§ Minister Nairn said.

3. Identity Management for Government Employees Framework (IMAGE) In addition to the Smartcard Framework and AGAF, Minister Nairn released the key elements of the IMAGE framework, which pertains to identity management of Australian Public Service employees. ※The purpose of IMAGE is to standardise identity management policies and practices for employees and contractors in the public sector and it will provide, in the longer term, capability for enhanced interoperability across the Australian Government,§ Minister Nairn said. ※IMAGE envisages that a smartcard will be a key element of the solution, providing both evidence of identity and access control, and the Smartcard Framework will clearly be a key reference document as the specifications for the IMAGE card are defined. This will be a different smartcard to the Health and Social Services Card - the key point is that the Smartcard Framework is broader than just the Access card and can deal with more than one card. The release of these three documents is a key component of the implementation of the 2006 e-Government Strategy, which I released in March this year. In particular, the Smartcard Framework and AGAF for Individuals are key components of the government*s roadmap for e-government in Australia.§


From http://www.agimo.gov.au/ 06/29/2006


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The Future of Electronic Payments Keeps Growing

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today welcomed the release of the report Exploration of Future Electronic Payments Markets. ※The growing use of information and communications technology opens up new payment options for Australian businesses and consumers in the form of a greater choice of electronic payment systems,§ Senator Coonan said. The research report was commissioned by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts to advance discussion of these issues. The report finds that Australians can benefit increasingly from new forms of electronic payment as we embrace new technologies, such as broadband communications and online service delivery. New and upgraded systems offer the potential for greater speed, efficiency and flexibility in making and receiving payments. ※The report is an important contribution to research into the economic potential of electronic payments in Australia, but it is only a starting point,§ Senator Coonan said.

※Planning is underway for activities facilitated by the Australian Government and other organisations to raise community awareness of the benefits of fast, efficient, flexible electronic payment systems.§ The electronic payments research complements a previous research report Trust and growth in the online environment, which encompasses security issues and practices associated with making online transactions. The two streams of work will be combined in follow up activities to promote the use of good practices by Australians transacting online. The report was developed by the Centre for International Economics and Edgar, Dunn & Company. It was co? sponsored by the Department, Dialect Solutions, the Australian Payments Clearing Association, Optus, BPay, and the Australian credit union body〞CUSCAL. The Department and the project consultant will conduct industry seminars to promote the research findings of the report. Seminar details and more information about future activities will also be posted to the Department*s website.

From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ /06/29/2006


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Heritage to Be Digitised

AITEMS of Australia's indigenous cultural heritage will be placed on digital video tape to preserve them for future generations. Audiovisual and written cultural heritage material stored at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra will be digitised at a cost of $12 million. Institute chairman Mick Dodson says the project will allow up to a third of the institute's audiovisual collections to be digitised by 2008. It will also lead to the development of an online indigenous research library. Professor Dodson says many of the institute's items are in poor condition, and digitisation would help to preserve them. "All items in the collection are important to us, because they each help us to piece together the histories of our people - where and how we lived and how we continue to relate to our communities and places to this day," he says. "Examples include precious footage from an expedition to the Torres Strait in 1898, recordings of long-lost Aboriginal languages that were first made on Edison wire and wax cylinder devices, and original footage from the film Land Bilong Islander about the late Eddie Kolki Mabo. The institute also has more than 650,000 photographs.


From http://australianit.news.com.au//07/04/2006


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Watchdog to Vet Internet Content

ALL local internet content will come under Federal Government supervision after the Communications Minister revealed her response to the Big Brother sexual assault scandal. The regulatory powers of the media watchdog will be broadened to cover emerging technologies such as video streaming on the internet and mobile phones. The code of practice governing the classification of free-to-air television programs will likely be reviewed, despite it being overhauled two years ago. Australia's media watchdog yesterday said that it was powerless to rule on the Big Brother incident. It did not breach broadcast regulations, because, technically, it was not broadcast. The incident, in which a male housemate rubbed his genitals in the face of a woman while she was being held down, did not appear on the Big Brother TV show, but was streamed "live" on the internet from the show's website and on mobile phones. While Channel Ten, which presents Big Brother, has not screened the footage, Australia's other commercial networks have as part of news stories and it remains accessible on the net.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority will soon be given the power to regulate similar broadcasts, on top of its jurisdiction over free-to-air TV, radio and internet content "stored" on particular sites. Communications Minister Helen Coonan said yesterday that legislation to broaden the authority's regulatory powers would be introduced into Parliament as soon as possible. "This matter has reinforced the need for changes to the act to ensure that these new services being offered over the internet and mobile devices are subject to the same content restrictions that apply to television broadcasts," she said. Senator Coonan suggested the code might need overhauling. "Given the community outrage about this matter, it would appear the codes applying to television program classifications may also be out of step with community standards." "I think we really need to consider whether the current approach to the classification of reality programming is appropriate," Senator Noonan said. Prime Minister John Howard said this week that the Big Brother show was "stupid" and urged that it be axed.

A record number of public submissions were received during the 2004 review of the code. Commercial television's peak body said it was confident that the code, which shapes the classification of programs, reflected public standards. "Broadcasters take their responsibilities under the code very seriously and will co-operate with the review," Free TV chief executive Julie Flynn said. Mike Van Niekerk, editor-in-chief of the websites for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, received a letter from the minister on Monday, threatening to alert the authority if the Big Brother video was not removed from the sites. Mr Van Niekerk said the video was being removed due to questions about copyright. Shadow communications minister Stephen Conroy said the Government needed to give ACMA the power to punish transgressors, otherwise any changes to the law would be "window dressing".


From http://www.theage.com.au// 07/06/2006


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Australian Banks 'Fail' in Online Mission

Four of Australia's largest banks have received the thumbs down in a review of their online banking systems with the ANZ emerging as "the best of a bad bunch". The study, conducted by US research group Forrester, found that illegible text, poor layouts and missing information were just some of the major design flaws that forced customers to turn to more expensive call centres and branches, or even to seek out alternative offerings from competitors. "Each of the major banks could save more than $7 million a year by making their sites easier to use," the researcher said. To come up with its findings, Forrester applied an international website review methodology to the ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac websites. The methodology has been created over seven years and results are based on findings from two individual analysts who independently test a number of criteria including content, page layout, navigation, formatting, interactivity, help functions, security and overall performance. Each of the banks needed to score a minimum of 25 out of 50 points to pass the review and meet best practice ratings. Instead they achieved scores of between -4 and -12.

To test out the sites, reviewers acted on advice from each of the banks that researching home loans and credit card deals were the top two reasons for visits to public areas on their websites. However when they set about the task of finding out about these products on each of the sites, they encountered some serious obstacles. Presentation was cited in the report as being the most common shortcoming of the websites, all of which were hampered either by illegible text, missing content or poor page layout. Forrester said Westpac scored the lowest in this category with -9 out of a possible 18 points. "To effectively use its [Westpac's] site, users need the dexterity of a 15-year-old to accurately use the rollover menus, a magnifying glass to read the text, and a lot of patience to made through the material," the report said. The other banks scored an equal of -4 each in this area and the NAB site's layout was criticised for being especially hard to scan. Each of the banking websites was also marred by serious design flaws including buried content, site errors and over-reliance on rollover menus, which can cause "misfires", said reviewers.

CBA scored the lowest at -4 in this category because its home page gave no indication that visitors could actually research and apply for a credit card or home loan online, and it was also missing important data such as key credit card fees. "Since people will only spend an average of eight seconds looking at a page, it's critical to make an impact with the home page to convert prospects online," the report said. ANZ on the other hand, made its customers click through five pages before they could even get started on a home loan application after attempts to apply directly from the home loan page failed. On a more positive note, providing feedback on users' actions and helping them recover from errors, proved to be the strongest elements of the websites, and both CBA and NAB were praised for allowing users to save some online applications for later completion. Westpac was deemed the most robust of all the sites with no minor or major errors experienced and swift page downloads, earning it a 7 out of 12 ranking that matched global best practise standards. However the report concluded that it was ANZ's value-added calculators that set it ahead of its competitors.

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 07/25/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Wireless Broadband Paper Released

The Government has opened a new front in its bid to improve New Zealanders' access to broadband Internet. Communications Minister David Cunliffe today released a discussion paper looking at how more of the radio spectrum could be allocated for wireless broadband Internet. The Economic Development Ministry paper said new technologies could make the radio spectrum an extremely cost-effective competitor to existing cellular and hard-wired networks. One possibility was digital TV operators providing broadband access through any spectrum left over. In Korea this was already a reality. Mr Cunliffe said part of improving New Zealand's poor broadband uptake and speeds was encouraging investment in alternatives to the copper-wire phone network. Wireless technology was a competitive alternative, he said. "Most of the services available on wired networks can now be accessed via wireless technologies." Wireless technology was particularly useful in the final kilometre of delivering services to homes where lower traffic volumes meant other networks were not very cost effective.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/07/05/2006


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SOLOMON IRLANDS: Femm Concludes with Resolution for Further Cooperation on Regional Economic Integration Issues

The tenth Forum Economic Ministers* Meeting (FEMM) held in Honiara to consider the region*s experience with economic growth over the past decade and key regional economic integration issues concluded today with the release of the FEMM Action Plan. In a joint press statement, the Economic Minister reaffirmed their responsibility to provide leadership on regional economic integration and agreed to facilitate the implementation of the Pacific Plan, particularly in areas pertaining to economic governance. The Ministers also welcomed the messages on the key economic issues contained in the opening address by the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Hon Manasseh Sogavare, and the key address on economic growth and lessons from the past ten years, as well as the presentation on the Pacific 2020 report. At the regional level, Ministers reiterated the potential benefits of labour mobility between the Forum members, whilst recognising the importance of domestic policies in promoting sustainable growth. Consistent with the Pacific Plan, they also requested further examination of the cost and benefits of the temporary movement of labour under PICTA, MSG and EPA, and to have this issue considered under PACER as well. The Ministers directed the Secretariat to provide an update by the next FEMM in 2007.

The Minister recognised that labour markets could perform better recognising that some impacts on the labour market were unrelated to labour market policies or legislations. This includes population dynamics; education policies; the domestic investment climate and the impact of globalisation and attitudes towards gender roles. In line with earlier FEMM decisions, Minister agreed that greater efforts needs to be made to consult with relevant stakeholders, including private sector on economic regulation issues. The Ministers reaffirmed the crucial role of the private sector for creating growth and jobs, and that Ministers have the responsibility to ensure a business friendly regulatory environment is given priority. The Forum Secretariat in coordination with relevant development partners has been tasked with examining the option of a regional advisory service in areas of Foreign Investment, Competition, Access and Price Regulation and Consumer Protection and Fair Trading. The Secretariat is to report back to FEMM 200 with concrete options for progressing this initiative. The FEMM 2007 will be hosted by Palau.

From http://www.pmc.gov.sb/ 07/05/2006


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$37 Billion Debt Cut for Poor Nations

※The World Bank is preparing to cancel billions of dollars of debt owed to it by many of the world's poorest nations,§ reports The BBC (UK). ※Some $37 billion in debt relief will be provided to 19 countries on July 1, following agreements reached at last year's historic G8 summit in Scotland. Leaders at the gathering in Gleneagles pledged to cancel the debts of many of world's poorest countries, most of which are in Africa. The move will provide debt relief to the countries over the next 40 years. #§ The New Vision (Uganda) adds that ※# the cancellation is under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). The relief combines International Development Association (IDA) debt relief provided under the MDRI, and the IDA portion of debt relief already committed under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC). #§ Agencia Mexicana de Noticias (NOTIMEX) notes that ※#this [$37 billion] is in addition to some $17 billion of debt relief already committed by IDA under the HIPC Initiative. #§ LKBN Antara News (Indonesia) writes that ※# World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said in the release, &We have secured a level of financing commitments from donors that allows us to begin implementing the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. Additional debt relief will help these countries channel resources into programs that directly help the people who need it most,* he added. Wolfowitz referred to poor people who he said &need and deserve a better education, better health services, greater access to clean water, and greater opportunities to escape poverty.*#§


From http://web.worldbank.org/
06/30/2006


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APEC Finance Ministers Discuss Taxes and Capital Flows

Attracting greater capital flows through financial sector reform and creating stable tax systems were the two key issues discussed at the June 14-16 meetings of the APEC Finance Ministers Technical Working Group in Khanh Hoa, Viet Nam. The meetings were held to help lay the groundwork for the upcoming APEC Finance Ministers Meetings in Ha Noi in September. "A lot of economies provided their experiences and there was good discussion," says Chee Sung Lee, assistant director of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific at the International Monetary Fund in Tokyo. "Discussions were focused on how economies can learn from each other's experiences and channels for providing mutual help through technical assistance." Freer movement of capital has been a recurring theme in the APEC Finance Ministers Process and policies and reforms to facilitate capital flows in APEC economies have been addressed at APEC Finance Ministers' Meetings since 1994. Discussions at the Finance Ministers' Technical Working Group (FMTWG) encompassed how recent changes in financial markets, in particular how the growth of institutional investors (collective investment vehicles such as pension funds, mutual funds and hedge funds) affect capital markets. The changes also have an impact on financial market liberalization, reform sequencing and market supervision. Participants at the meeting discussed financial institution reforms including removing barriers to entry while improving market resilience and efficiency (well-designed credit bureaus, interbank markets, information disclosure, collateral rights, foreign participation and ownership and impact of institutional investors). Privatizing state-owned financial institutions and implementing legal frameworks, as well as trade and investment agreements, were also key topics of discussion. The final report of the Finance Ministers' Technical Working Group meeting will be submitted to the Finance Ministers' Meeting in September 2006. Their goal: improving capital flows, investment and revenue system ?????????t“?O?? s. It is hoped the finance ministers will then be able to draft policy recommendations for liberalizing the financial sector and improving market supervision after discussion with the private sector. Says Lee, "When the finance ministers meet they will discuss the findings of the FMTWG and come up with understandings on what concrete policies are needed to carry these issues forward."

