April 2007,  Issue 65

Contact: unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

ASEAN and ILO Sign Agreement to Boost Cooperation
CAREC Officials Discuss Deeper Cooperation
Key Issues for Asia's Future to Be Addressed at ADB Annual Meeting in Kyoto, Japan
80 Countries Sign UN Convention Protecting Rights of the World's Disabled

 

 

CHINA: Job Discrimination to End with New Employment Promotion Law
Supreme Court to Issue Judical Interpretations on Property Law
China to Announce Personal Income Tax Declaration Results
New Beijing Urban Construction Plan Reported for Approval
China Launches Program to Extend Medical Insurance
China to Open Up More Centrally Administered SOEs
China to Allow Foreigners to Attend Piracy Trials
China Passes New Measure to Prosecute IPR Pirates
Regulation on Organ Transplants Issued
New Rules to Govern Mainland-Taiwan Trade
China Issues Regulation on Selection of Trustees in Bankruptcy
China to Issue New Plan to Protect Olympic Logo
China Chops Back Economic Development Zones
JAPAN: Getting Latest Gear to Cope with Terrorism
Anti-Graft System Watered Down
Government to Study Ways to Repopulate Rural Areas
Top Law Revision Has Taken Big Step
Diet Passes Bills to Protect Japan EEZ
Headwind for Japan Constitutional Changes
Lower House Panel Passes Constitutional Referendum Bill
Govt Plan Aims to Boost Farm Management
SOUTH KOREA: Government to Legislate Against Age Discrimination in Employment
Roh Withholds Planned Motion for Constitutional Revision
Korea to Adopt Stricter Accounting Rules from 2011
Roh Calls for Efforts to Attain True Democracy
N. & S. KOREA: Full Text of Agreement at Inter-Korean Economic Talks
Koreas Set to Issue Accord on Railway Tests
MONGOLIA: Government to Draw Up Draft Law

 

 

INDONESIA: Govt Launches Low-cost Housing Project
Indonesia Commits to ASEAN Single Market Plan
Bills Need to Reform Party System
Government Drafts Service Standards
New Regulations Allow Local Govts to Issue Bonds
Govt Announces Tax Write-off
PHILIPPINES: Two Multi-billion ICT Projects Approved
SINGAPORE: New law to Curb Email, Mobile Spam
THAILAND: Constitution Contains No State Religion
VIET NAM: State-housing Rates May Be Amended

 

 

Journalists to Get Visa-free Travel Facility in S Asia
Pakistan, India to Speed Up IPI Project
BANGLADESH: Amendments Allow ACC to Arrest on Suspicion, Without Warrant
Bangladesh to Sign UN Convention Over Disabilities
EC Proposes Stringent Rules for Poll Campaign
INDIA: Govt to Set Up Separate Regulator for Broadcast: DasMunsi
PM Launching Two Mega Projects
Stricter Norms for Chemists in Punjab
Punjab to Launch a Drive for Afforestation, Says Minister
Action Plan to Prevent Child Marriage in MP
Govt to Formulate Clusters of Villages to Penetrate Rural Mkts
PAKISTAN: To Implement WHO Standard Facilities
Cabinet Approves Draft Bill on Delimitation of Constituencies
Aziz Approves New Insurance Policy

 

 

KYGRYZSTAN: President Presents Draft Constitution
Kyrgyz President Issues Decree on State System
TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Reinforces Headscarf Ban
TURKEY: New Trade Law to Change Trade Guidelines

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Anti-Money Laundering Strengthened
Media Laws Proclaimed
Framework for Reviewing Administrative Decisions by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)
Respite for Mental Health Carers Across Australia
Offences to Combat Identity Crime Released for Public Consultation
Law Protects the Unborn Child
Vic Budget to Focus on Water, Climate
FIJI: Cabinet Approves Policy Issues for a Higher Education Bill for Fiji
NEW ZEALAND: Working with Regions for Economic Transformation

 

 

 

 

 

APEC Members Move to Harmonize Food Safety
Chief Operating Officer Appointed at the APEC Secretariat
G24: Voting Reform at Multilaterals Must Be 'Meaningful'
New UN Chief Marking 100 Days in Post
UN Chief Urges Streamlined Bureaucracy

 

 

 

CHINA: Strengthen Controls on Gov't Department Size, Spending
Senior Party Official Stresses Anti-corruption
Gov't Urged to Improve Rural Sanitation
Crackdown on Extravagance in Gov't Celebrations
China to Intensify Crackdown on Rural Crime
State Council Appoints New Officials of Departments
China Tightens Supervision of Joint Educational Programs
China Announces Rules to Require Government Disclosures
JAPAN: GSDF Launches Quick Terror-Response Division
Tokyo Governor Wins New Term
SOUTH KOREA: National Assembly Approves New Prime Minister
Top Military Intelligence Officer Named to Lead Air Force
Rhyu Submits His Resignation Due to Pension
Roh Nominates New Culture, Maritime Affairs Ministers
Tourism Head Named New Culture Minister
4 New Cabinet Ministers Named
Roh Named His Spokesman, Presidential Secretaries
Illegal Funds Probe Hampered
MONGOLIA: New Governor Appointed

 

 

 

 

INDONESIA: Govt to Provide Rp 700 Billion Quake Assistance for West Sumatra
Govt to Build Disaster Relief Depots
Govt Sets Aside Rp 2.5t for Mud Projects
Government Needs Priorities in Fight Against Graft
MALAYSIA: Government Offices to Open from 7.30am to 5.30pm
Part-time Judges to Be Appointed Soon
Kelantan Red-tape Nightmare
PKR to Name Ljok Candidate Today
PHILIPPINES: Arroyo Appoints Fil-Am as Head of Gov’t Printing Office
Report Gov’t Vehicles in Use During Holiday
Congress Should Have Cut Number of Congressmen and Senators
SINGAPORE: Supreme Court Judge Appointed as Second Judge of Appeal
Leslie Chew Appointed as Subordinate Courts District Judge
THAILAND: Cabinet Reshuffle Imminent
Thailand to Host Global Corruption School

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Govt Prepares to Exile Khaleda by Sunday
Punjab Gets 11 More Chief Parliamentary Secretaries
Seven IAS, 11 IPS Officers Transferred in Bihar
President Kalam Appoints Judges for Bombay, Guwahati and Delhi High Courts
Bhandari to Be Punjab BJP Unit Chief
7,000 Rural Courts to Be Set Up: Law Minister
INDIA: 20 Civil Service Officers Transferred in Punjab
PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Accepts PIA Chairman’s Resignation
Musharraf Will Be Re-elected Before Polls, Says Rashid

 

 

 

 

IRAQ: Justice Minister Resigns
Iraqi Official Proposes Federal System to End Violence
IRAN: Iranian Diplomat Held in Iraq Released
KYGRYZSTAN: Opposition Establishes New Faction in Parliament
KAZAKHSTAN: New Deputy Defense Minister Appointed
Kazakhstan to Establish a State Commission on Economy Modernization
TAJIKISTAN: Ruling Party Wins Parliamentary By-Elections
TURKEY: PM to Announce Presidential Candidate Next Week
TURKMENISTAN: President Chairs People's Council
UZBEKISTAN: New Chief of State Insurance Inspectorate Appointed

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Cutting the Red Tape on Record-Keeping
Australian Government Extends Skilled Migration Industry Outreach Officer Programme
Research Quality Framework Panel Chairs Announced
FIJI: Study to Determine Public Rental Board and Housing Authority Merger
NEW ZEALAND: ERMA New Zealand Alters Composition of 1080 Reassessment Committee
National State of the Environment Reporting Programme Established
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Workers Deployed to Tsunami Stricken Areas

 

 

 

Google Announces Developer Day in Ten Cities Around the World
ASEAN Business Awards Launched
Sixth Annual Knowledge Economy Forum: Adopt or Innovate?

 

 

CHINA: To Monitor Ethnic Relations
Top Advisor Urges Large Firms to Improve Innovative Capability
Vice Premier Calls for More Technological Innovation in Agriculture
China Brings in Qualified Investors to Manage Pension Funds
New Tax Return System Receives "Satisfactory" Declarations
Net to Prosecute IPR Pirates Widened
New Moves to Improve Food Safety
JAPAN: Govt, Ruling Parties Agree on Public Servant Reforms
Unified Elections 2007:Only 2 Municipalities Using E-voting
Govt Panel Talks on Taxation Reform Not Concrete
Reform or Punishment: How Young Is Too Young to Send Kids to Reformatories?
SOUTH KOREA: Lawmakers Ready New Pension Reform Measure
Roh Pledges Aggressive State Investments in English Education
NORTH KOREA: Change at Top a Sign of Reform

 

 

INDONESIA: Aceh Opens New Office to Attract Investors
PHILIPPINES: DA to Expand Biotechnology Network
SINGAPORE: Special Police Training for Community Leaders
New Areas Unveiled as Part of National Plan to Make S'pore More Energy Efficient
THAILAND: Banks Adopting Risk Management Tools

 

 

BANGLADESH: Training Programme for ISP, Telecoms Engineers
INDIA: Step Up Surveillance to Prevent Bird Flu Outbreak
Free Computer Training for Chhattisgarh Teachers
Green Delhi: Earth Charter Launched in City Schools
India' First Automated Multi-level Car Park Inaugurated in Kolkata
Edusat Scheme for Schools in Tribal Madhya Pradesh
Regulatory Mechanism for Protection of Wetlands Soon

 

 

AFGHANISTAN: Forums Aim to Set Priorities for Development
Afghan National Police to Receive New Training
IRAN: Interior Ministry Plans Electoral Reforms
KAZAKHSTAN: WTO Accession Discussed in the Government
Administrative Reform Concept Will Be Presented to the President in 2008
UZBEKISTAN: Draft Customs Code to Be Discussed at Roundtable

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Grants to Help Young Innovators
New Food Logo to Benefit Tasmanian Growers
Media Reform–Moving into the Digital Age
A Bushfire Management Strategy for the 21st Century
Telecommunications Safeguards: Pointing You in the Right Direction
$12.3 Million for First Solar City in Central Australia
Australian Government's Job Seeker Account - Getting People off Welfare and into Work
Projects Leading the Way in Northern Rivers
New Project to Save Two Billion Litres of Wa Water Annually
NEW ZEALAND: Stronger Fire and Rescue Services for NZ
Launch of Licence Card Next Step in Building Sector Reform

 

 

 

APEC Economies to Reduce Aviation Greenhouse Emissions
ITU Forum Tackles Challenge of Low-Cost Telecom Access
Asia Pacific Region Plans for Next-Generation Networks
International Community to Step Up Action on Water and Sanitation Agenda
Extreme Poverty in the World Reduced by 21 Percent Between 1990 and 2004
Melting Himalayan Glaciers Pose Security Risk –UNEP
ADB, Microsoft Forge Partnership to Promote ICT in Asia and the Pacific

 

 

CHINA: E-channels for Tourists to Go on Trial in HK
Forex Watchdog Warns Online Fund Fraud
China Launches 6th On-line Public Memorial for Martyrs
China is Top Global Performer in E-ticketing: IATA chief
E-traders Team Up in Fraud Fight
World's Biggest ID Database Complete
China Begins Crackdown on Internet Porn
China's Online Game Industry on A Roll
Chinese Police Crack Down on Internet Crimes
Security Concerns Abound About Online Banking
China to Help Clean up the Internet
JAPAN: Political Gender Equality Takes a Turn
Think Tanks Offer Japan Plenty of Personnel with Policymaking Potential
Government to Map Out Crisis Data System
MONGOLIA: Standards of Skills Approved

 

 

INDONESIA: More Telephone Services for Remote Areas, Minister Says
RI Prepares Laws to Battle Cybercrime
MALAYSIA: Internet Centre Among the Best
RM5m to Speed up Services
PHILIPPINES: DEPED to Train Senior Officials on IT
SINGAPORE: Launch First Global Convention on Technology for Disabled with Thailand
SME Development Survey 2007 to Focus on Cost, Competition
New Online Portal to Help Govt Pensioners Manage Healthcare Bills
S'pore Economy Expected to Grow Yearly at Around 5% over Next 5 Years: PM
S'pore to Focus on More International Collaborations to Fight Cyber Threats
3D Digital Navigation Maps for Cars by 2009
VIET NAM: 3,000 Businesses to Attend Brand Awards
Hung Yen Becomes E-friendly

 

 

INDIA: World Bank Calls for Improving Environment Norms
Punjab Government to Make State a Cotton Hub
IT Parks Will Be Set Up in 4 Regions of UT: Shahjahan
Punjab Govt to Establish Punjab Institute of Sports
Education Receive Top Priority in J and K, Minister
State Govt Takes Up Various Package for Reang Tribes
PAKISTAN: Government Committed to Welfare of Lawyers
Musharraf Laid Groundwork for Islamabad’s New Airport

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Opposition Party Publishes New Newspaper
UZBEKISTAN: 3.4m People Use Services of Mobile Companies

 

 

AUSTRALIA: 500,000 Customers Access Family Assistance via Medicare Service
New Online Consultation Site for Small Business
Australian Government Committed to 21st Century Rail
More than 125,000 Australians Walk Away from the Unions
Clever Networks - Smart Broadband Solutions for Rural and Regional Australia
Labor Broadband Blowout
Latest Performance Figures Show Continued Success of Job Network
NEW ZEALAND: OECD Report Confirms NZ Is on Path to Sustainability
Views Sought on Telecom Operational Separation - Minister of Communications Media Statement
Broadband Wireless Spectrum Auction Process Starts
Housing Costs Drive Inflation

 

 

 

Ten Years After the Financial Crisis, East Asian Economies Are Going Strong
Reform of IMF and Stalled Doha Talks Top G7 Agenda
Options on Regional Bond Settlement Discussed at ADB Conference
Securitization Can Help Regional Development, Says ADB Report

 

 

CHINA: Try to Slow Economy Again with Bank Reserve Hike
Tax Policy Issued for Wholly-owned Banks Transformed from Foreign Bank Branches
Long-awaited News for Bank Customers
Pressure on Central Bank to Up Rates
Banks Cash in on the Mainland
Foreign Banks Go Local Today
Bank of East Asia Opens in Shenyang
JAPAN: Deputy Bank Manager Stole 70 Mil. Yen over 10 Years
SOUTH KOREA: Fiscal Spending Misses Target in Early 2007
Korea’s Financial Holding Firms Post Strong Earnings in 2006
Political Fraudsters Hit Local Government Finances
National Debt Reaches New High

 

 

INDONESIA: Government Turns to Bonds as Budget Deficit Widens
MALAYSIA: Towards a Fairer Fiscal System
PHILIPPINES: World Bank Resumes Large-scale Lending to Philippines
Central Bank to Repay $175M Debt in April
Gov’t Plan to Borrow $33.8M from ADB Gets BSP Nod
73% of Jan-Feb Revenue Went to Debt Service
SINGAPORE: Financial Sacrifice in Public Service Needed: PM Lee

 

 

BANGLADESH: Interest Rates on Bank Deposits Declining
INDIA: Punjab to Slash Tax on Molasses
Mizoram Gets Rs.193 Mn for Rural Roads
PAKISTAN: NGO Launches Interest-free Funding System
Pak Growth Rate to Decline in 2007: UN

 

 

AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan to Consider Microfinance to Help Poor
KAZAKHSTAN: National Bank to Issue Long-Term Securities for KZT 2 Trillion in 2007
TURKEY: Tax Council Seeks Tax Cuts for More Growth
UZBEKISTAN: Aloqa Bank Introduces New Remittance System
Uzbekistan Economy to Grow Strong in 2007-08

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Review of Inefficient State Taxes
Tax Return Crackdown Delivers $13m to Children
National Australia Bank Joins Medicare Easyclaim
Budget Surplus at Risk
Networking with Rural Financial Counselling Service Stakeholders
Rental Vacancy Rates Fall to 40-Year Low

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Private Homes as Businesses
Non-state-owned Firms to Get Crude Oil Import Licenses
Skies to Open Wider for Private Planes
New Corporate Law Drives Private Sector Growth
JAPAN: Post Office Will Top Citigroup as World's Largest Financial Institution
Private Sector Fully Supports Signing of Japan-Thailand FTA
Barriers to Postal Privatization Remain
SOUTH KOREA: Privatization Plan for Ho Chi Minh City Hospital Under Attack

 

 

PHILIPPINES: WB Urges Liberalization of 5 Sectors
THAILAND: ICT Event Attracts 1,400 Budding Scientists Across the Country
VIET NAM: Deadlock Over Vietnam Hospital Privatization Plan

 

 

BANGLADESH: DBBL Signs Deal for Retail Banking Services
INDIA: SANDS Develops Low Cost Substation Management System
Public-private Partnership for Medical Facilities in Bihar
Haryana to Rope in Pvt Sector to Market Tourism
P&G Launches Third Year of Shiksha Project

 

 

IRAN: Private Sector Share Limited to 30%
Power Plants Will Be Privatized
TURKEY: Plan Its Next Privatization Wave

 

 

AUSTRALIA: NSW Small Businesses to Benefit from $2.3m in Funding
Reducing Red Tape and the Regulatory Burdens on Business
Regulations Easier for Gold Coast/Tweed Region Business
Private Hospital Returning To Govt Hands

 

ASEAN and ILO Sign Agreement to Boost Cooperation

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia and ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong The Secretary-General of ASEAN Ong Keng Yong and the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Juan Somavia signed a Cooperation Agreement on the behalf of the Secretariats of ASEAN and the International Labour Organisation* on 20 March 2007 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Agreement will serve as a platform to strengthen the collaboration and partnership between the two organisations through the exchange of information, research studies as well as participation at working-level meetings. Under the Agreement, ASEAN and the ILO will deepen their collaboration in the implementation of programmes and projects in areas of common interest. Such areas include occupational health and safety, HIV/AIDS and the workplace, the employment implications of trade liberalisation, youth employment, vocational training, social security and labour migration. (by Geneva)

From http://www.aseansec.org/ 03/20/2007


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CAREC Officials Discuss Deeper Cooperation

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Senior officials of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program met in Manila this week to examine ways to deepen interaction among their economies and integrate more effectively with world markets.Delegations from the eight participating countries and six multilateral institutions that comprise CAREC discussed recent developments and future plans in the program's priority areas of transport, energy, and trade; issues related to the establishment of a CAREC Institute; and preparations for the Sixth CAREC Ministerial Conference to be held in November 2007 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan."The CAREC Program is at an important stage in its development. With the Comprehensive Action Plan in place and sector strategies being developed, 2007 will be a critical year," said Mr. Xianbin Yao, Deputy Director General of ADB's Central and West Asia Department in opening remarks."The decisions we make this year will have long-lasting impacts on this program, and potentially on developments in participating countries." The CAREC Program adopted a Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) at its fifth ministerial meeting in October 2006. The CAP provides the strategic framework for the medium-term development of the program and includes some 40 projects worth about $2.3 billion. CAREC is a pragmatic, results-oriented program that was established in 1997 and seeks to promote development through cooperation, leading to accelerated economic growth and poverty reduction.CAREC participating countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. CAREC is also an alliance of multilateral institutions comprising ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and World Bank. Turkmenistan participated in the meeting as an observer.

From http://www.adb.org/ 03/29/2007


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Key Issues for Asia's Future to Be Addressed at ADB Annual Meeting in Kyoto, Japan

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Where does Asia stand a decade after the Asian financial crisis? What are the challenges to Asian integration? How will the developing economies of Asia adapt to the vast changes underway in the region? Finance Ministers, senior government officials, leaders, academics, and representatives of international organizations will gather in Kyoto, Japan to discuss these and other issues during ADB’s 40th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in May. The event, to be held from May 4 to 7, will take place at the Kyoto International Conference Center. Online registration for journalists has been extended until April 20 and will be required for access to the sessions, seminars and meeting venues. Online registration is encouraged in order to avoid delays in obtaining media credentials on-site. A fully equipped Media Center will be set up at the Prince Hall of the Grand Prince Hotel, which is adjacent to the conference center. The center will be staffed by ADB’s Department of External Relations and will have desk space for more than 100 journalists, and booths for news agencies.

