October 2006, Issue 59
gapw@apcity.org
 
 
  Global Watchmen Sign Off on Banking Guidelines
Guidelines on Corporate Responsibility Simplified
Asian Nations Talk of Strong Response to North Korea
Ministers Adopt Action Plan to Accelerate Regional Cooperation in Central Asia
 
  CHINA: Central Regions to Receive Tax Policy Support
Court Rules Improve Penalty Application
Government to Curb Illegal Land Grabs
Special Fund to Support Development of SMEs
Social Security System to Cover More
HK CE's Policy Letter Stresses Environment and Culture Elements
New Subsidies for Rural Families
Draft Corporate Tax Law to Be Tabled Soon
Beijing Issues 'Domestic Help' Guidelines
CPC Shifts Focus to Social Services
Draft Property Law Tabled in Legislature
China Passes Laws Banning Graffiti, Driving on Great Wall
JAPAN: Abe Stresses Changing of Guard
Abe Cool over Changes to Imperial Law
Decentralization Bill Sets Stage for Regional Governments
Gov*t Eyes Tighter Rules for Residence Certificates
Prime Minister Honors Contributors to the Building of Safe and Reassuring Communities
New Fair Practice Law for Tokyo
SOUTH KOREA: Government Unveils Steps to Improve Business Environment
Korea Seeks Legislation to Unify Four Public Insurance Schemes
Pension Benefits to Be Cut For Civil Servants, Soldiers, Teachers
Shadow over the Sunshine Policy
South Korea to Take Measures in Line with U.N. Resolution on N. Korea
Government Sets Support Plan for Film Industry
Korea to Implement Tough Bird Flu Prevention Measures
MONGOLIA: Draft Law on 2007 State Budget Submitted
Education Law to Be Amended
Draft Law Sent Back
 
  INDONESIA: Government Urged to Adopt Pro-poor Policies
MALAYSIA: Three Weeks to Settle Bills
Cooperate on 9MP, Says Pak Lah
PHILIPPINES: Acting Pasay Mayor Unveils Govt Plans
Government Cuts Revenue
House Approves P1.126-Trillion
Arroyo Vows to &Stand Up* Vs Poverty, Asks Public to Do Same
Arroyo Bats for More Environmental Laws
Philippine Supreme Court Vetoes 'People's Initiative'
SINGAPORE: Plan on Engaging Community in the Event of a Crisis to Be Unveiled Next Year
Singapore Launches Programme to Assess Pro-family Businesses
THAILAND: Ban on Booze Adverts Set to Be Issued Today
 
  BANGLADESH: Govt Set to Unveil New Import Policy Before End of Tenure
INDIA: No More Employing of Child-Workers
Union Cabinet Approves Amendment to the Information Technology Act, 2000
Indian Govt Delays Proposal to Amend Right to Info Law
Domestic Violence Law in Force from October 26, 2006
SRI LANKA: Strengthening Social Protection
India on Track to Meet 2015 Millennium Goals: UN
NEPAL: Govt. to Implement Juvenile Court Regulations
PAKISTAN: Pass Women*S Bill After Eid
Master Plan to Facilitate Karachiites for 25 Years
New Billboard Policy Due Soon
Provincial Autonomy Demanded
 
  AFGHANISTAN: Parliamentary Committee Working on New Media Law
AZERBAIJAN: President Issues Decree on Expanding Foreign Education
IRAQ: Parliament Approves Federalism Law
Plan to Form Iraqi Human Rights Commission Announced
IRAN: Supplementary Budget Bill Complete
KAZAKHSTAN: Parliament Passes Changes in Law on Local State Management
UZBEKISTAN: Cabinet Introduces New Media Registration Procedures
 
  AUSTRALIA: New Horticulture Environment Strategy
Basel II Advanced Measurement Approaches to Operational Risk
Drought Support Extended in 18 EC Declared Areas Across Australia
New Funding Agreement Supports Australia*s Carers
Child Support Agency Ramps Up Tax Compliance
Media Laws 'Not A Free Kick'
FIJI: Cabinet Approves Review of Medical and Dental Practitioners Act
NEW ZEALAND: Election Funding Laws to Be Overhauled, Clark Says
'Adjustments' to Tax Coming, Says Dunne
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Disaster Legislation and Plan Review Discussed
 
  Economic Growth is Creating ※Political Space§ for Deeper Reforms in South Asia: World Bank Report
General Assembly Appoints Ban Ki-Moon as Next UN Secretary-General
Many Asian Countries Falling Short of MDG Targets, Joint Report Says
Improved Governance, Infrastructure Key to Higher South Asia Growth, Says ADB Report
 
  CHINA: Anti-Graft Storm Rages Through China
China Appoints New Delegates to Int'l Organizations
Shanghai's Acting Party Chief Appointed
Auditing Watchdog Opens Up to Corruption Inspections
NBS Chief Removed
New Officials Appointed for Personnel Ministry, IMF
China Sets Up Military Brigade for Public Health Emergency Response
Guagnzhou Plans Juvenile Courts
New Head of Administration for Industry Appointed
Bigger Gov't Role in Public Health Promised
Inspection Groups to Improve Gov't Transparency
Shanghai Appoints New Vice Mayor
67,505 Gov't Officials Punished Since 2003
JAPAN: Shimada Tipped as New Chief Justice
Top Court Finds Upper House Seat Distribution Disparity Constitutional
Few Female Execs in Bureaucracy
Local Corruption Stalling Decentralization
Local-Level Civil Servants Face Pay Cuts
Gov*t to Give Yearly Payment Info on Pensions
Decision of Senior-Vice Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries
SOUTH KOREA: Kim Seok-Dong Named Vice Chairman of Financial Supervisory Commission
SOUTH KOREA: Presidential Office Hails Ban's Appointment as the U.N. Secretary-general
After Transfer Agreement, the Bureaucracy Begins
Roh to Reshuffle Security-Related Cabinet Ministers Next Week
 
  INDONESIA: Govt Told to Get Tough on Corrupt Lawmakers
MALAYSIA: National Health Council for Elderly to Be Revived
14,000 to Be Interviewed to Fill Immigration Department Vacancies
PHILIPPINES: Government Regional Execs Sacked
THAILAND: Challenges of the New Premier
Commission to Conclude 4 Major Graft Cases in a Year
Ruling Junta Unveils New Thai Parliament
Political Development Council at Heart of Surayud's Policy Platform
SBPAC Successor Name Agreed
Thai Parliament Name Military Adviser as Speaker
 
  BANGLADESH: Cabinet Prepares for Caretaker Govt Oath
'Curb Corruption to Eradicate Poverty'
BHUTAN: The Best Should Make the Cabinet
His Majesty Conferred Conservation Leadership Award
INDIA: Government Fully Geared Up to Control Dengue: Hota
High Level Committee to Be Set Up to Oversee Implementation of Public
SRI LANKA: Education System Should Adapt to Technological Revolution- Education Minister
Red Tape Hurts Sri Lanka Business Already Hit
MALDIVES: Government Employees to Get Health Insurance by End of Month: Social Security
NEPAL: Govt. to Form Taskforce to Resolve Problems of Industrial Sector
PAKISTAN: Law to Set Up Drugs Regulatory Authority in the Pipeline, SC Told
Reshuffle in Top Bureaucracy
Disaster Management Authority Soon
Reforms Body to Improve KWSB Working
Govt Employees Facing Difficulties in Getting Salaries
 
  IRAQ: Insurgent Group Announces Establishment of Islamic State
Iraqi Interior Minister Dismisses Top Police Commanders
KAZAKHSTAN: New Minister of Economics and Budget Planning Appointed
TAJIKISTAN: Commission Registers Three Presidential Candidates
TURKMENISTAN: President Appoints New Bank Head
New Office of Turkmenneft State Concern Inaugurated in Balkanabat
UZBEKISTAN: President Removes Another Governor
 
  AUSTRALIA: First Voter Competition a Chance for 16-19 Year Olds to Win $7000
Minister Launches $2 Million One-Stop-Shop Resource Centre
TAC Profits Deflected from Safety to Budget
Australian Government to Host the 2007 National Consumer Congress
FIJI: Cabinet Endorses Agreement on Establishing the Melanesian Spearhead Group
 
  Disaster Management Moot in January
SAARC Disaster Management Centre Inaugurated
Bangladesh Bankers to the Poor Win Nobel Peace Prize
 
  CHINA: Cross-straits Disaster Control System Launched
Shanghai Seeks Advice on World Expo
Training Class Held for Implementing Supervision Law
Disaster Response, Relief Capability to Improve
CPC Seeks Advice on Building Harmonious Society
HK to Launch Water Management Program
Expert Testimony Administration Now Available
Strengthening Surveillance over Farm Products Safety
CPC Discusses 2006 to 2010 Cadre Training Plan
JAPAN: Ota's Ability to Push Reform Under Spotlight
Gov't Sets Up Education Reform Panel
Education Reform Panel Vows to Address Bullying
SOUTH KOREA: OECD Lauds Korea's Regulatory Reforms
Tax Agency Chief Puts Priority on Innovation
 
  A Planned Reform in Myanmar Regional Administrative Bodies Underway
MALAYSIA: Sarawak-Canada MoU on Information Management
KFH*s New Risk Management Tool
100,000 for National Service in New 2007 Sessions
PHILIPPINES: Civil Service Exams Seem Tough for Llocos Aspirants
SPRING Unveils Initiative to Help SMEs Develop Business Strategies
Singaporeans Support Government's Proactive Approach to Get Feedback
SINGAPORE: 4 Companies Receive Top Awards for Innovative Infocomm Technology Use
THAILAND: In Pursuit of Good Governance
 
  BANGLADESH: Scientific Edn System Vital for Development: Young Professionals Tell Nagorik Committee Dialogue
Bangladesh Should Focus More on Capacity Building
INDIA: Institutions of Excellence Should Be Sensitive to the Aspirations and Concerns of the Society
Indian Economic Service Examination/Indian Statistical Service Examination 2005 每 Final Result Declared
Skoch to Roll Out First Ever E-Governance Census Talk Back?
SRI LANKA: E-Government Forum 2006 - Capitalising on Government ICT infrastructure
PAKISTAN: HEC Announces Universities Ranking
14,652 Lady Councillors Complete Training
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Parliament Discusses Draft Law on Private Guard Activity
IRAN: Structural Reforms at ISIRI
KAZAKHSTAN: I National Tax Forum to Take Place in Almaty
UZBEKISTAN: Forum of Public Organizations to Be Held in Tashkent
 
  AUSTRALIA: Innovative Approach Needed to Address Skills Development
Progressing the Education of Gifted and Talented Students
Nairn Promotes Geospatial Industry Initiatives
Central Location for Indigenous Task Force
Workplace Program Helping Separated Dads at Home and Work
&Smart* Services Report Will Help to Shape Mental Health
Federal Government Awards $21.7 Million in New ARC Funding to WA Research Projects
A More Flexible Copyright Regime
2000 Australians Enrolled at Australian Technical Colleges in 2007
NEW ZEALAND: Local and Central Government Award to Elgar
 
  2nd World Forum on China Studies Lowers the Curtain Successfully
Yogyakarta APEC Intercultural and Faith Symposium to Strengthen Trust
Widespread Growth Likely in Global ICT Sector: OECD Report Predicts Heady Times Ahead
UNESCO: World Will Need 18 Million New Teachers by 2015
Climate Change Could Devastate Asian Economies, Increase Disease Risk
Rising Seas Could Leave Millions Homeless in Asia
World Renowned IT Symposium
ADB Says South Asian Economies Can Become "New Tigers" With Better Governance
6th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region (CIAPR VI)
 
  CHINA and the World in the Perspective of Harmony and Peace: The 2nd World Forum on China Studies Opens
Internet Users Ally to Sue 'Rogue Software' Producer
China Opens Internet Portal on Popular Medical Science
China Targets US$10 Bln Software Exports by 2010
Real-name System for Mobile Users to Start
China Launches Website in Response to EU Rules
China to Develop Digital TV Industry
Municipality Issues Regs Banning On-line Defamation
Farmers Save 140 Yuan Each in 2006
High-tech Fair Draws 450,000 Visitors
Authorities Act to Prevent Teenage Internet Addiction
SOUTH KOREA: Companies Committed to Inter-Korean Project
Labor Shortage to Top 4.8 Million in 2020
Local Autonomy Key for Regional Economic Development
Information Protection Knowledge Portal Put into Operation
U.N. Department Reviews Korea's Information Project
MONGOLIA: "Anod" Bank Moves Toward Progress
Two-Month Campaign Continues
 
  MALAYSIA: &Internet-Ready Access Centres* in Schools
Malaysia's Labour Unions Seek Extension of Retirement Age
PHILIPPINES: DepEd Plans to Set Up 300 Library Hubs
Online Medical Library Launched
SINGAPORE: New Information and Knowledge Era Initiative
Singapore's High Net Worth Individuals 3rd Most Wealthy in Asia
Singapore Announces Programme to Develop Government IT Manpower
NYGH First Singapore School to Join Online Educational Community
16 Outstanding Researchers Receive Science & Tech Awards
41 Entrepreneurs Honoured at Spirit of Enterprise Awards
THAILAND: New Software Supports E-learning
VIET NAM: E-commerce Growth Hindered by Limited Use of Credit Cards
 
  BANGLADESH: Nobel Laureate Vows to Make Poverty History
World Bank Approves US$40 Million to Support Railway Sector
BHUTAN: ADB Loan to Improve Infrastructure of Cities
INDIA: Network of 5,000 Broadband-Enabled Rural Kiosks
Cell Phone Jammers to Be Installed in Punjab Jails
India Ranks 93 Out of 119 Countries on Global Hunger Index
Government Aiming to Achieve 10 Percent Annual GDP Growth by the Year 2011
It's Official: India's Dazzling Growth Fails to Dent Poverty
Punjab First State to Implement National E-Governance Plan
SRI LANKA: Focus on Empowering Small Businesses
NEPAL: Adhikari Highlights the Importance of ICT
PAKISTAN: Musharraf to Open Billing Kiosk at NADRA
Wireless Broadband Services Being Provided to 100 More Cities
 
  IRAN: New Reformist Daily Published
Iran Launches First Private Mobile Network
KAZAKHSTAN: Measures to Reduce Technological Losses on Transmission Facilities Needed
 
  AUSTRALIA: Townsville: Queensland's First Solar City
Education for Sustainability
Measuring Western Australia's Progress
Supporting the Voice of Older Australians
Centrelink Begins SMS Reminders
$529 Million in Health and Medical Research Grants
Strong Growth in Broadband Take-Up Continues
Commissioner Commends Improved Phone Access for People With Disabilities
More and Better Digital Television for Rural West Australians
Launch of Collaborative Online Security Initiative
Public Comment Sought on the .au Internet Domain
$15 Million for Mental Illness Support
 
  Asia Wealth Managers See Growth, Risk in Private Banking
Tax Revenues on the Rise in Many OECD Countries, OECD Report Shows
Better Way to Handle Asian Currencies
 
  CHINA: First China-Russia Finance Ministerial Dialogue Opens
Insurers May Invest 3% of Assets in Unlisted Banks
Banking Investment Set to Skyrocket
China Is World's Third Largest FDI Recipient
HK Tough on Terrorist Financing
Opening-up of Financial Sectors Urged
JAPAN: Ministries Duel over Overseas Allowances
Direct Investment into Japan Lowest in Decade
Gov't to Reshuffle Tax Panel
SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Spend over Half of Budget on Welfare, Education, Defense from 2008
Ministry Rules out Re-denomination of Currency
U.S. Pension Fund to Invest $2.5 Billion in Korea
MONGOLIA: to Take Loan from MCA
AG Development Project Is Successful
 
  INDONESIA: SBY Backs Bank Ownership Policy
MALAYSIA: Banks Win Awards
PHILIPPINES: IMF Wants Government to Impose Additional Taxes
SINGAPORE: To Issue 20-Year Govt Bonds to Help Develop Debt Market
MCYS Studies Proposal on Enhancing Financial Security of Special Needs Persons
 
  BANGLADESH: Govt Entities Possess 85pc Classified Loans
BHUTAN: Public Funds Misused
INDIA: Financial Reforms Top Priority: PM
FM Launches E-filing of Income Tax Returns
BEL Pays 146% Dividend to Government
SRI LANKA: Proposal to Widen Tax Net
MALDIVES: Welfare Budget to Cease Financing Government Employees* Medical Needs
 
  AZERBAIJAN: Low Tax Collection in State-Run Businesses
IRAN: Legislature Approves Funds for Gasoline Imports
KAZAKHSTAN: KDB and National Innovation Fund to Transfer Shares to "Kazyna"
UZBEKISTAN: Uzbekinvest Head Office Launches Customer Service Line
Transinsurance 每 The First Reinsurance Company in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan President Raises Wages, Pensions
Three New Credit Unions Start Their Work in Uzbekistan
 
  AUSTRALIA: Superannuation Assets over $913 Billion
Business, Higher Education Push R&D Spend to $15.8bn
$13.4 Million to Holden for Safety and Fuel Upgrades
Rising Prices to Hit Rates
NEW ZEALAND: Local Banks Top in Customer Survey, HSBC Trails
SOLOMON ISLANDS: ADB Will Continue to Help the Solomon Islands
 
  Asia Wealth Boom Delights Int'l Private Banks
Promoting Stronger Private-Public Sector Ties for Central Asian Development
 
  CHINA: Private Firms May Get Chance to Bid on Oil Blocks
Private Firms, Largest Creator of Urban Employment
JAPAN: Bring Postal Reform Foes Back in, Abe Tells LDP
SOUTH KOREA: Busan New Port Container Berths to Be Built with Private-Sector Funds
 
  MALAYSIA: Private Sector Employers Free to Chose Whether Oct 23 Is a Holiday
THAILAND: Rectors Call for End to Red Tape
VIET NAM: Hanoi Opens Way for Private Funds in Infrastructure Drive
 
  INDIA: Ports Expect Huge Private Participations
Private Colleges Fight Quota Diktat
Railways Minister Inaugurates Conference on Public Private Partnership
 
  IRAN: Development of Private Sector Urged
Industries, Mines Firms Up for Privatization
 
  AUSTRALIA: Small Business Still Upbeat: NAB Survey
Report Calls for Better Planning of PPP Projects
Small Business Win on Trade Practices Act Reform
FIG Invests Another $1m in Australian Food Industry Innovation
Govt Offers $30m to Attract Firms to SA
Private Sector 'Should Jump into Water'
Water Privatisation 'Not the Answer'

Global Watchmen Sign Off on Banking Guidelines

※Financial supervisors and central bankers from around the world endorsed guidelines on Thursday to improve bank regulation and make money laundering more difficult. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the global standard-setter, revised its 1997 &core principles* to reflect the growing importance of cross-border ties and modern risk management techniques for financial supervisors. The guidelines will be used by the World Bank and the IMF to rate the effectiveness of national banking supervisors, the committee said at a bank supervisors event in Merida, Mexico. Key changes in the proposals include tighter language on how to prevent money laundering and the use of the financial system to fund terrorist groups.§ [Reuters News/Factiva] ※Nicolas Le Pan, vice president of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, meanwhile said Thursday that bank regulators may have to go beyond the Basel II framework to deal with the problems of an increasingly cross-border, global banking system. The problems of so-called &home-host* conflicts have been a major theme of banking officials gathered at a convention this week in Mexico, Merida. Mexico's central bank governor Guillermo Ortiz on Thursday warned &the way in which international banks are managed could lead to decisions that are good for the international bank but not necessarily positive for the subsidiary.*§ [Dow Jones Capital Markets Report]

Nout Wellink, chairman of the Basel Committee on banking supervision, said ※he is &satisfied* with the implementation of the Basel II accords so far. Wellink acknowledged, however, that the situation in the US remained unclear. Earlier this month, four banking agencies reached a consensus on a Basel II draft and asked for feedback. In the US, the accord is supposed to be phased in between 2008-2012. While the Federal Reserve has pushed adoption of the agreement, other banking agencies, lawmakers and some large US banks have raised concerns.§ [Dow Jones Newswires]

From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/06/2006


TOP∥

 

Guidelines on Corporate Responsibility Simplified

※Guidelines viewed by businesses worldwide as a benchmark for corporate social responsibility have been simplified in the hope that more companies will report on their environmental and social impacts. This follows concern that interest in non-financial reporting could otherwise be limited to a handful of multinationals. Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Amsterdam-based non-profit agency responsible for drawing up the revised guidelines unveiled yesterday, said the framework included for the first time an &entry-level* option. That meant businesses could choose to report on a limited number of issues, rather than all aspects of sustainable policy. The approach will benefit smaller and medium-sized enterprises that have cited the complexity of existing guidelines as a barrier to non-financial reporting, GRI said.§ [The Financial Times] ※

Achim Steiner, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said businesses should adopt the practice of filing annual reports on their ethical policies in addition to financial reports if they want to avoid drawing attention from regulators. Steiner said ethics reports allowed consumers to ask: &is this company part of the solution or is it part of the problem,* and make choices accordingly. Over 2,000 companies and organizations have begun publishing sustainability reports according to a study by the accounting firm KPMG and &around 1,000 are using the GRI guidelines which makes us the de-facto standard,* said Ernst Ligteringen, chief executive of GRI.§ [Agence France Presse/Factiva] ※The new guidelines are explicit on what companies must take into consideration when they measure things like carbon dioxide emissions, the amounts and types of waste they create, and their safety and employment policies.§ [AFX/ Factiva]

From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/06/2006


TOP∥

 

Asian Nations Talk of Strong Response to North Korea

South Korea China and South Korea on Tuesday strongly opposed threatening North Korea with a military strike, while the U.S. and Japan focused on slapping sanctions on the reclusive communist nation for its alleged nuclear test. Although the world powers weren't talking about waging war with Pyongyang, a North Korean official reportedly warned that his country could launch a nuclear-tipped missile. "We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted the unidentified North Korean official as saying. "That depends on how the U.S. will act." Most defense experts say the North lacks the capability for such a move. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, meeting with the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, said the North has a history of intimidating other nations. "They're not going to be successful with us," he said on CBS television's "The Early Show." Bolton refused to rule out military action, including a naval blockade, but emphasized that U.S. President George W. Bush wants to resolve the matter using peaceful means. The North has insisted that Washington hold direct talks with Pyongyang to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program. But the U.S. ambassador in Seoul, Alexander Vershbow, said Monday's report that the North conducted the underground nuclear test would make the possibility of such talks more difficult. Vershbow insisted that six-party talks 〞 also involving China, Japan, Russia and South Korea 〞 were still the best approach.

"The North Korean nuclear issue is not a bilateral problem but rather a problem between North Korea and all of its neighbors as well as the United States," he told local reporters. The U.N. Security Council was discussing a U.S. draft resolution that aims to curb the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, prohibit all trade in military and luxury goods, and crack down on illegal financial dealings. Such potentially crippling sanctions have long been opposed by China, once a close ally of the North. Beijing on Tuesday was sticking to its policy of "positive and appropriate measures" rather than "the negative issue of punishment," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters. Liu added: "Taking military action against North Korea would be unimaginable." China, a U.N. Security Council member, has a big say about how North Korea should be punished. The South Koreans were lining up with the Chinese in opposing any U.N. resolution that includes a military threat. "There should never be war on the Korean Peninsula," South Korean Prime Minister Han Myung-sook told parliament. Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Tuesday that his country may impose additional sanctions against North Korea without waiting to confirm whether it conducted a nuclear weapons test. Abe said wanted to pressure the reclusive country to change its policies. There have been worries that the reported nuclear test would prompt Japan to build its own bomb.

But Abe told lawmakers Japan's anti-nuclear policy would remain unchanged. "There will be no change in our non-nuclear arms principles," he said. Japan's pacifist constitution bars the use of force to settle international disputes, and Japan has maintained a policy of not producing, possessing or using nuclear weapons. South Korea said that it believed the North had exploded a nuclear device, but officials claimed that it might take up to two weeks to confirm whether the test was successful. Seoul was borrowing a sophisticated radioactivity detector 〞 set to arrive Wednesday 〞 from Sweden to confirm the tests, said Bae Koo-hyun, a researcher of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety. Although the reported test drew worldwide condemnation and talk of harsh sanctions, the South said it would stick with its efforts to engage the North, though the policy would be reviewed. Relations between the rivals were taking a beating on several levels. North Korea pulled out of an international women's soccer competition scheduled for later this month in South Korea, citing a "complex" situation, organizers said Tuesday. North Korea celebrated a holiday Tuesday marking the 61st anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea. There was no traffic across a key bridge on a border river between China and North Korea. In the Chinese border city of Dandong, there were no signs of heightened security. Reporters saw two boatloads of North Korean tourists on the river, smiling and waving to people on the Chinese shore. Associated Press Writers Kwang-Tae Kim in Seoul, Kana Inagaki in Tokyo, Alexa Olesen in Beijing, Greg Baker in Dandong, China, contributed to this report.

SEOUL, South Korea China and South Korea on Tuesday strongly opposed threatening North Korea with a military strike, while the U.S. and Japan focused on slapping sanctions on the reclusive communist nation for its alleged nuclear test. Although the world powers weren't talking about waging war with Pyongyang, a North Korean official reportedly warned that his country could launch a nuclear-tipped missile. "We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted the unidentified North Korean official as saying. "That depends on how the U.S. will act." Most defense experts say the North lacks the capability for such a move. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, meeting with the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, said the North has a history of intimidating other nations. "They're not going to be successful with us," he said on CBS television's "The Early Show." Bolton refused to rule out military action, including a naval blockade, but emphasized that U.S. President George W. Bush wants to resolve the matter using peaceful means. The North has insisted that Washington hold direct talks with Pyongyang to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program. But the U.S. ambassador in Seoul, Alexander Vershbow, said Monday's report that the North conducted the underground nuclear test would make the possibility of such talks more difficult. Vershbow insisted that six-party talks 〞 also involving China, Japan, Russia and South Korea 〞 were still the best approach.

"The North Korean nuclear issue is not a bilateral problem but rather a problem between North Korea and all of its neighbors as well as the United States," he told local reporters. The U.N. Security Council was discussing a U.S. draft resolution that aims to curb the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, prohibit all trade in military and luxury goods, and crack down on illegal financial dealings. Such potentially crippling sanctions have long been opposed by China, once a close ally of the North. Beijing on Tuesday was sticking to its policy of "positive and appropriate measures" rather than "the negative issue of punishment," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters. Liu added: "Taking military action against North Korea would be unimaginable." China, a U.N. Security Council member, has a big say about how North Korea should be punished. The South Koreans were lining up with the Chinese in opposing any U.N. resolution that includes a military threat. "There should never be war on the Korean Peninsula," South Korean Prime Minister Han Myung-sook told parliament. Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Tuesday that his country may impose additional sanctions against North Korea without waiting to confirm whether it conducted a nuclear weapons test. Abe said wanted to pressure the reclusive country to change its policies. There have been worries that the reported nuclear test would prompt Japan to build its own bomb. But Abe told lawmakers Japan's anti-nuclear policy would remain unchanged.

"There will be no change in our non-nuclear arms principles," he said. Japan's pacifist constitution bars the use of force to settle international disputes, and Japan has maintained a policy of not producing, possessing or using nuclear weapons. South Korea said that it believed the North had exploded a nuclear device, but officials claimed that it might take up to two weeks to confirm whether the test was successful. Seoul was borrowing a sophisticated radioactivity detector 〞 set to arrive Wednesday 〞 from Sweden to confirm the tests, said Bae Koo-hyun, a researcher of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety. Although the reported test drew worldwide condemnation and talk of harsh sanctions, the South said it would stick with its efforts to engage the North, though the policy would be reviewed. Relations between the rivals were taking a beating on several levels. North Korea pulled out of an international women's soccer competition scheduled for later this month in South Korea, citing a "complex" situation, organizers said Tuesday. North Korea celebrated a holiday Tuesday marking the 61st anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea. There was no traffic across a key bridge on a border river between China and North Korea. In the Chinese border city of Dandong, there were no signs of heightened security. Reporters saw two boatloads of North Korean tourists on the river, smiling and waving to people on the Chinese shore. Associated Press Writers Kwang-Tae Kim in Seoul, Kana Inagaki in Tokyo, Alexa Olesen in Beijing, Greg Baker in Dandong, China, contributed to this report. SEOUL, South Korea China and South Korea on Tuesday strongly opposed threatening North Korea with a military strike, while the U.S. and Japan focused on slapping sanctions on the reclusive communist nation for its alleged nuclear test. Although the world powers weren't talking about waging war with Pyongyang, a North Korean official reportedly warned that his country could launch a nuclear-tipped missile. "We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes,"

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted the unidentified North Korean official as saying. "That depends on how the U.S. will act." Most defense experts say the North lacks the capability for such a move. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, meeting with the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, said the North has a history of intimidating other nations. "They're not going to be successful with us," he said on CBS television's "The Early Show." Bolton refused to rule out military action, including a naval blockade, but emphasized that U.S. President George W. Bush wants to resolve the matter using peaceful means. The North has insisted that Washington hold direct talks with Pyongyang to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program. But the U.S. ambassador in Seoul, Alexander Vershbow, said Monday's report that the North conducted the underground nuclear test would make the possibility of such talks more difficult. Vershbow insisted that six-party talks 〞 also involving China, Japan, Russia and South Korea 〞 were still the best approach. "The North Korean nuclear issue is not a bilateral problem but rather a problem between North Korea and all of its neighbors as well as the United States," he told local reporters. The U.N. Security Council was discussing a U.S. draft resolution that aims to curb the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, prohibit all trade in military and luxury goods, and crack down on illegal financial dealings. Such potentially crippling sanctions have long been opposed by China, once a close ally of the North. Beijing on Tuesday was sticking to its policy of "positive and appropriate measures" rather than "the negative issue of punishment," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters. Liu added: "Taking military action against North Korea would be unimaginable." China, a U.N. Security Council member, has a big say about how North Korea should be punished. The South Koreans were lining up with the Chinese in opposing any U.N. resolution that includes a military threat. "There should never be war on the Korean Peninsula,"

South Korean Prime Minister Han Myung-sook told parliament. Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Tuesday that his country may impose additional sanctions against North Korea without waiting to confirm whether it conducted a nuclear weapons test. Abe said wanted to pressure the reclusive country to change its policies. There have been worries that the reported nuclear test would prompt Japan to build its own bomb. But Abe told lawmakers Japan's anti-nuclear policy would remain unchanged. "There will be no change in our non-nuclear arms principles," he said. Japan's pacifist constitution bars the use of force to settle international disputes, and Japan has maintained a policy of not producing, possessing or using nuclear weapons. South Korea said that it believed the North had exploded a nuclear device, but officials claimed that it might take up to two weeks to confirm whether the test was successful. Seoul was borrowing a sophisticated radioactivity detector 〞 set to arrive Wednesday 〞 from Sweden to confirm the tests, said Bae Koo-hyun, a researcher of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety. Although the reported test drew worldwide condemnation and talk of harsh sanctions, the South said it would stick with its efforts to engage the North, though the policy would be reviewed. Relations between the rivals were taking a beating on several levels. North Korea pulled out of an international women's soccer competition scheduled for later this month in South Korea, citing a "complex" situation, organizers said Tuesday. North Korea celebrated a holiday Tuesday marking the 61st anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea.

There was no traffic across a key bridge on a border river between China and North Korea. In the Chinese border city of Dandong, there were no signs of heightened security. Reporters saw two boatloads of North Korean tourists on the river, smiling and waving to people on the Chinese shore. Associated Press Writers Kwang-Tae Kim in Seoul, Kana Inagaki in Tokyo, Alexa Olesen in Beijing, Greg Baker in Dandong, China, contributed to this report. SEOUL, South Korea China and South Korea on Tuesday strongly opposed threatening North Korea with a military strike, while the U.S. and Japan focused on slapping sanctions on the reclusive communist nation for its alleged nuclear test. Although the world powers weren't talking about waging war with Pyongyang, a North Korean official reportedly warned that his country could launch a nuclear-tipped missile. "We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted the unidentified North Korean official as saying. "That depends on how the U.S. will act." Most defense experts say the North lacks the capability for such a move. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, meeting with the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, said the North has a history of intimidating other nations. "They're not going to be successful with us," he said on CBS television's "The Early Show." Bolton refused to rule out military action, including a naval blockade, but emphasized that U.S. President George W. Bush wants to resolve the matter using peaceful means. The North has insisted that Washington hold direct talks with Pyongyang to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program.

But the U.S. ambassador in Seoul, Alexander Vershbow, said Monday's report that the North conducted the underground nuclear test would make the possibility of such talks more difficult. Vershbow insisted that six-party talks 〞 also involving China, Japan, Russia and South Korea 〞 were still the best approach. "The North Korean nuclear issue is not a bilateral problem but rather a problem between North Korea and all of its neighbors as well as the United States," he told local reporters. The U.N. Security Council was discussing a U.S. draft resolution that aims to curb the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, prohibit all trade in military and luxury goods, and crack down on illegal financial dealings. Such potentially crippling sanctions have long been opposed by China, once a close ally of the North. Beijing on Tuesday was sticking to its policy of "positive and appropriate measures" rather than "the negative issue of punishment," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters. Liu added: "Taking military action against North Korea would be unimaginable." China, a U.N. Security Council member, has a big say about how North Korea should be punished. The South Koreans were lining up with the Chinese in opposing any U.N. resolution that includes a military threat. "There should never be war on the Korean Peninsula," South Korean Prime Minister Han Myung-sook told parliament. Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Tuesday that his country may impose additional sanctions against North Korea without waiting to confirm whether it conducted a nuclear weapons test. Abe said wanted to pressure the reclusive country to change its policies. There have been worries that the reported nuclear test would prompt Japan to build its own bomb. But Abe told lawmakers Japan's anti-nuclear policy would remain unchanged.

"There will be no change in our non-nuclear arms principles," he said. Japan's pacifist constitution bars the use of force to settle international disputes, and Japan has maintained a policy of not producing, possessing or using nuclear weapons. South Korea said that it believed the North had exploded a nuclear device, but officials claimed that it might take up to two weeks to confirm whether the test was successful. Seoul was borrowing a sophisticated radioactivity detector 〞 set to arrive Wednesday 〞 from Sweden to confirm the tests, said Bae Koo-hyun, a researcher of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety. Although the reported test drew worldwide condemnation and talk of harsh sanctions, the South said it would stick with its efforts to engage the North, though the policy would be reviewed. Relations between the rivals were taking a beating on several levels. North Korea pulled out of an international women's soccer competition scheduled for later this month in South Korea, citing a "complex" situation, organizers said Tuesday. North Korea celebrated a holiday Tuesday marking the 61st anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea. There was no traffic across a key bridge on a border river between China and North Korea. In the Chinese border city of Dandong, there were no signs of heightened security. Reporters saw two boatloads of North Korean tourists on the river, smiling and waving to people on the Chinese shore.


From: http://www.iht.com/ 10/10/2006


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Ministers Adopt Action Plan to Accelerate Regional Cooperation in Central Asia

Ministers from eight Central Asian and neighboring countries today adopted a Comprehensive Action Plan to strengthen the momentum and increase the benefits of regional cooperation. Applauding the growing momentum in regional cooperation and integration among countries participating in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, Ministers noted the program plays an increasingly important role in accelerating the process of economic integration together with other regional organizations. ※The CAREC Comprehensive Action Plan we endorsed today will propel regional cooperation forward in new and inspiring ways, contributing to the realization of our long-term vision of &Good Neighbors, Good Partners, and Good Prospects*,§ said the Urumqi Declaration issued at the conclusion of the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation. The Ministerial Conference brought together ministers and senior officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, PRC, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; as well as senior representatives of CAREC*s six partner multilateral institutions (MIs), and bilateral and other regional organizations. Ministers welcomed the more than doubling in financial and technical support for the CAREC Program by the MI partners to about $2.3 billion for three years starting in 2006. The MIs include ADB, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and World Bank.

In a keynote address to the Ministerial Conference, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda underlined the importance of maximizing clear results on the ground. ※This year*s conference is about putting the CAREC vision, which you have worked so hard to define, into action,§ he said. ※It is about launching a new era of cooperation among the countries of Central Asia and their neighbors.§ Mr. Kuroda pointed to a real and growing demand for improved connections between Europe and Asia with the rapid economic expansion of the PRC and Japan to the East, Russia to the North, and India and Pakistan to the South. ※The momentum provides the region with an unprecedented opportunity to emerge as a center for trade and commerce, to achieve higher levels of economic growth, and to lift the burden of poverty from the shoulders of its people,§ he said. Ministers agreed to broaden and deepen the CAREC Program by adding special initiatives in new sectors such as human development, environment, agriculture, and tourism to the current priority areas: transport, trade, and energy. The Program will take additional policy initiatives and approaches to regional cooperation such as capacity building, knowledge transfers, and the creation of economic corridors to integrate the region through not only networks of transport and other infrastructure but also networks of economic activities. Ministers called on the multilateral partners to coordinate their regional cooperation initiatives to be consistent with the Action Plan and in a manner that avoids duplication and maximizes efficient use of resources.

The Urumqi Declaration also stated that CAREC countries will undertake to highlight regional cooperation initiatives in their respective development plans and public investment programs. The Action Plan provides a clear mission and concrete goals for CAREC participants* efforts in the coming years.

From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/06/2006


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CHINA: Central Regions to Receive Tax Policy Support

Foreign investors in China's central regions can enjoy favorable tax policies set out in tax laws and regulations, said a senior official with the State Administration of Taxation (SAT). SAT deputy director Wang Li told the First Central China Investment and Trade Expo in the capital of Hunan Province that if foreign investors reinvested the profits generated from their businesses in China in other enterprises in the country or incremented their registered assets for at least five years, the government would give a 40 percent rebate on the tax paid for the reinvested capital. "If the newly-built businesses are export or high-tech companies, the tax paid for the reinvested capital will be totally rebated," said Wang. Central China, comprising the provinces of Shanxi, Anhui, Henan, Jiangxi, Hunan and Hubei, is the country's major farm production base as well as an important base for energy, raw materials and manufacturing. The development of central China's economy was considered key to opening the country wider to the world and achieving sustainable economic growth. Wang also said China was poised to extend the valued-added tax (VAT) reform to some old industrial base cities that need to modernize outdated industrial projects. The government launched the VAT reform experiment in the northeast region, including the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, in July 2004.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/28/2006


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Court Rules Improve Penalty Application

A judicial interpretation went effective yesterday, making open court sessions obligatory when hearing death sentence trials in the second instance. The move is considered a major step towards ensuring cautious use of the death penalty and guaranteeing human rights. It is expected to ensure more strict review of the first death sentence verdict. Suspects and their lawyers will have more opportunities to defend through court debate. Ahead of July, most high people's courts at province, municipality and autonomous region level merely reviewed the legal documents when they received protests from the defendant or the public prosecutor. No hearing was held in the second-instance trial in the past, leading to reports of undeserved death sentences. All death sentence appeals and protests began to be heard in open session in the latter half of the year. According to the judicial interpretation issued by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate on details of the open hearing, initial verdicts of death sentence cases with two-year reprieve will be reheard, as well the second instance if defendants have new effective evidence or the public prosecutor lodges a protest.

Meanwhile, court presidents or tribunal chief judges will preside over extremely complicated and difficult cases. According to Chinese laws, municipal-level intermediate people's courts have the right to impose the death sentence after an initial trial. If the accused appeals or the public prosecutor lodges a protest against the initial sentence, higher provincial-level courts hear the case. To hear death penalty appeals in open session is only one step in making judges more cautious about delivering the death penalty, as well as ensuring their decisions are just and well grounded. The Supreme People's Court has decided to withdraw its power to re-examine all death penalty verdicts and give the final nod to executions. But no timetable has been given. The nation's top court currently reviews and makes final decisions on some types of death penalty cases, including economic crimes, but gives the power of sentencing for violent offences, such as murder and arson, to provincial-level high people's courts.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/26/2006


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Government to Curb Illegal Land Grabs

China has established a new system to keep track of land use in a bid to curb runaway investment and protect the interests of farmers. The State Council has authorized the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) to supervise and overhaul land use and management by local governments, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan told a national conference on land control. The State Council also decided to set up a national office to oversee land use, as well as nine regional bureaux, said the official. "A major problem this year in lad management is the excessive expansion of low-cost industrial land," said Gan Zangchun, the newly-appointed deputy state superintendent-general of land. China recorded an economic growth of 10.9 percent in the first half of this year on the back of a 30-percent growth in fixed assets investment, the highest figures in recent years. The government and many land experts believe that illegal land supply is a leading cause of the runaway investment, reports said. A survey of 16 cities by the MLR last year showed that nearly 50 percent of the new land under development was acquired illegally. What's worse, the figure was as high as 90 percent in some cities. To stop the trend, the State Council released an urgent notice on controlling land supply in September. The new rules warn local leaders that they will be penalized if they fail to stop or investigate illegal land sales in areas under their jurisdiction, he said. Officials who sell land for lower than the minimum price will be prosecuted according to the new rules, Gan said. Reining in local governments is a major target of the new policy, because "local governments are actually behind almost all the major cases of illegal land use," said Zhang Xinbao, an MLR official in charge of supervision, in a previous interview.

Thanks to land control measures in recent years, the total supply of land in 2005 has dropped 17.9 percent year-on-year, Gan said. "At the same time, China's economic increase has remained above 9 percent year-on-year. This shows the nation's economic development pattern has begun to change (in a positive way)," he noted. Another focal point of the new system is to seek better protection of the interests of farmers whose land is sold by local governments, said the official. "Farmers are the group who will benefit most from the new policy," Gan said. Revenues from land sales must first be used to pay for the resettlement of farmers and compensation for their loss of crops, according to the new rules. "And more money will be invested in infrastructure in rural areas, as well as for city residents with low incomes in the future." The notice made clear for the first time that if the sale price of any piece of land is not enough to cover the cost of resettling farmers, local governments must pay from its pool of land sale revenues. Local governments should make sure that farmers who have lost their land are properly trained for new jobs and provided with new means to support themselves in a sustainable way, the notice said. China faces the extremely difficult task of retaining 120 million hectares of arable land by 2010, officials said. Statistics indicated that the nation's farmland area stood at 122 million hectares last year, 8 million hectares less than 10 years ago.


http://www.china.org.cn 10/02/2006


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Special Fund to Support Development of SMEs

China has set up a special fund to support the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said China's Ministry of Finance (MOF). The funds, which come from the central government's budget, will offer China's SMEs free financial aid and loan repayment subsidies of up to 2 million yuan (US$250,000) per project, according to a policy document issued by the MOF and the National Development and Reform Commission. The MOF said the fund aims to promote the development of SMEs, help them make technological progress, make it easier for them to cooperate with large firms and improve the overall development environment. The policy stipulates that self-financed projects, including fixed assets projects or projects aimed at bettering an SME's development environment, are eligible for free financial aid. Fixed-asset construction projects usually financed by bank loans can apply for interest repayment subsidies for a maximum of two years. Enterprises can only apply for one type of aid for each project, according to the policy. Applicants for funds must be independent legal entities with a history of sound financial management, good economic performance and good accounting and tax credit. China hopes that the proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) contributed by SMEs will rise from 60 percent, the figure at the end of 2005, to 65 percent over the next five years, or 1 percentage point per year. At the end of 2005, China's SMEs were paying nearly half the country's taxes and had provided more than three quarters of urban employment. They contributed to 65 percent of China's patents, more than 75 percent of its technological innovations and over 80 percent of its new products.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/05/2006


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Social Security System to Cover More

The central government announced on Wednesday that it will build a social security system which will cover more than 1 billion citizens by 2020. Listed as one of the goals and tasks for building a harmonious socialist society the plan was included in a Communique issued at the end of the four-day Sixth Plenum of the 16th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Wednesday. The plenary session, attended by 195 CPC Central Committee members and 152 alternate members, is the first the Party has held focusing on social development matters. Minister of Labor and Social Security Tian Chengping said earlier that by the end of 2005, more than 558 million people, or 43 percent of the country's total population, have been covered by basic pension, unemployment, work injury, maternity and basic medical insurance. He said China accumulated 606.6 billion yuan (US$75.8 billion) in social insurance funds in 2005, and the national social security fund has added more than 200 billion yuan, he said. However, the growth of social security funds lags behind the demand and China faces hard tasks in further improving its social security system to meet the challenges it is facing, he noted. The fast and healthy growth of China's national economy and social development and the increasing awareness of the public of social security issues requires China's social security system be improved, said the minister.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/12/2006


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HK CE's Policy Letter Stresses Environment and Culture Elements

Hong Kong needs to ensure the city remain dynamic, vibrant and livable by stressing environment and culture elements, wrote Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's Chief Executive in a letter published on Sunday. In his letter to Hong Kong citizens, the chief executive explained his second policy address in his term of office and noted that although economic development top the policy list of the government, environment protection and culture development are also important elements to make Hong Kong a better city to live and work. He called citizens to support the Action Blue Sky Campaign recently launched by conserving energy and reducing vehicle emissions to make Hong Kong a cleaner city. However, he cautioned that there's no quick fix to stop air pollution and major improvements may not be seen in a few more years. Apart from environment protection, Tsang also emphasized arts and culture development of Hong Kong. "If we want to develop as a cosmopolitan world city, then we need to make sure we have a deeply-entrenched, vibrant and self-sustaining arts and culture scene," he said in his letter, citing Hong Kong's world famous film industry as an example of a tiny city with a big impact on the world. "I am sure that by improving the living environment and helping our arts and culture scene to thrive we can become an even more cosmopolitan, creative and cool city than we are today," Tsang finally encouraged his citizens to follow his idea in his letter.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/16/2006


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New Subsidies for Rural Families

A new family planning policy for rural areas will be rolled out across China next year, offering financial support to farmers with fewer children. From 2007, the parents of one-child families and those with two daughters, both living in rural areas will each receive 600 yuan (US$72) a year from the age of 60, said Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. A pilot project for the policy has been ongoing in 23 provinces and regions since 2002, covering a total of 1.35 million senior citizens in rural areas, Zhang Shaochun, assistant minister of the Ministry of Finance, told a national conference on the project. As the world's most populous country, China launched the one child-policy in the late 1970s to bring its spiraling birthrate under control. Without the policy, the population could have reached nearly 1.7 billion by now, according to the National Population and Family Planning Commission. However, in the policy's early years, the main enforcement measure for local governments was to impose fines on violators. Experts said the policy should be adapted as the nation develops. More encouraging measures and public education should be used to raise awareness of the need for family planning and reduce social conflict, they advise. China is now an aging society, with about 10 percent of the population over 60 a challenge to the country's lagging welfare system. Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of the 700 million rural residents have no medical insurance or any other form of welfare, and depend on their savings and their children to look after them.

For families with only one child, the burden of taking care of their parents can be arduous. Thus in rural areas, farmers usually prefer sons and aim to have at least one boy in their family, even if they are not wealthy enough to support more than one child. In a report revealed by the State Council's Development Research Center yesterday, experts said 95 percent of senior residents issued from one-child families in rural parts of Jiangxi, Gansu and Shanxi, run into financial difficulty. In order to support these senior citizens and encourage them to comply with the national policy, governments at various levels have initiated favorable measures, such as an annual allowance for parents in such cases. Although US$72 is only a small amount per person per year, the project still made farmers considerably less worried about falling ill in old age, said Wei Jianmin, an expert from the center, adding that so far a total of only 1 billion yuan (US$12 million) has been spent on the project. Encouraged by the policy, more and more farmers in pilot areas prefer to have only one child, and the average population increase has slowed to just 2.8 points per one thousand, the report said. Meanwhile, rural families who have permission to have a third child but choose not to, have been offered a one-off award, under another pilot project carried in several western provinces since 2000. The project will be spread throughout western China in early 2007. But despite the projects' success, experts have called on the government to raise the amount of money offered, complaining that US$72 a year is too little for an elderly person living in poverty.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/16/2006


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Draft Corporate Tax Law to Be Tabled Soon

A draft Corporate Tax Law that will unify taxes for domestic and foreign-invested enterprises will be tabled in China's legislature for first reading this month, an insider told Xinhua on Tuesday. "The major obstacles in the legislative process have been cleared, only a few technical problems remain to be solved," he said. The State Council, China's Cabinet, approved the draft law in principle at the end of September after hearing the Ministries of Finance and Commerce present their research on the viability of unified enterprise taxes. "An agreement has been reached among local authorities and governmental departments. The legislative process will not be reversed," the insider said, adding that technical revision of the draft law was still possible. Chinese authorities intended to submit the draft to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for a first reading in August. However, objections from foreign investors and concern about a dramatic decline in foreign investment inflows led to a delay. Sources close to the drafting said that unified tax rates will fall into a 24-27 percent range, which is lower than the maximum rate of 33 percent paid by domestic firms and higher than the 15 percent paid by foreign-invested companies. Foreign-invested companies may enjoy a 3-5 year transition period. But taxation privileges will no longer be used to attract foreign investment. Instead, tax policy will be used to upgrade China's industry, and especially to encourage the development of sectors such as high-tech, infrastructure facilities and environmental protection. When the new law is implemented, all enterprises, large or small, local or foreign-invested, will receive the same fiscal treatment, according to Ministry of Finance Tax Policy Department director Shi Yaobin.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/18/2006


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Beijing Issues 'Domestic Help' Guidelines

To assist with the development of the domestic help industry in Beijing new guidelines that come into effect early December have been produced and particular focus is put on protecting the rights and security of employees. The new guidelines were unveiled on Tuesday at a public hearing jointly held by the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Commerce and representatives from professional circles. The issues of whether domestic helpers live with their employers, how holidays should be handled and the protection of the workers' privacy were controversial topics. The guidelines state that domestic helpers shouldn't live in the same room as adults of the opposite sex; households should ensure those they employed had at least four days' leave a month and eight hours sleep a day. However, legal experts say certain areas require some flexibility for employers. "If one employer has only a single room and there are senior people or children in need of care what should the employer do?" legal expert Liu Junhai asked. "Should they not have the right to hire a nanny or else they'd first have to buy a home with an extra bedroom?" A survey by the House of Beijing Domestic Helpers, a company providing such assistance, identified that 5.3 percent of female helpers lived with their male employers. A survey of 206 such women from 10 Beijing companies showed that 13 of them had been sexually harassed by their employers.

"The result could be much higher, up to about 10 percent, considering that women often won't tell the truth about such things," Li Dajing, president of the Beijing Domestic Helper Industry Association, told the Beijing Morning Post. Statistics show Beijing has more than 230,000 domestic workers of whom 90 percent are migrants with only a primary or junior middle school education. It seems they hardly go out except to shop for food. As it was difficult to get evidence of sexual harassment Li suggested domestic helpers be careful about their personal security, take appropriate measures and "call the police when necessary." Qiu Baochang, a lawyer from the customer rights protection department of the Beijing Lawyers' Association, said it was difficult to deal with sexual harassment cases. "It should be written clearly in the contract that employers must respect helpers' dignity and that the latter have personal and sexual freedom," said the lawyer. But Zhang Xianmin, of the March 8 Domestic Helper Center, suggests female domestic workers also have a responsibility to "behave themselves, dress in non-provocative clothes and keep a safe distance from male employers."


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/19/2006



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CPC Shifts Focus to Social Services

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has pledged to build a service-oriented government that provides efficient public administration and better social services to promote "coordinated economic and social development". "More attention should be attached to public services," says the Resolution of the CPC Central Committee on Major Issues Regarding the Building of a Harmonious Socialist Society, published on Wednesday. Chinese scholars use the phrase "one leg longer than the other" to describe the imbalance between fast economic development for more than 20 years and inadequate social services. The inadequacy is reflected in unemployment, exorbitant medical charges, a limited number of premium schools, unsafe food and environmental pollution. The resolution, adopted at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the CPC on Oct. 11, says social services will be improved dramatically while the county continues to center on economic development. The resolution says the creation of jobs should become a major objective of economic and social development and adjustment of economic structure. It calls for the development of labor-intensive industries, the service industry, private businesses and small and medium-sized businesses to expand employment and promote harmony between employers and employees. According to a survey frequently cited by Chinese experts, 25 million unemployed urban people competed for 11 million newly created jobs this year. The number of unemployed urban people will stay at around 10 million for several years.

The resolution says the growth rate of fiscal spending on education should be markedly higher than the growth rate of fiscal revenue. The ratio of fiscal spending on education to GDP should be raised to four percent. This objective was supposed to be attained by the end of the 20th century, according to a program on the reform and development of China's education published in 1993. The ratio reached only 2.79 percent in 2004. The resolution demands a significant improvement in medical and health care services. It says a basic healthcare system should be built to cover both urban and rural residents. Exorbitant medical service charges have kept many sick people out of hospital, triggering strong demand for medical system reform. Under the current system, doctors benefit from the amount of medicine they prescribe to patients. The higher the medicine costs, the higher a doctor's salary. As a result, many doctors do not prescribe low-cost but effective medicine. Penicillin, a low-cost medicine, is rarely prescribed in large hospitals nowadays. The resolution urges the acceleration of the construction of a public cultural service system, ensuring television programs are transmitted to all villages and establishing cultural centers in communities and townships. It calls for better efforts in environmental protection and boosting harmony between human beings and nature. It says the construction of a conservation-minded and environment-friendly society should be accelerated. Industrial policies, fiscal and taxation policies and pricing policies shall be amended to encourage environmental protection.

The resolution says a basic public service system that covers all people should be established gradually, with special attention paid to people in rural areas, at grassroots levels and in less developed regions. It says the public administration system will be reformed to provide efficient and quality service to the public. Transparency of government affairs shall be enhanced and construction of the e-government system shall be accelerated to enable people to participate in economic and social activities. It also calls for the improvement of service and administration networks in communities, giving social organizations a bigger role in providing social services, relaying opinions and petitions and regulating professional behaviors, expanding channels through which people can express their opinions easily, improving an emergency handling mechanism, beefing up public security and enhancing national security and national defense.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/19/2006


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Draft Property Law Tabled in Legislature

The controversial draft property law, a sweeping bill designed to protect both public and private ownership, is about to be submitted to the country's top legislature for the sixth time. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) will convene next Friday for a five-day regular legislative session. Sources close to the NPC on Friday said the draft property law would be a key issue on the agenda. The draft was first submitted to the legislature in 2002 and has gone through a rare fifth reading. It was withdrawn from the NPC full session in March amid worries that the draft, the country's first specific law to protect private ownership, could undermine the legal foundation of China's socialist system. But opposition faded after drafters revised the fifth version in August to install state ownership at the heart of the economic system. Drafters said that, in the Chinese context, the primary concern in making a property law is to comprehensively and accurately reflect China's economic system in which public ownership plays a dominant role and diverse forms of ownership develop side by side Lawmakers on the NPC Standing Committee appeared to have achieved an ideological consensus on the draft, and the debate moved on to specific issues such as the ownership of parking spaces, the transfer of rural housing, and the law's coverage of rivers and oceans. During the process lawmakers have collected more than 15,000 suggestions from the general public, who have showed enormous interest in the draft law. It is hoped that the marathon legislative process will end next March with a vote by the full NPC session.


From http://www.china.org.cn 10/21/2006


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China Passes Laws Banning Graffiti, Driving on Great Wall

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- China passed its first set of laws against vandalizing the country's legendary Great Wall, establishing fines for people who damage, deface or drive on the 2,500-year-old fortification. Those found violating the laws, which take effect Dec. 1, will be fined as much as 500,000 yuan ($63,300), the central government said on its Web site today. The ban includes graffiti, carving, planting trees, plundering and driving vehicles on the wall. ``All citizens, legal entities and organizations'' have legal obligations to protect the wall,'' the government said in the statement. The new laws also prohibit gatherings on any part of the wall that hasn't been restored to accommodate tourism. The Great Wall, which stretches 6,700 km (4,200 miles) across northern China, is open to tourists in some parts while other sections are crumbling from neglect. The government wants to protect the monument and attract donations from the public to preserve the wall, which Chinese emperors ordered built as early as 475 B.C. to guard against foreign invaders from the north, the government statement said.


From http://www.bloomberg.com 10/25/2006


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JAPAN: Abe Stresses Changing of Guard

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe clarified his intention to roll up his sleeves and get down to work in an effort to "build a new nation" in his first policy speech Friday. His remarks emphasized the difference between his administration and that of his predecessor, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, which rooted out "resistance forces" and promoted reforms to stick the knife into vested interests. The speech also indicated Abe's hesitation on what to inherit from the former administration. Policy speeches by new prime ministers are often completed in a rush, shortly after the new administration comes into power. Abe, however, who had always led the field in the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election, had the privilege of about a month to polish up his speech. In his maiden speech as prime minister, Abe offered more substance for the Diet to consider than any of the previous three occupants of the post--Koizumi, Yoshiro Mori, and Keizo Obuchi. The content generally echoed the outline of the new administration Abe released on Sept. 1 before the LDP presidential election campaign. The focus of the speech was "building a nation." Abe cited his image of an ideal nation, such as respecting culture and tradition and displaying leadership. Such a stance is in sharp contrast to Koizumi, who rarely broached the subject of the country from a wide perspective. The Koizumi administration was established 5-1/2 years ago, when the country was in a difficult situation. The public had held a long-standing distrust of politics, and the economy was suffering a deflation-led recession. What Abe has inherited from Koizumi is a country that has overcome deflation and shown the world that it has made a comeback. Everything is in place for Abe to start long-term nation-building. One major issue is education. Abe detailed his policy on that issue, such as the setting up of an educational renaissance council.

As for amending the Constitution, Abe refrained from saying much, but expressed his expectation of a lively discussion between the ruling and opposition parties on that topic. A source close to Abe said: "Discussions on the Constitution amendment need to be led by political parties. The prime minister is the leader of the administration, so that's as far as he can go." However, amending the Constitution would directly influence the path the country will take, and it also is something Abe has been working on for a long time. Avoiding discussion of the matter might be misunderstood as a setback. During the party presidential election campaign, Abe said the new administration should "break away from the postwar regime" and "maintain open conservatism." These remarks, which reflect Abe's thoughts and creed, were dropped from the policy speech. The decision to exclude these words was in consideration of foreign countries. Some overseas newspapers have called Abe a nationalist. Abe seems to have been forced to blur his conservative image and present himself as an ordinary politician who loves his country and his family. In the policy speech, he placed great emphasis on fiscal reform, saying his priority was to reduce the burden on citizens. He also made it clear that he will continue with some policies from the former Koizumi administration, such as promoting administrative reforms and leveraging the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. Sources close to the prime minister had expressed concern, saying that it might have a bad influence on stock prices and foreign investments if Abe is seen to take a different stance from Koizumi, who strongly promoted structural reforms.


From www.yomiuri.co.jp 09/30/2006



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Abe Cool over Changes to Imperial Law

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that he remained cautious about revising the Imperial House Law. During interpellations at the plenary session of the House of Councillors, Abe said, "We need to have a series of discussions in a cautious and cool-headed manner, so that support [for revision] can be obtained from people in all sectors of society." The interpellations on Abe's policy speech, delivered last week, also touched on the role of his five prime ministerial advisers. "They are assistant roles for making proposals and giving advice to the prime minister," Abe said. "There won't be a double administrative structure between ministries and agencies in terms of organizational formation and specific roles," he added. "There will be adequate coordination, and I intend to front an administration led by a united government," Abe said.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 10/04/2006


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Decentralization Bill Sets Stage for Regional Governments

A draft bill the government soon plans to submit to the Diet states the possibility of introducing broader regional governments than the existing prefectural governments, according to the bill's text obtained by Kyodo News. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will present a basic structure for setting up the system known as "doshu-sei" within three years. The bill requires the central government to draft a plan with specific measures needed for promoting such regional governments. The scheme aims to divide up Japan into about a dozen regional blocks, or "do.§ For example, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba will become a single block known as Shutoken-do (Metropolitan area), while Kansai-do will comprise Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Shiga, Nara and Wakayama prefectures. The bill would be a precursor to a package of bills aimed at revising laws related to decentralization. The government plans to have the Cabinet approve the bill Oct. 20 at the earliest, and aims to get it enacted during the current extraordinary Diet session due to end Dec. 15.The bill comprising four chapters and 19 articles has a three-year time frame, and is almost entirely modeled after an expired 1995 law on promoting decentralization. As the basic policy, the bill promotes the surrender of powers by the central government to local governments, and calls for reviewing state subsidies and tax grants, and transferring tax-collecting power to local governments. The bill calls for the Cabinet Office to establish a seven-member committee to advise the prime minister when making guidelines to promote decentralization. The bill eliminates a provision for expanding the taxation source of local governments. It also does not mention a request from the National Governors' Association to include local representation in the committee.


From The Japan Times 10/07/2006


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Gov*t Eyes Tighter Rules for Residence Certificates

With growing concern over the protection of personal information, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will make it tougher for people to obtain copies of residence certificates, which lists a person's name, address and date of birth. Under current rules, anyone can request copies of residence certificates at municipal offices, and local governments can turn down a request only when it is clear the information would be used for illicit purposes. Central and local government officials, lawyers and administrative scriveners can acquire people's certificates without stating a purpose as long as it is classified as official duty.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 10/09/2006


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Prime Minister Honors Contributors to the Building of Safe and Reassuring Communities

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted a ceremony to commend contributors to the building of safe and reassuring communities at the Prime Minister's Official Residence. The government designates October 11 as the Day of Building Safe and Reassuring Communities, with the aim to realize a society resistant to crime by promoting and enhancing initiatives nationwide for building safe and reassuring communities, and thereby, deepen people's awareness and understanding. This ceremony is held to acknowledge and praise the people or groups that have made significant contribution to the promotion of building safe and reassuring communities. The ceremony is thereby aimed at promoting excellent activities at large. This year ten groups received the awards. In his address, Prime Minister Abe said, "I would like to express my respect to those people who are making efforts to ensure the safety of our communities with a spirit of volunteerism and a sense of responsibility. I believe your contribution makes it possible for us to keep our communities safe. You may face various difficulties, but I hope you will further strive to maintain the safety and reassurance of our communities with the awards as a fresh momentum." In response, a representative of the awarded groups expressed gratitude on their behalf, saying, "We promise that we will further endeavor to ensure the safety of our communities."


From http://www.kantei.go.jp 10/11/2006


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New Fair Practice Law for Tokyo

The Tokyo metropolitan government is to revise an ordinance so that it can order unscrupulous businesses that exploit legal loopholes to suspend operations, and also introduce new penalties such as fines and imprisonment to punish offenders, sources said Thursday. The new measures will target shadowy businesses that evade the Specific Commercial Transactions Law, which is intended to restrict pyramid sales and inappropriate door-to-door sales. The metropolitan government, which was scheduled to receive a proposal from an advisory panel on consumer affairs Friday, plans to present a bill to revise the ordinance during the metropolitan assembly's regular session in December. The metropolitan government also plans to add further penalties after it clarifies the details of regulations. According to the metropolitan government, the ordinance on consumer affairs will be the first to give a local government the authority to order business to cease operation. The metropolitan government and the governments of municipalities in Tokyo reportedly received more than 100,000 inquiries regarding suspected fraud with regard to house renovation and demands for payment for fictitious work by fiscal 2001, rising to about 200,000 by fiscal 2004.