From http://www.apec.org/07/01/2006


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SAARC Finance Ministers Agree to Set Up SDF

The first meeting of the finance ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held in Islamabad has agreed on a framework for the SAARC Development Fund (SDF). SAARC leaders at the 13th SAARC Summit had decided to create the SDF to serve as the umbrella organisation for development funding for SAARC projects and programmes. A press statement issued by the SAARC secretariat said, ※The SDF would be professionally managed by a parliament secretariat and would have three windows 〞- social, economic and infrastructure.§ The finance ministers approved mobilisation of an initial corpus of $300 million for the social window from the assessed contributions of the member states. Likewise the economic window of the fund would start with $6.5 million and deal with viable non-infrastructural funding. The infrastructure window would commence its operation later. The first board meeting is expected to be held around December 2006. The meeting also recommended setting up of an inter-governmental expert group (IGEG) on financial issues, which would provide inputs to the SAARC finance ministers process. The IGEG would have focus on the macro-economic development and outlook for South Asia, achievement of SAARC development goals as correlated to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), investment climate, foreign capital inflows, financial sector and other areas of cooperation, the statement adds.


From nepalnews.com 07/13/2006


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Gov't Takes Aim at Banking Problems

The government has announced fresh measures to curb irregularities in the banking sector, this time ordering branch chiefs to resign if major criminal cases occur on their watch. Banks have also been asked to set up an accountability system that allows bank executives and auditors to take responsibility for problems. Meanwhile, top managers of branches involved in frequent irregularities and major criminal cases will not be allowed to take similar jobs at other branches in the future, while those breaking the law will be transferred to judicial departments swiftly. These were some of the 11 measures issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) on Friday to fight corruption and fraud in banks, co-operative credit units, trust firms and asset management companies. The move followed a release by the National Audit Office of China a week ago, which exposed 51 criminal cases in the Agricultural Bank of China that involved 8.68 billion yuan (US$1.09 billion) and 157 bank officials in an audit of the bank's 2004 liability accounts. The bank was also discovered to have irregularly granted 27.6 billion yuan (US$3.45 billion) of loans during 2004.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn
07/04/2006


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Report Shows Income Tax Problems

While the rich get richer, authorities are left with the taxing issue of how to get them to pay their dues. The top 100 taxpayers in South China's booming Guangdong Province turned in individual income taxes of 229 million yuan (US$28 million) in 2005, just 1.1 per cent of the total amount, according to a report by the provincial tax bureau. All people earning over 1,600 yuan (US$200) per month must pay income tax, with the base rate 5 per cent. People earning over 100,000 yuan (US$12,500) per month pay 45 per cent. The report covered the whole province with the exception of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Rao Songde, a director of the bureau, said that while the government has made efforts to monitor payments by the wealthy, many are still trying to wriggle out of it. "Those who pay the most individual income tax are by no means the richest people in the province," he said. Of the top 100 individual income tax payers in 2005, only nine were corporate chairpersons or board members of the thousands of profitable enterprises in the Pearl River Delta. Yang Weihua, a professor with Sun Yat-sen University's tax and financing research centre, said that it is easy for rich people to avoid paying tax. "Loopholes in the nation's tax laws have made it easy for high-income people to pay minimal tax," Yang said. He mentioned exemptions on real estate tax and inheritance as examples. "Frequent use of cash and the far-from-perfect credit system in China have made it equally easy for high-income people to evade taxation," he said.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn
07/06/2006


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Cap on Tax-free Housing Funds

China has for the first time detailed a clear-cut cap on the public housing funds that can be exempted from individual taxation. Contributions evenly paid by employers and workers to the public housing fund can be tax free if each side pays no more than 12 percent of an individual's average monthly salary in the previous year, the Ministry of Finance said in a notice on its Website on Thursday. Contributions to the fund that exceed the cap will be counted as taxable income, the notice said. Both employers and employees paid the same amount to the public housing fund monthly and these funds can be used by individuals to buy a home and apply for a mortgage. Home buyers can enjoy a housing loan, whose rate is about one percentage point lower than a commercial mortgage, to pay for a property. Individuals can borrow up to 200,000 yuan (US$25,000) from the public housing fund for this purpose. The contribution, whose proportion is set by local governments, should be at least 5 percent of the individual's average salary a year ago. The central government allows a 12 percent cap "in general" in a rule announced in 2005, which indicates that in some cases the local governments can increase the cap. Yesterday's notice cleared the ambiguity in the past. At present, several provincial and municipal governments set the level below the 12 percent cap.


From http://www.china.org.cn/
07/07/2006


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Bank Sector Opened to Money Brokers

Money brokerage firms have been allowed to enter China's banking market to do business on the inter-bank bond market and inter-bank loan market, China's central bank announced Tuesday. Brokerage for banks was increasingly needed with the rapid development of inter-bank markets, said sources with the People's Bank of China (PBOC). Participants in the inter-bank businesses market had expanded from commercial banks to non-bank financial institutions and commercial firms. Their products and services included inter-bank loans, government borrowing, and commercial bank, financial and company bonds. Money brokerage firms would provide finance market information and broker deals concerning financial products.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 07/12/2006


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China to Issue 10th Batch of T-bonds

China's government will issue 31.9 billion yuan (US$3.98 billion) worth of book-entry treasury bonds on Monday, the 10th batch issued this year, said the Ministry of Finance. With a maturity term of three years and an annual interest rate of 2.34 percent, the T-bonds would be floated on the capital market on July 26, the ministry said in a statement posted on its official website. Interest would be calculated from July 17, said the statement. The bonds will be available from the retail outlets of 31 underwriting institutions, which were awarded the selling rights at a public auction on July 14. The underwriters include the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China, and the Bank of Communications.

From http://www.china.org.cn/007/17/2006


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Bank Gets 'Public' Go-Ahead

China's top banking regulator said on Tuesday that the application by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country's biggest lender, had been approved. The plan to go public by ICBC "has been officially approved", Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission told a mid-year work conference of the body. Last month ICBC announced a net profit of 33.7 billion yuan (US$4.2 billion) for last year which was an increase of 12 percent over the previous 12 months. The bank plans to submit its IPO application to the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) on Tuesday for listing on the Hong Kong stock market on October 27 with an offer price of 2.76 HK dollars reported the Shanghai-based China Business News on Tuesday. The paper said the bank was expected to be listed on both the mainland and Hong Kong stock markets China anticipates its "big four" state banks -- the ICBC, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China -- once plagued by a mountain of bad debt will strengthen corporate governance and streamline operations with the help of foreign investors and public listings. The moves are part of efforts being made by the Chinese Government, the major stockholder in the "big four", to overhaul the banks before the opening of China's financial markets to foreign competition by the end of this year. This was a commitment China made on entering the World Trade Organisation. "Foreign banks in China would enjoy national treatment and will be able to compete with Chinese banks on a full scale by December 11 of this year under the commitment," said Liu. He said the commission was, together with other government departments, revising the regulation of foreign banks so China would be able to carry out all of its obligations in the sector.

The Bank of China, the second biggest commercial bank on the mainland, has been listed on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets in the last two months following the listing of China Construction Bank in Hong Kong last October. Shares in the Bank of China made a strong debut in Shanghai on July 5 as the new number one 'blue chip' on China's stock markets replacing petrochemical giant Sinopec. BOC's initial public offering was valued at a hefty 20 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion), the biggest-ever in China's market, and its equities totaling 253.8 billion shares dwarfed the 86.7 billion of the former front-runner Sinopec Corp. Prior to that the bank raised the equivalent of US$11.2 billion in its initial public offering in Hong Kong on June 1 which was the world's fourth largest. The bank's net profits soared 31 percent last year over 2004 to 27.5 billion yuan. The Central Huijin Company Ltd., a government investment group, held the lion's share of ICBC and Bank of China. It owned 67.5 percent of Bank of China shares before its trading debut. The share sale marked another milestone in China's efforts to overhaul its banking sector which has long been considered a weak link in the country's booming economy as a result of decades of state-directed lending. China set up four asset management companies in 1999 to dispose of 1.4 trillion yuan-worth of non-performing loans transferred from the "big four". In the following years the government in turn poured a combined US$60 billion into ICBC, CCB and BOC in bailout packages to shore up their balance sheets. The three have either become shareholding companies or gone public after inviting foreigners to invest.


From http://www.china.org.cn 07/18/2006


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Henry Tang Unveils GST Scheme

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has released details of the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) and launched a 9 month public consultation exercise. As he unveiled the GST scheme at the Legislative Council, Financial Secretary Henry Tang said it's designed to broaden the tax base, stabilize public finance and sustain Hong Kong's development, rather than increase government revenue. Tang is the fifth Financial Secretary to propose the highly controversial tax in 20 years and he readily admitted that Hong Kong society is divided over its benefits. The GST is a wide-ranging tax that applies to almost all daily expenses, including groceries, utility charges, public transport, education, newspapers, meals and clothes. Under his proposal, Tang said a standardized rate will be levied on most items with few exemptions. Once set, the tax rate will not change for the first 5 years of operation. If the rate is pegged at 5 percent, it will generate an estimated HK$30 billion for the government's coffers every year. Once HK$500 million is deducted for administrative costs and HK$9.5 billion for compensation, the GST will still generate a 20 billion dollars surplus. The government says the money can be used to reward people through salary increases or other tax reductions.


From http://en.chinabroadcast.cn/ 07/19/2006


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CHINA: 2005 Fiscal Revenue Hits Record High of $395 Bln

China's fiscal revenue soared almost 20 percent in 2005 to hit a record 3.16 trillion yuan (395 billion U.S. dollars), Finance Minister Jin Renqing said on Tuesday. The figure was achieved by the implementation of a prudent fiscal policy since 2005 that enabled stable and rapid economic growth and more forceful revenue collection by finance, taxation and customs departments. The 3,393 billion-yuan (424.1 billion U.S. dollars) national fiscal expenditure, up 19.1 percent over the previous year, outnumbered revenue by 228 billion yuan (28.5 billion dollars), Jin said when delivering a report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the legislature. The central treasury pocketed 1,726 billion yuan (215.75 billion dollars), the two largest sources being value-added tax (VAT) revenue of 793.1 billion yuan (99.1 billion dollars) and consumer tax, VAT and tariff on imports totaling 527.7 billion yuan (65.9 billion dollars). Some 702.2 billion yuan (87.8 billion dollars) of state bonds were issued by the central treasury to claim 692.2 billion yuan (86.5 billion dollars) in revenue for the state coffers, nearly 300 billion yuan of which was used to offset the budget deficit, he said. About 35.3 billion yuan (4.4 billion dollars) of the 163.7 billion yuan (20.4 billion dollars) by the central treasury was used for tax rebates to local treasuries, general transfer payment, transfer payment for minority-concentrated regions, educational and scientific undertakings, and the rest went to paying money overdue to avert financial risks.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com06/28/2006


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JAPAN: Cutting Corporate Taxes Best Course for Japan

The government's 2006 basic policy on economic and fiscal management and structural reforms, approved by the Cabinet on July 7, established two national pillars of economic policy for the coming decade -- the pursuit of growth in a shrinking population, and the rebuilding of state finances to reinforce the nation's fiscal sustainability. To return to fiscal health, it is imperative for both the national and local governments to maximize efficiency and pare expenses. Also, more efforts at revenue reform will be needed to achieve the state's goal of a "primary balance," where expenditures excluding interest payments and debt redemption can be covered by revenues -- excluding bonds -- by 2011. But it would not be a good idea to resort to tax hikes to secure more revenue. Nations with companies that compete against Japanese firms on a global basis usually provide favorable corporate tax rates to give them a competitive edge. What would happen if Japan raised corporate taxes? Tax hikes may produce temporary revenue boosts, but they can also cause longer-term damage by cooling off the nation's economic engine, which is just warming up. According to an outline of government revenues and expenditures for fiscal 2005, corporate tax revenue marked its third year-on-year increase in a row, while income tax and consumption revenues also posted sharp gains. Overall, tax revenue exceeded the initial budget by as much as 5 trillion yen -- due chiefly to the economic recovery. This proves tax cuts stimulate the economy and subsequently lead to more tax revenues. In fact, tax incentives for research and development, as well as information technology investment -- both of which were beefed up in the fiscal 2003 tax reforms -- contributed a great deal to energizing the economy.