Other topics addressed during the meeting include clean energy and the environment, private capital flows, financing for small and medium enterprises, efforts to advance Asia’s bond market, new investment opportunities in emerging markets across Asia, disaster risk management, and the ageing population of Asia. ADB’s Annual Meeting brings together senior government officials from across Asia and the Pacific to discuss ways to effectively address poverty and ensure sustainable economic growth in the region. The meeting will also include country presentations from Viet Nam, Pakistan, and the Philippines, an open forum on ADB-civil society organization cooperation, and a special Governors’ seminar on Asia’s future. The meeting will have its formal opening session on the morning of May 6 and will close late afternoon of May 7 with a press conference. ADB’s highest policy-making body is its Board of Governors, which meets annually and comprises one representative from each member country. The annual meetings are statutory occasions for the Governors of ADB members to provide guidance on ADB administrative, financial and operational directions.


From http://www.adb.org/
04/18/2007


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80 Countries Sign UN Convention Protecting Rights of the World's Disabled

“Eighty countries signed the United Nations convention enshrining the rights of the world's 650 million disabled in what the UN human rights chief called an unprecedented show of support to empower the physically and mentally impaired. The United Nations held a ceremony on Friday, the first day the convention opened, for signatures. Not only did 80 countries and a representative of the EU sign it but Jamaica announced that it had also ratified the convention. That means only 19 more ratifications are needed before the convention comes into force, and speaker after speaker urged speedy approval. … According to the latest UN figures, about 10 percent of the world's population, or 650 million people, live with a disability and the number is increasing with population growth. The disabled constitute the world's largest minority, and 80 percent live in developing countries, many in poverty. The convention advocates keeping the disabled in their communities rather than removing them and educating them separately as many countries do.” [The Associated Press (04/30)/Factiva] Kyodo News reports that UN Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro in remarks delivered at the General Assembly hall “… said the convention specifically prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of their lives, requires public spaces and buildings to be accessible to them, and seeks improvements in information and communications infrastructure.

A key component of the treaty is that it also ‘recognizes that a change of attitude is vital if disabled people are to achieve equality’ and breaks ground in other ways, including its stress on social development. …” [Kyodo (Japan, 03/30)/Factiva] Reuters writes that “… The convention will come into force 30 days after its ratification by 20 nations, a milestone likely to be reached in 2008 or 2009. … The convention requires ratifying nations to adopt laws banning discrimination on the basis of any form of disability, from blindness to mental illness. Nations also must eliminate any existing laws that discriminate against the disabled. … It protects disabled newborns' right to life, and ensures that children with disabilities are not separated from their parents against their will. … Enforcement of the treaty will be largely up to national governments. …” [Reuters (03/30)/Factiva] AFP adds that “… Forty-two countries also signed an optional protocol which will allow individual petitioning on alleged rights violations to a committee of experts once all national recourse procedures have been exhausted. …”


From http://web.worldbank.org/
04/20/2007


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CHINA: Job Discrimination to End with New Employment Promotion Law

Employers in China may no longer be able to advertise for a girl Friday who meets certain youth requirements once the country's employment promotion law is passed. The draft employment promotion law is currently being widely discussed in the country as the government seeks public input. It released the full text on the internet on Sunday. Prohibiting employment discrimination is one of the major goals of the draft law. The draft law proposes to ban discrimination against job seekers based on their ethnicity, race, gender, religious belief, age, or physical disability. Bi Yu, a senior student in China Foreign Affairs University, said she'll be making her comments known to the government. She wants the law to ensure female university graduates have equal employment opportunities. She said it's an open secret that male graduates have a greater chance of being hired because employers have to provide maternity leave to women employees.

Li Fangran, an employee of Agricultural Bank of China, said she's often seen job advertisements requiring applicants to be under the age of 30 or 35. "It's a kind of age discrimination. Hopefully the employment law will help eliminate such unfairness," she said. Along with changing discriminatory hiring practices the draft employment promotion law would require local governments to be more involved in the labor market. The law could require local governments to: coordinate employment policies in both urban and rural areas; promote employment and provide training for students who fail to; get into university or senior high school; establish an early warning system to track unemployment trends to; prevent, regulate and control potential layoffs; increase financial investment in employment promotion; make detailed research on the labor market; help guide university graduates to work in under-developed areas. Experts agree that China's employment outlook is not rosy.

The unemployment rate lingers at 4.3 percent and statistics show that at least 13 million new job opportunities need created in urban areas for laid-off workers, university graduates, demobilized servicemen, and migrant workers. On the first day the National People's Congress posted the new law on its website, it received 1,021 suggestions from the public. The NPC is encouraging citizens to file comments before April 25. They may also visit the website www.npc.gov.cn to post messages.


From http://www.chinaview.cn
03/28/2007


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Supreme Court to Issue Judical Interpretations on Property Law

China's supreme court will be busy this year as it begins to develop and provide legal interpretation of several new and far reaching laws that were passed earlier this month at China's annual legislative assembly. "The Supreme People's Court will issue a series of key judicial explanations relating to the nation's economy and social justice this year," said Chief Justice Xiao Yang on Thursday. Xiao said the legal interpretations of the newly adopted property law will be delivered "at an appropriate time," and will be designed to ensure that courts around the country fully understand the 247 articles in the law. Sun Xianzhong, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China had already seen an increase in the number of cases involving property disputes in recent years. "There is no doubt that the number of such cases will rise greatly," once the law has been enacted, he said.

Sun said that some articles of the property law are vague and courts will have difficulty applying the law. "Therefore, a judicial interpretation is really needed to help courts better handle the cases," Sun said. Xiao said interpretations of the property law and the new tax law will be written after serious study and deliberation of proposals and suggestions that had been put forward by legislators and political advisors at the parliamentary session early this month. China's landmark property law was adopted on March 16 after taking 13 years to wind its way through the legislative process. The law will come in effect on Oct. 1 and stipulates that "the property of the state, the collective, the individual is protected by law, and no unit or individuals may infringe upon it". This is the first time that equal protection of state and private properties has been enshrined in Chinese law, which analysts say marks a significant step in the country's efforts to further economic reforms and boost social harmony.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/30/2007


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China to Announce Personal Income Tax Declaration Results

Chinese tax authorities will announce on April 10 the final number of personal income statements filed by the country's high-income earners. This is the first year the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) is requiring high-income earners, who earn more than 120,000yuan (15,400 U.S. dollars) a year, to declare their annual incomes. The deadline was April 2. As of March 29, the tax department had received 1.375 million tax declarations but some financial experts suggest there are six to seven million such high-income earners in the country. The SAT declined to provide more comment on the issue until the final results come out but said those who failed to file income statements would be subject to keen scrutiny. "In regions where large numbers of people fail to do so, tax authorities will ferret out some typical cases for punishment", Friday's Shanghai Securities News reports. According to the regulations issued last year, those who fail to declare their incomes will face fines of between 2,000 yuan and10,000 yuan. People who falsely report their incomes can be fined up to 50,000 yuan.

Penalties for evading taxes can equal five times the amount of unpaid tax and a jail term. However, an unnamed official with SAT's press office said the administration was expecting to receive more declarations in the next few days as "a number of taxpayers filed their income statements by post". "Any declaration that was handed to the post office before midnight on April 2 is valid and it takes time for the tax authorities to receive them", he added. By April 1, about 250,000 people had declared their annual incomes in Beijing, where there are 350,000 people who earn more than 120,000 yuan a year, according to figures from the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau. The Bureau sent out 200,000 letters during the past three months to remind the capital's high-income earners to declare their annual incomes. Tax authorities in south China's Guangdong Province have also received 250,000 declarations but in northeastern Heilongjiang Province only a tenth of the expected number had done so and in central Hunan less than a half.


From http://www.chinaview.cn
04/03/2007


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New Beijing Urban Construction Plan Reported for Approval

A new urban construction plan that divides Beijing into 250,000 units for future construction has been reported to the city's municipal government for approval. The report details regulations on controlled areas and prohibited areas of construction. According to Tan Xuxiang, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning (BMCUP), the Current Urban Construction Planning report introduces the concept of "controlled-construction areas". This idea integrates rigid management of public facilities construction with the protection of ecological resources like urban water supply, lakes, rivers, marshes and scenic spots. "In the past, to provide a better shopping environment for the residents, we may have knocked down a school to make way for a supermarket. Now this would never happen again", said director Tan. As for the proposed division of the city into 250,000 plates, the report points out how the urban design of certain areas should precede, and analyzes the feasibility of construction in other places. It also states to what extent one piece of land can be used. According to Tan, those construction units must strictly adhere to the regulations. Tan also said proper measures should be adopted to renovate traditional cultural legacy- the old courtyards and alleys and dilapidated houses. The municipal government is planning to provide technique support, subsidy and preferential taxation methods to help reconstruction of the courtyards.


From http://www.chinaview.cn
04/03/2007


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China Launches Program to Extend Medical Insurance

China's cabinet on Wednesday launched a pilot program to ensure that more urban residents are covered by basic medical insurance. One or two provincial cities will be chosen to test the program, according to the executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. People -- including children -- who are not covered by basic medical insurance for urban employees can be insured against illness through the basic urban residents medical insurance. The meeting stressed this new pilot program will help speed up the development of China's medicare services, a key concern of ordinary people. The meeting also urged local governments to set reasonable insurance fees and respect people's wills. It also required local governments to strengthen the supervision and administration of insurance funds and ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, a draft regulation on the punishment of civil servants was reviewed and ratified in principle at the meeting. The regulation was passed to require civil servants to practice a clean and frugal working style and faithfully fulfill their obligations. Participants at the meeting agreed on the need for the law. The regulation sums up experience gained when punishing civil servants in recent years, prescribes in details the principles, jurisdiction and procedure and also sets out how to lodge an appeal, according to the meeting. The regulation will be released by the State Council after further amendments.


From http://www.chinaview.cn
04/04/2007


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China to Open Up More Centrally Administered SOEs

China will further decentralize its major state-owned enterprises (SOEs), encouraging them to go public as single entities and inviting in strategic investors, according to senior Chinese economic officials. China will diversify the ownership of centrally-administered SOEs whose operations do not involve national security or in which private and foreign investment are not forbidden, director Li Rongrong of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said in a signed article in Party magazine Qiu Shi. Li said that a major task for 2007 was to promulgate regulations "as early as possible" to standardize the management and transfer of state-owned shareholdings of listed companies. "SOEs that cannot go public as single entities should facilitate the shareholder reform of their subsidiaries," reads the article. "Shareholder reform is a key trend in large SOEs," said Vice Director Chen Deming of the National Development and Reform Commission, adding that the objective was to diversify the ownership of SOEs so that they no longer depend entirely on state capital.

SOEs particularly cover monopoly areas such as electricity, telecoms and railway transportation. Observers said that stock market listings and shareholder reform would diversify ownership but do little to weaken industrial monopolies. Chen said at the recent economic system reform conference that China was deliberating on reforms for monopoly industries and would adopt a steady and gradual approach to break down monopolies. Only 33 of the country's 159 centrally-administered SOEs have launched initial public offerings at home and abroad. But centrally-administered SOEs own 194 listed firms on the mainland and 57 in Hong Kong. Since China approved new shareholder reforms in April 2005, making it possible to float the non-tradable state-owned shares, most of the 194 locally listed firms have finished carrying out their reforms.

The core business revenue of centrally-administered SOEs surged82 percent from 4,470 billion yuan in 2003 to 8,140 billion yuan last year while profits more than doubled from 301 billion yuan to755 billion yuan, witnessing an annual growth rate of 35.9 percent. By 2010, the number of centrally-administered SOEs would be pared down to around 100, said Li Rongrong.


From http://www.chinaview.cn
04/04/2007


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China to Allow Foreigners to Attend Piracy Trials

China will allow foreigners involved in legal challenges to intellectual property rights violations to attend the trials as part of efforts to improve transparency, state media reported. "Representatives from foreign governments and international organisations will be allowed to attend IPR trials if they wish," the Xinhua news agency reported late Wednesday, citing an official with the copyright authorities. China will also publicise important trial information through the media, the report said, citing the State Office of Intellectual Property Protection's plan. No timetable for implementation of the plan was provided. Over the past few years, diplomatic envoys and representatives of foreign companies involved in IPR disputes have been allowed to attend trials in coastal regions such as the southern Guangdong province and Shanghai as test cases, the report said. "It works pretty well," the report said, citing an unnamed an official from the Supreme People's Court.

Under pressure from the United States and the European Union, China has made repeated pledges to crack down on piracy violations, a perennial bone of contention between the Asian nation and its trading partners. However they still say China has not done nearly enough in terms of improving transparency in the drafting and implementation of piracy laws and regulations. Foreign firms have complained that Chinese companies are rarely put before the courts for piracy violations and the few that are, escape with very minor penalties. China's courts settled just 932 piracy cases from 2002 to 2006, although the number is rising each year, according to the Xinhua report. China produces the bulk of the world's counterfeit products, with the most high-profile items including pirated music and movies, as well as fake brand-name goods.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 04/05/2007


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China Passes New Measure to Prosecute IPR Pirates

China's top court has stepped up the fight against intellectual piracy by lowering the threshold to prosecute people who manufacture or sell counterfeit intellectual property products. A new judicial interpretation issued by the Supreme People's Court on Thursday states that anyone who manufactures 500 or more counterfeit copies of computer software, music, movies, TV series, or other audio-video products can be prosecuted and sentenced to a prison term of up to three years. Despite repeated police raids, hawkers of pirated discs re-emerge on Chinese streets as soon as an anti-piracy campaign begins to ebb. The piracy issue has been a sore point in China-US trade relations and the latest judicial change comes among a chorus of overseas complaints that the country is too lenient with IPR violators. According to judicial sources, courts around China settled 17,769 IPR protection cases in 2006. However, most of these were civil cases, with only 2,277 criminal prosecutions resulting in 3,508 convictions. The new rules, jointly prepared by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, also widen the definition of a "serious IPR offender" so that anyone who produces more than 2,500 counterfeit copies can now be thrown into jail for up to seven years.

The rules are effective immediately, the top court said. They replace the 2004 rules, which only applied to violators who produced 1,000 pirated discs and defined "serious offenders" as those who produced over 5,000 copies. Critics expect a new surge of IPR cases in Chinese courts now that the new rules have come into effect. They constitute a stern warning to pirates that the government will not go soft on IPR infringement. Sources with the Supreme People's Court said they made the change in order to deal with "new problems" in the crackdown on piracy. "The courts will extend the protection of intellectual property rights and play to the full their role in punishing infringers and preventing crimes," a court spokesman said. To fight rampant piracy, China lowered the counterfeit product threshold in 2004. Official statistics show that IPR cases that came to court in China rose 28 percent in 2005, the first year of the new rules. That year, a total of 3,567 cases concerning the manufacture of fake products and illegal sales of pirated products went to criminal courts. Courts have also been instructed to raise fines for convicted counterfeiters. "Fines can range from one to 15 times the illegal gains, or from 50 to 200 percent of the business turnover," according to the new judicial interpretation.

This will be welcome news to those who complain that monetary punishments for piracy violators are too low and that "the cost of IPR crime" remains low. In January, the top court issued a notice ordering stricter penalties for IPR violators, saying "all illegal gains and manufacturing tools of IPR violators should be confiscated and their pirated products destroyed." The new rules also tighten the rules on the granting of probation. In another measure to cast the anti-piracy net wider, the top court has instructed IPR criminal courts to accept litigation cases filed by individual piracy victims, in addition to those filed by procurators. The judicial change came as the state announced big seizures of pirated products and said it plans to improve the transparency of IPR trials by allowing foreigners to observe. Envoys of foreign governments and representatives of international organizations will be allowed to attend IPR trials if they wish, said Jiang Zengwei of the State Office of Intellectual Property Protection on Wednesday.

This will be the first time overseas representatives have been allowed to attend public IPR trials, an official from the top court told Xinhua. Major trials will be publicized in the media. Meanwhile, in the largest single crackdown on CD and DVD piracy in China's history, more than 1.81 million pirated CDs and DVDs were seized in a production factory in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province on March 17, the government announced on Tuesday. Thirty production machines in 11 warehouses were confiscated and 13 people arrested in the case. A circular from the ministry said the continued fight against piracy is still an arduous task, and should be a priority for public security departments nationwide. The government has launched a "spring campaign" against illegal and pirated publications that will last until May. People providing information about piracy crimes that lead to convictions will be offered rewards by the police.


From http://www.china.org.cn/
04/06/2007


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Regulation on Organ Transplants Issued

China on Friday issued its first regulation on human organ transplants, banning organizations and individuals from trading human organs in any form. Any doctor found to be involved in human organ trade will have their practitioner license revoked. Clinics will be suspended from doing organ transplant operations for at least three years. Fines are set at between eight to ten times the value of the outlawed trade, the new rules said. Officials convicted of trading in human organs will be sacked and kicked out of government. The regulation, issued by the State Council, or China's cabinet, will go into effect on May 1. China has carried out organ transplants for more than 20 years and is the world's second largest performer of transplants after the United States, with about 5,000 transplants completed each year. However, the absence of laws and regulations concerning organ transplants has negatively impacted practice, critics say. Most organs are donated by ordinary Chinese at death after the voluntary signing of a donation agreement. But the country must still contend with a vast gap between the demand for functional organs and the supply provided by donations.

About 1.5 million patients need organ transplants each year, but only 10,000 can find organs, according to statistics from the Health Ministry. The regulation stipulates that human organ transplants should respect the principle of voluntary and free donation and makes it a crime to harvest organs without the owner's permission or against his will. People taking organs from anyone under the age of 18 will also face prosecution and can be convicted of murder or intentional assault, according to an official with the Health Ministry interpreting the regulation to the media on Friday. Human organ transplants are defined as the process of taking a human organ or part of a human organ -- such as the heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas -- from a donor and transplanting it into a patient's body to replace their sick or damaged organ. The regulation does not apply to transplants of human tissue, such as cells, cornea and marrow. The regulation comprises 32 articles in five chapters, including human organ donations, human organ transplants, legal responsibilities and supplementary points.

It covers transplant quality and aims to safeguard citizen's lawful rights. It decrees strict supervision and control for the few medical institutions that are allowed to perform organ transplants, and sets rules to standardize procedures so as to prevent potential human rights abuses. According to the new rules, every transplant must be approved by an ethics committee set up in the the medical institution. A designated mechanism will ensure that medical institutions are competent. Unqualified institutions will be ordered to exit the market. "This is the first regulation of its kind introduced by the central government, and it is a milestone in the country's organ transplant history," said Huang Jiefu, vice health minister, adding that the regulation is in line with international standards of medical ethics and the World Health Organization's guiding principles on the issue. Last year, the country's organ transplant sector was accused by overseas media of using transplanted organs from executed prisoners, who were not necessarily voluntary donors.

The accusations were denied by officials. Ni Shouming, a spokesman for China's Supreme People's Court, emphasized that organs of executed prisoners were used for transplants only when the death inmates had voluntarily expressed their intention to donate their organs, or their families had given consent to such usage. "The donation procedure for ordinary people and for those who sit on death row is the same," Ni said. Prisoners should have voluntarily expressed the wish to donate their organs and signed the necessary documents before they die, or their families should have given consent to such usage. Donations went through a strict examination and approval process by judicial departments, court officials said.


From http://www.china.org.cn/
04/07/2007


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New Rules to Govern Mainland-Taiwan Trade

The Ministry of Commerce will soon release a set of favorable policies aiming to boost "low-volume" trade across the Taiwan Straits, a senior official said yesterday at the Cross-Straits Economic and Trade Forum in Xiamen. Chong Quan, assistant minister of commerce, stated that these policies would include easing certain restrictions relating to the tonnage allowed per ship and to the trade volume allowed per voyage at certain mainland ports. Chong also announced that China would widen trade permits both for companies and goods, without providing further details. The existing rules on low-volume trade with Taiwan dictate that no haul of goods for any one voyage may exceed US$100,000, and that all goods must be carried by Taiwan ships of less than 100 tons. Further restrictions are imposed on Taiwan residents, who may only trade with mainland companies that strictly specialize in small-volume trade with the island province. Imports from Taiwan may also only be composed of products originating there.

Chong announced the importance of small-volume trade in economic relations between the mainland and Taiwan, and that these favorable policies only illustrated the need to boost its development. Over the past 20 years, Chong revealed, the mainland has pursued many active and practical policies towards Taiwan, and these have seen some wonderful results reflected on the strength of the economic relationship.