Many of these victims were elderly, the Tokyo government said. According to the metropolitan government, the average financial damage exceeded 1 million yen in fiscal 2004. The central and prefectural governments are authorized to issue orders for business improvement or suspension to dealers violating the Specific Commercial Transactions Law. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of practices that flout the law. But under existing laws the metropolitan government could merely order unscrupulous businesses--such as those who tried to lure people into using their services to sell unused land they owned by making promises such as "You are guaranteed to sell your land through our unique system"--to either improve their business or have their name made public. The metropolitan government will also establish a procedure that will empower it to define as unscrupulous businesses that fail to prove that they are operating fairly.

From The Yomiuri Shimbun 10/13/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Government Unveils Steps to Improve Business Environment

Korea unveiled a set of measures Thursday (Sept. 28) aimed at improving the country's business environment, the centerpiece of which is to help boost startups and corporate spending. The measures, drawn up by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, are designed to provide a variety of incentives to startups and exempt them from quasi-taxes, thus reviving entrepreneurship. Also, the government will streamline procedures for building factories and provide more land for industrial complex development. The government plans to give startups which spend more than 500 million won ($530,000) on facilities a subsidy equivalent to 10 percent of their expenditures. Also they will be allowed to hire extra foreign workers. The ministry said it is also considering further easing of restrictions on building factories in areas surrounding the capital of Seoul. The government also plans to increase supplies of highly-skilled human resources, thus reducing the labor shortage. The government will ease regulations for companies to raise funds, thus helping companies securitize their movable assets such as technologies. Also, the government will revamp the corporate taxation system by providing a variety of tax breaks. "The government's plans will provide a catalyst to boost corporate sentiment," said Lee Seung-chul, a senior official at the Federation of Korean Industries, a lobby for large business groups. "We expect the plans to be carried out smoothly."


From http://www.korea.net 09/30/2006


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Korea Seeks Legislation to Unify Four Public Insurance Schemes

Korea's government plans to submit a bill to the parliament aimed at unifying the country's four national insurance schemes, the prime minister's office said Wednesday (Oct. 18). In a move to raise efficiency and public convenience, the government has sought to unify the functions of the health, pension, employment and vocational disaster insurance plans. They are currently levied and collected through separate government agencies. Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook presided over a meeting earlier in the day with related ministers and officials to reach an agreement that the government will submit a bill for the unified functions by the end of next month, her office said. The bill, to be laid out by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, will state that a single agency will take charge of managing the four insurance systems starting in 2009.


From http://www.korea.net 10/19/2006


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Pension Benefits to Be Cut For Civil Servants, Soldiers, Teachers

The government plans to overhaul the deficit-ridden state pension funds for public employees, teachers and professional soldiers to cut their retirement payments as the funds soak up an increasing amount of taxpayers' money. Planning and Budget Minister Chang Byoung-wan said on Monday (Oct. 2) in a radio interview that the government will reform the three state pension schemes --the Government Employee Pension, the Private School Teachers Pension and the Military Personnel Pension -- in accordance with a reform bill for the National Pension Fund. The government plans to finalize the bill by the end of the year. ※We will come out with a bill aimed at reforming the national pension by the year's end. In line with the bill, the government will reorganize the state-funded pension plans,§ Chang said. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has also established a committee, including experts and civic group members, to discuss effective ways to reform the Government Employee Pension, he said. ※We will draw up a tentative plan on its reform schedule by the end of this year,§ he added

From http://www.korea.net 10/03/2006


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Shadow over the Sunshine Policy

SOUTH Korea's "sunshine" policy of coaxing its neighbor to behave better was under a dark cloud after North Korea conducted its nuclear test yesterday, analysts said.Peter Beck, Northeast Asia director of the International Crisis Group, said the failure of Seoul and its allies to co-ordinate strategies towards Pyongyang was partly to blame for the shock nuclear test. "This is precisely what Seoul did not want to see happen," Mr Beck said. "This is a very serious setback for the sunshine policy." It would also be difficult for South Korea to deal sternly with the North without precipitating a more serious crisis, he said. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said last night the test was a grave threat to peace in Northeast Asia and warned that his Government would "sternly deal" with the development. Mr Beck said the governments of Mr Roh and his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, the inventor of the policy of engagement, had had no alternative but to try to engage North Korea by providing material incentives. "So this is a very delicate time. But because of North Korea's provocative action, for the first time the Government will question the two pillars of engagement," he said. In its first reaction to the test, South Korea temporarily suspended a scheduled shipment of 4000 tonnes of cement aid for flood victims in North Korea.

It had suspended regular aid shipments after the North test-fired seven missiles in July. But in August it announced a one-off $US230 million emergency aid package after severe floods hit the North. Hong Hyun-ik, a researcher at the private Sejong Institute, said South Korea would have to halt or scale down the inter-Korean economic projects and join global sanctions against Pyongyang. "South Korea will take its own actions in line with what the UN Security Council opts to do but military sanctions are a remote possibility because of expected opposition from Moscow and Beijing," Mr Hong said. "South Korean officials may think that the responsibility for the failure does not rest with North Korea or South Korea alone. They would think that had the United States been more active in pursuing dialogue, it would have not happened." Mr Hong said South Korea consequently would have to seek redeployment of US strategic nuclear weapons in the South. They were withdrawn following a 1991 inter-Korean declaration on denuclearising the peninsula. Mr Beck and other analysts said the sunshine policy itself had not failed but rather the failure to co-ordinate strategies toward the North was to blame. "Seoul and Washington never managed to co-ordinate strategies effectively. Until they do a better job co-ordinating with each other, they are going to continue to experience this kind of failure," Mr Beck said. The nuclear test is likely to affect continuing talks between Seoul and Washington on South Korea's taking back of wartime control over its own troops. Control was transferred to the US during the 1950-53 Korean War. This issue was to top the agenda when military chiefs of the two allies meet at the annual Security Consultative Meeting in Washington this month.


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


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South Korea to Take Measures in Line with U.N. Resolution on N. Korea

South Korea on Sunday (Oct. 15) vowed to take appropriate measures in implementing a resolution by the U.N. Security Council over North Korea's proclaimed nuclear test. South Korea "welcomes and supports the U.N. Security Council resolution over North Korea's nuclear test and will implement it in good faith," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry also urged North Korea to give up all nuclear weapons programs and return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in recognition of the firm international position expressed in the resolution. It also called on the North to return to the six-party talks and honor a joint statement agreed upon on Sept. 19 last year. "We will make all-out efforts to solve the nuclear issue and secure peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula by closely cooperating with the concerned countries based on the principle of not tolerating North Korea's nuclear weapon possession," the ministry said. The 15-member council unanimously adopted the resolution which authorizes far-reaching, non-military sanctions on North Korea. The communist state drew international condemnation after proclaiming last week that it performed a successful nuclear test. The resolution requires the international community to prevent the sale or transfer of materials related to Pyongyang's unconventional weapons programs, as well as demands nations freeze funds overseas of people or businesses connected with North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. "

Seoul will take appropriate measures in line with the resolution," Foreign Ministry spokesman Choo Kyu-ho said. Suh Choo-suk, senior presidential secretary for security affairs, and other senior officials held a meeting earlier in the day to evaluate the ramifications of the resolution on inter-Korean relations and economic projects and come up with the measures. South Korea is considering holding a higher-level meeting to be presided over by the office of Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook or the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, according to officials. Han made clear that the government will hew to the principle of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and respond in a stern and firm manner to North Korea's nuclear test in close cooperation with the United Nations. "All the consequences of the nuclear test should lie with North Korea. It is an unpardonable provocative act which threatens stability in Northeast Asia and global order," she said in a commemorative speech to a sports festival by South Koreans who fled North Korea before or after the 1950-53 Korean War. The U.N. resolution does not include military options against North Korea and calls for wide-ranging diplomatic and economic sanctions against the North. The binding resolution calls upon all U.N. member states to "report to the Security Council within 30 days of the adoption of this resolution on the steps they have taken with a view to implementing" it. The member states are also obliged to report at least every 90 days to the council with recommendations on ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the measures.


From http://www.korea.net 10/15/2006


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Government Sets Support Plan for Film Industry

The government plans to raise a development fund for the local film industry of about 500 billion won, part of which will be collected from profits of ticket sales without increasing prices. ※We aim to boost the local film industry so that we will be among the top five countries by 2011 with over 3 percent of the international market share,§ Kim Myung-gon, Minister of the Culture and Tourism, said on Monday (Oct. 23) during a news conference at the Press Center in downtown Seoul. ※To achieve the goal, there are six urgent issues that we should tackle apart from the screen quota system,§ Kim said. The six issues are: maintaining the diversity of Korean films, encouraging steady investment in local films, supporting people in the film industry, releasing more Korean films in international markets, improving the cultural infrastructure for those in need and revising policies and laws Specific plans have not yet been confirmed as related laws are still pending at the National Assembly, but ticket prices will not be increased to fund the program. The conference was also joined by lawmakers Lee Mi-kyung and Lee Kwang-chol of the governing Uri Party, who are members of the Task Force for the Development of Korean Films, and Ahn Jung-sook, chairwoman of the Korean Film Council.


From http://www.korea.net 10/24/2006


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Korea to Implement Tough Bird Flu Prevention Measures

Korea plans to implement a series of tough measures aimed at preventing avian influenza from hitting the country during the winter months, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said on Wednesday (Oct. 25). The plan, which will run from November through February, calls for the government to step up quarantine and monitoring efforts to stem the flu from coming into the country through the import of infected birds and poultry. The measures also come as there are increased concerns that migrating birds which travel south in the winter season may bring the deadly bird flu virus into the country. The ministry said imports of poultry and live birds from China and Thailand are banned since both have reported cases of the disease, while authorities said they will tighten the monitoring of products from other countries that run high risks. Koreans travelling abroad will also be advised not to bring in poultry from countries that run high risks. Agricultural quarantine officers will be placed in all international airports and sea terminals to enforce these rules. Domestically, authorities said they will step up the monitoring of duck and chicken farms and take immediate action if a case is discovered.

From http://www.korea.net 10/26/2006


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MONGOLIA: Draft Law on 2007 State Budget Submitted

A draft law on the 2007 state budget and the basic policy on 2007 socio-economic development were submitted on Monday to the Parliament Speaker Mr. Ts.Nyamdorj by the Finance Minister N.Bayartsaikhan. The draft law focuses on confirming the budget balance and macro economic growth, which have been increased in recent years, appropriately distributing the domestic and foreign financial sources and increasing the real income of population and social services` supply. The real economic growth is planned to be reached up to 8.6 percent in 2007 and inflation level is planned to be held down within 5.0 percent. The salary of state staffs are is planned to be added by 20 percent and pensions - by 15 percent. Same day, 2007 state basic money policy was submitted to the Parliament Speaker by the Mongolbank President O.Chuluunbat. The basic policy reflects issues related to letting banking services meet international standards and carry out legal and regulation activities for the improvement of adequate management of the Mongolbank.

From http://www.montsame.mn 10/02/2006


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Education Law to Be Amended

The law on education is to be amended. This issue was discussed on Wednesday at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Policy, Education, Culture and Science. A revised draft law on education was adopted by the Parliament in 2002. Since then, the education field has undergone profound reforms in terms of structure and content. At the same time, the shortage of teachers and school directors in the rural areas has been giving a negative influence on the quality of the education. Taking into account these circumstances, ten parliamentarians has drawn up the draft law on education, which reflects issues pertaining to the participation of pupils in designing rules and orders by the education institutes, ensuring the safety environment, and to giving long service increment to school and kindergarten directors.Ya.Indra

From http://www.montsame.mn 10/04/2006


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Draft Law Sent Back

A draft on amending the law on President was discussed on Thursday at a plenary meeting of the Parliamentary session. A decision was made to send back the draft law to its initiators. The draft law, initiated by lawmakers B.Erdenesuren and S.Lambaa, reflects the issues related to allowing the Mongolian President to take five organizations under his auspices and to covering them with taxation and other relief. Most of the Parliament members considered that there is no need to re-discuss issues on taxation relief, because they are reflected in great number in the amendments made in the package of taxation laws.

From http://www.montsame.mn 10/19/2006


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INDONESIA: Government Urged to Adopt Pro-poor Policies

For those who are fasting, this is said to be a time for increasing social empathy by actually experiencing the hunger and thirst that the poor feel almost every day. Can temporary deprivation lead one to understand what is it like being trapped in poverty? It seems that it takes more than that to really understand the issue as its roots lie in a lack of access to one's basic rights, not solely at the economic level, a non-governmental organization says. "Poverty is not only about not having money. It is actually about the lack of opportunity to access proper education, health services, job opportunities and a reasonable standard of living," Urban Poor Consortium (UPC) deputy coordinator Abdurrachman said on the sidelines of Sunday's commemoration of World Habitat Day. The rising number of urban poor in Jakarta is of the group's main concerns given the fact that state policies often act to the detriment of the poor. According to the Central Statistics Agency, the number of poor people in Jakarta stands at 94,000 -- or 9 percent of the city's total population -- and will likely increase by 36 percent more by the end of the year. Although the figure is far lower than the 17.75 percent of population classified as poor nationwide, it is still ironic given that Jakarta was the largest single contributor (17.37 percent) to the country's 2005 gross domestic product. It seems that on paper economic growth is no guarantee of poverty reduction.

Economist Chatib Basri cited Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen, who said that people were trapped in poverty because they were deprived of the chance and the processes to achieve higher living standards. "We would urge the city administration to adopt policies that will increase the access of the poor to higher living standards," Abdurrachman said. "One of the most important things is acknowledging that all people that live in the city, not only those who have Jakarta ID card, are residents who are entitled to all social services in the area," he stressed. The requirement of residents to have a Jakarta ID card, according to Abdurrachman, was a political ploy to sideline the poor, who were mostly migrants seeking better opportunities in the capital. Poor residents must possess a Jakarta ID card before gaining access to free education for their children and free health services, and often even to apply for a job. The UPC has also urged a wiser method of dealing with city slums. "We strongly reject evictions as such a means of relocation undermines socio-cultural and economic aspects of the so-called illegal occupants' lives," the UPC said in a statement. "It would be better to improve the slums and enhance the quality of living there." The question of land ownership has always been a problem for the urban poor as they spend almost a third of their income on rent. The urban poor also spend up to Rp 10,000 a day on meeting household needs, and pay an average of Rp 40,000 a month to use public toilets. "We were born with several basic rights, like the right to land, water and air. We already have to pay for land and water, how soon will it be before we will have to start paying for the air we breathe?" asked a woman at a public forum held on the same day.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 10/03/2006


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MALAYSIA: Three Weeks to Settle Bills

Three weeks. That is the time the Prime Minister has given all ministries and government agencies to settle outstanding bills submitted by contractors and suppliers. Concerned over complaints from contractors and suppliers about late payments, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said all payments must be made within three weeks of the date of receipt of the bills. ※The Government views seriously all complaints relating to late payment to contractors and suppliers. ※This is giving a negative perception that the implementation of the 9th Malaysia Plan is moving at a slow pace,§ he said in a statement yesterday. The move is one of five measures to be carried out with immediate effect, following numerous complaints of late payments as well as to expedite 9MP projects. The others are: THE Finance Ministry is to hold regular meetings with all related ministries and state authorities, in anticipation of issues or problems arising; THE Public Works Department and related agencies are to increase the number of contract workers and, where possible, outsource to increase the Government*s implementation capacity; ALL ministries are to submit debtor schedule information to the Cabinet, on top of the status of the 9MP projects, through the Implementation Coordination Unit (ICU) to ensure continuous supervision on the payment record; and, SUPPLIERS not paid within three weeks can contact the ICU at 03-888 1688 or e-mail to esapa@icugov.my.

Abdullah said the Finance Ministry held separate meetings with all secretaries-general on Sept 28 and state secretaries on Monday, and it was agreed at these meetings that there was room for better co-ordination. The meetings also identified several factors leading to the problem, including failure by the main contractors to pay their sub-contractors despite getting their dues from the Government; incomplete bills with no supporting documents; and delay by consultants in evaluating the projects* work-in-progress. The Prime Minister said the Government believed it must provide the best example to ensure efficient payment. ※I also believe, with the focus and coordination by all government agencies at federal and state levels, we will ensure the smooth implementation of the 9MP,§ he said. Meanwhile, the Malaysian Malay Contractors Association welcomed the move, saying it supports anything that ensures its members get paid. Association president Datuk Roslan Awang Che said there was not much problem with progress payments; the problems were mostly for final payments. ※When the contractor has completed the job, sometimes he is not paid 100%. The final payment is withheld for years. ※Some contractors are owed RM100mil to RM200mil for four to five years,§ he said.


From http://thestar.com.my 10/07/2006


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Cooperate on 9MP, Says Pak Lah

The Prime Minister has directed state governments and government agencies to work together in implementing projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) quickly, smoothly and effectively. Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that with the expected reduction in the overall budget deficit, the Government could focus more on development efforts and sustain the economic growth momentum. The deficit was expected to be reduced to 3.4% next year from 3.5% this year, he said at the National Finance Council Meeting here on Friday. In a statement, Abdullah said the meeting decided to increase the allocation for revenue distribution to the states by RM100mil from RM150mil to RM250mil. The new allocation would start from next year, he said. Abdullah also said the meeting decided to re-examine the basis and rationale behind the allocation so that it was distributed more fairly among the states. He added that a study on this would be discussed by the council at its next meeting for implementation from 2008. The Prime Minister said that as of last Dec 31, total loans taken by the state governments had increased to RM2.141bil. To reduce the amount the Finance Ministry had set up a monitoring committee to oversee repayment of the loans and resolve related problems, he added. Abdullah said the financial position of the state governments for this year was expected to remain strong. He said the states' income was expected to go up by 5.8% to RM12.668bil this year. Operational expenditure was expected to increase by 19.8% to RM7.36bil and development expenditure by 33.7% to RM5.628bil this year, he added. Abdullah called on state governments to take measures to increase productivity so as to balance the rising expenditure with income received. He said the income arrears of the states had reached RM2.14bil, with a major portion of RM1.13bil arising from property tax arrears.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/22/2006


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PHILIPPINES: Acting Pasay Mayor Unveils Govt Plans

After a turbulent takeover of Pasay City hall, Acting Mayor Allan Panaligan unveiled what he called his Ten-Point Agenda. On the garbage collection and disposal, which proved to be the undoing of his predecessor, Panaligan said the cost of keeping the city clean and livable needed not be that huge. He added that sanitation contracts will be awarded through a bidding that is open to public scrutiny. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had suspended Mayor Wenceslao ※Peewee§ Trinidad and Vice Mayor Antonio Calixto and 10 councilors for irregularities in the award of garbage collection and disposal contracts from 2004 to 2006. The suspended members of the council, all of whom have also been replaced, are Richard Advincula, Lexter Ibay, Jose Antonio Roxas, Maria Antonia Cuneta, Noel Bayona, Arnel Regino Arceo, Editha Vergel de Dios, Marie Irish Pineda, Generoso Cuneta and Greg Paolo Alcera. ※As three-term councilor, I put premium on the way I do my job,§ Panaligan said. ※Now here*s a chance for me to focus on programs that would truly benefit my constituents.§ Acting Vice Mayor Arvin Tolentino placed the delivery of health services at the top of the list. He said he is concerned most on the delivery of health services. He added that an important component of the program is the education of parents on childcare and development.

※I plan to hire additional medical personnel and upgrade the medical equipment at the Pasay City General Hospital so that it can keep up with the health care demands of the residents,§ he said. ※ I would also like to see the construction of more health centers in strategic locations of the city.§ On education, Panaligan wants to build new buildings and rehabilitate old schoolbuildings, especially those damaged by the typhoon. He also wants to revitalize the business section to enable it to collect more revenues. Panaligan said there is a pressing need to make the city*s manpower complement more service-oriented. For this reason, the acting mayor is setting up a program whereby employees can attend seminars and trainings to hone their skills. Likewise included in the program are Economic and Infrastructure Development, Tourism, and Global Links. Tolentino, who was sworn in with Panaligan, expressed unqualified support for the plans, saying it is important that the city government manage its resources well. ※We will not disappoint the people,§ Tolentino said. ※We may be young, but we have enough experience to lead. ※In any case, we will take one step at a time.§ Asked what are their plans for the 2007 elections, Panaligan and Tolentino said their priorities at the moment is good governance.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 10/13/2006


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Government Cuts Revenue

THE Philippines cut a key fiscal reform target next year on the back of its improving finances. As part of its debt-reduction program, the government reduced its consolidated public-sector deficit (CPSD) target by next year. The CPSD combines the revenue shortfall of the national government, government-owned and -controlled corporations, state-run financial institutions and local governments. The Department of Finance said the government aims to reduce next year*s CPSD to P81 billion, or 1.2 percent of the country*s economic output as measured by its gross domestic product (GDP). It earlier estimated the public sector*s combined revenue shortfall next year at P128 billion, or 2.1 percent of GDP. ※Reduction of the consolidated public-sector deficit also remains on track,§ Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves said. Teves attributed the further decline in the CPSD to the improved financial positions of the national government, local governments, social security institutions and government financial institutions. In the first half of this year, the government*s CPSD improved by 35 percent to P33.2 billion, or 2.4 percent of the country*s economic output. This was lower than last year*s P51.1 billion, which was 4.2 percent of GDP. This year*s deficit also is less than the programmed amount of P77.1 billion, or 5.7 percent of the country*s output.

The DOF attributed this positive performance to the surplus of P1.9 billion posted by the monitored state-owned firms, an improvement over the programmed deficit of P18.5 billion for the period and P8.4 billion set in 2005. At the same time, the national government has incurred a deficit of P61.6 billion, or 8.85 percent lower than the programmed P71.8 billion. ※The reduction in Napocor*s losses since 2004 is a key component of our fiscal consolidation efforts, and we*ll continue to closely monitor its finances together with those of other key government-owned and -controlled corporations,§ Teves said, referring to the National Power Corp., whose losses comprised the bulk of the public sector*s combined revenue shortfall. During the Philippine Development Forum early this year, the DOF said it intends to improve management and instill fiscal discipline among state-owned and -controlled corporations. ※We will further strengthen GOCC oversight by implementing performance contracts for them that include mutually agreed upon and measurable targets and deliverables,§ Teves said. By managing state-owned corporations better, the government expects its CPSD to move from a deficit to a surplus equivalent to 0.4 percent of GDP by 2010, he added.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 10/13/2006


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House Approves P1.126-Trillion

THE House of Representatives approved Friday the Palace proposed P1.126-trillion national budget for 2007 that features a pared-down allocation for debt service. Congressmen held a marathon session Wednesday to rush the approval of House Bill 5794, the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2007, to avert another reenacted budget. The government is operating under a twice reenacted budget after the House and the Senate failed to reconcile their differences on the 2006 budget. ※By Friday we will have the budget bill approved,§ House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles of Davao City pointed out. As per specific amendments to the budget bill, Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said a small group has already been convened to work on it. Congress goes on a three-week Halloween break on October 13. Nograles said by the time they go back to work on November 6 they would have the budget bill ready for submission to the Senate. Salceda assured that the government would have the money to finance the next year*s capital outlay. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the country managed to reduce its allocation for heavy debt service because of improved tax collection and reduced interest payments.

The 2007 proposed budget is P83.3 billion, or 7.9 percent higher than the P1.053 trillion for 2006. A smaller budget for debt service translates into a lighter impact on the country*s gross domestic product, from 2.1 percent in 2006 to 0.9 percent for 2007, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said earlier. He said the 2007 budget encourages government agencies to make full use of their allocations by ※spending§ their budgets to improve their operations in keeping with ※performance indicators§ set up by the DBM. These indicators, he said, will ensure that the programs and projects of the agencies concerned will be fully implemented. Meanwhile, the budget debates in plenary on Thursday heated up as the minority bloc made a thorough scrutiny of the proposed P93.6-million budget of the Office of the Ombudsman, the approval of which was deferred earlier following controversial issues such as the poll automation anomaly involving the Commission on Elections officials and the investigation of the fertilizer fund scam, among others.


From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 10/13/2006


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Arroyo Vows to'Stand Up' Vs Poverty, Asks Public to Do Same

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has vowed to stamp out poverty and give better living conditions to Filipinos in a United Nations campaign dubbed "Stand Up," in which the Philippines is also aiming to set a world record for the most number of people standing up against this social malaise. Nileema Noble, United Nations resident representative, said the ceremony in Malaca?ang on Monday signified the country's participation in this worldwide campaign and in the Millenium Development Goals (MDG). Noble said the target was for one million Filipinos from different parts of the country to stand up simultaneously in the fight against poverty. Cecille Alvarez, Arroyo's adviser on culture, said the participants would stand up for 10 minutes. She said they expected about 20 million people, mostly students, to join. At the Kalayaan grounds in Malaca?ang, Arroyo said 1,591 persons participated in the event. But more than the world record, Arroyo said she wanted to break the cycle of leaders making promises without turning them into reality. "We are aiming for a record for the most number of people who will stand up simultaneously to demand action against poverty,§ said Arroyo in Filipino, reading from the ※Pledge Against Poverty.§ ※But the real record that we want to break is that set by people who have repeatedly broken their promise to help the poor,§ said Arroyo.

She said leaders should not just sit and do nothing while children born to poor families live 30 years shorter than children born to well-off families. ※Now is the time to end this heartbreaking reality. Let us all stand up to ask for justice and not for pity,§ she said. Arroyo joined the call to leaders of rich nations for debt relief and fair trade policies that would help end poverty. ※Alam ninyo ang dapat gawin, gawin ito [You know what you*re supposed to do, so do it].§ To leaders of poor nations, Arroyo said, ※Make it your pledge to save the lives of your countrymen, we ask that you be true to your duty, show the people where the country*s money should be spent, uphold equality in governance, uproot corruption -- do all these.§ Noble said the "stand up moments" would show the people's renewal of commitment to fight poverty and injustice. "In the spirit much like people power, the Philippines has taken the "Tumayo Tayo [Stand Up]" against poverty and Stand Up for the MDG to remarkable heights," she said.


From http://news.inq7.net/ 10/16/2006


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Arroyo Bats for More Environmental Laws

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday batted for the passage of more environmental laws and said she wanted to see ※universal compliance§ of all laws, rules and regulations on the environment. In her speech at the opening ceremonies of the Eco-labeling workshop in Makati City, Arroyo said she was surprised that there were still smokestacks polluting the air despite the existence of environmental laws such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. ※Over the weekend, I played golf somewhere and looking over the fence, I saw a factory emitting smoke,§ she said. ※Oh my God, I thought we had no more smokestacks but we still have some of them. And therefore, we do need to enforce more environmental laws,§ she said. The President also urged people and non-government organizations to encourage politicians and legislators ※to embrace§ the ※new, clean green Philippines.§ She said there had been mild protests over some environmental laws by those who claim the administration has been trying to accomplish ※too much (in) too short (a time) and (at) increasing cost.§ ※But we need not enumerate (the) damage and dark consequences that arise from the lack of clean air and clean water and proper solid waste management,§ she said. ※Pollution kills people and saps the strength of the nation.§ As part of Green Philippines, Aroyo said the country also needs an efficient nation, which is free from reliance on costly and exhaust-spewing cars and smokestacks.


From http://newsinfo.inq7.net/ 10/23/2006


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Philippine Supreme Court Vetoes 'People's Initiative'

The Philippine Supreme Court vetoed a move to change the presidential system to a unicameral parliamentary government, dealing a blow to President Gloria Arroyo's economic agenda. In an hour-long session, the country's 15 Supreme Court judges voted 8-7 against the "People's Initiative" to amend the 1987 constitution, court spokeswoman Gleo Guerra said. The 52-page decision said proponents of the initiative had called for a "revision" of the constitution and not mere amendments, making it unconstitutional. The court also cast doubt on the legitimacy of six million signatures the petitioners claimed to have gathered supporting the move, Guerra said. "This court cannot betray its primordial duty to defend and protect the constitution," the court said in its ruling. "To allow this constitutionally infirm initiative, propelled by deceptively gathered signatures, to alter basic principles in the constitution is to allow a desecration of the constitution," it said. Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said the decision showed justices' "independence (and) integrity" amid pressure from Arroyo officials to allow charter change. The ruling was a blow to Arroyo's plan to amend what she has called some outdated provisions in the constitution, including one that limited foreign participation in business. Arroyo and her supporters see a move to a parliamentary government as key to fixing the country's crisis-prone political system.

"It is one of the major political reforms that the president wants," said Arroyo's chief aide, Eduardo Ermita, adding he had already ordered state lawyers to file a motion for reconsideration. Arroyo critics, including the influential Roman Catholic church, have opposed the plan, fearing it could be used by Arroyo or other elected officials to prolong their stay in power. Under the constitution, charter change can take place either by a constitutional convention, a constituent assembly of both houses of congress, or through a People's Initiative, which requires 12 percent of the country's registered voters to petition. Lawyer Raul Lambino, who is among the chief proponents of the charter change petition, said his group would "abide with whatever the decision is of the Supreme Court." "However, we will see what legal options we have," he said, including a possible appeal, although the Supreme Court is not known to overturn its own decisions. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court also ruled as unconstitutional Arroyo's order clamping down on street protests calling for her ouster, as well as her declaration of a "state of emergency" to quell an alleged coup.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/26/2006


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SINGAPORE: Plan on Engaging Community in the Event of a Crisis to Be Unveiled Next Year

Detailed plans to engage the community in the event of a crisis or terror attack will be rolled out next year. These will include getting organisations like the grassroots, clan associations, schools and ethnic groups to act under the Community Engagement Programme, started in February this year. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng gave an update on what is being done after he broke fast with Muslims at the Harmony Centre at An-Nahdhah Mosque in Bishan on Thursday evening. By next year, the public will know what the five community groups will do in the event of crisis. The plan is to have them work to hold the people together. Mr Wong stressed the importance of building on new efforts to foster religious and racial harmony. He said: "We have been saying that we want a multiracial, multi-religious society, which live in harmony and we want to practice it as well and it is not just words. In many countries, they also want to have a harmonious society but we don't see them having concrete actions to foster that kind of community spirit. But in our context it is a very important thing for us, we're very small, very compact society, we live right next to each other, all the more it's important for us to understand each other." The Harmony Centre also has plans to organise activities like study tours and inter-faith training for community and youth leaders Dr Albakri Ahmad, Director, Community Engagement Programme, MUIS, said: "We're are looking at various programmes including study visits to places like Turkey and Morocco and this is done in collaboration with Hartford Seminary. Quite apart from that we're also working with other religious groups so that Malay-Muslims community can learn from other communities by visiting them, and by engaging in discussions and dialogues." Mr Wong also commended Muslims for inviting non-Muslims to take part in their festivities, and giving them an insight into Islam and he encouraged other groups to do the same.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/19/2006


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Singapore Launches Programme to Assess Pro-family Businesses

Singapore has launched Asia's first national accreditation programme of pro-family business practices. This is borne out of a study by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) which shows that businesses that are pro-family enjoy 5 to 15 percent more sales. To help more businesses make sense of the benefit in targeting families as customers, a Pro-Family Business Mark has been launched to assess, accredit, and recognise companies for their efforts. To design the assessment criteria for the Pro-Family Business Mark, the Making Business Pro-Family Workgroup, together with the Singapore Productivity Association, studied five of Singapore families' favourite haunts - places like the Singapore Zoo and Downtown East. So far, 2,400 outlets have adopted the Pro-Family Pledge since its launch in April this year. To qualify for the Pro-Family Business Mark, these businesses have to satisfy 46 criteria, where they will be assessed on their strategy, service standards, infrastructure and results - like customer satisfaction and sales increase. Ms Claire Chiang, Co-Chairperson of Making Business Pro-Family Workgroup, says: "The Mark is an effort to give a structure and a process. It's more a guideline, a compass, to direct businesses. "This is the first initiative in Asia where we're trying to connect the family quality lifestyle and businesses services. We're saying to businesses: respond to the families as your marketing opportunity. We're saying to the consumers or families: help the businesses to improve their service standards in order to respond to their needs. "I think it's the integration of the community and the business, and bringing the two together. We're the first country to articulate this initiative in a coherent, integrated manner.

And it'll only put Singapore on the map of being a place of choice for work, for play and for weekend lifestyle and quality of life." For a start, the Workgroup targets to accredit 50 companies by January next year. Accreditation will cost companies $3000, but the Workgroup hopes that companies will see this as a long-term investment on their corporate marketing and as a way to boost their revenue. To encourage more companies to sign up, the first 50 companies to apply for the Pro-Family Business Mark will only need to pay one-quarter of the assessment fee. The Mark is valid for 3 years and renewal is on a three-yearly basis. A study by MCYS in 2005 has found that households with young children spend $1.5 billion annually, and there is no doubt that consumers are looking out for pro-family outlets. A month-long contest to check out the Best Loved Pro-Family Business drew an overwhelming response of over 3,200 entries. 23 companies - from attractions like the Singapore Zoo, Wild Wild Wet and the National Library Board to retail giants like IMM and NTUC FairPrice were the top destinations of Singapore families. Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth & Sports, says that they are encouraging small and medium-sized companies to do more than just being family-oriented. The types of products and services that they offer should also cover all ages and the pricing must be competitive for families. Ms Chiang also goes on to say that they hope the Mark is a friendly instrument and a good platform to share best practices and information that will allow companies and businesses to improve.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 10/25/2006


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THAILAND: Ban on Booze Adverts Set to Be Issued Today

An around-the-clock ban on advertising of alcoholic drinks in all forms of media will be issued today, said Public Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla. "The ban will take effect after announcement in the Royal Gazette for 45 days," Dr Mongkol said after a meeting of the national commission on alcohol control. The ban will be issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has classified liquor, beer, and other alcoholic drinks as "health-hazard products". A survey by the the National Economic and Social Development Board indicated that advertisements and promotions are seen as an attempt to lure people, especially teenagers, into drinking. The number of young drinkers has consequently increased in recent years and they have also started drinking at younger ages. While Thailand is supposedly ranked fifth in the world for alcohol consumption, other countries with strict controls on alcohol advertising consume less. Thawat Sundrachan, chief of the Disease Control Department, cited the World Health Organisation's findings that the number of alcohol drinkers in countries such as Iceland, Norway, Egypt and Jordan was 16% lower than in countries with no ban on adverts. The number of casualties caused by drink-driving in those countries was also 23% less than those with fewer controls on alcoholic drinks, he said. In Thailand, according to the Public Health Ministry, the number of alcohol-related accidents has increased by 5% over the past four years.

It is hoped the ban will cut the number of accidents and pull Thailand out of the list of high alcohol-consumption countries. Giant brewer Boonrawd Trading said yesterday it would comply with the ban. However, Boonrawd's advertising manager Piti Bhirombhakdi warned the government that its move to control alcoholic drinks could lead to a new problem as some alcoholic companies might use the advertising budget for making inexpensive alcoholic drinks. Dr Mongkol said recommendations from the alcohol companies would be used to improve the alcohol control bill, to be sent to the cabinet for consideration today before going on to the National Legislative Assembly for enactment. The bill, already going through public hearings countrywide, includes raising the minimum age for buyers of alcohol to 25, a ban against selling alcohol from vending machines, and making certain areas such as universities, temples, and other public places alcohol-free zones. Violators would be fined up to 100,000 baht or jailed for one year. They would also be required to pay 10,000 baht a day during the period they break the law. The ministry is also considering a 1-2% tax increase on alcoholic drinks to bring in more money to help victims of drink driving. In Khon Kaen, a doctor group's representative, Nirut Utta, and the anti-alcohol network yesterday called on the government to designate Sunday an alcohol-free day.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 10/17/2006


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BANGLADESH: Govt Set to Unveil New Import Policy Before End of Tenure

Government is set to unveil the new import policy for 2006-09 before completion of its tenure, the commerce minister made an assurance yesterday at a press briefing in Dhaka. The new import policy envisages relaxation in import barriers on raw materials and industrial machinery so that country's export growth continues. Sources said the two three yearly basic trade related policies --export and import--are yet to get the government's nod, although the old ones have lost effectiveness from June this fiscal. " I hope the new import policy will be finalised during the tenure of the present government." Hafizuddin Ahmed said without mentioning the exact date of its announcement. The minister expressed his hope to journalists following a consultative meeting on import policy for 2006-09 at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel. Firoz Ahmed, secretary of the commerce ministry, Mir Nasir Hossain, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), M A Momen, president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and stakeholders from different industrial sectors were present at the meeting. Besides, the proposals, over hundred in number, that were submitted by the importers and exporters to the Ministry of Commerce for its perusal also came up for discussion in the meeting.

The commerce minister said, "We are formulating the import policy with a view to encouraging export oriented industry so that a level playing field can exist in the country's overall trade arena."The FBCCI president said, "We recommended that all imported goods shall be subjected to domestic laws, rules, orders, regulation, technical specification, environment and safety norms as applicable to domestically produced goods". He suggested incorporation of adequate regulatory measures in the policy to prevent any misuse of the private bonded warehouse facilities. The meeting sources said the new import policy for 2006-09 is likely to impose limited restrictions on imports of certain products. Besides, taking into considerations the issues of safeguarding public health, safety, environment, religious sentiment and ensuring quality of the imported products, the reasons for restrictions would be explained in the policy. A total of 24 products were in the list of banned items on the earlier import policy. The number of banned items may be reduced to provide support for the export industries, sources added.


From http://www.thedailystar.net 10/12/2006


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INDIA: No More Employing of Child-Workers

Ban on employment of children as domestic servants or in dhabas (roadside eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spas or in other recreational centers is now in force from 10th October 2006 under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. The Union Ministry of Labour had earlier issued a notification giving three-month mandatory notice. The Ministry has warned that anyone employing children in these categories would be liable to prosecution and other penal action under the Act.

Rehabilitating Children The Labour Ministry has sought necessary support from the State Governments in enforcing the ban on employment of children as domestic servants and also in eateries etc. In a letter to the Chief Ministers, the Minister for Labour and Employment has also sought their support in rehabilitating children withdrawn from work due to this ban. The Ministry is holding zonal level meetings to sensitize the concerned state level officials, civil society organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders. The Secretary, Labour and Employment, has also written to his counterparts in several Central Government Ministries requesting them for infrastructure support by the concerned departments towards rehabilitation of the released children from work and their families as an immediate objective. He has also urged them to make specific provisions in the schemes of their Ministries for working children and their families as a long term measure. The Secretaries who have been approached include those from the Ministries of Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, Rural Development, Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, Social Justice and Empowerment. The views and cooperation of industrial associations and NGOs are also sought in providing necessary support towards rehabilitation as a consequence of ban. Government servants have already been prohibited from employing children as domestic servants.

Child Helpline A toll free 24-hour telephone help line 1098 for children in distress can be accessed in 72 cities of the country. This number can be available by any child or concerned adult on his or her behalf. This helpline, easily remembered in Hindi as ※Dus, Nau, Aath§, is presently working in the following 72 cities: Agartala, Aurangabad, Chennai, Guwahati, Kanchipuram, Kozhikode, Nadia, Pune, South 24 Paraganas, Varanasi, Shimla, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Kanyakumari, Kutch, Nagapattinam, Puri, Thiruvananthapuram, Vijayawada, Ludhiana, Ahmednagar, Baroda, Cuddalore, Imphal, Karaikal, Lucknow, Nagpur, Rourkela, Thirunelveli, Vishakhapatnam, Akola, Bhopal, Delhi, Indore, Kochi, Mangalore, Nasik, Ranchi, Thrissur, Waynad, Allahabad, Bhubaneshwar, East Midanapore Jammu, Kolkata, Madurai, New Jalpaiguri, Salem, Tiruchirapalli, West Midnapore, Alwar, Chandigarh, Goa, Jaipur, Kollam, Mumbai, Patna, Shillong, Udaipur, Agra, Amarawati, Cuddalore, Gorakhpur, Kalyan, Kota, Murshidabad Port Blair, Sholapur, Ujjain and Gurgaon.

NCLP The ban is expected to go a long way in ameliorating the condition of hapless working children. The Labour Ministry is also contemplating to strengthen and expand its rehabilitative Scheme of National Child Labour Project (NCLP), which already covers 250 child labour endemic districts in the country.

Development Projects There are several other schemes and programmes being implemented by different Ministries and Departments to improve the overall status of the children of the country. These include : Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, National Rural Health Mission, Pulse Polio Immunization Programme, National programme for education of girls at elementary level, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Mid-day Meal Scheme, Integrated Programme for Street Children, Integrated Programme for Juvenile Justice, Shishu Greh Scheme.

Working in Unison The citizens, forums representing voices of all sections in the society, employees of government and other public institutions should join the Government*s endeavour in ensuring that the law is implemented. All have to work together to create a moral force to build India free of child labour, paving the way for children enjoying the right to education. (by Ministry of Labour and Employment and Ministry of Women and Child Development)


From http://pib.nic.in/ 10/10/2006


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Union Cabinet Approves Amendment to the Information Technology Act, 2000

The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for the introduction of an Amendment Bill incorporating certain changes in the Information Technology Act, 2000. The Information Technology Act was originally enacted in the year 2000, which primarily aimed to boost e-commerce in the country and also to create an enabling environment for e-governance in the country. It provides a legal framework for transactions carried out using computers and the internet technologies. The Act was enacted keeping in view the technology directions and scenario existing at that time. As the technology is an ever-evolving process for providing efficient and cost effective options, it was felt that a fresh look into the technology driven law needs to be given. Concerns have been raised both within the country as well as by the customers abroad regarding adequacy of data protection and privacy laws in the country. A need is, therefore, felt to strengthen the legislation pertaining to data protection and privacy. The security practices and procedures would be prescribed to be followed by body corporates and organizations and to enquire personal information of customers. Further new forms of computer misuse like video voyeurism, identity theft, e-commerce frauds like phishing, frauds on online auction sites, sending offensive emails and multimedia offences have also emerged. With proliferation of e-governance and other Information technology applications, security practices and procedures relating to such applications are proposed to be prescribed. There is also an emerging view that IT laws should be technologically neutral in line with the recommendations made by UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) Model Law on Electronic Signature. Such approach will promote development of alternative technologies for authentication of electronic records and will not warrant legislative changes each time a new and equally effective technology is evolved. Keeping in view the above, the amendments have been proposed in the Information Technology Act, 2000 by amending some of the existing sections and proposing to insert new sections to address various issues as discussed above.


From: http://pib.nic.in/ 10/16/2006


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Indian Govt Delays Proposal to Amend Right to Info Law

The Indian government has decided to shelve, for the moment, a proposal to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, which would make only file notings on social and development issues accessible to the public. It announced on August 21 that the Bill to make the amendments would not be introduced in Parliament for the moment. Sustained pressure from RTI activists, civil society organisations, even members of Parliament -- all of whom mounted a determined campaign, including hunger strikes, petitions and demonstrations 每 has succeeded in preventing the government from robbing the highly successful Act of its essence. The campaign to retain the Act as it is began almost as soon as the government announced its intention to amend it. The government also had to contend with dissenting voices from within its own ranks over the amendments that would essentially rob the Act of its transparency. While it appears unlikely that the amendments will be tabled in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament, it remains unclear whether the government will refer the matter to a Parliamentary standing committee for recommendations or rely on consultations between the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the coalition United Progressive Alliance government, to come up with a final solution. Gandhi believes that the government ought to have given the issue greater consideration at the time of legislating the Act; to amend it less than a year after it has been enacted sends out the wrong signals, especially as the law has become extremely popular and successful within its short lifespan


From Info Change 10/18/2006


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Domestic Violence Law in Force from October 26, 2006

The much-awaited law against domestic violence comes into force tomorrow. Touted as a ※landmark§ pro-women legislation, the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 seeks to address issues linked to status of women within their homes that often gets pushed under the carpet. Under this Act, domestic violence assumes a broader meaning ranging from ※verbal abuse to taunts for not bearing a male child or bringing dowry, not been allowed to work or study to marital rape§. The Act, it is hoped, would empower women to report acts of violence suffered at the hands of family members. According to the United Nations Development Programme, nearly 70 per cent married women in the age group of 15 to 49 years in India face ※rape, beating and verbal abuse§. Under the new Act, the men booked under the law would face a minimum one-year jail term or a fine of Rs 20,000. However, he could be booked under different sections of CrPC for different acts of violence. The law focuses on married women or those who are in a live-in relationship, but also gives similar protection to sisters, mothers and even daughters within a family.

Learning from the experience of other social legislations like Dowry Prohibition Act, the Act specifies that a full-time ※protection officer§ would book cases. In earlier legislations, district-level government authorities were given extra charge as enforcement officers, leading to delayed disposal of cases. To make the law user-friendly, the rules notified recently have it that the complainant would be asked to fill in a formatted complaint in front of the protection officer. Even relatives, friends and NGOs can file complaints on behalf of the women. Another highlight of new law is the appointment of ※counsellors§ to help the litigating parties. The women have the option of lodging an FIR and not pursuing it after counseling. There are also options like compulsory medical attention, right to stay in the home where she faced abuse, protection, temporary shelter etc. However, some sections have criticised the Act for ※treating married and live-in couples§ at par.

From Indian Express 10/25/2006


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SRI LANKA: Strengthening Social Protection

Sri Lanka*s extensive social protection system needs to reach poor people more effectively, according to a new World Bank report "Sri Lanka: Strengthening Social Protection," which looks at employment protection, social insurance and social safety net programs.

Employment: Shifting Focus from Job Protection to Worker Protection Sri Lanka's current job protection schemes offer protection only for those working in the formal sector. These schemes, however, leave out 2/3 of the workforce employed in the informal sector. Generous benefits and excessive job security in the formal sector have made access to these jobs much more difficult for those trying to get work. Unemployed youth and women are particularly vulnerable. Sri Lanka*s labor market should expand job opportunities, enhance equal access to formal sector jobs, and improve skills of current and future workers. Such approach will foster equity and enhance overall productivity, the report argues.

Social Insurance: Financial Sustainability and Adequate Coverage Sri Lanka*s social insurance provides some protection, but coverage is limited and benefits inadequate. Weak administration and regulation weight down the existing system. Social insurance schemes need to be improved so they become financially sustainable and adequately provide for old age, disability and survivors for workers in both formal and informal sectors.

Social Safety Net Programs: Strengthening Existing Programs, Creating Samurdhi, Sri Lanka*s main income transfer program, benefits 46% of Sri Lankan households but it misses a significant proportion of poor people. It also leaks benefits to some higher income groups. Income support for disabled persons leaves many disabled poor people under-covered. Approach to disability should be more comprehensive, according to the report. It should focus on prevention, and on enabling the disabled to integrate better into society. Disaster relief has been relatively effective in Sri Lanka and has been an important source of support for the affected persons. But food assistance relief for the displaced doesn*t meet basic nutrition needs. Also, rehabilitation assistance for permanent settlement faces strong fiscal constraints that limit the coverage. The report also recommends developing a mix of safety net programs that can address poverty among those affected by conflict that can be scaled up to help households affected by natural disasters.

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/04/2006


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India on Track to Meet 2015 Millennium Goals: UN

India is on track to meet its 2015 Millennium Development Goal target on water says a UNICEF report, though sanitation remains a cause for concern.According to the 'Progress for Children: A Report Card on Water and Sanitation' released by UNICEF, about 445 million people in South Asia, of whom 88 per cent were from India and Pakistan, gained access to improved drinking water between 1990 and 2004. Yet in many areas in South Asia, including India, naturally occurring arsenic and fluoride contamination are threatening to reverse the gains made in providing improved drinking water.This report card, the fifth in a UNICEF series that monitors progress for children towards the Millennium Development Goals, measures the world's performance in drinking water and sanitation, which are vital prerequisites for improved nutrition, reduction in child and maternal mortality and the fight against disease.Things have improved greatly since 1990 when only 3 per cent of the rural population in India had access to proper sanitation, the report notes. In the past decade and a half, considerable progress has been made and evidence shows that approximately a third of India's population today has access to sanitation facilities. In spite of increased impetus to the sanitation programmes, the pace of progress will have to be considerably accelerated if the country has to meet its 2015 target of 57 per cent coverage.

According to the report, the low level of basic sanitation is the cause of diarrhoea and other diseases and is one of India's biggest public health threats. It is linked to the high rate of under-five mortality -- which is 85 deaths per 1000 live births.Water and sanitation related illnesses can also affect children's school attendance. Girls in particular may be deterred from schooling by the need to fetch water for their families and by the lack of sanitation facilities in schools.Among the largest disparities in safe water and basic sanitation are those between urban and rural populations and socio-economic classes. The report draws attention to the fact that within these segments of the population, the women and girls bear the brunt of poor water, lack of sanitation and hygiene facilities.

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


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NEPAL: Govt. to Implement Juvenile Court Regulations

The government will soon implement juvenile court regulations in 12 districts of the country. Speaking at a press meet on Wednesday, secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) Punya Prasad Neupane, said the necessity of regulations was felt to ensure juvenile justice. "The regulation provisions for a child psychologist, social worker and judge in the team to look after the child involved into criminal activities," Neupane said. Urmila Aryal, minister for MoWCSW said, "If the system impacts positively it will be expanded to other districts."


From nepalnews.com 09/21/2006


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PAKISTAN: Pass Women*S Bill After Eid

ISLAMABAD: President General Pervez Musharraf on Monday directed the federal government to pass the Women*s Protection Bill through parliament after Eidul Fitr. Musharraf gave the order at a meeting attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi, Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Rahim, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Yousuf, NWFP Governor Ali Orakzai and PML President Shujaat Hussain. The president urged the meeting to get the bill approved from parliament immediately because it aimed to protect the rights of women in Pakistan. Sources privy to the meeting said that Musharraf was dissatisfied with the government*s handling of the situation after the bill was introduced in the National Assembly. Sources said the president asked the participants to remove differences within the ruling coalition and develop unanimity on the bill with the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). Sources said that Musharraf was of the opinion that the bill was not in conflict with Islamic injunctions and therefore the government must not be blackmailed by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and should not delay passing the bill only to please ※reactionary forces§. Sources said the meeting also discussed several political issues. Sources said that Shujaat urged the president to direct the MQM leadership to avoid giving provocative statements against the PML. Sources quoted Shujaat as saying that being a coalition member, the MQM should strengthen the ruling party instead of weakening its position. Sources said that Musharraf told the meeting that he had already assigned his aides to discuss the issue with MQM chief Altaf Hussain. Sources said the president asked the PML and MQM to avoid making public statements against each other. Musharraf directed the NWFP governor to implement a new security system in FATA with the help of local elders for durable peace. The meeting also discussed the security situation in Balochistan and observed that law and order was improving in the province.

From http://www.pakistanlink.com 10/10/2006


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Master Plan to Facilitate Karachiites for 25 Years

Karachi - Sindh Minister for Local Government Katchi Abadies, Spatial Development Mohammad Hussain Khan has said the government was preparing a comprehensive master plan for Karachi, which would cater development needs of the Karachiites for next 25 years. Speaking at an Iftar dinner at Cattle Colony of Surjani Town here the other day, the minister said this plan would include provision of potable water and empowerment, construction of roads, flyovers and underpasses, besides medical, transport and educational facilities. He said that huge uplift work was being carried out throughout the city, saying that after completion of these projects, the citizens of Karachi would witness a visible change in their quality of life. He informed that shifting of cattle pens was an important achievement of the leadership at Local Government in 1991. ※It was a 40 years old problem that was resolved in a jiffy,§ he added. Hussain further said keeping in view scarcity of water in the cattle colonies, the number of water tankers would be increased from 15 to 20, while electricity problem of the colony would also be discussed with Karachi Electric Supply Corporation. ※To facilitate cattle owners, a veterinary hospital would be established in the area so as to provide better medical facilities for their livestock,§ he added. The minister observed that there was no elected union or welfare association of the colony, which was the main problem for being confronted by the cattle owners. He, on the occasion constituted a 9-members committee under UC nazim that would conduct transparent elections for a representative union. The union will be in contact with Haq Parast leadership for their early solution to their problems, he said. The present government believes in practical work and service to masses without any discrimination of caste, creed, faith or religion§, he said. Izhar Ahmed Khan, the nazim SITE Town also spoke on the occasion.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/13/2006


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New Billboard Policy Due Soon

KARACHI - A new computerised uniform policy for registration of billboards and hoarding has been finalised and would be implemented at the end of this month, an official said on Monday. Talking to The Nation, Syed Hasan Naqvi, the district officer (local taxes), said the new policy had been approved and preparations to implement it had entered the final stage. He said the Local Taxes Department dismantled a majority of billboards and hoarding in CDGK limits during the last eight months. ※Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal had issued orders and the drive began in February to remove all billboards in CDGK limits installed in a haphazard manner. A majority of these billboards is illegal and causing losses of millions to the CDGK every year,§ he said. The Information Technology Department of the CDGK has developed a computerised system in which all advertisers would be allotted a unique code printable on their hoarding. The new policy would also help curb corruption in the department which had come to be known as the most corrupt part of the city government, he said. From now on, all new billboards in city limits would be installed after clearance of dues and in a proper manner, he said. ※In the last four year city government*s tenure, the corrupt officials in the department had minted money and not maintained record having details of any advertiser working in the metropolis. The present government had announced a corruption-free environment and also decided to utilise latest technology such as computerised systems to curb corruption and maintain a complete record of advertisers which will be linked via internet to the city nazim and other departments§, he said. Naqvi said the city government had been working on a case-to-case basis in order to recover outstanding dues from dozens of advertisers. ※We are facing great difficulties as the city government had no record of such advertisers who just disappear causing huge losses to the city government,§ he said. Meanwhile, over 200 advertisers had contacted the City District Government Karachi*s Local Taxes Department for registration but so far only 100 had been registered.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/17/2006


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Provincial Autonomy Demanded

Islamabad - Participants at a discussion on Monday demanded that the provincial autonomy should be given to all the provinces saying Sindh should have been consulted while making decisions on the handing over of two islands for a multi-billion-city project. The Iftar-cum-Discussion was organised by ※SUNGI Development Foundation to discuss the issue of two islands ※Buddo§ and ※Bandal§ in Karachi*s coastal area which the government has decided to hand over to a Dubai-based private company for the Diamond Bar Island City. Taking part in discussion on the privatisation of two islands, the participants said the deal had no legal footing as the Port Qasim Authority had got the land on lease from the provincial government for port activities and the same could not be sold out for commercial activity. The participants included journalists, NGO representatives and people from Pakistan Mahi Gir Tehrik. Naseer Memon from Pakistan Mahi Gir Tehrik while giving presentation about the issue said it was a secret deal done with out doing any consultation with local communities and provincial governments. He said along with wrecking the environment such project would deprive the small fishermen of their livelihood as well as their identity that is already being robbed off in several ways. Naseer Memon said, ※ There is very rich eco system which is going to be threatened because of the huge construction on these two islands with the name of Diamond Bar Island City, by the Dubai Based Private Company.§ According to him Karachi coast will be deprived of from rich mangroves and there is a shrine of Yousif Shah, which is also in danger. ※ Our prime minister has said that these are the desolated islands but it is a misinformation if our prime minister has a wrong point of view whom we should have to talk,§ he added. He claimed that people from the villages of Ibrahim Hadri, who were in millions, were dependent on the fishing activity would be unemployed. And affectees of all mega projects were never compensated ever in the history of this country. A representative of the Pakistan Mahi Gir Tehrik said, ※ A common man from Sindh thinks that they have sold out our land and never bothered to ask us about it.§ One of the participants at a discussion alleged that MQM mafia was behind all this issue and we were going to fight against it. We need help from the political parties, NGO*s and media as already media is helping us, he requested. The participants said people of Sindh are not happy with that and think this project is not right for Pakistan ※There is no Bugti in Sindh like Balochistan who would save us from the military atrocities.§ According to the plan, a model city spread over 12,000 acres comprising 15,000 housing units along with a number of commercial plazas, leisure points, industrial parks, free trade zone and port terminals would be built, besides a 1.5 kms long bridge to connect the new city with Defense Phase-8 costing a hefty sum of US$ 50 million.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/27/2006


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AFGHANISTAN: Parliamentary Committee Working on New Media Law

The committee in charge of religious, cultural, and educational affairs in the Afghan National Assembly's Wolesi Jirga (People's Council) plans to draft a new media law, Kabul-based Tolu Television reported on October 18. Committee Chairman Mohammad Mohaqeq said the committee is currently working on a new law would that would "prevent the occurrence of an ideological crisis" in Afghan society and "bind the private and state-run media to respect [Afghan] customs, culture, and religion." The current law on mass media was decreed by President Hamid Karzai in December 2005 -- just days before the inauguration of the National Assembly (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," May 7, 2006). Media freedom has been among the most visible achievements in post-Taliban Afghanistan, but conservative circles have tried on numerous occasions to curtail such freedoms, often in the name of religion. AT


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/19/2006


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AZERBAIJAN: President Issues Decree on Expanding Foreign Education

Ilham Aliyev signed on October 19 a decree establishing a new state program aimed at expanding education opportunities for Azerbaijani students to study in foreign universities, Turan reported. The decree calls on the Azerbaijani Ministries of Education and Economic Development to develop a detailed state program to provide funding and support for students seeking foreign education within three months. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/20/2006


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IRAQ: Parliament Approves Federalism Law

The Council of Representatives approved a law on the establishment of autonomous regions by a vote of 141 to none on October 11, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. Several parliamentarians attempted to prevent a quorum by walking out of the session ahead of the vote. The law sets mechanisms for the establishment of federal regions similar to the Kurdish region beginning in 2008. Sunni Arabs parties, as well as the Shi'ite-led Al-Fadilah party and supporters of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, are opposed to federalism, and argue that it will lead to the eventual breakup of the country. The Iraq-based Al-Sharqiyah satellite channel blamed deputies from Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National List for "allowing" the bill to be passed. The news channel criticized the deputies for ignoring pleas by protesting parties to boycott the vote, saying the deputies -- Mahdi al-Hafiz, Hamid Majid Musa, Mufid al-Jaza'iri, and Safia al-Suhayl -- changed Iraq's future by voting in favor of the law. KR

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/12/2006


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Plan to Form Iraqi Human Rights Commission Announced

Iraqi lawmakers announced plans on October 18 to form a national human rights commission with the assistance of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), AFP reported the same day. The announcement came during a press conference after a UNAMI-sponsored workshop in Amman, Jordan, attended by Iraqi legislators from various political parties. Plans for the nine-member commission will be submitted to parliament no later than early November, and its mandate will be to list and identify human rights violations, including those blamed on coalition forces. Legislator Harith Muhi al-Din al-Ubaydi of the Iraqi National Accord party said that the commission will help "restore the rights of the Iraqi people so that they can feel truly free and in a democratic country." The head of the UNAMI's human rights office, Gianni Magazzeni, stressed that "full realization of human rights are important factors for the stability of Iraq." SS

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/19/2006


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IRAN: Supplementary Budget Bill Complete

Management and Planning Organization (MPO) said Monday it has completed work on the much-publicized supplementary budget bill for March 2006-2007. Seyyed Mohammad Qasem Hosseini, deputy MPO chief for parliamentary affairs, told Mehr that the organization has finalized the supplementary development budget in accordance with the state organizations* request for extra funds. ※The bill has proposed a number of situations for supplementary development budget,※ he said, adding that the cabinet will choose one of these before sending the bill to the parliament for ratification. Hosseini further noted that the bill excludes proposals for funds to be spent for current expenses. Mehr reported that the total value of incomplete projects stands at 2,000 trillion rials. The government had initially demanded 184 trillion rials to complete the job by next March, whereas the parliament approved only 150 trillion rials. The parliamentarians had conditioned their agreement to the supplementary budget on the government spending the entire budget allocated for development projects in the March-September period, which marks the first half of the Iranian year. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly announced that the government has managed to spend the fund within six months.

From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 10/03/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: Parliament Passes Changes in Law on Local State Management

The senate deputies passed at a plenary meeting the law "On Changes and Amendments in the Law on Local State Management," Kazakhstan Today correspondent reports. Earlier the Mazhilis Committee for Economic Reform and Regional Development said that the introduced changes were directed "at affirmation of the rights of maslikhat members to create deputy association in the form of factions of the political parties and other public associations, deputy groups and regulation of their activities in the maslikhats." The law has been forwarded to the head of state for signing.

From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/12/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Cabinet Introduces New Media Registration Procedures

A new procedure for media registration has been established in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution "On further improvement of the procedure for state registration of media in the Republic of Uzbekistan" on 11 October. The new regulations on the procedure for state registration of media in Uzbekistan specify types of media outlets subject to compulsory state registration. These include media outlets that publish material on the Internet. Another distinguishing feature of the new registration procedure is that any application must now contain information on all other media outlets of which the founder and editorial staff are also founders, trustees, publishers, distributors (including all affiliates and the size of their share in the editorial office's authorized fund). The resolution establishes specific time limits for the media registration and re-registration procedures. Once registration is granted, the registering body must complete the legal arrangement and issue a license within a week. If a media outlet is denied registration, the document gives the applicant the right to a written explanation from the registering body of the shortcomings cited a reason for the refusal to register.

The applicant is also entitled to apply again after eliminating these shortcomings within an established term. Re-registration is allowed only in exceptional cases - when significant changes are introduced to the founding document. In line with the regulations, state registration is not required for: media outlets founded by state bodies and administrative departments exceptionally for publishing their official reports and materials, normative and legal acts; periodicals that are published in up to 100 copies for organizations' own needs; TV, radio and video programmes on cable TV networks limited to within the premises or the territory of an enterprise, organization and educational establishment; and audio and video programmes recorded in fewer than 50 copies. It should also be noted that the document stipulates preferential fees for state registration of media outlets designed for children, teenagers and invalids as well as those with educational, cultural and enlightening purposes. Registration fees for electronic media have been reduced.

From http://news.uzreport.com/ 10/20/2006


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AUSTRALIA: New Horticulture Environment Strategy

Australia*s horticultural industries have a new strategy for the environment. The Horticulture Natural Resource Management (NRM) Strategy was launched today by the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Sussan Ley, at a function in Victoria*s Yarra Valley. ※The launch of this NRM strategy is an important landmark for industry,§ Ms Ley said. ※The strategy is a statement from the horticulture industry that it is willing to take ownership of natural resource management issues and find solutions that benefit the industry and the broader community. ※As the second biggest component of the agricultural sector the horticulture industry has a significant contribution to make to natural resource management in this country. ※The industry has to prove to communities and to markets that it is as &clean and green* as it claims and it has to manage significant pressure to maintain access to resources as well,§ Ms Ley said. The Horticulture NRM Strategy is a practical response to these pressures. ※The strategy is a framework for industry, catchment and farm activities,§ Ms Ley said. It has been developed with assistance from the Sustainable Industries Initiative component of the Australian Government*s National Landcare Program, and forms part of the Horticulture for Tomorrow initiative. Ms Ley said the strategy will cut through the confusion of NRM, helping industry to manage environmental issues effectively and put itself in a strong position for the future. ※The strategy contains a vision for profitable and environmentally sustainable production through efficient production, skilled growers, healthy environments, positive communities and loyal consumers. ※The strategy also positions industry to manage emerging issues like the impact of climate change and the threat imposed by disease and pests,§ Ms Ley said.