Tax deductions to promote R&D -- the root of innovation -- are important as Japan aims to become an even more advanced science and technology-oriented nation. One estimate shows that the R&D tax measure adopted in fiscal 2003 would push up Japan's gross domestic product by 3.4 trillion yen within three years of implementation. Aggressive IT investment is also key if Japanese firms are to prevail over fierce international competition, and tax incentives for such investment create strong economic effects. To fundamentally revamp the international competitiveness of Japanese firms, corporate tax rates need to be lowered. This should not be considered a self-centered request from the corporate sector. Reducing the tax burden on companies will have a far-reaching positive effect on the economy. Tax cuts lead to greater cash flow, which would allow companies to distribute more income to shareholders and employees, increasing consumer spending. In its efforts to regain fiscal health and build a sustainable social security system, the government, aided by the ongoing slashing of expenditures, should pursue a natural gain in tax revenue via economic growth. This should start with corporate tax cuts to make firms globally competitive. Yoshio Nakamura is director general of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).


From The Japan Times 07/24/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: New Bank Supervision Rules to Fuel Housing Prices

ISouth Korean banks are expected to increase mortgaged loans to households in a bid to boost their financial stability once tougher requirements for banks* capital adequacy, dubbed Basel II, are implemented in 2008, a state-run think tank said. Banks are subject to the new rule on capital adequacy from 2008, which was adopted in 2001 by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. The new system is aimed at reducing uncertainty around banks' capital adequacy, by pressuring them to adopt more robust credit risk estimation and management techniques. The Korea Development Institute (KDI) said if the Basel II goes effective in 2008, banks may increase the portion of loans for households in a bid to improve their capital adequacy ratios, leading to a sharp rise in asset prices. ``As banks were poised to adopt the Basel II agreement, they have tried to restore asset and capital soundness and competition has grown among banks to achieve better product innovation,** KDI researcher Kim Hyun-wook said in a report. ※However, they are expected to increase loans for housing as part of efforts to secure more stable income sources and reduce their future risks. If that happens, it will deal a serious blow to the stability of the financial market.**

The KDI held a two-day seminar on the pros and cons of the Basel II framework. During the seminar, experts warned the new system may cause more serious real estate bubbles for developing countries. ``Most developing countries, including South Korea, are experiencing property bubbles. If banks expand loans at this stage, property prices will soar and households will suffer a huge financial burden due to mounting interest costs,** Kim said. The possibility of an asset price bubble is one of the negative sides of the Basel II framework, the KDI said. To reduce uncertainties and the negative impact of the new system on the market, the government needs to strengthen supervision on banks and come up with measures to have them reduce future risks, it said. Experts agree that the Korean banking industry will become more transparent and sound with the implementation of Basel II, which will improve banks* credit rating and risk management. The KDI said Basel II would help reduce risk in the financial system as it aligns each bank*s capital requirements to more accurately reflect its own credit, market and operational risks.


From http://times.hankooki.com 07/06/2006


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Central Bank Freezes Rates

The Bank of Korea left the nation's benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4.25 percent, citing stabilizing consumer prices and increasing market uncertainties caused by North Korea's missile tests. "Exports and consumer spending are brisk, while consumer prices are stabilizing," Bank of Korea Governor Lee Seong-tae said in a press briefing yesterday, after Mr. Lee and six fellow policymakers made the decision to hold the rate. "North Korea's missile test has not yet had a big impact on the economy and financial markets, but we all agreed we need to monitor the future development of the situation and its impact on the market," Mr. Lee said. The Bank of Korea, citing mounting inflationary pressure caused by robust exports and revived domestic spending, lifted in last October the rate on overnight inter-bank loans to 3.5 percent from the record-low 3.25 percent. The central bank lifted the rate by the same measure last December, and again in February and June this year. But the central bank recently predicted the nation's economic growth would slightly slow down in the second half of this year, dragged by a stronger won that has eroded the profitability of Korean exporters and by high oil prices. And many market experts raised concerns that the central bank, despite signs of an economic slowdown, would be forced to lift interest rates to curb inflationary pressures caused by the rising price of oil. Korea is the world's fifth-largest importer of oil and buys all of its oil overseas. And Mr. Lee did not rule out the possibility of a further rate hike. "I expect the economy to continue growing in the second half," he said, adding that inflation might accelerate to an annual 3-percent level in the first half of next year. "I think it is better to set monetary policy based on the prospects of future inflation, rather than of past inflation."


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com 07/08/2006


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MONGOLIA: Negotiation of 10 Million USD Grant Loan Approved

The Parliament approved the grant loan negotiation "Financial Regulation and Governance Program", which was concluded on July 4, 2006 between Mongolia and the ADB. Mongolia is borrowing 10 million USD loan from the ADB for implementing a four-year program in the financial sector. Under the program, steps will be taken on improving loan repayment, decreasing expenses of registration for security, strengthening governance of commercial banks and protecting rights and interest of savings owners. It will be also assisted to set up a financial info unit in the MongolBank in order to establish a united regulatory institution for non-banking and financial organizations and to decrease money laundering. The duration of the grant loan is 24 years. One percent of interest will be paid in the first eight years of the loan, and 1.5 percent of interest in remaining years.


From http://www.montsame.mn 07/21/2006


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INDONESIA: Bank Inaugurates New Credit Information Bureau

Bank Indonesia officially launched its new credit information bureau Thursday in the expectation that it will help banks better manage lending risks and thus help reduce their levels of non-performing loans (NPLs). Central bank governor Burhanuddin Abdullah said that through the bureau, which will gather and disseminate information on borrowers, full data on borrowers would be available on-line to banks and other financial institutions. Burhanuddin said that this would help banks and financial institutions make prudent decisions on extending loans, which could help reduce the level of NPLs. Previously, the central bank's credit information system only provided information on borrowers with debts of more than Rp 50 million (US$5,347). "Now, data on borrowers with loans of as little as one rupiah can be accessed by banks and financial institutions on-line," Burhanuddin said. The information on borrowers would include their names and I.D. numbers, amounts borrowed, amount of collateral pledged and other details. BI bank licensing and information director Yang Ahmad Rizal said that to date, the credit bureau had recorded information on 16.3 million borrowers.

Burhanuddin said that while this number was still small, he expected that "in a few years, the number of recorded data will increase to tens of millions." Banks and credit card issuers are obliged to send information on borrowers to the bureau. In the case of other financial institutions outside the banking sector, the sending of information to the bureau, while not compulsory, is strongly recommended. Burhanuddin said that the setting up of the bureau under the auspices of the central bank would allow it to become a fully fledged, professional body capable of applying international standards. He said that he expected the bureau would in the future come to be run by the private sector, as was the case in other countries like Thailand, Australia and the United States. BI deputy governor Maman Sumantri said he hoped that the private sector would be running the bureau by 2010. A director of the state-owned Bank Mandiri, Agus Martowardojo, whose bank labors under the highest level of NPLs in the country, welcomed the establishment of the new bureau. He said that it would do a lot to help improve risk management.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/06/30/2006


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Govt Urged to Provide Tax Incentives

The government needs to include fiscal incentives -- in the form of a tax holiday and tax amnesty -- and simplify its taxation system in the proposed tax laws in a bid to attract foreign direct investments, a former senior minister has said. Former finance minister Fuad Bawazier said Tuesday in Jakarta that such a breakthrough was needed so that the tax law would no longer solely serve as an instrument to gain state revenue but also to promote investment. A tax holiday is a policy that exempts certain investors from paying taxes or lowers the rates that they pay for a given period of time. Meanwhile, a tax amnesty is a one-year reprieve for investors who do not have taxpayer identification numbers yet. The final draft revisions of three 2000 laws on general taxation arrangements and procedures, on income tax and on value-added tax (VAT) and luxury sales tax were submitted to the House of Representatives on June 1 for deliberation, and are expected to be passed by the end of this year. "Offering tax facilities, such as a tax holiday and tax amnesty, in the new bills is important to attract investors, thereby increasing the inflow of foreign exchange," he said. He reiterated the importance of providing such facilities, considering that neighboring countries had adopted such incentives.

"Many people think that these incentives will reduce the tax revenue that the government can earn, but that is wrong," he said, "For example with a tax holiday, the government can earn more from employees' income tax." With regard to the tax amnesty, he said, the government should consider the future benefits. Meanwhile, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) taxation committee chief Prijohandojo Kristanto said that the government should consider providing tax breaks to boost investment. In adding to what Prijohandoko said, Fuad suggested the government should prioritize such incentives for investors processing Indonesia's 10 prime commodities, namely textile products, electronics, automotive components, shoes, furniture, cacao, coffee, palm oil, rubber and shrimp. Besides that, Fuad also urged the government to simplify its complicated tax payment system, which is known for its lack of transparency. "I suggest that value-added taxation be limited to factories and their main distributors, while their downstream chains would be exempted. That will make it easy to monitor," he said. "For income tax, the government should expand its services by allowing taxpayers to pay through banks." In response to this, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said in her keynote speech in a seminar, that the government was still facing a lot of challenges in reforming the tax system, including administration, procedures and services.

"The government is considering lowering tax rates, realizing that amid tight regional competition, we cannot maintain an exclusive tax system. Indonesia has to compete directly with other countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand, in bringing inventors in," she said. Separately, Minister of Trade Fahmi Idris said that the government was considering including the tax incentives in the proposed tax bill so as to make the country a more attractive destination for foreign investors. "Incentives for investors will be included in the tax bill, not in the proposed investment law which is also being deliberated at the House," he said during a hearing with Commission VI in charge of trade, industry and investment. He noted that such tax facilities were needed to enable Indonesia to compete with other countries in attracting foreign direct investment. In Malaysia investors are given a five to 10 year tax holiday, Thailand three to eight years, and Vietnam two to four years. Fahmi said that the investment bill would ease investment licensing procedures for businesspeople who invested in rural and underdeveloped areas.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 07/06/2006


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MALAYSIA: Four Foreign Banks Offer Shared ATM Network

Four locally incorporated foreign banks (LIFBs) are launching a shared automated teller machine (ATM) service to provide their customers access to more than 300 ATMs nationwide. HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd, United Overseas Bank (M) Bhd (UOB) and Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd would offer the service named HOUSe from July 24, said Standard Chartered chief executive officer and managing director Shayne Nelson. For a start, HOUSe links all ATM systems of participating banks. ※Under phase one, the ATMs will provide basic services for customers to make cash withdrawals and balance enquiries. ※ In October, we will expand services to cash transfer between the banks and other options under phase two,§ Nelson told a media conference after a signing ceremony between the participating banks yesterday. Also present were HSBC executive director and deputy chief executive Ian Ogilvie, OCBC director and chief executive officer Datuk Albert Yeoh and UOB chief executive officer Chan Kok Seong.Nelson said HOUSe was opened to all LIFBs that were willing to pay a participating fee. ※Currently, the participation involves the four of us because of our substantial infrastructure in Malaysia. By year-end, we should have more than 140 branches nationwide,§ he said.