From http://www.china.org.cn/
04/09/2007


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China Issues Regulation on Selection of Trustees in Bankruptcy

China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued two regulations on Monday on the selection of bankruptcy trustees in China. The first regulation stipulates that trustees must be appointed when a court hears a bankrupt case. Trustees in bankruptcy are agencies or individuals appointed to take charge of the liquidation or reorganization of bankrupt companies. The regulation stipulates that trustees must be selected from a list of qualified agencies drawn up by the Higher People's Courts. It requires the Higher People's Courts to draw up local lists of qualified agencies selected from the legal and accounting firms and agencies in charge of liquidation. To ensure fairness, the regulation states that the selection and work of trustees can be scrutinized at creditors' meetings and by creditors' committees, which are also entitled to apply to the courts to change the trustees appointed if they are unsatisfied with them.

The other regulation says trustees will be paid according to the total value of distributable property of the bankrupt companies, rather than working hours. An official of SPC said the former method was more appropriate for China at present. "The method is commonly operated in most countries and it is also helpful to encourage trustees to recover more property of the bankrupt companies and protect the rights of creditors," he said. The regulations, as judicial interpretations of the corporate bankruptcy law, will come into effect on June 1, together with the law. China's top legislature on August 27 adopted the bankruptcy law, which is intended to protect both creditors of bankrupt companies and the companies' employees. The law stipulates that from June 1, all insolvent companies will pay credit guarantees to creditors first, and use other assets to pay laid-off workers.


From http://www.chinaview.cn
04/17/2007


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China to Issue New Plan to Protect Olympic Logo

China will shortly issue a new plan to protect the logo of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, said a senior trademark official here on Tuesday. China has been working on a complete set of schemes to protect Olympic intellectual property rights (IPR), said Zhao Gang, deputy head of the trademark department under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, at a press conference. "We will soon issue a new plan to prevent infringements of the Olympic logo," Zhao said, providing no details about the plan. "During the 2008 Olympic Games, we will launch effective measures to ensure that this great sports event is as free as possible of any IPR violations," he said. The emblem, motto and mascots of the Olympic Games are at the core of Olympic IPR protection work.

The State Council and Beijing Municipal government have promulgated a series of ordinances on Olympic IPR protection, including the Regulations for Protection of Olympic Symbols and the Beijing Provisions for Protection of Olympic Intellectual Property Rights. However, counterfeit mascots and coins bearing the 2008 Olympic logo have been found on the market. Local customs have detected and seized children's clothing and school bags intended for export with illegal images of the 2008 Olympic mascots. To stamp out Olympic IPR infringements, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) has helped authorities establish a special IPR registration and management system, promoted IPR education among the public and stepped up policing efforts.


From http://www.chinaview.cn
04/17/2007


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China Chops Back Economic Development Zones

China cut the number of its economic development zones from 6,866 in 2003 to 1,568 at the end of last year, said sources with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on Thursday. The total area of the country's economic development zones has shrunk from 38,600 square kilometers to 9,949 square kilometers. An NDRC official said "the State Council prohibits the building of new economic development zones and expanding the existing ones". Over the past four years, the NDRC have integrated adjacent economic development zones in counties and cities, leaving only one in every county or in the outer suburbs of each city. Economic development zones have been removed from environmentally sensitive areas, such as water source protection areas, nature reserves, scenic spots, forest parks and wetlands. Restrictions have been imposed on building chemical, paper making and pharmaceutical plants upstream or upwind of residential areas. China began to cut back on its economic development zones in July 2003 because they were eating up too much arable land and damaging farmers' interests.


From http://en.ce.cn/
04/20/2007


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JAPAN: Getting Latest Gear to Cope with Terrorism

The government is carrying out a plan to equip fire stations with the latest counterterrorism equipment to deal with radioactive materials and biological and chemical agents. A special vehicle capable of dissipating smoke or noxious gas with its large fan is put through its paces during a recent drill in Tokyo. KYODO PHOTO The plan, to be introduced by next April, features a new detector kit that can narrow down in minutes the nature of a hazardous substance, and a large decontamination system that washes harmful materials from hair and skin. The objective is to determine the type of dangerous material used in a terrorist act, remove it as soon as possible and keep damage to a minimum, Fire and Disaster Management Agency officials said. "The government may have had budget constraints, but it's been rather slow to introduce counterterrorism gear," military affairs analyst Kensuke Ebata said. In January, large blower vehicles were deployed in fire stations in Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka. They are equipped with large fans that can blow wind at 45 meters per second. The vehicles can remove smoke or noxious gas from subway stations, buildings and other sealed areas, and can also spray water.

The new detectors to be installed in firefighting headquarters at 66 locations around the country will use test paper and a solution to identify types of hazardous materials in a few minutes. Fire and Disaster Management Agency officials said that although the device will not be able to pinpoint the exact nature of a substance, hospitals could capitalize on its rough judgment when providing emergency treatment to victims. The government already has three types of specialized detectors to assess biological and chemical agents and poisonous gas, but these devices take about 15 minutes to determine a substance, the officials said. Meanwhile, the new decontamination system will have sets of three large tents, each made of special vinyl measuring about 4 meters wide, 5 meters long and 2.5 meters high. People encountering hazardous materials will be brought to the first tent to get undressed, then to the second tent to be showered and to the last tent to change into fresh clothes before being transported to a hospital. The system improves survival chances by cleaning hazardous materials from hair and skin, and also prevents doctors and others from getting secondary contamination, the officials said.


From The
Japan Times 04/05/2007


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Anti-Graft System Watered Down

Vowing to prevent corruption related to the post-retirement jobs of bureaucrats, the government and ruling coalition agreed Wednesday on a "new" system that is pretty much the same as the old system. The agreement was reached at a working-level meeting on reforming the public sector to stem the practice of amakudari, which has been criticized as creating a hotbed for bid-rigging activities and other corruption. Under the plan, a "public-private personnel-exchange center" will be established under the Cabinet Office by the end of fiscal 2008 to replace the largely ineffective "human resources bank" to find jobs for retiring bureaucrats. The original idea was to eliminate cozy relations between the public and private sectors by preventing ministries and agencies from arranging post-retirement work for their officials in fields once under their supervision. According to Wednesday's agreement, ministries and agencies will be banned from arranging post-retirement jobs for retiring bureaucrats within three years after the center is established. The personnel-exchange center will serve as a central nerve center to help retiring officials find post-retirement jobs, or so the government says. In fact, several clauses included in the agreement effectively allow personnel affairs authorities of ministries and agencies to maintain their influence in the matter. One clause says that workers of the center "will cooperate with personnel affairs authorities on an as-needed basis for the purpose of collecting information on career and human resources." Another clause states that the new center will "accept requests from personnel affairs departments (of ministries and agencies) in charge of recommending bureaucrats to take early retirement."

That clause effectively gives an official green light to the practice of katatataki, under which officials are subtly pressed to take early retirement in return for a cushy, well-paid post-retirement job. This has been another long-time practice among bureaucrats. Those clauses were apparently included to quell opposition to the plan from the Liberal Democratic Party and the ministries and agencies. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said the government could not compromise two points:?Workers at the center will be prohibited from arranging post-retirement jobs for others who had worked at the same ministry or agency; and?Public-interest corporations and other nonprofit organizations should be among the entities at which the center must not arrange jobs for retiring officials. The government and the LDP had been at odds over the amakudari regulations. The LDP side, in fact, refused the government's call to hold a working-level meeting on the subject Tuesday. But in a turnaround Wednesday, the party accepted the government's proposals. The LDP's move was apparently intended to prevent its president, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, from losing face in his bid to stem amakudari. Rules on reviewing the center were also incorporated into the agreement at the request of the LDP. Under those rules, the personnel-exchange center can be revised on an as-needed basis, leaving room for future modifications, according to officials.

From http://www.asahi.com 04/13/2007


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Government to Study Ways to Repopulate Rural Areas

The government aims to study ways to support urban dwellers who spend the weekend in provincial areas, and those hoping to leave big cities to live in the countryside, government sources said Thursday. The government will encourage people to move by offering incentives, such as transportation fees, and motivational activities, such as farming. The aim is to reduce disparities between urban and local areas by promoting the movement of urban residents with wealth and skills to local areas, sources said. The government plans to establish a study group in the near future comprising experts and related ministries--to be headed by Yuji Yamamoto, state minister in charge of financial policy--with the aim of compiling a basic plan by the summer. The group will study: -- Subsidizing transportation expenses to people who move between urban and local areas. -- Setting the level of the resident tax according to the services people would receive from local governments. -- Centralization of information related to moving, which is provided by related ministries' and local governments' Web sites. The government also will work on measures to promote the shift of people with knowledge related to agricultural training, entrepreneurial assistance, tourism and finance. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry have been investigating measures to promote moving to local areas from urban areas respectively. The Gotsu municipal government in Shimane Prefecture offers houses to people moving from urban areas in cooperation with nonprofit organizations.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/14/2007


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Top Law Revision Has Taken Big Step

The ruling parties' efforts to put in place procedures for amending the Constitution took a big step forward Friday, as the House of Representatives passed a bill to create a national referendum required for making such changes. Passage through the House of Representatives has ensured the legislation will be approved by the Diet during the current session. However, a proposal for revising the bill jointly with the ruling parties--the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito--and the largest opposition party, Democratic Party of Japan, was not realized, as the two sides clashed during Diet deliberations. The Constitution stipulates that at least two-thirds of lawmakers in both Diet chambers must agree to proceed with measures to amend the top law, and Friday's move leaves a question mark over how to bridge the gap between the ruling and opposition camps. Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday in the lower house, opposition lawmakers rushed to surround Taro Nakayama, chairman of the Special Committee for Research on the Constitution, in an effort to prevent him from calling a vote on the referendum bill that would have only had ruling coalition support. Opposition lawmakers shouted, "This is irrational," and "The chairman is abusing his authority."

But Nakayama grabbed a microphone and declared, "I ask those who support the revised bill to stand up." Ruling party lawmakers, who hold a majority in the committee, passed the bill, which was then sent to the lower house plenary session. Directors of the committee from the LDP and the DPJ--Hajime Funada and Yukio Edano, respectively--had held behind-the-scenes negotiations until the eleventh-hour in an effort to bring about a joint revision. The two sides disagreed on the range of issues to be subject to a national referendum. While the LDP's final bill was limited to amendments to the Constitution, the DPJ insisted that a national referendum should be applied to three additional issues--situations that could lead to a constitutional amendment; matters concerning the nation's system of governance; and ethical issues concerning life science. On Tuesday, Funada suggested a possible compromise in which the referendum would be expanded slightly to include situations that could lead to a constitutional amendment. Edano had told aides that it might be possible to omit ethical issues from the DPJ's suggested revision list, indicating that the two were working to find a compromise. But LDP executives including Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa and Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Toshihiro Nikai, were reportedly cool toward Funada's efforts, arguing that DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa had no intention of joint revision with the ruling parties, according to a senior LDP member.

Nakagawa met with Funada on Tuesday, and is said to have argued that expanding the range of referendum subjects would pave the way for a system of direct democracy. On the DPJ side, Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Yoshiaki Takaki held a meeting Thursday morning with his counterparts in the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party, and confirmed their intention to oppose holding a vote on the bill in the committee that day. At the meeting, Takaki reportedly said: "There should be no compromise unless [the ruling parties] accept all of the DPJ's revision demands. It's all or nothing." On Thursday afternoon, Nikai and Hirofumi Hirano, acting chairman of the DPJ Diet Affairs Committee, held talks but could not bridge the gap. After the meeting, Hirano told reporters: "Both sides failed to agree to a compromise. The negotiations have broken down." In January, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to make amending the Constitution a major issue in summers House of Councillors election, and expressed his enthusiasm for quick passage of the referendum bill. The DPJ was critical of Abe's remark, arguing the prime minister was trying to curry favor with voters ahead of the upper house election. As a result, efforts at joint revision lost steam. However, Abe instructed LDP executives to press for quick passage of the bill, and to disregard the response of the opposition parties. New Komeito had initially insisted on joint revision of the bill with the DPJ. But with the first stage of unified local elections on April 8 over, the junior coalition partner agreed to passage of the bill with only ruling party support. "The time is ripe for a vote," one New Komeito member said.Following the vote in the lower house committee Thursday, Funada said, "This has come about because of a confrontation between political parties." Edano responded to the vote by saying, "We were making an effort to build a consensus, but were confronted with irrational pressure."


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/14/2007


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Diet Passes Bills to Protect Japan EEZ

Amid unceasing tension with China over natural gas resources, the Upper House on Friday passed two bills intended to protect Japan's interests in its exclusive economic zone. The basic maritime law and the law on establishing safety areas for maritime structures are aimed at establishing a system to deal with contingencies in surrounding waters and to protect Japan's national interests. The two bills, initiated by a cross-party group of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), are expected to take effect in July, lawmakers said. The bills were approved Thursday by a majority vote in the Upper House's Committee on Land and Transport. Under the new system, a post for a Cabinet minister in charge of maritime policies will be created, according to the lawmakers. A headquarters for maritime policies, headed by the prime minister, will also be introduced. Other measures in the bills are intended to develop natural resources, introduce safety measures for maritime transportation and maintain security in coastal areas of up to 200 nautical miles. "Safety zones" will be set up within 500 meters of structures inside the EEZ, such as manmade islands and drilling facilities. Such a move is permissible under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Japan has signed.

After the laws go into force, entry into those safety areas will be banned unless approved by the transport minister.Companies have long been waiting to start development projects for resources, such as natural gas, in Japan's EEZ. The zone also ensures security in Japan's territorial waters for fisheries and maritime distribution. However, the government has made no extra efforts in improving its maritime policies, mainly because of the complicated and troublesome supervisory functions concerning the EEZ. For example, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is in charge of resources development projects, while the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is responsible for security inside the EEZ. As many as eight central government entities are involved in matters concerning the EEZ. In addition, the vertically segmented administration systems of those organizations have prevented them from smoothly taking coordinated action. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which allows countries facing the ocean to have EEZs, took effect in 1994. China and South Korea have been quicker than Japan in strengthening their maritime policies. In 1996, Beijing compiled basic strategies to bolster its maritime development projects.

Seoul consolidated entities with authority over its EEZ the same year, and enacted a basic law concerning development of marine products in 2002. Japan's bills are largely seen as countermeasures against China, which continues to develop natural gas fields in the East China Sea. Japanese officials fear the Chinese projects could suck out gas from Japan's EEZ. However, Japan has been struggling to come up with effective measures to break the stalemate. Within about one year after the two laws go into force, the government intends to use the new maritime headquarters to hammer out policies to protect Japan's interests inside the EEZ, according to the lawmakers.

From http://www.asahi.com 04/21/2007


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Headwind for Japan Constitutional Changes

While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition may seem to be cruising easily toward the first revision of the country's postwar pacifist constitution, it has encountered an unexpected headwind -- a decline in public support for the move. In a historic step toward revising the supreme law, Japan's Diet (parliament) will almost certainly enact a bill soon setting the rules for a national referendum required for any constitutional changes. It will do this on the strength of the Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition's majority in both houses of the Diet. But recent opinion polls show that public support for constitutional amendments, especially rewriting a clause that has put strict restrictions on Japanese military activities since the end of World War II, has plummeted. Since taking office last September, Abe has advocated a more assertive foreign policy and a stronger security alliance with the United States. He has also called for a "departure from the postwar regime" and has made it his top policy goal to seek revisions of the constitution to allow the nation to play a greater role in the international security arena, especially in step with the U.S. Abe has specifically expressed a strong desire to see the constitution revised within five years. To be sure, the soon-to-be-enacted national referendum law marks a significant and necessary step toward revising the constitution. Sixty years after the constitution took effect in 1947, Japan still does not have a law concerning a national referendum on constitutional amendments because of opposition to revising the constitution. But public opinion has become more favorable for constitutional amendments in recent years.

Any constitutional revisions, however, are still at least three to four years away because the proposed referendum law actually comes into force three years after its enactment. In addition, there are two high hurdles to be cleared before the constitution can be changed -- two-thirds approval of both houses of the Diet then passage of a national referendum with support from more than half of eligible voters. In the autumn of 2005, Abe's LDP adopted its draft of a new constitution that would clear the way for Japan to play a greater role in international security. The current war-renouncing, pacifist constitution, drafted by the U.S. occupation forces immediately after Japan's defeat in World War II, has never been altered. The LDP draft calls for, among other things, rewriting Article 9 -- the clause almost synonymous with Japan's postwar defense policy -- to acknowledge clearly the existence of a "military for self-defense." The draft also calls for more active participation in international peace cooperation activities. All these elements are missing from the current constitution. Article 9, Section 1, says, "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." Article 9, Section 2, says, "In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

The current constitution is widely interpreted as forbidding the possession of a military. Although, in reality, Japan has about 240,000 troops (Self-Defense Forces) and one of the world's biggest defense expenditures, successive governments have explained away the contradiction by claiming that SDF is not a military. Many Japanese feel more insecure in the increasingly volatile security environment surrounding their country. There is growing alarm in Japan over what are perceived as real or potential threats posed by neighbors North Korea and China. At the same time, Japan is under increasing pressure from its most important ally, the U.S., to shoulder more of the burden of its foreign and security policy, regionally and globally. Having a "self-imposed" new constitution to replace the current one drafted by the U.S., is not merely a matter of national pride, but something Japanese leaders firmly believe the nation must do to cope with new challenges. Momentum for revising the constitution, which took effect in 1947, has mounted following the September 2005 general election, in which the LDP-led coalition under then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi won a landslide victory, garnering more than a two-thirds majority in the 480-seat House of Representatives, the more powerful of the two Diet chambers. The political momentum has gained further steam with the inauguration of Abe, who has become the first premier to vow to put revising the constitution on his political agenda. But public support for constitutional changes has plummeted recently.

According to a survey of 3,000 Japanese nationwide conducted by the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest national daily, 46 percent of those polled favor constitutional revisions, while 39 percent oppose them, with the rest undecided or having no opinion. Although those who favor constitutional revisions have consistently outnumbered those who oppose them for 15 years, the percentage of the former has dropped for three years running. The 46 percent support ratio represents a drop of nine percentage points from a similar poll taken a year ago before Abe took office. Meanwhile, the 39 percent disapproval ratio was seven percentage points higher from a year ago. Of those who favor revising the constitution, the largest percentage (48) tends to believe that new problems have arisen, such as the nation's inability to make proper international contributions under the current constitution. Of those who oppose revising the constitution, the largest percentage (47) replied that the nation's top law is a pacifist constitution that Japan can be proud of. Another recent opinion poll, conducted by Kyodo news agency, also showed a decline in public support for constitutional revisions. The survey showed that the percentage of those who favor revising the constitution dropped to 57 percent from 61 percent in a similar survey two years ago. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who oppose revising the constitution increased to 34.5 percent from 29.8 percent during the same period. As for war-renouncing Article 9 as a whole, 44.5 percent of those polled replied that they saw no need to revise the article while only 25 percent replied that it should be revised. It is believed that some of those who used to favor revising the constitution have become cautious about the issue after realizing that what they thought was just an armchair exercise may become a reality. This swing of the public opinion pendulum makes it even more uncertain whether -- and when -- the constitution will actually be revised.


From www.newsonjapan.com
04/21/2007


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Lower House Panel Passes Constitutional Referendum Bill

A House of Representatives ad hoc committee approved a bill on Thursday that sets procedures to amend the country's war-renouncing Constitution which has not been revised since coming into force in 1947. The legislation was passed by a majority vote of the Liberal Democratic Party and its partner in the ruling coalition, the New Komeito party, at the Special Committee for Research on the Constitution. The charter states that its amendment shall be initiated by parliament through a concurring vote of two-thirds in both House of Representatives and the House of Councillors and then be presented to the people for endorsement by a majority vote in a referendum. However, no legislation setting rules for such a referendum has been established so far. The ruling coalition submitted the national referendum bill to the Diet in May 2006. The bill, which was revised in March in the course of deliberations, proposes the referendum be held only for the purpose of constitutional revision and with eligible voters being Japanese citizens aged 18 and older. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday of the legislation, "We have held in-depth discussions for a considerable amount of time. I believe the time is ripe for taking a vote." Political pundits say even if the legislation is passed for enactment through plenary votes in parliament, a referendum will not be held until at least the fall of 2011, given all the procedures required.