From http://www.psmaff.gov.au/ 09/28/2006

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Basel II Advanced Measurement Approaches to Operational Risk

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) today released a paper setting out its response to industry submissions on its proposed approach to the advanced measurement approaches (AMA) to operational risk under the Basel II capital framework. APRA's proposed approach was set out in a discussion paper in October 2005. APRA has refined its original proposals after incorporating feedback from authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs), as well as recent changes to international guidelines. The response paper addresses issues raised during the consultation and the revised draft prudential standard and prudential practice guide (PPG) reflect this input. The paper includes discussion on the significant comments that were made on the operational risk regulatory capital calculation methodology and the corporate governance and risk management criteria surrounding an internal modelling approach. The proposals form part of the Basel II capital adequacy regime for ADIs that will come into force on 1 January 2008. The full suite of Basel II prudential standards is expected to be finalised in late 2007 after a further round of consultation in the first half of 2007.


From http://www.apra.gov.au/ 10/11/2006


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Drought Support Extended in 18 EC Declared Areas Across Australia

Farmers battling drought in 18 Exceptional Circumstances (EC)-declared areas across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will receive an additional $350 million in drought support. The assistance will be extended to all eligible producers in the 18 regions until 31 March, 2008. The Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said the decision followed an assessment by the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) 每 an independent group of farmers and agribusiness professionals who advise on a range of rural and agricultural issues, including EC. ※The Government is also considering additional drought assistance measures,§ he said. ※Today*s announcement was part of the Government*s streamlined EC re-application process, which enables declarations to be &rolled over*, taking the pressure off farmers still in the grip of drought.§ Mr McGauran said it was important farmers in these 18 EC areas did not self-assess but rather contacted Centrelink on the National Drought Helpline, 13 23 16, as soon as possible to check their eligibility for assistance. For interest rate subsidy information, producers should contact their relevant State Rural Adjustment Authorities. ※There are other, non-EC related support services available from Centrelink, such as advice from social workers and Financial Information Service officers who can help individual farmers and their families deal with the effects of the drought,§ he said.


From http://www.maff.gov.au/ 10/16/2006

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New Funding Agreement Supports Australia*s Carers

The Australian Government has demonstrated its support for Australia*s carers with a $12 million commitment to provide counselling, training and education for those who look after elderly and disabled relatives. The Howard Government has demonstrated its support for Australia*s carers with a $12 million commitment to provide counselling, training and education for those who look after elderly and disabled relatives. The Minister for Ageing, Senator Santo Santoro, announced the two-year funding agreement with Carers Australia today, at the launch of Carers* Week 2006. The funding will help Carers Australia to improve the services it provides to carers across the country. ※Carers Australia will use this funding to provide services as specialised counselling, and to expand its role in educating and training carers,§ Senator Santoro said. ※Carers Australia represents Australia*s 2.6 million carers, around half a million of whom are the primary carer to those they look after. These are people who 每 quietly, out of sight from the rest of us 每 provide an invaluable community service in caring for people they love. ※Carers Week 2006, which the Government has sponsored with about $190,000 in funding, has the theme, &Anyone, Anytime*, which emphasises that all of us, at some time, may become carers for those we love.§

Carers Week is an annual activity that Carers Australia has run since the early 1990s. Senator Santoro said the new Carers Australia funding agreement was part of the Australian Government*s funding of carer programs and complemented the $207.6 million over four years allocated in the 2005每06 Budget for carer initiatives. ※These Budget measures have so far funded 96 new or expanded respite services for employed carers of people who are frail aged, a further 18 new innovative pilot projects for employed carers, and 71 new overnight community respite facilities across Australia. ※The measures also provided $41.8 million for an extra $28 per day for high-care respite to residential facilities, and $9.3 million to increase respite to carers in rural areas through Multipurpose Services.§ The Australian Government now provides more than $168 million in carer support through the National Respite for Carers Program.


From http://www.health.gov.au/ 10/16/2006


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Child Support Agency Ramps Up Tax Compliance

Children and single parents doing it tough are the chief beneficiaries of the Child Support Agency and Australian Tax Office's bolstered tax return lodgement program. Minister for Human Services, the Hon Joe Hockey MP, today announced that the CSA had referred 125,000 payers, who had not lodged tax returns, to the ATO. As part of its focus on cases where parents are deliberately under-reporting incomes, the CSA had already recovered an extra $5.3 million in child support just three months into the initiative. The CSA has been working with the ATO to issue tax return demand notices to about 6,000 separated parents a week since early July 2006. As a result, CSA customers had lodged 13,006 tax returns by the end of September. Minister Hockey said the tax return lodgement program was part of the Australian Government's previously-announced intensive compliance reforms to the Child Support Scheme. The program will cost $168 million over four years and is expected to result in a five-fold increase in the number of referrals done prior to the program commencing. "Parents who dodge their child support responsibilities need to know they can't escape lodging a tax return now that this new compliance initiative is underway," Minister Hockey said.

Tax returns form the basis for calculating the amount of child support that should be paid or received by separated parents. "Most parents genuinely want the best for their children and the vast majority do the right thing, but many do not submit a tax return because they want to minimise or maximise their payments," Minister Hockey said. Minister Hockey said it's also important to note that the CSA is focussing on parents who seek to cheat the system whether they pay or receive child support. "About 20 per cent of the cases referred to the ATO are child support recipients who the CSA suspects are under-reporting their income in order to maximise their child support and family tax benefit payments," he said. "Recipients' income levels can affect how much they receive from the paying parent and the Australian taxpayer, and we want to be fair to both parents." The Australian Tax Office first issues a notice of demand to lodge. If that fails to get the desired response, it follows up with compliance measures such as penalties and prosecution. "Both the CSA and ATO are working together to address potential cash economy issues," Minister Hockey said. So far 202 cases have been referred for prosecution as part of the tax lodgement program -116 of these have since lodged their tax return while 83 summonses have been issued by the ATO.

From http://www.humanservices.gov.au/ 10/18/2006


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Media Laws 'Not A Free Kick'

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Helen Coonan has rejected suggestions that her media law changes have been crafted to enrich proprietors, as another wave of takeover speculation swept the sharemarket in anticipation of the new rules. With the media ownership laws finally clearing Parliament yesterday, Senator Coonan said they were not "mogul-specific" and not designed to favour big players such as James Packer. "In fact I've had to endure the sustained criticism and complaints from just about everyone of them who are not happy with the whole arrangements." Minutes after the laws were passed, Mr Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting confirmed it had done a $5.5 billion deal to restructure its television and magazine interests, placing them in a new company, PBL Media, to be jointly owned with Europe-based private equity firm CVC. The deal has freed up billions of dollars for PBL to embark on a massive global expansion of its gaming and media operations. The Packer announcement came as activity in media stocks surged on speculation about possible takeovers and tie-ups between major television, newspaper and radio companies as a result of the new laws.

John Fairfax, owner of The Age, was at the centre of fresh speculation last night after it was revealed that the funds management arm of stockbroker Merrill Lynch had built up a 6 per cent stake in the company worth $283 million. A source close to Fairfax said the company believed Merrill Lynch was taking "an investment stake, not an acquisition stake". Fairfax shares soared another 19 cents yesterday on heavy turnover amid market speculation that the company was considering a tie-up with Southern Cross Broadcasting, owner of radio 3AW. West Australian Newspapers, owner of Perth's only daily newspaper, jumped another 18 cents as Kerry Stokes' Seven Network continued its raid on the company, lifting its stake to the 14.9 per cent limit allowed under the existing rules. PBL shares, which had been suspended before yesterday's deal announcement, surged 74 cents to close at $20.59. The company, which already owns Melbourne's Crown Casino, the Burswood Casino in Perth, and a share in a massive three-casino joint venture project in Macau, would be able to expand globally as result of the deal, PBL executives said. "For PBL it releases cash at a time when there is a land-grab underway for gaming and entertainment assets around the world," said Mr Packer, PBL executive chairman. PBL chief executive John Alexander, who will also head up PBL Media, said the company would look to expand its whole business empire 〞 "not just gaming".

Fairfax chairman Ron Walker, who met Mr Packer at a Sydney cafe last weekend, praised the PBL deal, telling The Australian Financial Review: "This is James at his brilliant best. He is a very clever man. He is one of the best financial engineers in the country today." Mr Walker said he was not concerned about a possible bid for Fairfax, which was in a strong position to expand under the new media ownership laws. Mr Walker said Fairfax would "get stronger and better as a result of all this". Debate continued to flare in Canberra after the laws were passed. Senator Steve Fielding, of the Family First party, admitted he had met Mr Packer before his surprise decision last week to support the changes. But Senator Fielding played down the significance of the meeting, arguing he had met a number of major media proprietors, and he said the discussion was no more influential than any other he had. Senator Fielding also fended off accusations by Labor backbencher John Murphy that he had betrayed the interests of families by creating the scope for PBL to potentially expand its gaming interests. Mr Murphy claimed there was "no constitutional impediment" to a future Labor government forcing media owners to sell off assets. But Labor communications spokesman Stephen Conroy said the party would seek legal advice before agreeing to any policy of divestment. Senator Conroy seized on this week's developments in media companies. "This is not a wave of takeovers, it's a tsunami, that will lead to Australia having the most concentrated media sector in the free world," he said.

Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce lamented that Parliament could not "unscramble the egg" and that "once you get rid of diversity, you start getting rid of democracy # I did my very best to try and mitigate the issues and everybody knows that." Senator Coonan defended her previous predictions that the changes would not trigger a stockmarket rush. "What we are about is creating a new regime to take us forward. I think that's what we need to focus on." On the ABC's Lateline last night, Senator Coonan denied her reforms had delivered specific benefits to PBL. "This Government has been very careful to not make any arrangements in the new media package mogul specific," she said. Earlier, she revealed she had referred the Packer deal to the Australian Communications and Media Authority to ensure it did not breach foreign ownership controls. "It's important that any movement has in mind the current requirements as well as the regulatory regime when the new laws come into effect on a date yet to be decided," she said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/19/2006


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FIJI: Cabinet Approves Review of Medical and Dental Practitioners Act

Cabinet has approved the review of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act Cap 225 (1978). Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Minister for Curative Health Services, Dr Gunasagaran Gounder. Dr Gounder said that the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act regulates the practice and education of medical and dental practitioners. ※As a regulatory authority, the Fiji Medical Council and Fiji Dental Council have mandates to ensure, as far as possible, that all individuals authorised to practice within these disciplines are safe and competent to do so. ※In this regard, the two Councils are responsible for the initial licensing of doctors and dentists and the maintenance of the Registers. ※However, there is no ongoing annual licensing of these registrants in the current Act as they are only registered once at the beginning of their career and remain valid for life unless revoked for cause.§ Dr Gounder said that the standards of practice by the medical and dental practitioners are, therefore, not consistent with the registration, an area of potential professional risks. ※The current Act does not clearly stipulate to the two Councils their wider role in registration and professional standards.

※The current Act does not mandate the two Councils in their functions in determining standards and accreditation of medical and dental courses from the Fiji School of Medicine.* Dr Gounder said that the objective of the revised Bill is to protect the public through safe and competent medical and dental practice by the medical and dental practitioners. ※The Bill will establish the Fiji Medical Council and the Fiji Dental Council which will advise and report to the Minister for Curative Health Services. ※It will also determine standards and requirement for ongoing medical and dental registration and ongoing medical and dental education for registered and practicing doctors, and determine standards for accreditation of medical and dental course at the undergraduate training. ※The Bill will further establish and maintain registers for medical practitioners and dental practitioners, determine the Code of Conduct for all persons legislated and carry out such other functions as are conferred on it by this Bill or another Act.§ The review will be undertaken by a local consultant.


From http://www.fiji.gov.fj/ 10/12/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Election Funding Laws to Be Overhauled, Clark Says

Officials are working towards legislation overhauling election funding rules, Prime Minister Helen Clark said today. Miss Clark told journalists before an all day caucus meeting she was confident the 2008 election would be fought under different laws than those in place now. "We are looking to have the electoral campaign funding system cleaned up and that will involve legislation," Miss Clark said. National has accused Labour of corruption over its use of parliamentary funding for Labour's 2005 election pledge card, while Labour is angry at National's access to large anonymous donors and the campaign run by the Exclusive Brethren religious sect against Labour and the Greens. Miss Clark did not indicate when law reform would emerge. "There is a lot work being done on it and the system always needs a reasonable lead time before a general election, but there's plenty of time to get that done." Miss Clark said the use of trusts to funnel anonymous donations "would not be possible under what we have in mind". Labour did receive some small anonymous donations but would be happy for that to be stopped, she said. National had not broken any laws but Miss Clark believed the law was inadequate. "The law is now clearly covering up very, very large donations which are made in private and we don't think that is appropriate in a transparent political system." The National Party has called for a commission of inquiry into the 2005 election, but Labour has been lukewarm about the idea.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/03/2006


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'Adjustments' to Tax Coming, Says Dunne

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne says personal tax "adjustments" will happen, conceding that the unveiling of a huge surplus has increased pressure for cuts. In a statement which goes further than Finance Minister Michael Cullen was prepared to last week, Mr Dunne said yesterday that the "very large" Government surplus meant two things. "The business tax reduction proposals I announced with Michael Cullen in the Business Tax Review in July will go ahead from April 2008, and they will be accompanied by personal tax adjustments as well, just as we foreshadowed." The statement was included in a regular newsletter from the United Future leader. The likelihood of personal tax cuts in the Budget next year is increasing, but Dr Cullen has so far fallen short of publicly committing himself. The review of business taxes will probably cut the corporate rate to 30 per cent from 33, and flow through to personal taxes, which could undergo an adjustment of thresholds as well as rates. The changes are expected to be in place in 2008, an election year. Speaking last week at the announcement of the Government's $11.47 billion annual surplus, Dr Cullen emphasised that the country's massive current account deficit and inflationary pressures needed to be weighed up before personal tax cuts could be made.

He appeared to play down the importance of the surplus in terms of what it meant for future personal tax cuts, emphasising that it was a backward-looking measure and that what happened in the future was more important. Dr Cullen said he would decide in March next year, when more was known about how revenue was tracking, whether personal tax cuts could be made. Asked about his newsletter yesterday, Mr Dunne said it had always been his view that the business tax review would result in a lower corporate rate. If that happened there were "inevitable consequences" for personal tax rates. Asked if he was convinced that personal tax cuts would happen, Mr Dunne said he was "absolutely convinced that the commitments that we gave at the time of the business tax review will be honoured". "But it's a matter of just taking things one step at a time." In a sign of what may be coming, Mr Dunne said he preferred incremental tax changes rather than "big bang" cuts. He also conceded that the huge Government surplus added to the pressure for personal changes - although like Dr Cullen, he added that it was important to look at what was already coming out of that surplus before deciding what was available.


From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/17/2006


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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Disaster Legislation and Plan Review Discussed

A National Disaster Council 3 day conference ended today. The conference gathered officials from the provinces, national government, and private sector to relook at the National Disaster Council*s Act and Plan. Both instruments are almost 20 years old. Thus the need for review. During the 3 day conference participants discussed ways of improving the two instruments to pave the way for two proposed working groups which will put the two instruments together into a final touch. At the closing Permanent Secretary for the Department of Home Affairs Mr. Fred Fakarii told the participants: ※I*m pleased to see how serious you participated in the discussion.


From http://www.pmc.gov.sb/ 10/25/2006


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Economic Growth is Creating ※Political Space§ for Deeper Reforms in South Asia: World Bank Report

Strong economic growth in South Asia is creating ※political space§ for much-needed policy and institutional reforms to accelerate and sustain growth, and tackle long-standing social and economic problems, according to a World Bank report. The report, to be discussed tomorrow at the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Singapore, says strong growth has created an unprecedented opportunity: a chance of ending poverty in a generation in South Asia, the region with the world*s largest concentration of poor people. ※This is an opportunity that cannot be missed,§ said Praful Patel, World Bank Vice-President for South Asia. ※For the leadership of South Asia it is the chance of a lifetime. And for the poor people of South Asia it is a real chance to emerge from destitution and want.§ The report observes that recent economic growth has made it possible for South Asian countries to address politically difficult reforms. ※More informed public debate about what works and what doesn*t combined with global experience is emerging as an important force for change in South Asia,§ said Shantayanan Devarajan, co-author of the report and World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia region. ※In some countries growth is also generating the resources to address economic and social problems - not just adding new money, but also the will to make existing public expenditures more effective.§ Since 1996, GDP growth in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka has exceeded 5 percent a year on average; Pakistan has been growing at this pace since 2000. In the past two years, India and Pakistan have been averaging GDP growth of nearly 7 percent.

Afghanistan, has been growing at double-digit rates, but starting from an extremely low base due to decades of conflict. ※In order to use this growth to eliminate poverty in a generation, South Asian countries will need to accelerate and sustain their economic growth rates from 6 percent to 8-10 percent a year, §said Shekhar Shah, co-author of the report and Economic Adviser in the World Bank*s South Asia Region. ※They also need to make growth more inclusive, boost human development and address governance issues.§ The task is difficult but not impossible given the unique opportunity that recent growth has created, argues the report. Growth is adding not just more resources but the potential to generate the political space for greater reform. On the one hand, it is breeding greater public demand for addressing urgent challenges; on the other, it gives politicians the opportunity to make tradeoffs through strategic prioritization. The report says there is already evidence that current growth has made it possible for countries to pursue ※second-generation§ reforms, such as the privatization of public enterprises, deregulation of industries and financial sector reforms. Pakistan, for example, has privatized most of its banking sector, with impressive early results. South Asian countries are also responding to citizens* demands for public accountability by putting in place new mechanisms of information disclosure and service delivery. Recently-passed right-to-information legislation in India, for example, holds the potential for dramatically greater contestability of government decision-making and implementation. In addition, growth-induced additional fiscal resources have led South Asian countries to increase spending on health and education.

Countries are responding to the growing pressures from citizens for better outcomes by experimenting with new approaches such as community-managed schools, vouchers, conditional cash transfers, and contracting out. Bangladesh and, more recently Pakistan, have been contracting out health services to NGOs. In Bangalore, publication of citizen report cards that rate the quality of public services has focused attention on service delivery. While most of these programs have yet to be rigorously evaluated, preliminary results are encouraging. The report also argues that growth, and the need for even faster growth, is helping bring South Asia*s governance problems to the fore, both revealing the fault lines of government failures and creating pressures to deal with them. With rising incomes and more at stake, citizens are demanding better outcomes. In order to assess South Asia*s potential to accelerate current growth rates, the report uses the East Asian experience as a benchmark and finds that the difficulties relative to East Asia are threefold: South Asia has lower saving and investment rates and, in particular, huge infrastructure deficits; distortions in labor markets; and lower total factor productivity levels and growth rates. Perhaps the most vivid demonstration of South Asia*s lower investment rate is the massive infrastructure ※deficit§ that plagues all countries in the region. For instance, to catch up to China*s present levels of infrastructure per capita, India will have to invest 12.5 percent of GDP per year until 2015, approximately four times its current investment. ※If South Asians do not seize this opportunity, there is a chance that growth will not be sustained,§ said Devarajan.

※The problems of inequality, weak human development and governance will fester, possibly leading to greater conflict, and twenty years from now the region may have 400 million people or more still living in abject poverty.§ Accompanying South Asia*s recent economic growth has been a rise in inequality. For instance, the richer, southern states of India are growing 3 percent faster than the poorer, more populous northern states. South Asia also has some of the worst levels of human deprivation on the planet. Pakistan, for example, has enjoyed six percent annual GDP growth since 2002, but one in 10 children still dies before his or her fifth birthday. In addition, South Asia has the world largest conflict-affected population - about 71 million people. Several South Asian countries score poorly on measures of corruption, with Bangladesh ranking at the bottom of Transparency International*s list for the last five years. And confrontational politics plagues countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, not to mention several Indian states. Any one of these challenges is daunting enough. Yet, South Asian countries have a real chance of overcoming them. The report argues that South Asian governments can bridge the gap among regions, sectors, and people with coherent policies that transmit economic and job growth to lagging regions, improve service delivery in health, education, and infrastructure, and protect the vulnerable.


From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 09/15/2006



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General Assembly Appoints Ban Ki-Moon as Next UN Secretary-General

※The 192-member General Assembly appointed South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon as the next UN Secretary-General by acclamation on Friday and the veteran diplomat who grew up during a war that divided his country pledged to &dispel the disillusionment* about the United Nations. # In a speech mixing humility and forcefulness, Ban laid out his vision for the UN whose reputation has been tarnished by corruption scandals and whose outdated practices still need major reform to meet the challenges of the 21st century despite some modest initial steps. &My tenure will be marked by ceaseless efforts to build bridges and close divides,* he told hundreds of diplomats and UN staff minutes after the assembly resolution was adopted. #§ [The Associated Press (10/13)/Factiva] ※#As for the much-needed reform of the UN Secretariat, he said, &The aim of Secretariat reform is not to penalize but to reward (those working at the organization), so that their talent and skill, experience and dedication may be fully mobilized and properly used,* he said.§ [Yonhap English News (South Korea, 10/13)/Factiva] ※#

Ban, a mild-mannered figure, has played key roles both as South Korea's foreign minister and earlier as Seoul's ambassador to the UN in trying to resolve the long-standing North Korean nuclear crisis. He outlined fighting poverty, HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation and protecting human rights Friday as among the priorities of his tenure along with containing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism. #§ [Agence France Presse (10/13)/Factiva] ※Ban # pledged to be a decisive leader and cautioned those who call him low-key not to mistake him for a pushover. &I may look low-key or (be) soft-spoken but that does not mean that I lack leadership or commitment,* Ban told Reuters in his first formal interview after his appointment # Modesty and humility were considered virtues by Asians, he said, but should not be misunderstood. # Only the second Asian to head the UN, Ban will take over on January 1 but said he wanted to start work on the transition as soon as possible. An aide said Ban could move to New York as soon as next month. Ban made clear he would travel extensively, delegating much of the day-to-day running of the 9,000-strong UN bureaucracy to a deputy. # Ban will start his five-year term in what Annan has called the world's most impossible job with a daunting agenda that stretches from the threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism to reform of the UN itself. #§ [Reuters (10/15)/Factiva]

※South Korea's presidential office on Saturday hailed # Ban's appointment # calling it &meaningful and a source of national pride.* # Yoon Tae-young, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said the South Korean people hope Ban will make a great contribution in developing the UN into a more responsible, trustworthy international body and resolving pending international issues such as North Korea's nuclear dispute. Ban's appointment has been touted as a national feat in South Korea, a country whose first democratic government was formed through a UN-supervised election in 1948. #§ [Yonhap English News (South Korea, 10/14)/Factiva]


From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/16/2006

 


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Many Asian Countries Falling Short of MDG Targets, Joint Report Says

The Asian and Pacific region as a whole is on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but progress in many individual countries is slow and performance on some vital targets is unsatisfactory, according to a new report released today. The report 每 Millennium Development Goals: Progress in Asia and the Pacific 2006 每 says that regional targets such as halving poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and eliminating gender disparity in education are on track or have already been achieved. And progress on these is impressive compared to sub-Saharan Africa and even Latin America. ※The average progress, and relative performance, of the region, however, is no reason for early celebration,§ the report says. ※The absolute size of social and economic deprivation # remains enormous.§ The MDG 2006 report updates the detailed analysis provided in the regional report, "A Future within Reach 2005," released in September last year at the Millennium Summit in New York. It is produced through a regional partnership between ADB, United Nations Development Programme, and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The new report points out that two thirds of Asians 每 or a total of 1.5 billion people 每 are still without access to basic sanitation. The region is also home to roughly three times as many underweight children and people living on less than $1 a day as sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America combined. The region is not progressing fast enough to meet some important targets, including infant mortality and access to basic sanitation in urban areas.

Meanwhile, HIV prevalence is actually on the rise and the proportion of people with access to improved water sources is declining. The regional scorecards presented in the report mask some drastically uneven progress across countries. Many of the developing countries of a region that stretches from the Pacific to Central Asia, are likely to miss or even regress from a wide range of MDGs, including the targets on child health, and diseases such as HIV and TB. The countries of most concern are identified in the report by combining a measurement of their current level of deprivation against progress on the MDGs. Using this, they are grouped into four categories: Moving ahead 每 making good progress and with a latest status better than average for the region 每 including Armenia, Azerbaijan, People's Republic of China (PRC), Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Palau, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Losing momentum 每 will have to accelerate progress to be able to meet targets, although from a relatively favorable latest status 每 including Fiji Islands, Kazakhstan, Samoa, and Uzbekistan. Catching up 每 making progress but their latest status is below the region's average 每 Afghanistan, India, and Nepal. Falling further behind 每 causing greatest concern because they score negatively on both progress and latest status indexes 每 Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Philippines.

The gaps within countries can be as stark as the gaps between countries, the report states, even in places that have seen spectacular development such as China and India. China is on track to achieve, or has already achieved, most targets on health and poverty. The country enjoys one of the lowest child and maternal death rates, some of the lowest HIV, malaria, and TB prevalence, and has achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education, the report says. However, some indicators are dated, while progress on some targets such as access to water and sanitation is not improving fast enough to meet MDG targets by 2015. Overall progress comes at the expense of large and increasing national inequalities, the report states. For example, child and infant mortality rates in the coastal regions are close to those of developed countries while in the less developed western provinces the rate is three to five times higher. India similarly shows important progress on many of the MDGs but the relative level and large absolute size of deprivation remain high. For example, prevalences of poverty and underweight children are among the highest in the region, although progress is being made in the former indicator. There is also a wide divide between progress seen in urban and rural areas. Of the 2 billion rural dwellers worldwide without access to basic sanitation, 1.5 billion were in Asia and the Pacific in 2004, the report says. Yet in that year, only one third of all Asians living in rural areas had access to basic sanitation compared to 74% of urban residents.

※Much remains to be done if governments in the region are serious about delivering the MDG promises to their poor and to achieve sustainable development,§ the report says. ※At present, too many countries that score low on the progress or status of the education and health targets commit only a small proportion of their GDP to these sectors. And countries of most concern in the region are often among those not receiving enough from trade or aid.§ The report concludes that while developing countries must commit to supporting institutions and policies that promote the sustainable economic growth required to achieve the MDGs, developed countries must also deliver on providing more, and more efficient, aid and to ensure fair trade and a more equitable share of global prosperity for poor people. The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 每 which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 每 form a blueprint agreed to by all the world*s countries and the world*s leading development institutions.


From: http://www.adb.org/ 10/16/2006

 


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Improved Governance, Infrastructure Key to Higher South Asia Growth, Says ADB Report

A new ADB report says that improved governance, better quality of regulation and infrastructure can help South Asian economies emerge as the ※New Tigers§ of Asia. The South Asia Economic Report (SAER) underscores that South Asia, led by India and Pakistan, posted stellar growth in 2005 and has registered higher growth than its peers in Southeast Asia in the past five years. High growth is forecast to continue through 2007. While developments in India are clearly the predominant factor in the improved economic performance of South Asia, most other countries in the region have been on a similar trend, although their improvements generally are more modest. The banking sectors in South Asia have not only improved their performance over the recent past, but have also reduced the performance gap between themselves and other economies in Asia. However, the performance in state-owned banks has generally been weaker than that of private and foreign banks. Restructuring and privatizing state-owned banks should remain a high priority on the reform agenda. Despite a shift towards market liberalization, South Asia continues to be overregulated. As a result, it is not fully realizing its growth potential. Firms are frequently confronted with a heavy burden of administrative regulations. For example, while it only takes an average of 5 signatures from government officials to export goods and 7 to import in large Southeast Asian economies, the corresponding number of signatures required in South Asia is 12 to export and 24 to import.

※South Asia stands at critical juncture today, where the potential for sustained high growth and poverty reduction is excellent. A unique opportunity exists to drastically reduce poverty over the next decade, provided the right choices are made,§ said Kunio Senga, Director General of ADB*s South Asia Department. The SAER, the first in a series of biannual reports on economic and development issues in the South Asia region, concludes that there is considerable scope for improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of government interventions. Common problems among South Asian countries include the highly bureaucratic nature of government administration, a lack of coordination between different ministries and government agencies, and overstaffing and inadequate pay and benefit levels in the public sector. The SAER recommends that public investments be targeted at areas where infrastructure bottlenecks are emerging. Electricity is one of the most critical bottlenecks. Private generators have to provide 15% of electric consumption in South Asia; compared with 2% in PRC and 3% in Thailand. The quality of the transport infrastructure also needs improvement. ※In addition to increasing public and private spending on infrastructure, there is a need for better targeting of investments and in particular, for improvements in sector policies, governance, and institutional environment,§ said Juan Miranda, Director General of ADB*s Central and West Asia Regional Department. The report says that intra-regional trade and investment offers immense opportunities for accelerating growth and reducing poverty in South Asia. India could become a hub for stimulating the growth of intra-industry trade in the region and boost the inflow of foreign investment into South Asia.


From: http://www.infrasite.nl/ 10/19/2006



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CHINA: Anti-Graft Storm Rages Through China

The government's anti-corruption drive to safeguard the purity of the Party has won plaudits from the public and expectations of cleaner government. The latest move was the sacking of Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu on Sunday for alleged involvement in a social security fund scandal, becoming the highest-ranking official to fall in the latest anti-corruption campaign. The scandal involves the alleged illicit investment of at least a third of a 10-billion-yuan (US$1.2 billion) city social security fund in potentially risky real estate and road projects. Before Chen, the city's labor and social security department chief, a district governor and several prominent businessmen were detained for questioning over the scandal. "The investigation into Chen's case shows how seriously China is taking the fight against corruption," says Wang Yukai, a scholar with the National School of Administration which trains mid-level and senior civil servants. "The most prominent feature of this round of anti-corruption war is that it has led to the downfall of quite a few high ranking officials, not only in Shanghai, but also in Beijing, Tianjin and Anhui," says Wang. Chen was also in the 24-member Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Party's central executive body. "No matter who and how high-ranking they are, if they have violated party rules or the law, the investigation will be earnest and the punishment severe," said a statement of the central authorities released on Monday. Gong Weibin, another scholar with the National School of Administration, observes that the ongoing anti-graft campaign also reveals challenges to the Party in a crucial period of social transaction.

"Corruption is not indigenous to China. It's also afflicting the developed countries, and sometimes leads to the downfall of a government," Gong says. "It's necessary to take an iron fist to crack down on corruption, otherwise the Party might lose support from the general public or even support from ordinary Party members." Falling "tigers" In China, people are used to calling low-ranking corrupt officials "flies" and the high-ranking officials "tigers." "Since the beginning of this year, we have seen a lot of tiger-beating in the country, instead of merely fly-swatting," Wang says. Li Baojin, former procurator-general of Tianjin, one of China's four municipalities along with Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, was dismissed from his post on charges of "severe breaches of discipline" on August 27. In east China's Anhui Province, He Minxu was dismissed from his post as vice provincial governor on August 25. In Beijing, former deputy mayor Liu Zhihua was removed from office and put under investigation for "corruption and dissoluteness". Similar probes have been launched against officials in Hunan and Fujian provinces. "Top Chinese leaders are quite clear that it's a make-or-break fight for the government to win public trust by making substantial progress in rooting out corruption," says Wang Yukai. "Corruption is still rampant in some fields," warned President Hu Jintao before the Party's 85th anniversary which fell on July 1. He called on the 70 million Party members "never to slacken the fight against corruption even for a second". Premier Wen Jiabao also urged the Party members to build a clean government through fighting corruption at a conference on September 4, stressing "using power for self interest is absolutely prohibited".


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/28/2006



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China Appoints New Delegates to Int'l Organizations

China's State Council has announced the appointment of new delegates to organizations under the United Nations (UN). Zhang Ming was appointed China's delegate to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, replacing Guo Chongli. Tang Guoqiang was appointed delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), replacing Wu Hailong. Chen Jinghua takes up the post of delegate to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), replacing Zhao Zhenyu. Meanwhile, Li Jun was removed from the post as deputy director with the General Administration of Civil Aviation.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/26/2006

 


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Shanghai's Acting Party Chief Appointed

Han Zheng has become acting secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), according to a decision of the CPC Central Committee. The appointment was announced on Monday after Chen Liangyu was suspended from the posts of Shanghai's party chief and member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, for his involvement in a social security fund scandal. Han Zheng was elected as deputy party chief of Shanghai in May 2002 and became mayor of Shanghai in February 2003. The Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee convened a meeting on Sunday and discussed a preliminary investigation report on Chen's relevant problems, which was tabled by the the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Chen's case.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/25/2006

 


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Auditing Watchdog Opens Up to Corruption Inspections

Audit authority -- which has achieved popular acclaim for its exposure of corruption, malpractice and misspent public funds -- is opening itself to scrutiny by other government departments to fight corruption in its own ranks. A joint team of officials from government agencies of finance and supervision is scheduled to start annual inspections of auditing departments. The plan was announced by Liu Jiayi, deputy auditor-general of the National Audit Office (NAO), at an inner meeting on "enhancing the construction of the audit institutions".Financial income and expenditure, the use of special funds and work performance of audit departments will be subject to the external inspections. Results of the inspections would be published, said sources at the NAO. The NAO has published audit reports on government departments over the past three years, accusing them of malpractice such as misappropriation of funds, a move welcomed by the people as "an auditing storm". But the audit offices themselves receive no outside scrutiny as local offices are only under the supervision of their superiors. The NAO received 440 complaints on "discipline violation" of audit offices and officials from January 2005 to August this year. The invitation to outside inspectors was accelerated by the sudden death of a 25-year-old auditor Zhang Hongtao, who apparently ate and drank himself to death at a banquet organized by a government department he was auditing in April. Before the external inspection system is installed, the NAO has ordered its provincial subordinates to begin self-examination and will send inspection teams to check local auditing offices from November. "The current audit system is still vulnerable to many problems, especially corruption," said NAO auditor-general Li Jinhua. "External supervision can be much more efficient in curbing corruption than internal supervision only." In an interview on China Central Television last month, Li said, "We auditors supervise others, so why shouldn't others supervise us?" The Ministry of Supervision and Ministry of Finance will begin training personnel for the task once government ratifies the NAO plan.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/12/2006



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NBS Chief Removed

Qiu Xiaohua has been removed as director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) by the State Council, according to an official press release on Thursday. Meanwhile, the State Council has appointed Xie Fuzhan as the NBS director and removed his deputy director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, it says. Born in 1958, Qiu Xiaohua is a native of east China's Fujian Province. He graduated from the department of Economics of Xiamen University in Fujian in 1982. Qiu was appointed NBS' deputy director in 1999. He served as chief economist and spokesman for NBS between 1993 and 1998. He was appointed director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) this March to replace Li Deshui.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/13/2006



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New Officials Appointed for Personnel Ministry, IMF

The State Council has named Ji Yunshi as the new vice-minister of personnel and head of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and Ge Huayong as the new Executive Director for China for the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ji, born in Sept. 1945, is a native of Haimen, east China's Jiangsu Province. He studied physics at Shandong University between 1964 and 1969. He previously served as governor of Hebei province. A bulletin issued by the State Council said that Wan Xueyuan has been removed from his post as vice-minister of personnel and head of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. It also said Wang Xiaoyi has been removed from the post of Executive Director for China at the IMF. The bulletin did not provide any details as to why the two officials have been removed from their posts.


From http://www.china.org.cn 10/13/2006

 


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China Sets Up Military Brigade for Public Health Emergency Response

Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has set up a military brigade for public health emergency response, the first of its kind in the country, the People's Daily reported on Sunday. The brigade, which has been approved by the Communist Party of China Central Military Commission, is to deal with military public health emergencies and quickly response, coordinate, analyze incidents of the kind and provide early-warning. Attached to the PLA's disease control center, the brigade is also in charge of the country's major epidemic prevention event, emergency aid for large disasters home and abroad, the related personnel training, regulation drawing and research.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/16/2006

 


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Guagnzhou Plans Juvenile Courts

Special courts to deal with juvenile delinquency will be established in two-tier courts in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province. Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court issued a special notice, late last week, to require courts in the city's districts and suburban cities to quickly start the preparation work and establish the special courts within the year. Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court has set up a special task force to help guide and handle the establishment of the special juvenile courts across the southern metropolis, according to a court official. "The establishment of the special juvenile courts aims to reform and further improve the judicial system for the under-aged and further protect the legal rights of juvenile delinquents," said court official Liu Xiaomei. The special juvenile courts will handle only cases involving immature suspects or cases where juvenile defendants account for more than 50 percent of those on trial. The juvenile courts will hold hearings on all criminal, civil and executive cases involving underage defendants. Petitions to free or reduce the punishment of juvenile offenders will also be heard in the special juvenile courts. Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court, one of the pilot mainland courts, is trying to set up the special juvenile courts before 2007. In August, the Supreme People's Court issued a notice to require a total of 18 intermediate people's courts across the country to establish special juvenile courts within the year.

Many local residents have welcomed the establishment of the special juvenile courts. Wen Xiaoda, a local lawyer, said the establishment of the special juvenile courts would be significant in fighting crimes involving juvenile delinquents and protecting juvenile suspects' rights. He said he believed juvenile suspects would receive fair trials in the special juvenile courts. Chen Wencui, a Guangzhou woman with a 10-year-old son, said the establishment of the juvenile courts would help frighten the city's delinquents and help bring down Guangzhou's juvenile crime rate. Criminal cases involving juvenile delinquents have been rising in this Guangdong provincial capital in recent years. Courts in Guangzhou passed sentences on only 514 juvenile offenders in 1998. But the number of juvenile delinquents who were sentenced in Guangzhou rose to 935 in 2001, 1,584 in 2004 and 1,233 in the first nine months of 2005. Most juvenile offenders have been prosecuted for robbery, theft, assault, rape, fighting and public disturbances.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/16/2006

 


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New Head of Administration for Industry Appointed

The State Council announced Monday that it has appointed Zhou Bohua new director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. Zhou, born in July 1948, was governor of central China's Hunan Province before assuming his new post with the central government. Zhou was elected governor in January 2004 but resigned in September this year at the 23rd meeting of the 10th Hunan Provincial People's Congress Standing Committee, the local legislature. Zhou replaced former Director Wang Zhongfu, aged 65, said a State Council statement. According to China's common practice, ministerial officials retire at 65 and deputy ministerial officials, 60. Wang served as director of the administration since March 2001.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/23/2006

 


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Bigger Gov't Role in Public Health Promised

President Hu Jintao said at a workshop Monday that the government would shoulder more responsibility for strengthening the health system work. At the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) workshop, Hu stressed the need to reform the health care system and build a safe, effective, convenient and inexpensive medical care network covering both urban and rural residents. "The goal is for everyone to enjoy a basic healthcare service," he said. He promised more efforts to deal with public complaints about the lack of affordable medical services as well as efforts to narrow the health service quality gap between urban and rural regions and different income groups. Improvements to the health system will give equal weight to traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine. The focus will be on improving disease prevention and control, public health monitoring and management of public health emergencies, said Hu. "The public service function of public hospitals will be strengthened." A system that covers basic medicines will be set up to drive high medicine prices down, he said. He also urged Party committees and governments to crack down on illegal practices that endanger public health and safety and called on medical staff to be more aware of their responsibilities.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/25/2006

 


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Inspection Groups to Improve Gov't Transparency

China has dispatched eight groups of inspectors across the country to investigate misconduct of senior government officials and leaders of large financial institutions in a renewed campaign to promote government transparency, China's disciplinary watchdog said on Tuesday. Gan Yisheng, secretary-general of the Communist Party of China (CPC)'s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said at a press conference that the focus of five of the groups will be on the inspection of governmental departments in China's provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. "So far, they have conducted initial inspections in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, and are engaging in the second round of checkup in those regions which have already been inspected," Gan said. Two inspection groups targeting financial institutions have completed checkups of nine banks under the administration of the central government and are currently inspecting the insurance sector, according to Gan. A special group was designated to inspect the country's key state-owned enterprises, Gan added. The inspectors are mainly from the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Organization Department of the CPC central committee. The inspection aims to better monitor local officials and leaders in their "implementation of the policies set forth by the central government... the building of the Party's work style and a clean government" and "the enforcement of cadre and personnel system" in a bid to combat corruption, according to the commission. The campaign has proved to be "effective" and "problems have been detected," Gan noted, though he did not provide details of the problems.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/27/2006

 


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Shanghai Appoints New Vice Mayor

Yang Dinghua was appointed vice-mayor of Shanghai on Thursday. The appointment was made at the 31st session of the 12th Shanghai Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee. The new 56-year-old female vice-mayor has served as secretary-general of the Shanghai municipal government since May 2004. Also at Thursday's meeting, a 53-year-old vice mayor, Yang Xiaodu, vacated his post.


From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 10/27/2006

 


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67,505 Gov't Officials Punished Since 2003

Just days after Shanghai's pension fund scandal snowballed to net the top state statistician, China's president and key judicial officials took advantage of an international anti-graft conference to demonstrate their determination to fight corruption. Altogether 67,505 government officials have been punished in China for corruption in less than four years since 2003, with more than 17,505 prosecuted and sanctioned in the first eight months of2006 alone. Revealing the latest procuratorate statistics, Wang Zhenchuan, deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, on Monday said China's anti-graft fight had made progress. "With improvements to the graft prevention system, corruption is on the decline in many sectors." But he did not provide details of any corruption case when addressing hundreds of representatives from international anti-corruption bodies at the five-day Beijing conference that will last till Thursday. With Chinese authorities hosting the First Annual Conference and General Meeting of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA), Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the conference opening on Sunday and delivered a keynote speech. "We treat the fight against corruption as a priority, a pressing task that has great influence on the overall development of the country, and which affects the fundamental interests of the Chinese people, equality, justice, social harmony and stability," Hu said. Hu's words came amid the spiraling Shanghai social security fund scandal which brought down Chen Liangyu, Party Secretary of Shanghai and a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party Central Committee.

Chen is the highest ranking official to fall in corruption probes in the past decade. Late last week the high-level graft probe prompted the downfall of Qiu Xiaohua, director of the National Bureau of Statistics. "We are stepping up efforts to improve the rule of law and create a culture of clean and honest government, while strengthening the supervision of power," Hu said at the opening ceremony of the conference. China has set up anti-graft bureaus in procuratorates at all levels, and employs 36,000 people in its anti-corruption efforts. The country's penal code specifies 55 crimes relating to government positions and Chinese procuratorates each year probe nearly 40,000 alleged corruption cases. "A clean government and the rule of law are two goals China has long been pursuing," Jia Chunwang, director of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, or top prosecutor, said in the speech he delivered to the conference on Monday. Jia said corruption, if not controlled, would undermine democracy and the rule of law and engender an increase in organized crime and terrorism. He said his office was willing to seek international assistance in combating graft and "all kinds of cooperation are welcome provided they are effective." Analysts said international cooperation was crucial for China which is trying to net dozens of crooked officials who fled overseas ahead of or during investigations. Police records show that 500 people suspected of serious economic crimes, mostly corrupt officials, live at large in foreign countries. The money involved in their cases adds up to a stunning 70 billion yuan (US$8.75 billion).

Official corruption has been on the rise since China began economic reform in late 1970s. As they saw other people extract big profits from the economic boom, some ordinary Chinese started to become cynical. Materialism became a new value. Within an imperfect legal framework, Chinese officials frequently abused their power for personal gain. They bought themselves luxurious houses, sedans, some kept mistresses, and many others put their family members and friends in lucrative businesses. "Prevention is crucial," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, at the ongoing conference, adding that public officials should be forced to disclose their annual earnings and financial assets and governments should routinely investigate obvious discrepancies between reported income and extravagant life styles. In addition, countries need to combat corruption with effective law enforcement. Influence peddling must be made a criminal offence, along with the abuse of official functions and illicit enrichment, he said. He urged the establishment of a structured global monitoring mechanism to ensure that international anti-corruption commitments are being implemented.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/24/2006

 


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JAPAN: Shimada Tipped as New Chief Justice

Supreme Court Justice Niro Shimada will likely replace outgoing Chief Justice Akira Machida, who will retire in the middle of this month, government sources said Sunday. Shimada, 67, would be the 16th chief justice of the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will soon hold talks with Machida and approve Machida's recommendation, said to be Shimada, as the new chief justice. The Cabinet will then formalize the designation and the Emperor will appoint the selected person to the post. Shimada had been a lower court judge before joining the Supreme Court in November 2002. His term as chief justice will last until November 2008, when he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. Shimada was picked to make preparations to smooth the introduction of the lay-judge system, which is scheduled to start by May 2009. He has worked mainly in the field of criminal trials. He graduated from Tokyo University in 1962.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 10/02/2006

 


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Top Court Finds Upper House Seat Distribution Disparity Constitutional

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the disparity in the number of voters per House of Councilors seat between the least and most populated districts for the July 2004 election is constitutional, rejecting three lawsuits seeking to nullify the results. The number of voters per seat in the Tokyo district was 5.13 times greater than for the Tottori constituency in the 2004 poll. Eleven people, lawyers from Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, filed three lawsuits in 2004 at the Tokyo High Court against election committees in their prefectures, demanding the Upper House election results be nullified as the size of the disparity made the election unconstitutional. Under the Public Office Election Law, a lawsuit challenging election results goes straight to a high court. One of the plaintiffs, Kuniaki Yamaguchi, said the disparity meant that public opinion is not reflected in the election results, a violation of Article 14 in the Constitution, which states that all people are equal under the law. The high court rejected the claim in May 2005, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court. The disparity is calculated by dividing the number of voters in a constituency by the number of Diet seats allocated to the constituency and then comparing the figures nationwide.

In a January 2004 Supreme Court ruling on the disparity in the July 2001 election, which was 5.06, six of the 15 justices said it was unconstitutional and nine justices said it was constitutional. However four of those nine justices said that if there was the same disparity in the next Upper House election, they might determine the situation to be unconstitutional. On Wednesday, however, the top court, supported by 10 justices on the 15-member bench, ruled that because those next elections, in July 2004, took place only six months after the January 2004 ruling, the Diet did not have enough time to correct the disparity. Therefore, the disparity was not unconstitutional. The ruling did call on the government to decrease the disparity.§ Today*s ruling is a setback. We expected to see a better ruling" because of the January 2004 ruling, Yamaguchi told reporters after the Wednesday ruling. "It seems that the justices did not rule on the equality of Diet seats allotted to constituencies and instead judged on whether the Diet took measures to improve the situation.§ In June, in response to that request, the Diet revised the Public Office Election Law to change the disparity to 4.84.The revision decreased the number of seats in the Tochigi and Gunma constituencies and increased those in Chiba and Tokyo. The change reduces the disparity in Upper House elections to 4.84, which is between Osaka at the upper end of the range and Tottori at the bottom.


From The Japan Times 10/05/2006

 


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Few Female Execs in Bureaucracy

The ratio of women among executive government officials was only 1.7 percent as of January 2005, the National Personnel Authority said Monday. The government says it is trying to raise the figure to 30 percent by 2020. To do so, more women have to be hired, but the ratio of women among newly employed fast-track bureaucrats is only 21.1 percent, the authority said. "We will urge ministries and agencies to recruit more women while making efforts to raise interest among female students in working for governmental organizations by holding seminars and other ways," an official said.


From The Japan Times 10/17/2006

 


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Local Corruption Stalling Decentralization

The recent scandals that have come to light involving the Gifu and Fukushima prefectural governments could delay the decentralization of power from the central government to municipalities. In both cases, the long tenure of the governor was one of the factors that laid the groundwork for the irregularities to take root. In light of these scandals, local governments need to consider the downside of having their leaders elected multiple times. "With such things happening, citizens will never favor decentralization, no matter how long we discuss it," Wataru Omori, a professor emeritus at Tokyo University, said at a meeting on Sept. 12. The meeting was of a committee on administrative decentralization, which is debating the framework of decentralization of authority at the request of the National Governors' Association and five other organizations of municipal leaders. Omori made his remark after a series of exposures regarding a slush fund operated by the Gifu prefectural government at the time Taku Kajiwara was governor. Omori spent the past 10 years designing the decentralization framework, and the scandal annoyed him. He suggested that standards need to be established requiring local governments to follow prescribed disciplines.

However, two weeks later, Fukushima Gov. Eisaku Sato resigned after his younger brother was arrested on suspicion of coordinating bids among contractors for a sewer construction project tendered by the prefectural government. "People think bid-rigging is more common in rural areas than in cities," said Prof. Eisuke Sakakibara of Waseda University, a former Finance Ministry official, at the committee's meeting on Oct. 2. "It's all right for a municipal leader to have considerable power, but so many of them are elected for consecutive terms. It's a backlash against the decentralization of power," Sakakibara said. The revelations of corruption at the two prefectural governments is stalling moves to decentralize power from the central government to local governments, a reform that has already slowed down since Shinzo Abe became prime minister. Both governors have two things in common--they supported decentralization, and they had been elected for multiple terms. Kajiwara was a president of the National Governors' Association, and had a policy of pitting the governors' association against the central government. He served four terms as governor for a total of 16 years. Sato was a vice president of the association and insisted that a municipality should be governed by its citizens. He was serving his fifth term as governor when he resigned after 18 years in power.

Electing the same person as leader for a number of terms does not always invite corruption. But the longer a leader remains in power, the more chances there are for the organization to rot from within. Officials tend to remain in their positions for a long time, and as a result the quality of their work can easily deteriorate. Many experts believe that to prevent corruption, three four-year terms should be the maximum period for a municipal leader to be in power. As municipalities are to receive more power from the central government, they need to be trustworthy and well-functioned, and there is a serious need for discussions on such matters. In the past, many governors served even longer terms--former Ishikawa Gov. Yoichi Nakanishi served eight terms for a total of 30 years and 11 months. Although the number of such long-term governors is decreasing, eight governors have been elected for more than four consecutive terms. These will be joined by the governors of Iwate and Fukuoka prefectures who will start serving, if reelected, their fourth terms in spring. However, it is no easy task to set up a system to prohibit a municipal leader from being elected multiple times. Three bills to limit the number of terms that could be served have been submitted to the Diet, but all were withdrawn. The largest obstacle to limiting the number of terms a mayor or governor can serve is the Constitution. Putting restrictions on a person's running in an election could be considered a violation of the Constitution, which guarantees a person the freedom to stand in an election, equality before the law, and free choice of employment.

Others say it would not go against the Constitution if the continued reelection of a municipal leader would give the leader excessive powers and infringe people's rights or freedom, as the Constitution is based on the sovereignty of the people and democratic government. Following the constitutional theory of local administration, a system to ask each municipality to refrain from electing the same person as leader could be established, without the need to require all local governments to follow a nationwide policy. Beginning three years ago, some prefectural governments have attempted to put restrictions on the number of terms a governor can serve--requesting them to refrain from serving more than three terms. However, the Saitama prefectural government has been the only one to put it into effect as an ordinance, doing so in August 2004. In the Nagano Prefectural Assembly in 2003, Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly in 2005 and Miyazaki Prefectural Assembly in March this year, proposals by governors to set up such ordinances were dismissed. When proposals are made by governors, prefectural assemblies often react against them, seeing the moves as grandstanding by the governors.

The issue must be discussed from a fundamental standpoint. Decentralization of power will give much greater powers to municipal leaders, so any corruption would have a fatal impact on municipalities. Having a leader elected for multiple terms should be avoided. But if leaders decide to serve for a prolonged period despite this view, they must demonstrate how they would prevent any negative effects. Ways of doing this would include a complete disclosure of information so that citizens could see the full history of how a construction project was awarded and full transparency in what steps were taken in formulating a policy. In addition, a conduit would need to be established that would permit a citizen to speak directly to the elected top official, and a strengthening of external auditing or assembly functions that could put a brake on the leader's power. Any system to restrict the number of terms that can be served, however, should impose the least number of regulations possible so as not to hamper the right of a citizen to announce their candidacy. It is also possible for a citizen to propose at a local government assembly that such an ordinance be adopted.


From The Yomiuri Shimbun 10/07/2006

 


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Local-Level Civil Servants Face Pay Cuts

Civil servants in 15 prefectures and major municipalities will have their basic monthly pay cut in fiscal 2006 -- retroactively to the beginning of the fiscal year in April -- while most other local governments are freezing pay and bonus levels, according to a Kyodo News survey. Of the 15, including five prefectural and 10 major city governments, Osaka prefectural civil servants will have the largest pay cut -- 1.46 percent. The basic monthly pay for Tokyo Metropolitan Government employees will be cut 0.31 percent. The survey is based on pay recommendations filed as of Monday by local-government personnel commissions.


From The Japan Times 10/24/2006

 


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Gov*t to Give Yearly Payment Info on Pensions

The government Tuesday outlined a plan to annually advise all public pension insurance plan holders aged 20 and older of the pension benefits they can expect to receive in the future. As well as the written notice, public-run pension plan members aged 50 and older will be told their estimated monthly benefit payment, calculated on the actual premiums paid and premiums they are expected to pay until they become eligible to receive the benefit. Meanwhile, those aged between 20 and 49 will be informed of their projected benefit payments based on premiums paid, coupled with a calculation chart designed to provide a rough idea of how much they would receive in benefits, by multiplying their annual income by the remaining contributing period until they become eligible to receive benefits. The system will be introduced in full in fiscal 2008, but the government is planning to start the service in fiscal 2007 for some people. who will start receiving part of their pension at the age of 60, including men who will be aged 54 and older and women who will be aged 49 and older in 2007. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday met Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa at the Prime Minister's Office and approved the outlined plan. The letter will include the following information: -- The total amount of premiums paid in the past. -- The pension amount that each member is expected to receive in the future, a figure calculated based on the total premiums paid at the time of receiving the notice. -- When members will start receiving their pension. The Social Insurance Agency has already started calculating the expected amount of benefits, on request, at their offices across the country over the counter for those covered by the plan aged 50 and older.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 10/26/2006

 


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Decision of Senior-Vice Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries

At the extraordinary Cabinet meeting on the afternoon of September 27, the senior-vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries of the Abe Cabinet were decided. In the late afternoon, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace with the 22 senior vice-ministers who had assembled at the Prime Minister's Official Residence. Prime Minister Abe and the senior vice-ministers thereafter returned to the Prime Minister's Official Residence and attended a commemorative photograph session, which was also joined by Mr. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and others. Prime Minister Abe then attended a meeting of the senior vice-ministers. Next, Prime Minister Abe delivered letters of appointment to the 26 parliamentary secretaries who had assembled at the Prime Minister's Official Residence. Likewise with the senior-vice ministers, Prime Minister Abe attended a photograph session with the parliamentary secretaries and then attended their meeting. At both meetings, Prime Minister Abe said in his address, "I expect each of you will take to heart the Basic Policies to build 'a beautiful country, Japan,' exert all your skills to serving your post, and join hands in our endeavor to fulfill the mandate of the Japanese people."


From http://www.kantei.go.jp 09/27/2006

 


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SOUTH KOREA: Kim Seok-Dong Named Vice Chairman of Financial Supervisory Commission

President Roh Moo-hyun on Thursday (Sept. 28) designated Kim Seok-dong, deputy finance and economy minister, the new vice chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), Cheong Wa Dae said. Kim, 53, will succeed Yang Chun-shik who became president of the Export-Import Bank of Korea. Born in Busan in 1953, Kim graduated from Kyunggi High School and majored in business administration at Seoul National University. He started his government career after passing a state exam for ranking officials in 1980. He built expertise in finance by taking key positions in the Ministry of Finance and Economy. He has played key roles in such mega projects as the introduction of a real-name financial transaction system, corporate and financial institution restructuring and measures to counter real estate speculation. He was promoted to deputy finance and economy minister in June last year. ※We expect Kim to deal with various pending issues like financial market stabilization and improvement of the financial regulatory system with his distinguished expertise, experience and drive,§ said Yoon Tai-young, a spokesman at the presidential office. Kim also played a significant role in drawing up steps to curb real estate prices and resolving credit delinquency problems.


From http://www.korea.net 09/30/2006

 


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SOUTH KOREA: Presidential Office Hails Ban's Appointment as the U.N. Secretary-general

South Korea's presidential office on Saturday (Oct. 14) hailed Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon's appointment as the next U.N. secretary-general, calling it ※meaningful and a source of national pride.§ In New York on Friday, the U.N. General Assembly approved by acclamation a resolution appointing Ban the global body's eighth secretary-general. He will replace Kofi Annan, who steps down on Dec. 31. ※Minister Ban's appointment as the secretary-general is a source of national pride and a very meaningful event that showed South Korea's elevated international status,§ said Yoon Tae-young, the Blue house spokesman. He said the South Korean people hope Ban will make a great contribution in developing the U.N. into a more responsible, trustworthy international body and resolving pending international issues such as North Korea's nuclear dispute. Ban's appointment has been touted as a national feat in South Korea, a country whose first democratic government was formed through a U.N.-supervised election in 1948. The country also defended itself from a North Korean invasion in the 1950-53 Korean War with the help of U.N.-dispatched troops. The post-war national division was largely responsible for the two Koreas joining the U.N. belatedly in 1991.


From http://www.korea.net 10/14/2006

 


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After Transfer Agreement, the Bureaucracy Begins

Seoul and Washington have begun transferring wartime operational control, with both sides working toward establishing a special committee that will initiate and oversee the change, a defense ministry official said yesterday. "We have started the process of selecting the personnel for the committee and it is expected to be launched within the year," said the official, who declined to be named. Generals from both sides will jointly head the committee. The members will devise a road map for the transfer, which will encompass a wide range of issues. The committee will include specialists in various areas such as intelligence, strategy and operations. The committee will also be in charge of assessing the exact timing of the transfer. Both sides have agreed that the transfer will be completed after October 2009 but no later than March of 2012. Seoul officials called the agreement a small victory, saying Seoul's position that a wartime control transfer should not take place before 2012 求 until it judges itself to have sufficient military capabilities 求 was well reflected in the agreement. A defense ministry official said yesterday, "Without our agreement, the transfer cannot take place before 2012."After South Korea requested the control transfer, the United States pushed for doing so as soon as 2009. Meanwhile, Seoul officials spent a busy day yesterday explaining why an earlier report that Seoul and Washington had ordered General Burwell B. Bell, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea who is also commander of the Combined Forces Command, to devise a guideline on how to implement a detailed nuclear umbrella on the Korean Peninsula was wrong. Officials said the interpreter had misunderstood. The order was to initiate a study, not a strategic guideline, because the operation of nuclear weapons cannot be decided by the Combined Forces Command.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com 10/24/2006

 


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Roh to Reshuffle Security-Related Cabinet Ministers Next Week

President Roh Moo-hyun is expected to replace some security-related officials as early as next week, including the minister of foreign affairs and trade and minister of defense, officials said on Tuesday (Oct. 24). Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung expressed his intention to resign during his visit to Cheong Wa Dae on Monday after returning from the United States where he had held talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, presidential spokesman Yoon Tai-young said. ※He expressed his wish to resign, saying that he had served in the post for more than two years and major issues, such as the transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean troops from the U.S. military to Seoul, have been put in order,§ the spokesman told reporters. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon is set to quit his post for his new job as the U.N. secretary-general. Ban's five-year term begins on Jan. 1 next year.


From http://www.korea.net 10/26/2006

 


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INDONESIA: Govt Told to Get Tough on Corrupt Lawmakers

Non-governmental organizations called on the Yudhoyono administration Friday to press on with corruption cases involving state officials and legislators, despite objections from the House of Representatives. The call from Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) and Imparsial came after the House working group on law enforcement and regional administration recommended Tuesday that the government rehabilitate the names of regional heads and council members implicated in corruption cases. The House accused the government of being discriminatory in battling corruption at the regional level and of criminalizing regional councilors. "The recommendation is akin to asking the government to make a mass acquittal for the corrupt," Emerson Yunto of the ICW said. The ICW reported that at least 55 corruption cases involving 350 public officials and lawmakers were filed with district courts from January 2005 through June 2006. Emerson added that about 1,200 regional council members were named suspects, charged and convicted of corruption from 1999 until the end of 2004. "We demand that the government ignore those recommendations," he said, adding that they were clearly counterproductive to the nation's anti-graft drive. The House's working group was established in March in response to complaints filed by some regional council members suspected of or charged with graft allegations. Trimedya Panjaitan, who headed the working group, said the government had discriminated against lawmakers from political party factions.

Very few of those from the military faction have been charged with the offense, he said. "This is our political stance. (Should the government ignore the recommendations), it will risk the good relations between the executive and the legislative body," Trimedya said. Danang Wahyu, also from the ICW, said that the House members should press the government to start probing military officials in regional councils. "They should instead expedite the deliberation of the military tribunal law so that the government can try military officials in civil courts," he said. Under current law, military personnel can only be tried in military courts. "They protested the discrimination (against them) by issuing a recommendation that is equally discriminatory," he added. The ICW and Imparsial demanded the legislative body not abuse its power by intervening in government policies regarding the eradication of corruption that might affect the interests of lawmakers. Both deplored the House's statement that public officials had been criminalized for the policies they made, saying that policy making was prone to corrupt practices. They urged the government to take legal action against anyone suspected of corruption, be they politicians, military personnel, bureaucrats or people from the private sector.