Under Bank Negara's Financial Services Masterplan, LIFBs were allowed to form a network together in line with liberalisation of the local banking and financial sector, Nelson said. ※The sooner we join the network, the better (it is for us) to provide convenience to our customers. ※The technical issue was to get the network set up quickly and then allow other LIFBs to join in. It is complicated trying to get all the four banks together,§ Nelson said, adding that Citibank was not part of HOUSe as it did not have a similar visible infrastructure as the four banks. The name ※HOUSe§ combines the first letter of each participating bank, with the last letter ※e§ representing electronic channel. UOB's Chan said the bank would open two new branches in the Klang Valley and one each in Johor and Sarawak this year. ※We have received Bank Negara approval for these branches and we are studying options to open additional branches in rural areas,§ he said. UOB currently has 37 branches across Malaysia. Nelson said Standard Chartered had received approval from the central bank to open six branches this year. Of the six, two are from its existing country licences and four are part of Bank Negara's liberalisation of branch network announced end of last year. Standard Chartered now has 31 branches nationwide.

From http://thestar.com.my/07/18/2006


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BANGLADESH: Credit-Rating Mandatory for Commercial Banks

Bangladesh Bank has widened its credit-rating regulation making it mandatory for all commercial banks to have their credits rated by a credit-rating agency and disclose the rating prominently. The central bank circular was issued Thursday asking the chief executive officers of the commercial banks to take necessary measures to comply with the regulation from January next. ?Non-compliance with these instructions shall render the banks and official(s) concerned liable to action under the relevant provisions of the Banking Companies Act, 1991,? it said. On May 29, 2004, the credit-rating was made mandatory only for the banks intended to raise capital from the capital market through initial public offerings (IPOs). The central bank reviewed the regulation to safeguard the interests of the prospective investors, depositors and creditors, said the circular. It was also for the bank management as a whole for their overall performance in each relevant area, including its core risks. ?Banks will be required to complete their credit-rating by June 30, 2007,? said the Bangladesh Bank notification, adding that the rating will be an ongoing process. The rating should be updated on a continuous basis from year to year, within six months from the date of close of each financial year. The central bank said the rating report completed in all respects be submitted to the Bangladesh Bank and made public within a month of the notification of rating by the credit-rating agency. According to the circular, the banks will disclose their credit-rating prominently in their published annual and half-yearly financial statements. (by UNB, Dhaka)

From The New Nation 07/06/2006


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INDIA: Centre Increases National Old Age Pension to Rs 200 a Month

New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday enhanced the pension amount under the national old age pension scheme from Rs 75 to Rs 200 per beneficiary per month for the needy persons of the age of 65 and above. Talking to reporters here, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said that this increase in the pension amount will be effective from April 1, 2006. To cater the enhanced pension amount, a sum of Rs 1,430 crore has been made available in the Union Budget 2006-07 as an additional allocation, said Dasmunsi. Further, Minister said,"The proposed increase will extend much needed financial support to old and destitute persons to manage their livelihood." The decision has been taken during meeting of the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. One amongst three components of National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) was launched on August 15, 1995. NOAPS is a programme which is hundred percent funded by the Centre to give financial assistance to families with little or no regular means of subsistence and living below the poverty line.


From Asian News International 07/13/2006


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SRI LANKA: New Laws to Recoup Rs.20 B Bad Debts

COLOMBO: The Government is to enact new laws for the recovery of bad debts from defaulters to State Banks. It has been revealed that there is a large number of loan defaulters who have been evading repayment of the principal sum plus interest to State Banks. According to Deputy Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya the defaulters owe Rs. 20 billion to the State Banks which has been written off as "bad debts". The Deputy Minister told the Daily News that he had already tabled a Bill before Parliament that contain provisions to round up the defaulters and apply stringent measures for the recovery of the defaulted sums. "We will give them an opportunity to come out from their hiding and start paying back the loans they have taken from the banks," he said. The Bill titled " Non-Performing Assets (Recovery) Act" tabled in Parliament will provide for the setting up of a National Assets Authority (NAA) once the Bill is passed. "The NAA will be responsible for collecting all bad debts. The Act envisages easy recovery of debts through incentives to defaulters to repay loans obtained from the State Banks," he said.

The Rs.20 billion bad debts is in respect of the four State Banks - Bank of Ceylon is owed Rs.4,000 million, People's Bank, Rs.15,000 million, National Savings Bank Rs.300 million and State Mortgage Bank Rs.700 million. Siyambalapitiya also pointed out that the largest quantum of bad debts are those that have been accumulated during the 1977 to 1994 period. He said there was political interference which prevented recovery of this money due to State banks. In some cases, loans have been granted disregarding all rules and regulations applicable to the disbursement of loans. There were no collateral obtained in respect of some of these loans. "We cannot allow this to continue and we are determined to collect the bad debts with the cooperation of the defaulters," the Deputy Minister said. He added that further legislation would be introduced for the creation of the Sri Lanka Savings Bank to enable clients of the collapsed Pramuka Bank to deal with it and recover their money deposited with the Pramuka Bank.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 07/11/200


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IMF Mission Gives Positive Report on Sri Lanka

A Mission from the IMF visited Sri Lanka to conduct consultations with Sri Lankan authorities in terms of Article IV of the Articles of Agreements of the IMF, July 3 每 17, 2006. The Mission was led by Ms. Olin Liu, Deputy Division Chief, Asia Pacific Department of the IMF. After the two weeks of consultations, the Mission met President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (17) and briefed him on the outcome of the consultations. According to the Mission the economy grew strongly at 6 per cent in 2005 and the growth momentum further improved in the first quarter of 2006, reflecting a broad based improvement in activities. CPI inflation declined in 2005, aided by declining food prices and a tightening of monetary policy. Though the economy was hit by slowing apparel exports and high oil prices, strong remittances and tsunami-related inflows, including debt relief, strengthened the balance of payments of the country last year. The current account deficit too narrowed in that year. According to the Central Bank monetary policy has been tightened to curb inflation. Due to this the Central Bank adjusted upwards its policy interest rates by 200 basis points since November 2004 to reduce the excessive demand pressure and remove inflationary pressures. As a result, key real interest rates have turned positive in the last quarter of 2005. Total public debt declined by 11 per cent of GDP to 94 per cent of GDP by end 2005 from 105 per cent of GDP at end 2004, mainly on account of high growth and appreciation of the rupee against the US dollar.

The Mission noted that the country*s financial system soundness indicators had improved markedly. This reflected both the strengthening and better enforcement of the regulatory and supervisory framework, as well as the ongoing restructuring of the two large publicly owned commercial banks. The NPL ratios have declined, while provisioning has increased across the banking system. The Central Bank has taken several measures to enhance the regulatory and supervisory framework, including raising the minimum capital requirement (by 2007) and adopting the Basel II capital accord by 2008. The Mission expects that the government*s ongoing efforts in finding a solution through multi-party negotiations will be successful. The country has significant untapped growth potential, including in the conflict affected areas in the North and East. There is also potential to take advantage of rapid growth in major countries in the region, such as India and China. The government*s medium-term policy framework places a strong emphasis on reducing poverty through raising economic growth. The policy strategy seeks to spur sustainable economic growth to 8 per cent by 2008 through a substantial increase in investment and a greater emphasis on the role of the state to facilitate growth. The Mission supports the Sri Lankan authorities* emphasis on macroeconomic stability and growth. The Mission also noted certain significant downside risks to the outlook. External vulnerabilities include a global growth slowdown, rising international interest rates and risk aversion, increased competition for export market share, and obstacles that may affect the investment climate. The Mission also emphasised the need for continuing with the government*s efforts at keeping the budget deficit under control and raising public investment to ensure sustainable future growth. Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Dr P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Treasury, Mr W.A. Wijewardena, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Mr R.A. Jayatissa Deputy Secretary to the Treasury and Dr H.N.Thenuwara, Director of Economic Research of Central Bank of Sri Lanka also participated in the meeting.

From http://www.priu.gov.lk/07/18/2006


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PAKISTAN: Accounts Training System to Be Strengthened

ISLAMABAD (APP) - The graduation ceremony of the three-week course on ※National and Regional Accounts ※ concluded here on Saturday. The course was organized by Training Wing of the Statistics Division in collaboration with German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ). Secretary Statistics Division Asad Elahi, Vice Principal of the Training Institute, Ms.Rasheeda Bokhari and Principal Advisor from GTZ, Bernd Struck also spoke on the occasion. Twenty-two professionals of senior level from various organizations including Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS), State Bank of Pakistan and Provincial Bureaus of Statistics participated in the course. Host of topics on National and Regional Accounts such as issues of economic surveys covering economic circuit, basics of measuring economic activity, business registers, area sampling techniques and classifications, introduction to concepts and principles of the system of national accounts, measurement of production and consumption, regional accounts, were covered in this course.

Secretary Statistics Division, Asad Ellahi said that a number of courses for the staff of the statistics division for their skill upgradation have been organized by the Training Wing of the Statistics Division with the technical support of the donors. He informed the participants that Statistics Division would conduct more courses on various important areas of statistics including softwares like CSPro, SPSS, STATA and Excel as well as Inputs/outputs tables, Sampling Techniques with reference to Household Surveys, Econometrics, GIS for Computerization of Census Maps and Graphic Presentation of Census Data during the current financial year. He added that training wing of the Statistics Division would further be strengthened and training facilities would also be trickled down to the provincial levels for the benefit of the staff. GTZ, UNFPA and DFID, he said would provide financial assistance for most of these courses. Asad Elahi, appreciated the efforts and input of Dr. Bernd Struck who conducted this course with great effort and hard work. He further expressed that the efforts of the Statistics Division would go a long way for enhancing the professional and technical skills of the statisticians, working in different statistical organization at National and Provincial level. Dr. Bernd Struck Principal Advisor from GTZ on the occasion highlighted the aims and objectives of the course and also appreciated the efforts put in by FBS training Wing. Vice Principal of the Training Wing, Ms. Rasheeda Bokhari said that through 120 training courses more than 2000 statisticians were imparted training on various topics. She appreciated the efforts and cooperation of the Secretary Statistics Division in this regard. Later Asad Ellahi distributed certificates among the participants.

From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 07/09/2006


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IRAN: Gov*t to Issue Participation Bonds

The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has drawn up a bill on issuing participation bonds worth 20 trillion rials, said Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Davood Danesh-Jafari here on Friday. According to ISNA, the minister further said that public sales of bonds will begin soon. Danesh-Jafari said that the government is planning to issue participation bonds in a bid to reduce inflation and liquidity rates. He termed the stock market as the country*s most important center for channeling capitals, stressing that the private sector*s role in the capital market should increase. The minister further said that some price hikes are temporary, adding that prices will soon begin to fall. ※The government is planning to employ new mechanisms to cut prices,※ he said, adding that inflation has come down to 10.3 percent in recent weeks. He promised that the inflation rate will be fall to a single digit by next March. Participation bonds are usually distributed to control worsening liquidity growth and encourage the people to invest in national projects.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 07/16/2006


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KYRGYZSTAN: World Bank Supports Entrepreneurship and Trade in the Kyrgyz Republic

The World Bank*s Board of Directors today approved an IDA grant in the amount of US$5 million for the Reducing Technical Barriers for Entrepreneurship and Trade Project for the Kyrgyz Republic. ※In transition countries, the absence of internationally recognized Metrology, Standards, Testing and Quality infrastructure hinders development,§ said World Bank Country Manager in the Kyrgyz Republic Chris Lovelace. ※And an excessive regulatory system reduces enterprise competitiveness§. In the Kyrgyz Republic, in line with the Government*s deregulation efforts, the ※Law on the Fundamentals of Technical Regulation in the Kyrgyz Republic§ was adopted in April 2004. The Law initiated the country*s transition from an excessive regulatory system to a leaner one. However, the regulatory burden imposed on businesses remains high. Largely inadequate Metrology, Standards, Testing and Quality (MSTQ) infrastructure raises vulnerability to non-tariff barriers to trade that, in turn, delay market access and further economic development.