The bill would ban public servants and educators from using their influence in a national referendum and requires media organizations to provide free-of-charge space to publicize substantial constitutional revisions. One of the focal points in a revision is Article 9, which says, "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." "In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized." Broadcasters are required to be careful to ensure political fairness and are banned from airing commercials for two weeks before the day of the referendum. Earlier this week, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan introduced its own amendment proposing to set no restrictions on public servants and to ban broadcasters from running TV commercials. At a committee session Tuesday morning, the DPJ explained its amendment. Representatives of the ruling and opposition blocs held behind-the-scenes negotiations in a bid to come up with a joint amendment to the bill. But they failed to their narrow differences, coalition sources said. Abe has expressed his determination to seek the passage of the national referendum bill by May 3, the 60th anniversary of Japan's postwar Constitution coming into force, to pave the way for revising the national charter. In October 2005, the LDP drafted a new constitution, featuring possession of armed forces for self-defense. The LDP's draft would completely rewrite the preamble and adds several new clauses including one stipulating that Japan possesses military forces for self-defense that can take part in international security operations and keep public order at home in emergencies.


From http://asia.news.yahoo.com
04/21/2007


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Govt Plan Aims to Boost Farm Management

The government wants to grow profits from agriculture through increased exports by boosting the number of farmers it deems to have entrepreneurial spirit and good management skills, it was learned Saturday. According to government sources, the Asian Gateway Strategy Council, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has compiled a draft outline for the revitalization of agriculture, which also includes measures to promote combining agricultural lands to expand the scale of farm management. The Asian Gateway initiative envisions making the country a gateway to Asia in various fields. In addition to expanding exports, mostly to East Asian countries, the draft aims to strengthen the sales power of farmers through several steps, such as promoting small-scale sales to customers at small stands or through direct delivery as well as large-scale sales to supermarkets, the restaurant industry and food manufacturers. The government also is considering accepting people active in different fields such as retail, food and financial services as farmers to enhance the management skills of regular farmers. It also will encourage the incorporation of farm management such as by private firms.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp
04/22/2007


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SOUTH KOREA: Government to Legislate Against Age Discrimination in Employment

The government will introduce a bill banning direct and indirect age discrimination by employers for gradual implementation starting in the second half of 2008, the Labor Ministry said Thursday (March 29). Under the bill, employers must remove age limits for recruitment beginning in the second half of next year and for pay and welfare benefits, unfair dismissal, promotion, positioning and job training beginning in 2010, the ministry said. A heavy penalty of up to 100 million won ($106,299) will be imposed on those who refuse to comply with the authorities' order to change their practices of discrimination, it added. A recent government-commissioned survey showed about 80 percent of personnel affairs officials and 90 percent of employees support the legislation. The survey was conducted in February by the private firm Hankook Research on 200 personnel affairs officials of corporations and 500 workers aged 20 and older, according to the ministry. "The bill is aimed at removing customary discrimination on grounds of age, and to extend and stabilize the employment of aged workers," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.


From http://www.korea.net/
03/29/2007


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Roh Withholds Planned Motion for Constitutional Revision

President Roh Moo-hyun on Saturday (April 14) called off his plan to revise the Constitution to introduce a U.S-style presidential system, following a recommendation by political parties that the move be postponed until next year, his office said. "I understand the significant meaning of the political parties that altogether adopted a position to revise the Constitution in the 18th assembly, and I appreciate that," Roh was quoted by his spokesman Yoon Seung-yong as saying. The next National Assembly is to be formed in June next year. Roh has sought a constitutional change in favor of a U.S. presidential system, in which future Korean leaders can seek re-election after serving his or her first four-year term. Currently, a Korean president can serve only a single five-year term. Roh said the current single-term Korean presidency, introduced in the late 1980s to prevent dictatorships, doesn’t fit a democratized Korea that needs political continuity. A constitutional revision should first be approved by two-thirds of sitting lawmakers and then in a national referendum.


From www.korea.net
04/14/2007


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Korea to Adopt Stricter Accounting Rules from 2011

Korea plans to introduce stricter accounting standards as part of its efforts to make corporate accounting more transparent, the country's financial regulator said Thursday (March 15). Korean companies listed on the main bourse and with 2 trillion won ($2.1 billion) or more in assets will be required to disclose their financial data in consolidated financial statements from 2011. Listed firms with smaller amounts of assets will have to follow suit from 2013, the Financial Supervisory Service said. A consolidated financial statement, which includes financial results of a corporation's entire entities, requires eliminating transactions among a parent firm and its affiliates so that assets, liabilities, revenue, and expenses will not be counted twice and the parent firm's value will not be distorted. It is currently not mandatory for listed local firms to submit consolidated financial statements except for at the end of each fiscal year. As a result, the financial information of corporations' unlisted units or overseas branches are often omitted from their financial data, the watchdog said. "The use of the common language will help significantly reduce the Korea Discount by boosting reliability in accounting by local firms," the watchdog said in a statement. Korea Discount refers to a phenomenon in which Korean stocks are regarded as having a relatively cheaper value than those in other Asian markets due to a lack of transparency in accounting practices and murky corporate governance. Some 100 nations including the United States, countries of the European Union and Japan are already releasing consolidated financial data, the watchdog added.


Fromhttp://www.korea.net
04/15/2007


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Roh Calls for Efforts to Attain True Democracy

President Roh Moo-hyun Thursday (April 19) stressed the need for the country to strive to attain true democracy and improve human rights through dialogue and compromise on the occasion of an anniversary of pro-democracy movements that toppled an authoritarian regime decades ago. In an address to the 47th anniversary of the April 19 Revolution, the president said the nation needs to embrace a more advanced political culture based on tolerance and accountability. "It's already two decades since Korea's regime was changed through democratic elections. But we still have a long way to go and are faced with many daunting tasks," Roh said. "All problems should be resolved through dialogue, compromise and mutual respect. Political accountability should be determined by elections." The ceremony, held at the April 19 National Cemetery in northern Seoul, was attended by Roh and thousands of government officials, politicians and citizens. The democratic movement, initiated by university students after the country's first president Rhee Syngman revised the Constitution and rigged the election in 1960 to extend his term of office, ended Rhee's regime after 12 years in power. The nationwide street demonstration was touched off by the discovery of a student in the harbor of Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do (South Gyeongsang Province). The student was killed by a tear gas shell in demonstrations against the elections of March 1960. The demonstration saw hundreds of demonstrators killed by police forces. Among them, 199 were buried in the April 19 Cemetery.


From www.korea.net
04/19/2007


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Full Text of Agreement at Inter-Korean Economic Talks

The following is the full text of a 10-point agreement issued by South and North Korea at the end of their five-day economic cooperation meeting in Pyongyang on Sunday. South and North Korea held the 13th meeting of the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee in Pyongyang on April 18-22, 2007. During the meeting, the two sides discussed the issues and agreed on the following to advance the inter-Korean economic cooperation project in ways befitting the prosperity and the interest of the Korean people. 1. South and North Korea agree to take measures needed for investment and cooperation so as to develop the Korean people's economy in a balanced way and expand and develop inter-Korean economic cooperation. 2. South and North Korea agree to conduct test runs of the Gyeongui (Seoul-Sinuiju) and Donghae (East Coast) railway lines on May 17, hold relevant working-level negotiations in Gaeseong on April 27-28 and make efforts to realize the operations of the railways and roads at the earliest possible date. Both sides agree to make positive efforts to actualize a military safety guarantee prior to the test runs of the railways. 3. South and North Korea agree to adopt a revised and complemented accord on South-North Cooperation in Light Industry and Natural Resource Development which had already been adopted at the 12th inter-Korean economic cooperation meeting. In this regard, the South will provide raw materials for light industry to the North starting from June in return for future payment, and the North will cooperate in allowing the South to make an onsite visit to the envisioned development sites as well as obtain necessary documents. To that end, the two sides will hold working-level talks in Gaeseong on May 2-4 to consult, discuss and determine concrete matters.

4. South and North Korea will hold working-level talks sometime in May to discuss ways of facilitating customs, telecommunication, supply of North Korean labor, accommodations, convenience facilities and further development of the Gaeseong industrial complex. 5. South and North Korea will hold working-level talks in Gaeseong sometime in June to discuss their advance into third countries in the field of natural resource development. 6. South and North Korea agree to reach an agreement on the prevention of flooding in shared areas near the Imjin River and implement it in the form of exchanging a document in early May. In this regard, the North agrees to cooperate in allowing South Koreans to make on-site visits and providing technical support needed for the supply of facilities and raw materials. 7. South and North Korea agree to hold working-level talks at the earliest possible time in order to implement a project to extract sand from the Han River's estuary as military safety measures are taken. 8. South and North Korea agree to hold a working-level meeting in Gaeseong sometime in June for the prevention of natural disasters and science and technology cooperation, and they will determine the schedules for fishery cooperation, a business arbitration committee and a joint committee for immigration and stays in Gaeseong and Mt. Geumgangsan in the form of exchanging documents. 9. The South agrees to provide 400,000 tons of rice to the North in the form of a loan on brotherly and humanitarian grounds. 10. The 14th meeting of the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee will be held in the South in July 2007 and the date will be determined after consultation in the form of exchanging documents.


From http://www.korea.net
04/21/2007


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Koreas Set to Issue Accord on Railway Tests

South and North Korea were set to announce an agreement on test runs of cross-border railways, rice aid and other issues on Sunday (April 22). after their four-day talks on economic cooperation stretched into an extra day. The two sides agreed to conduct test runs of cross-border railways in mid-May, and a phrase on a military security guarantee for the operation will likely be included in the agreement, according to pool reports from Pyongyang, the venue of the talks. The security issue was a sticking point as South Korean officials contended that the test runs of cross-border railways will be "meaningless" if there is no safety guarantee on the part of the North Korean military. The two Koreas also agreed on the schedule for the South's provision of raw materials to help the North produce clothing, footwear and soap in return for its natural resources. The South agreed to provide 400,000 tons of rice to the impoverished country, but it was not immediately clear when or how the shipment will be made. It also remains unclear whether a joint statement will include a phrase on the North's quick action on steps toward its nuclear dismantlement in return for the rice aid. "The two sides are finalizing the wording for their agreement," said Chin Dong-soo, chief of the South Korean delegation. The two sides were originally scheduled to issue a joint press statement at 2 p.m. on Saturday, but they held a series of negotiations to settle remaining differences and work out the wording for a final draft of a joint statement.

On Thursday, the North Korean delegation stormed out of the conference room to protest the South's call for the North's quick implementation of denuclearization, but talks resumed later as scheduled. "As we made clear in a keynote speech, we urged the North to honor its promise to carry out the Feb. 13 agreement," an unidentified South Korean delegate was quoted as saying by the pool reports. "But I don't think the talks should go awry because of this demand." Shortly after the North conducted missile tests in July, the South suspended food and fertilizer aid. But fertilizer aid was resumed in late March, a few weeks after the two sides agreed to repair their strained ties. The reconnection of severed train lines was one of the tangible inter-Korean rapprochement projects agreed upon following the historic summit between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000. The tracks, one line cutting across the western section of the border and the other crossing the eastern side, were completed and set to undergo test runs. A set of parallel roads has been in use since 2005 for South Koreans traveling to the North. In 2005, South Korea agreed to offer raw materials to the North to help it produce clothing, footwear and soap starting in 2006. In return, the North was to provide the South with minerals, such as zinc and magnesite, after mines were developed with South Korean investments guaranteed by Pyongyang.

But the economic accord was not implemented as North Korea abruptly called off scheduled test runs of the railways in May under apparent pressure from its hard-line military. During the talks, the North called for receiving raw materials from the South in exchange for providing its natural resources "close to the time when railway test runs are conducted," the pool reports said. But the South made clear that it will provide the North with $80 million worth of raw materials only after the two sides conduct test runs of the railways. Other issues on the table were the use of overland transportation for inter-Korean economic activities, the establishment of a North Korean bank branch at a joint industrial complex in Gaeseong, the construction of joint chemical industrial facilities in the North's free economic zone and the two Koreas' advance into Russia's Far Eastern region. The Pool reports said that the South pushed to include the use of overland transportation in a phrase for an agreement, but the two sides failed to see eye-to-eye on the issue. The latest inter-Korean dialogue began just days after the communist nation failed to meet an April 14 deadline to shut down and seal its nuclear facilities under a six-nation agreement signed in Beijing in February. Last Friday, North Korea said it would take the first steps toward nuclear dismantlement as soon as it confirms the release of its funds frozen in a Macau bank since September 2005. Macau's financial authorities unblocked the North's $25 million in Banco Delta Asia, but the deadline passed with no word from the North on whether it has confirmed the release of the funds or when it will start implementing the initial steps. Under the Feb. 13 agreement, North Korea pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor and allow U.N. inspectors back into the country within 60 days. In return, North Korea would receive aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from South Korea. The U.S. promised to resolve the financial issue within 30 days, but failed to do so because of technical complications.


From http://www.korea.net/
04/22/2007


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MONGOLIA: Government to Draw Up Draft Law

The Government intends to draw up a draft law on paying off from the Government a half of the money lost by 8,903 savings holders. Depositing these money several savings-and-credit have gone bankrupt. The half of the sum will be issued provided that the receivers will pay back the money to the Government. This decision was made at Wednesday s regular Cabinet meeting. The latter also decided to submit the draft to the Parliament shortly. The victims must take back a total of 57 billion 894 million togrogs from the bankrupted cooperatives. At present, about 43 billion togrogs worth real estates and properties of the bankrupted savings-and-credit cooperatives have been sequestrated, besides, there are some unevaluated properties and lands. Moreover, there is a possibility to collect 13 billion togrogs from debtors who have taken money from these cooperatives.


From http://www.montsame.mn
04/19/2007


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INDONESIA: Govt Launches Low-cost Housing Project

The government has kicked off a nationwide project aimed at housing over 1.5 million low-income earners over the next five years. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attended Thursday a ceremony for the project in Pulo Gebang, East Jakarta, which also marked the launching of the scheme in nine other locations throughout the country. Yudhoyono said the government had adopted a two-pronged approach in carrying out the project worth some Rp 50 trillion (US$5.489 billion). He said that aside from closing the yawning gap between the rich and the poor, the housing project was also aimed at improving city planning. In Pulo Gebang, the government expects to construct 24 towers of low-cost flats, which it says should be available to house people within the next five years. State Minister for Public Housing M. Yusuf Asy'ari said the banking sector would provide 70 percent of the financing, while the private sector will contribute the remaining 30 percent. One unit will be made available for Rp 99 million. The government also plans housing projects for Surabaya, Semarang, Batam, Bandung, Medan, Padang, Palembang, Makassar and Banjarmasin. By the completion of the first stage of construction, the government expects to have built 100 of the planned 1,000 towers.

Asy'ari said eight developers had expressed interest in partaking in the respective housing projects. To prevent the flats from being acquired by well-off families, the government plans to set rigorous requirements for individuals applying for credit to purchase units. "In five years, ownership of the flats must not be transferred. If such an infraction occurs, the owners must return the subsidies and tax relief that have been granted," he said. In an effort to reduce costs associated with acquiring land for the project, State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto said developers would be allowed to use derelict land owned by the state. "On the state-controlled land, we expect to build 450 towers," Sugiharto told reporters after the ceremony for the project. Yudhoyono pledged to provide cheap housing for the country's poor during his campaign for the 2004 presidential election. Millions of people in the country are still struggling to find decent housing. In Jakarta alone, in excess of 180,000 families live in city slums. Of this figure, more than 71,000 families live on the banks of the city's rivers. Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso said that to provide decent housing for the riverbank dwellers alone, the city administration would require some Rp 12 trillion.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com
04/07/2007


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Indonesia Commits to ASEAN Single Market Plan

The government said Monday it would draft a new road map setting out revised economic development policies in line with the planned creation of the ASEAN single market. "The road map will be completed by November this year and it will detail the reform programs that we intend to institute," Anggito Abimanyu, the head of the Finance Ministry's Fiscal Policy Agency, told reporters Monday. Anggito said the acceleration of ASEAN economic integration was one of the issues discussed during a meeting of the region's finance ministers in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last week. "And this acceleration will undoubtedly lead to changes in our long-term economic vision," he said. ASEAN members agreed last year in Kuala Lumpur to expedite the efforts to create a single market by bringing it forward to 2015, five years ahead of schedule, amid fears of competition from China and India. Despite the wide disparities, and often conflicting interests, in the region, it is hoped that integration will unite the 10 Southeast Asian countries into a European-style single market for the free flow of goods, services and investment.

Anggito said Indonesia would first have to reform its excessively bureaucratic customs procedures and classifications. "A standardized taxation system is not possible for the widely divergent countries in the region, but their systems definitely need to be harmonized," he said, adding that integration would also require reforms to the bond and equity markets, and the overhauling of the regulations governing the non-bank financial sector. He said that both great challenges and opportunities lay ahead as the global economy slowed down, even though China was still likely to achieve double-digit growth this year. Volatility in the capital markets and commodity prices were among the factors that could adversely impact on Indonesia, he explained. "It's a good thing that Japan's economy has improved," he said, "and we may still increase our exports to South Korea now that it has signed a free-trade agreement with the United States." Japan and South Korea are among Indonesia's main export markets.

With a bigger market, Anggito said Indonesia could achieve double-digit growth in a few years after the integration process took hold as it would likely benefit from more investment from countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong was quoted by Bloomberg as saying in Chiang Mai that trade within the 10-member group had tripled in the past decade, rising to over $300 billion today. Inter-ASEAN trade accounts for about 25 percent of the ASEAN members $1.44 trillion-worth of global trade annually, he said. Trade between ASEAN and the Middle East had also risen as higher oil prices had boosted wealth and imports in the latter. "As we integrate, we should buy and sell more from each other, so when growth in overseas markets declines, ASEAN countries will be able to pick up the slack," Ong said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com
04/10/2007


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Bills Need to Reform Party System

Political bills prepared by the government and the House of Representatives should provide for a more rigid party system in order to move political parties closer to the people and to pursue popular representation -- both at the legislative and executive level. This idea was floated Tuesday by House member Yasonna H Laoly of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Indria Samego, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), in response to an increased demand for popular representation. Yasonna said his party was fighting to insert in the bills tougher administrative requirements and a more democratic system in the establishment of new political parties. "PDI-P believes that the bill on political parties should require support from at least three million eligible voters nationwide for the formation of a new political party, including financial contribution from supporters, mandatory political education for party members and a democratic recruitment of party functionaries," he told The Jakarta Post. "We are in need of financially and legally strong parties, with officials elected by supporters, rather than appointed by party leaders."

Yasonna said the bill on general elections should also mandate an open electoral system, including legislative candidates with whom voters are familiar. "Such a system would ensure that parties nominate officials in local elections and qualified senior figures in the presidential election," he said. "Tougher political bills should help avoid a huge floating mass and swing voters. "And tougher bills should qualify legislators and national leaders in future general elections." Indria of LIPI agreed that political parties have to undergo a gradual reform to bring them closer to the people. "Political parties function not only to recruit public officials through general elections but also to mediate between the people and the government," he said. "Political parties have (been) nothing more than money makers by nominating themselves instead of party officials in local elections. "And this has resulted in regional heads who have less commitment to improve social welfare and democracy." Indria also said the establishment of local parties and the nomination of independent candidates for local and presidential elections was not an appropriate answer to national parties' poor performance.

He said performance issues had to be addressed by empowerment through political bills and that Indonesia still needed three more general elections in order to build a better party system, produce effective legislatures and to build strong national and local leaders. The Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (Demos) has called for dramatic changes to political bills in order to pursue popular representation; ensure quality general elections; and to build strong legislatures and government in the future. Anton Prajasto, deputy executive director of Demos, said the democracy launched at the start of the reform era in 1998 had stagnated because political parties during the past two elections had fought only for the interests of party elites, their power holders and domestic and foreign investors. Civil society, including Demos and other NGOs, has called for political laws which would allow the establishment of local parties and the nomination of independent candidates in local and presidential elections. They say this will provide the people with a fairer alternative when electing their next leaders.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/
04/11/2007


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Government Drafts Service Standards

The government is drafting manuals on minimum service standards for 11 powers decentralized to regions and mayoralties under regional autonomy laws. Minimum service standards, which are regulated under Government Regulation No. 65/2005 on public service, must be adhered to by the relevant powers in regencies and municipalities throughout the country. "At the national level, all state departments and non-departmental agencies are required to complete the first manuals by the end of 2008 so the government regulation can come into effect in 2009," the Director for the development of regional capacity and performance at the Home Ministry, Eko Subowo, told a workshop on minimum service standards here over the weekend. The manuals, to be issued through decrees from relevant ministers, will outline minimum service standards in the decentralized areas of health, education, transportation, the environment, forestry, manpower, marine resources, mining and energy, disaster management, agriculture and plantations.