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


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MALAYSIA: National Health Council for Elderly to Be Revived

PETALING JAYA: The National Health Council for the Elderly will be revived to take care of the rising number of senior citizens in the country. The council, which was dormant for several years, will help to coordinate better healthcare facilities, treatment, counselling and home nursing for the two million senior citizens. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said on Sunday that the Government has revived the council as more and more senior citizens are living longer and need more health facilities. The council, he said, has now got to plan and implement activities with other Government agencies and NGOs on how the aging population could be provided adequate facilities to keep them healthy and happy. The Government has also now formulated a National Policy for the Older People, which recognises that older people are an important asset to society and that they have an important role in the socio-economic development of the county. "Not only must we give the best possible medical care to the older patients, but also respect and dignity. "I have directed where feasible and within the constraints of resources, special lanes be set up for the older members of society so that we can minimise their waiting time," he said after opening the Senior Citizens Carnival and fund raising food fair here on Saturday. However, he said that it was disturbing that geriatrics was still unpopular and there were only nine geriatricians in the country. He urged more doctors with a passion to treat the elderly to specialise in geriatrics. Currently, there were only three general hospitals, KLGH, Seremban and Banting that could provide full geriatric care. Under the 9th Malaysia Plan, these facilities will be available in general hospitals of Alor Star, Penang, Johor Baru, Kuala Terengganu and Queen Elizabeth hospital in Kota Kinabalu.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/01/2006


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14,000 to Be Interviewed to Fill Immigration Department Vacancies

JOHOR BARU: Some 14,000 candidates will be interviewed by Public Services Commission next month (Nov) to fill the 1,366 vacancies in the Immigration Department. Immigration director-general Datuk Wahid Md Dom said it was important to fill the vacancies as soon as possible in view of the Visit Malaysia Year next year. "We are expecting 18 million foreign tourists next year, and hope that the number will rise to 24.6 million by 2020," he said, adding that if the 2020 target was met, the country would make as much as RM59bil from tourism. He added that the vacancies have to be filled quickly so that travellers get the best possible service. "Officers and personnel have to improve the levels of services provided. Besides better control and enforcement, they must also be faster and friendlier to travellers," he said. Wahid also urged his staff to learn other languages such as Mandarin besides English and Bahasa Malaysia. He was speaking to reporters after handing out Hari Raya goodies to immigration personnel who were on duty on Wednesday at the Causeway between Singapore and Johor.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/25/2006


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PHILIPPINES: Government Regional Execs Sacked

MALACA?ANG on Thursday ordered the dismissal of three government regional executives and the suspension of a city schools superintendent on the recommendation of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC). In a news conference at the Palace, PACG chair Constancia De Guzman said Kunesa Sekak, a regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, was found guilty of irregular transactions, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds committed in 2002. Sekak, said De Guzman, was found to have disbursed vouchers worth millions of pesos without supporting documents. Also ordered dismissed were Department Public Works and Highways-Cordillera Autonomous Region director Antonio Puruganan and his assistant director, Edilberto Carabbacan, for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Because he has retired, Puruganan will be stripped of retirement and other benefits. De Guzman said Puruganan and Carabbacan "unlawfully" released P360,000 in public funds to a fictitious person for the properties traversed by the improvement of the Pico-Lamtang road. Suspended without pay for three months was Toledo City schools division superintendent Dr. Jose Cabantan for his refusal to release the performance rating for the school year 2002 to 2003. De Guzman said since she assumed office in 2004, they have investigated and dismissed nine appointed officials and suspended three others. She said they are currently looking into 126 cases of corruption, 11 of which are up for administration adjudication within the year. These include cases against two Cabinet secretaries. The PAGC chief said they would continue investigating presidential appointees facing graft cases despite what she said was pressure from various quarters and individuals to make them back off. "They (some appointees) thought they are untouchable," she said. "We will not be swayed by pleas and we will not give special favors.§ "This is a warning to all. Don't attempt to talk to us because our policy is the more you talk to us and influence us, the more we will concentrate on your case," De Guzman said. "If there is wrongdoing, someone has to pay,§ she said. ※They have long enjoyed (the benefits from) the wrongdoing they have done, so they should face the repercussions.§


From http://news.inq7.net/ 10/12/2006


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THAILAND: Challenges of the New Premier

The appointment of Gen Surayud Chulanont as interim prime minister came well within the two-week deadline the military authorities promised. Gen Surayud is a near-impeccable choice. He is nationally known and equally well admired. His hard and honest work during a lifetime of service to the country and its institutions made it clear to everyone he is more than not corrupt _ he is incorruptible. Preceded by his reputation, however, means that there are high expectations from the public for Gen Surayud and the government he is forming.

From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/ 10/03/2006


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Commission to Conclude 4 Major Graft Cases in a Year

The National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) will finish within a year its probes into four corruption cases _ the wastewater treatment facilities in Samut Prakan, the rice mortgage project, and the expressway compensation and longan price stabilisation schemes that cost the state billions of baht.

From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/ 10/03/2006


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Ruling Junta Unveils New Thai Parliament

Thailand*s ruling junta on Thursday unveiled a new parliament dominated by military officials, retired bureaucrats and academics. Thailand*s King Bhumibol Adulyadej approved the list of 242 names chosen by the military following last month*s bloodless coup, which ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Under the interim constitution, the 250-strong interim National Assembly will act as both the House of Representatives and Senate for one year. The junta is expected to fill the remaining eight seats later. The new members will not be able to vote on government matters, but will be able to question the kingdom*s new Cabinet on policy. Military officials took 35 seats, with retired government officials filling 43 seats, the coup leader, Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, announced. Former soldier and politician Chamlong Srimuang, who led the months of anti-Thaksin street protests that led up to the coup, will also join the parliament. Chamlong, Thaksin*s former mentor, led the bloody demonstrations in Bangkok in 1992 that helped topple a military dictatorship and restore democratic rule. Some 29 academics joined the Assembly, which will also include 13 people from nongovernment organizations, 20 from the media and 6 bankers. Only four are politicians. Although all the members of the new parliament were chosen by the military, the coup leader insisted the junta would not interfere. Sonthi said the Senate would ※oversee and set directions for drafting a new constitution.§ The interim charter grants wide-ranging powers to the leaders of the September 19 coup, formalizing their role in government and giving them the power to sack the new prime minister.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 10/13/2006


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Political Development Council at Heart of Surayud's Policy Platform

The policy platform of the Surayud Chulanont government will feature a political development council designed to ensure public participation in political reform and enhance efforts to end the insurgency in the deep South. According to PM's Office Minister Thirapat Serirangsan, the political development council is one of the highlights of the policy platform that Gen Surayud has approved and it will be tabled for the cabinet's endorsement today. Economic development, security and national reconciliation are the other three main components of the platform. The political development council is a highlight because public participation is considered to be vital to political reform, he said. The council will bring together the government and the civil sectors. The council's first task will be to participate in the drafting of the country's next permanent constitution. Government officials who work for the council will coordinate public opinion on the new constitution and submit proposals to the Constitution Drafting Assembly. In the long term, the political development council will function as a watchdog to supervise the work of political organisations to guarantee true democracy. Mr Thirapat said the idea of the political development council reflected the pro-democracy aspects of the interim government of Gen Surayud.

"Though not being elected, this government is more democratic than an elected one," he said. Thawee Suraritthikul, the political science dean of Sukhothai Thammathirat University who took part in drafting the government's policy platform, said the political development council would have funds to hold forums and discussions in order to sound out public opinion on political issues. It will start with discussions on the next constitution so that the process of drafting the constitution does not depend exclusively on input from the Constitution Drafting Committee. "The political development council's existence will also mean that the public can keep politicians in check," Mr Thawee said. On the security aspects, the policy platform gives priority to attempts to stop the insurgency in the deep South. According to a security source, the Surayud government will apply every available means to disable the separatist movements so that the unrest in the region can be eased significantly within its one-year term in office. While the armed forces would play a leading role in these attempts, due importance will also be attached to developing the region, the source added. That lies in the plans to upgrade the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) and to revive the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) that the Thaksin Shinawatra government dissolved years ago. The government will announce the policy platform to the National Legislative Assembly on Oct 24.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 10/17/2006


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SBPAC Successor Name Agreed

The army and the Interior Ministry have agreed on the name of the new agency to replace the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) dissolved by the Thaksin Shinawatra government but have not yet settled on its structure. Army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, also head of the Council for National Security (CNS), said yesterday, after meeting with Interior Minister Aree Wongarya to discuss southern problems, that the revival of the SBPAC _ a civilian-led agency _ was needed. It was agreed to name the Southern Border Provinces Development Centre as the new agency to replace the SBPAC with an expanded mission to work on "peace, reconciliation and development plans" in the southern provinces, he said. It will have much the same structure as the now-dissolved SBPAC with a deputy permanent secretary for the ministry appointed the centre's director, he said. The new centre will carry out work in the three strife-torn southern provinces, four districts in Songkhla and monitor security in Satun province. Gen Sonthi said the Southern Border Provinces Peace-building Command (SBPPC), set up by the Thaksin administration, would have to be adjusted but did not go into detail.

The army and the ministry had yet to discuss when the centre would be set up as they wanted to work on its structure, work guidelines and policies first. Security authorities in the strife-torn South, meanwhile, have been warned of possible major attacks by militant groups at the end of Ramadan, an intelligence source said yesterday.

The source said that movements of the Permudor young militants group in the three southernmost provinces and some districts in Songkhla have raised security concerns. Security will be stepped up to prevent violence in the deep South during Oct 19 to 25, said the source. Oct 25 marks the second anniversary of the Tak Bai tragedy in which 78 Muslims died while being transported in military trucks from Tak Bai police station to Ingkhayuthaboriharn camp in Pattani. Drive-by shootings continued in the deep South, claiming six lives in Yala's Bannang Sata and Raman districts, two in Narathiwat's Rueso, and one in Pattani's Yarang district. The victims included a former village defence volunteer, a village headman and his assistant and a deputy chairman of local administration organisation.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 10/17/2006


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Thai Parliament Name Military Adviser as Speaker

Thailand's military-appointed parliament Tuesday elected the ruling military's top legal adviser as its speaker. Meechai Ruchupan won 70 percent of the vote held during the first session of the 242-seat National Legislative Assembly, which has little power to check the hand-picked government. He has twice served as speaker of the senate and is widely seen as a front man for the leaders of the bloodless coup that ousted twice-elected prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra last month. Considered Thailand's foremost legal expert, 68-year-old Meechai has acted as one of the military's top advisers since the early hours of the putsch on September 19. He also has close ties with the top adviser to Thailand's revered king, Prem Tinsulanonda, who is believed to have played a central role in organizing the coup. The choice of speaker came as little surprise in a chamber all of whose members were appointed by the military, and many of whom have links to Prem. It highlights how little independence the assembly is allowed. "It's clear that the military was behind the selection. The military turned deaf ears to the voices of people who oppose Meechai as the assembly's new president, and this will turn people against military," said Pibhop Dongchai of the Campaign for Popular Democracy pressure group. "Meechai has a record of service in every government, especially governments formed by dictators," he added. The Campaign for Popular Democracy was formed by many of the leaders of protests held earlier this year aimed at ousting Thaksin over corruption allegations.

"This is all about stabilizing their power with their own people, and not getting any opposition," Michael Nelson, a researcher at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said of the parliament. "This is not supposed to be an independent-minded body representing the people at large," he said. Under a constitution imposed by the military three weeks ago, the assembly will act as a single-chamber parliament for a year but will have no powers to vote on government matters. It can debate and question government policies, but not censure or impeach anyone in the administration. That power lies with the military, whose role was enshrined in their constitution. This established them as a Council for National Security that has ultimate authority in government. The military has promised to hold elections in October 2007, but a government minister last week said that the poll would likely be delayed until December next year. The coup leaders said they seized power to restore democracy, which they said was undermined by widespread corruption during Thaksin's five years in office. As well as their election promise, the generals have pledged to draft a new constitution but most of their actions so far have served to solidify their power and give them broad influence in government. Meechai is also heading the new council tasked with beginning the constitution-drafting process. The generals have tossed out Thailand's 1997 constitution -- widely hailed as the most democratic charter this country has ever known -- and imposed restrictions on the media and political parties. They have ruled the country under martial law since the takeover, and have set no date for lifting it because they fear an anti-coup backlash by Thaksin supporters. The prime minister they appointed, Surayud Chulanont, is a former military chief.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/24/2006


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BANGLADESH: Cabinet Prepares for Caretaker Govt Oath

The cabinet division has taken all necessary preparations to conduct the oath of the chief and other advisers of the caretaker government after the ruling four- party alliance ends its tenure on October 27, said official sources. The cabinet division was extremely busy on Monday, the last working day before the three-day Eid holidays. Officials said they would have to work even during the vacation to complete the necessary paperwork including preparation of the list of invitees at the oath taking ceremony. &We are keeping ourselves ready to organise the oath taking ceremony at Bangabhaban on October 27,* a senior official of the cabinet division, said expressing no concern about the impasse between the two major political parties over the reforms of the Election Commission and appointment of the chief adviser of the caretaker government. The official said it was routine work of the establishment division to keep things ready and that there was little time according to the schedule.


From http://www.newagebd.com 10/06/2006


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'Curb Corruption to Eradicate Poverty'

Speakers at a discussion yesterday underscored the need for effective steps by the government to eradicate poverty from the country. They also asked for eradication of corruption at different levels of administration. The discussion titled 'Work unitedly to eradicate poverty' was held at the conference room of Bangladesh Nari Pragati Sangha's (BNPS) office at Dhanmondi in the city and coordinated by South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE).Speaking on the occasion, Dr Rashidi Mahbub, president of Doctor's Health Association, said the government took various steps including poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) to eliminate poverty but bad governance, gender discrimination and weak law and order situation remain as barriers in the way of removing poverty. Presiding over the discussion, Dr SA Sadek, economist and former principal secretary, asked for coordination among NGOs and government, as it is not possible for the government alone to implement all the programmes. Criticising the micro finance system, Shamsuddoha, team member of Participatory Research Development Initiative, said hardcore people especially women tend to receive loan from various sources that lead them to be overburdened with loans and interests. Numan Ahmed Khan, executive director of Institute of Environmental Development stressed for development of Information Technology (IT) and turning population into skilled population. He also asked for government's awareness about the socio-political structure of the country while making policy to curb poverty. Criticising the attitude of the government, Rokeya Kabir, executive director of BNPS, said "The government should play managerial and executive roles rather than ruling roles." Among others, Abu Naser Khan, coordinator of Save the Environment Movement, and Shahnaz Shumi, coordinator of BNPS, also spoke on the occasion.


From http://www.thedailystar.net 10/18/2006


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BHUTAN: The Best Should Make the Cabinet

With the general elections looming closer and an informal politicking in the air, one obvious question going around is- who will become the cabinet ministers in the new elected government?§ To be a minister one must win a seat in the parliament and be a member of the ruling party besides meeting the minimum academic qualification as enshrined in the Election Act,§ said the Chief Election Commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi. ※The winning party will decide who will be the ministers and the Prime Minister will recommend candidates from among the Members of Parliament.§ The cabinet ministers will be appointed by the Druk Gyalpo on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Election Commission of Bhutan has proposed that the minimum qualification for Member of Parliament (MPs) as a Bachelors Degree. If approved most of the present group of people*s elected representatives, chimis, cannot stand for election to the parliament. Asked what would happen to the present parliamentarians, Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi said that the Constitution of Bhutan created a level playing field. ※We are talking about a democratic constitution monarchy. The ground rules are set and players themselves will have to shape up.§ He added that the parties should start looking for prospective members. ※A dynamic party will start scouting,§ he said. ※It is the government policy to give opportunity to everyone and to the best person qualified be it in political or civil service.§

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that the qualification criteria did not deny opportunities to anyone. ※The two other arms of the government, the executive and judiciary are equipped with qualified people,§ he said. ※The parliament which is going to make laws which will be interpreted by the judiciary and executed by the executive needs qualified people.§ He added that they should not be competent in the sense that they are interested and willing to deliver, but should at the same time, be complimented by academic qualification so that their analytical and decision making capabilities would be proficient. Asked how many ministers could be appointed from a constituency, the chief election commissioner said that the Constitution had taken care of the balance. Article 17, Formation of Government, says that not more than two members elected from the electoral constituencies of the same dzongkhag shall be entitled to be appointed as ministers.


From http://www.bta.gov.bt 10/22/2006


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His Majesty Conferred Conservation Leadership Award

Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck accepted the 2006 J. Paul Getty Conservation Leadership Award on behalf of His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan at a function hosted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at the Smithsonian Centre in Washington D.C. on October 17. The award, which is administered by the WWF, is one of the world*s most prestigious awards devoted to conservation. The President and CEO of WWF, Mr. Carter S. Roberts, who conferred the award stated that Bhutan*s leadership has made a conscious decision to place environmental protection at the centre of national life, going so far as to include it in the new Constitution. ※WWF congratulates His Majesty for his far sighted approach to preserving some of the world*s most spectacular wildlife and habitats,§ said the CEO. Accepting the award, Her Royal Highness conveyed the deep appreciation of His Majesty the King, the government and the people of Bhutan. ※The award is a source of great pride and encouragement for Bhutan and its people to continue their efforts towards environmental con-servation,§ said Her Royal Highness. The function was attended by WWF members of the Board of Directors and National Council.


From http://www.bta.gov.bt 10/25/2006


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INDIA: Government Fully Geared Up to Control Dengue: Hota

The Government has decided to educate and involve people to control dengue and chikungunya diseases in the country. Addressing a press conference here today, the Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Shri P. K. Hota said that public health measures in the country have been intensified to take stock of the situation. He said that the government and the people have to work together and preventive care is most important to eradicate these diseases. Shri Hota urged the media to send the right message across so that every household would take necessary steps to prevent the outbreak of dengue and chikungunya diseases. The Secretary called upon the households to close down all the coolers and dry them. He said that the overhead tanks should also be examined and preventive measures should be taken to arrest the growth of mosquitoes. Shri Hota told the journalists that the Cabinet Secretariat in a meeting today reviewed the whole issue of public health in the country. He said all hospitals in the capital have been equipped to provide adequate care to the patients. The Secretary stated that the blood supply in the capital is adequate to go for blood transfusion wherever it is required. He said that the Indian Red Cross Society has been fully geared up to meet any situation. Shri Hota stated that the householders should take care of their houses inside and also the neighborhood to curtail the menace of mosquitoes that cause the disease.

Shri Hota said that the situation in Delhi with regard to dengue is serious but not out of hand. He stated that in the last 7 days the dengue cases have gone up. The Secretary told the media that people are vulnerable as temperatures are still high. He said children are more vulnerable to the disease. Prof. (Dr.) S. P. Aggarwal, Secretary General, Indian Red Cross Society said that there is no shortage of blood. He said that all dengue patients do not require blood transfusion. Prof. Aggarwal said that the Red Cross Society has planned blood donation camps for the next two weeks. He stated that less than 5% dengue patients require blood transfusion. The Additional Director General, Health Services, Dr. Shiv Lal said that till now 3331 dengue cases and 45 deaths have been reported till 7th October, 2006 from 11 States and Union Territories. He said that Delhi has reported 825 cases and 18 deaths followed by Kerala (713 cases and 4 deaths), Gujarat (424 cases and 3 deaths), and Rajasthan (326 cases and 8 deaths). The Health and Family Welfare Secretary, Shri P. K. Hota has said 30 hospitals have been identified by the Centre, Delhi Government, NDMC and MCD where check up, diagnosis and treatment facilities are available at free of cost in the capital. He said that major hospitals have been geared up to provide additional indoor treatment for dengue patients. Shri Hota advised people not to use aspirin or ibufrin as treatment for dengue. On reported deaths because of chikungunya, the Union Health Secretary said that Indian Council of Medical Research has been asked to investigate the matter. He, however, said that chikungunya does not lead to mortality. The Union Health Ministry has convened a meeting of Health Ministers of 11 States on the 11th October, 2006 to take stock of dengue and chikungunya diseases.


From http://pib.nic.in 10/07/2006


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High Level Committee to Be Set Up to Oversee Implementation of Public

The Ministry of Railways propose to set up a High Level Committee comprising of existing and retired Railway Board members and eminent personalities from the fields of Commerce and Industry to chalk out the modalities for effective and quick implementation of Public Private Partnership in specific, identified areas. The Railways have also identified 16 railway stations which will be developed as World Class railway stations. This was stated by Shri Lalu Prasad, Union Minister for Railways while delivering the inaugural address at the Conference on ※Reforms in Indian Railways: Leading Change and Transformation and Emerging Opportunities for Public Private Partnership§, organized by the PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry here today. The railway stations identified for World Class standard are New Delhi, Chhatrapati Shivaji Station, Mumbai, Howrah, Chennai Central, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Mathura, Pune, Patna, Secunderabad and Thiruvananthapuram. Shri Lalu Prasad, in his concluding remarks, laid emphasis on improvement of existing infrastructure in the Railways, punctuality of trains, passenger amenities besides meeting social obligations. Shri J. P. Batra, Chairman, Railway Board, in his keynote address, said that the Railways would strive to reinforce and improve upon the achievements of the past two years. He said that it shall be the endeavour of the Railways to earmark internally generated resources for high priority and short gestation projects. Socially relevant projects would need to be funded through budgetary resources, he added. The implementation of the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) project would offer an opportunity to gradually upgrade the speed potential of the existing network to reach the speed of 200 km per hour. It is envisaged that DFC would open up enormous opportunities for freight terminals/logistic park/Inland Container Depots etc.


From http://pib.nic.in 10/09/2006


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SRI LANKA: Education System Should Adapt to Technological Revolution- Education Minister

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's education system should be geared to face international challenges by adapting itself to the technological revolution, Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha said. "Our object is to provide all opportunities to students so that they would attain these standards,the Minister said at a function to mark World Teachers' Day held at the BMICH. He said all the 9,785 schools in the island would be provided IT education by 2008. 136 schools were provided with computers yesterday to mark the occasion, Minister Premajayantha added. The World Teachers' Day was held under the patronage of Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayake and the Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha at the BMICH yesterday. Representing President Mahinda Rajapaksa the Premier read out the President's a message at the function. An "Online Education" programme also was launched yesterday. Around 25 selected schools from rural and urban areas were provided this Online facility. This would enable students to communicate with the outside world to obtain information via the Internet.

The Online programme was facilitated by Dialog Telekom. "Quality teachers for quality education to empower the next generation" was the theme to commemorate World Teachers' Day for 2006. Minister Premajayantha emphasised the need for equal opportunity and for education for all. "On this occasion we should all recall with gratitude the memory of late Minister C.W.W. Kannangara, the Father of Free Education. By this move he made it possible for a 92% literacy rate among our population which is the highest in South Asia", the Minister said. "Today is the day which was determined as the World Teachers' Day in 1990 in Costa Rica. The role played by teachers should be appreciated by all and their efforts commended", he added. He said "50,000 teachers selected from all around the country will be provided computers. These teachers will receive Information and Technology training to improve their computer skill", Minister Premajayantha said. Adding to that he said that teachers will be able to obtain loans from the Bank of Ceylon and National Savings Bank to procure a computer. Teachers and principals should be motivated. They should be provided with management and school governing training. "Students in rural areas will receive facilities to communicate with the city school students. Students in rural areas can have the same knowledge of the city school students through the introduction of "Distance learning". The School Net programme will be launched to develop distance learning with the association of 1,000 schools, 90 teacher organisations and the University of Colombo", the Minister pointed out. (by Rafik Jalaldeen)


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 10/06/2006


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Red Tape Hurts Sri Lanka Business Already Hit

Sri Lanka's business climate, already suffering from a deadly ethnic conflict, is being further damaged by rigid labour laws, high taxes and a cumbersome legal system, a new World Bank study says. In fact, says World Bank Investment Policy Specialist, Sabine Hertveldt, the island nation is one of the worst places to do business in South Asia. "The biggest challenge for Sri Lanka is her rigid labour laws, which makes it expensive to fire people, excessively high taxes and lengthy delays to settle court cases," Hertveldt told AFP in an interview. Hertveldt was part of the World Bank's team who compiled a report "Doing Business 2007" which ranked 175 countries on trade, taxation, costs of starting up businesses, labour laws and legal procedures.

The report released here last week did not even cover political volatility under which Sri Lanka would fare badly with its three-decade ethnic conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. Violence has surged on the island in the past 10 months, claiming more than 1,500 lives since December, and leaving a 2002 ceasefire in shreds. But even leaving out the strife between Sri Lanka's minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, Sri Lanka was in 89th place in the worldwide rankings. Those nations in South Asia which did better in terms of overall rankings were Maldives in 53rd place, Pakistan ranked 74th and Bangladesh listed 88th. Sri Lanka was above Nepal which was in 100th spot, India in 134rd place and Bhutan was in 138th.

The report also broke down rankings into problem areas. "Sri Lanka was low (at 170th place) as the most difficult country in the world to fire workers," Hertveldt said. "The labour laws here are quite restrictive." It costs more than three years salary to dismiss staff in Sri Lanka, compared to 71 weeks in South Asia, eight weeks in the Maldives and 55 weeks in India. "It's unfortunate. A company usually reduces people because they are doing badly and can't afford to keep them," Hertveldt said. "In Sri Lanka, it takes around six to nine months to get government clearance to fire people. Until that comes through you have to continue to pay them," she said. As far as a favourable tax environment, Sri Lanka's high tax rate earned it 157th place in the world survey, the worst ranking in South Asia. "Companies have to make 61 tax payments a year. We estimate firms set aside 74 percent of their profits to pay taxes, leaving little room for investments," she said. Firms in neighbouring countries like Pakistan have to set aside only 43 percent of their profits for taxes, whereas in Bhutan and Bangladesh it costs around 40 percent.

Sri Lanka's lengthy court procedures earned it 90th place among countries being surveyed for "enforcing contracts." "Because of long delays, it takes on average 837 days or more than two years to enforce a simple commercial contract through the courts," she said. The challenge for Sri Lanka now to make life easier to do business, she says, is to find ways to cut through red tape and ensure political stability to tackle reforms, to make life easier to do business. Studies by Sri Lanka's Central Bank say that the Tamil separatist conflict has shaved off at least two percentage points off economic growth annually in the past three decades. However, on the positive side, Sri Lanka is still the best place to live in South Asia according to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) which covers social indicators such as literacy, life expectancy and per capital income. According to the latest HDI rankings, Sri Lanka is in 93rd position, followed closely by the Maldives at 96 and India 127, Bhutan 134, Pakistan 135, Nepal 136 and Bangladesh 139.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 10/14/2006


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MALDIVES: Government Employees to Get Health Insurance by End of Month: Social Security

Government employees will get their health insurance cards by the end of this month, says the Ministry of Social Security. Ministry Director, Dheena Moosa, said that the health insurance scheme commenced on 1st October, but that the insurance cards had not been handed out yet. The insurance scheme is being conducted together with an American company. ※The company has said that all the cards will be distributed by the end of the month,§ said the Director. ※As of now, we haven*t given out any insurance cards yet.§ Starting from Sunday 1st October, the Ministry of Women*s Affairs and Social Security has implemented a health insurance scheme for government employees. According to the agreement made between the Maldivian government and the American company, International Medical Group, government employees will be entitled to $20, 000 (approximately Rf 257, 000) worth of medical care in the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In addition to treatment from hospitals, the employees could be treated and consulted at clinics and private practitioners in Male with the use of the card provided by the Ministry. In accordance with the introduction of the scheme, International Medical Group is to provide kits to all the government employees that will include the insurance card, the policy, and further information on the scheme. The Rf 1,000 which was provided as a medical allowance under the previous scheme is to be stopped, said the official. Each employee was given a medical allowance of $146.04 (approximately Rf 1, 876.61) a year under the previous scheme.


From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 10/10/2006


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NEPAL: Govt. to Form Taskforce to Resolve Problems of Industrial Sector

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has said that the government will form a taskforce to resolve the problems faced by industrial sector of the country. Talking to a delegation of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), which reached Prime Minister*s official residence to submit a memorandum, the Prime Minister said that the government would form a taskforce once Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat returns home from abroad. He urged the entrepreneurs not to organise strikes, as they would benefit forces that are not favour of peace and stability in the country. Regarding the security for the industries, the Prime Minister assured that he would discuss the issue with the home minister and provide appropriate security to the industries.

Talking to Nepalnews after submitting memorandum to Prime Minister, Chairman of FNCCI, Chandi Raj Dhakal, who is also the coordinator of the national struggle committee said that the Prime Minister assured entrepreneurs that he would take the issues of extortion and the demands of trade union with the Maoists. The national assembly held in Birgunj constituted a national struggle committee headed by Dhakal. ※As the Prime Minister assured us of fulfilling our demands, the meeting of the national struggle committee will take decision about the next round of protest. The first round of protest programme concluded on Friday,§ Dhakal added.

In their national assembly in Birgunj on Monday, the entrepreneurs announced protest programmes alleging that the government and the Maoists had been attacking the industrial sectors on different excuses. The entrepreneurs said the industrial sector was facing pressure in the name of trade union movement, reform drive of the government, lack of security and extortion by the Maoists. They also opposed the government*s action against willful defaulters without making difference between willful defaulters and defaulters by circumstance. The agitating entrepreneurs organized sit-in at all the customs points across the country bringing all the import and export of goods to a complete halt. In the capital, Kathmandu, the agitating entrepreneurs organised sit-in at the cargo complex of the Tribhuvan International Airport.


From nepalnews.com 09/22/2006


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PAKISTAN: Law to Set Up Drugs Regulatory Authority in the Pipeline, SC Told

The Health Ministry on Monday informed Supreme Court that a law is in the pipeline for establishing Drugs Regulatory Authority for eliminating the spurious drugs from the markets throughout the country. Appearing before a two-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry and Justice Muhammed Nawaz Abbasi, Federal Secretary Health Syed Anwar Mehmood submitted that a separate law was also placed before the select committee of parliament for regularising the sale and use of herbal drugs and checking quacks. Director General Health, Maj Gen. (Retired) Shahida Malik, Controller Drugs, Dr Farnaz Malik, Chairman Drugs Quality Control, Faqir M Sheikh also appeared before the bench besides the Federal Secretary Health, when it resumed the suo motu hearing of fake and spurious drugs on an application filed by Dr Shams-uz-Zaman Soomro. Submitting a detailed report regarding the steps taken by the ministry to fight out the sale of spurious drugs, Secretary Health told the bench that 662 markets were inspected by officials of drugs control and 1093 samples were collected during these surprise checks of drug stores. Out of these samples, Secretary Health further said, 13 were found expired and 73 substandard leading to institution of 25 cases in drugs courts. In addition, 10 criminals* cases were also lodged with police stations, the court was further told. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, however, observed that there would be more than 60 thousand drug stores in the country but the drug inspectors mostly prepare inspection reports while sitting in their homes instead of conducting genuine raids.

Senior Health Ministry officials stated that the draft law suggests various ways and procedures for checking the spurious and fake drugs and lays down harsh punishments for those who would violate it for minting money by selling the substandard drugs. The bench was also informed that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was likely to approve the establishing of Drugs Regulatory Authority later in the day for curbing the menace of spurious drugs. Controller Drugs Dr Farnaz Malik, on the occasion, agitated before the bench that police do not back the efforts of health officials against the spurious drugs. Referring to a case lodged with Sihala police four months ago, Farnaz said the investigating officer is yet to submit a challan in the court. Taking note of the inordinate delay, the apex court asked a sub-Inspector of concerned police station, Mohammed Illyas that why the challan was not filed within 14 days as per directed in down in section 173 of Criminal Procedure Code CrPC. The court reprimanded the official for the delay and directed the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) to direct Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Islamabad to personally appear before the bench for explaining the undue delay on next date of hearing. The bench also ordered Islamabad police to submit the challan of case pointed out by Dr Farnaz in court of law within next three days without failure.

Secretary Anwar Mehmood told the bench that the Health Ministry was fully committed to the drive against spurious drugs and would take all possible measures for addressing the menace. After examining the report, the bench extended a two-month time to Health Ministry for ensures the eradication of spurious and fake drugs from all medical stores. Asking the Secretary to hold a fortnightly meeting with provincial health secretaries, the bench ordered Health Ministry for ensuring that presence of a pharmacist at every drug store and its checking every month by a drug inspector. The proposed meeting was also directed to ensure strict implementation on drugs laws. The Apex Court also directed the Health Ministry ensure that only pharmacy shop should operate against one license and the practice of many shops on one license must stop. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry also directed Ministry of Law and Justice to submit the number of cases pending in drugs courts and measures and steps for expeditious disposal of such cases.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/03/2006


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Reshuffle in Top Bureaucracy

The federal government on Tuesday transferred five federal secretaries while Javed Sadiq Mailk, principal secretary to the prime minister, retired. The Establishment Division issued the notifications of the posting and transfer of the secretaries. Mailk, a BS-22 officer of the secretariat group, retired voluntarily. He was posted as principal secretary to the prime minister a few months after Shaukat Aziz became prime minister. Mailk had also worked as additional secretary in the Finance Ministry when Aziz was finance minister. Khalid Saeed, Economic Affair Division secretary, was transferred and appointed principal secretary to the prime minister. Planning Division Secretary Muhammad Akram was transferred and appointed Economic Affair Division secretary. Muhammad Ziaur Rehman, ports and shipping secretary, was transferred and appointed Planning Division secretary. Communications Secretary Tariq Mehmood has been given the additional charge of secretary for ports and shipping. The Establishment Division also notified the retirement of Mian Baaz Afridi, a grade 20 officer of the Police Services of Pakistan. He was an officer on special duty in the Establishment Division.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com 10/06/2006


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Disaster Management Authority Soon

ISLAMABAD: A national disaster management authority will be set up soon to deal with disasters, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a ceremony to commemorate the October 8, 2005, earthquake here on Saturday. Aziz said the authority would coordinate disaster management activities and liase with donors. He thanked the international community and donors for their quick response to the October 8 earthquake. He hoped that donors would come forward to help bridge the $800 million gap between the funds available and needed to rehabilitate quake survivors and rebuild the quake zone. He said the government was committed to speedy development in the quake-hit areas. He said that a seismic survey showed that Balakot was in an area vulnerable to earthquakes, adding that the city would be relocated to Bakrial. He said the government had made all schools, hospitals and government offices functional, though in temporary shelters. He said that 90 percent of people living in tents had been shifted to transitional facilities. Aziz said the Earthquake Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) was a one-window institution to coordinate all rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. ※All activities are being carried out fairly and transparently, but the government is open to criticism to improve them,§ he said. State Minister for Information Tariq Azeem said that Pakistan Muslim League (PML) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Sheikh Mubarak from the United Arab Emirates had executed a project to educate orphan children in Azad Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Salman Shah said that relief and rescue operations had cost $1.7 billion. He said that donors pledged $6.8 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the quake-hit areas, while people donated Rs 12.5 billion to the President*s Relief Fund. He said that donors* pledges included loans worth $4 billion and $2.8 billion in grants.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/08/2006


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Reforms Body to Improve KWSB Working

KARACHI - The Sindh minister for local government has agreed to set up a reforms committee to bring institutional and financial reforms in the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board. Muhammad Hussain Khan, the local government minister was presiding over a presentation by Brig Iftikhar Haider, the KWSB managing director, on the working of the board. The proposed committee will work to improve the city*s water and sewerage delivery system and help resolve key issues with the help of experts, said the minister. The minister said there was a need to establish a training institute for the KWSB workforce and use the expertise of the retired technical staff of the board. He said experienced and seasoned retired employees could transfer their knowledge to new staff of the KWSB through lectures, seminars, workshops and regular classes. ※It will not only preserve their knowledge but will also ensure better maintenance of the system of the water board§, he said. He said there was need to modernise the board computerise records, having details of pipelines and other installations. The minister said the KWSB was an operational institution and it should work on war footings for provision of potable water to Karachiites. He said that no department in the city could implement its project and schemes unless KWSB was not taken on board. The board has to generate its own resources and improve recovery and collection of bills to gain financial strength and viability, he said. He said timely distribution of KWSB bills should be ensured. The minister praised the board*s scheme of provision of water to 1,500 schools and said the Local Government Department would extend all possible help to the board to formulate a strategy on reforms. The KWSB managing director told the minister that there were over 150 water pumping stations, 25 bulk reservoirs and installations, eight water filter plants and three sewerage treatment plants.

The board has 20 sewerage pumping stations over 11,000 kilometres of pipelines and 25,000,000 pipeline joints, he said. It has 75 kilometres of canals, over 1,000 million gallons of fluids over 400,000 valves, and over 250,000 manholes, he said. The board has only 2.55 employees per 1,000 consumers and this ratio should be increased to six employees per 1, 000 to give deliver services effectively, he added. He said that 18 towns of Karachi had been divided into three zones under zonal chief engineers. Zone I consisted of Landhi, Korangi, Malir, Shah Faisal and Bin Qasim, Towns, Zone II consisted of Gulshan, Jamshed, Lyari, Liaquatabad, Saddar and Keamari towns and Zone III consisted of Baldia, Orangi, Site, Gadap, North Karachi, Gulberg and North Nazimabad towns, he said. The MD said that the K-III project had been completed with a cost of Rs 6.3 billion with a capacity of 100 million gallons water for the city everyday. He said that Rs 900 million had been allocated for improvement of water and sewerage in 18 towns of Karachi and that the amount would be spent equally. Removal of encroachments over drains, and nullahs was underway at various places to ensure smooth flow of sewerage and rain water, he said. He said the study for alternate route for K-IV had been awarded and work on construction of Phase-I of K-IV (150 mdg) for Karachi would commence in January 2007. He said the first fully equipped customer service centre was being set up at 9th Mile Karsaz which will be linked with City District Government Karachi and function round the clock. A Civil Society Cell had also been established to interact with community and enable user participation, he added. The Managing Director said the monthly billing system had been adopted from July 2006 and there were 500 branches of five banks receiving these bills to facilitate consumers. He said that an amount of Rs 500 million had so far been collected from August last and nearly one million bills had been distributed in September 2006. City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal and senior officials of the KWSB were also present on the occasion.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/11/2006


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Govt Employees Facing Difficulties in Getting Salaries

RAWALPINDI (Online) - The government employees faced embarrassment on Friday when they thronged banks to receive their advanced salary of October. The ATM service and computer system of most of the banks developed faults due to overloading of work and crowd of people. The government has released advanced salary of October to the government employees to add in their Eid joys. It may be recalled that the government has announced three days Eid holidays from Monday and the government employees have started leaving for their homes on Friday taking extra leave of Saturday. The banks were seen crowded with the employees who want to celebrate Eid with their loved ones in their respective areas. Services of 2 RGH officers handed over to ERRA The services of two administrative officers of Rawalpindi General Hospital (RGH) have been handed over to Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA). According to the sources, the services of Assistant Medical Superintendent (AMS) (Admin) Dr. Shahzad Rehan and Deputy Medical Superintendent (DMS) (Purchase), Dr. Kamran Ajaib have been handed over to ERRA on two years deputation. The transfer of DMS Store, Dr. Captain Muhammad Fiaz Khan as AMS Admin is also under consideration. It was also suggested to appoint Dr. Bashir Ahmed Malik as DMS Store but after his refusal he would likely to be appointed as DMS Purchase. After Dr. Bashir Ahmed refusal the name of DMS Building Dr. Shahid Raza Butt as DMS Store is on cards. It was expected that orders of all the transfers would be issued soon after Eidul Fitr. Hamid vows to complete all development projects in Potohar Town Nazim Potohar Town, Hamid Nawaz Raja has vowed to complete all development projects in Potohar Town which is vital to resolve the problems of masses. Addressing here on the occasion of inauguration of streets in Union Council (UC) 75 Shakrial, Hamid Nawaz Raja said that the incumbent government is taking effective steps aiming to provide all possible facilities to masses in all departments including health and education. Recalling government*s initiatives to reduce difficulties facing by people due to sky rocketing prices of essential items, Nazim Potohar Town said that ※Sasta Rashan Scheme§ has been started for low-income segments of the society.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/21/2006


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IRAQ: Insurgent Group Announces Establishment of Islamic State

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Mujahedin Shura Council announced the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq in an October 15 video statement on the Internet. The speaker in the video, identified as the spokesman for the Islamic state's information ministry, reads a statement that says it became necessary to declare an Islamic state after the Kurds established a region in the north and the Shi'a won approval for federalism in the south. The Islamic state encompasses the governorates of Baghdad, Al-Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah Al-Din, Ninawah, and parts of Babil and Wasit, the statement claims. "We are imposing our control over many areas, which have an area equal to the size of the first state of Medina. The enemies have no control over these areas. The mujahedin have established the rule of Shari'a [law] and religion in these areas at the demand and persistence of the Sunnis themselves," it further claims. It also vows the "strongest, hardest, and most harmful unlimited response" against attempts to destroy the new state. KR


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/16/2006


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Iraqi Interior Minister Dismisses Top Police Commanders

The Iraqi Interior Ministry announced on October 17 that Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani has removed three top police commanders who Sunni Arabs accused of having links to Shi'ite death squads, and reassigned them to administrative positions, international media reported the same day. The three commanders, all major generals, were identified as Mahdi Sabih al-Gharawi, commander of the 2nd Division of the National Police; Adnan Thabit, commander of the ministry's Special Forces; and Rashid Fulayyih, commander of the 1st Commando Unit. A ministry source told Reuters that the moves "are related to the sectarian conflict in the country." Meanwhile, AP reported that the commanders attended a ministry press briefing on October 17 dressed in civilian clothes rather than military uniforms. Interior Minister al-Bulani announced on October 13 that 3,000 ministry personnel were dismissed on charges of corruption and human rights violations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 16, 2006). SS/KR


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/18/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: New Minister of Economics and Budget Planning Appointed

Aslan Musin, former governor of Kazakhstan's Atyrau province, has been appointed minister of economy and budget planning, zona.kz reported on October 4. President Nursultan Nazarbaev the same day presented the candidacy of Bergei Ryskaliev to replace Musin as Atyrau governor. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/05/2006


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TAJIKISTAN: Commission Registers Three Presidential Candidates

Tajikistan's Central Election Commission registered three candidates on October 9, including incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov, for the November 6 presidential election, Avesta reported. Rakhmonov is running on behalf of the ruling People's Democratic Party. The other two registered candidates are Ismoil Talbakov (Communist Party) and Olimjon Boboyev (Economic Reform Party). DK


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


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TURKMENISTAN: President Appoints New Bank Head

President Saparmurat Niyazov has appointed Tumar Mammedov to chair Turkmenistan's state-run commerce bank Daihanbank, turkmenistan.ru reported on October 12. Daihanbank, which services the country's agricultural sector, was previously headed by Batyr Sakhedov, who was removed for purportedly "serious lapses in his work." DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/13/2006


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New Office of Turkmenneft State Concern Inaugurated in Balkanabat

A new office of the Turkmenneft state concern was inaugurated in the administrative center of Balkan province situated in the west of Turkmenistan. As the Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru reports, the office building of the country fuel-energy sector's largest industrial association was built on a turnkey basis by Turkish company Sehil Inshaat Industry we Tijaret Ltd Shirketi. The US $ 10 million facility was erected in one of the developing areas of the oilmen city of Turkmenistan. It is a 6-storey building occupying some 8,5 thousand square meters. According to the design of architectures, the mixture of marble, aluminum and toner glass in the facing of the building give solidity to the monumental complex as well as proportion, beauty and expressiveness. All rooms and other office premises are stuffed with latest computer equipment, means of communication, modern office furniture, centralized conditioning and heating systems. The project also provided for the large conference-hall, refectory, sport center and sauna and landscaping of some 2,5 hectares of the surrounding territory. There were planted flowers and palms, firs and other trees, ornamental bushes. Fountains, original lamps and places for rest were also built there.


From http://www.turkmenistan.ru/ 10/16/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: President Removes Another Governor

Islam Karimov dismissed Ferghana Governor Shermat Nurmatov at an October 19 session of the province's council of people's deputies, official news agency UzA reported. In an address to deputies, Karimov noted that poor leadership has led to falling industrial production, lagging foreign investment, and poor cotton harvests. Nurmatov's replacement will be Abduhashim Abdullaev, formerly the mayor of Margilon. Karimov recently removed the governor of Andijon province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 16, 2006). DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/20/2006


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AUSTRALIA: First Voter Competition a Chance for 16-19 Year Olds to Win $7000

The First Voter Competition is being launched in Brisbane City Mall on 5 October 2006 as a pilot competition in Brisbane and Rockhampton. The Constitution Education Fund - Australia (CEF-A), an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organisation dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of the Constitution, is conducting the competition . Mr Noel Hadjimichael, the Deputy Executive Director, CEF-A said ※the First Voter Initiative aims to encourage recent first-time voters or potential future voters to gain an enhanced awareness of the Australian political system and take an active interest in Australia and its society§. ※Entry is limited to 16-19 year olds. The initial phase of the competition is internet based and the 24 questions test knowledge of Australian history, society and politics. The first 12 questions are compulsory and the next 12 random. This will be followed by regional selection culminating in a final at Queensland Parliament House in December,§ said Mr Hadjimichael. Ms Anne Bright, the Australian Electoral Officer and State Manager for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in Queensland encourages all eligible Australian citizens aged 17 years or over to enrol to vote. ※You can enrol at 17 years and vote when you turn 18,§ said Ms Bright. ※To enrol, simply complete an electoral enrolment form from the AEC website www.aec.gov.au, any post office or AEC office§.


From http://www.aec.gov.au/ 10/04/2006


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Minister Launches $2 Million One-Stop-Shop Resource Centre

The Australian Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, the Hon Gary Hardgrave MP, today launched a new publicly funded company created to develop and operate an online ※one-stop-shop§ for training resources. Mr Hardgrave launched the company, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Australia Ltd, at its new premises in St Kilda, Melbourne. The company, jointly owned by the Australian, state and territory governments, will receive $2.03 million funding in 2006 to support the operation of the National Quality Council and the National Industry Skills Committee, and provide access to training resources and other services in support of the national training system. The company will administer a further $2.12 million funding for National Quality Council and National Industry Skills Committee projects. ※This initiative is an outstanding example of what can be achieved through collaboration across different levels of government,§ Mr Hardgrave said. ※By joining forces we can provide a quality product like TVET Australia, an invaluable tool for industry.§ The ※one-stop-shop§ enables users of the national training system to identify and acquire training materials, identify copyright requirements and enter licenses for the use of that material.

It will be a central point for accessing training resources for both public and private sector developers and includes training packages, training package support and flexible learning toolboxes. ※A truly national training system requires a collaborative, national approach to ensure vocational career pathways are accessible to all Australians who wish to pursue them,§ Mr Hardgrave said. The new company will support the voice of industry by providing high-quality support services to both the National Quality Council and the National Industry Skills Committee. The National Quality Council oversees quality assurance and ensures national consistency in the application of the Australian Quality Training Framework. The National Industry Skills Committee provides the Ministerial Council for Vocational and Technical Education with evidence-based advice on workforce planning and future training priorities. ※Industry-led training is vital if our vocational education sector is to thrive,§ Mr Hardgrave said. The Australian Government is delivering a range of initiatives during 2006 to 2009 as part of its $10.8 billion investment in Australia*s future 每 the biggest ever commitment to vocational and technical education by any government in Australia*s history.


From http://www.dest.gov.au/ 10/04/2006


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TAC Profits Deflected from Safety to Budget

THE State Government has siphoned more than $1.5 billion worth of motorists' funds for infrastructure projects and to boost its budget, instead of using the money to cut the road toll. Of the $2 billion the Government has collected from the Transport Accident Commission, $480 million has been spent on road safety projects, Government figures show. Victoria's "Black Spot" road safety strategy and the Safer Roads Infrastructure Program have received $355 million of TAC money, and $125 million has been committed to other road safety programs 〞 leaving a gap of $1.5 billion. Motorists fund the TAC through a premium paid with car registration fees. Victorian Government spokesman Tim Mitchell defended the use of TAC money. "The Bracks Government has invested strongly in our roads and in road safety," he said. "We are spending $60 million of TAC dividends per year over the next 10 years on the Black Spot road program." Mr Mitchell said another $600 million in TAC funds had underpinned the Government's Transport and Liveability Statement released in May. The commission's annual report, released last week, showed a $232 million dividend went to the Government. The TAC pays the annual dividend after consultation between the Treasurer and the TAC board. Buoyant investment markets have led to better than expected returns on the TAC's investment of motorists' premiums. Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said TAC profits should go to road safety. "Victorians want as much of that money committed to roads and road safety as possible," he said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/22/2006


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Australian Government to Host the 2007 National Consumer Congress

Chris Pearce today announced that the Australian Government will host the 2007 National Consumer Congress. ※The Congress is a major event on the consumer policy calendar, it will provide an important opportunity for the Government to obtain firsthand the views of attendees on key consumer issues and perspectives on the way forward in the area of consumer policy,§ said Mr Pearce. Next year*s Congress will provide a forum for discussion of consumer issues by government, academics, business and consumer and community groups. The event will seek to provide informed national and international perspectives on aspects of consumer policy. The 2007 Congress will focus on the changing environment of consumer policy, exploring three key themes from both a national and international perspective: new consumer challenges and trends; frameworks for responding to change; and future directions in consumer policy. The 2007 Congress will be held at the RACV Club in Melbourne on 14?15 March 2007 to coincide with World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March.


From http://parlsec.treasurer.gov.au/ 10/26/2006


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FIJI: Cabinet Endorses Agreement on Establishing the Melanesian Spearhead Group

Cabinet has endorsed the Agreement on Establishing the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The Agreement will be signed by the Prime Minister, Hon Laisenia Qarase, together with other MSG Leaders on 21st October 2006. Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Minister for Finance and National Planning, Ratu Jone Kubuabola, on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Kaliopate Tavola. Ratu Jone explained that this Agreement will take precedence over the Revised MSG Trade Agreement. He said that the Agreement establishes the MSG and recognises it as a sub-regional organisation with members comprising Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and FLNKS of New Caledonia. ※It further gives the mandate and recognition for the establishment of a MSG Secretariat which is to be located in Port Vila, Vanuatu. ※The main chapters of the Agreement focus on the establishment of the MSG secretariat, Legal Status, Privileges and Immunities, Organisational Structure of the MSG Secretariat; the MSG Leader*s Summit, Foreign Ministers* Meeting and Senior Officials* Meeting, Trade and Economic Officials Meeting, Special Mission and Other Meetings, as well as Amendments, Withdrawals, Dissolutions or Suspension and Transition.§ Ratu Jone said that the Agreement will enter into force thirty days after the date of deposit of its instrument of accession.


From http://www.fiji.gov.fj/ 10/12/2006


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Disaster Management Moot in January

International Conference on Disaster Management is being organised in Islamabad in the second week of January 2007 with the theme ※Caring in Crisis§. The conference is being organised by the General Headquarters and ArmyMedical Corps in collaboration with United Nations and experts in the field from civil. Major General Rehan Burney, D.G Surgery, has been nominated as the chairman of the organizing committee. The conference on disaster management aims at bringing back all the health experts, organisations and agencies from around the world who participated in the health care operations following the Earthquake of October 8, 2005.The conference will also bring together authorities in the field of trauma and crisis management from across the globe. Surgeon General and Head of Medical Services from friendly countries are also expected to attend. It is worthwhile mentioning that AMC doctors and paramedics have experience of disaster management within the country and abroad having worked in international medical relief missions. The conference will have workshops, symposia, state of the art lectures and free paper sessions, aimed at discussing the lessons learned from the management of the Disaster of October 8, 2005.The deliberation in the conference will lead to meaningful recommendations for developing strategies to deal with such crisis in the future.


From: http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/04/2006


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SAARC Disaster Management Centre Inaugurated

The Indian Home Minister Shri Shivraj Patil inaugurated the SAARC Disaster Management Centre here today. The Centre would serve the member countries of the SAARC by providing policy advice and facilitating capacity development services including learning, research, training, system development, expertise promotion and exchange of information for effective disaster risk reduction and management. The Centre will collect, compile, document and disseminate date, information, case studies, indigenous knowledge and good practices relating to disaster management particularly from the member countries. It will network with the national focal points of disaster management and with the concerned regional and international bodies. The Centre will collaborate with other SAARC Centres, particularly SAARC Meteorological Research Centre, SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre and SAARC Forestry sector to achieve synergies in programmes and activities. Inaugurating the Centre, the Home Minister said that the South Asian region is considered one of the most critical disaster hotspots in the globe and there is a lot that the countries of the region can learn from each other. Shri Patil said that as home to one of the oldest civilization in the world, South Asia has a plenty of dying wisdom on disaster management which need to be documented, revived and made part of our overall strategy of disaster risk reduction and management.

He further added that traditional wisdom based on accumulated local knowledge and experience for centuries must not be lost sight of and must be harmonized with modern practices. The Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. E. Ahmed and the Vice Chairperson of the National Disaster Management Authority, General (Retd.) N.C.Vij stressed the need for co-operation among the South Asian countries in the field of disaster management. The Secretary (Border Management) in the Ministry of Home Affairs Shri B.S. Lalli expressed confidence that the SAARC Disaster Management Centre would emerge as a vibrant centre of excellence. Delegates from various SAARC countries were among those who attended the inaugural function.

From: http://pib.nic.in/ 10/10/2006


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Bangladesh Bankers to the Poor Win Nobel Peace Prize

※Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for grassroots efforts to lift millions out of poverty that earned him the nickname of &banker to the poor.* Yunus set up a new kind of bank in the 1976 to give credit to the very poorest in his native Bangladesh, particularly women, enabling them to start up small businesses without collateral. In doing so, he invented microcredit, a system which has been duplicated across the globe. # Yunus was convinced women could break through poverty by taking tiny loans to start or expand tiny businesses. The Grameen Bank now serves 6.1 million borrowers. The Grameen Foundation which grew out of the bank was founded in 1997 and has a global network of 52 partners in 22 countries that has helped an estimated 11 million people in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East.§ ※# &Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means,* said a statement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Yunus himself told Norway's NRK public television by telephone that he was &delighted, really delighted.* &You are endorsing a dream to achieve a poverty-free world,* he said. #§ [Agence France Presse/Factiva] ※# The Nobel Committee said Yunus and the bank he founded had used the innovative program to &create economic and social development from below.* &Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development,* the committee said in its citation. #§[Agence France Presse/Factiva]


From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/13/2006


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CHINA: Cross-straits Disaster Control System Launched

East China's Fujian Province is building a meteorological disaster control system to serve Fujian and Taiwan, a senior meteorological official announced on Tuesday. The disaster control system would cover Fujian and the Taiwan Straits, said Yang Weisheng, head of the provincial meteorological bureau. The two provinces are among China's worst-hit areas for natural disasters, particularly typhoons, rainstorms and droughts. The project would cost 190 million yuan (US$24.1 million) and is scheduled for completion in 2008. Yang said, the province had improved its onshore weather monitoring services, but still needed to make serious steps in marine climate monitoring, analysis and forecasting. Improvement in these areas would be conducive for effective development for harbors and fisheries. The new disaster control system will include a sea climate information center, 41 observation stations, both coastal and offshore atmospheric environment exploration mechanisms, trans-centre communication system along with a more advanced weather forecast and warning system.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/27/2006


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Shanghai Seeks Advice on World Expo

Shanghai is eager to learn from the experiences of other cities that have held a World Expo, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng told an Expo forum held in the city Wednesday. Han, who is also acting secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, said preparations for 2010 Expo are going smoothly with support from the Bureau of International Expositions, the event's governing body. Seventy-seven countries, regions and organizations have accepted the city's invitation to attend the 2010 World Expo, Han told the meeting participants. The annual Expo forum offers a good communication platform for Shanghai to learn from others, Han said. The forum invited more than 150 experts from home and abroad to contribute their ideas to the expo, whose theme is "Better City, Better Life." Also yesterday, China Mobile and China Telecom Corporation became the second and third business partners for the event. "The partners will have priority in constructing enterprise pavilions within the expo site in 2010," Zhou Hanmin, deputy director of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, told Shanghai Daily. He said 16 enterprises from home and abroad are expected to sponsor individual pavilions. China Eastern Airlines became the first partner of World Expo 2010 early this year. Partners supply equipment to the event and are allowed to use the expo logo in their marketing. Expo bureau officials said they select partners from all over the world according to their capacities and level of business involvement in China. They stressed that they don't favor domestic enterprises. The bureau plans to finalize its partners and sponsors by the end of June 2007. "The Shanghai expo will radiate across China, and all regions will benefit," Zhou said. He said the China Pavilion will display the cultures and specialties of China's western areas such as Gansu Province and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, among the country's other charms.


From http://www.china.org.cn 09/28/2006


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Training Class Held for Implementing Supervision Law

China's legislature held a training class from Sept. 24 to 25 on the implementation of the Supervision Law of Standing Committees of People's Congresses at Various Levels, aiming to enhance the supervision power of people's congresses. Sheng Huaren, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, said at the training class that supervision power of people's congresses at various levels is an important power endowed by the Constitution and an important component of the country's supervision system. "The aims of supervision by people's congresses are to ensure the implementation of the Constitution and laws, the fulfillment of administrative, judicial and prosecuting power, and the legal rights of citizens, corporations and other organizations," he said. The supervision power of people's congresses should be exerted by their standing committees in group, he said. Sheng said to better exert supervision power, standing committees of people's congresses at various levels should hear and analyze issues and problems reported by all circles of the society, carefully select, hear and deliberate reports by governmental departments and organize inspections to examine law implementation. Staff of standing committees of provincial level people's congresses attended the training class. The Supervision Law of Standing Committees of People's Congresses at Various Levels will go into effect on January 1, 2007.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/26/2006


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Disaster Response, Relief Capability to Improve

The government pledged on Tuesday to improve its emergency response and disaster relief capability, as the country has experienced its most severe natural disasters since 1998. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said the country's early warning and disaster monitoring network will be upgraded, the construction quality of residential buildings and infrastructure will be improved along with enforcement of emergency response measures and disaster relief. He said China suffers some of the most serious natural disasters in the world and the country's ability to predict and cope with disasters is rather limited. "Improving emergency response and disaster relief is an important task in building a harmonious society," Hui said at a disaster-relief seminar on Tuesday. The vice premier requested all local governments and departments to improve their sense of responsibility and spare no effort in improving emergency response and disaster relief. He also said that efforts should be made to improve public awareness to improve people's ability to survive when disaster strikes. A variety of natural disasters have killed 2,309 Chinese people, left 567 people missing this year. The disasters caused direct economic losses of 191.8 billion yuan and over 13.2 million people were evacuated and relocated. So far, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has allocated 3.2 billion yuan of from the central government's emergency disaster relief funds and sent 44,100 tents to affected areas. Hui said China's disaster-hit areas are currently undergoing intense and orderly reconstruction. He asked local governments and departments to enhance assistance to the disaster-hit areas, speed up the reconstruction of the destroyed residential buildings and ensure that "everyone affected by the disasters have access to food, clothing, shelter, clean water and timely medical treatment."


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/11/2006


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CPC Seeks Advice on Building Harmonious Society

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) had recently held a symposium to solicit advice from non-CPC members and non-party affiliated personages for its decision on the building of a harmonious socialist society. Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the symposium, at which China's non-communist parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and non-party personages were invited to give their opinions. The non-CPC members and non-party affiliated personages said the CPC Central Committee's decision of putting the construction of a socialist harmonious society at a more prominent position on its work agenda demonstrated CPC's arch aim of serving the interests of the public, according to a release from the symposium. Such decision also met the demand of implementing the scientific concept of development and reflected the basic interests of the general public, the participants said. According to the release, the non-CPC members and non-party affiliated personages said they believed that CPC's decision on the building of a harmonious socialist society is of realistic significance and far-reaching historical bearing. The Sixth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing from October 8 to 11, 2006. The plenum adopted the "resolutions of the CPC Central Committee on major issues regarding the building of a harmonious socialist society."

Hu said at the symposium that the CPC Central Committee's decision of focusing on the issue of harmonious socialist society at the Sixth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee was aimed at implementing the guidelines of the 16th CPC National Congress and the Third, Fourth and Fifth plenums of the 16th CPC Central Committee. Such a decision was also made to speed up the comprehensive construction of a moderately prosperous society and push forward the great socialism cause with Chinese characteristics, Hu said. Hu said the construction of a harmonious socialist society is an important part of the overall plan of the socialism cause with Chinese characteristics. The studies and plans regarding this will help boost the all-round progress of socialist economic, political, cultural and social development and ensure that the grand task of the all-round construction of the moderately prosperous society will be achieved, Hu said. He said that social harmony is a key task of building the moderately prosperous society and efforts made in this regard will help the country mobilize all the positive social factors, take and make good use of the current important strategic opportunities for development and maintain the overall stable situation for reform and opening up. Hu said the building of a harmonious socialist society will help solve the most practical problems which are related to people's direct interests. It will also help realize, protect and promote the basic interests of the general public, Hu said. He said that to maintain a stable and harmonious social and political environment in the country will help reinforce the Chinese people's cohesiveness and the country's ability to counter risks so as to better cope with international challenges and risks.

Hu stressed that China's non-communist parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and non-party affiliated personages have made important contributions to the promotion of social harmony. Hu said he hoped the non-CPC members and non-party affiliated personages will continue to make efforts in maintaining solidarity and stability and promoting social harmony and assist the Party and the government in boosting coordinated development, enhancing institutional construction, building harmonious cultural environment, improving the public administration and mobilizing social vitality. He also encouraged them to further investigation and study on the construction of a harmonious socialist society and contribute more advice and ideas. The participants said they would continue to cooperate closely with the CPC and make their contributions to the construction of a harmonious socialist society. They also expressed their opinions and proposed advice on the building of new socialist countryside, promoting the harmonious development of human and nature, straightening out income distribution, increasing employment, boosting coordinated development of different regions and promoting educational, cultural and health development, according to the release. Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin and Zeng Qinghong, who are members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, attended the symposium.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/13/2006


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HK to Launch Water Management Program

Hong Kong will implement a water management program to protect water resources and explore new sources, the Permanent Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Mak Chai-kwong said Sunday. Mak said that measures currently being carried out under the program included management and protection of water gathering grounds; the pilot desalination plant study; the pilot scheme on the use of reclaimed water; and public education and promotional activities to encourage members of the public to conserve water and protect water resources. Officiating at the 2006 World Water Monitoring Ceremony, Mak said that the ceremony helped convey a very important message: " We need to join hands to protect the precious water resources. Without water there will be no life. Our community cannot develop in a sustainable manner without clean drinking water." The ceremony is a prelude to World Water Monitoring Day, which is set on October 18 every year, initiated by the America's Clean Water Foundation in 2002 with a view to promoting public awareness and participation in the protection of world water resources and quality. "We should be grateful for being able to get clean drinking water at a low price by simply turning on the water taps, and we should disseminate the save water message to all those around us," said Mak.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/16/2006


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Expert Testimony Administration Now Available

The Ministry of Justice has set up an administration to strengthen the standardization of expert witness accounts in court, according to a Legal Daily report. "The newly-established administration is responsible for outlining development, drawing up laws and regulations, and standardizing expert witness work," said Huo Xiandan, director of the administration. Expert testimonies are vital to help crack down on crimes, ensure justice and maintain social stability, Huo stressed.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/18/2006


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Strengthening Surveillance over Farm Products Safety

China will step up surveillance over the safety of farm products with the nation's first law on farm products safety expected to take effect on November 1, deputy agriculture minister Niu Dui said on Sunday. "We must greatly strengthen the routine surveillance and spot check of farm products, publicize the results to the public timely and boost the safety awareness of farm products growers, processors and traders," he said at a promotion ceremony of the new law in Beijing's suburban Shunyi District. Safety management is an important part of the agricultural modernization and is critical to boosting the international competitive edge of China's farm products, the deputy minister said. Though there has been an improvement in the general situation of farm products safety, the reports of unsafe products were seen frequently in China. The latest example is the hairy crabs exported to Taiwan. Taiwan health officials said they detected a carcinogen in a shipment of the crabs, though the crab farmers insist that the crabs are safe. Niu said China has already set up a nationwide network of farm products quality inspection agencies, including 12 at national level, 311 at ministerial and 1,780 at provincial, municipal and country levels. The government plans to take five years to make such a network more competent and efficient, he said.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/23/2006


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CPC Discusses 2006 to 2010 Cadre Training Plan

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held a meeting on Monday to discuss the 2006-2010 national CPC cadre training plan. The meeting was presided over by CPC Central Committee General Secretary Hu Jintao. The meeting decided to focus training for CPC cadres during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan Period (2006-2010) on building a moderately prosperous society, building a harmonious socialist society, enhancing the Party's governance capability and maintaining the Party's advanced nature. The meeting recommended that more attention be given to cadre training. The meeting recommended focusing on cadre training with the goal of building a "learning Party" and a "pro-learning society". This will provide an ideological guarantee as well as professional support for the economic and social objectives of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. The meeting stressed that the latest achievements of the ※sinicization§ of Marxism will be comprehensively examined and used. CPC cadres will further study Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the "Three Represents" Important Thought. CPC cadres will also be further trained on the Selected Works of Jiang Zemin, and on thinking related to the scientific view of development and the building of a harmonious socialist society, key points raised by the CPC Central Committee. CPC cadres will learn more about the Party's ideological motives, guidelines, policies, laws and regulations, as well as the country and the Party's major economic, political, cultural, social, foreign affairs and national defense requirements. In this manner, it will be guaranteed that the cadres perform their duties in a scientific, democratic way while respecting the law, and improving their ability to promote economic and social development. CPC cadres will be trained to study and solve major reform issues, local development and stability issues, how to address problems in people's daily lives as well as issues relating to Party building. CPC cadres will be trained to enhance political standards, study new situations and solve new issues and open up new theoretical and practical vistas, the meeting stressed.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/24/2006


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JAPAN: Ota's Ability to Push Reform Under Spotlight

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pledged to carry out policies to accelerate structural reforms to achieve high economic growth even in an era of declining population, plans to use the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy to push the reforms, just as former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did. But it remains to be seen whether Hiroko Ota, state minster in charge of economic and fiscal policy, who is tasked to manage the proceedings of council meetings, has the ability to lead. Furthermore, with the House of Councillors election set for next summer, some Liberal Democratic Party members may resist reform efforts to win votes. Whether the Prime Minister's Office, whose functions have been beefed up by Abe, can take the initiative in making decisions is likely to be the key to continuing the reforms. In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday, Ota said her appointment to the Cabinet meant Abe wanted her to follow through with the good aspects of the council, indicating the council will be the driving force for reforms. "A cabinet member from the private sector can enliven discussions with new ideas. I'll make the process of political decision-making transparent for the public," she said. A professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Ota was asked by her predecessor, Heizo Takenaka, to work at the Cabinet Office in April 2002.