※The new grant from the World Bank will complement ongoing donor programs and help the Kyrgyz Republic to harmonize domestic standards with international ones, and establish a reliable MSTQ infrastructure,§ Lovelace said. The Project will help to stimulate private sector led-growth by addressing the following needs to: (i) lower administrative barriers to businesses, especially in the areas of taxation and inspections; (ii) enhance enforcement of property and creditors* rights; (iii) improve the lending infrastructure and legal framework; (iv) modernize and streamline the customs regime and cross-border environment; (v) target investment in infrastructure to support trade; and (vi) streamline and align the domestic standards and certification regime with international standards. As a result of the project, the cost of regulatory compliance should decrease, and, over time, the share of non-gold trade with existing WTO partners should increase. The Project will be implemented over a period of four years, starting October 1, 2006.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 07/13/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: ADB Signs Second Private Sector Loan for Kazakhstan to Boost Financing for SMEs

ADB and Bank TuranAlem JSC (BTA) of Kazakhstan have signed a $75 million five-year senior loan to help boost financing for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and retail banking in the country. The loan represents ADB's second private sector financing without central government guarantee in Kazakhstan. On 15 June, ADB signed its first private sector loan to Kazakhstan for a $50 million five-year senior loan to JSC Alliance Bank, which is also meant to boost financing for SMEs. BTA is a leading commercial bank in Kazakhstan offering a full range of traditional banking products and services. As of end-2005, BTA was the largest bank in Kazakhstan in terms of shareholders* equity (KZT91.9 billion) and second in terms of total assets (KZT963.7 billion). In addition, as of end-2005, BTA*s total credit portfolio was KZT691.9 billion with total client deposits of 624.6 billion. ※This financing forms an important component of ADB*s overall support for the financial sector in Kazakhstan," says Stephen Wermert, Country Director of ADB*s Resident Mission in Kazakhstan. "ADB is also providing technical assistance to both the National Bank of Kazakhstan and the Agency for Regulation and Supervision of the Financial Markets and Financial Organization.§

From http://www.adb.org/ 07/20/2006


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TAJIKISTAN: World Bank Supports Tajik Government*s Reform Program

The World Bank*s Board of Executive Directors yesterday approved two grants for a total amount of US$15 million to support the Government*s reform efforts aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the public sector, development of the private sector, and more efficient social service delivery. The Programmatic Development Policy Grant, in the amount of US$10 million, will support the government*s reform program as outlined in its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The project will help improve the environment for private sector development, and improve the overall functioning of the public sector and the delivery of key public services. The proposed program is aligned with the first two pillars of Tajikistan*s PRSP. The US$5 million Public Sector Reform Grant will finance technical assistance that will complement and support the Programmatic Development Policy Grant. The project will assist the Government in the implementation of its Public Administration Reform Strategy, through strengthening policymaking and service delivery systems and enhancing transparency of public management in selected core public sector entities.

"Tajikistan has made impressive progress in stabilizing the economy and the social conditions since the end of its brutal civil war nine years ago,§ said World Bank Country Director for Central Asia Annette Dixon, who presented the two grants to the World Bank*s Board of Executive Directors. ※It is now embarking on an important program to improve the business environment. The approval of these two projects today should support the efforts of the Government to attract new investment and improve the performance of the Government, leading to the creation of more jobs and improved public services for Tajik families." "With these two grants the Bank is supporting Tajikistan to deepen its reforms,§ said Cevdet Denizer, the World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan, adding that ※these measures would help sustain the high growth rates Tajikistan attained over the past few years and reduce poverty.§ The Central Asian country of Tajikistan has 6.7 million inhabitants and a per capita income of US$310. Its economy has been growing on average at a rate of 9.4 percent per year between 2001-04. Tajikistan depends heavily on exports of cotton and aluminum, the majority of which are destined for other CIS countries and Europe, as well as on the growing remittances of emigrants, which are conservatively estimated to make up some 16 percent of GDP per year.

Poverty, although declining, remains high. In 2003, 64 percent of the population was considered poor, using the purchasing power parity poverty line of US$2.15. Social indicators remain low, reflecting the inadequate quality of public service delivery and weaknesses in the governance system. Sustaining long term economic growth in Tajikistan will require accelerating export growth and diversifying the domestic economy by stimulating investment, improving productivity, and strengthening competitiveness. In general, reforms supported by the proposed operations are expected to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty. In the short term, the proposed reforms in health and education are likely to result in improved access and quality of services to the poor. In the medium term, the reforms proposed in the public administration reform strategy should yield benefits through improved public sector management. The Republic of Tajikistan became a member of the World Bank in 1993. Since that time, the World Bank has approved twenty-nine lending and grant-funded projects for a total commitment of approximately US$415 million, of which around US$350 million has already been disbursed.

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


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AUSTRALIA: Tax Cuts Could Push RBA to Rate Rise

The federal government's tax cuts could provoke the Reserve Bank into more interest rate rises and in the process hit the NSW economy for six, a leading economic forecaster has warned. Access Economics, in its latest business outlook report, said growth in the Australian economy was accelerating, but inflation may also be on the rise. It said the $36 billion in personal income tax cuts, which started with the new financial year, were creating a dangerous tug-of-war between the Reserve Bank and the federal government. "The recently arrived tax cuts are huge and they will power up the economy. But they may not be so smart," it said. "In fact we think a tug-of-war between tax cuts and interest rates is downright dumb - not merely unnecessary, but potentially risky for both housing prices and the current account deficit. "A further rate rise isn't a done deal, but it looks more and more likely." Expectations of a rate rise when the Reserve Bank board meets next month are high, in the light of strong employment growth, a return of life to the property market, and high petrol prices pushing up inflation. Global interest rates are also on the march, with the Reserve Bank of Japan last week lifting rates - by a quarter of a percentage point - for the first time in six years. Access said a further lift in interest rates would hit NSW hardest where the economy was still recovering from its post-Sydney Olympics hangover.

By putting in place such large income tax cuts, the government may inadvertently hit the nation's biggest state economy. "National policy settings seem almost designed to keep NSW in the slow lane," it said. "The more Canberra pumps out tax cuts, the greater the pressure on the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates. "As appreciated as the recent tax cuts are for Sydney's shoppers, each and every interest rate rise hits hard." Access said oil pressures to ease, which should bring headline inflation down. But underlying inflation is likely to climb on the back of strong demand. This will be exacerbated by higher prices for imported goods, pushed up by the high prices achieved by commodities. It is expecting job growth to remain around one per cent to 1.5 per cent, keeping unemployment at five per cent or below. Among the states, Access believes Western Australia will continue to power along on the back of the commodities boom, with the Northern Territory not far behind.

Queensland is tipped to grow strongly on the back of a range of industries, Victoria and South Australia have a solid economic outlooks, Tasmania's construction sector is starting to shrink while the ACT government is trying to control spending. NSW may rebound, but this is tied closely to whether the Reserve Bank lifts interest rates again. On commodities, Access says they still look strong, but there are signs prices may start to retreat next year. This would hurt federal government revenue forecasts.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 07/17/2006


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Bank's Relocation Plan for 12,000 Staff

THE Commonwealth Bank of Australia is investigating information technology options for its planned move of about 12,000 staff to three sites across Sydney. The bank last week announced an overhaul of its Sydney operations that will result in about half of its non-branch employees moving to campus-style premises at Sydney Olympic Park. At present, the bank occupies several buildings in the Sydney CBD and other locations. By 2010, 12,000 employees, including IT staff, will be based at either Sydney Olympic Park, Parramatta or the Sydney CBD. Rivals Westpac and the National Australia Bank have already moved their workforces to new buildings. Westpac is using the move of about 5000 staff to new premises as a trigger for a whole-of-bank technology overhaul. A spokeswoman for the Commonwealth said no plans had been made about technology options for the sites. "We are still investigating and designing the plan," she said. The bank is aiming for the new interlinked buildings at Olympic Park to achieve a 4.5 star Australian Building Green Rating. The bank said the new "technology-friendly" workplaces would incorporate environmentally friendly and flexible facilities using smart technology. The buildings will use the most advanced technology to promote "collaboration and communication in the most efficient way", the spokeswoman said. The campus-style multi-building facility at Sydney Olympic Park will accommodate about 5000 employees. At Parramatta, the bank will house around 3000 staff in two buildings. Construction on the Parramatta site, at George Street, is due to wrap up in mid-2007. In the Sydney CBD, the bank will reduce the number of buildings it occupies. A decision is yet to be finalised as to where some 4000 staff will be located. Relocation of staff is expected to conclude in 2010.

From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 07/18/2006


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Productivity Commission Research Paper on the Financial Performance of Government Trading Enterprises

The Treasurer today welcomed the release of the Productivity Commission's research paper into the financial performance of Government Trading Enterprises (GTEs) from 2000-01 to 2004-05. The research paper provides an independent and comprehensive analysis of the financial performance of various GTEs, most of which are owned by State and Territory Governments. The Productivity Commission has found that aggregate profitability increased in the electricity, water and urban transport sectors in 2004-05 compared with 2003-04, but profitability declined in the railways, forestry and ports sectors. In particular, the Government notes the finding that nearly half of the GTEs monitored earned less than the long term bond rate in 2004-05, with an even greater proportion failing to earn a commercial rate of return (which includes a margin for risk). The proportion of GTEs falling below this threshold has not changed significantly for over a decade. This highlights the need for continued reforms by the States and Territories to improve the performance of their trading enterprises and ensure that they earn an appropriate return on tax-payer funded assets. As highlighted in the Commission's accompanying media release, these findings also underscore the need for continued improvement in key infrastructure areas and reaffirm the importance of the COAG commitment to a new National Reform Agenda, particularly in relation to improving productivity, competition and the efficient functioning of markets. These reforms have the potential to increase significantly Australia's international competitiveness and deliver substantial benefits to the Australian economy.

From http://www.treasurer.gov.au/07/19/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Tax Changes Likely to Fire up Housing Market

Just as the housing market is showing signs of coming under control, Finance Minister Michael Cullen is set to toss a fresh load of accelerant on it by taxing overseas equity investments, warn leading sharebrokers and investors. Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard's string of rate rises has finally affected home lenders, with a solid proportion of fixed-rate mortgages being renewed this year at higher rates. The market is now showing welcome signs of cooling after prices increased 69 per cent between 2000 and last year, fuelling inflation by boosting household wealth and consumption. But, although the proposed changes to the taxation of overseas equity investments are intended to remove investment distortions and "level the playing field" between various investment classes, most of the submissions received, including that from ABN Amro Craigs, warn it will do exactly the opposite. ABN Amro Craigs chief executive Frank Aldridge said the key objection to the proposal was that by effectively raising the tax burden on overseas equities it would hamper them as a viable investment option. "It goes against diversified portfolio theory. We do see it will distort investment decisions and it shouldn't," he said.

"We're probably likely to see, if it goes through in its present shape and form, money that was in international shares come back to Australasian equities, and back into New Zealand property, which I wouldn't have thought was the greatest thing for the country." Forsyth Barr managing director Neil Paviour-Smith agreed. Although the increased investment in New Zealand equities would probably be a net positive over time, "my bigger concern is that you'll see a lot of money channelled into the housing market where the bulk of our national savings are already concentrated". Paviour-Smith believed not enough regard had been paid to the distortions of those types of effects. "Where's the analysis on the impact on the average investor's portfolio or the impact on our national savings as a result of this? From our experience, unless you have a hell of a lot of money, the cost of administering this is going to make it prohibitively expensive for most investors, let alone the lesser returns that are going to be coming out of it. "You're almost eliminating the point of having an opportunity to invest in offshore shares. "People will leave the country or they'll take their money with them or they will send money offshore and you'll never see it again so you get this real hollowing-out effect of our market, which is not positive," said Paviour-Smith.

Kurian Verghese moved to Auckland from Australia five years ago "for a better lifestyle" after retiring from his job as Australasian managing director of a major US corporation. Since then, he and his wife have already being paying "significant amounts" of income tax on dividend payments from their United States, British, Australian and domestic equity investments. "The problem with the proposed changes for us is primarily due to the fact that the liability will be based on unrealised capital gains," said Verghese, 60. "If this becomes law we will have to either liquidate all our assets outside New Zealand and Australia or go back to Australia to live. "Most likely we will choose the latter option since the Australian Parliament is discussing significant tax cuts, particularly for those over 60. If a few thousand people like us moved to Australia, Inland Revenue will lose hundreds of millions in tax take." The other major facet of the proposed changes is the removal of capital gains tax on managed funds' investment in New Zealand equities, which few submitters indicated they had any issues with. While managed funds have been paying the tax on their domestic equities, direct investors have not. Inland Revenue policy manager David Carrigan said the tax changes, which will be in place before the introduction of the KiwiSaver scheme next April, was intended "to remove the notion that if you invest into a managed fund you're a mug".

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 07/18/2006


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CHINA: First Railway IPO Set to Launch Major Expansion

The first Chinese railway to be listed on the mainland stock market on Friday launched its initial public offering (IPO), which is expected to raise 15-billion-yuan (1.87 billion U.S. dollars). Daqin Railway Co., started selling the first tranche of shares at 4.95 yuan (62 U.S. cents) to private investors. The company's IPO of 3.03 billion shares will be the second highest in Chinese stock market history after the Bank of China, which raised 20 billion yuan on the sale of six billion A-shares. Daqin will release 1.06 billion shares, or 35 percent, on to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, with another 1.06 billion shares sold to institutional investors. The company's 12 strategic investors, including insurers, fund companies, a port group, an energy group and other big investors will split the remaining 0.91 billion shares. However, a spokesman for the Shanghai Stock Exchange said Friday that the exact date of the stock market offering was still under consideration by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC). Jiang Yong, investment manager of China International Capital Corp Ltd. (CICC), Daqin's share dealer, said 230 institutions had applied for the 1.06 billion shares earlier this week.