Citing an example, Eko said a minimum service standard in the education sector would require 95 percent of children aged between seven and 12 years to attend elementary school, 90 percent of teaching staff to be qualified and 95 percent of elementary school graduates to continue to junior high school. He said the minimum service standards were compulsory and would be financed with general and special (autonomy) funds from the state budget. Regions would also have to improve their financial and resource capacities to achieve the minimum service standards, he added. "The manuals will be used as measurement tools in determining autonomy funds and there will be serious consequences for regions which are unable to reach minimum service standards. They will be liquidated or merged with other financially-strong regions," he said, adding that the government would issue a regulation for the evaluation of the performances of autonomous regions.

The minimum service standard regulation also stipulates that priority must be given to development in areas such as education, health, transportation and the environment to protect the constitutional rights of the public and provide good governance in return for the taxes they pay to the state. Chief spokesman for the Home Ministry Saut Situmorang said the policy of minimum service standards has prompted the government and the House of Representatives to revise the current budget policy to ensure future state budgets will allocate at least a half of the budget for development expenditure. "The government will be required to allocate more funds for development programs and public expenditure and as long as it is unable to do so, it will certainly fail to achieve good political results," he said. Saut said the government and the House were still drafting legislation on the public service and administration systems which would allow members of the public to file lawsuits against public offices and officials who fail to provide services in accordance with the minimum service standards.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/
04/16/2007


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New Regulations Allow Local Govts to Issue Bonds

Regional governments can now take advantage of the country's growing bond market to plug their budget deficits, following the issuance of long-waited guidelines last week for bond sales by local administrations. Under a package of regulations issued by the Capital Markets and Financial Institutions Supervisory Agency (Bapepam-LK) on Friday, like publicly listed companies, all local administrations planning to offer bonds to the market are required to publish annual financial reports in the form of detailed accounts of their regional budgets. The annual financial reports should include notices -- or "comfort letters"-- from public accountants regarding any final changes after their publication, as well as a prospectus of the offered bonds and an official registration for the bond sale from the head of the region to the Bapepam-LK. "The regulations are to provide a further legal framework for the issuance of regional bonds in line with capital market practices, as well as to ensure the availability of credible information for investors regarding the bonds," Bapepam-LK chief Fuad Rahmany said in a statement accompanying the newly issued regulations.

The regulations complement a 2005 law on regional loans and a 2006 Finance Ministry regulation on regional bonds. The Regional Loans Law bars regions from receiving any direct foreign loans, but allows them to issue rupiah-denominated bonds in the local capital market as long-term debts, on approval from the finance minister and the home minister. To be approved, a region's total debt should not exceed 75 percent of its total revenue. Indonesia's Regional Autonomy Law recognizes self-administration for provinces, regencies and municipalities. The Finance Ministry regulation further requires the head of a region to seek approval from the local legislative council and set up a bond sale commission to ensure the feasibility of the offered bonds. It also requires the proceeds from an offering to be used to finance projects benefiting the public. Regions also must submit regular reports every three months regarding the bonds to the finance minister. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has on previous occasions sternly reminded regions not to fall into the lure of issuing more bonds than they can afford, saying this would eventually burden the state.

Head of debt research at Mandiri Sekuritas, Paulus Nurwadono, told The Jakarta Post of the need "to establish market frameworks to measure the feasibility of the regional bonds, besides the Bapepam-LK's latest regulations regarding administrative matters for their issuance. This should include credible market ratings for the regional bonds". Moody's Indonesia president Minon Almasyhur has mentioned the global rating agency's interest in supporting the many local administrations still lacking proper accounting of their budgets, and providing ratings for their regional bonds. Plans for regional bond sales should add to Indonesia's efforts in deepening its bond market. The central government itself has earmarked at least Rp 40.6 trillion (US$4.5 billion) for net bond sales, which include regular monthly bond sales, retail bonds, planned treasury bills later this month and, in the future, sharia bonds.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com 04/16/2007


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Govt Announces Tax Write-off

The city administration has announced plans to write off the tax arrears of liquidated business, although a councilor has warned that the policy could be open to abuse. "It is impossible for us to collect tax arrears from tax evaders whose businesses have been liquidated," Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo told reporters at City Hall on Monday. "Therefore it's better for us to write it off rather than keeping it in the balance sheet of the city budget as unpaid debt," he added. The city administration has drafted a bylaw on city finance management stipulating that the governor will have the authority to write off the tax arrears of any hotel, restaurant, entertainment center or other business that has closed down, provided the arrears is less than Rp 5 billion (US$549 million). If the arrears is more than that amount, the city council's approval will be needed. According to city finance bureau head Syauki Yahya, tax arrears in 2006 reached Rp 44.6 billion and Rp 78 billion in 2005.

Other unpaid debt reached Rp 573 billion in 2006, including unpaid loans for the subdistricts' community empowerment programs. "An appraisal team will decide on writing debts off," he said, adding that a thorough evaluation would be required to prove that the businesses were truly unable to pay. The head of the Golkar faction at the council, Inggar Joshua, however, expressed his concerns over the issue, saying that the new policy was prone to misappropriation. "It is possible that city officials might say that a tax evader has not paid arrears amounting to less than Rp 5 billion while actually the debt is much more than that," he said. Governor Sutiyoso earlier said that in 2007, tax contributions could reach Rp 7.24 trillion, or 33.57 percent of the Rp 21.5 trillion city budget. There are now 1.07 million taxpayers in the capital.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/
04/17/2007


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PHILIPPINES: Two Multi-billion ICT Projects Approved

Two multi-billion-peso information and communication projects were approved by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, government officials said Tuesday. These projects, amounting to about $800 million, will be financed by the Chinese government through loans that will be payable in about15 years, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology chairman Ramon Sales said in an interview. This was confirmed by the office of the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, which added that the agency is still negotiating better terms for the "concessional loans" provided for the two projects. The loans will be negotiated with the Export and Import Bank of China, which handles foreign loans, the NEDA office said. The loans also require that all equipment and materials for the projects will come from the Chinese suppliers. "The loan is tied to the sale of the products of that country," Sales said. About P26 billion will be borrowed from the Chinese government for the Department of Education's Cybereducation project, the office of the NEDA Director General said. Another P15 to16 billion will also be borrowed for the Department of Transportation and Communications' National Broadband Network project, the agency added. Sales confirmed the existence of both projects. But he added that the NBN was started by the CICT until it was turned over to the DoTC.

This was also the same time when the Telecommunications Office was re-absorbed by the DoTC, Sales said. The DoTC project involves connecting over 28,000 national government sites nationwide in a wireless network using microwave technology, Sales said. The CICT official disclosed that the NBN project of DoTC will use WiMAX technology. Meanwhile, the DepEd project involves the deployment of VSATs (very small aperture terminals) in at least 25,000 high schools nationwide, Sales added. Proponents of the two ICT projects went through a series of meetings with the multi-agency Investment Coordination Council, and on March 29, the NEDA Board, headed by Arroyo, approved the projects, government sources at NEDA said. The NEDA source added that government is still negotiating for better interest terms of 2 to 3 percent per year, and a five-year grace period, which means government will only pay the loan on the 6th year. The NEDA source said government is looking at a15-year loan payment deal with the Chinese government. The office of the Director General of NEDA stressed that these projects went through the evaluation of the ICC to determine their "economic viability." Government sources, however, claimed that these projects did not go through feasibility studies.


From http://archive.inquirer.net
04/03/2007


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SINGAPORE: New law to Curb Email, Mobile Spam

A new law to curb junk email and SMS (Short Message Service) messages was passed in Parliament on Thursday. While not a magic bullet solution, the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts said the anti-spam law is a start. It would protect consumers from unwanted messages while still giving businesses some leeway to market their products, added Dr Lee Boon Yang. Spam is an annoying and expensive problem. "The IDA (Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore) carried out a study in November 2003 and found that email spam caused Singapore users about $23m loss in productivity. The study further revealed that each of the three major local internet service providers or ISPs received close to 5,000 spam-related complaints a month," Dr Lee told Parliament. Among the changes passed in the Spam Control Bill is an opt-out option for those who do not wish to receive spam. The Bill also sets out basic requirements for legitimate direct electronic mass marketing. For instance, messages must be labelled advertisements in their headers, and there must be an unsubscribing facility.

But with four out of five spam messages originating from overseas, MPs feared such local legislation would only hurt local players. "Given that the bulk of spam is from overseas, we can reasonably expect that the winners will be the foreign spammers with Viagra and organ enlargers. The losers will be our local law-abiding SMEs who are trying to leverage the Internet as a low-cost marketing medium to promote their business," said MP Ho Geok Choo. MPs also said it might be better to have an opt-in clause instead of an opt-out, as this shifts the burden from individual consumers to businesses to make sure only solicited emails are sent. Replying, Dr Lee said what was needed for now was a light hand which protects end users while not making it too onerous for genuine marketers. Wrapping up the debate, Dr Lee acknowledged the MPs' views that similar legislation in other countries - for example the US - has not been effective in eliminating spam. But this does not mean such laws are completely unnecessary.

Dr Lee said: "We have to expect that as more countries enact legislation to deal with spam, the spammers will be on the look-out for new base, new havens for them to operate from. They are, in fact, therefore, very likely to target countries that have advanced infocomm connectivities and are without anti-spam legislation. So, Singapore can well become a target for spammers to operate from because we have excellent international infocomm connectivity worldwide." An anti-spam Bill, he added, would help maintain Singapore's standing as a trusted infocomm hub.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/
04/12/2007


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THAILAND: Constitution Contains No State Religion

As a Buddhist, Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Prasong Soonsiri said he wants Buddhism to flourish, but it was not important to include such a declaration in the constitution. Sqn-Ldr Prasong has shrugged off the call for Buddhism to be declared the official national religion in the new charter. What matters most is for Buddhists to try to understand and act in compliance with the Lord Buddha's teachings. The question whether Buddhism should be proclaimed the national religion is beside the point, Sqn-Ldr Prasong said. Whether Buddhism will progress or decline depends on the ability of its followers, both laymen and monks, to maintain the religion, he said. He was responding to a group of Buddhist advocates who yesterday presented a letter calling for Buddhism to be declared the national religion. The group was led by Phra Thepvisutthikavi of the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand. "There are two things that Buddhists should concern themselves with. They need to study Lord Buddha's teachings and then find an opportunity to try to empty their mind of all impurities," Sqn-Ldr Prasong said.

The CDC chairman said he was informed that some laymen and certain political groups are involved in the ongoing campaign for such a declaration. He said there were no amendments made to sections dealing with the monarchy and religion in previous constitutions. The CDC, which is drawing up the draft for the new charter, has not considered introducing such changes either, he said. However, views and suggestions for additional amendments to the new charter draft can be submitted to the drafters. Sqn-Ldr Prasong said pressure groups would not affect the timeframe for completing the new charter, adding that everything will go according to plan. When the first draft of the new constitution is finished, he said, it will be sent to the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) and then it will be published for distribution to the provinces before the referendum, he said. Phra Rajpanyamethi, vice-dean of Maha Chulalongkorn Buddhist University and a campaign leader, said it was no surprise to learn the drafters had a "preconceived idea" on the official religion issue.

The monk insisted that there was nothing wrong with the campaign, which was initiated out of honest intentions. Gen Thongchai Kuasakul of the Buddhism Promotion Foundation called on Buddhists to lobby the CDA to support the declaration of Buddhism as the national religion. The CDA will meet to deliberate proposed amendments to the first draft on April 26.


From http://www.bangkokpost.com/
04/18/2007


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VIET NAM: State-housing Rates May Be Amended

The Ministry of Construction (MoC) has recently submitted a draft proposal to amend the law governing the sale and rental of State-owned domestic housing. The MoC has suggested that the rental price for State-owned properties that have not been rebuilt or upgraded should be based on the minimum salary of the tenant at the time of signing the rental agreement. According MoC officials, current rental prices, set by the prime minister in 1992, do not cover the cost to the State of maintenance and management, while basic salary levels have increased three-and-a-half times over the same period. If the new draft proposal is accepted, it is expected to come into effect on January 1, 2008. According to a recent survey by the MoC, evaluating State-owned housing is difficult because the properties are usually small and have been transferred from one person to another many times. In addition, some agencies have failed to follow the correct procedures when transferring properties. The MoC has suggested that the government authorise provincial People Committees to manage State-owned properties in their areas and punish those agencies that have failed to do their jobs properly in the past.

The draft proposal also suggested that provincial People’s Committees set the selling price of individual properties, based on market worth and potential for development. It was also suggested that households who did not wish to buy their properties be allowed to extend their rental contracts at the new price. The Ministry has also suggested that tenants that had renovated their State-owned apartments should be given the right to buy the property. According to studies conducted in 53 cities and provinces, 200,158 State-owned flats have so far been sold, accounting for 58 per cent all State-owned flats in the country.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn
04/17/2007


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Journalists to Get Visa-free Travel Facility in S Asia

NEW DELHI: The SAARC Council of Ministers on Monday decided to allow select journalists facilities for visa-free travel in the region, as already allowed to diplomats, parliamentarians and senior judges. Fifty journalists from each of the eight SAARC countries will get the new visa-free travel facility. The journalists who get SAARC stickers on their passports will be selected by their respective governments, India’s Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters at the end of the council meeting that set the agenda for the SAARC summit beginning on Tuesday. Reminded that journalists were promised this facility two years ago, Menon admitted there had been a delay, but said that it was the responsibility of immigration officials to finalise the process. He said the Monday meeting had decided that immigration officers of SAARC countries would meet in Delhi in the next few months to start the new system. Asked if the South Asian Free Media Association would have a role in selecting the journalists, Menon said that it was for the respective governments to decide and not SAFMA, which was “recognised but not the apex body” for journalists in the region. He added that SAFMA’s recognition by SAARC did not preclude recognition to other similar bodies. ( by Iftikhar Gilani )


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/03/2007


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Pakistan, India to Speed Up IPI Project

NEW DELHI: Pakistan and India on Wednesday decided that they would pursue the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project “as fast as they can”. The two countries discussed several bilateral issues including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and progress on the ongoing composite dialogue when Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the latter’s residence here. The bilateral meeting continued for 50 minutes during which Aziz and Singh had a 20-minute one-on-one meeting. Aziz later told reporters that the two sides had discussed the IPI project in detail and had agreed on making speedy progress for its completion. The Pakistani premier said that he had taken up the issue of more than 500 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails while Singh had asked for the release of Indian fishing boats that had been seized for entering Pakistani waters. Aziz said that Pakistan had already freed the Indian fishermen and he would give directions for releasing the boats. “Secretary-level talks on Siachen and Sir Creek are scheduled this week and we hope for progress on these issues,” said Aziz, adding that he had also discussed the Samjhota Express incident with Singh and had told him about Pakistan’s interest in the Indian investigations. He said that Singh had assured him that India would give “periodic” information to Pakistan. He added that Pakistan and India would jointly pay compensation to the families of the Samjhota incident victims. A press statement issued later said the two countries had agreed on granting permission to their respective banks to open branches and increasing air links. Separately, Bangladesh Chief Executive Fakhurdeen Ahmed also met Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Aziz told him that Pakistan would give wheat worth $10 million as a gift to Bangladesh. Agencies add: Meanwhile, in a meeting with Indian Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora, Aziz said the IPI gas pipeline would help Pakistan and India meet their energy requirements. Online reported that India asked Pakistan to waive the $200 million a year transit fee it is expecting for allowing the pipeline’s passage. ( by Irfan Ghauri )


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/
04/05/2007


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BANGLADESH: Amendments Allow ACC to Arrest on Suspicion, Without Warrant

Anti-Corruption Commi-ssion has been empowered to arrest anyone on suspicion of corruption without any warrant and even before filing of a case against the person. Making such provisions, the interim government on April 18 promulgated the Anti-Corruption Commission (Amendment) Ordinance and the gazette of the ordinance was made available on Thursday. Changes have also been brought to the 1958 criminal act removing the time limit for investigation of cases. Earlier on April 16, the council of advisers approved the ordinance seeking amendments to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004. The ordinance brought Money Laundering Act 2003 within the jurisdiction of the ACC so that it can deal with this financial crime of global nature. The ordinance amended Sections 18, 21, 28, 32 and 34 and the schedule of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act. According to the amended section 28, any offence under the ACC act will be cognisable and non-bailable. The existing Section 21 empowers any officer of the ACC to arrest, with the prior approval of a court, any person on suspicion of owning any assets or bank accounts disproportionate to his/her legitimate income.

The amendment exempts ACC officials from the requirement of court approval for such arrests. The amended section 18 empowers the commission to give post facto? Approval of the actions taken by any officer of the ACC between February 7 and February 24 without its prior approval. The section was so amended to ratify the actions, including notifying 50 corruption suspects asking them to submit wealth statements, taken by the secretary of the ACC during the period, when no commissioner was there, said a high official of the ACC. The amendment to section 32 removes the requirement of prior approval of the commission for preliminary inquiry or investigation of any graft case, but such approval will be needed before submission of the charge sheet. The inserted provision of the section 34 empowers the ACC to devise necessary procedure for any function, which usually has to be disposed of in accordance with the rules until the rules are made. The interim government also promulgated the Criminal Law Amendment (Amendment) Ordinance 2007 on April 18 making changes to the 1958 act. The ordinance has deleted Section 5A of the act that sets the timeframe for investigation of the cases. It also inserted new section 6A in the act, stating that the special judge must conclude the trial of an offence within 45 days from the date of taking it into cognisance. In period can be extended by 15 days subject to citing of appropriate reasons.


From http://www.newagebd.com/ 04/20/2007


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Bangladesh to Sign UN Convention Over Disabilities

Bangladesh has decided to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities. The decision came from an inter-ministerial meeting held at the Social Welfare Ministry Thursday with Social Welfare Adviser Geeteara Safiya Chowdhury in the chair. The meeting agreed to sign the convention as most of its clauses are consistent with Bangladesh's Constitution, the Disabled Welfare Act 2001, National Plan of Action on matters of the Disabled 2006 and other existing laws and rules.


From http://www.financialexpress-bd.com/ 04/20/2007


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EC Proposes Stringent Rules for Poll Campaign

The Election Commission (EC) yesterday unveiled a set of proposals for introducing stringent provisions in the parliamentary election code of conduct for the political parties and candidates. The proposals were for strict regulations on holding rallies and processions, sticking posters, graffiti, banners, festoons, caps, construction of archways, gates, illuminating structures and streets and the use of helicopters for election campaigns. "Prior permission would have to be taken from proper authorities informing the specific time, date and places for holding any procession or meeting for any contesting political party and candidate during the pre-polls period," said the draft proposals. According to the draft proposals, the pre-polls period means the time from dissolution of a parliament to the completion of polls and the violation of code of conduct is an offence which is punishable with imprisonment, fine and cancellation of candidatures. The eighth parliament was dissolved in October last year and polls are to be held by the end of 2008. All sorts of political activities have been banned since the declaration of the state of emergency on January 11.

Once the proposals are made into laws, no political parties would be allowed to bring out processions or hold rallies unless they have prior permission from the authorities. The draft proposals said the party or the candidate would have to get the permission from the concerned district magistrates or officials authorised by the district magistrates and police commissioners in metropolitan areas. The draft also recommended imposing a ban on holding rallies and processions that create obstacles to movement of people. Asked whether such restrictions will hamper the festive mood of parliamentary elections, as it proposes to impose restrictions on even holding rallies and processions at ward levels, Humayun Kabir, secretary to the EC Secretariat, said he would raise the issue before the commission. The draft proposals also envisage severe restrictions on pasting posters on walls and establishments in the city corporation and municipality areas. None would be allowed to paste posters, leaflets on buses, trucks, steamer and any other vehicles, according to the proposals. Asked where the political parties and candidates would paste their posters, the EC secretary said they would innovate some ideas.