Between April 2004 and August 2005, she served as the director general for policy planning. Ota is known for her policy planning as an official charged with laying the groundwork for the council, but she is untested in handling key cabinet members and high-ranking bureaucrats. As such, a Prime Minister's Office team strengthened by Abe, who used a similar team at the White House as a model, is likely to support Ota. Abe appointed five advisers, one for each major policy area, and assigned five aides, recruited from ministries and agencies, as assistants. The advisers, who mainly offered opinions to the prime minister in the past, will be given the post of deputy chief cabinet secretary so they can take part in mapping out important policies. Noteworthy are Takumi Nemoto, an assistant in charge of economic and fiscal policy, and Yoichi Takahashi, counselor to the Cabinet Office. Together with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a former Bank of Japan official, Nemoto formed a policy group with Abe. Nemoto has long been known as a source of economic policies. A close aide of Takenaka, Takahashi served as counselor to the Cabinet Office, the preparatory office for postal privatization, and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

A senior Cabinet Office official believes Takahashi will build up a system to promote the ongoing structural reforms by coordinating views between ministries and agencies and the LDP. Since Kaoru Yosano replaced Takenaka as minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, the ruling coalition parties' involvement in key decision-making has increased. The LDP's overwhelming victory in last year's general election following the dissolution of the House of Representatives after the postal bills were rejected forced the party to stress its reform policies, a senior Cabinet official said. The LDP is expected to fight an uphill battle in next spring's unified local election and next summer's upper house election. Consequently, the ruling coalition parties that have promoted reform might now have second thoughts about reformist policies because the public may resist the pain that comes with reforming the social security system reform, the tax system and local finances.


From www.yomiuri.co.jp 09/30/2006


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Gov't Sets Up Education Reform Panel

The government established an expert panel Tuesday on education reform, a key policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, vowing to rebuild Japanese education to bring patriotism into the classroom. "To realize 'a beautiful country Japan,' it is indispensable to educate children and youth on whom the future of Japan's next generation will rest," Abe said. The Education Rebuilding Council, consisting of people from the governmental, business and academic sectors, is expected to come up with specific measures in an interim report in March and a final report at the end of next year for the government to institutionalize under Abe's leadership, government officials said.


From http://www.japantoday.com 10/10/2006


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Education Reform Panel Vows to Address Bullying

An advisory panel on educational reform said Wednesday it will come up with measures to stop school bullying following the suicide of a 13-year-old boy in Fukuoka Prefecture who complained of abuse at the hands of his classmates and a teacher. Most of the 17 members of the Education Rebuilding Council emphasized the need to take measures to prevent bullying at school, said Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Eriko Yamatani, the special adviser who heads the panel, after the council's second meeting since it was set up earlier this month." Children (who are bullied) are crying out for help," she said. "We have to find out what measures are necessary." Yamatani and Hiroyuki Yoshiie, a council member who also serves on the Yokohama municipal board of education, were scheduled to visit Chikuzen, Fukuoka Prefecture, later in the day to discuss the suicide with the boy's parents, officials at Miwa Junior High School, where the boy went, and members of the Chikuzen municipal board of education. The boy was found hanged Oct. 11 at his home. He left four suicide notes in which he complained he could not go on living because of the bullying. A teacher at his junior high school reportedly instigated the bullying by his classmates. Based on the interviews, the 17 members of the council, which will be divided into three working groups, will discuss how to improve teachers, support children who are being bullied and come up with concrete measures to prevent abuse, Yamatani said.


From The Japan Times 10/26/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: OECD Lauds Korea's Regulatory Reforms

At the Sept. 18-19 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Working Party on Regulatory Management and Reform meeting held in Paris, the delegates from the member states reviewed Korea's regulatory reform efforts during the past six years. As the chief Korean delegate to the meeting, I proactively participated in the discussion, referring to the OECD Secretariat's report on the case. The OECD Secretariat and member countries expressed keen interest in Korea's advanced regulatory reform system, lauding the country's remarkable accomplishments. Having introduced the OECD-recommended regulations, institutions and methods, Korea succeeded in establishing a regulatory reform system comparable to those of advanced nations in a short period time, according to the OECD report. In terms of regulatory policy goals, Korea saw a shift in regulatory orientation from quantity to quality, while expanding civil participation in the regulation-making process, it added. It noted that -- spearheaded by the panel for regulatory reform planning -- the Korean government adopted a new comprehensive system of regulatory reforms which allowed the public to lead the reforms as needed. It also presented suggestions for improvements in relevant policies. Specifically, it called on the state to expand regulatory deliberations on legislative procedures and elevate the quality of analyses of regulatory impact.

Since its 1998 enactment of the Basic Law on Administrative Regulation and the inauguration of the Regulatory Reform Committee, Korea has constantly pursued regulatory reforms. In particular, the Participatory Government, since its inception, has endeavored to drastically strengthen its capabilities for regulatory reforms while pushing ahead with user-oriented reforms. Their efforts ultimately triggered such high assessments by the OECD. It is no accident that Korea placed high on the indices for public deliberation and analysis of regulatory impact among other regulation-capability indices the OECD Secretariat is now developing. The OECD is scheduled to disclose the result of its probe into Korea's regulatory reforms in March 2007 after wrapping up investigations into various sectors, including competition and higher education among its members, by the end of this year. The OECD's appraisal of Korea's regulatory reform system will pave the way for fair evaluation of government efforts in the area, while its policy recommendations are expected to nurture further development of the country's regulatory reform system.


From http://www.korea.net 09/30/2006


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Tax Agency Chief Puts Priority on Innovation

National Tax Service (NTS) Commissioner Jeon Goon-pyo, who marked his 100th day in office on Wednesday (Oct. 25), is viewed as having breathed fresh air into the organization, according to NTS officials. Jeon, appointed as the 16th commissioner on July 18, has innovated the way the tax agency carries out its audits, they said. At the same time, another notable accomplishment is his campaign for the globalization of the agency. The tax agency successfully hosted the ※3rd OECD Forum on Tax Administration§ on Sept. 14 and 15, the biggest international event in its history. He had also had meetings with the U.S. tax commissioner and Canadian tax commissioner prior to the OECD forum. Thanks to the diplomatic efforts, the NTS is cooperating with tax agencies around the world to block tax evasion. Currently, Jeon is on a visit to China to meet Chinese tax officials.

Jeon's human resources administration was also innovative, as seen in his appointment of the Seoul Regional Tax Service Commissioner Park Chan-uk. Park started his career at the government as a grade-9 officer. Jeon said in his inaugural address that those who started at a low rank should have a chance to advance to the highest rank. Since it was almost impossible for low ranking officials to reach the top of the ladder, Park's promotion gave hope to grade-9 and grade-8 officers, who make up 87 percent of the personnel at the agency. Jeon also innovated tax administration. He promised that the tax probes would decrease by 20 percent, both in the number of cases and the length. The tax agency is focusing on the quality of tax probes rather than the quantity. ※The commissioner's dream is to foster a tax environment where businesses and rich people who honestly pay taxes are respected,§ the NTS explained. He believes that a tax is like a subscription fee that a member of society should pay. The NTS has launched a campaign to help people understand the purpose of taxing.


From http://www.korea.net 10/26/2006


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A Planned Reform in Myanmar Regional Administrative Bodies Underway

A planned reform in regional administrative bodies in Myanmar is underway in anticipation of the emergence of a new state constitution, reported Wednesday's local Weekly Eleven News pre-published Tuesday. According to the report, the posts of chairman and secretary of administrative bodies at state, division and district level, which were previously held by military personnel, are being gradually replaced by civil personnel from the administrative department under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Dealing with the posts for members of the administrative bodies, the police personnel will remain unchanged but be added with personnel from the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, the report said. As for the post for basic level such as the chairman of quarter or village or village-tract, it requires to be taken by personnel who is university graduate and aged between 35 and 45, the report said, adding that personnel, who does not comply with the said qualification for the post, can also be appointed if supported by local people. The planned reform in some administrative bodies at basic level in Yangon such as quarter level has started, local citizens said. Meanwhile, the national convention, as the first step of its seven-step roadmap to democracy, resumed its session here Tuesday morning after a recess for nearly nine months since the end of January this year. The session, which was opened at the Nyaunghnapin Camp in Hmawby, Yangon division, which is about 40 kilometers northwest of Yangon, is to seek approval to lay down basic detailed principles on relations between Hluttaws (parliaments), fundamental rights and responsibilities of citizens and the role of the armed forces which had been discussed in the last session.


From http://english.people.com.cn/ 10/11/2006


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MALAYSIA: Sarawak-Canada MoU on Information Management

KUCHING: The state government will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Canada to cooperate on information management. The MoU will be a key agenda of an international information management conference organised by the state government here next month. Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said on Monday the MoU would enable both parties to share their experience, policies, strategies and practices in managing information. ※It will allow the direct exchange of officers in specific government departments and give us access to their vast resources on information management. ※They will also give us support and assistance in information management,§ he told a press conference here on Monday. Chan said the state government decided on Canada because the government had been given the top international e-government award by Accenture from 2001 to 2005. Meanwhile, the conference on Nov 13-14, to be followed by a three-day workshop on information management, was initiated to improve its efficiency and productivity in delivering services to the public. ※We believe that this is the way forward as far as the state government is concerned, how to manage information and make use of it in our delivery system,§ Dr Chan said.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/02/2006


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KFH*s New Risk Management Tool

Kuwait Finance House (M) Bhd (KFH) has introduced a financial management product, KFH Ijarah Rental Swap-i, after obtaining Bank Negara approval recently. The KFH Ijarah Rental Swap-i is a risk management tool suitable for customers with ijarah financing arrangements that are either subjected to fluctuations of the reference rates such as cost of funds or fixed over the ijarah or lease facility period. It was part of the treasury solutions offered by the country's first foreign Islamic bank, KFH said in a statement. The bank said the customers could be a payer or receiver of lease rental payments to exchange the series of payments or receipts from floating to fixed rental amounts or vice versa over a stated lease period. The tenures of the product could vary according to the requirements of the customers and priced for longer tenures of 10 years or more, thus enabling ijarah customers to effectively hedge their longer tenure risk, said the bank.


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


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100,000 for National Service in New 2007 Sessions

PETALING JAYA: For National Service next year, the National Service Department has proposed to allocate one day in the three-month period for trainees' family members to visit the camp grounds. In a press statement, National Service Training Council chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said that this would allow the family members of the trainees to understand better the facilities provided. "It will also give them a better idea of what the trainees go through, and hopefully this effort will clear up all doubts and misunderstanding this programme," he said. Currently parents and family members are allowed to visit the trainees twice a month -on the first and third Sunday of the month (or on Saturdays, for east coast states) - but they can only visit at the allocated areas. He also said the new sessions in 2007 would comprise 100,000 trainees. Their names will be published in the local papers in November. For the time being, those who are born in 1989 can check the site www.khidmatnegara.gov.my to check if they have been selected for National Service. The first batch will leave for National Service from Jan 1 to March 11, the second batch from March 18 to June 9, and the third batch from June 17 to Sept 8.


From http://thestar.com.my 10/23/2006


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PHILIPPINES: Civil Service Exams Seem Tough for Llocos Aspirants

Is the civil service examination among the hardest of government tests? At least for examinees in the Ilocos, this would seem so as only between 4 and 10 percent of them passed the career service exams this year, records from the Civil Service Commission*s provincial office here showed. The national passing rate ranges from 6-10 percent. The CSC said only 115 of the 2,354 examinees, representing 4.88 percent, passed the career service professional examinations in the Ilocos in July. For the sub-professional exams, 70 of 799 examinees passed, representing 8.76 percent. The examinations, a requirement for people seeking employment and tenure in government, were conducted in this capital town of Pangasinan, in San Fernando City, La Union, and in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. The passing rate for the April exams was a bit higher, CSC records showed. Some 240 of 2,594 (9.25 percent) passed the professional exams while 76 of 954 (7.97 percent) passed the sub-professional level. John Cruz Rivera, CSC Pangasinan director, said the passing rate is just about the same through the years. ※It hardly goes beyond 10 percent,§ Rivera said. He said examinees would usually score low in mathematics and language tests. Rivera said their records also showed that the younger examinees, or those fresh out of college, had better chances of passing the examinations. ※It seems that the younger examinees were better prepared than the older examinees,§ he said. He said the civil service exams* passing rate is much lower than the professional licensure examinations (nursing, law, medicine) because ※some schools screen the students who will take the exams and the students review before taking these.§ ※In the civil service exams, it is &free-for-all* and the examinees hardly prepare for it,§ he said. ※Most of them just want to try their luck and take the civil service so that if one day they want to join the government service, they have the eligibility.*§ He said the civil service exams have also been liberalized since 2003. ※Anybody can now take them, even those who just finished elementary grades. But not many undergraduate students take the exams despite the liberalization,§ he said.


From http://news.inq7.net/ 10/14/2006


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SPRING Unveils Initiative to Help SMEs Develop Business Strategies

SPRING Singapore has unveiled a new initiative to help SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) develop and implement growth strategies. This comes after discovering that only one third of them have a systematic plan. SPRING Singapore wants small firms to get SMART, which stands for SME Management Action for Results. That is the name of its latest $4 million initiative aimed at boosting Singapore companies' business management capabilities. "It's about putting in place systems and processes to help the company execute the strategy, and usually covers about 7 dimensions ranging from leadership, planning process to information flow," says Png Cheong Boon, acting chief executive of SPRING Singapore. SPRING says a business excellence framework allows companies to measure and evaluate their internal systems, processes and results systematically. And being able to learn about and deploy such a framework will help smaller Singapore firms close the knowledge gap with larger ones. Minister Lim Swee Say says small and medium-sized firms need extra help because they tend to have limited resources. Many bosses keep business plans in their heads and share them in an ad hoc manner. And Mr Lim says they may find it overwhelming to invest time and money to learn and adopt some best practices. "A pool of qualified consultants will be assigned to assist SMEs on their journeys towards business excellence. SPRING Singapore will also help defray part of the costs," says Minister Lim Swee Say, Prime Minister's Office. Packaging firm Teckwah Industrial is one small firm that has already embraced a business excellence framework to grow its business. While adopting it may not necessarily boost margins, it sends a positive signal to potential business partners. "We don't expect customers to pay us more. But I can be assured that the customers will see us as a long-term business partner. And they will have the confidence in us," says Chua Kee Seng, chairman of Techwah Industrial. Some 300 SMEs are expected to benefit from the SMART Initiative.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/12/2006


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Singaporeans Support Government's Proactive Approach to Get Feedback

SINGAPORE: The government has revamped a feedback group to get more young Singaporeans interested in national policies. Many think it is commendable that the government is taking proactive steps to get feedback. Political analysts feel that the revamp of the Feedback Unit -- now called REACH -- is aimed at involving young Singaporeans in policy making. As it is often assumed that young Singaporeans are rarely interested in national policies, the government is attempting to change that perception by tapping on the latest communication gadgets to reach out to them. This move has got some young citizens interested. One of those interviewed said: "It will help, maybe improve and understand the government's stance and the government will in turn understand the residents' and citizens' stance." Another said: "Everybody is shifting into the internet era and more people are learning how to write and give their ideas. I think it is a very good move." One of them also commented that it is better for Singaporeans to air their views, rather than feel disgruntled about situations. Some, however, remain unconvinced. One Singaporean said: ※I think ultimately it comes down to the black hole once again. It's all bound by bureaucratic laws." Dr Terence Chong, Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said: "Cynicism will still persist definitely but I think there's a sincere move on REACH's part to actually address these concerns." "This seems to me a calculated move to reach out to the digital generation - the young group of Singaporeans that PM Lee addressed specifically in the National Day Rally speech. This is, of course, to try and get them onboard in the policy-making process to get their ideas and visions and aspirations here," he added. With REACH, there will likely be an increase in the number of comments via the new media like blogs and SMS, with Singaporeans gauging the government's response. Ultimately, Singaporeans will want to see evidence of their feedback being incorporated into national policies.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/13/2006


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SINGAPORE: 4 Companies Receive Top Awards for Innovative Infocomm Technology Use

SINGAPORE: Innovative use of infocomm technology to enhance work and play has won four companies top awards in Singapore. Given out once every two years, it aims to encourage industry players to get creative in using infocomm technology to design products and services. For example Activate XGame, the world's first cross-platform multiplayer system, allows users to continue playing multi-player online games while on the move using their mobile phones. Developed locally, it currently supports five games with three new ones to be launched next year. "We are launching this game in eight countries in Asia. A lot of telcos are all very excited actually to publicise our game together with us. We are expanding right now to China, Europe, US, liaising with all the telcos there," said Leslie Wou, CEO, Activate Interactive. XID Technologies won an award for its "VideoPersonaliser". It allows users to animate an uploaded image of themselves or insert their picture into a movie trailer. Over at Woodlands checkpoint, many travellers are inserting their passports into immigration clearance gates. The $7m Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance system is being installed at the Budget Terminal and Changi Airport Terminal One and will be implemented at all checkpoints in Singapore by the end of the year. 3 million Singaporeans are registered to use the system, and there are plans to extend this. "We are looking at work permit holders, whom we already have their thumb prints with us. We are thinking of Singapore PRs also," said Eric Chua, Director, Planning and Technology, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. The system also helps to free up resources. For example, officers, who used to man the immigration counters, have been redeployed to conduct more intensive checks on high-risk travellers and goods. Efficient tracking of goods and work flow management have helped clinched an award for PSA Corporation. Its integrated system, called the Collaborative Port Community Solution, links the entire shipping community and has clocked 90 million transactions so far. PSA says the solution will save more than $100m for the shipping industry over three years. A special two-part series on the companies and their winning entries will be aired on Channel NewsAsia on the 12th and 19th of October.


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


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THAILAND: In Pursuit of Good Governance

'What will you do with your first paycheque?'' seems like a basic question to ask a potential employee to deduce his or her skills in financial management. But the response to this simple question is crucial to the fate of an applicant who wants to work for the Siam Cement Group, Thailand's largest industrial conglomerate. ''Applicants driven by self-achievement appear to have talent, but tend to be less able to work in a team. So, most fail to get through as they wouldn't fit in with our corporate culture,'' says Manoon Sunkunakorn, director of Siam Cement's corporate human resources division. As well as helping to asses teamwork ability, this kind of psychological question is designed to analyse an applicant's ethical tendencies _ one of the core criteria in the group's recruitment process. Asking questions such as this in an interview is the most effective way to assess an individual's potential, ethics and integrity, he says. Siam Cement has witnessed cases of fraud, abuse of power and corruption, particularly involving executives who lack good governance and ethics. Apart from establishing an efficient recruitment process, the company has a policy to associate itself with ''clean and transparent'' partners and distance itself from political alliances, says Mr Manoon. ''In the future, corporate governance will become a main concern when consumers decide which companies and services to use,'' he says. According to Chavalit Ekabut, president of Siam Pulp and Paper, a subsidiary of Siam Cement, as well as looking for competence in a potential employee, the company also places a priority on integrity.

''Doing well by doing good is a key message of corporate governance, so good people are the key to success,'' says Mr Chavalit. ''You can learn from scandals such as Enron.'' The US energy giant Enron was brought down by three top executives charged with concealing debts and making shady deals, generating handsome but questionable profits on paper. The situation implied that the human resource system was ineffectual, says Mr Chavalit. ''To ensure our executives do business in a proper manner and to help us strengthen our corporate culture focused on profitability and strict compliance with business ethics, we intend to recruit only people with potential to get along well with our culture,'' he says. Siam Cement categorises its more than 20,000 employees into three levels: management, commanding and operational. One successful applicant revealed that she had to complete several psychological tests led by a group of company executives from different departments. She said that Siam Cement was able to source people in a more systematic manner than that of other large firms. ''From my experience, each place has its unique style, but some large firms may develop odd practices,'' she said. ''The noticeable point was the interview session where members from different departments attended to see whether I was the one who could get along with their culture or not,'' she added.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 10/10/2006


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BANGLADESH: Scientific Edn System Vital for Development: Young Professionals Tell Nagorik Committee Dialogue

Young professionals at a dialogue yesterday underscored the need for unified and scientific education system and bringing a change in the political culture for overall development of the country. If the education system is appropriate, many of the existing problems would be eliminated while the 'political dynasty' should be stopped for flourishing democracy, they said, adding that frequent amendments to the constitution for serving the cause of the individual should be stopped. The Nagorik Committee 2006 organised the dialogue at Brac centre in the capital with collaboration of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), The Prothom Alo, The Daily Star and Channel i as part of its quest for preparing a vision paper for Bangladesh in 2021.The meeting congratulated Dr Muhammad Yunus, who is also a member of the Nagorik Committee, for winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Pressure from the political parties destroyed most of the professional bodies, the young professionals said.There should be a provision that no one should be elected prime minister for more than two terms and the members of parliament should be allowed to express their opinion beyond party stand, they said. They demanded transparent ballot boxes and underscored the need for a provision for negative vote in the ballot paper.

The young professionals also suggested reducing imbalance of salary structure between public and private sector employees for reducing corruption. Sixty-two young professionals involved in teaching, law practice, banking, journalism, research, agriculture, garment export, information technology, architecture, engineering, and business took part in the discussion. In his presidential speech, Prof Zafar Iqbal suggested that the Nagorik Committee bring the education issue at the top of its priority list. The young professionals rightly pointed out education as the main problem in the country, he said. Prof Rehman Sobhan, convenor of the Nagorik Committee, urged the young professionals to take charge of the country with passion and commitment. He recalled that it was the younger generation who had taken the leading role in preparing the manifesto of the country's independence. Nagorik Committee member ASM Shahjahan suggested turning the politicians' faces towards lights for resolving problems. The young professionals got locked into a debate on the question of what role the Nobel prize winner Dr Muhammad Yunus should play in the next election.

Several speakers suggested giving him the charge as chief of the caretaker government for holding a free and fair election while some others observed that Yunus should remain above party politics and out of all controversies.The next-day world will be divided into two groups -- efficient and inefficient, Editor of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam said, adding that Bangladesh should try its best so that it does not fall in the inefficient group. He suggested the young professionals to acquire knowledge from the world at large and utilise those for development of the country. Anam spoke for an intelligent patriotism of the people instead of blind patriotism. People should feel proud that we have an independent and sovereign country that many peoples cannot achieve even after fighting for long, he said. CPD Member Secretary Debapriya Bhattacharya conducted the discussion.The young professionals who took part in the discussion include: Monir uddin Ahmed, engineer S Fahim, Ashiful Bashar, Shamim Ahsan, Mujibur Rahman, Suman Kumar Mitra, Shakhawat Hossain Khan, Sadrul Majumder, Dr Rifat Zaman, Sumana Sharmeen, Amit Dasgupta, Hishamuddin Chisti, Tarin Hossain, Suman Salahuddin, Syed S Kaiser, Farhana Sharmeen, Mostafizur Rahman Khan, Nazim Farhan Chowdhury, Ali Baset Chowdhury, barrister Tania Ameer, Tazim Anwar, Kamruzzaman, Azad Bin Mahfuz, Moshahida Sultana, Munni Saha, Shakil Ahmed, Monjur Elahi, and Iad Ali Fakir.


From http://www.thedailystar.net 10/15/2006


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Bangladesh Should Focus More on Capacity Building

Bangladesh, along with other least developed countries (LDCs), should focus more on trade-related capacity building for gaining from international trade in the long run. At the same time the country should avoid accepting technical assistance, as it requires hiring foreign experts and paying them high remunerations. The views came at a roundtable titled 'Bangladesh Agenda on Implementation of the WTO Ministerial Decision on Duty-Free and Quota-Free Market Access' organised by Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) on Monday in the capital. Speaking at the programme, former commerce secretary Sohel Ahmed said most of the export goods produced in Bangladesh are low-end products. Only skilled human resources and technologies can make high-end products, which will boost exports, he added.§ We should stick to 100 percent duty free market access of our products to the US and Japan, not quota-free access, as it has already been phased out."He lamented Bangladesh has not taken any steps to negotiate on the mode-4 that deals with the temporary movements of workforces, although the country has immense opportunities. The country may lose chances in future if it fails to conduct negotiations with the labour-hungry countries, Ahmed said. He added neighbouring India's negotiations with many developed countries regarding sending IT professionals are going to be successful.BFTI Executive Director Professor Shshir K Deb said as a net food import country, Bangladesh can lead the LDC group to put special emphasis on food aid. As a leader of the LDC group, Bangladesh can also make efforts to forge a common front with other groups including African group to realise the respective objectives, said Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Adviser Manzur Ahmed. Abid Khan, deputy director of Tariff Commission, said there is a huge gap between the policy makers and experts on the WTO issues, which needs to be narrowed.


From http://www.thedailystar.net 10/18/2006


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INDIA: Institutions of Excellence Should Be Sensitive to the Aspirations and Concerns of the Society

Vice President Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has said that in today*s word of fast growing economy and business, the challenges of future would need to be managed by competent professionals, for which we need institutes of excellence. Inaugurating the Asian School of Business Management at Chandaka near Bhubaneswar, he opined that achieving the sustainable standards of excellence is certainly a formidable challenge and casts a heavy responsibility on all the stakeholders 每 the management, the faculty and the students. Shri Shekhawat said that the institutions never grow as isolated islands. They need to be sensitive to the aspirations as also the concerns of the society. It is important to impart the right values to the students and to imbibe in them a positive mind-set to contribute to the larger welfare of the society. He enjoined upon the students that besides building them as professionals, they should develop humane personality infused with high character and ethics, care and compassion for the poor and the under-privileged. Shri Rameshwar Thakur, Governor of Orissa, Shri Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Orissa, Dr. Prasanna Kumar Patassani, Member of Parliament also spoke on the occasion.


From http://pib.nic.in 10/14/2006


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Indian Economic Service Examination/Indian Statistical Service Examination 2005 每 Final Result Declared

08 candidates of Indian Economic Service and 15 candidates of Indian Statistical Service have been recommended for appointment to the Indian Economic Service/Indian Statistical Service based on the result of the Indian Economic Service/Indian Statistical Service Examination, 2005 held by the Union Public Service Commission in November, 2005. The list for the Indian Economic Service contains names of 08 candidates, including 02 belonging to Other Backward Classes, 02 to the Scheduled Castes, 01 to the Scheduled Tribes and 01 for Ph-1 candidate and that for the Indian Statistical Service, 15 names including 05 belonging to the Other Backward Classes (including 01 PH-1). UPSC has a &Facilitation Counter* near &C* Gate of its campus. Candidates may obtain any information/clarification regarding their examination/recruitments on working days between 10.00 hrs. To 17.00 hrs in person or over telephone Nos. 011-23385271, 011-23381125 and 011-23098543 from this counter.


From http://pib.nic.in 10/16/2006


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Skoch to Roll Out First Ever E-Governance Census Talk Back?

Skoch Consultancy Services, a strategy and management consultancy company, is conducting India's first ever-national e-Governance Census. It covers projects from all the states to map the spread and impact of e-governance on the lives of common citizen. The census will be covering quantitative data in terms of applications being used in every state and central government departments and also their usage in terms of transactions handled or hits. This will further be clubbed with e-governance report card that assesses some of these projects on various qualitative parameters like ease of use, reduction in corruption, affordability of service and efficiency of staff, amongst others. "e-Governance in India is entering into its next stage of fruition that necessitates that we map and document the spread and the benefits that are being accrued to the citizenry at large both qualitatively as well as quantitatively. It will also provide direction to the future course of action. We could avoid expensive mistakes through learning this way," said Sameer Kochhar, CEO, Skoch Consultancy Services. "There is no authentic consolidated data that tells us where we stand nationally. This will also highlight the best practices that shall be acknowledged as role models. India has been making steady progress in e-governance, it is time that we exemplified that," Kochhar added.

India's e-governance market has been growing. India is expected spend Rs 4000 crore during the year 2006 on e-governance, a growth of 30% from Rs 3014 crore during 2005. This figure is estimated to jump 35% during the next year. Driving this growth will be projects like Common Services Centres of Department of Information Technology that attempt at reaching government services to every nook and corner of the country. India spends close to 100000 crore per annum on the social sector. A significant drive would be towards projects that attempt at better targeting this spending while plugging leakages. Computerization of NREGA is one such example. Major IT induction plans are underway at both Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). The large-scale project of Ministry of Company Affairs - MCA 21 - is also aiming to digitize the company records data and fully automate the process. While the state-owned system integrator National Informatics Centre (NIC) has remained a majority player in the e-governance implementation space, private players like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) have carved nearly 12% market share for themselves followed by others. The census which covers more such qualitative and quantitative insights will be released in early 2007. Census was kicked off at the third Annual India @ Work Summit through presentations by various state and central government agencies on their current status on e-Governance.


From CRN Network 10/16/2006


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SRI LANKA: E-Government Forum 2006 - Capitalising on Government ICT infrastructure

COLOMBO: National ICT Week 2006 was kick started today with a host of events organized by Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka [ICTA]. The e-Government Forum 2006: Capitalising on Government ICT Infrastructure hosted over 80 secretaries of Ministries and Heads of Government Departments. The seminar commenced with Prof. V.K. Samaranayake, Chairman, ICTA making the introductory remarks. While giving a brief overview of ICTA's e-Sri Lanka initiative, he stressed on the need for the participants to utilise the full potential of ICT available to the government. Secretary to the Prime Minister Mahinda Bandusena, also addressed his colleagues. He encouraged them towards working for an ICT enabled Sri Lanka. Acting CEO, ICTA Reshan Dewapura, made a presentation on 'The e-Sri Lanka initiative and the ICT infrastructure available', while Programme Director - Re-engineering Government Wasantha Deshapriya, gave the participants an overview of the progress with regards to ICTA's Re-Gov projects. Dr. Shahani Markus Weerawarana, CTO, ICTA made a presentation on 'The need for standards, data interchange, collaboration and cooperation'. Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, next brought out the importance of ICT savvy government servants and highlighted how ICT could make their work more efficient, by staying connected. Mr. Weeratunga also stressed on the importance of the Secretaries of the various Ministries staying committed towards making their ministries ICT enabled, a message inline with the e-Sri Lanka development project being implemented by ICTA. Science and Technology Minister Tissa Vitharana spoke on the ever expanding digital divide and how the participants could contribute towards narrowing it. Overall, the feedback of the participants was positive with a number of suggestions and ideas being exchanged throughout the forum. This was a clear indication of the participants interest in the subject and commitment towards re-engineering government in Sri Lanka.


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 10/13/2006


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PAKISTAN: HEC Announces Universities Ranking

ISLAMABAD - The Higher Education Commission Thursday announced the first-ever ranking of universities for Pakistan. The primary purpose of the ranking exercise conducted by the HEC is to share with the general public comprehensive data on the key issues that determine the state of higher education in a particular institution, said Dr Suhail Naqvi Executive Director of HEC. The ranking is presented in broad subject areas, to account for the evolution of universities in Pakistan toward specialisation in certain disciplines. Another important aspect of ranking the universities is to assist students and parents in decision-making process and show universities how they compare to peers against key indicators. He said the task was carried out under the directive of Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz and was approved through a specialist ranking board constituted HEC chairman. The ranking methodology has been developed by the HEC Quality Assurance Committee through a transparent consultative process in which various leading international ranking practices and system were analysed. Speaking on the occasion, Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Atta-ur-Rehman said no ranking system could be perfect. University rankings are inherently controversial, and no ranking can be regarded as perfect, being dependent on relative weightage. Despite years of refinement to the ranking procedures the most prominent and widely used ranking in developed countries still draw criticism.

He said we have conducted the university ranking for the first time now we will start ranking universities annually and next university ranking will be carried out department wise. The ranking process was very fair, transparent and unbiased he further added. The ranking published is on the basis of data for the years 2001-2002,2002-2003 and 2003-2004 compiled in 2005-6. The data collected through this exercise was processed through the ranking methodology to obtain preliminary rankling lists for universities. The ranking generated through this process were presented to the ranking board, a board of eminent persons constituted by the chairman of the HEC under the directive of the Prime Minster, for final review and approval. While ranking the universities such private sector universities currently not meeting minimum cabinet criteria for establishment of universities are not included in the ranking. Universities, institutes imparting education via distance learning are also excluded. The ranking are based on data collected on the following key issues with relative weightage for each provided respectively, faculty (27 per cent), research (26 per cent), student (17per cent), facilities (15per cent) and finance (15 percent).


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 09/29/2006


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14,652 Lady Councillors Complete Training

Thousands of women councillors who have completed capacity-building training under the auspices of the Ministry of Women Development have urged the ministry to plan follow-up workshops as a refresher course. Some 14,652 councillor have already completed extensive training while another 13,348 are to undergo training after Ramazan. The 4.5 million-dollar project titled ※Women*s Political School§ has been funded by Norway and is being implemented by the Ministry of Women Development in collaboration with UN Development Program. Manager of the training project, Rehana Hashmi, said the training would enable the councillors, drawn from all the four provinces, to discharge their functions and responsibilities more effectively. The proposal for follow-up workshops has been made to the ministry by most of the councillor as they think this would serve as a refresher course, she said. Secretary, Ministry of Women Development, Mehmood Salim Mehmood told this agency Sunday the feedback from the project clearly suggests the need for holding follow-up workshops for the councillors. He also said that the ongoing training program would be completed in March, 2007. ※Women councillor have to play a vital role at the grass roots level and the training will equip them to fulfil the mission,§ he said. The Secretary said in Punjab 12,755 women councillor had been trained so far while in NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh 877, 581 and 439 women representatives respectively had received the training. Sabrina Javed, one of the project trainers, said follow-up workshops would serve a ※very useful purpose.§ She said follow-up workshops were required to ensure 100 percent achievement of the desired goals.

The trainer pointed that the project syllabus covers a long list of subjects. The syllabus included introduction of local government system, study of decentralization and its link with development, gender sensitization, advocacy and its methods, formation of monitoring committees and their role, budget preparation and approval, role and duties of political and administrative officials and their hierarchy in the local government system. ※Most councillor are in favour of holding follow-up workshops as they feel this will provide them with much-needed opportunity to refurbish what they have learnt during the current project,§ she said. Councillor Naseem Akhtar said, ※Though I learnt a lot during the four-day training but I sincerely feel follow up steps are essential in the larger interest of all women councillor and their performance.§ Another councillor Naseem Akthar said the training was highly rewarding but this process must be sustained. A tehsil councillor, Syeda Tasneem Fatima, said the training gave her ※courage and confidence§ and she would contest for district council at the next local government polls. ※As a result of the training I am now in a better position to come up to the expectations of the people of my constituency,§ the councillor from Gujar Khan said. Imtiaz Begum from Tehsil Potohar said, ※I learnt how budget is prepared, how we can include our developmental projects in it and other techniques of our job.§ Trainer Noshaba Mir also pleaded for follow-up workshops, citing similar reasons. A mid-term evaluation report of the UN Development Program lauded the results of the training as a significant contribution to the human development efforts. In view of the satisfactory feedback from the councillors, the WPS has also worked out a supplementary syllabus in collaboration with International Labour Organization (ILO), for labour councillors to effectively play role being public representatives at grass roots level.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/02/2006


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AZERBAIJAN: Parliament Discusses Draft Law on Private Guard Activity

During a session of the Milli Mejlis (parliament) deputies started discussion and adopted in the first reading the bill "On private guard activity," which was submitted to parliament by the president as a legislative initiative. The bill was introduced by the chairman of the permanent chairman commission for legal policy and city planning Ali Huseynov. Approximately 30 private guard services functions in Azerbaijan. The bill will protect property, transportation, real estate and over private property of physical and juridical persons. The bill does not provide for protection of physical and juridical persons. According to Ali Huseynov, the creation of such structures will not serve as an alternative to existing state structures. This is only the legalization of one more kind of entrepreneurship activity. Employees of such services will be provided with only civil arms. The bill also notes the terms of the arm's use. The bill provides for licensing of these types of guards services and state control over them. Deputies, on the whole, supported this bill, but made amendments and recommendations. Only deputy Igbal Agazadeh opposed the bill. He said that there are defense structures in the Interior Ministry, and their number should not be increased artificially. This will create an organized structure of armed groups which could later be used in conflicts between structures, and even disputed between the ruling party and opposition.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 10/14/2006


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IRAN: Structural Reforms at ISIRI

Iran*s Standards and Industrial Research Institute (ISIRI) announced here on Sunday that it has undergone structural reforms in cooperation with the Management and Planning Organization. According to Fars, Ali Asghar Towfiq, ISIRI*s chief, said the institute will pay greater attention to industrial research, which had been widely neglected in the past. ※The new structures and managers will give the institute a new lease on life,※ he said, adding that the institute will supervise production and supply of goods on the basis of compulsory standards. The official said the main challenge facing efforts to implement national standards is the lack of coordination among various state organizations. He said the institute has managed to achieve its targets in view of its facilities and support it has received by the government and the parliament. He said outdated standards, poor participation of business owners and university professors in drawing up national standards and the widening gap between the national and international standards are the main challenges that the institute is grappling with.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 10/10/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: I National Tax Forum to Take Place in Almaty

The I Kazakhstani Tax Forum "The Condition of the Tax System at the Modern Stage of the Development of RK: Problems and Ways for their Resolution" is going to take place in Almaty on 31 October, 2006, the conference organisers said at a press conference, Kazakhstan Today correspondent reports. The forum organisers - the International Institute of Modern Policy, the Kazakhstani company - LLP "Tax Expert" and the international consulting firm - "Deloitte & TCF." According to the press conference participants, the main subject of the meeting will be development of the tax system, perfection of the modern tax policy and the law enforcement practice in Kazakhstan. Ways for perfection of the tax legislation and administration, responsibilities for tax crimes and protection of the interests of tax payers in courts, problems of corruption as one of main obstacles for the implementation of tax and customs policies will be discussed. Besides, it was stated at the press conference that a Scientific Research Institute of Financial and Tax Law had been created in the republic. According to Eugenie Prokhorov, managing partner of LLP "Tax Expert," heading the Institute, the main areas of its activities are scientific and regulatory methodical studies in the area of the Financial and Tax Law, consulting and information services for persons facing problems in the financial sphere, as well as financial and tax examination.


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/18/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Forum of Public Organizations to Be Held in Tashkent

Forum of public organizations of Uzbekistan entitled "NGOs in establishment and development of social dialogue" will be held in Tashkent on 27 October 2006, the press release of the organizers said. The event dedicated to official opening of new public organization Fund on Support of Social Initiative, which was founded by Ecosan, National Association of NGOs of Uzbekistan, Fund Forum of Culture and Art of Uzbekistan, Mehr Nuri charity fund and other public organizations. National and regional NGOs, international organizations, diplomatic corpus, official and business circles will participate in the forum. Fund on Support of Social Initiative (FSSI) will be officially presented at the forum. The aim of the new fund is to consolidate efforts of public society of Uzbekistan to improve life of social-vulnerable layers of population. The forum will develop strategy on activity of public organizations for coordination of social projects and programmes.

The idea on creation of FSSI was vowed at the forum on charity and social initiatives, which took place in March 2006. Over 100 delegates from all regions of Uzbekistan attended the meeting and adopted decision on creation of the FSSI and agreed to cooperate further in this direction. The main tasks of FSSI are assessment needs and demands of low-income citizens of Uzbekistan, development and realization of national social programmes, search for finance and other material resources to enforce social prorgrammes and projects and others. The main directions of the fund are healthcare, education, social support, social infrastructure and ecology. The upcoming forum will be important event in uniting efforts and creation of real mechanism for regular exchange of experience, mutual support and deepening of cooperation of Uzbek NGOs.


From http://news.uzreport.com/ 10/26/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Innovative Approach Needed to Address Skills Development

Australia*s agri-food industry was encouraged today to challenge itself to come up with new and innovative skills development arrangements. Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sussan Ley said there are considerable challenges for the agri-food industry when it comes to training and skills development but there is also great potential. Speaking at the inaugural Agri-Food Industry Skills Council National Conference in Melbourne, Ms Ley said to build a sustainable future, all stakeholders need to work together on new and innovative training 每 training that is flexible, mobile and transferable. §The diverse and highly competitive agri-food industry presents a significant challenge in terms of training and skills development,§ she said. ※The challenge is to maintain a skilled workforce in the midst of changing cultural values, dynamic and diverse industries, global market forces, generational change and skills and worker shortages.§

Ms Ley said it is imperative that governments, industry, educators and other stakeholders work together to achieve better results. Ms Ley said that as agri-food businesses become more sophisticated, the industry will need more people with business management skills, such as financial and risk management, market awareness, leadership, natural resource management and information technology. To assist the agri-food industry to secure a workforce with the right skills and training for growth and improved productivity, the Australian Government is introducing a number of measures. ※The National Harvest Labour Information Service and extensions to working holiday visa arrangements are two examples of Government initiatives to address immediate industry needs,§ Ms Ley said. ※The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has a number of programmes and initiatives to encourage skill development and greater workforce participation across the Australian agri-food sector.§


From http://www.psmaff.gov.au/ 09/28/2006


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Progressing the Education of Gifted and Talented Students

Today the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP announced two new key initiatives at the opening of the11th Biennial Conference of the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented. ※The common belief that the gifted students do not need special help because they will succeed anyway, is contradicted by many studies of underachievement and a lack of motivation among gifted children,§ Minister Bishop said. ※When the special needs of gifted children are not met, this can result in underachievement, boredom, frustration and psychological distress. Gifted children from lower socio-economic circumstances may suffer and not fulfil their potential because they may not be identified as gifted. ※In response to these concerns I am announcing today that the Australian Government has allocated $200,000 to commence in 2007, for the provision of further professional development in Gifted Education for teachers.

※In addition, I am investigating the establishment of a National Centre of Excellence in Gifted Education, which would concentrate resources, coordinate and assist with further initiatives, promote a consistent definition and approach to gifted education, and undertake more Australian-based research. Currently the Australian Government has invested $3.2 million for key activities running nationally to improve the education of gifted students. This funding includes: $2.3 million for the development and national delivery of professional learning materials; grants of $10,000 each to assist teacher education faculties in universities to acquire expertise in gifted education; and $550,000 for over 50 workshops for parents of gifted children in regional areas. ※I am delighted to open today*s conference as this is an important opportunity to create greater awareness of gifted education, we need to ensure teachers can recognise and are able to support gifted students so they have the opportunity to achieve their potential,§ Minister Bishop said.


From http://www.dest.gov.au/ 09/27/2006


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Nairn Promotes Geospatial Industry Initiatives

The Special Minister of State, The Hon Gary Nairn MP has backed cutting edge initiatives from Australian firms involved in the geospatial arena. Mr Nairn toured Geomatic Technologies in Melbourne today, emphasising the importance of geospatial technologies in delivering connected government to all Australians. ※Geomatic Technologies is punching above its weight in the geospatial industry and sets benchmarks other organisations should seek to emulate§, Mr Nairn said. Addressing workers at Geomatic Technologies, Mr Nairn reiterated the outcomes of the recently held Online Communications Council, which he co-chairs with Senator Helen Coonan. ※With the support of my counterparts across all states and territories, we agreed to look for opportunities in all new projects to design policy, programs and services to make full use of spatial data§, Mr Nairn said. ※The OCC meeting backed some important initiatives which will elevate the importance of geospatial solutions for government.§ Mr Nairn also highlighted a recent United Nations Resolution which promotes the adoption of national Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) and land administration systems as key factors in support of sustainable development and environmental management.

At the recent UN Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific (UNRCC-AP) in Bangkok, a key resolution on ※spatially enabled government to support strategies such as e-Government§ was passed. Also, of note was Australia*s significant involvement on some important committees and working groups. Peter Holland, the General Manager of the Spatial Information Industry Advice and Facilitation Branch, from Geoscience Australia was appointed President of the UN Sponsored Permanent Committee for GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific (PCGIAP). The PCGIAP represents 55 countries in the Asia Pacific region. One of the four working groups to the PCGIAP known as ※Spatially Enabled Government§ is chaired by Professor Ian Williamson of Melbourne University, who is a passionate advocate and expert in the field. Mr Nairn said that these appointments highlight Australia*s leadership in this area. ※Spatial or location based IT business intelligence has great application in Australia and represents significant export opportunities for leading firms such as Geomatic Technologies.§ He said.


From http://www.smos.gov.au/ 10/04/2006


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Central Location for Indigenous Task Force

The opening of the Alice Springs office of the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force represents the significant progress being made in dealing with the problem of violence and child abuse in indigenous communities, the Minister for Justice, Senator Chris Ellison said in Alice Springs today. The Task Force is led by the Australian Crime Commission with support from state and territory law enforcement agencies and the Australian Federal Police. Senator Ellison said the &whole of government* approach to tackling violence and child abuse in indigenous communities was a key component of the comprehensive package agreed to by the Australasian Police Minister*s Council and Council of Australian Governments to restore security within Indigenous communities. The Task Force is one of the corner stones of the Government*s $130 million package to improve law and order announced by Minister Mal Brough at the Intergovernmental Summit on Violence and Child Abuse in Indigenous Communities in June this year. Senator Ellison said the rapid establishment of the Task Force reflected the commitment of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and law enforcement agencies to deal with the problem of violence and child abuse in indigenous communities.

※It is a national effort, reflected by the involvement of personnel from the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police, Northern Territory Police, and South Australian Police in the Alice Springs office,§ Senator Ellison said. ※The Task Force will collect, analyse and disseminate intelligence to Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies 每 to provide a whole of government response to address allegations of violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities,§ Senator Ellison said. ※Intelligence efforts will be underpinned by a coordinated program of community visits, undertaken in close consultation with local authorities to ensure the highest priority locations are included. ※The task force will engage with Indigenous individuals and groups through training relevant task force members in Indigenous culture and using qualified interpreters. ※It will build trust and relationships with people such as elders and women*s groups so they have the confidence to come forward, and it will work closely with related initiatives, such as the Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse in the Northern Territory. ※The intelligence gathered and shared by the ACC with all state and territory police and other government and non-government agencies will enhance national understanding and will provide an accurate picture of these very serious allegations,§ Senator Ellison said. The NITF will operate until 30 June 2007, unless extended by the ACC Board.


From http://www.ag.gov.au/ 10/05/2006


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Workplace Program Helping Separated Dads at Home and Work

Employers who are serious about doing something about the ill-effects of personal separation in a workplace setting have an opportunity to do something. Staying Connected , a workplace program developed by the Child Support Agency specifically to support fathers going through separation, is now available nationally. Minister for Human Services, the Hon Joe Hockey, MP, said staff turnover, absenteeism, lost productivity and workplace accidents have all been linked to the trauma of separation. ※Every workplace in Australia feels the effect of relationship breakdowns,§ Minister Hockey said. ※On average, one person in every 15 employees goes through a separation each year.§ ※Separated dads from the Melbourne Fire Brigade, Victoria Police, Australia Post, Urban Services ACT, Department of Defence, and the mining community in Kalgoorlie have already taken part in the program.§ ※The three-hour workshops help men stay positively involved in their children's lives and reduce the impact of separation on them and the children.§ Staying Connected was evaluated by Macquarie University 's Dr Graeme Russell, an international expert on men, work and fathering and is delivered by community-based organisations trained by the CSA.

Before-and-after workshop research conducted by Dr Russell showed more than half of the dads who attended subsequently felt better able to form a practical relationship with their ex-partner 每 for the sake of the children. Deputy Chief Fire Officer from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Melbourne , Keith Adamson beli eves Staying Connected has made a huge difference through less family-related time off work and healthier relationships with colleagues. Brisbane divorcee Brendan Spann - who works for Austral ia Post and has a 12 year-old son with his ex-wife - credits Staying Connected with improving his career and his personal life. He now has a new partner and is engaged to be married to her later this year. ※ Staying Connected came along when I was going through my divorce, and depression was causing me to take time off work,§ said Brendan. ※The program helped me see things from a different perspective, communicate better with my ex and showed me ways on building a business-like relationship with her,§ he said. For many of these men, it is the first opportunity they've had to share their story with other dads. ※It's good for the whole workplace that employers are recognising how separation affects employees and are doing something to help,§ Minister Hockey said. The program won gold in the prestigious Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management 每 the highest accolade in the government sector.


From http://www.humanservices.gov.au/ 10/05/2006


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&Smart* Services Report Will Help to Shape Mental Health

A new report on community-based support services for people with a mental illness would ※contribute to the development of mental health services into the future,§ the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, said in Canberra today. Mr Pyne was launching the Mental Health Council of Australia*s report Smart Services: Innovative Models of Mental Health Care in Australia and Overseas, as part of the activities for National Mental Health Week. ※National Mental Health Week provides an opportunity to highlight what is one of our most important health challenges, with one in five Australians experiencing a mental illness at some stage in their life,§ Mr Pyne said. The new report examines different examples of community-supported recovery services and highlights the role the community sector can play in improving outcomes for people with mental illness, their families and carers. It follows two earlier MHCA reports, Not for Service and Time for Service. ※These reports have helped to raise awareness of key mental health challenges for Australia,§ Mr Pyne said. Mr Pyne said improving access to mental health services throughout Australia was a key objective of the Government*s $1.9 billion commitment to reform Australia*s mental health system. ※The Government*s announcement on Monday of $538 million over five years to provide better access to mental health services through GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, and allied mental health services will directly help people with a mental illness, as well as their families and carers,§ Mr Pyne said. He said the Government would also invest $28.1 million over five years to provide support and early intervention for young people with signs of mental illness in their early school years.


From http://www.health.gov.au/ 10/11/2006


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Federal Government Awards $21.7 Million in New ARC Funding to WA Research Projects

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, today awarded new funding of $21,768,393 over five years to researchers in Western Australia to conduct 74 research projects that, in the medium- to long-term, are likely to produce results that will have a significant impact on the daily lives of all Australians. The grants have been awarded in the latest Australian Research Council (ARC) funding round and were selected from a record number of 4,834 applications. ※The Government is committed to developing Australia*s human capital and successfully deploying that capital to address problems and opportunities that will deliver lasting benefits to the community,§ the Minister said. ※The growing demand and increased competition for ARC funding is a healthy sign of a strong commitment from Australian researchers to contribute to our innovation capacity. It means that those projects that are funded, along with the associated researchers, are truly outstanding.§ In this funding round, research organisations in Western Australia have been awarded funding under the ARC*s Discovery and Linkage schemes.

Projects funded under Discovery schemes involve the conduct of fundamental research important to the national innovation system, including the people, processes and relationships involved in a knowledge-based economy. Linkage funding is allocated to research projects that involve national and international partnerships between researchers and other organisations including business, industry and community organisations to secure commercial and other benefits. Applications for ARC funding are subjected to a rigorous, independent peer review process that takes into consideration factors such as a researcher*s track record and capacity to undertake the work; the significance and innovation of the proposed research program; the approach to be taken; training opportunities to be made available; and national benefit. Discovery and Linkage schemes are funded under the ARC*s National Competitive Grants Program, a component of the Government*s 10-year $8.3 billion additional commitment to innovation under Backing Australia*s Ability.


From http://www.dest.gov.au/ 10/11/2006


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A More Flexible Copyright Regime

Anyone who uses iPods, DVDs, CDs or records television programs will benefit from changes to the copyright regime, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said today. Satirists, teachers, libraries and people with disabilities are also beneficiaries of legislation that targets copyright pirates. "The changes demonstrate the Government's commitment to ensuring laws reflect the continual changes to the technical landscape," Mr Ruddock said. The Bill, introduced to Parliament today, provides new exceptions that make it legal for people to record TV or radio programs in order to play them at a more convenient time. It will also legalise 'format shifting' of material such as music, newspapers and books. This means people can put CDs they own onto their iPods or other music players. "Everyday consumers shouldn't be treated like copyright pirates. Copyright pirates shouldn't be treated like everyday consumers," Mr Ruddock said. The Attorney-General added that Australia's fine tradition of satire was safe. "The Government has ensured the use of copyright material for the purposes of parody or satire will be protected," he said. The Bill includes enforcement measures such as proceeds-of-crime remedies and gives courts extra powers to tackle large-scale Internet piracy and unauthorised access to pay TV. The Bill also creates offences for people who circumvent technological measures which protect copyright, but it won't stop Australians from using multi-regional DVD players. Mr Ruddock said the Government had consulted widely in developing the amendments and would continue to listen to issues people raised about the Bill, particularly technical matters. The Bill was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for inquiry and report.


From http://www.ag.gov.au/ 10/19/2006


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2000 Australians Enrolled at Australian Technical Colleges in 2007

At least 2000 young Australians are expected to be enrolled in Australian Technical Colleges across the nation in 2007, the Australian Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, the Hon Gary Hardgrave MP, announced today. Hundreds are already enrolled in Australian Technical Colleges on the Gold Coast, in Gladstone, Port Macquarie, Eastern Melbourne and Northern Tasmania. Mr Hardgrave has signed 19 funding agreements which will allow all of these Australian Technical Colleges to operate in 2007. Of the 25 Australian Technical Colleges planned, 23 have been announced, with just two in Queanbeyan and Lismore/Ballina being held back by the regressive New South Wales Training Minister Carmel Tebbutt, and her government. Mr Hardgrave said he was close to signing further funding agreements, including one for the Pilbara ATC, which would also allow them to open their doors to hundreds of students next year. Progress is being made on the establishment of ATCs for Dubbo, Western Sydney and the Central Coast. The $343 million Australian Government initiative expands the options for thousands of young people in every state and territory and grants the opportunity to complete their academic studies in Year 11 and 12 while training in a traditional trade to Certificate III and IV level in these unique stand-alone colleges.

But at least 10,000 young people in NSW continue to be robbed of the choice and opportunity to undertake a trade apprenticeship at school to Certificate III and IV level because of the stubborn refusal of Carmel Tebbutt to honour her Premier*s commitments made at the February COAG meeting to remove impediments to allow Australian School-based Apprenticeship. ※It*s a disgrace that young people in NSW are being robbed of opportunities and options. They deserve the right to access the opportunities that people in other states such as Queensland and Victoria has enjoyed for many years,** Mr Hardgrave said. ※If Ms Tebbutt continues to sit on her hands and play games she must bare sole responsibility for robbing 10,000 young Australians of a choice, and a say in their future,** Mr Hardgrave said. The NSW Government continues to attempt to fool Australians with its hollow promises and trade schools, which are nothing like the Australian Government*s ATCs, as they will not offer trade training to Certificate III and IV.

※Young people in NSW can*t study anything more than pre-vocational courses in the trades at school, and by the NSW Premier*s own admission, these trade schools will be the same,** Mr Hardgrave said. The Australian Government*s $837 million Skills for the Future package, which includes 150,000 $3000 Work Skills vouchers over five years, builds on the Australian Government*s commitment to vocational and technical education. The Australian Government is delivering a range of initiatives during the period 2006 to 2009, and the Skills for the Future package brings this Government*s investment to more than $11 billion, the biggest commitment to vocational and technical education by any government in Australia*s history.


From http://www.dest.gov.au/ 10/16/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Local and Central Government Award to Elgar

At the TUANZ Innovation Awards 2006, Auckland, Waitakere, Rodney, North Shore and Manukau libraries have won the Local and Central Government Award. The award is for the most innovative local or central government product, service or initiative developed and delivered electronically to New Zealanders. These products enhance productivity and access to information.The awards focus on Kiwi ingenuity in ICT. eLGAR won the Local and Central Government Award category for its Smarter Systems Project, a joint initiative by the eLGAR libraries (libraries for the Auckland region) to install a single shared library management system to benefit their one million customers. The project, the largest joint IT project undertaken by public libraries or local government and is a first for this country, enables customers to access the two million record catalogues of the five libraries online in both English and Maori.


From http://www.i4donline.net/ 10/04/2006


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2nd World Forum on China Studies Lowers the Curtain Successfully

The 2nd World Forum on China Studies, with theme of ※China and the World: Harmony & Peace,§ lowered the curtain successfully in Shanghai Exhibition Centre on the afternoon of September 22. Professor Huang Renwei, Vice President of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Secretary-general of the forum, presided over the closing ceremony. In the two-day event, over 500 scholars from 31 countries and regions, among them 120 from overseas, delivered about 250 papers on 21 topics. There are 10 keynote speeches, and 40 presentations on 3 roundtable colloquiums, covering politics, economics, diplomacy, city, history, resources and energy, World Expo, etc. All the participants cherished this opportunity of academic meeting. There is a consensus among them that the innovation of China studies profits from the integration of Chinese civilization and other ones in the world. The research on China study is in a deep going way, transforming its focus from historical China to modern China.

These changes will help the world to understand China objectively, promote China*s own development and rejuvenation of the Chinese Culture, and will help China to be ※World*s China§ as well. The theme of this forum is a continuation and deepening of ※Harmony But Not Uniformity: China in Multiple Perspectives,§ the theme of the 1st Forum. The 3rd forum will continue to discuss China and China study with the thread of thought on ※Chinese Culture.§


From: http://english.sass.org.cn/ 09/26/2006


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Yogyakarta APEC Intercultural and Faith Symposium to Strengthen Trust

Promoting practical cooperation and building personal bridges between differing religious beliefs and cultures is the aim of the 'APEC Intercultural and Faith Symposium' beginning in Yogyakarta tomorrow. Organized by Indonesia and co-sponsored by Russia and the United States, the symposium on October 5-6 will provide a forum to exchange views on intercultural and faith issues and concerns. "To accomplish the APEC vision, there's a need to go beyond economic parameters. Initiatives such as this Symposium seek to deepen the spirit of community in the Asia-Pacific region, which would then contribute to the realization of our Leaders' vision of stability, security and prosperity," said Primo Alui Joelianto, Indonesia's APEC Senior Official. "APEC Member Economies are home to a great range of cultures, religions and spiritual beliefs, and this creates opportunities for us to discuss these issues as a regional community." said Ambassador Joelianto "We can draw inspiration and strength by identifying common ground in our culture and faith, so as to create a stronger regional community bonded in commonalities and acceptance. "Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Hassan Wirajuda and the Governor of Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, are expected to open the Symposium, while Indonesia's Minister of Tourism and Culture, Jero Wacik, will conclude the event.

Prominent speakers from China, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, the United States, and Indonesia will participate in the meeting. Discussion will centre around current topical issues and APEC's role in the region for building greater understanding between people, as well as efforts to promote practical actions to embrace diversity and expand dialogue among APEC members. The two-day Symposium will also undertake a number of field visits to significant local faith related locations including the Borobudur Temple which is the largest Buddhist monument on earth, the majestic Hindu Temple of Prambanan, and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Ganjuran that is a unique Church adopting a Hindu-Javanese style in performing Christian religious services. Delegates will also visit the Pondok Pesantren Krapyak or the Krapyak Moslem Center, an Islamic boarding school that upholds tolerance and moderation in its teaching. Speakers participating in the symposium will include a cross-section of representatives from APEC Member Economy governments, academia, the business sector and civil society involved in the promotion of inter-cultural and inter-faith understanding.

From: http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 10/04/2006


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Widespread Growth Likely in Global ICT Sector: OECD Report Predicts Heady Times Ahead

Heady days of 20 and 30 per cent growth in the 1990s remains unlikely, but the worldwide ICT sector is expected to grow a vigorous six per cent in 2006, according to a new report. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's biennial Information Technology Outlook report predicts the highest growth areas will be in internet-related investments, Linux servers, digital storage, personal digital assistants, and new portable consumer products. With the emergence of new growth economies - in particular China - ICT spending was up 5.6 per cent per year from 2000 to 2005 in US dollar terms. In the 30 countries making up the OECD including Ireland, ICT spending was up 4.2 per cent during the same period although market share dropped from 89 per cent in 2000 to 86 per cent in 2006. ICT spending is therefore increasing rapidly in non-OECD countries. China's ICT sector has experienced 22 per cent growth since 2000, and its spending in 2005 is estimated to be around the $118bn mark. Across the 30 OECD countries 14.5 million people - roughly one in 80 - work in the ICT sector and although the top technology firms' revenues are now 20 per cent more than in 2000, their employment levels have remained flat.In terms of international trade and services, increasing commodity prices and cheaper consumer equipment means the performance of ICT trade has been somewhat disguised. However, at 13.2 per cent the share of ICT goods in total trade is the same percentage as in 1996.

Ireland is by far the leading exporter of ICT services and software goods in the OECD, with combined exports of over $20bn in 2004.In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) the outlook is good for 2006, although the nature of investment flow has changed with manufacturing countries like China, India and Eastern European states joining countries such as Ireland and Korea as major ICT exporters. Mergers and acquisitions have driven foreign investment, and the value of cross-border deals in the ICT sector has increased 47 per cent. Indeed, ICT firms comprised 20 per cent of all mergers and acquisitions and although the medium-term outlook is good, there is concern that global interest rate rises could adversely affect company balance sheets. The OECD is made up of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Republic of Korea, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Britain, and the United States.ㄗBy Maxim Kellyㄘ

From: http://www.theregister.co.uk/ 10/05/2006


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UNESCO: World Will Need 18 Million New Teachers by 2015

※The world will need 18 million new teachers by 2015, UNESCO said Thursday, urging authorities to promote respect for educators as a way of raising the profession's profile and preventing future teacher shortages. In a statement marking World Teacher's Day, UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura also paid homage to educators working in zones ravaged by conflict. According to UNESCO data, the greatest teacher shortage lies in sub-Saharan Africa, which will need to expand its teaching force by 68 percent before 2015. In south and west Asia, another 325,000 teachers will be needed -- particularly in war-torn Afghanistan, where the teaching force must grow by almost 9 percent per year over the next decade, the statement said.§ [Associated Press Newswires] UNESCO stated that ※Nigeria would need about 4 million teachers by 2015 to meet the Universal Basic Education goal. The UNESCO country representative, Singh Abemanu, said that UNESCO's response would focus on leadership, advocacy and technical advice concerning teachers training and related policy issues such as teacher status and on the teachers training initiative for Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries.