The listing is expected to launch a period of major expansion for Daqin, which has announced plans to buy new rolling stock and expand its carrying capacity. It also intends to purchase the the major coal lines of Fengtai(West)-Shacheng-Datong and Datong-Ningwu, both of which it already manages. Daqin operates the main coal shipping railway in northern China. The 1,000-km line linking Datong City in coal-rich Shanxi Province and the port city of Qinhuangdao, in Hebei Province, is expected to handle 250 million tons this year. Railway experts said more railway companies would follow the Daqin model by listing to raise capital for construction. Four other mainland companies, including Hengdiandongci, Baoli Property, Tianyuan Science and Technology, and Weiertai also launched their IPOs this week. Their shares will be sold on both of China's bourses, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. These IPO approvals came after the China Securities Regulatory Commission in June approved the application by the Bank of China, the country's second biggest bank, to go public in Shanghai.


From http://news3.xinhuanet.com/07/21/2006


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Guangdong's Private Sector Sees Rapid Progress

Guangdong's private economy has entered the most rapid development stage in its history and is showing strong momentum, said Fei Mingfu, deputy director of the Guangdong Province Privately Owned Enterprise Association. "During the past years, the private economy in the province has formed a batch of capital-intensive and technology-intensive large-scale enterprises, consortiums and leading enterprises in different industrial sectors," said Fei. The province is a leading economic powerhouse in the country. Last year, the private economy accounted for 39.6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the province. Guangdong is a leading export-oriented economy in China. Export-oriented business has become a key factor in the economic development of the province. However, as industrialization entered its middle and latter stages, the export-oriented economy revealed its limitations, Fei said. In 2003, Guangdong decided to accelerate the development of the privately owned economy and also brought in 12 policies to help speed up the domestic-oriented economy. In two years, the number of privately owned enterprises grew rapidly, making Guangdong a leading province in terms of the number of privately owned enterprises.

Today, the province has 566,000 more privately owned enterprises than Shandong Province, and 400,000 more than Jiangsu Province. Fixed-assets investment in Guangdong's private economy has maintained a growth of more than 25 per cent, much higher than the growth of social investment. The private economy has entered the sectors of infrastructure and public utilities. The largest privately owned electronic information industry group in China was established on the eastern bank of the Pearl River, with an output value of 400 billion yuan (US$50 billion); a privately owned electric machinery industrial group has also been taking shape on the western bank of the Pearl River, with an output value of more than 130 billion yuan (US$16.25 billion). And in this climate, the Second Guangdong Privately Owned Enterprises Product Fair will be held between November 8 and 12 in Dongguan International Convention Center. About 700 private enterprises are expected to participate in the event, with 1,000 stands covering a floor space of 25,000 square metres.


From http://news3.xinhuanet.com/07/22/2006


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China to Auction One Unprofitable State-Owned Railway

A 62-kilometer state-owned railway in South China will be sold off soon, which may possibly become the first railway in China to be completely owned by non-public investors. The state-owned Luoding Railway Co., an unprofitable coal carrier servicing two undeveloped cities in South China's Guangdong Province, has been announced for auction at the website of Guangzhou Enterprises Mergers & Acquisitions Services last week. An official with the Guangzhou Enterprises Mergers & Acquisitions Services told Xinhua Sunday that it's the first time for the agency to deal with an auction on a railway company's total assets. "The local government has agreed to auction the Chunluo railway connecting Yangchun and Luoding cities, so as to raise money for constructing another railway," said Fu Dunan, general manager of the government-invested Luoding Yongsheng Assets Management Company, owner of the Luoding Railway Co., in an interview with Xinhua. According to Fu, the Luoding Railway Co., has been cornered with a total debt of 793.66 million yuan (99.2 million U.S. dollars) by the end of last year. "The main reason for the huge debts is the deficient freight transport on the Chunluo railway which failed to link with the national railway grid, " Fu said.

A new railway has been planned in the area to extend the Chunluo railway to Cenxi in the neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which will be a key railway linking Guangdong and Guangxi in the coming years, and will surely help boost economy of Luoding city. Fu said the 75.71-kilometer Luocen Railway, with 33-kilometer within Luoding city, will need a total investment of 1.47 billion yuan (183.6 million dollars), which will be an impossible mission for the Luoding government whose financial income was less than 200 million yuan (25 million dollars) in 2005. According to the auction announcement, the buyers of the Luoding Railway Co., must have a registered asset no less than 300million yuan (37.5 million dollars) in 2005, with the total asset no less than 7 billion yuan, debt to asset ratio lower than 50 percent and annual turnover no less than 2 billion yuan. The buyers will not only take over all debts of Guoding Railway Co., but also undertake the construction of Luocen railway, said the announcement. Chen Huiyong, vice general manager of Luoding Railway Co., said the company has applied to the Ministry of Railways whether the railway can be sold to foreign investors, but the ministry has no answer yet. "There is still possibility," said Chen.

China is opening up some of its monopolized industries to private investors in the recent years, such as power, railway, aviation, telecommunications, and petroleum. Beginning with the end of 1990s, China's private investors were allowed to enter the railway freight sector, then expand business to passenger transportation on some railways. But till April last year, the country has its first railway built with a portion of private investment. The Quchang Railway in East China's Zhejiang Province was jointly invested by Shanghai Railway bureau, Changshan county government and a cement company in Changshan, with the company sharing about one-third investment. A document released by the Ministry of Railways last year said the ministry will encourage all kinds of non-public investment into the construction and innovation of the country's national rails, branch rails and local rails.


From http://news3.xinhuanet.com/07/23/2006


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JAPAN: Businessmen to Head 4 Postal Entities

The government on Tuesday announced the appointment of private-sector businessmen as chief executive officers of the four companies to be created through the privatization of postal services in October 2007. Koji Furukawa, a 68-year-old senior adviser to the president at Mitsubishi Corp, will take the helm of the postal savings bank, while President Josuke Shindo, 61, of Tokio Marine & Nichido Systems Co, will become the CEO of the postal insurance company, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Heizo Takenaka said. The top post of the mail delivery service company will be assumed by Norio Kitamura, 64, chairman of Toyota Motor Italia, and the company in charge of over-the-counter services at post offices will be headed by Shigeo Kawa, a 59-year-old corporate officer of Ito-Yokado Co, Takenaka added.


From http://www.crisscross.com07/12/2006


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Private Universities Tie Up with High Schools

Private universities are scrambling to form tie-ups with junior and senior high schools to secure future students--and survival--amid the falling birthrate, school officials said. Some universities are tying up with schools other than their affiliates, including public schools, to make up for the shrinking enrollment, they said. Under certain conditions, private universities will grant admission to students from affiliated schools without having them take admission exams, giving the students an easier route to a college education, the officials said. Chuo University High School, a private school affiliated with Chuo University, and adjacent Daisan (No. 3) Junior High School, a public school run by Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward, are working out a tie-up contract. Under the plan, which would mark the first such contract between private and public schools, at least 10 or more students at the Daisan Junior High School can enroll at Chuo University High School without taking the entrance examination. The new system is expected to start from the 2009 school year. Since almost all students at the private high school who meet the necessary conditions can enroll at Chuo University, the new system will give qualified students at Daisan Junior High School entry into Chuo University without any admission exams.

The junior high school has 95 students. The tie-ups are more common in the Kansai region. Kwansei Gakuin University, a private university based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, formed an affiliation with three junior and senior high schools in January. Those secondary schools in the 2007 academic year will introduce classes designed for enrollment at the university. The students who pass those classes will, in principle, be allowed to attend the university. Similar deals were struck with several other junior and senior high schools. Kyoto Sangyo University reached agreement in March to make Kyoto Seian Junior and Senior High schools its affiliates starting next April.


From THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 07/13/2006


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Postal Bank, Life Insurer to Complete Privatization Earlier

Japan Post Corp. plans to complete privatization of a postal savings bank and a postal life insurance firm in nine years from 2007, one year earlier than scheduled under the law, sources familiar with the plan said Thursday. Japan Post, which will own the two financial entities and two other firms emerging as the privatization and breakup of Japan's postal system start in October 2007, plans to sell all shareholdings in the financial entities in five years after they go public in fiscal 2011, the sources said. The two others will be a mail service company and a firm to manage the nationwide network of post offices that will actually handle postal savings and life insurance products for the two financial entities. According to an outline of Japan Post's privatization implementation plan, the postal savings bank, tentatively called Yucho Bank, will utilize 233 major post offices throughout the nation as its key branches staffed with its employees, the sources said. The life insurer, tentatively named Kampo Life Insurance Co., will also utilize 81 major post offices as its key branches dealing with corporate clients as well as individuals, they said. Yucho Bank will gradually expand its operations to include credit card and trust banking services, as approved by the government, they said. Kampo Life will offer medical and nursing care insurance policies as well as conventional life insurance products, they said. They also said Japan Post will urge the government to eliminate or raise the postal life insurance ceiling per person, now at 10 million yen.


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com07/21/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: KEPCO Keen to Join CUC Privatization Bid

A subsidiary of Korea's national power company targets a September 2006 submission of its proposal with regard to the privatization of the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation's power plants. Charles Park, director of the Korea East West Power's procurement and business division, said the company will be working on a feasibility study on Saipan's power plants and submit a proposal within two months. East West Power is a subsidiary of the Korea Electric Power Corp., or KEPCO. Park, along with other EWP officials, was on island last week to meet with the Fitial administration and CUC officials. The delegation also toured the power plants in Lower Base on Wednesday afternoon and attended Friday's presentation by the Economists.com consulting firm on the rate study it did for CUC. In an interview, Park expressed belief that the CNMI's utility could benefit from KEPCO's experience and expertise. "After looking at your power plant 1 and 2, I got the impression that those power plants can be operated more efficiently. Our company uses advanced technology. Our company's efficiency is acknowledged as one of the best in the world. Maybe we will be able to share this with you. We want to have a chance to be involved in [CUC's] privatization," Park said. He also said he found the CNMI a good place to do business for security reasons. "It's a very nice place. It is safe compared to other countries. We don't have to worry about security," he said. The Fitial administration has welcomed KEPCO's interest in the privatization. Press secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said the CNMI only stood to benefit from the "international" interest that CUC has been receiving. Private companies in the Philippines have also been reported to be interested in taking over the operation of Saipan's power plants. According to Park, KEPCO generates 8,500 megawatts of power in South Korea and operates power plants in other Asian countries, including the Philippines. Additional facilities are currently under construction and they are expected to increase KEPCO's capacity by 1,000 megawatts next year.


From http://www.saipantribune.com07/10/2006


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Government to Block Further Privatization of Hospitals

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that the Presidential Committee of Healthcare Industry Innovation (CHII) would first thoroughly review foreign medical institutions hoping to operate in South Korean free economic zones and on Jeju Island before discussing the introduction of privatized healthcare in South Korea. Since 2004, the government has proceeded with a plan to allow the establishment of profit-seeking medical institutions. The government hopes the plan would increase managerial efficiency along with creating revenue. The plan would also attract foreign patients and activate mergers among medical corporations, it said. The hospitals were slated to be opened as early as next year. The presidential committee pointed out potential problems with the plan, such as declining quality of medical treatment and an increase in unnecessary medical procedures performed in a drive for profit. The committee also raised concerns that introduction of such corporations may give rise to side effects, including a decline in medical field employment. The committee, instead of introducing commercial hospitals wholescale, is going to gradually allow several foreign-owned hospitals which pass its scrutiny to open profit-based medical facilities on condition that they employ a transparent accounting system. These institutions, slated to open by 2008, will serve as the litmus test for further privatization in South Korea. Wu Seok-gyun, a high-ranking official of Korean Federation of Medical Groups for Health Rights (KFHR), said, "The government has made the correct decision in cancelling its plan to make domestic hospitals into profit-making corporations." However, he said, the foreign-run commercialized hospitals in the Incheon Free Economic Zone "have plans to exclusively attract patients from the high-income bracket. The government should completely reconsider such plans."