He, however, said any city corporation or municipality might specify places for sticking posters during the election period. The secretary, who disclosed the proposals in a press briefing, said the proposals were put forward to reduce election expenditures and the possibility of political confrontation during the time of polls. The draft suggested banning the use of portraits of any national leaders on the posters to be published by the political parties and candidates. Portraits of the party chief, candidates and election symbols could be printed on them, it said but no pictures of processions or programmes could be printed on the posters. The ban on all sorts of graffiti, banners, festoons, caps, construction of archways, gates and lighting has also been proposed. It recommended a ban on the use of helicopters in election campaigns by political parties and candidates, but it said the party chiefs could use it for their conveyance. There was also a recommendation for banning election campaigns at mosques, temples or any kind of place of worship. There would be no election campaigns before three weeks of the polls, the proposals said.

From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 04/20/2007


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INDIA: Govt to Set Up Separate Regulator for Broadcast: DasMunsi

Kolkata, Apr 7: The Centre is contemplating to bring an ''unparallel'' Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill and intends to set up the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India on the lines of TRAI in the field of broadcasting. This view was expressed here today by Information and Broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi while inaugurating a national seminar on ''Broadcast Regulations: Future of Broadcasting in India'', organised by Media Information and Communication Centre of India and Centre for Media Research and Development Studies here in collaboration with UNESCO. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Das Munsi said the government was also considering to introduce another legislation on digitization to prevent piracy of films. Speaking at length on the proposed Bill, Mr Das Munsi said it would start discussing with all stake holders in the next session of Parliament. ''The Indian Media would be the guiding principle for the preparation of the Bill,'' he said and outlined a detailed roadmap for the introduction of the proposed Bill. Also addressing the seminar Nandini Sahai of the Media Information and Communication Centre of India said the Indian Penal code had sufficient powers to ''rein in the irresponsible''. ''The proposal to give powers to district authorities to act against channels could be misused to muzzle the Press'', she observed, while FES Senior Media Advisor called for open access to media outlets by all interested parties. He also advocated a total transparency in revenue sharing deals regarding mandatory sports contents. The two-day seminar is set to deliberate on issues like CAS, DTH, IPTV, Narrowcasting, Satellite and Community radio and other contemporary issues on broadcasting.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/07/2007


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PM Launching Two Mega Projects

By Syed Zarir Hussain, Guwahati, April 8: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Assam on a two-day visit Sunday to launch two mega projects - a bridge over the Brahmaputra river and a whopping Rs.54 billion integrated petrochemical project. He will lay the foundation of the Rs.2.38 billion three-lane bridge over Brahmaputra river near Guwahati in the evening. "This bridge has been a long-standing demand of the people of Assam and I am happy the prime minister will be laying the foundation stone," Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS. The 1.4-km-long bridge is part of the much-hyped North South East West Corridor, the largest ongoing expressway project in India that proposes to have four to six lanes and is being implemented by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The total length of North-South Corridor from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and the East-West corridor from Silchar to Saurashtra is about 7,300 km and is to be completed by 2009. On Monday, the prime minister will lay the foundation of a gas cracker project at Lepetkata in eastern Assam's Dibrugarh district. The project is expected to help provide a major boost to this industrially backward northeastern state. Popularly referred to as the Assam Gas Cracker Project, but re-christened the Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymers Ltd, it is to be implemented by the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) with 70 percent equity participation in five years.

The remaining 30 percent equity would be shared equally among Oil India Ltd (OIL), Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) and the Assam government. "We hope nearly 100,000 people will get employment opportunities, either directly or indirectly, as a result of investments in downstream plastic processing industries and allied activities," Assam's Industry and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi told IANS. According to preliminary estimates, at least 500 plastic processing industries are likely to come up in the region when this project becomes operational. The feedstock for the petrochemical project, natural gas and naphtha, is to be provided by OIL, ONGC and the NRL. "We are already promoting a plastic park in the area and the project would surely help turnaround the economy of Assam," the minister said. The petrochemical complex would comprise a cracker unit, downstream polymer and integrated off-site utility plants. The products from the proposed project would be 220,000 tonnes of polythene, 60,000 tonnes of polypropylene, 55,000 tonnes of raw pyrolysis gasoline and 12,500 tonnes of fuel oil per year. As part of the Assam government's aggressive policy to give a fillip to industrial activities, it has agreed to grant exemption to entry tax on capital goods, works contract tax during the construction period, sales tax and VAT on feedstock for 15 years from the date of commencement of production.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/08/2007


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Stricter Norms for Chemists in Punjab

Chandigarh, April 11 : The Punjab government and its pharmacy council will frame stricter rules for the chemists to curb addiction to medicines, especially among the youth. Medical Education and Research Minister Tikshan Sood told reporters here Wednesday that the department and the pharmacy council would ensure that the 25,000 chemist shops in the state employed qualified pharmacists to dispense medicines to consumers. He said there were 28,738 registered pharmacists and many of them could be working at more than one establishment. "We will put an end to this practice," Sood said. The minister said that drug dependence and addiction was on the rise, especially in rural areas and small towns. He said the pharmacy council will set up flying squads to ensure that drug inspectors kept a check on the medicines sold by chemists. Sood said that recruitment of at least one qualified pharmacist could be made compulsory for over 6,000 wholesale medicine dealers, who do not require any pharmacy degree to deal in medicines. "This will also create employment for qualified pharmacy graduates," he added.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/11/2007


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Punjab to Launch a Drive for Afforestation, Says Minister

Chandigarh, Apr 12: The Punjab Government will soon launch a massive drive to encourage people to undertake tree plantation in the state. This was disclosed here by Forest Minister Tikshan Sood while presiding over a review meeting of the officers of Forest and Wildlife Preservation Department and Punjab State Forest Development Corporation Ltd. here last evening. He said the Government would implement a new long-term State Forestry Action Programme to increase forest covered area in the next few years. He said that afforestation by farming community would help tackle the problem of water logging particularly in the Malwa region of the state. Regarding the revival of Agro-Forestry, the Minister emphasized the immediate need to chalk out a master plan to promote wood based industries in the state that would help the farmers producing wood to get the remunerative prices of their product. He reiterated the firm commitment of the state government to work for the welfare of the people in general and farmers in particular by providing fair and transparent governance and impementing various welfare programmes.

Taking strong note of the incidents of illicit tree felling in the state, the Minister warned that in future the field staff of the Forest Department would be made accountable for such incidents. He informed that at present only about 6 per cent area of the state was covered under forest, whereas the ecological and environmental considerations require increasing the forest cover up to a minimum of 15 per cent area. The Government will make all out efforts to achieve its target during this five year plan. Mr Sood suggested that the department should explore the possibility of promoting eco-tourism by identifying some suitable sites in Punjab. In order to create awareness amongst people for forests and wildlife, he directed the officers of the department to establish forest awareness parks. He said the department would review the measures taken for tackling the growing population of wild animals damaging crops. Earlier, Mr B C Bala, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, apprised the Minister about the ongoing activities of the department.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/12/2007


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Action Plan to Prevent Child Marriage in MP

Bhopal, Apr 17: Amid reports about preparations for marrying off children on the auspicious occasion of 'Akshay Tritiya' on April 20, the Madhya Pradesh government has prepared a special action plan to prevent the age-old social evil. Under the action plan aimed at creating awareness among the people against the evil practice, camps and rallies, besides street plays would be organised with the cooperation of Panchayat functionaries, religious heads and voluntary organisations. Chief Secretary Rakesh Sahni has issued guidelines to the District Collectors to prevent child marriage. Strict vigil will be maintained by the police over mass marriage programmes organised on the occasion of Akshay Tritiya to ensure that no adolescent is married off, official sources said. The government is also popularising the 'Raksha Sootra Bandhan' programme under which a band would be tried by the minor daughters and sons to their parent for not performing their marriage in adolescent age.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/17/2007


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Govt to Formulate Clusters of Villages to Penetrate Rural Mkts

New Delhi, Apr 17: To tap the rural telecom market, the government is formulating a plan to form clusters of villages with one service sector. A group of one lakh such clusters will be provided with broadband connectivity. ''The government is concerned about the digital divide, while the telecom market is booming, the rural density is very low. To make it accessible to rural population, the government will bring together clusters of villages with one service centre,'' a member of DoT claimed. With a total telephone subscriber base of over 200 million (fixed plus mobile), India is one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world. The telecom penetration in rural areas is just 13 per cent. He maintained that with 70 per cent of population in rural areas, it becomes very imperative for government to do something for rural India. According to the vision plan drawn up by DoT, 200 million rural telephone connections are envisaged by the end of 2012, translating into a rural tele-density of 25 per cent. The total number of rural households would be about 160 million, assuming five members per household, of which 130 million households would be above the poverty line. Considering one telephone for every three households and one telephone for every two households by the year 2012, the number of rural telephones would be about 80 millions by conservative estimates. There will be on an average 1.5 telephones for every rural household above the poverty line by the end of the Eleventh five-year plan. As a result, about 195 million rural telephone connections would be required by the year 2012.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/17/2007


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PAKISTAN: To Implement WHO Standard Facilities

LAHORE: Pakistan under the millennium goals for health agreement will provide health facilities up to the standard prescribed by the World Health Organisation, and the International Health Regulation (IHR) will be introduced in June this year. This was the consensus reached by the WHO country representative of Pakistan Dr Kahlif Bile Mohammad, special education minister Dr Tahir Ali Javed, CMIT minister Shuja Khanzada, standing committee for health chairman Dr Muzaffar Sheikh, Fatima Memorial College principal Humayun Maqsood during a special conference on Friday, organised the night before the World Health Day. Dr Kahlif Mohammad said that every country in the world was supposed to implement the IHR, to enable the country to get health facilities with small investments and help it adopt principals of prevention to avoid casualties. He added that owing to easy travel between countries, diseases now spread around the world easily. All the countries of the world should adopt a joint line of action to control epidemics, natural calamities, and use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, he said. Dr Kahlif Bile Mohammad said that the conference would prove a milestone in framing the international health policy. Every year international issues are brought under discussion on World Health Day, which falls on April 7. He maintained that WHO was marking 2007 with the theme of International Health Security while new international health laws were being introduced this year to facilitate the global community. Pakistan Medical Society chairman Dr Masood Akhtar Sheikh, WHO resident representative Asmat Ullah Chaudhry, additional director Dr Zia Ur Rehamn and former FMH principal Mahmood Ali Malik were also present.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/07/2007


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Cabinet Approves Draft Bill on Delimitation of Constituencies

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet on Wednesday approved a draft of ‘The Delimitation of Constituencies (Amendment) Bill 2007’ for placement before parliament. The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, approved the bill in light of changes in the allocation of seats in parliament. According to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the election commission had forwarded the bill proposing amendments in the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1947, in order to bring the provisions of the act in conformity with Articles 51, 106 and 218 of the constitution as amended by the Legal Framework Order, 2002. Accordingly consequential amendments have been proposed in sections 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 of the act. The amendments needed to be incorporated into the 1974 Act because of an increase in the number of seats in the National Assembly, Senate and the provincial assemblies. The cabinet also approved an allowance of Rs 5,000 per month from July 1 for all PhD degree holders working in colleges and universities.

Presently, the PhD allowance for college teachers is Rs 1,500 per month and Rs 5,000 per month for university teachers. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) was directed to set up universities in those areas where faculty and other facilities were available. Aziz directed the HEC to rank all the public and private universities to bring them at par with international universities. HEC Chairman Dr Attaur Rehman briefed the cabinet on the initiatives taken by the commission for promoting higher education in Pakistan. Later, talking to the media, Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said that the federal cabinet had also approved fully funded scholarships for students belonging to under-developed areas or areas where no universities existed. He said the PM had said there was a need for maintaining a balance between primary, secondary and higher education to have a strong education structure in the country. He said the PM briefed the cabinet about his visit to India for the SAARC summit and the exchanges he had with the Indian leadership. Durrani said that the next meeting of the federal cabinet would be held in Peshawar and after that Sindh and Punjab would host meetings as well. The PM would visit China on a six-day tour from April 16 to April 21, he added.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/12/2007


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Aziz Approves New Insurance Policy

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Friday approved a new insurance policy, aimed at increasing penetration, removing impediments to insurance industry’s development and outlining a more rational role of the public sector in line with international practices. Chairing a meeting to review the insurance industry’s growth here, Aziz said that insurance, which is an important part of the financial sector, needed to be revamped. He said the percentage of life insurance in the country, which presently is 0.28 percent, is among the lowest in the region. The immediate goal should be to enhance it to one percent in a period of three years. “Life insurance is an excellent way of increasing savings, risk mitigation and has direct impact on capital formation and investment levels,” the prime minister said. Attention should also be paid to improving coverage and outreach in the areas of health, general and micro insurance. Changes should be made to the overall fiscal regime in the insurance sector to motivate individuals to invest in life, health and general insurance policies, he added. Aziz approved conversion of State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC) into a company under the Companies Ordinance 1984. He said that all public sector insurance entities should be corporatised, their boards should be restructured and more professionals should be inducted to make them efficient. He said that marketing departments of insurance companies should be strengthened and engaged in aggressive marketing. He also agreed to a proposal to open up insurance of public property (other than strategic assets) to private companies after formulation of comprehensive rules and procedures in this regard. The prime minister took serious note of certain insurance companies issuing bogus third party insurance policies, which were being accepted by Motor Registration Offices. He said that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan should play a more proactive role to eliminate such practices. The work of the Postal Life Insurance also came under discussion at the meeting. It was decided that the Postal Life Insurance should also comply with insurance laws.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/14/2007


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KYGRYZSTAN: President Presents Draft Constitution

Legislator Kubatbek Baibolov, a member of For Reforms and the United Front, told ferghana.ru on April 2 that the opposition has sent its draft constitution to President Bakiev. "We have presented a constitution based on the November constitution, which presumes a mixed form of government, but closer to a parliamentary system," Baibolov said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," November 9, 2006). "The government is formed by parliament and is politically responsible to parliament." Baibolov said the opposition does not intend to send anyone to participate in a task force on constitutional reform being set up by Bakiev because the draft constitution clearly represents opposition views. On April 2, Bakiev told the head of the presidential administration to expedite the formation of a task force on constitutional reform, Interfax reported. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/03/2007


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Kyrgyz President Issues Decree on State System

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev issued a decree on April 3 to "improve the state system" of governance, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. According to the terms of the decree, a special working group is to be formed, comprising experts, government officials, and opposition representatives, and empowered to study and formulate a set of governmental structural reforms. The new group, to be formally led by Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev, is required to report its findings within one week, however, and will also consider and recommend amendments to the Kyrgyz Constitution. The move follows the presentation of a new opposition-drafted constitution to the president the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 3, 2007). RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/04/2007


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TAJIKISTAN: Tajikistan Reinforces Headscarf Ban

Tajik education authorities are introducing a new dress code that reinforces a ban on Islamic headscarves and bars female students from wearing revealing Western clothing, the latest edict on young people's conduct in the predominantly Muslim Central Asian nation. "The hijab (headscarf) is not a student's uniform. If religion means more to you than studies, you should study at a religious school," Education Minister Abdudjabor Rakhmonov told students at the Tajik State University on Tuesday. The ministry introduced a ban on hijabs in 2005. Rakhmonov said it would be part of a dress code that will soon be published and distributed at schools. "Female students must dress in accordance with their status and national traditions," Rakhmonov said, adding that they should wear clothes that are "quite modest and not provocative." Tajikistan is constitutionally a secular country, but more than 90 percent of the population is Muslim. The former Soviet republic of 5 million, which borders Afghanistan, was wracked by a 1992-1997 civil war between the secular government and the Islamic opposition that ended with a U.N.-brokered power-sharing agreement.

From http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/ 04/19/2007


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TURKEY: New Trade Law to Change Trade Guidelines

Along with its expected major effect on trade law in Turkey, the new Turkish Trade Law under discussion would also initiate a mandatory auditing system for Turkish companies. The law's founder, Dr. ünal Tekinalp, believes the law will bring Turkey in line with EU standards. After sitting on the Parliament's agenda since 2005, Turkish Trade law has finally been approved by the commission and is on the plenary committee's agenda. “From now on foreigners will be able to invest [in Turkey] with an easy conscience,” said the architect of the law, Prof. Dr. ünal Tekinalp, explaining that this is what he calls a modern law, which is also embraced by European Union (EU). In an interview with Turkish business daily Referans, Tekinalp said that in spite of the intensity of the political agenda, both the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) say that the new law will take affect in May. When the law was being reviewed by the commission, a few articles were added to the law, said Tekinalp.

The articles pertain especially to company audits, he said. The Turkish Accounting Standards Board (TMSK) has gained a lot of strength via the new law, he said, as he highlighted the importance of this authority for the implementation of the international standards. Turkish companies rejected being audited by international companies, said Tekinalp. Therefore a supreme board to supervise the harmony with international standards was formed via a temporary article added to the law, he said. A group organized by the supreme board within the body of the Union of Chambers of certified Accountants of Turkey (TüRMOB) will take on this responsibility, he said. “Audit of an audit” system will be implemented by the Turkish Trade Law, said Tekinalp, adding this system has been used widely in the United States and in some European countries following the Enron case. There will be a supreme board to supervise the audit reports gathered by the inspectors, he said.

Each step taken to form these reports will be published on the Internet, and thus a cursory inspection is out of the question, said Tekinalp. Until the actual foundation of the board, a group organized by the Industry and Trade Ministry will execute the job, he said. Via the new law, it will be a required obligation of all companies to found an Internet site and publish their company accounts. This is the first step in the implementation of “shareholder's democracy,” said Tekinalp. "I have spoken with the EU previously concerning the draft and they guaranteed to ‘open and close the related chapter if this law gets approved',” he said. Under the new law, it will be possible to hold companies' board meetings in online, in a virtual, electronic environment. The compound interest application will be terminated. The new law will also protect the consumer from unfair competition. Those engaged in unfair competition will get a jail term of up to two years. In order to found and incorporate any other type of company, the Capital Markets Board‘s (SPK) approval will be obligatory. (by Erdal Sa?lam)

From http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/ 04/21/2007


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AUSTRALIA: Anti-Money Laundering Strengthened

Australia’s protection against money laundering reached another milestone today with the publication of rules outlining crucial parts of the incoming anti-money laundering system, Minister for Justice and Customs David Johnston said. The rules are part of a comprehensive system which comes into effect over the next 20 months to cut options for criminals to hide their crimes. The nation’s anti-money laundering regulator, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) issued the rules after extensive consultation with industry. “It is essential that Australian financial services and gambling industries take steps to ensure they are protected from being used by money-launderers and terrorism funders,” Senator Johnston said. “The rules provide operational detail that businesses need to implement their anti-money laundering programs.” Senator Johnston urged people to remember that money-laundering relates to the proceeds of crime – a crime such as illicit drug-dealing has already been committed creating the dirty money which offenders try to make clean. “Money launderers are criminals – whether they engaged in the crime which generated the funds or whether they are the criminals paid to wash the money,” Senator Johnston said. “Money-launderers are dealers who sell illegal and addictive drugs to our children, smugglers who shift contraband across borders at night and traffickers who sell women into slavery and arms to those who cannot meet the requirements of legitimate purchase. “Their attempts to use our financial systems to hide their crimes can harm the reputation of businesses domestically and internationally.” The Australian Government, together with industry, has worked hard to develop laws to combat these crimes and to bring our financial and gambling businesses into line with international standards.


From http://www.ministerjusticeandcustoms.gov.au/ 03/30/2007

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Media Laws Proclaimed

Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan today announced Wednesday 4 April 2007 as the day on which the Government’s media reform package will commence. The date was fixed by proclamation this morning as the commencement date for Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Act 2006. “Schedule 2 implements the Government’s longstanding commitment to reforming Australia’s restrictive media ownership laws while protecting the public interest and therefore ensuring a diverse and vibrant media sector,” Senator Coonan said. “The Government’s media reforms will encourage greater competition and allow media companies to achieve economies of scale and scope, while maintaining the diversity of Australia’s media landscape. “The current foreign ownership and control restrictions relating to free-to-air and subscription television, and cross-media ownership restrictions on commercial radio and television licences and associated newspapers have for too long limited competition in the media sector. They have restricted access to foreign capital and expertise and stifled opportunities for growth. “The new laws create a framework that will deliver greater consumer choice and a competitive industry in a rapidly growing digital media age. Australia needs a flexible system to allow media organisations - national, commercial or community based - to adapt and prosper in the new digital environment,” Senator Coonan said.