He said that &any new policy on teacher education will need to be flexible and address issues, including how we train more female teachers in Northern Nigeria.*§ [Vanguard (Nigeria)/Factiva] A related piece on education in The Economist meanwhile notes that in the World Economic Forum*s latest Global Competitiveness Report, Chile is ranked ※as the world's 27th most competitive economy〞far ahead of the rest of Latin America〞but just 76th for the overall quality of its educational system and 100th for its maths and science education. In Puente Alto, which includes some of the poorest areas of Santiago, the capital, school directors suggest that more money, although welcome, is far from the top of their wish list. A teacher said what she wants most is better trained and motivated teachers. And that, she adds, is not simply a matter of pay. Relative to national GDP per person, Chile's teachers' pay is already comparable to those in most industrialized countries. As well as boosting initial teacher training and in-service training〞on which part of the copper windfall could usefully be spent〞teachers need to be made more accountable for their pupils' performance, even if that means losing their jobs, the weekly argues.§

In other news, BBC News Online writes that ※search engine Google has launched a portal to connect literacy organizations around the world. The Literacy Project enables teachers, organizations, and those interested in literacy to use the internet to search for and share literacy information. Users can search for information in digitized books and academic articles, and share information through blogs, videos and groups. The tool also allows people to find literacy organizations around the world using a searchable and zoomable map. It has been created in collaboration with the Frankfurt Book Fair literacy campaign (Litcam) and Unesco's Institute for Lifelong Learning.§

From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/06/2006


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Climate Change Could Devastate Asian Economies, Increase Disease Risk

Hotter temperatures and higher sea levels could devastate many Asian economies, displace millions of people and put millions more at risk from infectious disease, according to a climate change report released Monday. The report, conducted by Australia's main research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, predicted global temperatures will rise by up to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030, particularly in the arid regions of northern Pakistan, India and China. It said there is "little room for optimism" about the effects of climate changes in the Asia-Pacific region unless governments take immediate action to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Higher temperatures coupled with changing rainfall patterns, including more tropical cyclones, flooding and heavier monsoons could put millions of people at a greater risk of malaria, dengue fever and other infectious diseases, the report warned. It also predicted that millions of people living in low-lying coastal communities in Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and many Pacific islands could become displaced as sea levels rise by up to 20 inches over the next 65 years. "Local and regional economies will be hit hard from chronic food and water insecurity and epidemic disease, as well as extreme weather events," said the report, which was commissioned by 12 environmental, church, and non-government organizations.

The report's author, research scientist Ben Preston, said the region's poorest countries would bear the brunt of climate change. "For many of these nations, they rely on agriculture not only for subsistence, but also it's a major component of their economies," he said. "So significant impact to agricultural productivity affects the ability of people not only to feed themselves, but also to make money. "Global warming could also alter or destroy the coastal ecosystems upon which millions of people depend for fishing or tourism-related income, Preston said. He said many Asian countries have little or no information about the risks of climate change, and are totally unprepared to deal with its impact on their economies. The report calls on the Australian government to help developing countries in the region invest in renewable energy sources and better prepare for large-scale natural disasters. It also encourages Australia to review its immigration laws to take in people displaced by climate change.

From: http://www.usatoday.com/ 10/09/2006


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Rising Seas Could Leave Millions Homeless in Asia

Millions of people could become homeless in the Asia-Pacific region by 2070 due to rising sea levels, with Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, China and Pacific islands most at risk, says Australia's top scientific body. A climate change report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found global warming in the Asia Pacific region could cause sea levels to rise by up to 16 cm (six inches) by 2030 and up to 50 cm (19 inches) by 2070.Rising temperatures will also result in increased rainfall during the summer monsoon season in Asia and could cause more intense tropical storms, inundating low-lying coastal villages. "The coastlines of Asia-Pacific nations are generally highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly sea-level rise caused by rising global temperatures," said the CSIRO report released on Monday. "Vast areas of the Asia-Pacific are low lying, particularly the small-island states, as well as the large river deltas found in India and Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and China. "Sea level rise between 30 to 50 cm (11 to 19 inches) would affect more than 100,000 km (62,140 miles) of coast, particularly China's Pearl Delta and Bangladesh's delta, said the report. "As sea level rise exceeds half a meter, the area affected in the Asia-Pacific region rises to over half a million square kilometres, affecting hundreds of millions of people," it said.

"Large areas of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam are inundated and Kiribati, Fiji and the Maldives are reduced to just a small fraction of their current land area. "The report also said rising sea levels and increased rainfall would spread infectious diseases in the region, leaving millions more at risk of dengue fever and malaria. It said local and regional economies would be hard hit by chronic food and water insecurity, warning Sri Lanka's GDP could fall by 2.4 percent with less than a two degree Celsius warming. The report also warned of environmental refugees fleeing their flooded homelands, citing growing migration from some South Pacific island states already suffering rising sea levels. Some 17,000 islanders applied for New Zealand residence in the last two years, compared with 4,000 in 2003, it said. The low-lying South Pacific island nation of Micronesia has experienced an annual sea level rise of 21.4 mm since 2001.The report, commissioned by Australian aid agencies, prompted calls for Canberra to do more to combat climate change and to be more open to environmental refugees. Australia has not signed the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, and has rejected requests from Pacific islands to take environmental refugees. World Vision Australia chief, Reverend Tim Costello, called on Australia to review immigration programs to consider people displaced by rising sea levels.

"This is enlightened self-interest, because there are going to be so many environmental refugees knocking on our door, flooding here with the sea levels rise as predicted and...the failure of economics and crops because of the rain changes in so many of these countries," Costello told local radio. (By Michael Perry)

From: http://news.yahoo.com/ 10/09/2006


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World Renowned IT Symposium

DISCUSSION: Heralding a revolution in the perception and usage of IT in Sri Lanka, Microsoft will present its acclaimed symposium Tech-Ed 2006 to the local IT industry. Delegates will be able to experience and discover a range of path-breaking products and technologies due to be unveiled by Microsoft in the coming months. Held in Sri Lanka for the second consecutive year, Tech-Ed 2006 will take place at the Waters Edge Golf and Country Club, Battaramulla from October 25 to 27. Tech-Ed is Microsoft's flagship annual technology conference designed to expose IT professionals to educational and networking opportunities and face-to-face access to industry experts and peers. It focuses on sharpening the skills of IT professionals to enable them to build, deploy and manage IT solutions in a competitive business world.

The symposium encompasses aspects such as technical training, information and awareness on current and soon-to-ship technologies, and community resources. The symposium is brought back to Sri Lanka following the overwhelming success of Tech-Ed 2005, where over 500 key delegates participated in sessions held under the theme "Learn, Solve and Grow". The event proved to be the most successful IT event ever held in Sri Lanka and was evidence of the demand for large scale IT events in the country. Network Administrator of International Water Management Institute Shaminda Illangathilake speaking of last year's event said, "Tech-Ed 2005 offered my colleagues and me a rare opportunity to participate in an IT symposium of international standard. The exposure and learning experience we received at Tech-Ed 2005 have had a direct bearing on propelling our awareness of the latest technologies to a new level - we were able to experience hands-on, the technologies that would otherwise have reached us much later. Symposiums such as Tech-Ed are essential if Sri Lanka's IT industry is to gain recognition on the global IT footprint and Microsoft must be commended for its commitment to bringing its global event to Colombo."

Microsoft says plans are underfoot to ensure that this year's event achieves even greater success; it is expected to play host to 750 participants this year. Over 25 of Sri Lanka's leading ICT companies will also showcase their latest technology at the event, enabling delegates to experience the best of today's technology and the most exciting and promising innovations in the pipeline. Speaking about the upcoming event, microsoft's Country Manager in Sri Lanka, Sriyan de S. Wijeyaratne said, "Microsoft is pleased to bring Tech-Ed back to Sri Lanka for the second consecutive year and we pledge to make this year's event a bigger and better one. Tech-Ed is an unparalleled opportunity for IT professionals to gain new insights and experience into new technologies and trends, which will in turn empower them with the skills and knowledge needed to develop state-of-the-art solutions for the modern business world. The tremendous response we received last year was an endorsement of Microsoft's faith in Sri Lanka's IT industry. The vibrant IT ecosystem in Sri Lanka and its potential to reach global recognition was in evidence during Tech-Ed 2005, which attracted not just IT professionals, but members of the business community, government and students who actively participated in the learning experience offered by the symposium."

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 10/17/2006


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ADB Says South Asian Economies Can Become "New Tigers" With Better Governance

※The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Thursday improved governance, better quality of regulation and infrastructure can help South Asian economies emerge as &New Tigers* of Asia. The South Asia Economic Report (SAER) of ADB said South Asia, led by India and Pakistan, posted stellar growth in 2005 and has registered higher growth than its peers in Southeast Asia in the past five years, while high growth is forecast to continue through 2007. &While developments in India are clearly the predominant factor in the improved economic performance of South Asia, most other countries in the region have been on a similar trend, although their improvements generally are more modest,* said the report. #§ [Xinhua (China)/Factiva] ※# The bank noted that despite a shift toward liberalization, the region continues to be overregulated and is therefore not fully realizing its growth potential. For example, in Southeast Asia it takes an average of five official signatures to export goods and seven signatures to import goods, while in South Asia the number required is 12 to export and 24 to import, the ADB said. It said that common problems in the South Asian region include bureaucracy, a lack of coordination between government agencies, overstaffing and inadequate pay in the public sector.§ [The Associated Press and Dow Jones/Factiva] ※#

Its banking sectors have not only improved their performance over the recent past, but have also reduced the performance gap between themselves and other economies in Asia, according to the report. However, the performance in state-owned banks has generally been weaker than that of private and foreign banks. Restructuring and privatizing state-owned banks should remain a high priority on the reform agenda, it added. # &A unique opportunity exists to drastically reduce poverty over the next decade, provided the right choices are made,* said Kunio Senga, Director-General of ADB's South Asia department. The report, the first in a series of biannual publications on economic and development issues in the South Asia region, concludes that there is considerable scope for improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of government interventions. # It called for public investments to be targeted at areas where infrastructure bottlenecks are emerging, including electricity generation. The quality of the transport infrastructure also needs improvement, it added.§ [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

From: http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/19/2006


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6th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region (CIAPR VI)

The 6th Annual Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region was successfully held in Shanghai China during 18-19th October 2006. With a theme of "ICT for a Better Life: The Role of Local Government", the Forum attracted more than 400 participants the world over including UN officials, government leaders as well as NGO organizers at various levels, business managers, and renowned scholars. Mr. Yang Xiong, the Vice Mayor of Shanghai Municipal Government, H.E. Ali Hachani, the President of ECOSOC, Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, United Nation*s USG, made important addresses on the opening ceremony. Thirteen VIPs gave keynote speeches in four Plenary Panels. During the occasion, The 2006 Assessment Report on the E-government Development in China was released, and the UN Public Serve Award (the e-government category) was awarded to the Department of Industrial & Tourist Resources of Australia, while Mr. Fan Xiping, the Deputy Secretary General of Shanghai Municipal Government, won the ※Special Award for Outstanding Contribution§ to the promotion of the cooperation in the Asia-Pacific regional informatization.

There were also ten Parallel Sessions during this forum, namely:
Parallel Session 1: ※E-governance§ - Digital Local Agenda Awareness Raising Workshop
Parallel Session 2: Global South Development Forum and Parallel Forums
Parallel Session 3: Specialized Workshop on ※The Construction and Application of the Public Information Service Platform for Modern Logistics§
Parallel Session 4: Round Table Conference, Shanghai Municipal Informatization Commission - IDA, Singapore
Parallel Session 5: 2006 Global Digital Energy Forum
Parallel Session 6: GAID on E-governance Asian-Pacific Regional Meeting
Parallel Session 7: Worldwide Informatisation Seminar
Parallel Session 8: Access to Global Supply Chain
Parallel Session 9: Interaction 每 ※The New Vision of Cable TV§
Parallel Session 10: South-South Cooperation Workshop on Enhancing National Execution and Aid Coordination in Asian Developing Countries


From www.apcity.org 10/20/2006


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CHINA and the World in the Perspective of Harmony and Peace: The 2nd World Forum on China Studies Opens

The 2nd World Forum on China Studies opened in Shanghai Exhibition Centre on the morning of September 21. Over 100 specialists on China studies from 31 countries and regions and about 300 Chinese scholars attended the opening ceremony. Ms. Yin Yicui, Deputy Secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee, Mr. Wang Zhongwei, member of Standing Committee of CPC Shanghai Commission and Director of the Publicity Department of CPC Shanghai Commission, Mr. Yang Xiaodu, Vice Major of Shanghai Municipal Government, and Mr. Wang Ronghua, Vice Chairman of Shanghai Political Consultative Conference attended the opening ceremony. Mr. Song Chao, Director of News Office of Shanghai Municipal government and Deputy Director of the Publicity Department of CPC Shanghai Commission presided over the ceremony. Mr. Cai Wu, Director of News Office of the State Council, delivered a written speech entitled China Studies and the Concept of Scientific Development. He pointed out that priorities should be given to China`s concept of scientific development and its road of peaceful development in studying contemporary China. By doing so, he added, great arena and opportunities will present themselves for China studies, enabling it to actually reflect the law of development in Chinese society and history. In his welcome remarks, Mr. Wang Zhongwei introduced the general situation in building a harmonious society directed by the concept of scientific development in Shanghai. He pointed out that it is meaningful to study Shanghai for the research on China`s development, for having a deeper and more comprehensive idea on China, and for showing the significance of peaceful and harmonious environment in both China and abroad.

Mr. Zheng Bijian, former Executive Deputy Director of the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, delivered a speech entitled China`s Peaceful Development and the Rejuvenation of the Chinese Culture, elaboration on the internal relationship between China`s peaceful development and the rejuvenation of the Chinese Culture. From the profound accumulation of Chinese culture, Mr. Wang Ronghua`s keynote speech, China and the World: Harmony & Peace, excavated China`s three-in-one concept of key values--harmony, peace and friendship--as well as its universal and historical significance. Other well-known scholars addressed in the conference today include Li Junru, Wu Jianmin, Tang Yijie, Chung Tan (India), Nicholas Platt (USA), and V. S. Myasnikov (Russia). They probed into the significance of China`s peaceful development from different perspective of politics, diplomacy, culture and economics. The theme of this forum is `China and the World: Harmony & Peace`. China`s academic institutions such as Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, Beijing University, Qinghua University, Fudan University, East China Normal University, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai University of Finance & Economics, and Shanghai International Studies University, take part in the organization and coordination of parallel workshops. There are 18 parallel workshops and 3 roundtable colloquiums, including `The Goal and Trend of Contemporary Chinese Politics Development,` `Discovery on the Theory and Practice of the Development Mode of China,` `China`s Peaceful Development and the International System,` `The Conflict and Harmony in the Process of Modernization of China,` and, `Communication and Dialogue Between the Chinese Civilization and Other Ones in the World`, etc., covering contemporary Chinese politics, economics, culture and social development. There`s a consensus among the participants that the conversion from `Harmony But Not Uniformity` to `Harmony & Peace` reflects the deep influence of the concept of scientific development, as well as the progress on the intensiveness and extensiveness of China studies. The idea of `a harmonious world` is becoming an important guidance for scholars all over the world in studying and understanding China. The 1st World Forum on China Studies was held in August, 2004. The organizer says that this forum will be held biannually, and will become an important platform for both sinologists and experts of China studies from all the countries. For details, please go to: http://chinaforum.sass.org.cn/


From http://www.sass.org.cn 09/21/2006


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Internet Users Ally to Sue 'Rogue Software' Producer

Internet users in eight Chinese cities have united to sue a major Internet company for plaguing computers with "rogue software". The alliance, covering Beijing, Jinan, Urumqi, Xining, Dalian, Tianjin, Wuhan and Chengdu, filed suits against the Oak Pacific Interactive for crippling computers with software that cannot be completely uninstalled. The alliance considered "rogue software" to include software that forced advertisement pop-ups, collected personal information or endangered assets when performing normal functions like downloading or playing files. Planning to sue one or two rogue software manufacturers each week, the alliance has brought to court major Internet companies like Zhongsou, Yahoo! China, Alibaba and eBay China since its inauguration on Sept. 4, demanding a symbolic compensation of 94 yuan (US$11.75) for each case. The Shanghai Morning Post reported that local government officials in Shanghai had drafted standards on determining rogue software to provide legal support for the fight. With a market of 1 billion yuan, the rogue software industry is driven by huge commercial interests. Statistics from the Internet Society of China show more than 130 types of rogue software are spread on the country's Internet, while 98.75 percent of 20,000 users polled by the Sina website said they had been attacked by rogue software.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 09/27/2006


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China Opens Internet Portal on Popular Medical Science

China has opened an interactive Internet portal to help raise awareness of health and healthy lifestyles. The website, www.cm800.com, features live video to allow medical experts and netizens to interact. Sponsored by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, the website offers a wide range of services. Netizens can surf online for medical news, developments in the medical market, health care information for different age groups and seek advice from medical experts from across the country. Besides the online system, video broadcasting systems will also be set up in major medical institutions, schools, public areas like train stations and shopping centers to teach people how to guard against illnesses and live health lifestyles.

From http://www.china.org.cn 10/02/2006


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China Targets US$10 Bln Software Exports by 2010

China plans to boost its software exports to US$10 billion by 2010, as part of its bid to evolve from a manufacturing powerhouse to a major player in innovation and services. To reach the goal, China's software exports will have to grow by 25 percent per year, according to a document jointly issued by the Ministry of Commerce, the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) and seven other central authorities. The document, posted on SAT's website, says the government's goal is to foster a group of globally competitive software firms with their own brands and intellectual property rights. Software firms will receive preferential treatment in regard to taxation, borrowing and foreign exchange controls, among other areas. In the face of increasing friction with major trading partners over goods, China has drafted an ambitious plan to increase trade in services from US$160 billion in 2005 to US$400 billion in 2010. The development of the software industry is a key part of the strategy, the document says. According to figures from the Ministry of Commerce, China exported US$3.6 billion worth of software and related services in 2005, a rise of 28 percent year on year.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/10/2006


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Real-name System for Mobile Users to Start

China's mobile phone users will have to register using their real names starting next year, according to the Ministry of Information Industry (MII). The new rule will apply not only to new users, but also about 200 million pre-paid cell phone users, Wang Lijian, dean of MII's News Department, said on Sunday. Currently, half of the country's 400 million cell phone users pre-pay for their mobile service provided by China Mobile and China Unicom. And most are not required to register before buying a new phone number. Ministry officials said the real-name registration system would help curb the surging number of mobile phone crimes. Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security suggest that most mobile phone-related crimes are committed by those registered under fake names. Experts say that implementing the real-name system may hit China's mobile telecom operators hard in short term because of fewer new users and increased operational costs. "The operators will suffer a temporary decrease in the number of consumers and short message services (SMS) as people may not like having to provide their ID cards for a phone number," Xu Junqi, vice-dean with the Policy-Making Institute of the Telecommunications Research Centre under MII, said yesterday. "The operators also have to invest a lot in updating their technical facilities and service network to meet the new requirement." Telecom value-added service providers are also expected to see their profits drop after the new system takes effect. But Xu stressed that the new system will benefit both mobile phone users and operators in the long term as it protects the consumer interests and reduces operators' management risks. MII experts participating in drafting the new system said that the system has included provisions to protect the privacy of personal information. Public reaction last December was almost evenly split. An online survey conducted by Sohu.com found that 44.9 percent of 1,911 respondents favored using ID to set up mobile phone accounts, and 42.1 percent opposed it. A survey conducted by China Central Television in September 2005 showed that 88 percent of the 12,522 respondents said they had received illegal text messages such as fake notices of winning prizes, pornographic information and ads for fake diplomas and illegal firearms.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/10/2006


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China Launches Website in Response to EU Rules

In response to new European Union (EU) regulations on chemicals which may take effect in 2007 China launched a website on Thursday. The website, reach.tbt-sps.gov.cn, was opened by the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and was designed to provide first-hand information to enterprises and offer them consultations and services, said an official with the body. The administration was also making efforts to discuss and consult with the EU regarding the so-called REACH regulation (registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals) which would oblige companies to register all chemicals they use, provide information about them and identify any potential hazards. The European Parliament on Tuesday started the final phase of approving the controversial new rules after three years of heated debate. The regulations are designed to protect the public from the adverse effects of chemicals found in a wide range of products such as paint, detergents, cars and computers.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/13/2006


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China to Develop Digital TV Industry

China will make favorable policies to nourish the growth of digital television industry that has a huge market potential in the next five years, said a senior official in South China's Shenzhen on Thursday. Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Zhang Xiaoqiang said at a forum held on the sidelines of the six-day China High-Tech Trade Fair that forceful measures will be taken for the industry. The annual fair kicked off on Thursday in Shenzhen, south China. The development of high definition digital TV has been listed as one of the 13 key information industry projects in China's development plan for the coming 15 years. A number of Chinese cities have launched the digital television on a trial basis over the past five years. China has made a set of national technical standard for high definition digital television monitors.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/13/2006


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Municipality Issues Regs Banning On-line Defamation

Internet users who spread defamatory information may face fines of up to 5,000 yuan (US$625) in southwest China under new regulations passed by Chongqing Municipality. The Standing Committee of the Chongqing People's Congress, or local legislature has ratified the regulations on the protection of computer information system safety. However, legislators scrapped plans to require private individual internet users to register with the Public Security Bureau after a public outcry against the proposal. The regulations stipulate that individuals who spread information or remark defaming others, launch personal attacks or damage others' reputations on-line will receive a warning or be fined 1,000 to 5,000 yuan (US$125 to 625). Those who cause serious consequences will be detained for up to five days. Organizations involved in defamatory materials will be fined 3,000 to 15,000 yuan (US$375 to 1,875). The act follows a State Administration of Radio, Film and Television announcement to regulate on-line "egao", a slang term to describe the spreading of remarks or film clips to satirize others or social phenomena. Computer information systems and institutions that have access to the internet are required to be registered with the police if they have an internet connection. The regulations also set out penalties for producing, inputting, and spreading viruses or other harmful data on-line.


From http://www.china.org.cn 10/17/2006


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Farmers Save 140 Yuan Each in 2006

A calculation by the Agriculture Ministry shows that Chinese farmers will each have an extra 140 yuan (US$17.5) in their pockets in 2006 as a result of tax savings. Since China started rescinding rural taxes and fees in 2000, the country's 900 million farmers have had their annual tax burden reduced by more than 100 billion yuan (US$12.3 billion). Efforts in favor of farmers this year include 14.2 billion yuan of direct grain subsidies and 12.5 billion yuan of other subsidies. The subsidies have dampened the impact of rising prices for seeds, fertilizer, diesel and other commodities which have pushed up farming costs. Central government subsidies for agricultural machinery and tools doubled to 600 million yuan in 2006 and local government subsidies rose 30 percent to 1.06 billion yuan.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/18/2006


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High-tech Fair Draws 450,000 Visitors

The ongoing China High-tech Fair has become more popular among local residents as well as industry professionals, top government officials said in Shenzhen on Tuesday. The fair had attracted 450,000 visitors as Monday noon, already 20,000 more than last year's total number of visitors, Vice Mayor Liu Yingli told reporters. The professional visitor index, which is used to measure the popularity of the fair in relation to trade visitors, rose from 207.1 last year to 257.8, the vice mayor said. In 2004, the index peaked at 153. He praised the booths of domestic exhibitors, saying they were the best he had seen in the fair's eight-year history. The fair organizer is not disclosing the transaction volume reached during the fair according to international practice, but Wang Xuewei, head of the city's commerce and industry bureau revealed that more than 94 percent of the contracts signed related to high-tech products. The transactions cover a wide range of high-tech fields such as IT, bio-pharmaceuticals, new materials, environment-friendly products and new energy, Wang said. Oddly enough, the fair started out as a local li zhi (a type of fruit) festival. Now a national-level exhibition that showcases the development of science and technology in China, it provides a strong signal to the world that the country is becoming increasingly well known for its high-tech innovations and as a hothouse of high-tech start-ups, the vice mayor said. "Many Shenzhen high-tech firms have benefited from the fair. Netac, Han's Laser, and Tencent would not have experienced such rapid growth without it," he added.

The fair has also become more international with a record number of 25 foreign delegations exhibiting this year compared with 23 last year. "The developed countries are here to look for cooperation opportunities and the developing countries want to learn from China," he said. Finland, a country renowned for its innovation, sent a delegation to introduce its high-tech sectors to local companies. Liu also recounted how he had to show the Mozambique minister of science and technology around two high-tech industrial parks at midnight at the latter's request. "He showed me his country's science and technology development plan on September 26 and has committed to bringing a delegation to the fair next year," Liu said. The Hong Kong pavilion is the largest ever, with a much bigger booth, more people and more organizations than last year. But Liu admitted that there is a long way to go yet for the fair in terms of becoming a world-class international exhibition. "It took the Canton Fair 50 years to achieve its reputation and scale today, and we (the high-tech fair) are only eight years old." Liu added that there are plans to reach out to more foreign industry associations, non-government organizations and chambers of commerce for future events.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/18/2006


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Authorities Act to Prevent Teenage Internet Addiction

As the Internet and online games continue to spread through Chinese society, the authorities have announced measures to prevent the country's teenagers from becoming addicted to the Internet. "We should make great efforts to develop 'green' on-line games, which are suitable for teenagers, and actively recommend them to teenagers," said a statement jointly published by the Civilization Office with the Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee, the Central Committee of Communist Youth League of China, the State Press and Publication Administration, the Ministry of Information Industry and the Ministry of Culture. The ten measures listed in the statement include the compilation and publication of decent books and movies and the organization of Internet-related activities for teenagers. The authorities said they would encourage young game players to set up alliances in a bid to promote healthy on-line entertainment. A 2005 survey showed 13 percent of young Internet users were addicts and 90 percent of juvenile crimes related to Internet addiction. Experts said violence, online chatting, pornography and online gambling were major attractions. The statement announced that technical methods would be explored and applied to prevent teenagers from being harmed by unhealthy on-line information and help teenagers out of Internet addiction. The authorities would also help set up more rehabilitation and treatment agencies for addicted youth. Response centers would be established to deal with complaints and reports of unhealthy on-line behavior. China, with 111 million Internet users, is the world's second largest Internet market after the United States.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/09/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Companies Committed to Inter-Korean Project

Chief executives of South Korean firms actively engaging in an inter-Korean cooperation project visited the North's border town of Gaeseong on Friday (Oct. 20) to verify the safety of the joint business project. Ten leaders of corporations participating in the joint industrial project arrived in Gaeseong on Friday morning via Dorasan Station where a South Korean CIQ (customs, immigration, quarantine) facility is located near the inter-Korean border. They will spend one night in the town with another business group that arrived there a day earlier to discuss ways to counter the effect of the recent North Korean nuclear crisis. The Gaeseong Industrial Complex was built after the historic 2000 inter-Korean summit and aims to combine South Korea's capital and technical expertise with North Korea's cheap labor. Before North Korea's nuclear weapon test last week, about 40 South Korean businesses had expressed their intention to set up operations there. The business leaders will, in particular, appeal for support from the chairman of the ruling Uri Party, Kim Geun-tae, who will visit Gaeseong to inspect the industrial complex during the day to show support for the inter-Korean economic cooperation project. Prior to the visit, the chairman of the Gaeseong Industrial District Management Committee (GIC) tenant companies association, CEO Kim Ki-moon of Romanson. Co., was quoted by a Yonhap News report Friday as saying, ※Currently, media reports present mixed interpretations about the Gaeseong Industrial Complex. So members of the GIC tenant companies association will show the firm will of continuing the production activities in Gaeseong by holding a meeting in that town.§

※GIC committee members normally meet in Seoul. ... But this time, we want to prove to the nation and media that we are able to conduct business activities freely in the North,§ said the CEO of a leading watch manufacturing company. ※Managerial staff from as many as 39 companies, including those who have already arrived in Gaeseong, involved in the cooperation project will be attending this meeting. ... We will deliver the firm will of GIC tenant companies when we meet Uri Party Chairman Kim Geun-tae at today's luncheon.§ ※Looking back on China's case, its first opening policy produced a successful outcome by developing the Shenzhen Industrial Complex in cooperation with Hong Kong. Likewise, the inter-Korean economic cooperation in Gaeseong should not be disrupted by international politics since the joint business project inducing North Korea's market opening is being carried out by private investment,§ Romanson Co. CEO said. ※Fortunately, the United States seems to be positive on the project. We hope the government listens to our demands carefully. These companies have joined the project because we trusted the government. It ought to protect our companies.§ Moon Chang Seop, CEO of Samduk Tongsang, Co., Ltd., shoemaker and another member firm of the GIC tenant companies told reporters, ※Recently rumors spread that the staffs of South Korean companies operating in Gaeseong could be taken hostages. So we will prove it wrong by holding a meeting there. ... In fact, people in that town do not even know what's happening because it is peaceful inside.§ ※North Korean workers working at Gaeseong factories do not directly receive their wages. But conditions have improved: They are aware of how much they are being paid because they sign their payment documents. They even volunteered to work overtime recently. The overall atmosphere in Gaeseong plants is fine,§ Moon added.

From http://www.korea.net/ 10/20/2006


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Labor Shortage to Top 4.8 Million in 2020

Korea is projected to face a shortage of up to 4.8 million workers in 2020 _ unless the country improves labor productivity _ due to a rapidly aging population and falling birthrates. The Bank of Korea (BOK) reported Sunday (Oct. 8) that the government should emphasize increasing labor productivity as well as producing a sufficient number of workers to maintain sustainable growth in the future. The Ministry of Finance and Economy also said the government should abolish a range of regulations hampering market competition across business sectors to enhance workers' efficiency. The BOK forecast that the economy will need approximately six million more workers by 2020, but due to population aging and low birth rates, the economically active population aged 15-64 will increase by only 1.2 million, resulting in a shortage of 4.8 million. The country's population is estimated to reach 49.96 million in 2020, but will fall to 42.35 million in 2050 and 31.23 million in 2070.

The nation's fertility rate fell to an all-time low of 1.08 babies per woman of childbearing age in 2005. The lackluster growth in labor productivity in the service-sector, which employs the majority of the nation's workforce, is expected to further worsen the shortage problem, it said. Service-sector workers will account for 63.4 percent of the total workforce in 2020, up from 56.1 percent in 2005, while manufacturing workers will drop to 24.3 percent from 35.9 percent over the same period. According to the central bank, the service sector's labor efficiency will grow by an average 2.2 percent per year over the next 15 years, lower than the manufacturing-sector growth of 4.7 percent. ※Unless labor productivity improves, particularly in the services sector, the economy will suffer from labor shortages in the near future amid the rapidly aging population and falling birth rates,§ the BOK said. The bank said the government should improve service sector efficiency, and create an environment in which more women and senior citizens can participate in economic activities. The ministry also said that the country should make the labor market more flexible and invest more in research and development.


From www.koreanet.com 10/09/2006


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Local Autonomy Key for Regional Economic Development

Korea's rapid industrialization in the past four decades has elevated the country among the world's economic powers, but it also resulted in an unbalanced growth between the metropolitan area and other regions. Reducing the development gap and facilitating regional economic activities has been a key issue for policymakers and local administrators as the country struggles to sustain its economic growth. Hanyang University's Center for Local Autonomy and Germany's Friedrich-Naumann Foundation hosted an international seminar to discuss growth strategies for local governments here and abroad at a conference hall at the President Hotel in downtown Seoul yesterday. Conor Murphy, Ireland's ambassador to Seoul, and Peter Rohlinger, former mayor of Jena, Germany, were among the foreign participants who joined Korean policymakers such as Park Wan-su, mayor of Changwon; Hwang Ju-hong, administrator for Kangjin County; and Park Young-soon, mayor of Kuri, to share ideas on local development. Ulrich Niemann, who represents the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation in Korea; Park Eung-kyuk, director of Hanyang University's Local Autonomy Center; Jeong Jae-gak, a researcher from the center; and Lee So-young, from the state-run Korea Research Institute for Local Administration, were among the experts to join the discussions.

In a paper titled ※Regional and Local Economic Development in Ireland,§ Ambassador Murphy discussed the modern history of Ireland and its national development, and how regional governments are gaining more power in local planning matters since the eight-year national development plan was launched in 1999. Rohlinger offered a presentation of how Jena, a city of 100,000 people in Germany's Free State of Thuringia, successfully pushed policies to lure investment and facilitate the region's high-tech industry sector after Germany's unification. Changwon Mayor Park offered a brief explanation about the city's plan to lure more foreign investment by fostering an industrial cluster for machinery manufacturing. Kangjin Mayor Hwang commented on his local government's efforts to improve transparency and accountability in governance, which he believes are the starting point of rebuilding the struggling local economy. Kuri Mayor Park offered a presentation of the city's urban development plans to transform itself into a tourism-oriented city, taking advantage of its many cultural assets and historic sites.

From http://www.korea.net 10/13/2006


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Information Protection Knowledge Portal Put into Operation

The Korea Information Security Agency (KISA) on Friday (Oct. 20) launched a knowledge portal on information protection, Secure Net (www.securenet.or.kr), the Ministry of Information and Communication said. It will include an official outlet for Internet users to actively exchange knowledge as both producers and consumers in the information security field, which has been monopolized by specialists, an official said. The government will be able to coordinate the interests of different consumers through the Net. Academia and research institutes will obtain a variety of ideas, while businesses will be able to find the needs of consumers in efficient ways, he said. The KISA, the portal operator, will attract some 700 specialist members by the end of this year and will appoint specialists in information security residing overseas as correspondents, he said. Content from the knowledge portal will also be available on Daum, one of the leading private portals in Korea, from November. Currently, some 10,000 theses from domestic universities, research institutes and organizations and reports produced at home and abroad are stored in a database. English, Chinese and other foreign language services will be introduced in 2008, the official said.

From http://www.korea.net/ 10/21/2006


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U.N. Department Reviews Korea's Information Project

A U.N. department has shown a keen interest in Korea's informatization village project aimed at narrowing the digital divide between urban and rural regions. A senior official of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, accompanied by some 20 officials from Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda, Guinea, Indonesia, Cambodia and Mongolia will visit an informatization village in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, to check the status of e-commerce and e-government there on Tuesday (Oct. 24). The U.N. department will likely review the possibility of developing the Korean program into one of the world organization's Millennium Development Goals, a U.N. initiative involving international collaboration designed to close the gap between the world's advanced and developing countries by 2015. Korea's Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has implemented the project. The Millennium Development Goals, adopted by a U.N. millennium summit meeting to mark the 55th anniversary of the world body in 2000, was conceived to jointly address global issues like poverty, underdevelopment and a sustainable development. The ministry initiated the informatization village project in 2001 and now has a network of 305 such villages across the country. The project won the World e-Government Forum Award at the seventh World e-Government Forum held recently in France.


From http://www.korea.net 10/24/2006


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MONGOLIA: "Anod" Bank Moves Toward Progress

The "Anod"--one of the leading banks of Mongolia--has been cultivating business ties with banks of the Republic of Korea and serves as a bridge between banks of the two countries. Since the year 2000, "Anod" has successfully been implementing a number of projects in Mongolia jointly with the "LG", "Samsung", and "Daewoo" companies. Recently, president of the "Anod", N.Davaa has had a meeting with Shin San Hoe, president of the "Shinhan" bank of the Republic of Korea. The two sides discussed on projects to be jointly carried out.


From http://www.montsame.mn 10/23/2006


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Two-Month Campaign Continues

The Mongolian Ministry of Education, Culture and Science arranges a two-month term campaign titled Educational reform and involvement of citizens starting from October 10. Under the campaign, the Ministry s working groups are getting familiarized with activities of all stage schools, kindergartens and educational organizations of 21 aimags and are taking proposals from citizens on winter preparation issues.


From http://www.montsame.mn10/24/2006


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MALAYSIA: &Internet-Ready Access Centres* in Schools

KLUANG: Internet-ready Access Centres costing more than RM70mil in total are being set up in 1,500 schools around the country. Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said that the Access Centres would be similar in concept to cybercafes, although its usage would focus on learning and to allow students to work on their assignments. ※It is different from the existing computer labs which is used to teach certain subjects. The centres will be a separate room from the labs, as the labs will be needed to conduct lessons,§ he said. Hishammuddin added that under the first phase, 1,500 schools would be provided with 15,000 personal computers and 1,500 printers as well as the necessary furniture and infrastructure. ※The programme is being rolled out as we speak,§ he said, adding that another 12,900 computers would be provided to 1,290 schools next year (2007). He said with the Access Centres, the ratio of computers to students in schools would be decreased allowing students to be more exposed to information and communication technologies (ICT). Hishammuddin said the Ministry decided to go ahead with the programme after launching a pilot phase in 10 schools in the Kalabakan parliamentary constituency in Sabah early this year. He added that to date 84 primary and secondary schools in the rural areas of Sabah and Johor have been equipped with Access Centres. ※The focus is on rural areas first, as I believe the exposure (of students) to computers in the city is quite high,§ he said before breaking fast with the residents of Felda Ulu Belitong here on Saturday evening. Hishammuddin added that with such centres, students without computers or Internet connection would not have to frequent cybercafes. ※I am worried with the number and frequency of students visiting cybercafes, as we all know that cybercafes lack supervision and this may lead to unhealthy activities,§ he said.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/01/2006


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Malaysia's Labour Unions Seek Extension of Retirement Age

LABOUR unions in Malaysia, both in the public and private sectors, have called for an extension of the retirement age for employees. In March 2001, the Malaysian Government raised the retirement age for civil servants by one year to 56. In the private sector, the retirement age is maintained at 55, but it is becoming a norm in the sector for employers to offer retired employees contract extensions. They are usually on an annual basis or mutually agreed by both sides. The umbrella body for public sector unions, Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Service, and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress strongly feel that all civil servants should be allowed to work until they are at least 58. The Pensioners Association of Malaysia has been pushing for the retirement age to be set at 60, while the Malaysian Human Rights Commission believes that people should continue working until at least 60. The Malaysian Academy of Sciences puts 65 as the minimum retirement age for government scientists, just like the Higher Education Ministry has done for university lecturers. Malaysian employers are also favourable towards the notion that employees continue working after the retirement age. Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said employees should be encouraged to work beyond retirement age because they are experienced and economically active. However, he said the cost of hiring post- retirement employees should not be high for employers.

Shamsuddin said that currently, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) statutory contributions of 11 per cent of a worker's monthly salary and 12 per cent from an employer are applicable for employees who work beyond their retirement age. "This ought to be on a reduced rate so that employers are encouraged to offer chances for retired people to contribute to the economy," he said. He feels that there should be an appropriate scheme or incentives for employers to retain retired employees in the workforce without having to incur higher retaining costs. The retirement age in Singapore reflects the gobal average of 62. Shamsuddin said that in Singapore, retired workers are encouraged to do jobs which are normally done by foreign workers, such as cleaning services or at petrol stations. "We can do the same as the life expectancy in Malaysia is increasing and male senior citizens can come out in strong forces to do those non-strenuous jobs. "This way, we can reduce our dependency on foreign workers," he said. On an ageing workforce, Shamsuddin said that Malaysia has yet to reach that stage, but it is moving towards that. "We should be prepared from now so that we can maintain our competitiveness," he said.


From http://www.btimes.com.my 10/24/2006


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PHILIPPINES: DepEd Plans to Set Up 300 Library Hubs

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus wants to set up at least 300 library hubs nationwide by 2010 in line with the Department of Education*s goal to make every Filipino child a reader by the third grade. Since the department is unable to provide and upgrade all libraries in almost 43,000 schools in the country, a warehouse-type hub was conceptualized, Lapus said. Library hubs serve as wholesale libraries, which exclusively services elementary and secondary schools. The hub provides access to a multitude of storybooks, anywhere from 25,000 to 400,000 books, bundled by subject area, grade or year level for easy access. These bundles can be lent to schools for 25 calendar-day periods, after which the schools must return the bundles for them to be eligible to borrow another bundle. Under the project, thousands of story books and supplementary reading materials will be made available to schools through these hubs, and teacher librarians who will take charge of the hubs will be trained. To date, a total of 21,000 public-school teacher librarians and school administrators have been trained since its launch in 2003. Lapus reported that the department has completed and launched library hubs in the divisions of Batanes, Davao, Naga, Bacolod, Sagay, Pasig and Gapan. Sixteen more hubs are under construction and renovation.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 10/15/2006


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Online Medical Library Launched

PHILIPPINE pharmaceutical giant United Laboratories Inc. has launched a 24-hour online scientific information resource center to support research and information needs of the medical and healthcare sectors. Unilab chairman Jocelyn Campos-Hess said the Electronic Scientific Databank (e-SDB) would make research work more convenient for doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. It is part of Unilab's commitment to address the continuing education needs of the medical and allied professions, she said in a statement. The e-SDB offers full texts of medical studies and articles from reputable international scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Drug Topics. It is expected to help keep the medical and allied professions updated on the latest trends and developments in medical research and technology.

From http://news.inq7.net/ 10/18/2006


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SINGAPORE: New Information and Knowledge Era Initiative

Singapore government continues to invest in technology-enabled work environment. Peter Ho, Head of Civil Service with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore launched the 'Government Executives in the New Information and Knowledge Era' (GENIE) showcase to realise possibilities of the government to creatively exploit new infocomm technologies. This was done through collaborations between IDA and industry partners such as Intel, Microsoft and Fujitsu. It is the first time three major multi-national corporations come together with IDA to set up a public sector showcase using technologies in research and development. "Computerisation was a logical step for public agencies to improve efficiency and productivity. It was necessary for the public sector to move from labour to capital-intensive, mechanisation and automation," shares Ho, "For the last 25 years, the public sector has creatively used infocomm technologies to transform the way we work to serve our citizens and businesses better and more efficiently. They government*s strategic planning has established a strong foothold in the development of technological infrastructure." Today, Singapore is one of the world*s leading countries that has successfully leveraged infocomm to gain a competitive edge over competitors in the globalised economy, notes Ho. Public officers are inundated with large amounts of information and emails daily. There is therefore a need for an effective integrated application system to manage information flow. Advances in infocomm technologies also mean that public officers must be mobile contrary to the conventional desk bound office. They will need to communicate using various electronic devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and computers, across platforms and geographical locations.

The government also recognises the challenge to keep pace with infocomm security through better management of infocomm systems. "Understanding and having adequate knowledge of technological developments is therefore vital to address these challenges. The creative usage of infocomm technologies in an innovative manner can help to develop a secure and collaborative platform for effective management and exchange of information within the civil service," adds Ho. "In line with iGov2010 masterplan, the showcase aims to demonstrate how our public officers can enjoy a seamless, exciting and technology-enabled work environment. The showcase will also provide valuable inputs to the formulation of the long-term strategy for the Singapore Government*s infocomm roadmap for the public sector. This further reaffirms Singapore*s position as one of the leading e-Governments in the world and an early adopter of infocomm technologies." The GENIE Showcase comes amid changes in an increasingly complex and fast-paced working environment where public officers have to deal with large amounts of information. Therefore, there is a need for an effective integrated application system to manage information flow. Advances in infocomm technologies also mean that public sector officers today need to be mobile contrary to the conventional desk bound office. They will need to communicate using various electronic devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and computers across platforms and geographical locations. The government also recognises the challenge to keep pace with infocomm security through better management of infocomm systems.


From http://www.pstm.net/ 09/27/2006


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Singapore's High Net Worth Individuals 3rd Most Wealthy in Asia

SINGAPORE: High net worth individuals in Singapore were the third most wealthy in Asia last year. Each person held an average US$4.7m, according to the latest report by investment house Merrill Lynch and business consultancy firm Capgemini. The report defines high net worth individuals as those with at least US$1m in net financial assets. Stock markets on the uptrend and generally robust economic growth helped to make rich Asians even richer last year. "You have positive wealth effects from asset values across Asia, you're having both stock market and property markets, asset values increasing quite significantly. On top of that, most GDPs of businesses throughout Asia are starting to rebound quite substantially from the lows that we had back after the financial crisis. So the combination of wealth effects and asset values and business doing well, I think, are creating very strong growth for these high net worth individuals," said Tony Raza, Head of Singapore Research, Merrill Lynch. A report by Merrill and Capgemini showed that high net worth individuals in Hong Kong led the region, with an average net worth of US$5.3m. China was next at US$5m per person, followed by Singapore at US$4.7m. Singapore also had the highest percentage of high net worth individuals in its adult population at 1.48 percent. In Hong Kong, 1.3 percent of the adult population are high net worth individuals.

Collectively, Singapore's high net worth individuls held US$260b in assets last year. Out of the 55,000 high net worth individuals in Singapore, 18,000 are of Indonesian origin. They hold approximately US$87b in financial wealth. Analysts say Singapore's open immigration policy has helped attract these wealthy individuals from neighbouring countries. The key markets covered by the report include China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Experts see the future of the global wealth management industry in Asia where the number wealthy individuals rose 7.3 percent on year to 2.4 million in 2005. Singapore is set to capture this growth by positioning itself as a regional financial service centre. "Maybe in the future there might also be possibilities of attracting additional investors from China and that might be a very big potential especially given that there is a strong cultural relationship between Singapore and China," said Dirk Chanmueller, Vice President, Capgemini China. High net worth individuals in Asia-Pacific hold about US$ 7.6 trillion, with China accounting for over 20 percent of this wealth.

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


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Singapore Announces Programme to Develop Government IT Manpower

A new programme has been set up to help develop public sector workforce skills to deliver, support and use next generation public sector information technology. Reports: Jianggan Li The iN*spire Academy is brought up by two tertiary educational institutions in Singapore 每 Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and Singapore Management University (SMU) in partnership with HP. The programme takes its name from iN*spire team, the HP-led consortium bidding for the Singapore government*s S$2 billion (US$ 1.26 billion) IT outsourcing Standard ICT Operating Environment (SOE) outsourcing tender. Announced last year, SOE aims to standardise the desktop, network and messaging system used by 60,000 civil servants in Singapore and four consortia are bidding for the tender. With NYP, iN*spire Team will develop and deliver training and certification in IT Service Management (ITSM) to technical professionals from both private and public sector. TSM has been identified as a key skill necessary for the delivery of SOE. It provides everyone a common language and process-based approach to use in planning, developing and documenting large-scale outsourcing projects such as this, helping to simplify and standardise IT processes. ※NYP recognises the increasing importance of ITSM capabilities in the ICT industry, and has been actively working with industry partners to develop solutions for companies to support IT service processes and functions, ICT infrastructure & application deployment, and performance management,§ says Edward Ho, Deputy Principal for Technology, Nanyang Polytechnic.※

Our collaboration with HP allows us to pool resources and expertise in developing ITSM programmes, and provide in-depth training for students and industry professionals. We are glad to collaborate with HP in this new area of the dynamic ICT industry, and look forward to working together with the iN*spire team.§ Aimed at senior executives in the civil service, the SMU curriculum will have a special focus on strategic change management. Managing change on many fronts is critical to ensure a smooth transition in the projects like the SOE project, in terms of business processes, technology, organizational model, human resource issues and customer management. ※With the support of the SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business and the School of Information Systems, SMU is well-positioned to facilitate the training of senior executives in strategic change management. Together with HP, our industry partner, we hope to contribute to the development of public sector information technology,§ says Associate Professor Annie Koh, Dean, Office of Executive Education, Singapore Management University. Academy training will focus on issues crucial to the success of IT implementation, such as IT service management, change management, process innovation, and people and market development.

The programme aims to: ? Develop a ready pool of trained technology professionals able to handle the SOE environment; ? Enhance the leadership and technical skills competency of professionals and engineers servicing government agencies; ? Grow the next generation of infocomm talent, helping to position Singapore as a global city powered by infocomm and; ? Meet the iN2015 objectives set by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), specifically to invest in people to help them become infocomm-savvy and globally competitive, as well as build up a superb national technology infrastructure. SMU*s Koh told PSTM that similar partnerships could be established to support other government IT programmes in Singapore as well as overseas.

From http://www.pstm.net/ 10/12/2006


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NYGH First Singapore School to Join Online Educational Community

SINGAPORE: Some 100 Nanyang Girls High School students will be the first in Singapore to join a global online educational community. Run by software company Oracle, the international website Think.com will enable the students to interact and share learning activities with their peers around the world. The portal has students from 42 countries between the ages of 7 to 16 communicating and collaborating. Students get their own personal Web space and can exchange email, create web pages, share photos, videos and learning activities. One of the features that makes Think.com so special is its secure online environment. Teachers moderate the pages while Oracle monitors the website to make sure there are no breaches. Schools also control registration to ensure that all around the world, it's only students who are logging on. Nanyang Girls High School is using the portal for its bicultural programmes, community involvement projects and overseas attachments. "After I come back from China, I can still get the chance to interact with my friends from China, via this portal. I have taken a more proactive role in learning because it's no longer listening to teachers talk in classrooms; it's also us putting up things on the Web to share with our friends," said Ong Si Ying, a student from Nanyang Girls' High School. "It broadens your horizons a lot and you learn that the world is such a big place. It makes me want to go out there and find out everything else that is happening in the world," said Tan Tianyi, a student from Nanyang Girls' High School. Another feature for parents lets them keep in touch with their children no matter how far overseas their field trips take them. "It's a very user friendly platform and I think the teachers enjoy using Think.com because they can monitor the children's work - that kind of discussion and that kind of vibrancy will be more pervasive," said Mak Lai Ying, Principal, Nanyang Girls' High School. Oracle hopes to be able to roll out Think.com to other schools in Singapore and has already invested some $4.5m in the portal just for the Asia-Pacific region.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/19/2006


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16 Outstanding Researchers Receive Science & Tech Awards

SINGAPORE: Singapore must continue to build up its R&D culture and capability to establish a knowledge-based and innovation driven economy. Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said while the next phase of the biomedical sciences initiative is targeted at translational research, Singapore will not lose momentum on basic biomedical research. He added that to help with basic biomedical research, the government will ramp up R&D capabilities in immunology and neuroscience, and more laboratory space will be available for the private sector and the growing scientific community at the Biopolis. Dr Balakrishnan also said that when the Fusionopolis is up and running by early 2008, this will bring together a broad suite of capabilities and talent. He was speaking at the National Science and Technology Awards Dinner, where he gave away the highest honour in Science and Technology to 16 outstanding researchers and young scientists. The need to cut up a patient during surgery may be a thing of the past, if a procedure, that is being tried out using automated robotics, is successful. "My current project entails what we call no-scar, no-hole surgery, so robotic manipulators will be introduced via the mouth into the organ. For example, now we are working on the stomach. So these micro-robotic arms would actually come out, when it is in the stomach, to perform delicate surgery, which are otherwise impossible, non-invasively now," said Assistant Prof Louis Phee, Winner, Young Scientist Award, Physical, Information and Engineering Sciences.

This procedure has been tried on animals and has so far shown success. Another project pending commercialisation is an automated colonoscopy robotic system, where a flexible device is inserted from the anus to check for cancer cells in the colon. This is to help make the procedure less uncomfortable for the patient and easier for the doctor to administer. "The current procedure, as most of us know will be introduction of this long and hideous colonoscope which is very traumatic and painful for the patient and for the surgeon, it would be technically demanding. So with this robot, firstly the surgeon can just relax and press the button and he can concentrate on his diagnosis work. As for the patient, he would experience lesser pain, a uniform procedure which is not dependent on the surgeon's skills,"said Dr Phee. Dr Phee's work has already resulted in a spin-off company and the device is expected to hit the market next year. Another recipient is Assistant Professor Yeo Yee Chia, whose research in nanoelectronics and semiconductor devices has resulted in developing Singapore's smallest transistor, and this is expected to lead to more efficient electronic devices, such as the mobile phones. "My team at NUS has made transistors as small as 25 nanometers, that is like 400 times smaller than the size of the human hair and we tweak the atoms in such transistors to improve the performance, to improve the electrical conduction properties and by doing that we make the electronics perform better or for given performance, we make electronics less power-hungry.

Take for example like the mobile phone. We will be able to enable more integration of functions into the mobile phones and doing that at the given power consumption, so less draining on the battery life," said Dr Yeo. This year, the highest award, the National Science and Technology Medal was presented to Dr Sydney Brenner for his contributions to the development of Singapore's scientific capability and culture. Among others, Dr Brenner was instrumental in the setting up of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and the development of the Biopolis. "I think that really is something to be proud of, that one can look back on 20 years when once was worth nothing and has participated in developing a whole Biopolis project and a whole new project of bringing medical, clinical and biological research together," said Dr Brenner. A*Star says that the winning awards reflect a deep passion for science, hard work and tenacity in finding answers to tough questions and they will indeed make a significant contribution to the development of R&D in Singapore. Other winners include a team that pioneered a sequencing technology that can be used to characterise the human genome. This team, led by Dr Ruan Yijun from the Genome Institute of Singapore won the National Science Award. In total, some 56 applications were received for the awards.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/11/2006


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41 Entrepreneurs Honoured at Spirit of Enterprise Awards

SINGAPORE: 41 local entrepreneurs were honoured on Monday with the Spirit of Enterprise Awards. The annual awards ceremony - now in its fourth year - seeks to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in Singapore. This year's winners were selected from a pool of over 200 nominees, almost double the number from last year. A love for in-line skating and a desire to share the sport with others inspired one of the winners, Felix Yeo, to start his company - Skateline. The man, who learnt to skate at age 40, now manages a skate school in Bishan Park and 5 retail outlets. He says: "I believe my passion for skating and wanting to teach people how to skate and get them skating as well, I think that's what really drove the business." It is the same drive that identifies the other award recipients - which include companies like Fact Software International and Edu21 Consultants. Steven Fang, President of Spirit of Enterprise, says: "I don't wish for us to be just a nation of employees. I think we are at a stage of development where we can build great companies, and in order to do that, we need great leaders." The 41 honourees own mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, and they are engaged in a wide range of businesses, from beauty to education, IT and communications. What these businesses have in common is the drive to turn their passion into a successful business. It is this mentality that the award organisers hope to pass on to the country's youths.

Students from local institutions were given the opportunity to interview the award nominees, and learn more about the entrepreneurial spirit. Alvand Gosal, Student at the Singapore Institute of Management and Winner of the Best Student Interviewer Award, says: "If you venture outside to ask the experience of the real entrepreneurs you can get a lot of insights. Like Akyweb, he said we have to pursue, we have to be strong as an entrepreneur. You have to strike as hard as possible. And for Saxon Woon, he gave a lot of insight into how to maintain a long term relationship with the customer." Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, says: "Who knows one day we may have YouTube from Singapore that's worth billions of dollars. So I think we want to create the environment where young and new businesses can start up easily." "They can try and experiment and if they fail, it's not painful for them to start again," he says. This year's awards incorporated online voting from the general public for the first time - with over 38,000 votes cast.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/23/2006


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THAILAND: New Software Supports E-learning

Human resources departments burdened by the need for software training now have an easier and cost-effective means to train their staff, using Epiplex software, which is now available in both Thai and English languages. ''This is a software product that will help companies achieve both time and cost benefits,'' said Manoj Chawla, managing director of Chawla & Associates (Thailand), the parent company of Umax Solutions, the importer of Epiplex in Thailand. Epiplex is a US-based company with development support in Bangalore, India. Its software captures processes in live applications, then auto-generates documentation and animations based on them for future use. The software, which allows novice users to navigate complex processes in an easy step-by-step process, already has two major customers in Thailand. ''We have managed to get Yanhee Hospital and Kasikornbank Plc as our clients and Kasikornbank has sought more licences for the software,'' Mr Chawla says. Globally, multinationals such as Aetna, Morgan Stanley, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Nissan, Toyota, Deutsche Bank and others are customers of the software. The Windows-based software, which could cost $10,000 to $50,000 (375,000 to 1.87 million baht) depending on the requirements of each organisation, is easy to use. It can capture each function a trainer does and then distribute the captured data to all those using terminals connected to that server. The software takes users step-by-step until the end and then tests them on what they have learned, grading them based on speed and accuracy.

''This is basically a KPI (key performance indicator) for employees,'' said Arrak Sawatpanit, the business development manager for Umax. ''If you install new software, trainers will train for a few days and then leave, and if you want them to come back to retrain, there will be a heavy charge. By this process, you can capture the training process and use it to retrain anytime you feel it is necessary to do so,'' Mr Arak said while showing the simple example of capturing the creation of some tables on a Word document. ''This is a very simple illustration to show, but it can capture sound and video along with data that is done on the screen,'' he said when asked if complex issues could be taught in such a simple way. The company, which started its sales pitch just few months ago, has received positive responses from some of the country's leading financial institutions. ''We have held positive talks with some banks such as Bangkok Bank and are hopeful something will materialise soon,'' Mr Arrak said. Epiplex, which is currently being used by the Malaysian government for various educational programmes, is serviced by technicians in Thailand and a support team from India, who could be brought in if and when required.


From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/ 10/12/2006


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VIET NAM: E-commerce Growth Hindered by Limited Use of Credit Cards

Trade in products and services electronically, otherwise known as e-commerce, is predicted to see a modest growth of 5 per cent in the next five years, and reach a revenue of VND500 billion (US$31 million) by 2010, said the managing general partner of IDG Ventures Viet Nam, Nguyen Bao Hoang. However, the lack of electronic payment services such as credit cards and debit cards would continue to hinder the growth of e-commerce in Viet Nam, Hoang indicated. According to AC Nielsen surveys, around 10 per cent of the world*s population, equivalent to over 600 million people, take part in trading electronically. Viet Nam is seen an emerging economy in the technology sector with rapid internet penetration of 15 per cent annually and a present 13 million internet users. However, while three-quarters of internet users in Viet Nam access the internet to research information, play games, chat, and e-mail, only about 7 per cent actually conduct business transactions online. Many local enterprises have expanded into e-commerce to offer customers quick, easy and efficient service, but online shopping has yet to take off, Hoang noted.

Viet Nam*s e-commerce is still in the infancy, he said, due to the shortcomings in electronic payment services offered by the domestic banking system, directly prventing the development of online trading, Hoang said. Only one per cent of the population has the ability to pay for goods online using credit cards, one of the most popular payment methods worldwide for shopping online. The banking system needs comprehensive reforms concurrent with higher use of credit cards to reflect higher incomes and higher computer literacy of the domestic population. Taxes and regulatory frameworks also need to be adjusted to accelerate the growth of e-commerce, Hoang stressed. IDG Ventures Viet Nam, the first American technology venture capital fund in Viet Nam, which is part of International Data Group (IDG), has committed to pouring $100 million into at fund and continue raising funds over the next 10 years to promote domestic growth in technology, media and telecommunucations, Hoang said. IDG Ventures has invested in eight companies relating to online markets including Peace Soft Solutions, iSphere Software, Navigos/Viet Nam Works.com, VinaGame and Mobile Solution Services.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 10/25/2006


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BANGLADESH: Nobel Laureate Vows to Make Poverty History

※Nobel Peace laureate and micro-credit pioneer Muhammad Yunus vowed to make poverty history as he unveiled new plans to transform the fortunes of Bangladesh's poor. # Yunus and his Grameen Bank, which offers tiny loans to very poor borrowers to help them become self-employed, were jointly awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The bank, which targets women because it believes they are better than men at running family finances, has given small loans to more than 6.6 million people since its inception in 1976. # Yunus has unveiled a string of new initiatives -- including health insurance for the poor, as well as information technology, solar energy and organic fertilizer projects. And on Sunday the former economics professor flew to the southern port city of Chittagong to pay tribute to the women of nearby Jobra village where he started his pioneering scheme. #§ [Agence France Presse (10/15)/Factiva]※# Yunus said on Saturday his selection for the award gives fresh impetus to the war on poverty around the world and new responsibilities for him. &It's very happy news for me and also for the nation. But it has burdened us with further responsibility,* he told reporters at his home in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. &Now the war against poverty will be further intensified across the world. It will consolidate the struggle against poverty through microcredit in most of the countries.* #

Yunus told a packed news conference in Dhaka his mission would be to make Bangladesh poverty-free. &Currently we have set a target to halve the poverty level in Bangladesh by 2015, and then to eradicate poverty fully by another 15 years,* he said. &I believe this is possible, given our sincere and combined efforts,* he added. Yunus said he planned to use the Nobel award money to set up eye hospitals for the poor. #§ [Reuters (10/14)/Factiva]※# Microfinance has played a central part in Bangladesh's success in reducing poverty by almost 10 percentage points over the past five years, to 40 percent, a rate that puts Bangladesh on track to meet its Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. Christine Wallich, Country Director of the World Bank in Bangladesh, said microfinance had bettered the lives of about 70 million Bangladeshis, especially women. While many microfinance organizations have struggled to attain scale and profitability, Grameen's business model is in rude health. Its loan portfolio exceeds that of the entire microfinance sector in India by a factor of two and its return on equity last year reached 21 percent, up from 9 percent in 2004.§ [The Financial Times (UK, 10/14)/Factiva]※Microcredit has become an increasingly powerful tool to liberate the world's poorest people, particularly women, from the prison of poverty and the power of loan sharks. It provides access to small loans to the world's 1.2 billion poor people so they can rebuild their homes, pay school fees or set up that tiny business that will enable them to get out of poverty. # Two key advantages attributed to microcredit are its ability to assist the remotest areas and its considerable spin-off potential. # Three decades after Yunus launched Grameen, microcredit has mushroomed. The World Bank estimates there are now more than 7,000 microfinancing institutions (MFIs), serving 16 million people. The umbrella Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) says microcredit has bucked conventional wisdom about financing the poor. #

Microcredit has its critics, who say its interest rates are excessive, or that it diverts money from large-scale health, water or education schemes that would benefit many more of the poor. # [CGAP notes that:] &An MFI must charge interest rates high enough to cover the cost of its loans. Otherwise the MFI will lose money. Its activities will shrink instead of growing.* #§ Maitreesh Ghatuk, professor at the London School of Economics acknowledged microcredit could not perform miracles. &It's not a solution for poverty -- we need other programs for that,* he said. &One has to keep in mind that it's really taking up a few dimensions of the problems of poverty alleviation, not everything.* But he hailed its considerable successes. #§ [Agence France Presse (10/13)/ Factiva]"# 'Microfinance can so powerfully transform the lives of poor people it does lead to a more stable society at the base of the pyramid,' explained Elizabeth Littlefield, chief executive of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) think tank." [Montreal Gazette]. ''Yunus was one of the early visionaries who believed in the idea of poor people as viable, worthy, attractive clients for loans,'' Elizabeth Littlefield added. [The New York Times]


From http://web.worldbank.org 10/16/2006


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World Bank Approves US$40 Million to Support Railway Sector

As part of a multi-donor, multi-year investment program of up to US$ 700-800 million, the World Bank today approved a US$40 million credit to support the Government*s plans to transform Bangladesh Railway into a well-managed, customer-focused organization. The Bangladesh Railway Reform Programmatic Development Policy Credit is the World Bank*s first major development policy credit support in the railway sector. It is part of a long-term strategic partnership between the Government, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), to help meet the transport needs of Bangladesh*s growing economy. Adequate infrastructure is critical to the continued growth prospects of Bangladesh. The project supports Government efforts to make institutional and governance improvements in Bangladesh Railways, as well as to improve financial management and human resource management, and to increase operational efficiency. A restructuring process has already begun which will lead to improved services, performance oriented management and enhanced maintenance over the medium term.Christine Wallich, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh said: ※This US$ 40 million development support credit is one of the flagship operations planned to be developed with our Country Assistance Strategy partners - ADB and JBIC. It will play a catalytic role for ensuring the success of the reform program by coordinating with all donors and the wider government ministries and agencies.§ The project will be followed by another proposed development policy credit of US$60 million for the Railway Reform Program in 2009. An additional US$200 million credit is also envisaged in 2009 to support another Government initiative to improve infrastructure and network expansion of railways.