From http://english.hani.co.kr07/11/2006


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MALAYSIA: Ministry to Ensure Private TV Stations Air 70% Local Ads

Private television stations in the country are airing about 40% foreign commercials during prime time, which is against the Made-in-Malaysia (MiM) ruling. Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said he was worried about the current trend, which had brought down advertising production value from RM200mil in 2000 to RM19mil last year. He said a study conducted by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) and Malaysia Association of Advertising Filmmakers showed that RTM, TV3, NTV7, 8TV and Astro aired between 20% and 30% foreign commercials in 2003. ※This year, however, the private TV stations increased their foreign commercials to 40% between 6pm and 11pm. But RTM still follows the MiM ruling and airs about 20% foreign commercials,§ he told a press conference at Angkasapuri here yesterday. ※We will inform the related ministries on the current trend and together monitor the private stations to ensure that they air at least 70% local commercials.§ Under the MiM ruling, 70% of advertisements must have local content and involve local talents and advertising companies, as well as shot locally. Zainuddin said he received a memorandum on the plight faced by the local advertising industry from the Malaysian Advertisers Association and 4As on Monday. ※The current trend will affect the livelihood of 25,000 people in the advertising industry,§ he said, adding that the content of some foreign TV commercials was also not suitable for Malaysia. Zainuddin said he would bring up the matter with the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry and Water, Energy and Communications Ministry. On another issue, Zainuddin said the ministry had initiated the setting-up of a one-stop centre for advertising agencies to submit their television commercials for approval. He said the centre would include his ministry, the Home Affairs Ministry, the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry and the Water, Energy and Communications Ministry.

From http://thestar.com.my/07/08/2006


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Government Needs Support of Private and International Schools

The government needs the support of private and international schools to realise its agenda to make Malaysia a centre of excellence for education, said Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. He said such schools could enhance the relationship with international schools in other countries. "The schools must involve as many students and teachers as possible in co-curriculum contests at international levels apart from establishing links with world educational bodies," he said at the Sri Cempaka International School dinner in Cheras here Friday. He said the total number of international schools in the country is still small at 32 against 91 in Thailand and 82 in Indonesia. In terms of population ratio, Singapore has more than Malaysia with 16 international schools, he said. Hishammuddin said international schools in Malaysia have an enrolment of 10,653 students -- 2,608 locals and 8,055 foreigners. The locals at these schools only make up 0.05 per cent of the total 5.1 million students in government schools, he said. He said Malaysia also has 64 private primary schools and 75 secondary schools, with a student enrolment of 15,284 and 15,049 respectively. "In realising the national education agenda, the ministry will identify excellent private and international schools and promote them to further enhance the country's competitiveness in education in Asia," he said. This would simultaneously open up opportunities for private higher learning institutions to accept the enrolment of foreign students should they decide to further pursue their studies here, he said.

From http://www.bernama.com/07/22/2006


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THAILAND: To Ask Larger Private Sector Role in ASEAN Projects

BANGKOK, July 19 (TNA) - Thailand will propose a larger role for private sector help for ASEAN projects when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meet in Kuala Lumpur later this month, according to a senior Thai Foreign Ministry official. Nopadol Gunavibool, Director-General of the Foreign Ministry's Department of ASEAN Affairs said on Wednesday that Thailand will propose that the regional organisation permit an enhanced private sector financial role in supporting projects initiated by ASEAN. He said many such projects failed to progress because they lacked financial support. The director-general did not give details of the projects he mentioned. At the Foreign Ministry Wednesday, Mr. Nopadol briefed the press about the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), Post Ministerial Conferences and the 13th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), to be held July 24-28 in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from measures to strengthen ASEAN itself, the 10 member countries were expected to sign four important documents--the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Visa Exemption, a Framework Document for the Plan of Action to Implement the Asean-US Enhanced Partnership, the Asean-Canada Joint Declaration to Curb International Terrorism and the Instrument of Extension on the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation by France.

It was expected that after ASEAN signs the Framework Agreement on Visa Exemption, regional trade, investment and tourism sectors would be enhanced, he said. Regarding security aspects, the current tensions in regard to the Korean Peninsula, fighting in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue and violence in Timor-Leste would also be discussed. ASEAN would further support reconciliation in Myanmar, he said, but to press the Myanmar government to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi would be difficult. Mr. Nopadol said that the occasion will be a good opportunity for Thai Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai, a Thai candidate for the United Nations Secretary General post, to brief the ASEAN Foreign Ministers the progress on his campaign.

From http://etna.mcot.net/07/19/2006


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FTI Airs Concerns on Private Sector Competitiveness

The private sector remains a concern for Thailand's economic outlook, despite expectation that interest rates have nearly reached their peak and foreign-exchange rates will be stable for the rest of the year. Kitti Sukutamatunti, a deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said he was worried about the economy because of the trade deficit caused by huge oil imports. The higher cost of imports compared with export income will cause further problems. He said the competitiveness of the electrical-appliances and electronics sector had the highest ranking among exports. The improving world economy has bolstered export orders to the end of the year. But Thai industries remain less competitive than those in India and China, Kitti told a seminar hosted by three associations: the FTI, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Thai Bankers' Association. Kitti said he was not concerned about rising interest rates, because the industrial sector could react to the trend, but the economic slowdown was making it difficult for businesses to get bank loans. "Banks are not approving more loans because they know that every business has stagnating revenues but rising expenses. The economic slowdown has worsened its sales," he said.

Veerathai Santipraphob, executive vice president of Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), predicted that the policy rate had almost climbed to its peak after the Bank of Thailand held the rate at 5 per cent at Wednesday's meeting. But the banks continue to lift lending and deposit rates by 0.25-0.5 percentage points. Veerathai said the baht would probably depreciate, because of the widening current-account deficit, high US-dollar demand and narrowing interest-rate gap. SCB senior executive vice president Sirichai Sombutsiri said the baht would move to around Bt38 to 38.50 to the dollar, provided there were no irregular factors like war or a huge increase in the US Federal Reserve Board's federal fund rate. Paiboon Ponsuwanna, also an FTI deputy secretary-general, was worried that interest rates and exchange rates would not be as expected, which would affect the bottom line of the food industry, which was highly sensitive to foreign-exchange volatility. He said food exports totalled Bt166 billion for 7.62-per-cent growth in the first four months of this year, but profit margins had declined significantly, because of soaring oil prices, high interest rates and the stronger baht. Prasong Aolarn, president of the Housing Business Association, said the economy would be able to maintain its expansion if the business sector was willing to invest and consumers shook off their caution.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/07/21/2006


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BANGLADESH: Quality Education in Pvt Varsities Emphasised

Speakers at a roundtable conference in the city yesterday emphasised the need for maintaining the standard of education in private universities in the country. Addressing the conference on 'Role of Private Universities in Higher Education' they also urged the private universities to give importance to provide quality education shunning the mere business attitude in the education sector. However, the speakers admitted despite having irregularities and lapses in some private universities, most of those are playing a vital role in providing higher education. Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) organised the roundtable conference at CIRDAP auditorium with its chairman MA Kashem in the chair. Prof M Alimullah Miyan, Vice-Chancellor of the IUBAT, presented the keynote paper in the roundtable. Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Barrister Moudud Ahmed, addressing the function as chief guest, emphasised the need for a knowledge-based society in the age of information and communication technology. "Establishment of knowledge-based society depends on what kind of education we are providing to the students," he said. Barrister Moudud Ahmed said the present government certainly encourages setting up of more and more private universities fulfilling the requirements. Referring to the proposed accreditation council, the law minister said it would not have to interfere in the recruitment processes of the private universities and preparation of their curriculums; rather it is the government's duty to safeguard the interests of the nation. He also opposed toos mi much control on the functions of private universities. Referring to the achievement of the country in children enrolment rate in the primary schools, Barrister Moudud said the enrolment rate is the highest among the South Asian countries.

Dr Hafizuddin Siddiqui, Vice Chancellor of the North South University, said, "If our students are accepted by the world famous universities, we can only then say that we provided them quality education." He said at present about 75,000 students are enrolled in the private universities of the country. Dr Rahim Talukder said it is only the private universities who can finish their courses in due time. National Professor Dr. Nurul Islam accused some private universities selling only certificates to the student instead of providing them education. He said some private satellite channels are broadcasting only the positive side of private universities. Dr Islam also questioned whey 54 private universities are situated only in Dhaka city. The roundtable also addressed by Mozzamel Hossain, Amirul Islam, MA Hashem, MP, Abu Quasem Haider, Prof Khalilur Rahman and Dr Lutfar Rahman.

From The New Nation 07/01/2006


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INDIA: To Tap Funds from the Private Sector for Infrastructure Development

Impressed by the success of public-private partnerships, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the government plans to tap funds from the private sector for infrastructure development, as well as harness its efficiency for quality and timely delivery of projects. "Our experience with PPP (Public-Private Partnership) has been very encouraging. We are quite confident that we will generate adequate public and private resources for this vast enterprise", he said after laying the foundation stone for the Rs 450 crore 10-laned "multi-corridor" project here. "I look forward to the day when the face of this nation will be changed by a dense network of world class highways, reaching out to the farthest corners of the country," he said. The multi-corridor project, being executed by a consortium of three private companies, will connect Bangalore to Electronics City, the hub of IT industries, through a 9.5 km four-lane highway with a six-lane road at the ground level. The project coming up on the Bangalore-Hosur national highway near Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border is expected to ease traffic congestion and reduce loss of man-hours and job attrition in the IT sector along this highway, which earns Rs 12,000 crore annually in foreign exchange. Singh said the UPA government had speeded up construction and development of national highways in the country, besides expanding the entire programme and steeply increasing funds. "We now have a road programme National Highway Development Project (NHDP) costing Rs 2,20,000 crore to be implemented in seven to eight years." The NHDP, which had two phases, has been expanded to seven phases, covering most parts of the country, Singh said. "To NHDP-I and NHDP-II, we have added NHDP-III under which 11,000 kms of high traffic density highways connecting state capitals and important centres of tourism and economic activity are being developed. "And most importantly, these are being developed largely through public private partnership." The investment on this phase was Rs 55,000 crore, he said, adding, "it will be our endeavour to complete the ongoing projects expeditiously."

From http://www.indiadaily.com/06/27/2006


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Sale of Government Stocks

Government of India have announced the sale (re-issue) of ※7.59 per cent Government Stock, 2016§ for a notified amount of Rs.5,000 crore(nominal). Government of India have also announced the sale (re-issue) of ※7.50 per cent Government Stock, 2034§ for a notified amount of Rs.2,000 crore(nominal). Both the Government Stocks will be sold through price based auctions using uniform price method. The auctions will be conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai Office, Fort, Mumbai on July 11, 2006 (Tuesday). Up to 5% of the notified amount of the sale of both the stocks will be allotted to eligible individuals and Institutions as per the Scheme for Non-Competitive Bidding Facility in the Auction of Government Securities. Bids in the prescribed form obtainable from the Regional Director, Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai Office (Public Debt Office), Fort, Mumbai-400 001 and RBI website www.rbi.org.in should be submitted to that Office on July 11, 2006. The NDS members should submit competitive as well as non-competitive bids in electronic format using Primary Market Operation (PMO) module of NDS. All bids should be submitted by 12.30 P.M. The result of the auctions will be announced on July 11, 2006 and payment by successful bidders will be during banking hours on July 12, 2006 (Wednesday). It may be recalled that as per the indicative calendar for issuance of Government securities the amounts and the tenure of the securities scheduled for auction during July 3-11, 2006 were Rs.6,000 crore for a security having 10-14 year tenure and Rs. 4,000 crore for a security having 20-year and above tenure. However, taking into account all relevant factors, the Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, have decided to reduce the size of auction for both the securities. Accordingly, the security having 10-14 year tenure will be auctioned for Rs. 5,000 crore instead of Rs. 6,000 crore and the security having 20 year and above tenure will be auctioned for Rs.2,000 crore instead of Rs. 4,000 crore.

From http://pib.nic.in/07/06/2006


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PAKISTAN: Govt Urged Not to Privatise Wapda

GUJRANWALA: The Pakistan Wapda Hydro-Electric central labour union has opposed Wapda privatisation and demanded that the government should drop the plan immediately. Speaking at a meeting held here on Wednesday to protest against the government privatisation policy, union president Muhammad Iqbal Dar claimed Wapda was a profitable organisation and its sell-off was unjustified. He said the contractors would increase the power supply, making the consumers who were already hard-pressed pay heavy electricity bills. Other leaders ?Sadiq Ali Awan, Ehsanullah Sandhu, Mian Ataur Rehman and Zafar Iqbal ?demanded that the selection grade and move-over of the Wapda employees should be restored. They criticized the motorway police for registering a case against Shaheenabad SDO Tanvir Ahmad for removing faulty electricity meter from the motorway complaint office in Rawalpindi bypass intersection and demanded his dismissal. They demanded that the DCO and the DPO should order an impartial inquiry into the matter. Reporting desks: Three women reporting desks have been established in as many police stations under the Asian Development Bank safety reforms project to provide legal aid to oppressed women. Educated lady police officers would be appointed at the desks. This was stated by District Police Officer Mian Muhammad Asif while speaking at a briefing here on Wednesday. He said the reporting desks would be established in Saddar Gujranwala, Model Town and People Colony police stations and would start functioning from July 17. He expressed the hope that the desks would guide women for resolving their problems, besides providing them legal aid. PEDDLERS: Police claimed on Wednesday to have seized a huge quantity of narcotics and arrested two drug peddlers, including a woman, in separate raids. Police received information that the accused were smuggling about 80kg hash from tribal area by a bus. A police team conducted a raid and arrested a drug pusher, Khawar, with the contraband. In another raid, one Naila was arrested with 1kg heroin.