Schedule 2 to the Act amends the BSA to: remove the foreign ownership restrictions for commercial and subscription television interests; remove the cross-media ownership restrictions relating to commercial radio licences, commercial television licences or associated newspapers (subject to certain safeguards); impose disclosure obligations on commercial radio and television licensees and newspaper publishers with cross-media interests; require the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to impose licence conditions from 1 January 2008 on commercial television licensees in regional aggregated Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania markets to broadcast a minimum level of ‘material of local significance’; require ACMA to impose licence conditions from the date of commencement of Schedule 2 on regional commercial radio licensees that require licensees to maintain existing levels of local presence if the licence is subject to a ‘trigger event’ (that is, a change in ownership or if it becomes part of a cross-media group); require ACMA to impose licence conditions from 1 January 2008 on regional commercial radio licensees to broadcast a minimum level of ‘material of local significance’ between 6am and 6pm on business days (the default level is presently 4.5 hours but this is the subject of a review by ACMA which is due to report by 30 June 2007); and subject regional commercial radio licensees to further local content obligations if a ‘trigger event’ occurs.


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 03/29/2007


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Framework for Reviewing Administrative Decisions by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)

The Government has completed its initial consultation on its December 2006 discussion paper Streamlining Prudential Regulation: Response to ‘Rethinking Regulation’, which canvassed options to simplify and streamline prudential regulation in response to issues raised by the Taskforce on Reducing Regulatory Burdens. Response to ‘Rethinking Regulation’ attracted a great deal of interest from across the financial sector, reflected in the number of submissions received. While these submissions were broadly supportive of the Government’s approach, some concerns were expressed about the Government’s proposals in relation to reviewing APRA’s administrative decisions. In light of industry comments, the Government has decided to introduce a court-based process for decisions to disqualify individuals under APRA administered legislation, similar to the disqualification framework used by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The Government will consult further with industry on the implementation of this measure and on options for removing Ministerial consent from, and expanding the availability of, merits review for APRA’s decisions. The Government will continue to progress the other proposals canvassed in Response to ‘Rethinking Regulation’, with the aim of having legislation ready for introduction in the Winter 2007 sittings. The Government expects to be able to consult on draft legislation shortly.


From http://www.treasurer.gov.au/ 04/16/2007

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Respite for Mental Health Carers Across Australia

Over 60,000 carers across the country will have improved access to respite services following today's launch of the Mental Health Respite Program by Community Services Minister Nigel Scullion. Through funding of $66 million over four years, 54 service providers will purchase respite for carers of people with a mental illness, psychiatric disability or intellectual disability. The Mental Health Respite Program is part of the Australian Governments $1.9 billion commitment to the Council of Australian Government's National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006 2011. "These services will enable carers, and the people they care for, to access information and respite care tailored to their individual needs and circumstances," Senator Scullion said. "Respite brokerage services are the first phase of the program and will be delivered immediately through Commonwealth Carer Respite and Carelink Centres. "The Centres are run by a wide variety of organisations and are located in metropolitan, rural and remote regions across Australia. "The second phase will establish additional respite services to increase the availability of appropriate options to supplement services already available. "Different types of respite services may be funded, including in-home respite, out of home respite and short term residential programs such as group homes and supervised holiday options. "The Australian Government recognises the important and valuable role played by those family members or friends who care for dependent people at home. "We seek to support those carers to take a break from their caring role by providing them with time and space to focus on other commitments or personal needs and aspirations," Senator Scullion said.


From http://www.facsia.gov.au/ 04/18/2007


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Offences to Combat Identity Crime Released for Public Consultation

Laws designed to combat the multi-billion dollar problem of identity fraud in Australia have been released today for public consultation by the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator David Johnston. "At the meeting last week of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) the Australian Government and the states and territories agreed to release for public consultation model laws targeting identity crime," Senator Johnston said. "The model offence would allow law enforcement agencies to prosecute identity crime before an associated criminal act, such as fraud, theft or forgery, occurs. This would be a positive step forward in what is becoming an increasing problem for Australia." At present only South Australia and Queensland have offences which specifically target the assumption or misuse of a person's identification information. The model offence has been developed by criminal law experts as part of the work of the Model Criminal Law Officers' Committee (MCLOC). "Impoprtantly, the victims of identity fraud also face greater protections in the proposed laws with the creation of a certificate that can be provided to the victim of an identity crime by the Court to assist the person in restoring their credit rating or restoring records or transactions or credit history," Mr Johnston said. "A certificate of this kind would not compel others to take restorative action but it would assist the victim in presenting the outcome of a criminal proceeding for identity crime in a way that would be useful to them." The public consultation period commenced on this week and copies of the report are available on the Attorney-General's Department website at www.ag.gov.au/idcrimepaper. "This discussion paper highlights a serious social problem and I would encourage comments from all interested members of the public, community organisations and business groups on these proposed reforms," Mr Johnston said.

From http://www.ministerjusticeandcustoms.gov.au/ 04/20/2007


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Law Protects the Unborn Child

THE Department of Human Services will have the power to monitor the welfare of babies even before they are born under a massive shake-up of child protection laws that starts on Monday. Doctors, nurses, grandparents — even neighbours — who suspect a baby may become at risk from a parent after birth can report their concerns to the department. Previously, unborn babies were not subject to formal child welfare "notifications" which alert social workers to abuse, neglect or risk of harm. Up to 500 unborn babies each year are likely to be covered by the Children, Youth and Families Act. The goal was not to deliver newborns into state care, Community Services Minister Gavin Jennings said, but to help mothers prepare for the challenges of parenting by referring them to expanded support services in the community. The scenarios contemplated included drug-dependent or mentally impaired mothers and parents with a history of child neglect. "We would try to assume that this will be viewed as a positive engagement, rather than a punitive one, as an opportunity, rather than a threat," Mr Jennings said. Underpinning the new laws is the goal of very early intervention. "The notion of being proactive rather than reactive is a fundamental new element," he said.

In cases of very troubled families, however, there will be potential for the speedier removal of children. The laws set much shorter time limits on attempts at family reunion, although removals will continue to be scrutinised by the Children's Court. There will also be a cultural shift in the way families can gain access to community support. Non-government agencies such as Berry Street, the Children's Protection Society and Anglicare will work closer with each other and the department. There will be more sharing of information to identify the needs of families before crises flare. Some critics have said this amounts to part-privatisation of the child-welfare system, and others have raised privacy concerns. Mr Jennings, however, insists the change offer a seamless way for families to get help, whether for housing, mental heath or parenting classes. "From the perspective of a family, they get very, very weary of going through the hoops continually to have their story heard, and understood and acted on." He conceded the changes will result in an increase of about 10 per cent in child abuse and neglect reports. Child campaigner and former Family Court judge John Fogarty said his long experience suggested the figure would prove a "significant underestimate". When mandatory reporting for some professionals was introduced in the mid-1990s — triggered by the bashing death of toddler Daniel Valerio — the Kennett government estimated a 10 per cent increase in such reports. It turned out to be a 40 per cent increase. Last year there were 37,987 reports of child abuse and neglect and 7563 cases proved.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 04/21/2007


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Vic Budget to Focus on Water, Climate

Water and climate change will be priority items in next month's Victorian budget. Struggling irrigators should not expect new cash relief but they may see more funds for major piping projects replacing outmoded channel systems. Treasurer John Brumby is due to deliver the government's eighth budget on May 1 - his seventh as Treasurer - and has indicated a strong focus on water shortages and climate change, as well as infrastructure, education and fulfilling the government's election commitments. The drought has dented Victoria's economic growth by up to one per cent but the budget will predict a slightly stronger rate in 2007/08, higher than 2.75 per cent and partly conditional on average rainfall, Mr Brumby said. Good rain from now through spring will help the economy, he said. "Particularly, that will affect how we rebound in the irrigation areas," Mr Brumby said. "Generally, in the pastoral and crop areas all the evidence suggests that if we get a decent autumn break and some decent winter rains, the rebound there can be very strong and very dynamic." The budget will not reveal whether the government plans to build a desalination plant because feasibility studies are not complete, and existing policy was opposed to building a new dam, Mr Brumby said.

"But there will be some commitments in relation to water and climate change and I think they will be well received in terms of addressing issues both in terms of Melbourne's domestic supply and in terms of our irrigation infrastructure ... that's new money," he said. Mr Brumby described this budget as providing the framework for growth, much of which will mean big investment in school buildings. For the eight consecutive year, the budget surplus will be above $100 million, but has settled down from the mid-year report of $910 million, Mr Brumby said. The surplus is close to, but still above the revised full-year budget estimate of $374 million, he said. Net debt will rise to fund capital works but will remain a smaller proportion of the economy than it was under the previous government, he said. Mr Brumby also talked tough on public sector wages, in the lead-up to enterprise bargaining talks with police, nurses and teachers. The government's wages policy is to add 0.75 to the rate of inflation, which is forecast to be 2.5 per cent, Mr Brumby said. "Anything beyond 3.25 per cent will need to be funded by productivity improvements or costs offsets," he said. Mr Brumby would not say whether Victorians could expect tax cuts.


From http://www.theage.com.au/ 04/22/2007


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FIJI: Cabinet Approves Policy Issues for a Higher Education Bill for Fiji

Cabinet has approved the drafting of a Higher Education Bill for the establishment and regulation of post-secondary tertiary education, and related matters. Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Minister for Education, Mr. Netani Sukanaivalu. Mr. Sukanaivalu explained that the absence of a single, clearly articulated policy framework for higher education has the potential to compromise Fiji’s standing in the region as a leader in higher education provision. “The current lack of Government control for higher education has resulted in a relatively ad-hoc pattern of supply with significant mismatches between provision and labour market demand.” Mr. Sukanaivalu said that Government needs to act in the national interest and establish a legal framework to regulate the establishment and the provision of higher education in Fiji. “The legislation will ensure amongst other things adherence to quality assurance arrangements to monitor and require improvements to accreditation arrangements by providers.” He said that Fiji students and citizens deserve such scrutiny for the sacrifices they make for educational pursuits. Under the legislation, a Higher Education Commission (HEC) will be established to advise the Minster for Education on matters relating to higher education in Fiji, in accordance to the provisions of the Higher Education Act. It will be one of the relevant government agencies to manage the accreditation and approval processes in the higher education sector. Mr. Sukanaivalu said that through the Higher Education Commission, Government will have the responsibility for managing the accreditation and approval processes in the higher education sector. The establishment of processes to regulate the provision of higher education in Fiji and the provision for accreditation are the two key elements for governance in the higher education sector. “The establishment or recognition of a university, a non-university post-secondary tertiary education institution, overseas universities, and overseas post-secondary education tertiary institution in Fiji is to be done in accordance with the criteria and standards set out and approved by the Higher Education Commission.” Mr. Sukanaivalu also said that approval of the use of the title “university” will also be in accordance with the criteria and standards set out and approved by the HEC.


From http://www.fiji.gov.fj/ 04/10/2007


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NEW ZEALAND: Working with Regions for Economic Transformation

Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard today announced a new regional economic development policy and the establishment of two new regional funds for regions to support the growth of more internationally competitive firms. "The Regional Partnerships Programme began six years ago and has been a key factor in helping to stimulate economic growth in the regions. We want to build on this success by revitalising regional economic development and taking it to the next level by sharpening the focus on what regions need to do to really enhance their economies for their future prosperity. We also want to support substantial, commercially driven regional projects," Trevor Mallard said. "These changes will help regions not only to drive their own economic growth, but also to contribute more to New Zealand’s efforts in the global marketplace by ensuring all regions can develop, attract, and retain globally competitive firms. To raise our living standards further, New Zealand needs far more firms that can compete in international markets." The changes, effective from this July, will see the disestablishment of the Regional Partnerships Programme and the following new initiatives: Replacing the Major Regional Initiatives Fund with a contestable Enterprising Partnerships Fund focusing on substantial regional projects that are commercially driven, generate substantial economic benefits for the region and align with national economic transformation goals. Funding under this programme will be approximately $9 million in 2007/2008, $10.5 million in each of the following two years and $11.5 million a year after that.

Consolidation of the 26 regions currently funded to about 14, to make the regions bigger and therefore more capable of collaborating and tackling large economic development projects and issues. A new Regional Strategy Fund that will give the 14 regions access to a maximum of $750,000 over three years to develop and implement regional economic development strategies. The aim is to encourage a medium-long term view so that regions focus on key projects for growth rather than less important, short term activities. $1 million a year will be ring fenced for Auckland for the next three years in addition to the two new funds. This will contribute to initiatives in Auckland that reinforce linkages between the economic transformation agenda and the region's regional economic development strategy. In 2007/2008 only, each of the existing Regional Partnerships Programme regions that will need to join together are eligible for up to $50,000 to meet one off costs associated with this consolidation process. "The Auckland funding recognises that the city's regional economic development is a key part of the government’s economic transformation agenda. What helps Auckland will help the whole country grow," Trevor Mallard said. These new initiatives follow a process of discussions with regions, and input from key national stakeholders such as Local Government New Zealand and the Economic Development Association of New Zealand. Further details about the funds and criteria for applications will be released between now and May.


From http://www.med.govt.nz/ 04/04/2007


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APEC Members Move to Harmonize Food Safety

As the global population grows and pressure on food and water supplies increases, cases of food-borne illness will multiply, the inaugural APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum was told this week.Dr. Gardner Murray, a former Australian Chief Veterinary Officer and now special adviser to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, told the Forum meeting in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney that climate change and increasing variations in the ecology of environments will force food scientists and regulators to revise their understanding of food pathogens and how to deal with them."With environmental damage and climatic variations we are already seeing new diseases emerging and 75% of them are zoonotic diseases (animal diseases that humans can catch)," Dr. Murray told delegates. "New bugs are appearing and are adapting to the new conditions."In Australia, for example, bat Lyssavirus has been around for thousands of years but only recently, as bat and human populations are pushed closer together in land and property developments, has the disease begun appearing in humans.

Similarly, research in Vietnam on the spread of the H5N1 flu virus showed that outbreaks spiked during the Tet holiday when people moved about the country with their poultry.Communicating information about new disease threats to their populations will become more important for food regulators, whose risk analyses and communication messages must be simple, transparent and easy to understand, Dr Murray said. "For example, in Korea, health authorities put food safety messages on the back of commonly sold packs of toothpicks in restaurants."Meeting greater demands for food from growing populations has also led to more intensive livestock and agricultural production, genetic manipulation and new processing and preservation technologies producing an "explosion" of new foods. These are foods in which new chemicals are appearing as a part of the manufacturing process. "As a result of increasing global trade, people movements and the industrialization of production and processing, consumers are potentially exposed to a greater number of food safety hazards than in the past," Dr Murray said."Dealing with this threat requires a thorough risk analysis process, the key elements of which are to identify and characterize hazards, assess the risk, manage it and communicate it publicly."( by Hunter Valley)


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 04/05/2007


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Chief Operating Officer Appointed at the APEC Secretariat

APEC's ongoing reform efforts took another step forward this week with the APEC Secretariat's first Chief Operating Officer taking up his position in Singapore.Mr. Tan Ee Khoon, a Singapore national, will work to help strengthen the corporate management functions of the Secretariat. The position of Chief Operating Officer is for a three-year period and was approved by APEC Ministers in Ha Noi last November.Formerly the Head of Finance and Corporate Affairs in the Office of the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Mr. Tan brings to the position several years of multilateral cooperation forum experience.The APEC Secretariat's Executive Director, Ambassador Colin Heseltine, said that from a long list of candidates, Mr. Tan had the experience and track record to be appointed to the position."Tan Ee Khoon has strong qualifications and relevant recent experience working in a regional multilateral forum," Ambassador Heseltine said."He has a strong reputation through his work with ASEAN, which is also an official observer to APEC."In his role at ASEAN Mr. Tan led efforts to reorganise the ASEAN Secretariat's financial and corporate management operations to best practice standards and managed institutional and corporate affairs at the ASEAN Secretariat, covering the areas of finance, administration, personnel and training, and information technology.

Mr. Tan coordinated, serviced and facilitated ASEAN's negotiations on trade liberalisation, and economic integration and cooperation with ASEAN's Dialogue Partners and multinational organisations such as APEC and the UNDP. Mr. Tan has also held other positions with the Singapore Confederation of Industries, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.In Ha Noi last November APEC leaders endorsed a package of reform measures aimed at making APEC more efficient and results-oriented. The creation of the Chief Operating Officer position is one in a range of ongoing APEC reforms aimed at improving operational efficiency, promoting operational linkages between APEC stakeholders and enhancing operational dynamism. APEC Senior Officials will continue discussion on implementing further measures during this year.At a broader level reforms include efforts to rationalize the number and scope of APEC fora, prioritize project proposals and develop better coordination among sub-fora, working groups and task forces.


Fromhttp://www.apecsec.org.sg/apec/ 04/05/2007

 


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G24: Voting Reform at Multilaterals Must Be'Meaningful'

“Ministers from the Group of 24 (G24) developing countries Friday repeated their call for ‘meaningful’ reform of multilateral institutions to ensure greater representation for developing nations. ‘All members have a stake in the BWIs' (Bretton Woods institutions) being able to play their legitimate role; but this can only be achieved if there is meaningful action to address under-representation,’ the group said in a statement, referring to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. … In the statement, the group called for ‘a substantial increase’ in the basic votes - the minimum quota that each IMF member country automatically receives. Quotas form the basis for each member's vote share. Last September, the group had called for a tripling of basic votes. The G24 said calculations for a country's quota should be based on up-to-date economic data and that a new quota formula must give ‘potential borrowers adequate weight.’ …” Kyodo News notes that “The IMF is set to hold a meeting of its policy-guiding panel Saturday to continue with a review of its quota system used for allotting voting power and to assess risks caused by global economic imbalances. The International Monetary and Financial Committee is expected to examine progress in the reform process, through fall of 2008, aimed at giving more say to developing countries. In the IMF annual meeting in Singapore last September, China, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey won bigger quotas in the first round of reform. …”

AP writes that “… The ministers welcomed stepped-up efforts by the World Bank to combat corruption but said ‘the bank needs to give more attention to the supply side of corruption and the private sector's role at both the country and the global levels.’ As they did last year, the ministers said increasing the representation in the governing bodies of the bank and the IMF of countries with emerging economies ‘remains of the utmost importance for the legitimacy and effectiveness’ of the two institutions. …”Reuters adds that Group of 24 chairwoman and Argentine Economy Minister Felisa Miceli said on Friday said that “Countries in economic crises should be granted IMF lines of credit without being immediately held to terms usually tied to such aid. … In a statement issued before Saturday's meeting of IMF members, Miceli slammed the multilateral lender, faulting it for driving regional governments to strike deals to support each other in times of economic crisis and failing to live up to its founding principle of bolstering confidence among members. She also dismissed proposals the fund and its members have drafted in the past year to offer new crisis financing means. …”


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/14/2007

 


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New UN Chief Marking 100 Days in Post

“Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's first 100 days as UN chief, by his own admission, have not been a honeymoon: He's done lots of globe-trotting, made some missteps, and had a few successes. … Just over three months after he took the reins of the UN from Kofi Annan, Ban is still trying to master the job of being a top world diplomat while running a giant international bureaucracy where 192 countries often have competing interests. … Calling himself ‘a harmonizer and bridge-builder,’ the former South Korean foreign minister came to the UN promising to push for peace in Darfur and the Middle East. He also promised to restore the UN's tarnished reputation, which has been battered by the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq, corruption in the UN's purchasing operations, and sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers. … In late January, he headed off on a four-nation African visit, including the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he tried unsuccessfully to get Sudan's al-Bashir to allow the deployment of an AU-UN force in Darfur. In March, he made an unannounced visit to Iraq en route to the Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he again put the pressure on the Sudanese leader. …”

The Straits Times writes that “…. … There are many criteria on which to judge Ban… . On global affairs - the 'general' part - Ban has started off ambitiously. In just 100 days, he has already met the most intransigent world leaders and taken on the thorniest issues. He brought global warming to the Bush White House, spent three hours persuading Sudanese President Omar Bashir to accept beefed-up peacekeeping in Darfur, barnstormed Middle East capitals and retained his dignity during a nearby mortar attack during a surprise visit to Baghdad. On most issues, he has staked out a noticeably non-confrontational stance: deferring to the Security Council on Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, avoiding rhetoric on the detaining of the British soldiers by Teheran and pleading for more time to negotiate conflicts amid demands for economic sanctions. When it comes to running the UN - the 'secretary' part of the job - Ban has emphasized efficiency and transparency to make the budget stretch further and improve mobility and working conditions for staff. UN staff, some 55,000 people around the world, are generally pleased with Ban's priorities and are also excited by the new emphasis on staff training and mobility - but are waiting to see what comes of it. … But some observers and UN insiders have been disappointed by his appointments, which they note came surprisingly late. …”


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/20/2007

 


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UN Chief Urges Streamlined Bureaucracy

“Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon formally endorsed a radical streamlining of UN operations Monday, delivering a report to the General Assembly that urges the elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy. The sprawling UN system contains 16 specialized agencies, 14 funds and programs, and 17 departments and offices, leading to costly duplication and competition for resources. A high-level panel recommended a series of reforms in November including the consolidation of different programs - as many two dozen separate operations in some countries - into one UN operation per country, with one budget, one leader and one common office if possible. Ban said the UN is moving to establish eight such pilot programs, more than initially planned because of high demand. He also endorsed the report's call for the three UN bodies promoting equality for women ‘in an uncoordinated and ineffective way’ to be merged into a single well-funded organization with higher status. Ban urged member nations to move quickly on debating and approving the recommendations. …” In a separate piece, AP adds that Ban also “… told officials from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization that rich nations were coming up short in promises of increased aid to developing countries, which fell more than five percent last year. …

Ban and other speakers offered progress reports on the Monterrey Consensus - a 2002 international agreement on alleviating poverty and related problems - and the UN's Millennium Development Goals… Alejandro M. Werner, deputy chairman of the IMF and World Bank's Development Committee, which advises the two bodies on international aid issues, said a strong global economy was helping reduce poverty, the first of the millennium development goals (MDGs). But he cited ‘mixed results’ in other goals, such as getting more children to school and reducing child mortality, malnutrition and deaths in childbirth. Werner said the committee felt that increasing gender equality and giving women greater control of their lives around the world were key to achieving all aspects of the millennium goals. …”Dow Jones writes that “… The two main groups representing mainly developing countries - the Nonaligned Movement and the Group of 77 - expressed concern in a joint statement about a focus in the reform plan on promoting human rights, equality for women and environmental protection. The groups said they were concerned that under the guise of reform, the UN could start making aid contingent on progress in those areas, which they said was ‘not acceptable to developing countries.’ … They said the world body's ‘overarching framework’ should be meeting development targets, such as the MDGs….”