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 10/16/2006


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BHUTAN: ADB Loan to Improve Infrastructure of Cities

Manila, Philippines - A US$24.6 million loan aims to improve urban infrastructure facilities and basic urban services in Thimphu and Phuentsholing, Bhutan*s two largest cities, as well as in Dagana, a regional center. Urban settlement is a new phenomenon in Bhutan. But the quickening pace of urbanization in the last 15-20 years is already putting pressure on the country's cities. The 4.1% unemployment rate in urban areas, for instance, is much higher than the countrywide rate of 2-3%. Thimphu and Phuentsholing face the full force of urban migration and urban sprawl, as a result of limited job opportunities in rural areas. One result is that the expansion urban infrastructure is not keeping up with demand, for instance in the area of water coverage. Dagana, meanwhile, faces water shortages at times during the year and lack of water treatment facilities and intermittent flows pose a public health risk. In Thimphu, the project will develop a new water supply system, upgrade a wastewater treatment plant, and improve solid waste management infrastructure. Local urban infrastructure, such as secondary roads, tertiary water distribution pipes, drainage, and sewerage, will also be provided in four new areas in the southern part of the city.

In Phuentsholing, roads and drainage, footpaths and a pedestrian bridge, and social infrastructure such as fire hydrants and street lighting will be provided. Dagana, located in the same geographical corridor as the two project cities, is one of 20 regional centers that is yet unassisted by external aid. Under the project, water supply sources will be augmented, and the treatment and distribution system as well as sanitation will be improved, and roads and drainage upgraded. ※ADB's past assistance in the capital Thimphu and commercial center of Phuentsholing has been well received,§ says Tomoo Ueda, an ADB Urban Development and Planning Specialist. ※By further improving health and general living standards, the project will boost the growth potential of these three areas and assist the Government's drive toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals targets.§ About 55,000 people will directly benefit from improved urban infrastructure, while around 19,000 in poor areas will benefit from improved water supply and sanitation. The project will also help increase awareness in the communities of proper hygiene, and boost management of urban facilities by government agencies. ADB's loan, which covers 80% of the project's total estimated cost of $30.75 million equivalent, comes from its concessional Asian Development Fund. It carries a 32-year term, including a grace period of 8 years, with interest charged at the rate of 1% per annum during the grace period and 1.5% per annum after. The Government will finance the $6.15 million balance. The Department of Urban Development and Engineering Services at the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement will serve as the executing agencies for the project, which is due for completion in 2012.

From http://www.infrasite.nl 10/19/2006


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INDIA: Network of 5,000 Broadband-Enabled Rural Kiosks

Microsoft Corporation India Pvt Ltd and Hughes India have partnered on rolling out 5,000 broadband-enabled ICT rural kiosks across the country. The ICT kiosks will be deployed across 200 small towns and rural regions. These will be operated on a franchisee-based model. These will offer budding entrepreneurs across the rural landscape to use technology for e-Commerce, education and e-Governance. The ICT kiosks will not only provide a platform for exchange of information and knowledge, but also will serve as a platform to create over 15,000 jobs and self- employment opportunities as stated by Pranav Roach, president and CEO, Hughes Network Systems India. Hughes will provide a comprehensive business model to enable successful kiosk penetration in rural India offering B2B and B2C services. Microsoft under its 'Saksham' initiative will create an engagement model with kiosks service providers and various governments for delivering e-Government and other B2B services.


From biz.yahoo.com 10/03/2006


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Cell Phone Jammers to Be Installed in Punjab Jails

LAHORE: The government of Punjab has decided to install cell phone jamming devices in all the prisons across the province. I.G. Punjab prisons, Sarfaraz Mufti told Geo News that the cell phone jammer would be installed in all the 28 prisons of the province with an outlay of about Rs70 million. He told that the influential prisoners in collusion with the jail management use cellular phones and, therefore, it has been decided to set up regular control rooms for the operation of jammers in the jails by trained staff. It may be recalled that the department of prisons had launched an operation against the use of cell phones in jails sometimes ago.


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


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India Ranks 93 Out of 119 Countries on Global Hunger Index

India ranks an abysmal 93 out of 119 developing countries on the latest Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2006, on which countries in sub-Saharan Africa fare the worst. However, South Asia is also reported as a hotspot for under-nutrition.According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) that developed the GHI, in South Asia, only Bangladesh has worse levels of hunger than India, based on three parameters to measure a country*s food supply situation -- child malnutrition, child mortality and estimates of the proportion of people who are calorie-deficient. The index, which covers only developing countries and countries in transition, ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best and 100 being the worst. The worst country, Burundi, has an index value of 42.70, and Belarus, the top-ranker, has an index value of 1.59. Data for the GHI is from the year 2003. The index showed ※extremely alarming§ hunger in Burundi, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Angola, Liberia, Zambia, Comoros, Cambodia and Tajikistan.

While India*s current score of 25.73 is an improvement on its performance of 41.23 since the first index was published in 1981, it is cited as one of the countries that have been unable to use their available economic resources effectively in reducing under-nutrition. This reinforces what development experts have been saying about India*s economic boom not being matched by corresponding levels of progress in the human development indices. India still keeps dubious company with many sub-Saharan countries on the GHI. Its score is worse than Sudan, at 27.20, but better than Burkina Faso (25.80). Other countries with which India has formed strategic alliances fare substantially better, with index values less than 10. Brazil has a GHI of 5.43, Russia 2.93 and China 8.23. Other countries with comparable levels of development also fare far better than India on the food security front -- South Africa has an index value of 7.66 and Mexico 5.10. The IFPRI report*s observations on India tie in with what the United Nations World Food Programme has said -- that nearly 50% of the world*s hungry live in India. Around 35% of India*s population -- 350 million -- are considered food-insecure, consuming less than 80% of the minimum energy requirement.

The Washington think-tank released the Global Hunger Index, based on an innovative and enhanced approach for measuring hunger and under-nutrition, in 97 developing countries and 22 countries in transition, to coincide with World Food Day on October 16. ※This index provides a particularly comprehensive measure of global hunger because it ranks countries on three leading indicators and combines them into one,§ explained Doris Wiesmann, the IFPRI researcher who developed the index. ※Alone, each indicator has limitations, but put together they give us a much more complete picture of the state of hunger around the world.§ ※By combining these indicators, the index considers the food supply situation of the total population and takes into account the special vulnerability of children to nutritional deprivation. It also reflects the most tragic consequence of under-nutrition, which is death,§ said Marie Ruel, director of the IFPRI*s food consumption and nutrition division. The Global Hunger Index has been calculated for 1981, 1992, 1997 and 2003. It does not include highly industrialised countries or some developing countries where data is not available, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Significantly, of the 12 countries with the highest levels of hunger, nine were affected by civil war or violent conflict, and the 10 countries that scored the worst are all in sub-Saharan Africa.

From www.ifpri.org 10/16/2006


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Government Aiming to Achieve 10 Percent Annual GDP Growth by the Year 2011

India's prime minister said on Wednesday the government was aiming to achieve 10 percent annual GDP growth by the year 2011/12, but the country needed over $300 billion to upgrade its infrastructure over the next five years. Manmohan Singh told a meeting of the Planning Commission that the country needed double-digit growth in manufacturing and services sectors in the next five years, and had to double farm output, if it was to meet the target. [Reuters/Factiva] After starting out as just small loans for the poor, microfinance has mushroomed into a large market that is attracting big banks, technology billionaires, and last week brought its innovator the Nobel Peace Prize. "Microfinance is very appealing to the political right and the left, bootstrap capitalists, and others with social motivations because it so clearly improves poor people's lives," said Elizabeth Littlefield, Chief Executive of the Washington-based Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), housed in the World Bank. The CGAP has estimated that microfinance institutions are now able to reach profitability within a year or two and the growth rate of leading microfinance providers over the last five years has been a fast 15 percent.


From http://web.worldbank.org 10/19/2006


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It's Official: India's Dazzling Growth Fails to Dent Poverty

Economic growth may have been spectacular since 1993 〞 that is, post-economic reforms 〞 but it seems to be trickling down rather slowly. A soon-to-be-released official report has estimated that poverty declined by a mere 0.74% during the 11-year period ended 2004-05. Although there are signs of things moving a little faster, at 0.79%, between 1999-2000 and 2004-05, going by another measure, the number of people below poverty line may have remained unchanged. National Sample Survey Organisation*s (NSSO) findings show the number of people living below poverty line (BPL) at 22.15% in 2004-05, compared with 26.09% in 1999-2000. In the same period, the country*s GDP grew at around 6%. This mismatch between growth and its distribution is politically worrying as it indicates a rise in economic disparities. Economists say uneven growth often leads to social unrest which, in turn, can cause problems for politicians. Anyone consuming less than 2,100 calories in urban areas, and 2,400 calories in rural areas, is classifed in the BPL category. The NSSO study also shows that poverty declined the sharpest in the poorer states.


From http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com 10/19/2006


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Punjab First State to Implement National E-Governance Plan

Moga, Oct 25: Punjab would be the first state in the country to begin implementation of the Centre's national e-governance plan under the National Common Service Centre (NCSC). Under this programme, which was chalked out by the Union government, Punjab plans to set up 2500 common service centers across the state. Out of these, 2112 centres will be set up in the rural areas while the rest will be in urban and semi-urban areas. The project based on public-private partnership is slated to begin soon. Punjab Infotech will be the nodal agency for initiating the project in the state. Giving details, Punjab Infotech Director N S Kalsi yesterday said here today that on the lines of the IT- Ministry guidelines, private parties or companies will be appointed for operating the common service centres in villages across the state. The private parties will be given the charge of managing of the centres, he added. However, private parties will be roping in village level entrepreneurs (VLE) to facilitate the functioning and dissemination of service in the rural areas, specially in the border districts. The private companies would fund 66 per cent of the project, the government will put in 33 per cent funds and one per cent would come from the VLEs.


From http://www.zeenews.com/ 10/21/2006


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SRI LANKA: Focus on Empowering Small Businesses

Colombo: The World Standards Day falls on October 14. It will be observed during the National Quality Week which has been declared by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution from October 09 to 15. This year's theme is big benefits for small business. The World Standards Day Message, jointly issued by the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) stress how small businesses could ultimately be benefitted by the international standards. It is estimated that more than 95 per cent of the world's businesses are small to medium sized. Therefore, international standards need to provide as many benefits for small businesses as they do for global enterprises, governments and society at large.

International standards developed by ISO, IEC and ITU have been instrumental in the development of electrical power grids and telecommunication/ICT networks and global supply chains, opening up more avenues for small businesses. ICT standardisation, in particular allows small businesses to reach far beyond their physical location in search of new markets. Especially with the growth of the internet, any company, regardless of size can easily reach to the world by having a shop window to the world. In addition, standardisation forms a basis for partnerships and commerce unconstrained by location by supporting digitalized manufacturing and quality control processes, product information and financial transactions. Small businesses have at their disposal management systems and conformity assessment standards which help them get established as reliable suppliers and business partners, to satisfy regulations, or qualify for procurement tendering.

International standards provide practical solutions to many of the challenges faced by small businesses in today's globalising markets. This will allow small business owners and managers to further enhance their traditional values of hard work, enterprising spirit and close attention to the requirements and satisfaction of their customers. International standards have facilitated economic developments and dissemination of technologies empowering small businesses, as much as their larger counterparts. (by Chesmal Siriwardene)


From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 10/11/2006


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NEPAL: Adhikari Highlights the Importance of ICT

Member of Parliament and a member of the Nepalese delegation to the 61st session of the UN General Assembly, Ram Nath Adhikari, in his address to the Second Committee on agenda item 50: Information and communication technologies for development on Thursday, said information and communications technology was among the most significant forces shaping the way we live, learn and develop our societies. Welcoming the on-going engagement of UN agencies, funds, and programs, in the implementation of communication for development and inter-agency collaborative mechanisms, Adhikari also said North-South and South-South networking of scientific and technological research and development and Non-aligned news network were welcome initiatives. He stressed the need for full and effective implementation of the commitments made at the World Summit on the Information Society to build a global information society that is people-centered, inclusive and equitable. He further said that information and communication technologies were the fundamental tools to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He urged the international community to support the poor and marginalized countries to build capabilities on ICT saying that building technological capabilities in the information and communication technology was critical for the success of domestic enterprises.


From nepalnews.com 10/12/2006


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PAKISTAN: Musharraf to Open Billing Kiosk at NADRA

ISLAMABAD - President General Pervez Musharraf is likely to formally open electronic billing kiosk at the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) Headquarters here today (Thursday), it was learnt. The billing kiosk had been operating in Islamabad*s G-9 Sector on trial basis for the last one year and now it would be formalised from today. Sources said that some 30 more electric billing kiosks would be established in different locations of the federal capital while one each booth be set up at all provincial metropolis on the initial stage. Later, such kiosks will be established in all the big and small cities of the countries, sources said. The people will have the facility to deposit their PTCL, Electricity and Sui Gas bills besides purchasing scratch cards for mobile phones. After introducing such facility, it would not only benefit the consumers but also lessen increasing workload on banks and post offices.


From http://www.nation.com.pk/ 10/12/2006


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Wireless Broadband Services Being Provided to 100 More Cities

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Information Technology is working on a series of projects to provide wireless broadband services to over 100 major urban centres to lay the groundwork for provision of e-services to the public. Minister for Information Technology, Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari said the government is planning to use resources from the Universal Service Fund to take the wireless broadband internet service to at least 100 towns with up to 0.5 million population as a way to increase awareness about using IT as a tool to improve socio-economic conditions. He was addressing a launching ceremony of `World Ahead Programme' in Pakistan by Intel Corporation with the objective to accelerating access to uncompromised technology for all people in Pakistan. Awais Leghari said e-services and telemedicine were some of the key facilities which could be provided to people at tele centers.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 10/16/2006


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IRAN: New Reformist Daily Published

A new daily, "Ruzegar" (Times), was published on October 16 and is seen as an unofficial successor to the banned reformist daily "Sharq," which was closed on September 11, Reuters and AFP reported. The daily's managing editor is Farzaneh Kharaqani, and members of the former "Sharq" staff are working on the new daily, although they are "none of the well-known faces," Reuters reported, citing Mohammad Atrianfar, a former member of the "Sharq" policymaking board. Separately, ILNA reported on October 16 that three journalists were arrested "last week" at the offices of their Kurdish-language weekly, "Rujheh Halat." It reported that agents with a court order arrested Farhad Aminpur, Reza Alipur, and Saman Soleimani, without specifying why they were arrested or where the publication is based. On October 17, Justice Minister Jamal Karimi-Rad assured ISNA that the government is not trying to curb "critical" media but wants them to observe the government's "conduct" and "generosity" and "return to their true position and mission." He said unnamed domestic media have been "unkind" to the Ahmadinejad government, and "some of the opinions of government critics are baseless." VS


From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/18/2006


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Iran Launches First Private Mobile Network

Iran has launched a new mobile phone network with SIM cards provided by the country's first private operator, the communication and IT ministry has told 均F妓. "Distribution of 300,000 SIM cards by Irancell, the first private operator, has started in the cities of Tehran, Mashhad (northeast) and Tabriz (northwest) under the first phase," ministry official Masoud Fateh said Saturday. Irancell leads a joint venture with South African Mobile Telephones Network (MTN), providing a second mobile network at a lower price of 1,500,000 rials (163 dollars) per SIM card. The first operator, which is state-owned, charges more than twice as much. The project was initially scheduled to be launched in September 2005. The postponement was due to "slow progress by contractors, a delay in operations to supply the required frequency as well as delays in issuing necessary permits" from the ministry, according to the Irancell managing director, Ali Reza Ghalambor Dezfouli.

"Irancell will distribute 2.3 million of these post-paid SIM cards by March 2007 and it will also offer pre-paid SIM cards in the near future," Fateh said, adding that distribution will spread to other big cities gradually. Fateh said the number of mobile phone subscribers in Iran numbers 10.6 million out of a nearly 70-million population. The Irancell joint venture was finalised in February 2004, initially with Turkish telecommunications giant Turkcell which was replaced by MTN in October 2005. The agreement suffered a setback when Iran's conservative-controlled parliament objected to giving a foreign firm a majority stake in the venture. The MTN has deposited a 290-million-euro (366-million-dollar) license fee for the 49-percent stake originally awarded to Turkcell. The deal at the time of conclusion aimed to provide a total number of 16 million users with SIM cards.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 10/21/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: Measures to Reduce Technological Losses on Transmission Facilities Needed

The head of the Agency of RK for Regulating Natural Monopolies believes that it is necessary to take measures to reduce technological losses on transmission facilities. Bakhytzhan Sagintayev has stated this today, October 16, at a government hour in the Parliament, Kazakhstan Today correspondent reports. "From simply stating the size of these losses we should pass to real work on their reduction. It is necessary to start reconstruction of the networks, replacement of morally and materially outdated equipment and accounting systems, save energy at last," - he has said. He has explained that presently "the biggest specific gravity in the tariff structure of the national energy complex belongs to expenditures for the reimbursement of normative technical losses that make up from 14 to 48%," while in the developed countries the level of the losses does not exceed 10%. The degree of the worn-out pipelines, according to him, "in average makes 55-60%, for instance, it reaches 80% in "Zhaiykteploenergo," which in its turn provokes an increase of the technological losses in the heating networks."

From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/16/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Townsville: Queensland's First Solar City

Townsville is set to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50,000 tonnes after being named as Queensland's first Solar City. Making the official announcement in Townsville today, Australian Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane said the city was at the forefront of a new energy future for all Australians. "Townsville will use the latest technology to build solar energy capacity, improve energy efficiency and lower residents' energy bills. The project will potentially set new international benchmarks in energy savings," Mr Macfarlane said. Across Townsville, the initiative will involve: The installation of solar panels in 500 homes and businesses; The rollout of 2500 smart meters and 1700 in-house energy display meters; and The provision of energy efficiency advice to help thousands of households and businesses save on their electricity bills. Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell congratulated Townsville on the success of its Solar Cities bid, saying the initiative would help create more energy sustainable communities.

"Townsville has all the ingredients for a successful Solar Cities trial - it has high levels of sunlight throughout the year, and an enthusiastic and committed local consortium willing to put the project into action," Senator Campbell said. He said the Townsville: Queensland Solar City consortium would now receive up to $15 million from the Australian Government, with the consortium contributing an additional $15 million to the project. "The $75 million Solar Cities initiative is part of the Australian Government's $2 billion climate change strategy which aims to develop clean, low emission technologies and build an international response to the challenge." "Townsville now joins Adelaide as the nation's first Solar Cities and there will be further announcements made shortly," said the Ministers.


From http://www.deh.gov.au/ 09/26/2006


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Education for Sustainability

All Australians have a vital role to play in creating a more sustainable nation, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said today. Speaking on the day the Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) National Conference commences in Bunbury, Senator Campbell said ※With the environmental challenges we now face, such as climate change and water management, educating young and old on the importance of sustainability is an international priority.§ The conference will discuss the Australian Government*s Strategy for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005 每 2014, with the themes of Learning Sustainability, Biodiversity Education and Sustaining Futures. "As a major sponsor of the conference, my Department has a strong interest in how education can contribute to a more sustainable society," Senator Campbell said. "This conference is one of many initiatives we support as part of the Australian Government*s commitments under the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development." A culture of sustainability can improve educational, environmental, social and economic outcomes, such as those achieved by the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI).

There are 2,015 schools across Australia are participating in the programme, some of whom have made waste and water reductions of up to 40 per cent, and are saving as much as $8,900 on their electricity bills. "Education for sustainable development is taking place not only in schools, but also within the wider community," said Senator Campbell. With support from the Australian Government, 10 major organisations including NAB, Toyota, Westpac and Wesley Mission are using practical education techniques to work towards sustainability within their organisation. "The UN Decade is a great opportunity to reflect on what we are already doing in this area, and to deepen engagement with the community on sustainable development." The Strategy for the Decade acknowledges that new ways of living and working across all sectors of the Australian community are required to address unsustainable practices. Developed in consultation with all Australian Government portfolios, the strategy sets out how the Government is working towards solving complex issues, and aims to give Australian communities the understanding, knowledge, skills and capacity they need to contribute to sustainable development. The strategy is to be released soon, and builds on the National Action Plan Environmental Education for a Sustainable Future 每 released in July 2000.

From http://www.deh.gov.au/ 10.04.2006


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Measuring Western Australia's Progress

A special feature article, 'Measures of Western Australia's Progress', is included in Western Australian Statistical Indicators (cat. no. 1367.5) released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The article uses a variety of indicators to gauge social, economic and environmental progress in WA over the past 10 years. They include: Work: WA's unemployment rate fell by 2.7 percentage points between 1995 and 2005 (from 7.4% to 4.7%). State income: Between 1994-95 and 2004-05, disposable income per person grew by around 4% a year. Economic hardship: Between 1994-95 and 2003-04, the disposable income of "less well-off" Western Australians grew by 15%. Housing: In 2004, 69% of WA householders owned their homes outright or were paying them off. This is down slightly from 70% in 1995. Productivity: During 1994-95 to 2004-05, labour productivity in Western Australia rose 21%. The air and atmosphere: In 2004, Western Australia's net greenhouse gas emissions were estimated to be 69 megatonnes carbon dioxide-equivalent -- 9% higher than in 2003, and 20% higher than in 1990. Family, community and social cohesion: In 2005, lone mother families accounted for 19% (43,000) of all families in Western Australia with children under 15 years of age, an increase from 16% (32,000) in 1995. Crime: The personal crime rate in Western Australia has shown no change between 1998 and 2005.


From http://www.abs.gov.au/ 10/04/2006


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Supporting the Voice of Older Australians

The Australian Government has announced funding support for two groups representing seniors, in recognition of the growing number and diversity of older Australians and the importance of receiving well-researched and considered policy advice. The Howard Government has announced funding support for two groups representing seniors, in recognition of the growing number and diversity of older Australians and the importance of receiving well-researched and considered policy advice. The Minister for Ageing, Senator Santo Santoro, announced annual funding of $350,000 for COTA Over 50s Ltd, and $200,000 for National Seniors Association, to support the national secretariats for these organisations and to assist their advocacy and representation. The money has been made available through the Community Sector Support Scheme. ※The bodies comprising COTA Over 50s Ltd and National Seniors have good track records of representing the interests of older Australians and working with the Federal Government to deliver meaningful policy results for seniors,§ Senator Santoro said. ※As we all know, seniors are a growing group in our community, and will continue to increase in numbers in the years ahead.

This funding recognises the role of strong and informed representation in formulating good seniors policy.§ Ms Gayle Richards, National Policy Executive from COTA Over 50s, welcomed the funding, saying, ※The funding will enable COTA Over 50s to research widely and network imaginatively to continue its tradition of providing policy leadership and informed advice to the Government on a wide range of issues for today*s seniors. ※It will also provide our organisation with a wonderful opportunity to further represent the interest of all older Australians, but particularly the disadvantaged and vulnerable.§ National Seniors Chief Executive Michael O*Neill also welcomed the funding: ※National Seniors currently invests a substantial amount of member money into policy and advocacy. This funding will add value to our work and the total funds will ensure the Government and NSA each gets a good return on their investment.§


From http://www.health.gov.au/ 10/04/2006


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Centrelink Begins SMS Reminders

Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Joe Hockey MP, said Centrelink customers can now receive text messages including appointment reminders on their mobile phones. ※SMS is a great way to send quick, simple reminders to customers. Since the service began around seven weeks ago, more than 13,800 people have already subscribed, a take up rate of 98%,§ Minister Hockey said. ※Centrelink can send text messages to remind customers to attend an appointment, or to provide up to date information or documents. ※Centrelink customers who subscribe to this new service and have an appointment will receive an SMS reminder one business day before they have to attend their local office,§ he said. ※The short text messages provide the perfect opportunity to jog someone's memory.§ ※The service is voluntary and people can withdraw at any time. The messages won't contain personal information and customers are not required to respond to them.§ Customers can subscribe to SMS by calling their relevant payment numbers or visiting Centrelink. Centrelink will also begin an Online Letters service this month, which will let customers view some of their Centrelink and Family Assistance Office letters over the internet. ※People will be able to view and print the letters, and will have access to them for 60 days. Centrelink will send customers an SMS or an email to let them know they have a new online letter,§ Minister Hockey said. Minister Hockey said SMS and Online letters are two new strategies Centrelink has introduced to reduce the number of letters it sends to customers. ※In 2004-05 Centrelink sent almost 90 million letters to customers around Australia . The Government expects Centrelink to do everything it can to reduce the number of letters it sends, with a special focus on SMS and email correspondence.§

From http://www.humanservices.gov.au/ 10/05/2006


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$529 Million in Health and Medical Research Grants

The Australian Government will provide $529 million in health and medical research funding, awarded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), for new projects beginning in 2007. More than 850 grants will be made to support research in Australian universities, hospitals and medical research institutes. It is the first time that annual funding for health and medical research grants has exceeded the $500 million mark. All grants have been awarded after an open competitive process. As a result of these grants, research will be undertaken in a wide range of health conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, kidney disease, mental health, Alzheimer*s disease, asthma and hepatitis C. Research into health services and public health will also be funded to support the translation of research outcomes into clinical practice. By 2009-10, the Commonwealth Government will have increased by four times its annual investment in NHMRC grants for health and medical research since 1999-2000. Australia is a world leader in health and medical research〞on a per capita basis our research output is twice the OECD average. A report from Access Economics states from every $1 invested in medical research $5 is returned to the Australian economy.

From http://www.health.gov.au/ 10/16/2006


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Strong Growth in Broadband Take-Up Continues

Australia has continued its strong growth in broadband take-up according to the latest OECD report for June 2006, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, said today. The OECD report singled out Australia as an example of a country which is connecting to broadband at a very high rate. The report says Australia is one of just eight countries that have added more than six subscribers per 100 inhabitants during the past year. ※It is clear that the number of broadband subscribers in Australia is now well above the OECD average and we may be ranked as high as second in the OECD in terms of the growth broadband take-up. On any read we are certainly in the top five for the second consecutive year. This is an extraordinary achievement for Australia.§ Senator Coonan said. ※We are now fast approaching four million broadband subscribers in Australia, with an estimated 3,518,100 broadband services in Australia as of June 2006. This is despite constant carping from the Labor Party that claims Australia is a broadband backwater. ※Contrary to the Labor Party*s claims, more Australians than ever are taking up broadband delivered by a range of technologies and a range of providers.

※And the ACCC*s latest broadband snapshot shows there was an absolute increase in subscriber numbers of 346,900 in the June 2006 quarter, compared with 210,000 in the June 2004 quarter. ※An increase of more than one third of a million subscribers in one quarter in a finite market does not imply that broadband take-up has gone off the boil as Labor claims. Quite the contrary. ※The June 2006 increase is the third biggest ever in Australia, and it follows the second biggest ever increase in broadband (of 376,600 subscribers) in the March 2006 quarter. ※This demonstrates that broadband is continuing to grow at record levels and that Australian Government policies continue to encourage take-up and investment in infrastructure in Australia. ※In contrast, Kim Beazley has put forward a flawed broadband policy for which the Opposition communications spokesman Senator Stephen Conroy has admitted he doesn*t know the cost and he would have to &sit down and work it out*. Labor would rob the $3.1 billion broadband bank for an untested and uncosted rival network.§

From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 10/16/2006


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Commissioner Commends Improved Phone Access for People With Disabilities

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) yesterday registered a code which will require the manufacturers or importers of all phones to advise telecommunications companies of features which will make them more accessible for people with disabilities. "I congratulate ACMA for this initiative," said Graeme Innes, Commissioner responsible for disability discrimination. "This code will ensure that people with various disabilities maximise their chances to use the telephone system," he said. If a phone has larger print on the screen, buttons that are easier to locate by feel, or a vibrate mode which would indicate to a deaf person that a message has arrived, the manufacturers or importers will be required to advise the telecommunications companies. This will mean that when people with particular disabilities are choosing which phone to buy, such features can be pointed out. "The fast advances in technology are a challenge to many Australians, and it is pleasing that this code will make selection of phones less of a challenge for Australians with disabilities," Commissioner Innes said. "I encourage ACMA to continue to recognise the disadvantage in the area of communications faced by many Australians with disabilities, and redress it where possible."

From http://www.hreoc.gov.au/ 10/19/2006


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More and Better Digital Television for Rural West Australians

Television viewers in rural and regional Western Australia will soon be able to receive more and better digital television services, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, announced today. ※A Bill passed by Parliament yesterday extends to rural and regional areas the same level of digital television service that is available in Perth,§ Senator Coonan said. ※The WIN and Prime commercial television networks can now introduce a new, jointly-operated, third digital commercial television service for regional viewers. WIN and Prime expect to begin digital services in regional and remote WA in the second half of next year. The jointly-operated third digital service will follow shortly thereafter.§ The Australian Government has supported this expansion through almost $20 million in funding for WIN and Prime to roll out digital TV in regional and remote WA. ※All up, the Australian Government is providing up to $250 million through the Regional Equalisation Plan to help regional and remote commercial broadcasters introduce their digital television services,§ Senator Coonan said. The Australian Government is also providing around $1 billion in funding for the progressive roll-out of ABC and SBS digital television services throughout Australia. More than 93 per cent of WA viewers are now able to receive ABC and/or SBS digital television services.

Viewers can receive digital television services via a digital television or a set top box that converts digital signals for viewing on analogue television receivers. A set top box could cost households less than $100. ※Analogue television transmissions will continue, alongside digital, in regional and remote Western Australia for several years so viewers have a reasonable time to upgrade their technology,§ Senator Coonan said. ※This is all part of the Government*s comprehensive plan to energetically drive Australia into the digital age. In the package of media reforms passed by Parliament this week are measures to encourage a range of new digital services. ※By next year, new services including free-to-air, in-home, digital only channels or even perhaps &snack* television 每 small segments of TV content delivered over a mobile device much like a mobile phone could be available. ※Both national broadcasters will be able to show a range of new and exciting content on their digital multi-channels and commercial broadcasters will be permitted to augment their current offerings with a high definition digital multi-channel by next year and a standard definition multichannel by 2009. ※This is great news for consumers and could potentially mean there are up to 30 new mobile TV channels, eight new in home digital channels and a range of new multichannels from both the national and commercial broadcasters. ※With these new services and the spread of digital television across Australia we hope to make the digital experience in Australia more attractive for consumers so we can energetically drive take-up of digital television in Australia.§

From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 10/19/2006


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Launch of Collaborative Online Security Initiative

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today launched National E-Security Awareness Week, 23每27 October 2006, to encourage Internet users to &stay smart online*. ※The Internet is increasingly part of our home and business lives, from banking and shopping, to communicating with family and friends,§ Senator Coonan said. ※We all need to think about security when we set up our computers and in our behaviour when online. National E-Security Awareness Week has activities and useful information about online security, for businesses and home users of all ages. ※As part of National E-Security Awareness Week, I am delighted to launch a new website www.staysmartonline.gov.au, for Internet users. It has simple advice on how to secure computers, transact and interact safely online. ※I encourage all Australians to visit this website the next time they are online. The website provides access to a range of information and resources including helpful top tips, fun quizzes, and guides to help them stay smart online. ※I would like to thank industry and community groups who are participating in E-Security Awareness Week. It is an important initiative, and part of the Australian Government*s continuing efforts to enable Australians to put in place basic steps to protect themselves, their families and their businesses when online.

※Common sense and three simple steps go a long way to enabling Australians can stay smart online. Protect your computer〞Install security software and keep it up to date; Think before you click〞Don*t open suspicious emails or attachments from unknown sources or emails requesting your personal details; and Stay informed〞Visit the Stay Smart Online website at to find more top tips and sign up to receive the latest advice on emerging issues and e-security threats.§ The week will consist of a series of events across Australia based on four key themes: how to protect your computer, how to identity online threats, smart transactions online and kids safe online. A variety of activities will be held during the week, ranging from national initiatives such as Internet Industry Association*s Get Net Safe Initiative that provides security software for free trial, to the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association*s conducting seminars for older Australians in regional NSW.

From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 10/23/2006


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Public Comment Sought on the .au Internet Domain

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today called for public comment on a discussion paper released as part of a review of the .au Internet domain arrangements. ※The current administrative arrangements for .au have been in place for more than five years. It is therefore appropriate for the Australian Government to undertake a broad examination of its existing structures,§ Senator Coonan said. ※This discussion paper forms part of a review of the .au Internet domain, which I announced in August 2006. It will facilitate discussion on issues regarding the structural model for, and administration of, the .au Internet domain. ※The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that arrangements for the Australian Internet remain appropriate, internationally competitive and forward-looking, while continuing to deliver the maximum possible value to Australian business and the wider community,§ Senator Coonan said. A broad range of issues will be considered, including the administrative structure of the .au Internet domain, naming structures, policy development and enforcement mechanisms such as competitiveness and cost effectiveness, international participation and emerging technical issues.

Industry bodies and members of the public are invited to make submissions to the .au Internet domain review by close of business on Tuesday 28 November 2006. Information gathered in the course of the review will be used to ensure the needs of industry stakeholders and the wider Internet community continue to be met and will assist the Government in assessing whether any refinements to the current .au operating environment are required. The Australian Government has played a significant role in the establishment and endorsement of Australia*s current industry self-regulatory regime and retains reserve powers relating to the administration of the .au domain.

From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 10/24/2006


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$15 Million for Mental Illness Support

The Queensland government has contributed $15 million towards 20 programs that will help people with mental illnesses stay out of hospital, Health Minister Stephen Robertson says. The funding, delivered over three-and-a-half years, would be used to run recovery and support programs in the community, he said. "In many cases (non-government groups) are at the frontline of mental health services for the most vulnerable members of the community. "With this funding they will provide services such as independent living support and community-based rehabilitation programs including relapse prevention and illness and medication management." Many people struggling with mental illness relapsed when they left hospital, Mr Robertson said.

From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/22/2006


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Asia Wealth Managers See Growth, Risk in Private Banking

Asia*s prosperity has triggered a boom in financial services targeting the newly minted rich, but competition is intensifying, experienced bankers are at a premium and regulation is a work in progress. Add to that the time and expense of building a business based on personal relationships, and the path to profits can be long. ※Private banking is very service-intensive. It*s a very costly business model to offer,§ David Seymour, global head of KPMG*s investment management and funds practice, told the Reuters Wealth Management Summit this week. Indeed, France*s Societe Generale entered the Japanese market in 2002 and expects to become profitable only in the next few months despite increasing its assets under management by 30 percent to 40 percent a year. While the concept of personalized one-stop financial services shopping for the rich is well established in Europe and the United States, it*s a novelty in Asia. ※Universal banking is not yet the thing in Japan,§ said Francois Barbe, the chief of Societe Generale*s Japanese private banking business. Asia*s allure is outsized growth in high-net-worth individuals, or those with investable assets of at least $1 million, thanks to surging economies such as China and India. In a recovering Japan, the wealthy are expected to pour $2.5 trillion to $4.25 trillion of savings into investment products over the next four to six years, said Timothy McCarthy, the chief of fund manager Nikko AM.

Merrill Lynch/Capgemini expects the wealth of millionaires in Asia to grow by 6.7 percent a year through 2010 to $10.6 trillion, ahead of the global average of 6 percent. Credit Suisse estimated last year that just one in five rich Asians use private banking services. Regulatory uncertainty remains a risk in Asia. China and its $2 trillion in retail deposits will only open to foreign wealth managers at the end of this year. Domestic banks are expected to fiercely defend their dominant position as foreign players battle for the very richest Chinese. India curtails the number of branches that foreign players can set up, limiting distribution capabilities. Japan is breaking down regulatory walls that separate banking, brokerage and trust services, but prohibitions remain. Like many big foreign operators, Wall Street giant JPMorgan does not have a private banking business in Japan. ※The opportunity is there,§ said Michael Fung, JPMorgan*s Asia private banking chief. ※The challenge is that it is a highly regulated place, and private banking is something that is still very new to the regulator.§ As global and local institutions led by UBS, Credit Suisse, Citigroup and HSBC vie for Asia*s new rich, competition puts pressure on the fees that providers can charge for services. ※Management fees are going lower and lower,§ said Masahiro Kume, head of private banking at Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, which recently expanded its target market beyond ultra-rich company owners. SocGen*s Barbe said his Japan business is eyeing margins of one percent over the next few years.

Patience is crucial, given that it can take a year or more of cultivation before a client is willing to make million-dollar investment decisions. ※They really need to know somebody well to part with their money,§ Nikko AM*s McCarthy said. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. last year launched a special private banking unit targeting the ultra-rich, or those with 500 million yen ($4.25 million) or more in investable assets, and it is taking the long view on returns. ※We*re not in the red, but the unit isn*t extremely profitable at the moment either,§ said Takashi Nonaka, managing director of the bank*s consumer and private banking unit. Competition, meanwhile, is fierce for seasoned private bankers, which means banks must pay their staff more and experienced fund and relationship managers are scarce. ※What is not catching up enough is the talent pool,§ said JPMorgan*s Fung. Finally, private banks sell trust and performance, and trust can be fragile. ※It takes one small problem to blow that trust up, and years to put it back into place,§ said KPMG*s Seymour.


From: http://news.inq7.net/ 10/05/2006


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Tax Revenues on the Rise in Many OECD Countries, OECD Report Shows

Tax revenues, measured as the ratio of tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), are rising in many OECD countries despite deep cuts in tax rates, according to a new OECD report, reflecting both the effects of stronger economic growth, which has led to higher corporate profits, and moves in some countries to offset the effects of cuts in tax rates by broadening the tax base and improving tax compliance. In 2005, according to the latest edition of the OECD*s annual Revenue Statistics publication, tax burdens as a proportion of GDP rose in 17 out of the 24 countries for which provisional figures are available, and fell in only five countries (see Table A). The biggest increases were in Iceland, where the tax burden rose by 3.7 percentage points to 42.4% of GDP, followed by the United States (up 1.3 points to 26.8% of GDP) and the United Kingdom (up 1.2 points to 37.2%). The largest reduction in overall tax ratios was in Hungary (down one percentage point to 37.1%).Based on these figures and figures for 2004, OECD analysts say, a trend towards lower tax burdens witnessed from 2000 to 2003 appears to be going into reverse. Between 2000 and 2003, the tax ratio in the OECD area as a whole fell from 36.6% of GDP to 35.8% of GDP, but in 2004 it moved back up slightly to 35.9%.Higher revenues from taxes on incomes, including both company profits and personal income, were the main factor behind the higher 2005 tax-to-GDP ratios in Iceland, the United States and the United Kingdom (see Table B). In Iceland, an additional factor was increased revenue from taxes on goods and services.

By contrast, the decline in Hungary was mainly due to lower revenue from taxes on goods and services. ax on personal income and corporate profits is one of the main sources of tax revenues in many OECD countries. But social security contributions and taxes on goods and services also play a major role, and the relative importance of these various taxes varies across countries (see Chart 1). In New Zealand, for example, taxes on income and profits are the largest single source of revenues, while in the Czech Republic social security contributions provide the main single source of revenues and Mexico taxes on goods and services are the main source of revenues. Recent increases in income tax revenues 每 both personal and corporate 每 have come despite the fact that statutory rates of corporate and personal income taxes remain stable or are falling in many OECD countries. There were no increases in personal or corporate tax rates in the three countries with the largest tax ratio increase: Iceland, the United Kingdom and the United States. That suggests that the higher tax ratios are a result of stronger economic growth in these countries, and more generally across the OECD. Stronger growth increases both the profitability of companies and the level of personal incomes, leading to an increase in the level of taxes that they pay.

From: http://www.oecd.org/ 10/11/2006


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Better Way to Handle Asian Currencies

Calls for government co-ordination of exchange rates to manage global imbalances are misguided. For a lesson in how exchange rate intervention can wreak monetary havoc, just look to the Plaza and Louvre agreements.The Group of Five industrialised nations 每 the US, the UK, Japan, Germany and France 每 met in New York in 1985 to agree on collective action to lower the value of the dollar. China was not a factor as its foreign exchange reserves were only $12.7bn and its overall current account was roughly in balance. The G5 nations* intervention in the foreign exchange markets, plus changes in fiscal policies, did help to bring down the value of the dollar. But two years later the US current account deficit reached a peak of 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product, prompting the G6 (the G5 plus Canada) to meet in Paris to reverse course.Worse, after the 1987 accord, the Bank of Japan bought dollars and allowed the monetary base to grow rapidly, creating the bubble economy of the late 1980s. The bubble burst in 1990 after the BoJ sharply cut money growth in mid-1989.The countries that suffered the most from the Asian financial crisis that followed were those that had mistaken monetary policy. As John Greenwood, chief economist for Invesco Asia, observed: ※The general lesson is that to control money and credit growth within reasonable ranges that are compatible with low inflation in the longer run, the external value of the currency must be free to adjust 每 especially upwards.§Today, there are other factors that make an exchange rate accord even less likely to succeed. The US current account deficit has risen to more than 6 (By James Dorn)


From: http:// www.ft.com/ 10/24/2006


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CHINA: First China-Russia Finance Ministerial Dialogue Opens

Chinese Minister of Finance Jin Renqing and Russian counterpart Alexei Kudrin convened the first China-Russia Finance Ministerial Dialogue in Beijing on Friday. The pair exchanged views on macroeconomic issues, fiscal policies, and cooperation on international issues in a candid and in-depth manner. The talks came on the tenth anniversary of the China-Russia Strategic Partnership of Coordination, the fifth anniversary of the China-Russia Treaty for Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation and during the Year of Russia in China in 2006. The ministers agreed the events gave added significance to the dialogue and the implementation of the agreements to promote the friendly relationship. They agreed the second dialogue would take place in Moscow next year. To mark the Year of Russia in China, the two ministers also attended the opening of the China-Russia Seminar on Public Finance Management immediately after. The dialogue was convened under the Memorandum of Understanding on the Launch of the China-Russia Finance Ministerial Dialogue, signed by the two governments during Russian President Putin's visit to China in March. Hosted by the two ministries, it will be held annually, alternating between the two countries. The main topics include domestic macroeconomic issues, fiscal policies, financial reforms, and cooperation and coordination on international financial issues. The dialogue will include mutually agreed seminars, workshops, study tours and other projects.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/13/2006


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Insurers May Invest 3% of Assets in Unlisted Banks

China's insurers will be restricted to 3 percent of their total assets in investments in unlisted commercial banks, the China Securities Journal reported on Thursday. Insurance firms planning to invest in banks would also be required to reach certain standards in terms of corporate governance and risk control, the newspaper reported a "reliable source" as saying. "Because the investment of insurance funds is quite new to the industry, the regulatory authority will continue to give guidance by setting the investment proportion," said Li Kemu, vice chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Committee (CIRC). The insurance industry's total assets reached 1.7 trillion yuan (US$212.5 billion) by the end of June. The government has expanded the investment horizon by encouraging insurers to directly or indirectly invest in the capital market, a wider variety of securities products, real estate and venture capital on a trial basis and to purchase shares in commercial banks. Li said insurers' portfolios needed to be improved, adding that insurance funds, which were typically stable and long-term, had long been invested in short-term projects. Analysts said investment in unlisted commercial banks was expected to yield high earnings against a backdrop of stockholding banks and a few small and medium-sized banks entering the domestic stock markets. The source said the insurance watchdog would set standards for the banks receiving insurers' investment in terms of management and performance levels and customer base in order to hedge the risks. "The difficulty is that no proper investment products are within reach while insurance premium income has grown rapidly and 200 billion yuan of the quota is yet to be invested," said Sun Jianyong, head of CIRC investment department.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/13/2006


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Banking Investment Set to Skyrocket

Around 45 billion yuan (US$5.7 billion) in insurance capital could flood into China's banking sector after the nation's top insurance watchdog unveiled a package of investment rules yesterday. According to detailed rules issued by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) for insurers' equity investment in banks, insurance institutions could invest no more than 3 percent of their total assets in state-owned commercial banks, joint-stock commercial banks and city commercial banks. By the end of last year, the total assets of China's insurance sector had reached 1.5 trillion yuan (US$190 billion), implying that 45 billion yuan (US$5.7 billion) in insurance capital could be poured into China's banking sector this year. "Equity investment in banks is just the first step, and we are considering regulations on investment in fixed-assets projects and State-owned enterprises," a CIRC official told reporters yesterday. In guidelines published in late June, the regulator expressed its support for insurers' investment in banks, part of its efforts to boost insurers' investment returns. "We support insurance companies buying into, or even taking controlling stakes in, well-managed, profitable banks that have a strong customer base," CIRC Chairman Wu Dingfu said earlier. The regulation stipulated that insurers could use their registered capital and provisions over 10 years for the investment. In terms of purpose and scale, insurers' investment in banks is divided into two types general and grand investment. Those accounting for less than a 5 percent stake in a bank are classified as general investment, while those greater than 5 percent are regarded as grand investment. There are no upper ceilings for the investment.

If an insurer plans to make a grand investment, its total assets by the end of last year should be no less than 100 billion yuan (US$12.7 billion). For any investment taking a 10 percent stake or above, the insurer should have total assets in excess of 150 billion yuan (US$19 billion) by the end of last year. Meanwhile, those target banks for general investment shall meet the following requirements a capital adequacy ratio of up to 8 percent, a non-performing loans ratio lower than 5 percent and a return on net assets of up to 12 percent. In fact, China's largest life insurers have been quite investors in banks. In late July, Ping An Insurance (Group) Company became the controlling shareholder in Shenzhen City Commercial Bank after it bought an 89.24 percent stake in the lender for 4.9 billion yuan (US$620 million). According to Ping An Chief Operating Officer Louis Cheung, banking services will become one of the company's key businesses in the future, and the group is "open to any other opportunities." Apart from the Shenzhen lender, Ping An has also been in talks with Beijing-based China Everbright Bank. Sources said the discussions are at a very early stage and it is uncertain whether they will result in an agreement. Meanwhile, Ping An also joined a consortium led by French bank Societe Generale to bid for an 85 percent stake in Guangdong Development Bank. China Life, the country's largest life insurer, obtained a 1.75 percent share in Fujian-based Industrial Bank through an auction in mid-August. China's insurance premiums hit 493 billion yuan (US$62.4 billion) in 2005, ranking 11th in the world. The industry witnessed a 25 percent annual increase from 2000 to 2005, the CIRC said.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/17/2006


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China Is World's Third Largest FDI Recipient

China has become the world's third largest foreign direct investment (FDI) recipient, according to the World Investment Report 2006. According to the report released by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Monday, China is also the largest FDI destination of all developing countries, receiving US$72.4 billion of FDI in 2005. The report showed that the FDI into China's financial services sector hit a record high of US$12 billion in 2005. At the same time, Chinese companies have been actively investing overseas, according to the report. Between 2002 and 2005, the overseas investment of Chinese multinationals registered an average annual growth of 65.6 percent. By the end of June this year, China's investment overseas totaled US$63.64 billion, the report said.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/17/2006


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HK Tough on Terrorist Financing

Hong Kong Monetary Authority had set up a banking industry working group on countering money laundering and terrorist financing issues, Hong Kong Monetary Authority Executive Director Simon Topping said Tuesday. In his latest Viewpoint article published Thursday on the authority's website, Topping said the move showed Hong Kong's strong determination to guard against the abuse of its banking system. To help deal with the difficult anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing issues from a practical perspective, and reflect business needs, the authority has recently co-ordinated the establishment of an industry working group, which includes representatives of 20 authorized institutions. The group has met twice, and three user sub-groups have been formed to share experiences and consider the way forward in areas like the so-called "politically exposed people", terrorist financing, transaction monitoring systems and private banking issues. The authority is also taking initiatives to reinforce the focus on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing issues, including issuing circulars and guidance to authorized institutions on combating the financing of weapons of mass destruction, conducting in-depth examinations of institutions' controls, and setting out the practices expected in high-risk areas such as correspondent banking, private banking and remittances, Topping said.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 10/20/2006


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Opening-up of Financial Sectors Urged

China will resolutely promote the reform and opening-up of its financial sectors, including the banking, insurance and securities, Vice Premier Huang Ju said on Thursday. China will fulfill its WTO commitment and widely conduct international exchanges and cooperation in the insurance sector, said Huang in a speech to the 13th Annual Conference of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) that opened in Beijing on Thursday. By bringing in international talents and advanced management expertise, China can take its insurance sector to a new level, he said. China's burgeoning insurance market has drawn worldwide attention with its fast growth in recent years. China's insurance premiums hit 493 billion yuan (62 billion U.S. dollars) in 2005, the 11th highest in the world. Insurance premiums are expected to double by 2010, industry insiders estimated. The IAIS conference was sponsored by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission. More than 600 high-level officials and experts from around the world attended the conference.


From http://www.china.org.cn 10/20/2006


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JAPAN: Ministries Duel over Overseas Allowances

The ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs are at loggerheads over allowances for diplomats in foreign postings. The Foreign Ministry is seeking a 10-percent increase in allowances in fiscal 2007 on grounds the weakening of the yen against the U.S. dollar is biting into the ability of diplomats abroad to do their jobs properly. But the Finance Ministry wants to maintain a tight lid on government expenditures, citing the fact that a diplomat serving in an embassy or other government offices overseas receives almost double the monthly remuneration of an official based in Tokyo. On Friday, the Fiscal System Council, an advisory body to the Minister of Finance, took up the issue of allowances. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to point out that disadvantageous foreign exchange rate meant remuneration was actually declining, a succession of panel members found no justification for approving an increase. According to the Finance Ministry, a 37-year-old official with a spouse and two children working in Washington receives monthly allowances, including those for housing and education, totaling about 770,000 yen. When the base salary is added, total monthly remuneration comes to about 1.32 million yen, which is nearly double that of a Tokyo-based official.

Total posting allowances to be paid out in fiscal 2006 come to 26.7 billion yen. Posting allowances were cut by an average of 5 percent in fiscal 2003. Because of the weakening of the yen, officials working in Europe and the United States in particular have complained that their real disposable income has declined further. The Foreign Ministry presented data showing that remuneration for diplomats overseas was 20 to 30 percent lower than that of employees of major companies working offshore, whose career background is similar. It noted that diplomats in foreign postings incur expenses that Tokyo-based officials don't, such as holding receptions at home for foreign dignitaries and others. The ministry said some officials had to take out loans to cover such expenses.


From http://www.asahi.com 10/16/2006


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Direct Investment into Japan Lowest in Decade

Foreign direct investment into Japan in 2005 came to $2.8 billion, or 330 billion yen, down 64% from 2004 and the lowest in a decade, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said in a report released Monday. The Japanese government will find it hard to clear its goal of bringing the balance of foreign direct investment to the level above 26 trillion yen by 2011, according to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2006.


From http://www.japantoday.com 10/17/2006


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Gov't to Reshuffle Tax Panel

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Koji Omi agreed Thursday that the government should reshuffle its tax panel members, including its chief Hiromitsu Ishi, Omi said. The decision came as a surprise since speculation has been rife that Ishi would be reappointed as chairman of the Tax Commission, an advisory panel to the prime minister, for a third three-year term. Ishi, an economics professor at Tokyo's Chuo University, has served two terms as the tax panel chief since September 2000. His second term expired on Oct 5.


From http://www.japantoday.com 10/20/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Spend over Half of Budget on Welfare, Education, Defense from 2008

The government is expected to spend over half of its budget on welfare, education and national defense-related programs from 2008, while reducing its spending on economy-related and other projects. According to the Ministry of Planning and Budget on Monday (Oct. 2), the government plans to spend about 117.4 trillion won ($123.6 billion) on welfare, education and defense in 2007, accounting for 49.2 percent of the total 238.5 trillion won budget. About 61.8 trillion won will be spent on welfare, 30.9 trillion won on education and 24.7 trillion won on defense. The spending is expected to rise to 127.5 trillion won in 2008, equivalent to 50.2 percent of the projected 253.8 trillion won budget. The ratio will increase to 51.4 percent in 2009 and 52.4 percent in 2010, the ministry said. ※Government spending on welfare, education and defense-related programs is forecast to surpass 50 percent of the total budget in 2008 for the first time as the spending on the three areas will grow higher than those of other sectors, including infrastructure construction, and leisure and tourism development,§ a ministry official said.

The country's overall budget, including state-run funds, will increase by 6.4 percent on average until 2010, reaching 287 trillion won in 2010, while expanding the social welfare budget by an average 9.1 percent over the same period. The education budget will grow by 8.1 percent over the next four years and defense budget by 9 percent. ※The government will spend more to restructure and advance a range of current social welfare programs, including state pensions and health insurance, to better deal with the aging population and falling birthrate,§ the official said. The government plans to extend more financial support to low-income households and build more nursing homes for senior citizens. It will also help households pay for nursery school and other childcare-related expenses, and support underprivileged students in taking classes after school. He also said the government will increase its spending to produce a highly skilled and educated workforce and strengthen the country's self-defense capability.


From http://www.korea.net 10/03/2006


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Ministry Rules out Re-denomination of Currency

The Ministry of Finance and Economy on Monday (Oct. 9) made it clear that it is opposed to the idea of issuing 50,000-won and 100,000-won banknotes and re-denominating the local currency, saying it is not a good time to think about it. In a report to the governing Uri Party, the ministry said currency re-denomination and issuance of higher face-value banknotes at this time could have a negative impact on the economy, which is already reeling from high oil prices and the won's strength against the U.S. dollar. ※We think it is not appropriate to issue banknotes with higher face-value and re-denominate the local currency,§ the ministry said. ※Currency re-denomination and the issuance of higher face-value banknotes may fuel inflationary pressure and destabilize the real estate market.§ The ministry said the country should consider the policy after the economy becomes strong enough to absorb the negative impact of the changes.


From http://www.korea.net 10/10/2006


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U.S. Pension Fund to Invest $2.5 Billion in Korea

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest pension fund in the United States, has announced it will invest as much as $2.5 billion, or 2.3 trillion won, in Korea. The committed investment is 1.2 percent of the U.S. pension fund's total assets under management. ※We will invest about $2 billion in a project financing a local company. We will invest the remaining $300-500 million by buying shares of a Korean blue chip firm,§ said Jason Park, president of Jason Investment, a local investment advisor and a lead manager of the two CalPERS-funded deals. ※The move reflects that the largest U.S. pension fund is confident in the prospects of the Korean economy,§ Park added Park declined to reveal the name of the firms in which CalPERS plans to invest. It has not been decided yet if CalPERS will invest directly or through a consortium. ※The deals will be closed in the near future as the firm has completed due diligence of the target firms,§ Park said. The U.S. pension fund's scalable investment was highlighted as a positive for the comeback of foreign investors, despite rising uncertainties in the stock market due to North Korea's reported nuclear test early this month. Foreign investors, who sold Korean stocks worth more than 9 trillion won between May and September this year, turned into net buyers last week when the North Korean factor put pressure on the market. Their net buying exceeded 450 billion won in that period. ※CalPERS' investment plan and recent foreign net buying reflects the fact that foreign investors expect the local economy to rebound next year and corporate earnings to rise,§ said Lee Jong-seung, the research head of NH Investment & Securities.


From http://www.korea.net 10/17/2006


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MONGOLIA: to Take Loan from MCA

Mongolia has been provided with a possibility to conclude a compact agreement in 2007 with the US Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) in order to take a loan from MCA. This was reported on October 3 by Mr. J.Danilovich, Director General of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. On returning home from the 61st session of the UN General Assembly, the Premier Mr. M.Enkhbold held a meeting in Washington with several officials on September 22 in order to draw their attention to accelerating the conclusion of the compact agreement.


From http://www.montsame.mn 10/06/2006


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AG Development Project Is Successful

The agricultural development project is successfully implemented in Uvs Aimag by the Government of Mongolia and the Asian Development Bank. The project that is carried out five western aimags is divided into five parts; Green Revolution project, restoration of veterinary hospital, repairs of wells, development of cooperatives and implementation of a loan program. Under the Green Revolution project, a total of Tg 89 million has been invested to the Aimag to supply small scale tractors, irrigators, green houses and storage materials and renovate seeds. The project involves about 3,200 families. A total of Tg 100 million has been spent on the restoration of veterinary hospital, 77 wells in 19 soums have been repaired, 350 thousand hectares of land was irrigated and Tg 500 million investments was made also. As well, Tg 109 million has been invested to the project on development of cooperatives. Within the loan program, Tg 4.988.0 million loans were granted to the Aimag residents. Repayment of the loans is 98 percent at present.


From http://www.montsame.mn 10/20/2006


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INDONESIA: SBY Backs Bank Ownership Policy

The government has welcomed the central bank's new policy of limiting the ownership of banks, which is expected to consolidate and improve the domestic banking industry. It has also, however, stressed the importance of allowing some state-owned lenders to continue operating in certain strategic businesses. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Friday that the government would support the central bank's plan to restructure the banking sector for the better, and would work together with the BI in carrying out any of its policies that involved the government. He said the government considered it vital to maintain control through state-owned lenders in a number of sectors of the economy that affected the general public. "Of course, the government may also be interested in keeping state banks with special economic roles, such as those channeling loans to the agricultural sector, for mortgages, and to small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) ... so they become more focused and stronger. "We are currently in the process of working this out, of how to place state-owned lenders in this (new banking industry map). Merging is an option, and we have also discussed providing tax-related incentives," the President said. The BI recently issued a package of banking regulations, including the "single presence policy", which prohibits shareholders from having controlling stakes in more than one bank. In order to adjust to the new regulations, the central bank has asked banks to consolidate by 2010, either through mergers, acquisitions or setting up a holding company, or through the divestment of its stake. The BI will provide certain incentives and exemptions for banks willing to merge.

Foreign lenders and joint-venture banks will, according to international banking practices, be exempt from the policy, but state lenders and private national banks will not. The government currently owns Bank Mandiri and Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), the country's top-two largest lenders by assets. It also has a controlling stake in Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), whose credit portfolio is mostly for SMEs, and Bank Tabungan Negara (BTN) for low-cost housing mortgages. The policy may also affect foreign investors such as the Singaporean government's Temasek holding company and Malaysia's Khazanah, both of which have controlling stakes in a number of local banks. Industry analyst Djoko Retnadi from the BRI said the policy could still be difficult to implement, as it largely depends on the government's "political stance" on its state-owned banks. "It will be hard to apply, because the government could decide now to keep its banks but later on change its mind, while the BI has no power to force its policies on the government," he said. Djoko suggested the central bank focus on its other consolidation-encouraging policy of a minimum capital requirement for all banks. According to Djoko, the BI's minimum capital requirement of Rp 80 billion by 2008 and Rp 100 billion by 2010 is quite low, because it takes at least Rp 3 trillion to open a new bank. Analyst Ryan Kiryanto of the BNI also highlighted the major political and legal obstacles in implementing the single presence policy, considering the many corporate, stock exchange, and state finance laws related to state banks. "Mergers should also be based purely on a mutual business interest. Setting up a holding company may only add to the chain of bureaucracy for state banks," he said, urging the government to quickly make up its mind on the issue.

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


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MALAYSIA: Banks Win Awards

MasterCard Worldwide recently recognised five financial institutions in Malaysia for their excellence in promoting the growth of the payments industry. Amid stiff competition from financial institutions across the region, Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd, MBF Cards (M) Sdn Bhd, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd, RHB Bank Bhd and Southern Bank Bhd won a total six awards. These awards were given out at the MasterCard Asia-Pacific Marketing Leadership Awards 2006 and the MasterCard Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa (APMEA) Product Forum Awards 2006 in Hong Kong recently. Bank Islam won the platinum award of Best E-Commerce Related Initiative for the rollout of the MasterCard Online Authentication System and MasterCard Internet Gateway Services, which ensure secure transactions for users. OCBC Bank won the silver in the Best Overall Marketing Program for its launch of the Titanium MasterCard in Malaysia. MasterCard said in a statement it had hosted the event for the past 10 years as a way of recognising the many successful marketing programmes implemented by its customer financial institutions. This year's competition gave away a total 42 awards in 15 categories Bank Islam also won a silver award for its Platinum MasterCard programme. MBF Cards received honourable mention for the integration of MasterCard Open Data Storage, MasterCard PayPass and Credit on a 2006 FIFA World Cup co-brand card programme, while Southern Bank was recognised for its achievement in MasterCard PayPass acquiring in Malaysia. RHB Bank took home the silver for its conversion of the RHB EVO MasterCard card to include the PayPass application.


From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/06/2006


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PHILIPPINES: IMF Wants Government to Impose Additional Taxes

DESPITE the Philippines* recent fiscal gains, the International Monetary Fund wants the government to push for new taxes. ※While strengthening tax administration has the potential to yield part of the needed additional resources, [IMF] directors were of the view that additional tax measures will also be needed for sustainable fiscal consolidation,§ the world*s lender of last resort said in its mid-year postprogram monitoring report. The IMF warned that the country remains vulnerable to financial shocks given its high public debt and sizable external commercial borrowing. Because of these factors, the fund urged the government to sustain its fiscal consolidation and other reform efforts to ensure debt sustainability. Reza Baqir, IMF resident representative, said the public debt would continue to decline but it will fall faster if additional tax measures are implemented. ※Efforts to reduce debt would bring dividends,§ he said. Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves, however, said the department is not wont to push for new tax measures. ※Congress will not look at us kindly if we ask for new tax measures next year,§ he said. Teves said that for the Philippines to have continuous revenue growth and financing assistance for capital outlay, the government has to build a good reputation and keep its commitments first. He said lawmakers would have to look into the national government*s track record in terms of revenue collection before any new law would be passed. The government has to maximize or exhaust all present revenue schemes as it tries to increase its collection effort to bridge the budget gap by 2008, he said. Besides balancing the budget two years from now, the government also has to address its massive infrastructure plans and make sure that it will complete these commitments before the public and investors would welcome any additional tax burden. To ensure the government can fund its infrastructure projects, the finance chief said Congress has to pass the annual budget, even as the government guarantees its line agencies can absorb the amount of resources given them. ※Your credibility is important,§ he said.