From http://www.dawn.com/07/13/2006


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IRAN: TSE Unable to Process New Privatizations

A Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) broker said here on Wednesday that the new wave of transactions in state companies* shares on the stock market will multiply deals, stressing that with its existing facilities, the bourse does not have the capacity to handle this. Ali Eslami-Bidgoli told ISNA that no major state company has been listed with the TSE over the past one year, adding that the country*s capital market is currently worth a total of 350 trillion rials, whereas state companies* shares would amount to 1,400 trillion rials. ※We do not have the experience to deal with such huge figures,※ he said, adding that the market lacks the necessary potentials. The broker further noted that it will also be very difficult to determine the value of each state company*s shares, adding that the stock market*s mechanized systems do not have the capacity to handle more than 10,000 deals a day. Eslami-Bidgoli said a professional expert team has to take charge of affairs and the current stock market systems have to be equipped with the latest technologies. He said that the initiative would need huge expert work, expressing hope, however, that it would turn the TSE into one of the world*s largest stock markets in terms of volume of deals.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/07/13/2006

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UZBEKISTAN: Presidential Resolution Says 102 Strategic Enterprises to Be Privatized

President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov signed a resolution "On deepening processes of denationalization and privatization in 2006-2008" on 10 January. The document aimed at further deepening of processes in denationalization and privatization process in leading sectors of economy, directed to improve role of private ownership in economy, cardinal decrease of state share in charter capitals in economic entities, as well as attraction of direct investments, including foreign. The presidential resolution approved list of enterprises and objects, which will be denationalized and privatized in 2006-2008. The document said unplaced state assets in 1,269 objects will be fully realized to private ownership. These objects can be realized by state tender commission on zero-redemption price if they are not realized in time. Unplaced state shares in 105 enterprises and objects will be realized to private ownership on zero-redemption price with undertaking investment obligations.

The resolution also set list of strategic companies, the state shares in which will be realized partially to investors. The list includes 121 enterprises and objects, representing such sectors as oil and gas, textile, financial, publishing, aviation, railway, chemistry and others. The document said Uzbekistan will sell 49% stake in Uzkimyosanoat (Uzbek Chemistry Industry), Uzbekneftegaz (Uzbek oil and gas), Uzavtosanoat (Uzbek Car Industry), Uzdonmahsulot (Uzbek Grain Products), Uzbekyengilsanoat (Uzbek Light Industry), Uzbekistan Havo Yollari (Uzbekistan Airways) and Uzbektelecom. The country will also sell 51% stake in Asaka Bank, the second largest Uzbek bank, 25.6% shares in Tashkent Aircraft Production Plant (TAPOiCh), Central Asia's only aircraft production, 20.91% shares in Uzmetcombinat (Uzbek Metal Combine), Uzbek scrap metal processing plant. Uzbekistan put for sale several energy assets, including regional electricity suppliers, Uzbekkomir (Uzbek Coal).


From http://business.uzreport.com/07/17/2006

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AUSTRALIA: SP Ausnet Well Placed for Privatisation

Electricity and gas utility SP AusNet says it is ideally placed to take advantage of any privatisations and further energy network sales in Australia or New Zealand. SP AusNet managing director Nino Ficca said the company had a strong organic growth profile but was also looking for future opportunities for investment and acquisition. He said the Queensland government's decision to privatise its energy infrastructure may provide opportunities for players such as SP AusNet. "In addition to the strong organic growth profile of the business, SP AusNet is dedicated to evaluating future opportunities for investment and acquisition in Australia and New Zealand," Mr Ficca said. He told the company's annual general meeting that SP AusNet's commitment to building a sustainable, long-term business would shape its decisions and acquisition strategy. "Our objective is to maintain a solid and reliable business that generates steady, long-term value for our investors. "The decision of the Queensland government to privatise its energy infrastructure is a positive step and one which we believe may provide opportunities for players such as SP AusNet, down the track

"History has shown with the Victorian privatisation that this first step may lead to other opportunities for network acquisition. "SP AusNet has an excellent track record of managing networks and ensuring a high degree of reliability for customers. "This makes the group ideally placed to take advantage of any privatisations and further energy network sales in Australia or New Zealand." SP AusNet last month said it had contacted organisers of the sale of Queensland's energy assets with a view to bidding for the Allgas distribution business. The Queensland government is believed to be keen to complete the sale of Allgas, which services about 80,000 customers in the state's south-east, by the end of the year or earlier. SP AusNet, which listed in December last year, posted a net profit of $335.23 million for the year to March 31, 2006, which included $175.67 million of earnings from continuing operations.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 07/18/2006

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Bosses Shy from Push for Tougher Work Laws

A MAJOR employer lobby group has scrambled to distance itself from a plan hatched by its members to slash worker conditions. The push to axe overtime pay for any hours worked above a 38-hour week, slash sick leave from 10 days a year to five and "cash out" all four weeks of annual leave was revealed yesterday in a leaked document. In an internal discussion paper, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry criticised aspects of the new workplace laws and proposed further changes to benefit employers. A cover sheet by a member group distils this into specific proposals. ACCI leaders raised their criticisms at a meeting with Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews last week. But yesterday, after unions seized on the plan as a blueprint for more changes, the group said it had not tried to cut conditions. Acting Workplace Minister Philip Ruddock said the Government would consider "fine-tuning" the laws, but would not "redraw" them. But ACTU secretary Greg Combet said the proposal would become policy. "If it doesn't become law before the next election, it certainly will after the next election if John Howard is elected again," he said. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley agreed there would be more "extreme" workplace laws. "John Howard has not finished with the Australian people yet," he said. Labor also condemned the sacking of a Sydney mother, marketing manager Elaine Gray, while she was on maternity leave. It said the axing of unfair dismissal appeal rights for millions of workers had left her without any affordable recourse. Ms Gray said she had to accept the decision as a legal challenge was too expensive. Flinders University law professor Andrew Stewart said it was one of a number of cases where the axing of unfair dismissal appeal rights could make a real difference to workers' capacity to protect their jobs.

Billy accepted a job with a Canberra clothing retailer and received the minimum hourly pay rate, no matter how many hours he worked. At Spotlight, the minimum hourly award rate is $14.28, and serving employees get paid overtime and penalty rates of time-and-a-half and double-time if they work Thursday nights, weekends and public holidays. New employers would get paid $14.30 an hour for all hours worked and would not get other entitlements including shift loadings, rest breaks, bonuses, incentive payments and annual leave loadings. Spotlight last night defended its move, with general manager of marketing Jono Gelfand saying the company wanted to switch to individual contracts, called Australian Workplace Agreements, for all its workforce. "We are doing what we were told to do by the legislators." Mr Gelfand said the company's AWAs met all of the Government's Work Choices legislative requirements. "We are just doing whatever we are required to do to meet the minimum conditions set out by the Australian Fair Pay Commission."


From http://www.theage.com.au/07/21/2006

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Sale Threatens Health Costs

CONSUMERS face the possibility of rising health insurance premiums flowing from the sale of Medibank Private. Government sources confirm that axing Medibank Private's not-for-profit status is being considered as part of pre-sale legislation scheduled for the spring session of Federal Parliament. The removal of not-for-profit status would send a clear signal to the financial markets that Medibank Private is an attractive commercial option. Market estimates put the value of Medibank Private at between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion. But it would also generate fresh political sensitivities about the privatisation, with the Government still recovering from the community backlash that killed the Snowy Hydro sale earlier this year. The Government has also yet to realise its longstanding plans to sell its remaining stake in Telstra, with Finance Minister Nick Minchin all but ruling out a public float and signalling the Government's shares might be parked in the Future Fund. Medibank Private founder and former director John Deeble said yesterday that removing the not-for-profit status would allow the privatised player to charge whatever it liked "subject only to competition in the industry". "It's a procedural thing, but if (the Government) does this beforehand, they are signall- ing they want it to make a commercial return," Professor Deeble said. He said removing not-for-profit status would end a longstanding practice within Medibank Private of returning profits to members through tackling administrative costs and holding down premium increases. "I don't think there is any public interest in selling Medibank Private," he said. The sale will require several pieces of legislation, and a change to the structure of Medibank Private to render it more attractive to potential buyers. The Government has yet to announce whether it will sell the insurer through a public float to so-called "mum and dad" investors, or through a trade sale that could mean the insurer would be carved up among its competitors.


From http://www.theage.com.au/07/21/2006

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NEW ZEALAND: Telecom Could Still Deal Its Way out of Enforced Regulation

Telecom will be able to avoid the tougher Government regulation of its phone and internet network by making deals with competitors instead, new legislation tabled yesterday in Parliament revealed. However, Communications Minister David Cunliffe denied it was an escape clause for the company. The Telecommunications Amendment Bill - which will unbundle the local loop - allows phone and internet providers to present a deal to the Commerce Commission that side-steps the proposed Government regulation, including unbundling the local loop, unbundled bitstream, and the introduction of naked digital subscriber line broadband services. Clause 59 of the bill "provides access provider with an alternative mechanism to supply a service to all access seekers under a voluntary undertaking to the commission that avoids the need for regulation and that is on terms and conditions agreed between the access provider and the commission". Cunliffe said clause 59 was meant to allow the Commerce Commission to accept an undertaking from an access provider in lieu of regulation. "Such an undertaking would be binding so there is no suggestion of it being an escape clause," said Cunliffe. "The commission would not accept an undertaking that was not beneficial to users.

Where a voluntary undertaking is binding and delivers a result to end users that is superior to a regulated outcome, there ought to be a provision for locking in such an undertaking. "Conversely, not to have such an ability would lessen the ability of the regulatory system to be future-proofed to take account of changes in market dynamics." Last month the Government said it would force Telecom to open its phone network to internet competitors, after Telecom failed to meet broadband targets it had agreed to. It is also revealed in the legislation tabled yesterday that Telecom will be fined $1 million if it breaches the proposed accounting separation laws. Under the bill, Telecom has to split its wholesale and retail accounts. Further, the commission could review local loop unbundling and all designated services every five years to see whether it should continue or not. Vodafone regulatory manager Hayden Glass said clause 59 allowed telecommunication operators such as Vodafone, which could be faced with the potential regulation of a service, to provide the Commerce Commission with an "undertaking". "The industry, the regulator and the minister all have a preference for commercial solutions over regulated outcomes. They are likely to be faster, easier and overall better for consumers."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 06/27/2006

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Minister Cleared over Telecom Comments

A minister who gave an interview on Telecom's future did not base his comments on inside information, the Securities Commission said today. However, it said ministers and others who the sharemarket may presume to have confidential information should "exercise caution" when commenting on issues which could affect companies. Communications Minister David Cunliffe gave an interview to financial news agency Bloomberg on May 15 in which he was quoted as saying Telecom may have to cut dividends to fund increased investment. The comments were blamed for knocking a further two per cent off Telecom's already battered share price following the Government's May 3 announcement that it was opening access to the telephone and broadband network. The total losses during that fortnight were around $2.7 billion. The Commission also ruled today that there was no evidence of insider trading over the leaked plan to open access to the network. But it said the company and the Government could have done more to prevent any illegal trading taking place after the release of the information.

The commission said the May 3 announcement, which was due to be made in the Budget but had to be brought forward following a leak of Cabinet papers to Telecom, did create an "avoidable asymmetry of information". This allowed 30 minutes of trading in Telecom shares on the Australian exchange after the announcement, which the company and Government could have prevented. The Commission said the Government should take steps to avoid this happening again. The Commission's division chairman Lloyd Kavanagh said the Government should work with the NZ stock exchange to develop ways the Government can disclose information that could be price-sensitive, "while accommodating the Government's other legitimate concerns". He added: "The Commission considers that integrity and efficiency of the markets are best served through a well informed market with a high standard of disclosure, and when investors have equal access to material information, so that they can trade on the same information at the same time."


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 07/25/2006

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