From http://www.manilatimes.net/ 10/14/2006


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SINGAPORE: To Issue 20-Year Govt Bonds to Help Develop Debt Market

The Singapore Government will issue a 20-year bond for the first time next March. The issue is part of the government and Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) efforts to develop the Singapore debt market. Currently, the longest maturity bond is its 15-year Singapore Government Security (SGS). The Second Minister for Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, expects the extension of the yield curve to facilitate pricing of other long-dated securities. This move complements new tax incentives for developing project financing announced last month. Longer-dated products will also help insurance companies to better manage their risks and offer annuity and other retirement planning products. The monetary authority is looking at using alternative channels to MAS-appointed SGS Primary Dealers to issue the 20-year bond. It is also considering a central lending facility for Singapore-dollar bonds and a new SGS bond futures contract. Since 1998, when MAS decided to develop the Singapore dollar debt market as an alternative source of financing to bank loans, the Singapore-dollar debt market has almost quadrupled to S$148 billion.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/12/2006


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MCYS Studies Proposal on Enhancing Financial Security of Special Needs Persons

The Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports (MCYS) says it will be working with relevant agencies such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore on the regulatory framework to set up a National Non-Profit Special Needs Trust. It is one of the recommendations submitted by the Parents' Workgroup on Enhancing the Financial Security of Persons with Special Needs to the ministry. The workgroup estimates that 5 to 6 percent of Singapore's population will benefit if the recommendations are accepted. An estimated 80 percent of families with special needs individuals have an alarmingly low level of awareness of financial planning. Many special needs persons also do not have basic health insurance, and will have little financial resources in the event that their parents die. This according to the Parents' Workgroup on Enhancing the Financial Security of Persons with Special Needs, who surveyed close to 100 parents of children with special needs. Some of the parents say they wish they could put their children to sleep after they die because there is no one else to care for their children. Others express a need for a trusted organisation to safeguard the monies they are saving for their special needs children. "While the non-disabled citizen enjoys Medishield protection, we have discovered that it is not available to the special needs community, especially those with congenital defects.

What we are looking at is to provide these persons with the privilege of coverage that a non-disabled citizen would enjoy," says Loh Wai Mooi, member of the Parents' Workgroup. She is also mother to a child with autism. Apart from suggesting that the government makes available basic health benefits for persons with special needs, the workgroup is also suggesting that free financial planning education by independent consultants be made accessible to all families. The workgroup also wants the government to facilitate basic financial protection of persons with special needs; for example, by expanding the coverage of the CPF Dependant's Protection Scheme or by subsidising the payment of premiums of the Dependant's Protection Scheme for the lower income groups. And to meet the need for basic savings and investment, the workgroup suggests that all parents open a CPF account for their children with special needs, adding that contributions into the account ought to have tax relief. The workgroup also wants these accounts to enjoy an interest return of 4 percent and for the government to top up these accounts through Progress Package payments during years of good economic performances. They also recommend the establishment of a National Non-Profit Special Needs Trust which will transfer assets to special needs children responsibly after their parents die.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 10/25/2006


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BANGLADESH: Govt Entities Possess 85pc Classified Loans

Different government entities share 85 per cent of the total classified loans of 20 top defaulters in the banking system and there is little initiative for rescheduling the defaulted loans. Bangladesh Bank (BB) sources said the total outstanding bank loans of the 20 top defaulters as of June 30 this year was Tk 8,574 crore while Tk 5,698 crore or 66 percent of the amount was classified (defaulted).Of the 20 top defaulters, seven government entities share Tk 4,871 crore of the classified loans, and the rest is in the private sector, according to statistics prepared by the BB recently. Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC), Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) and Bangladesh Textile Mills Corporation (BTMC) are the top three loan defaulters on the list of 20. Banking sources said the government has taken little initiative to reschedule the loans of its various entities but a number of private loan defaulters among the top 20 have recently taken some move to repay the money to the respective banks. The BPC's total outstanding loan is Tk 6,489 crore, of which Tk 4,130 crore is classified, BB sources said.A top official of the central bank said the government recently paved the way for the BPC to reschedule the loan over 12 years without any down payment. "But it might not bring any positive result since there is doubt whether the BPC will be able to pay the instalments in time," said the official. ※So, it is unlikely that the banks concerned will get rid of the burden of huge defaulted loans."

The BJMC's outstanding loan amounts to Tk 699 crore with Tk 234 crore of it defaulted. While the BTMC has outstanding loan of Tk 196 crore and the whole amount is classified. Chittagong Jute Mills has a total classified loan of Tk 86 crore while the closed down Khulna Newspaper Mills' total outstanding loan is Tk 77 crore with Tk 72 crore of it defaulted. Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation's (BADC) total outstanding loan is Tk 75 crore, all of it defaulted. A court has asked the bank concerned to arrange auction against the BADC to realise the money but it will be difficult since the BADC is a government entity.The banks concerned repeatedly sent letters to the defaulting government entities asking them to reschedule the loans with no response as yet. The finance ministry recently took an initiative to repay the defaulted loans but it is not certain when that will be done. Another top defaulter with government guarantee for its loan -- Bangladesh Autorickshaw Chalak Samity, a cooperative society of autorickshaw operators -- has an outstanding loan of Tk 77 crore, and the total amount is defaulted. A banking source said the loan was given from three nationalised commercial banks (NCBs) with guarantee for it by the previous government. Sources said the committee that took the loan on behalf of the samity no longer exists, and a new committee has been formed. A case has been filed against the previous committee. The new committee has applied for fresh loan and waving of interest on the defaulted loan but the bank concerned will not entertain the fresh application of new loan.

Among the private defaulters, Beximco group is at the top. Shinepukur Holdings Ltd, one of its enterprises, has Tk 138 crore outstanding loans, of which Tk 101 crore is defaulted. Besides, Beximco Engineering Ltd, another subsidiary of the group, has Tk 52 outstanding loan with the whole amount defaulted. According to Sonali Bank sources, Shinepukur Holdings deposited Tk 15 crore to the bank for rescheduling its loan. The company will deposit another Tk 35 crore for this. "We are expecting another Tk 35 crore from Shinepukur," said a high official of the bank.A trial is now going on against Riverside Leather and Footwear Ltd of late Maulana Abdul Mannan as the company has an outstanding loan of Tk 80 crore with the total amount classified. Shamsul Al-Amin Cotton Mills Ltd, an enterprise of a former Awami League lawmaker, has Tk 88 crore outstanding loan and Tk 77 crore of the amount is defaulted. His sons are now negotiating with Sonali Bank to reschedule the loan, seeking waiving of interest. Desma Shoe Industries, owned by Mohammad Ali, senior vice-president of the FBCCI, has an outstanding loan of Tk 56 crore, totally defaulted. Sonali Bank filed a case several years ago to recover the amount but failed to do so. Dhaka Jute Mills Ltd, owned by a BNP lawmaker, has Tk 59 crore outstanding loan, all of it defaulted. The company is now negotiating with another business group to sell out the entity and repay the loan. Mainamati Textiles Mills, owned by Hasan Yusuf Jamil, has an outstanding loan of Tk 51, wholly defaulted. Agrani Bank has written off the loam and also filed a case against the borrower. On the other hand, the borrower has filed a writ petition against the bank. The other defaulters on the list of top 20 are Phoenix Leather Complex with Tk 69 crore classified loans, Lina Textile Tk 68 crore, Desh Beverage Company Ltd Tk 62 crore, Protein Foods Ltd Tk 50 crore, Sreepur Textile Mills Ltd Tk 50 crore and Lexco Ltd Tk 50 crore defaulted loans.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 10/18/2006


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BHUTAN: Public Funds Misused

7 October 2006- The Trashigang district court last week sentenced three people to prison terms ranging from one month to three months for misusing public funds in Thrimshing gewog over the past three years.The case was filed by the dzongkhag in July this year after the auditing team detected some amount missing from the public accounts. It was found that the former Thrimshing gup had in 2004 withdrawn a sum of Nu. 40,634.58 from the current deposit account. The money was the rural tax balance of 2002 and 2003. In 2005, the former gup had collected a total amount of Nu. 42,670.46 from the public as rural tax and had not deposited it. Another Nu. 14,400, which was contributed by the public for choethun tshogpa, was also misused. ※When the dzongkhag came to know that the money was not deposited, his monthly salary was held up which accumulated to Nu. 22,902,§ said a dzongkhag spokesperson. ※We informed the former gup several times to repay the remaining amount but there was no response,§ said the spokesperson. ※He was also asked to report to the dungkhag office but he did not cooperate. We had no option but to file a case against him§. During the court proceedings, it was found that the present mangmi and the gaydung (clerk) were also involved. According to drangpon Duba Dukpa, the mangmi and the gaydung were entrusted with the collection of rural insurance, which amounted to Nu.123,150 in 2005. ※However, they had deposited only Nu. 74,520 and had misused rest of the money,§ he said. ※But when it was time to deposit the insurance money, they had adjusted it from the tax money which was collected by the gup in the same year§. He said that on court*s verification, it was found that the former gup had used Nu. 37,600, after the deduction from his salary, the gaydung had used Nu. 48,430 and the mangmi Nu. 2,750. (by Kesang Dema in Trashigang)


From http://www.bta.gov.bt 10/07/2006


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INDIA: Financial Reforms Top Priority: PM

Listing financial sector reforms and increase in investment in infrastructure as India's 'two biggest priorities', Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has exuded confidence of getting political support on these issues. "Financial sector reforms and increase in investment in infrastructure are our two biggest priorities," Singh said in an interview published in Financial Times on Monday coinciding his visit to Britain. About the obstacles in the way of reforms, he said, "Politics is the art of the possible and I have to live with the situation I inherited. There have been difficulties, but I have not given up hope. We have not completed half the term." The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is opposed to lifting foreign direct investment caps in the insurance sector, currently set at 26 per cent, while Reserve Bank of India is ring-fencing banks from takeover until 2009. Singh said, "We cannot achieve our social and economic objectives unless there is reform of the insurance and banking system. Infrastructure requires long-term investment and our banking system is essentially short-term oriented." Sustaining a growth rate of 8-10 per cent would hinge on "massive investments" in infrastructure that would require India to mobilise long-term capital more effectively than was currently possible in a short-term debt market, he said. He also defended the creation of special economic zones, which have been attacked by left wingers in the congress party and fiscal hawks in the finance ministry.

From http://www.rediff.com 10/09/2006


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FM Launches E-filing of Income Tax Returns

The Finance Minister, Shri P. Chidambaram launched the e-filing of Income Tax returns, here today. With the launching of this facility, taxpayers can now file their returns through the internet on the department*s web-site http://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in. E-filing has been made mandatory for all corporate taxpayers. They can file their income tax and Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) returns combined in Form No.1. For other taxpayers e-filing is optional. They may e-file their return in Form No.2, Form No.2F, and Form No.3. Those who have filed their income tax returns in any of the above forms, or any other form, may e-file their FBT return in Form No.3B. The tax returns can be e-filed either using digital signature or without digital signature. If the e-filing is without digital signature, the taxpayer will also have to file a paper return. Details regarding which form is to be used by whom, are laid down in Circular No.9/2006 dated 10th October, 2006 issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes, Department of Revenue. The circular is available on the above mentioned website. This e-filing initiative not only propels Indian taxation into the digital era but will also enable the government to interface with the stakeholders more efficiently.

From http://pib.nic.in 10/13/2006


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BEL Pays 146% Dividend to Government

Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) a public sector undertaking of the Ministry of Defence paid its highest ever dividend of 146% for the financial year 2005-06. Shri Y Gopala Rao, Chairman and Manging Director of BEL today presented a cheque of Rs. 64,33,09,760/- to the Defence Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee towards 106% final dividend. Earlier, in November 2005, the BEL had paid to the Government 40% interim dividend of Rs.24,27,58,400. The company has paid a total dividend of Rs. 88,60,68,160/- to the Government of India for the year 2005-06. BEL has been consistently paying dividend over the last 42 years. It has achieved highest ever turnover of Rs. 3536 crore during 2005-06 with profit after tax of Rs. 583 crore as against a turnover of Rs. 3212 crore during 2004-04 with PAT of Rs. 446.3 crore. Defence Minister lauded the efforts of BEL company in its gradual rise in paying dividend and hoped the company would keep up the spirit in future too.

From http://pib.nic.in 10/16/2005


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SRI LANKA: Proposal to Widen Tax Net

TAX: Taxpayers have proposed to the Government to widen the tax net and attract more taxpayers through the next Budget, Finance Ministry sources said. The Government will focus on developing a friendly approach to the country's taxpayers. This year*s budget will also focus on protecting taxpayers' rights and granting substantial recognition to them. Taxpayers have also made proposals for tax concessions through the coming budget. The Finance Ministry has discussed with many stakeholders of the different industries to gain their views for the next budget and Ministry also met Pettah traders recently. The Pettah traders pledged to pay taxes to the Government. But they said that they are not aware of the tax systems and urged the relevant authorities to educate them on taxation, the source said.

From http://www.dailynews.lk/ 10/17/2006


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MALDIVES: Welfare Budget to Cease Financing Government Employees* Medical Needs

The Ministry of Higher Education, Employment and Social Security has stated that starting from this month, the welfare budget would not fund government employees* medical needs. State Minister Ahmed Nazim said that the reason for the cessation of the welfare budget*s aid was because of the health insurance scheme implemented at the beginning of this month. ※Everyone else will benefit from this decision,§ said Nazim. ※There are around 28, 000 people currently under that scheme. If we turn the welfare budget away from them and towards those who need it more, we could greatly increase the quality of service for the latter.§ Nazim said that they would need to gather more information before anyone who applied for aid could be turned away. ※We need to make a database of those who are employed by the government, and which of those have applied for aid,§ said Nazim. ※Work on this database is currently in progress.§ Nazim said that an extra Rf 6 million had been put into the welfare budget this year, as the previous amount had been far too little to meet the employees* needs. ※A lot of things have become more expensive this year,§ said Nazim. ※But the government has increased the amount of money to compensate for this.§

Although the new policy is to exclude government employees, as they now have their health insurance, next year*s welfare budget will not be any smaller, as the government wishes to increase the amount of people they want to help, says Nazim. Starting from Sunday 1st October, the Ministry of Social Security has implemented a health insurance scheme for government employees. According to the agreement made between the Maldivian government and the American company, International Medical Group, government employees will be entitled to $20,000 (approximately Rf 257,000) worth of medical care in the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In addition to treatment from hospitals, the employees could be treated and consulted at clinics and private practitioners in Male with the use of the card provided by the Ministry. In accordance with the introduction of the scheme, International Medical Group is to provide kits to all the government employees that will include the insurance card, the policy, and further information on the scheme. The Rf 1,000 which was provided as a medical allowance under the previous scheme is to be stopped, said the official. Each employee was given a medical allowance of $146.04 (approximately Rf 1, 876.61) a year under the previous scheme. It had been previously announced that government employees would receive their cards by the end of the month.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv/ 10/12/2006


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AZERBAIJAN: Low Tax Collection in State-Run Businesses

The level of tax collection is very low in major state-run enterprises, which owe a large amount of taxes to the state budget, according to the Accountancy Chamber. In the first half of 2006, the total tax collection rate made up 24% of the calculated tax amount. The figure was 23.7% in state-owned enterprises, 11.6% in private businesses, 4.9% in municipalities, 90.8% in foreign organizations and 60% in joint ventures, the Chamber said. The state-owned energy producer Azerenergy fulfilled the commitments on taxes by 4.3%, while Azerkimya State Company by 3.8%, Azerbaijan Airlines State Concern 每 7.4%, the Caspian Shipping Company 每 14.5% and state-owned gas supplier Azerigaz JSC 每 15.1%. Whereas the total amount of tax arrears exceeded 2 billion old manats ($454,000) as of January 1, 2006, in January-June, the figure went down by 17%. In this period, large state-run enterprises paid about 50 million manats ($56.8m) in taxes to the state budget, or 16.7% over the same period of 2005. However, the figure makes up only 60% of the calculated tax amount. In the first half-year, the Azerigas JSC paid over $15m in taxes to the state budget, while State Railway Office - over $11m, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies over $10m, Azerenergy JSC $9m, Azerbaijan Airlines State Concern 每 over $6m, etc. (by AssA-Irada)


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 10/16/2006


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IRAN: Legislature Approves Funds for Gasoline Imports

The legislature on October 2 approved the withdrawal of $3.5 billion from the country's foreign-exchange reserve to fund gasoline imports, IRNA reported. The bill was passed with a vote of 136 in favor, 57 against, and 13 abstentions, and it must win approval from the Guardians Council. Parliamentary talks on gasoline imports grew heated on September 5, "Kayhan" reported the next day. Legislators objected that gasoline is used excessively because it is sold very cheaply at subsidized prices, and Management and Planning Organization Director Farhad Rahbar said consumption would be limited through the distribution of smart cards. Out of 202 legislators who were present in the chamber, only 94 voted that the bill is urgent, which would have moved it to the head of the queue. BS

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/03/2006


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KAZAKHSTAN: KDB and National Innovation Fund to Transfer Shares to "Kazyna"

Danial Akhmetov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, held a meeting on the State Holding "Kazyna" yesterday, October 11, Kazakhstan Today reports. The head of government ordered to the relevant state authorities to complete in one day term the process of the transfer of shares of "Kazakhstan Development Bank" JSC and the and National Innovation Fund into the property of "Kazyna" JSC.

From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 10/12/2006


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UZBEKISTAN: Uzbekinvest Head Office Launches Customer Service Line

Uzbekinvest National Export and Import Insurance Company continues to pursue the strategic policy of continuous improvement of the quality of insurance services, targeting consumer needs and expectations. To achieve higher efficiency of the consumer feedback and active reaction system, the company's head office has created a customer service line: 133-05-46. In an interview with UzReport.com reporter, Deputy Director-General of the UzbekInvest Company Shavakat Inamov said, "Now our clients can speak directly to the specialists of the company's head office, submit claims and requests and make suggestions on improvement of the quality of service provided. All claims and suggestions received from the clients will be used to improve both client service related business-processes and insurance products in general." In terms of improvement of service quality, it should be added that, as reported earlier, in April 2006 Uzbekinvest successfully completed the project on integration of the quality management system and was ISO 9001:2000 certified by TUV NORD.

The project lasted three years and included three stages of gradual expansion of the QMS onto 14 territorial branches of the company in all regions of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Karakalpakstan, as well as service agency Uzbekinvest Assistance and Uzbekinvest Life subsidiary company. Company management things the value of the ISO 9000:2000 QMS model is in its ability to assess the cause-and-effect relations for the majority of internal and consumer-related processes using modern methods. Thanks to Uzbekinvest's aspiration to implement innovations and achieve high professionalism, sophisticated internal corporate culture and management scheme promoting progress and improvement, the company managed to become the first financial institution in Uzbekistan to receive international QMS compliance certificate. "We are convinced that the use of modern management methods is one of the key factors supporting our leadership position and the success of the company's business activity in general," Inamov said.

From http://insurance.uzreport.com/ 10/03/2006


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Transinsurance 每 The First Reinsurance Company in Uzbekistan

The demand for insurance of the increasingly higher risks has been growing for over a century. Reinsurance is one of the effective solutions to this situation. It allows insurance companies to provide insurance coverage to new risks and offer their clients a wide range of insurance services. Reinsurance is a second level of insurance. It is a term for the "insurance of insurance companies". Its special methods and practices allow insurance companies to provide insurance for large amounts of money and take on earlier unknown risks, not suffering the risk of going bankrupt. Earlier unknown risks may be the result of scientific and technological development, R&D, etc. Reinsurance companies, having expanded the sphere of their business thanks to the activity of "primary" insurers, are capable of reinsuring all types of insurance policies in all countries, thereby gaining experience in taking on and distributing the risks. Until recently, no such structure as reinsurance company capable of providing assistance both to domestic and foreign insurance companies existed in the insurance market of Uzbekistan. The situation has changed approximately one month ago, when in the early September the Ministry of Finance of Uzbekistan issued a license to Transinsurance Company. The company is not new in the market, and has earned certain recognition. But let us start from the very beginning. Uzbek-Swiss Transinsurance Joint Venture was set up in the form of a limited liability company in 1996.

The company has successfully operated in the general insurance segment under the administration of the Director-General Talgat Kasymov for 10 years. In the summer of this year, the JV's charter capital was increased to US$2.62 million. In the early September, the Transinsurance went through the reorganization process and was reformed into a reinsurance company. The company continued to operate under the same title and with the same size charter capital. The company's management put its best efforts to keep its loyal clients and maintain the same level of revenue. For this purpose, it prepared special documents, and in the early October Transinsurance's subsidiary, Transinsurance Plus, a company with the charter capital of US$150,000 received a license allowing it to provide services in all classes of general insurance industry. In an interview with BVV reporter, Transinsurance Director-General Talgat Kasymov said that the charter capitals of the two organizations formed in foreign currency only corresponded to the minimal requirements set by the existing legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Moreover, according to Kasymov, the increase of the companies' capitals is current the number one priority for the management. Thus, it is the companies' objective to increase the reinsurance company's capital to US$10 million and that of the subsidiary to US$500,000 by 2007. Meanwhile, there is one more considerable advantage from the entrance of a reinsurance company into the Uzbek market that should be noted.

The fact that local insurance companies reinsure their risks with non-residents results in substantial loss to the budget of the country (since large risks require high premiums and correspondingly high money outflows). Besides, there still remains the problem of loss control. If an insurance case occurs, the insurers will have to claim for compensation payout from the residents of other countries, where different legislation applies. As a result, the process of compensation payout can turn out quite complicated and burdensome. All conflicting issues on the payouts to our companies will have to be handled by the international courts, which may be quite expensive. "Business contacts established over the past ten years will help us provide reinsurance protection for all types of insurance to insurance companies of Russia (Ingosstrah, Russian Insurance Centre, and VSK), Baltic (Riga Re and Baltikumus) as wella s Lloyds syndicates (Willis)," Mr Kasymov said. "Transinsurance is the first reinsurance company in Uzbekistan and our primary aim for today is to provide high quality reinsurance to local and foreign insurers. And in terms of this, we will undoubtedly strive to deserve and support the status of a professional reinsurer," he added.

From http://insurance.uzreport.com/ 10/05/2006


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Uzbekistan President Raises Wages, Pensions

Uzbek President Islam Karimov issued a decree on October 12 raising salaries for state workers, pensions, and social assistance by 20 percent starting November 1, official news agency UzA reported. The new minimal wage, pension, and payments units will be: 12,420 soms ($12) per month for the salaries of state workers and 24,600 soms per month for pensions. DK

From http://www.rferl.org/ 10/13/2006


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Three New Credit Unions Start Their Work in Uzbekistan

Central Bank of Uzbekistan (CBU) has issued licences to Agronur, Koinot and Sharq Yulduzi credit unions, a CBU press release said. The release said that the licences were issued according to the decision of CBU board in line with the Article 4 of the Law "On credit unions". Agronur is located in Bulungur district of Samarkand region and its charter capital makes up 11.5 million soums. Ferghana-based Koinot credit union's charter capital is 10.8 million soums. Sharq Yulduzi credit union's charter capital is 61.4 million soums and it is located in Tashkent. The activity of these credit unions will be focused mainly on provision with financial resources of their members' business projects through attraction of their funds to deposits. The credit unions will also provide leasing services.

From http://finance.uzreport.com/ 10/20/2006


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AUSTRALIA: Superannuation Assets over $913 Billion

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) today released the June 2006 edition of the Quarterly Superannuation Performance publication. Total superannuation assets rose during the June 2006 quarter by 1.3 per cent to $913.9 billion, which represents a 19.8 per cent increase over the 12 months to June 2006. Industry funds showed the strongest growth during the quarter, with assets increasing by 3.1 per cent ($4.6 billion) to $154.6 billion. Retail fund assets grew by 1.9 per cent ($5.6 billion) to $294.6 billion. Public sector fund assets grew by 0.7 per cent ($1.1 billion) to $152.3 billion, while corporate fund assets decreased by 7.6 per cent ($4.5 billion) to $54.3 billion during the June quarter. Contributions to funds with at least $50 million in assets over the June quarter were $21.4 billion, with employers contributing $13.7 billion (63.7 per cent) and members contributing $7.5 billion. Other contributions, including spouse contributions and government co-contributions, totalled $242 million.

Retail funds received 46.7 per cent ($10.0 billion) of total contributions over the quarter, while industry funds received 25.3 per cent ($5.4 billion), public sector funds received 23.8 per cent ($5.1 billion) and corporate funds 4.2 per cent ($903 million). At the end of June 2006, funds with at least $50 million in assets had 30.4 per cent of superannuation assets ($196.9 billion) invested in wholesale trusts and 23.3 per cent ($151.4 billion) invested in life insurance companies. Individually managed mandates comprised 20.1 per cent ($130.5 billion) of superannuation assets. The combined return on assets was -0.6 per cent for the June quarter. The return for industry funds was -0.2 per cent, public sector funds -0.6 per cent, retail funds -0.8 per cent and corporate funds was -1.0 per cent. Given the drop in the prices of listed securities during the quarter relative to previous quarter increases, this was to be expected.


From http://www.apra.gov.au/ 09/28/2006


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Business, Higher Education Push R&D Spend to $15.8bn

Business and higher education were the biggest contributors in Australia's $15.8 billion outlay on research and experimental development (R&D) in 2004-05, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released today. This was an increase of 19% or $2.6 billion since 2002-03. More than half ($8.4 billion or 54%) of this expenditure came from the business sector with higher education outlaying $4.3 billion (27%). The business sector reported the strongest growth in R&D expenditure since 2002-03 (up $1.5 billion or 23%) followed by the higher education (up $0.9 billion or 25%) and private non-profit sectors (up $0.1 billion or 37%). Government sector expenditure on R&D increased by $69 million (2.8%). Expenditure was highest in New South Wales ($5.0 billion) and Victoria ($4.3 billion), while Western Australia recorded the fastest growth since 2002-03 (up 57% to $1.7 billion). The major sources of R&D funding in 2004-05 were business (52% or $8.1 billion) and the Commonwealth government (36% or $5.6 billion). These two sources also recorded the largest increases since 2002-03 (both up by more than 21%). Between 2002-03 and 2004-05, Australia's expenditure on R&D as a proportion of GDP increased from 1.69% to 1.76%. This was below the OECD average of 2.26%.

From http://www.abs.gov.au/ 10/11/2006


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$13.4 Million to Holden for Safety and Fuel Upgrades

GM Holden will receive $13.4 million to introduce safety and fuel management improvements and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Commodore vehicles, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and South Australia's Deputy Premier Kevin Foley announced today. Mr Macfarlane said the funding would support research and development, as well as training to allow re-engineering on the selected models. "The R&D will have benefits at GM Holden plants both here in Elizabeth and at Port Melbourne," Mr Macfarlane said. "In addition, it will enhance GM Holden's technical capabilities and its long-term position as the 'owner' of rear-wheel drive architecture within GM's global operations." "The work will also have positive flow-through benefits for the supply chain, through increased sales of components to GM Holden from Australian component makers." The South Australian and Victorian Governments are matching the $6.7 million being provided by the Commonwealth for this project. South Australia's Deputy Premier and Treasurer Kevin Foley said Holden has had a long association with South Australia, first at Woodville and now at Elizabeth. "We are pleased to be able to contribute to the continued development of this iconic Australian motor vehicle," Mr Foley said. "The South Australian Government has long been committed to ensuring the survival of an Australian automotive industry that is viable and globally competitive." Mr Macfarlane said the funding, combined with the Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme (ACIS), showed the commitment of the Australian Government to the automotive industry. "ACIS will provide more than $7 billion of assistance by 2015 to help the industry become more internationally competitive and adjust to a lower tariff environment," Mr Macfarlane said.

From http://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ 10/23/2006


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Rising Prices to Hit Rates

BUSINESS is suffering higher costs and is increasingly passing them on to retailers, strengthening the case for another interest rate increase next month. Wholesale prices have risen faster over the past six months than at any time in the past six years. The fall in petrol costs in the September quarter only slowed the annual rate of wholesale price inflation from 4.5 to 4.0 per cent. Although the Reserve Bank's focus is on the consumer price index, which will be released tomorrow, economists said the lift in wholesale prices supported the central bank's view that the economy is growing too fast. "The increase in upstream prices adds to a picture of the economy that includes strong global demand, a tightening labour market and high demand for credit," ANZ senior economist Mark Rodriguez said yesterday. The Reserve Bank has used increases in wholesale and raw material prices as partial justification for each of its past three interest rate rises. The dollar yesterday rose to US76c, its highest level since the beginning of September, as markets became increasingly confident that the Reserve Bank would lift interest rates at its next meeting in November.

There were big increases in gas, electricity and water tariffs, as well as construction costs. Dealer car prices are also rising quickly, as are real estate agent fees. The increase in wholesale prices follows a sustained increase in business input costs. Raw materials have been rising in price at an annual rate of more than 6 per cent for most of the past two years and have been above 7 per cent throughout this year. Oil prices, which fell below $US57 a barrel last week, are providing some relief, with the annual rate of raw material price inflation dropping from 9.4 per cent to 7.7 per cent in the September quarter. Other business inputs, ranging from paper and petrol to legal services, have been rising at an annual rate of more than 6 per cent this year. It has only been competition in the retail marketplace that has kept consumer price growth, excluding petrol, to about 3 per cent, with companies in industries other than mining accepting narrower margins and lower profits. "As company profits get squeezed, there is less scope for business to absorb future price increases," Mr Rodriguez said. The increase in wholesale prices is entirely caused by the cost of domestic goods and services, which are rising at an annual rate of 4.8 per cent.

There was no change at all in the price of imports over the past three months. Westpac senior economist Anthony Thompson said that even when one excluded the influence of all the big "one-off" price changes such as oil, food and the construction industry, domestic wholesale prices were rising at an annual rate of 3.6 per cent. He said this revealed an "alarming acceleration and broadening in price pressures". Private-sector economists said it would require a "benign" increase in the consumer price index for the September quarter to restrain the Reserve Bank from raising rates. Most believe this would require a core inflation rate of 0.6per cent or less for the September quarter, bringing the annual rate below 3 per cent.

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/ 10/24/2006


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NEW ZEALAND: Local Banks Top in Customer Survey, HSBC Trails

New Zealand-owned banks TSB and PSIS have topped the latest Consumers' Institute survey of customer satisfaction. Both scored a 98 per cent approval rating, with ASB Bank, Kiwibank and National Bank all given ratings higher than 90 per cent. HSBC was given the lowest satisfaction rating for the third year running, at 47 per cent. BNZ, ANZ and Westpac were all below the average approval rating of 84 per cent. The Consumer survey is the largest survey of its kind, with more than 8200 respondents from a random selection of 12,000 Consumer subscribers. PSIS chief executive Girol Karacaoglu said personal service was "absolutely critical". "We know all our customers by name or at least we try to. They are not numbers, they are people," he told National Radio. "Whether you are a millionaire or earn $10,000 a year, you are treated exactly the same." TSB managing director Kevin Rimmington said his bank concentrated on personal banking rather than corporate banking, and put its customers first. Kiwibank chief executive Sam Knowles admitted that PSIS and TSB had a headstart as they operated at a very local level.

At the bottom of the rankings, 42 per cent of HSBC customers surveyed complained about poor customer service. They said the bank's telephone banking system was overly complicated and they often had communication problems with call centre staff based offshore. HSBC chief executive Norman Wilson said mergers and acquisitions involving the bank over the past three years had caused some "confusion" but he was confident ratings would improve. He pointed out that only 45 customers out of a total of 50,000 took part in the survey. Finance workers union Finsec said that if big banks wanted to improve the respect and faith of their customers, they needed to stop putting sales, technology advances and profit ahead of long-term customer relationships. "The banks that have done the best in this survey are those that have focused on their communities and invested in their retail networks," said general secretary Andrew Casidy.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ 10/11/2006


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SOLOMON ISLANDS: ADB Will Continue to Help the Solomon Islands

In 2007, ADB will begin a US$2 million multi-year technical assistance program supporting the development of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development into a planning, contracting, and asset management agency. In 2008, a $1 million technical assistance project will improve the legal business environment through the business law and regulatory reform agenda. The project aims to modernize and rewrite the Companies Act, streamline the business registration process, and make it quicker and easier to enforce a business contract. In 2009, an infrastructure investment project is planned, to be funded from a $1.8 million grant allocation to Solomon Islands from ADB*s concessional Asian Development Fund. This will build on the existing Post Conflict Emergency Rehabilitation Project (PCERP), and the recently approved Solomon Islands Road Improvement Project (SIRIP)-designed to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the national network of rural roads in the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands is one of the least developed of ADB*s Pacific developing member countries, ranking 128th out of 177 countries covered in the 2005 Human Development Index. The country*s population growth rate is among the highest in the world, about half the population is below age 25, and 85% of the population lives in rural areas. Malaria is prevalent and HIV/AIDS is an important issue. Social infrastructure and services are inadequate, and jobs and other income-generating opportunities are limited, especially in areas outside of the capital, Honiara. ※If poverty is to be reduced and the social fabric healed, there needs to be a substantial improvement in the delivery of basic social services and economic growth that engages the rural population,§ says Philip Erquiaga, ADB's Director General for the Pacific region. ※The focus of ADB*s assistance strategy is well coordinated with other development partners that are contributing to the rehabilitation and development of the nation that experienced internal tensions during 1999-2003.§

From http://www.infrasite.nl/ 10/17/2006


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Asia Wealth Boom Delights Int'l Private Banks

Soaring wealth, high savings and massive potential have made Asia the world's hottest market for the private banks and money managers that cater to the world's richest. The region is minting millionaires at a faster rate than the developed markets of North America and Europe, and with much larger populations and higher economic growth, bankers say the gap in absolute terms is shrinking. "The market size in the next 20 years in Asia-Pacific will outgrow that of Europe. The potential will be bigger," Kathryn Shih, who heads Swiss bank UBS' wealth management arm in the region, told a news conference in Singapore last month. Private bankers from around the world will gather in Tokyo and Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Reuters Wealth Management Summit to discuss their plans to grasp the opportunity presented by this growing wealth. The number of "high-net-worth individuals" in Asia -- people with more than $1 million in financial assets excluding their homes -- grew 7.3 percent to 2.4 million in 2005, according to a report by Merrill Lynch and consultants Capgemini. That topped a 6.9 percent rise in North America, which had 2.9 million, and 4.5 percent in Europe, which had 2.8 million. The gains are expected to continue for a region that is home to four of the 12 biggest economies in the world -- Japan, China, South Korea and India.

The International Monetary Fund projects Asian economies, led by China, will grow at a pace of 7.3 percent and 7.1 in 2006 and 2007. Private banks, which cater exclusively to the wealthy, have taken notice, ramping up their operations in the region in hopes of tapping the booming market. Shih was in Singapore to announce plans for a training centre for private bankers that will open early in 2007 and is expected to train 5,000 UBS wealth management staff in the next four years. The Asia-Pacific division had $100 billion in assets under management. UBS was the world's largest bank for wealthy clients at the end of 2005, with $1.32 trillion worth of client assets, according to a study published in June by London-based consultancy Scorpio Partnership. Other top private banks included Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and HSBC Holdings Plc Credit Suisse said last month it plans to hire up to 4,000 staff in Asia over the next two years, partly to expand its asset management and private banking operations. Morgan Stanley's private banking arm plans to almost double its headcount in Asia over the next three years to keep up with double-digit growth, a senior executive told Reuters last month. And Switzerland's Julius Baer is using its cash flow to build an Asian business from scratch. Private banking executives said the growth has been so strong in the region that staff shortages have become a challenge.

"There is demand for private bankers but few candidates to fill the positions because private banking is a relatively new business in Japan," said Shinichi Nagasawa, an executive director at TMJ NetSearch, who recruits private bankers for top-tier firms in Japan. Asian private bankers said that as the size of the region's market grows, clients are becoming more sophisticated, seeking higher returns and diversification in alternative investments, which include private equity and hedge funds. "Our private clients can access some of the top private equity managers in the world, and of course another important asset class are hedge funds," said Kam Shing Kwang, managing director of JPMorgan Private Bank in Singapore. "The traditional equities and bonds are becoming a smaller percentage of total portfolio." The private bank, whose Asian assets are slightly below 20 percent of its $310 billion of global wealth assets, is a unit of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Bankers said another challenge of operating in Asia is sheer competition, given the number of players entering and expanding in the region, and the ability of wealthy, demanding clients to play not only different firms but different regions off against one another. Singapore in particular has been aggressive in trying to position itself as a private banking hub, posing a challenge to regional rival Hong Kong.

But Kwang said neither city is going to miss out given the vast scale of the boom in wealth. "There is room for two offices at two locations. Asia is growing at an explosive rate and because of the dynamics of the market and demand of the clients, they want the service provider to be close to them," she said. "I don't see that they are competing -- I see them complementing," Kwang said.


From: http://business.inq7.net/ 10/03/2006


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Promoting Stronger Private-Public Sector Ties for Central Asian Development

Business leaders from all over Central Asia will gather in a two-day forum here to discuss opportunities for encouraging partnerships between private and public sectors in support of regional cooperation initiatives. The meeting, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation 每 Business Development Forum (CAREC每BDF), is being held today and tomorrow, two days prior to the CAREC Ministerial Conference which will also be held here. The CAREC 每 BDF is designed to produce recommendations that the Ministers can consider in pursuing efforts to promote investments and economic growth in Central Asia. A similar gathering of the region*s business leaders was held in Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic in November 2005 and resulted in a call for an enhanced representation of the private sector in regional cooperation meetings. The CAREC-BDF is designed to be one of the mechanisms in answering this call, recognizing the importance of the private sector*s role and insights in regional cooperation efforts and giving it the proper forum. The CAREC BDF is also expected to provide networking opportunities for business players and generate greater awareness of investment opportunities the region has to offer. Five priority sectors will be tackled in separate discussion groups during the forum 每 energy, mining, agribusiness, finance sector; and tourism.

Each discussion group will discuss pertinent developments in the sector, and identify possible steps that may be taken through regional cooperation. The CAREC每BDF is organized by the is organized by the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC, ADB, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in cooperation with the All-China Federation of Industry & Commerce.


From: http://www.adb.org/ 10/16/2006


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CHINA: Private Firms May Get Chance to Bid on Oil Blocks

China is considering opening oil exploration blocks in its smaller basins to private domestic private companies in what could be the first step toward introducing competition in the country's highly regulated upstream energy market. The Ministry of Land and Resources plans to develop a bidding system for exploration rights in small and mid-sized basins over the next five to 10 years, the China Oil News reported on its website on Sunday. Trial bidding is expected to start in three to five years, the report said, citing Che Changbo, deputy chief of the Oil and Gas Resources Strategic Research Center under the land ministry. China now grants oil and gas exploration and exploitation licenses to three state-owned energy giants, China National Petroleum Corp, Sinopec Group and China National Offshore Oil Corp, as well as provincial government-run Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Group Co. Che, speaking to an energy forum in Beijing on Friday, said China should allow Chinese companies under all types of ownership to access the upstream energy market provided they meet requirements in capital and expertise. "The big state trio should still play the dominant role in domestic energy exploration and production sector by controlling more than 85 percent of the country's total oil and gas reserves and output (in the future)," Che said. China's onshore and offshore oil basins cover 5.5 million to 6 million square kilometers, and the big three and Yanchang have already registered for the rights to explore 4.38 million square meters, according to the ministry. Che said the blocks to be open will be those that are unregistered at present. Small local companies that have cooperation projects with the state big names can also apply to obtain exploration rights. The reform in the upstream market will encourage the transfer of exploration rights among qualified companies, said China Oil News, which is a publication under CNPC. In July, PetroChina Co, which is CNPC's listed unit, said it will open nine exploration blocks in Tarim Basin in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to foreign investors.


From http://news3.xinhuanet.com/ 10/09/2006


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Private Firms, Largest Creator of Urban Employment

Private enterprises have provided five to six million job opportunities on average each year for urban residents, making the sector the largest creator of urban jobs. The figure represented three-quarters of new jobs every year in cities and townships, said Tian Chengping, Minister of Labor and Social Security, on Thursday while honoring 98 private firms for their outstanding contributions to facilitating employment. The winners jointly selected by the ministry, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce have all taken regional leads in employing laid-off workers, college graduates and redundant rural laborers.


From http://news3.xinhuanet.com/ 10/12/2006


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JAPAN: Bring Postal Reform Foes Back in, Abe Tells LDP

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa on Tuesday to study readmitting some of the postal "rebels" who voted against Junichiro Koizumi's postal privatization legislation last year. Abe told reporters he asked Nakagawa to "consider what kind of cooperation (the LDP) can have with those who voted for me in the prime ministerial election" in the Diet. Abe was clarifying for the first time as LDP president his attitude toward the more than a dozen former LDP members in the House of Representatives, obviously relieved by the party's victories in two Lower House by-elections Sunday. Nakagawa and other party executives are expected to formalize a plan to reinstate those members in the party after the Nov. 19 Okinawa gubernatorial election, one party executive said. After Koizumi refused to let the 37 Lower House opponents of the postal bills run as LDP candidates in the September 2005 general election, 13 retained their seats as independents, including 12 who voted for Abe as prime minister. The former LDP members who voted against the postal bills and are now independents include Takeo Hiranuma, former economy and trade minister, and Seiko Noda, former postal minister. Including those who lost their seats in the election, 17 former LDP members will return to the party en masse, sources said earlier. However, Koizumi reportedly said in a meeting with a senior LDP official at the Diet on Tuesday, "The LDP will lose in the Upper House election if it depends on those who have ties with post offices.§ A party ethics panel meeting could be held as early as late November to give the green light to the plan.


From The Japan Times 10/25/2006


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SOUTH KOREA: Busan New Port Container Berths to Be Built with Private-Sector Funds

Four container berths at Busan New Port will be built with private-sector fund by an international consortium led by the Hyundai Development Co., the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said on Thursday (Oct. 19). The ministry said a consortium led by Hyundai has been designated as the constructor of the second and third phase container berth projects and a pact on project implementation will be concluded on Oct. 23. It said the project marks the first case in the country, where its construction will be made with private-sector funds with no government financing involved. That is, the minimum revenue guarantee clause does not exist in the pact. The five-member consortium includes France's CMA-CGM and Israel's Zim, both world leaders in container shipping, and Australia's Macquarie Korea Infrastructure Fund. Their participation is expected to greatly contribute to luring transshipment service to Busan and revitalizing the port. The project calls for constructing a 1,400 meter-long quay capable of simultaneously accommodating four, 50,000-ton container ships and an 825,000 square-meter port site at a cost of 510.8 billion won from January 2007 to the end of 2010.


From http://www.korea.net 10/21/2006


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MALAYSIA: Private Sector Employers Free to Chose Whether Oct 23 Is a Holiday

PETALING JAYA: Private sector employers are given a free hand in choosing whether or not to consider Oct 23 as a holiday for their employees in celebrating the Deepavali and Hari Raya celebrations, which fall on Oct 21 and Oct 24 and 25 respectively. A press release by the Human Resources Ministry on Saturday stated that private sector employers may choose to provide additional holidays only if they deem it fit. However, the Ministry has announced Oct 23 as a holiday for all public sectors. For Terengganu, Oct 26 has been announced as a state holiday in celebrating the festive season.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 10/07/2006


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THAILAND: Rectors Call for End to Red Tape

The Council of University Rectors is pushing for the privatisation of the 20 remaining state universities, asking the new education minister to back appropriate legislation. The council also called for reinstatement of the University Affairs Ministry to handle higher education administration. Council chairman Pratchaya Wesarat said the rectors of 24 universities met yesterday at King Mongkut's University of Technology, agreeing to ask Education Minister Wijit Srisa-arn to push for the privatisation of all state universities. Of 24 state universities, four have been privatised, giving them autonomy to manage their own institutions. The rest have been waiting for privatisation acts to be passed by parliament. ''Rectors of those universities are ready to privatise their institutions so they are free to improve management,'' said Mr Pratchaya, adding the council hopes all state universities will be privatised by the end of 2007. At its next meeting on Nov 18, the council will come up with proposals for the Education Ministry regarding privatisation, future subsidies and administration structures, he said. The council is also pushing for the reinstatement of the University Affairs Ministry which was merged into the Education Ministry two years ago. Mr Pratchaya said the council will give the education minister a report this week on management problems during the past two years.

Citing the report, he said after the ministries were merged work became bogged down by bureaucratic delays. ''Most Education Ministry staff are familiar with a centralised management style. The ministry also took took away some decision-making authority that used to be in the hands of each university,'' said Mr Pratchaya. When making decisions on budget allocation, the ministry also does not pay much attention to human resources development at higher education institutions, he said. Mr Pratchaya said seeking ministry approval has become bureaucratic and time consuming. Universities used to be authorised to seek royal endorsement on academic titles for lecturers. Now, the proposal on lecturers' academic titles at all universities must be approved by the ministry first, he said. As a former administrator of higher education, Mr Wijit is expected to understand that universities need a freer hand, Mr Pratchaya said. ''However, if the minister can reduce bureaucratic red tape in higher education administration, we will understand if he can't reinstate the University Affairs Ministry,'' he said.

From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com/ 10/15/2006


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VIET NAM: Hanoi Opens Way for Private Funds in Infrastructure Drive

Viet Nam expects to be promoting around US$150 billion worth of public and private investment over the five years under the government*s current socio-economic development plan (SEDP). The Asian Development Bank has committed to providing US$3 billion funding over the first two years of the period. The ADB has called Viet Nam the &Star of South East Asia* in terms of economic growth, currently running at an annual rate of around 8 per cent. Growth in private investment, consumption and exports are said to be driving a dynamic economy. But to finance its ambitious programme of economic expansion, Viet Nam will need additional capital resources. Some 30 per cent of it is expected to come from the private sector over the five year span of SEDP. Acceleration in the rate of investment is indicated by the fact that over the past 12 or so years the bank*s funding of public projects in Viet Nam has amounted to $3.5 billion. Now it seems that funding of a similar order will be available over the next two years. The new money will be provided at concessional rates from the Asian Development Fund whereby there is a grace period of eight years at one per cent interest and 1? per cent over the remaining 16 year term of the loans. Concessional loans are also being made by the World Bank at US$100 million, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (US$75 million) and Germany (6 million), plus another $15 million from ADB to support Viet Nam*s current growth strategy framework. Altogether the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam*s Government will receive in excess of $200 million by this route to support the country*s reform agenda. One of the most important elements of this agenda is the reduction of corruption. The government has promised to step up its efforts at business reform.

This funding is being supplemented by grants worth some US$90 million in total from a number of donors including Great Britain at ㏒20 million, the European Commission and three Member States at around 30 million and Australia at Aus$10 million. Hilary Benn, Britain*s International Development Secretary, has recently committed ㏒250 million ($450 million) in aid to Viet Nam over the next five years under a ten-year development partnership arrangement signed with Viet Nam*s Planning and Investment Minister. The development partnership commits the UK to providing ㏒50 million in aid for this year and 2007, and ㏒50 million a year thereafter up to 2010. On the question of corruption, Mr. Benn acknowledged that Viet Nam has made real progress in addressing the issue, but said there is more to be done. ※The whole government has taken on the challenge of eliminating the potential for corruption. Recently introduced measures to strengthen governance and increase transparency, not only for projects using foreign aid, but in all ministries and government at a province level, are important steps forward. Improving governance across the board is absolutely vital for the longer term fight.§ Viet Nam*s infrastructure expansion plan covers mainly power generation, transportation and water supply. Recently ADB signed a loan agreement with the government for a $360 million public sector loan for strengthening the power transmission system in the country*s northern region. Plans are in hand to double installed generation capacity to about 24,000 megawatts by 2010. As the bank*s review document put it, Viet Nam*s infrastructure investments implemented through the public sector frequently encounter bottlenecks. The private sector option is seen as an important way out of this problem. Among the major transportation projects currently being considered are a tramway system for Hanoi and the first stage of the proposed Metro rail system for Ho Chi Min City. The Hanoi water supply project is going ahead as a public private partnership.

From http://www.ciobinternational.org/ 10/09/2006


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INDIA: Ports Expect Huge Private Participations

NEW DELHI, Oct. 7. - Government expects the private sector to chip in Rs 34,000 crore of the total Rs 55,800 crore required by the country*s port sector, through the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) route. ※We expect private sector investment to the tune of Rs 34,000 crore in the port sector,§ shipping ministry secretary, Mr AK Mohapatra, told a conference on infrastructure here. Of the total requirement, he said Rs 32,564 crore would be required for 76 projects for berth construction, Rs 6,034 crore for 25 channel deepening projects, Rs 2,633 crore for equipment, Rs 5,956 crore for 45 connectivity projects and the remaining Rs 8,347 crore for other 78 projects. Elaborating on the projects, he said nine projects to connect each major port with a four-lane road is being undertaken at an expense of Rs 1,859 crore. ※The project entails almost 299.42 km of road to be built in the next one to three years,§ he said. All the major ports would also be connected by a double line rail. Eight projects entailing an investment of Rs 2,118 crore have been identified by the ministry. The secretary informed that dredging will also be undertaken at JNPT, Paradip, Mumbai, Ennore, Tuticorin, and Vishakapatnam ports. Mr Mohapatra said there is immense potential for greenfield ports, captive facilities, besides expansion and upgradation of existing facilities. He also said that the government is planning an Indian Maritime University and two international size shipyards.

From http://www.thestatesman.net/ 10/07/2006


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Private Colleges Fight Quota Diktat

NEW DELHI, Oct. 7 〞 The UPA government is likely to face an uphill task in implementing OBC quota in unaided private institutions. The exercise suffered its first casualty when a meeting of chief ministers of states having many unaided institutions with the Union HRD minister, Mr Arjun Singh, was put off for a week. The quota move is facing stiff resistance from a forum of unaided private institutions in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. They have been lobbying with state chief ministers and have now set up camp in the Capital. The forum members are gearing up to fight out the issue with the government. They are likely to meet the HRD minister. If HRD officials are to be believed, the CMs' meeting earlier scheduled for 10 October has been postponed as the HRD minister wants to ascertain the views of the forum. The meeting will also be attended by the Union defence minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who headed the Group of Ministers (GoM) which reviewed the draft legislation on reservation for OBCs in central educational institutions, and the Union finance minister, Mr P Chidambaram. The forum's contention is that because they don't take any monetary and other benefits from the government, they should not be compelled to demarcate seats for OBCs. However, the government believes that once there is a constitutional amendment, any organisation which establishes an institution on Indian soil, will have to abide by it. The government is also in the process of extending the OBC reservation to foreign universities setting up campuses in India (as reported in The Statesman). The government decided to consult all chief ministers before taking a final view on a separate legislation for bringing unaided deemed universities under the ambit of the new reservation regime. Though the HRD ministry had wanted to include unaided deemed universities in the Bill for OBC reservation in Central educational institutions, the GoM vetoed it and called for a separate legislation. The GoM was of the view that an umbrella legislation might not stand legal scrutiny. (by Sanjay Singh)

From http://www.thestatesman.net/ 10/07/2006


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Railways Minister Inaugurates Conference on Public Private Partnership

The private sector should invest and participate more and more in non-core activities of Indian Railways, which has benefited both Railways and the private sector. There are a number of possibilities for participation of private sector in Railway Projects like modernization of Railway Stations, setting up of agro product outlets at Railway Stations, construction of sidings and logistic parks, wagon manufacture, port connectivity and setting up of dedicated freight corridor etc. This was stated by Shri Lalu Prasad, Union Minister for Railways in his inaugural address at the Conference on Public Private Partnership in Indian Railways organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries here today. Shri J.P. Batra, Chairman, Railway Board, Shri R. Sivadasan, Financial commissioner and Shri S.B. Ghosh Dastidar, Member (Traffic), Railway Board were also present on the occasion. Shri Sudhir Kumar, Officer on Special Duty to Minister for Railways made a presentation on the turnaround in Indian Railways. The container policy has been liberalized for participation of private sector and the private sector is investing about Rs. 2,000 crore for manufacture of wagons and terminals. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has also encouraged private participation in catering and parcel business. With the surplus of more than Rs. 13,000 crore, the Railways are on a fast track and we wish to make Indian Railways one of the best in the world, Shri Lalu Prasad added. A High Level Committee has been set up to oversee effective and quick implementation of PPP projects in identified areas and the first meeting of this Committee will be held in the last week of this month. This was stated by Shri J.P. Batra, Chairman Railway Board in his address at the Conference. In his concluding remarks, Shri Batra said that Railways would continue to reinforce and improve upon the achievements of the past two years.

From http://pib.nic.in/ 10/16/2006


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IRAN: Development of Private Sector Urged

Private sector is loyal to the Islamic system and knows that the government and Majlis* concerns about realization of social justice is not a slogan, said Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel here on Tuesday. Speaking in the second annual meeting of members of Board of Directors of Majlis friendship groups and joint councils of chamber of commerce, industries and mines, he said, ※We should not to be hasty in implementing Article 44 of the Constitution and developing the private sector.※ He noted that those who do not believe in the principles of Islamic Revolution should not be allowed to misuse the opportunity. Hadad-Adel pointed out, ※Expediting the process may harm the basis of privatization and trigger some reactions, so you should be determined and use past experiences to proceed continuously and slowly. The Parliament will help you in this respect.※

He said that numerous developments after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, eight years of Iraq-imposed war and practical and theological experiences have created a better situation for the private sector compared to the past. He noted that compilation of the general policy of Article 44 of the Constitution is the most important step taken for developing private sector and establishing its relation with the government. The speaker said that the Parliament is cautious to fulfill the intention of leader in implementing Article 44 of the Constitution properly. ※If we can make the private sector more active, many challenges faced by the legislative body and government would be overcome,※ he noted. He referred to employment as a major index for evaluating government performance worldwide, adding if the private sector become active in this field, the current pressure on the government for solving unemployment problems would be removed.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 10/19/2006

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Industries, Mines Firms Up for Privatization

Ministry of Industries and Mines will transfer majority of the shares of subsidiary companies to the private sector in the form of Justice Shares. According to IRIB News, the ministry announced here Sunday that the minister of industries and mines and the head of State Privatization Organization agreed to transfer 25 percent of the shares of Isfahan Mobarakeh Steel Mill in addition to 30 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent of the shares of Isfahan Foundry Company, National Iranian Copper Company and Khuzestan Steel Company*s stakes respectively to private ownership. They also agreed to transfer 8.10 percent of Gol-Gohar Iron Ore Company, 7.22 percent of Chadormalou Iron Ore Company, 30 percent of Iran Aluminum Company and 50 percent of Darab and Bushehr cement companies shares in the form of Justice Shares. Justice Shares Taskforce, which is headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has decided to grant the shares to those covered by charity services such as Imam Khomeini Relief Committee and State Welfare Organization. Each person will receive shares worth up to 20 million rials and each family a maximum of 100 million rials.


From http://www.iran-daily.com/ 10/23/2006

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AUSTRALIA: Small Business Still Upbeat: NAB Survey

Business conditions among Australia's small to medium sized businesses (SME) remained strong in the September quarter, a new survey has found. The National Australia Bank (NAB) SME business conditions index rose six points to 20 index points in the September quarter. This was higher than the 14 index points reported for their larger business counterparts across the nation. Thirty three per cent of SMEs reported good or very good business conditions while 13 per cent stated poor or very poor conditions. Executive general manager of business and private banking at NAB, George Frazis, said conditions were strongest among SMEs with annual turnover of $5-10 million. "All sectors other than property services and accommodation cafes & restaurants reported improved conditions in the September quarter," Mr Frazis said. The 12 month profit outlook of SMEs remains strong, albeit a little weaker than reported in the June quarter. The profitability index eased by five points to 32 index points in the quarter. A net 32 per cent of SMEs anticipate an increase in profits over the next year, down from 37 per cent previously. The outlook is also a bit stronger among SMEs with higher turnover, above $3 million per annum. The index and associated survey is a measure of current business conditions experienced by all types of SMEs around Australia.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/09/2006

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Report Calls for Better Planning of PPP Projects

GOVERNMENTS should be clearer about the commercial development opportunities they offer in public-private partnerships, an Ernst & Young report says. The Impact of property on public infrastructure report finds PPP projects such as Southern Cross Station and the redevelopment of the Melbourne Showgrounds have included commercial opportunities for developers on an ad hoc basis. Better results could be achieved if each project was considered according to a well thought out formula, particularly when offering commercial development opportunities in the mix. "We are not saying that these projects have been done badly 〞 on the whole they have been done quite well # but we need a logical strategy for making sure that they are absolutely right," said Ernst & Young project finance partner Darrin Grimsey. PPPs, which bring governments and private companies together to build important infrastructure, have a controversial history in Victoria. The State Government was recently forced to offer Southern Cross Station builder Leighton Holdings almost $33 million to smooth over a contractual dispute and avoid expensive litigation. And opinions over PPP agreements to build the County Court, the Royal Women's Hospital and the Convention Centre and related developments at Docklands remain polarised.

But the Ernst & Young report says that by analysing a PPP's objectives, characteristics, property opportunities, risks and strategic value, governments could better incorporate commercial development opportunities, or "property", within their PPP offerings. "In our view, there is a strong case for carefully considering the potential for property to enhance value and achieve objectives," the report says. "It is not to say that property should drive the approach, but to the extent that it is complementary and does support better public-sector outcomes, it should be properly assessed." Mr Grimsey said public infrastructure projects and commercial development opportunities were ideal when they could "feed off each other", providing people with better facilities and services. A spokeswoman for Treasurer John Brumby said PPPs went ahead only when they were in the public interest. "Victoria has the most developed PPP policy in Australia," she said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/12/2006

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Small Business Win on Trade Practices Act Reform

The Government is delighted with the passage today of the Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2005 (the Dawson Bill). The Government has worked closely with small businesses to bring about benefits for small business that flow from the Dawson Bill, benefits that include: a simpler process for collective bargaining, making this process simpler and less costly; a more transparent and certain system for mergers; stronger powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission; significantly higher penalties for those who engage in anti-competitive conduct; and retaining the per-se prohibition in relation to third line forcing. The Government looks forward to working with small business on the next stage of its Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA) reform to strengthen the misuse of market power provisions and unconscionable conduct provisions of the TPA. This Bill was defeated in the Senate one year ago by a combination of the ALP, Democrats and Greens. It is a major breakthrough today for it to be passed. I acknowledge the work of Senator Boswell and Family First in making this possible.


From http://www.treasurer.gov.au/ 10/19/2006

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FIG Invests Another $1m in Australian Food Industry Innovation

Six Australian companies will share in $983,654 funding thanks to the National Food Industry Strategy (NFIS) Ltd's unique Food Innovation Grants (FIG) program. The recipients, which were announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran MP in Melbourne today, are the latest of 11 rounds of FIG funding, valued at $45.4 million. Round 11 of the grants is the final round in the program, begun in 2003, which has seen a combined $105.35 million in Federal Government and industry funding for innovation in the Australian food industry. Seventy nine food business in all states have received grants since the program began. NFIS Ltd Managing Director, Dr Susan Nelle , said FIG has played a significant role in encouraging innovation by Australian food industry businesses. "What the highly successful FIG program has done is help large and small food businesses share the risk associated with innovation and allowing them to take research and development to the next step of commercialisation," said Dr Susan Nelle. Individual grants of up to $1 million are awarded on a competitive, merit-based assessment, with funding provided on a matching dollar-for-dollar basis for up to half the eligible project costs.

The projects must involve research and development that includes systematic experimentation, investigation and analysis in any field of science and technology and they must have strong prospects for commercialisation within the food industry. "The FIG program has helped stimulate approximately $105.4 million worth of investment in research and development in Australia , including around $60 million of industry contributions, which may not otherwise have happened. "In practical terms this means Australian food companies are being given a helping hand to find solutions to R&D problems that previously were probably in the 'too hard' basket. "Ultimately, NFIS Ltd believes investment in innovation is a major contributing factor to the increased international competitiveness of Australia 's food industry," Dr Nelle said. NFIS Ltd is an industry-led, Commonwealth-funded company that drives the $114 million national strategy, a five-year blueprint for growth in the Australian food industry. It is overseen by a joint government-industry council comprising six Commonwealth Ministers and leading fig ures from the food industry.


From http://www.nfis.com.au/ 10/23/2006

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Govt Offers $30m to Attract Firms to SA

The federal and South Australian governments have set up a $30 million investment fund to attract companies to Adelaide following the restructure of whitegoods manufacturer Electrolux. Electrolux last month announced plans to send some of its manufacturing offshore and close two factories in Adelaide with the eventual loss of about 500 jobs. Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said on Monday the federal government would provide $25 million and the SA government $5 million to support new business investment in SA. The scheme is similar to the one set up when car-maker Mitsubishi closed its engine plant at Lonsdale in Adelaide's south, with the loss of about 650 jobs. In a joint statement, Mr Macfarlane and SA deputy premier Kevin Foley said while the Electrolux decision was disappointing, they were confident the new investment fund would keep unemployment in SA at record lows.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/23/2006

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Private Sector 'Should Jump into Water'

Australia's water crisis could be eased if the private sector had the opportunity to invest in the local water industry, according to the federal MP overseeing Australia's water crisis, Malcolm Turnbull. Mr Turnbull called on state governments to open up opportunities for the private sector to invest in Australia's decaying state-owned water infrastructure. The recently appointed parliamentary secretary for water says Macquarie Bank, Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank had invested vast sums of money on British water companies in the last month which should be used in Australia. "There you have many billions of dollars from Australian institutions, which of course are ultimately sourced from the savings of Australians, finding their way into the UK industry but the door is effectively locked for their investment in Australia," Mr Turnbull told the Australian British Chamber of Commerce. "We have water infrastructure in this country that is out of date, exhausted. "We have leaky systems, more than 100-year-old infrastructure that is losing gigalitres of water every year in leaks. "Our water industry needs massive investment running into tens of millions of dollars and yet the biggest possible source of that investment, the private sector, is given very little opportunity to invest in that industry.

"So the savings of Australians who want to invest in water are going to the UK and not into the Australian water industry and that is something we believe is an anomaly that urgently needs to be addressed." Macquarie led a consortium which last week bought Britain's biggest water supplier, Thames Water, for $20 billion, beating off bidders including Australian gas utility Alinta. The Macquarie purchase came after it sold the UK's South East Water to Westpac for $1.24 billion. The Commonwealth's asset management arm, Colonial First State, is part of the IFM consortium which has bid $A5.5 billion for Anglian Water Services Limited, the fourth largest water supply and sewerage company in England and Wales. But United Utilities Australia, one of only three sizeable private companies which make up less than two per cent of the country's water capital, says it was approached by the three banks and many other investors before they turned to the UK. "All of the big banks, all of their investment arms have got hundreds of billions of dollars available," said United's managing director, Graham Dooley. "They're regularly approaching us. They've been approaching us for years. But it's pointless approaching us.

"I would willingly source vast amounts of equity out of the capital markets of Australia if only there were the projects we could bid on." Westpac said it would spend locally if more projects were open to the private sector. "We'd certainly invest in Australian water assets if they were available," said a spokesman for the bank. Mr Dooley said of approximately $20 billion worth of water projects currently underway in the states, the private sector is contributing "a couple of hundred million". He believes private investors should be funding 100 per cent, like other utilities such as gas and electricity. State governments have responsibility for water in Australia but Mr Dooley claims they are reluctant to hand over such a significant source of revenue to the private sector.


from http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/23/2006

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Water Privatisation 'Not the Answer'

AUSTRALIANS should be wary of any Federal Government moves towards privatising the nation's water trading system, a community activist from drought-stricken Bolivia has warned. Water bills leapt 300 per cent when, in 2000, the then Bolivian government granted a 40-year privatisation lease to a company to provide water to a city with more than 500,000 residents, Gissel Gonzalez told the Latin America and Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference at Melbourne's Trades Hall. Mr Gonzalez said the company took control of the city of Cochabamba's communal wells and "could even charge you for collecting rain water". Outrage led to days of bloody street battles with police. As the revolt worsened, the government cancelled the privatisation deal. "Water is not a resource for the profit of private companies, it is for communities to control," Mr Gonzalez, of Bolivia's co-ordinating committee for the defence of water and life, said.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 10/23/2006

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