Meanwhile, Xinhua reports that Ban further “… called for greater voice on Monday for developing countries in international economic decision-making. In opening remarks to a special meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council, Ban said that developing countries, with 79 percent of the world's population, contribute 45 percent of world output, when measured in terms of purchasing power parities. … He also welcomed the recent resumption of the Doha Round of trade negotiations. … He urged the world richest countries to ‘eliminate all export and trade-distorting agricultural subsidies.’ The UN chief also called for reforming the rules for intellectual property rights so as to strengthen technological progress and to ensure that the poor have better access to new technologies and products.” In a separate piece, Xinhua writes that Ban further “urged the world's richest countries on Monday to provide new Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding to developing countries. Ban said he was ‘very concerned’ by the over 5 percent downfall of ODA in 2006 despite the recent promises of increased aid flows by rich countries. … The secretary general said the launch of the Development Cooperation Forum later this year ‘should help improve international oversight of development assistance.’”


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/20/2007

 


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CHINA: Strengthen Controls on Gov't Department Size, Spending

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Ministry of Supervision have jointly issued a provisional regulation to strengthen control on the establishment of government departments. The establishment, disbanding, merging and upgrading of government departments without authorization would be punished under the regulation, said an official with the Ministry of Supervision here on Tuesday. The regulation, implemented last month, also prohibited the appointment of government leaders beyond the personnel quota. Members of the public could report violations of the regulation to supervision departments or call a hotline number "12310", said the official. Earlier this month, China's State Council approved a regulation on the establishment and size of local governments, which requires local governments to set up minimal, unified and efficient departments with reasonable numbers of staff. The establishment of departments should be based on comprehensive consideration of their responsibilities and ensure coordinated efforts in carrying out policies and decisions. The regulation limits the authorized size of local governments to within local financial resources, and prohibits the establishment of additional departments or recruitment of more staff.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/27/2007


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Senior Party Official Stresses Anti-corruption

A chief discipline inspector of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Wednesday called for more efforts to fight corruption at its root. During an inspection to north China's Hebei Province, Wu Guanzheng, secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said China should form an effective mechanism to prevent corruption and punish those who are guilty of it. Wu, also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said the Party pays great attention to the construction of a clean Party and clean government. The fight against corruption should be unremitting and combined with the economic, political, cultural, social and Party construction, Wu added.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/04/2007

 


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Gov't Urged to Improve Rural Sanitation

China's vice minister of health says on Friday the government should improve rural sanitation to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Wang Longde says the waste in less than a third of all toilets in China's rural areas is properly treated, adding that the situation is grim. Many people have been infected after eating fish raised in water contaminated by human excrement, he said. "It is urgent for Chinese government to popularize hygienic practices among rural residents," Wang said. Wang says the Chinese government has helped peasants renovate their toilets and build methane tanks. "It's not a money problem so much as a lack of hygiene knowledge," said the vice minister. "This year alone, China has invested 2.5 billion yuan (about US$325 million) building methane tanks," he said, adding the government provides a subsidy of 1,000 yuan to each needy family.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/08/2007

 


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Crackdown on Extravagance in Gov't Celebrations

China's State Council, or the central government, has asked local governments to refrain from spending big sums of money on celebrities for their performances in government-held celebrations. The office of the State Council responsible for rectifying malpractice gave the order in a national conference held on Tuesday. It has been a popular practice in China to boost the popularity of an event with the participation of celebrities, whom organizers may pay as much as 100,000 yuan for their "appearance". Local governments should also control the number and scale of such celebrations and crack down on those who seek benefits from them or whose malpractice has led to accidents or negative social influences, said an official with the office. The office has also ordered local governments to put a stop to extravagant activities such as over-expending public receptions, tourism at public expense or constructing luxurious office buildings.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/11/2007


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China to Intensify Crackdown on Rural Crime

China's police are to intensify crackdown on rural crime after a string of incidents targeting farmers. The police are ordered to "severely crack down on all sorts of crimes that affect rural economic growth and infringe upon farmers' rights and interests", according to a document of the Central Committee for the Comprehensive Management of Public Security. Theft of livestock, irrigation facilities, farm machinery and robbery are areas that need to be dealt with more harshly, according to the document. It also orders cracking down on prostitution, gambling, drug taking and buying or selling under coercion. The document urges improving the system to dissolve disputes in the countryside and take the initiative to tackle dispute-prone issues, including burden on farmers, land contracts, land expropriation, environmental pollution, unpaid wages and disposal of collective assets. Security hardware, including iron door, iron window, iron cabinet, and warning devices, should be promoted in some rural areas based on local situations.

According to a meeting on public security held on Monday in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi province, an increasing number of pyramid selling schemes have emerged in rural areas. Last year, police in Shandong Province broke up a pyramid selling scheme that involved more than 160,000 mostly rural people from 15 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. The organizers lured farmers with promises of lucrative returns in return for a 2,900-yuan admission fee to join a cosmetic selling scheme. The farmers were asked to persuade more people to join, but the cosmetic under the brand "Duomeizi" was fiction. The organizers pocketed more than 400 million yuan. Many farmers lost their personal savings. Officials at the meeting urged the police to strike hard on rural crimes, such as homicide, illegal explosive trade, robbery, gambling, drug trafficking and pornographic publications, and to clamp down on organized crime.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/16/2007


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State Council Appoints New Officials of Departments

China's State Council, the cabinet, has recently appointed some high-ranking officials of government departments. Wei Chuanzhong was appointed deputy head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, replacing Ge Zhirong. Zheng Guoguang was appointed head of the China Meteorological Administration, replacing Qin Dahe. Ning Jizhe was appointed deputy head of the Research Office of the State Council. Cui Dalin and Cai Zhenhua were appointed deputy heads of the State General Administration of Sport. Tang Tiehan was removed of the president of the National School of Administration and Ma Zhongzhi of the chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Key Large-Sized State-Owned Enterprises.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/16/2007

 


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China Tightens Supervision of Joint Educational Programs

China will tighten supervision of education programs jointly operated by Chinese and foreign colleges to ensure that students get quality teaching, the Ministry of Education said here Thursday. The ministry said on its official website that a recent investigation discovered a series of irregular operations by joint educational institutions, some of which had triggered "mass incidents". Citing examples, the ministry said some institutions attracted many students with bold advertisements, but failed to deliver high-quality teaching. Others, which promised to send students study abroad, failed to do so or did not grant students diplomas after they completed their studies. Such cases, in which students often paid over hefty tuition fees, seriously damaged the interests of students and their families and generated bitter complaints, the ministry said. The ministry said it will not approve new Sino-foreign joint programs on higher occupational education until 2009. Applications for new joint programs on postgraduate education will be very carefully scrutinized. The ministry said it has asked provincial educational departments to carry out thorough investigations of current joint educational programs and clean up irregular operations as soon as possible. It also said it is working on an evaluation and sanction mechanism for joint educational institutions. But no details were given.


From http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/ 04/19/2007

 


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China Announces Rules to Require Government Disclosures

China on Tuesday announced far-reaching new rules for disclosure of official information that would require local governments to reveal their accounts and inform farmers about the finances of often controversial land seizures. The decree, which takes effect May 1, 2008, would mark a dramatic change in the way Chinese officials work if it were genuinely applied in Beijing and the hundreds of thousands of villages and towns where governments and Communist Party committees make most of their decisions in secrecy. The official New China News Agency called it a "landmark" decision that makes "the most specific and progressive" changes to China's tradition of official secrecy since Communist rule began in 1949. "Governments at various levels are required to give out information which involves the immediate interests of individuals and groups, which should be known by the masses, and which explains administrative institutions and procedures," the agency quoted the decree as saying. The decree, signed by Premier Wen Jiabao, listed requirements to reveal such subjects as local government plans for handling emergencies, the allocation of government expenses and the results of investigations into environmental threats, public health and tainted medicines.

It also specified that local governments must reveal the terms of land seizures and the amount of compensation paid to farmers who lose their fields. This is an explosive issue, as thousands of villages have risen up against local authorities over land seizures in recent years. Typically, the farmers have alleged that officials abused their authority to seize the land for resale to developers, compensating the farmers at a low price and charging the developers much higher prices -- then pocketing the difference. Enforcing a requirement that these transactions be public would help halt such abuses. But China's recent history has been filled with central government decrees that are not fully enforced around the country. In that light, it remained unclear whether Wen's decree would have the power to turn around a half-century of traditional secrecy, particularly where corrupt local officials rely on secrecy to cover collusion with businessmen and embezzlement of public funds. In addition, the decree laid down potential restrictions for public disclosure, saying any information that affects state security, public safety, "normal economic operations" and social stability should not be revealed.

If interpreted by local officials with economic interests in illicit activity, those exceptions may create an area where secrecy could still thrive. But the decree said local groups could appeal to higher authorities if they are refused information they believe they are entitled to. Wen and President Hu Jintao recently have urged what they call public supervision of government actions, implying that China's 1.3 billion people have a right to point out malfeasance and lead authorities to prosecute it. The decree issued Tuesday fit in with that theme, saying citizens have a right to know what is going on in their communities. In practice, however, most Chinese are deprived of that right by rigorous party censorship of television stations and newspapers. The decree did not explain how the new rules would fit in with that censorship.


From http://www.washingtonpost.com 04/24/2007

 


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JAPAN: GSDF Launches Quick Terror-Response Division

The Ground Self-Defense Force on Wednesday launched a 3,200-member agile division to enhance Japan's capabilities in dealing with terrorism and guerrilla attacks and to promote international peacekeeping efforts. Gen. Joshu Yamaguchi assumed his duties as the first commander of the so-called central quick-response division headquartered at the GSDF's Asaka garrison in Tokyo's Nerima Ward. In an inauguration ceremony held at the garrison, Yamaguchi said, "I will do my utmost to train it into a powerful and energetic unit." Placed under the direct control of the defense minister, the division includes a special counterterrorism operation brigade, a convoy of helicopters and a training unit for troops to be dispatched overseas for international peacekeeping operations. The move came after overseas activities were upgraded in January into one of the Self-Defense Forces' main duties from their previous subordinate status in line with the former Defense Agency's transformation into a ministry. The six GSDF officers to be sent to Nepal in April for a U.N. military observer mission are also members of this division. The division is planned to have 4,100 members by the end of March next year by setting up additional units, such as one to be an advance team for overseas deployment. Its headquarters will be relocated by fiscal 2012 to Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture, where the U.S. Army in Japan is headquartered.


From www.newsonjaan.com 03/28/2007

 


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Tokyo Governor Wins New Term

TOKYO Governor Shintaro Ishihara, an outspoken nationalist who is fond of riling Japan's neighbours, easily secured a third term leading the world's largest metropolis. Mr Ishihara, who has used racial slurs for Chinese and Korean residents, vowed to devote his fresh four-year mandate to his pet project of bringing the 2016 Summer Olympics to Tokyo. "I have been continuously bashed by the media and there have been regrettable misunderstandings and exaggerations. But the public had good sense and saw through that," the novelist-turned-politician said. Tokyo was one of 13 provinces holding elections in the first nationwide test for embattled conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the run-up to July's upper house vote. With 99 per cent of votes counted, Mr Ishihara had 50.99 per cent of the total, 20.13 points more than his closest competitor in the 14-candidate race, the election commission said. Mr Ishihara, 74, is supported by Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) but refused its outright nomination.

Despite recent scandals involving Mr Ishihara, opinion polls show the Tokyo governor is more popular than Mr Abe, who has faced questions about his authority. Lawmaker Yoshio Yatsu, the LDP's chief election strategist, was quick to call Ishihara's win a victory for the ruling party. "Tokyo is the face of Japan. This victory should not harm us in the upper house elections," Mr Yatsu said. Mr Ishihara, a bugbear for liberals with his outspoken criticism of everything from China to feminism, has grown popular in part due to pushing through policies such as banning diesel engines to improve air quality. "I voted for Ishihara as I think Tokyo needs a leader who is convincing and has strong leadership," said Manabu Koiso, a 24-year-old fish market worker. Mr Ishihara's platform called for tougher measures against crime and bringing the Olympics to Tokyo, eight years after the Beijing Games. After his re-election, he turned to his frequent confrontational approach with reporters when one asked whether he would alter the Olympic bid. "What part of it should I review? Tell me. What do you know about the plan?" Mr Ishihara said of the Olympics. "I think this will be a great treasure for Japan." Tokyo's 10.42 million eligible voters had a choice of 14 candidates including a street musician, a taxi driver, a feng shui expert and a fortune teller.

Mr Ishihara's most prominent rival was Shiro Asano, a former governor of northern Miyagi prefecture supported by the main opposition Democratic Party. Mr Asano had attacked the Olympic bid, saying the money would be better spent on supporting lower-income people or improving preventive measures against Tokyo's frequent earthquakes. "I realise it was a loss by a significant margin. I apologise to those who supported me and put their hopes in me," Mr Asano said. Mr Ishihara, who said the third term will be his last, has long courted controversy with blunt remarks. In one instance, he was hauled to court for describing women past childbearing age as "hags".He has also come under fire recently for awarding a government art project to his son and for racking up large bills on overseas trips - paid for with taxpayers' money. Asked about the scandals, Mr Ishihara said, "I've answered that question many times in detail. Please go read the transcripts of the assembly meetings".In other elections across Japan, all incumbents who ran again won. Of the 13 races, nine winners were linked to the ruling bloc, two were supported exclusively by the opposition and two governors were backed by both sides.


From http://www.news.com.au 04/09/2007

 


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SOUTH KOREA: National Assembly Approves New Prime Minister

The National Assembly on Monday (April 2) approved Han Duck-soo, former finance minister, as the nation's new prime minister. Last month, President Roh Moo-hyun nominated Han as his new prime minister to succeed Han Myeong-sook, who resigned amid reports she was preparing to run in the December presidential election. In a 210-51 vote, the single-chamber parliament endorsed the president's nomination, after holding a two-day confirmation hearing on the nominee last week. Han, who earned a doctorate in economics from Harvard University, has held a string of top financial posts, such as a presidential advisor on free trade talks with the United States, trade minister and ambassador to the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. The prime minister takes over in the event that the president should become incapacitated.


From http://www.korea.net 04/02/2007

 


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Top Military Intelligence Officer Named to Lead Air Force

The Korean government on Thursday (April 5) nominated a three-star general, currently in charge of the Defense Ministry's intelligence affairs, to lead the Air Force, heralding a far-reaching shake-up of the organization, which has been marred by reports of poor discipline and alleged corruption. The nomination of Lieutenant General Kim Eun-gi, director of the Defense Ministry's Intelligence Agency, is expected to force several other senior Air Force officers to resign, analysts said. The Defense Ministry said that a personnel management committee recommended Kim to President Roh Moo-hyun for the post earlier in the day and received Roh's approval. However, the nomination also requires the largely symbolic endorsement from the Cabinet, which is slated for next Tuesday (April 10). If the nomination is approved, the 55-year-old will be promoted to a four-star general and take office next Friday (April 13), replacing Kim Sung-il, who resigned last month to take the responsibility for a recent KF-16 jet crash caused by poor maintenance. Kim Eun-gi graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1974. He received a master's degree in physics at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1984. He served as an intelligence officer in the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command from 2003-2005, and has been working as director of the Defense Ministry's Intelligence Agency since last year. "Lt. Gen. Kim, as a specialist in the military operations and policy fields, has been judged the most fit for the post as a result of the collection of wide-ranging opinions and thorough review," the ministry said in a press release. He also possesses the strong leadership needed to spearhead the reform of the Air Force, it added. The Air Force's troubles culminated in February when a KF-16 fighter jet went down off the country's west coast during a training flight, although its pilot survived by ejecting. The Air Force's discipline has been called into question after investigators found that the accident was attributable to poor maintenance. In a separate accident, the wing of a Korean F-15K fighter jet was damaged last month when its rear wheels fell into a manhole at an Air Force base in Daegu. The Defense Ministry has already conducted an investigation into allegations that the Air Force misused funds budgeted for the purchase of jet parts, but has yet to announce its results. The state audit agency is also looking into the suspicion. Meanwhile, the government promoted Vice Adm. Park In-yong, vice head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to admiral.


From http://www.korea.net 04/05/2007

 


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Rhyu Submits His Resignation Due to Pension

Saying someone had to take the blame for the National Assembly’s failure to approve a reform of the national pension system, Health Minister Rhyu Si-min tendered his resignation. Rhyu called the failure the “irrational” decision of the assembly, in a meeting with reporters yesterday. Asked why he chose to resign, he said, “I thought somebody had to take responsibility,” at a press conference yesterday. Rhyu is a close aide to President Roh Moo-hyun. A Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo that Roh has not yet decided whether to accept the resignation. Under the current configuration, the national pension system is expected to run dry by 2047. A bill to reform the system by raising the premiums and lowering the pension paid out has long been pending, but the Assembly again failed to pass the bill last Monday. The Assembly has faced criticism from the news media that it did not pass the bill because it feared losing votes before the presidential election in December and National Assembly elections next April. Kang Gi-jung, an Uri Party legislator and member of the Assembly’s health committee, said yesterday his party would present a new bill for reform of the national pension “by Wednesday at the latest.” Kang said his party would seek help from the Democratic Party and a group made up of Uri defectors. Meanwhile, the chief policymaker of the Grand National Party, Jeon Jae-hee, said her party would present another reform bill “this month, if possible.” Still, the agreement that a bill is needed appears to be the only consensus between the two parties, considering the details of each of their plans. The Uri Party, supported by the Democratic Party, and the government want to lower the pension and to raise the premium.

In contrast, the Grand National Party wants the pension payouts to be lowered, while offering more financial support to low-income senior citizens than the Uri Party is suggesting. The far-left Democratic Party supports the Grand National Party’s idea. The health committee of the National Assembly has to present one bill to a plenary voting session. That will not be easy, because the 10 members of the committee are evenly split between the Uri-Democratic alliance and the Grand National-Democratic Labor Parties. Yang Hyung-il, a legislator who defected from the Uri Party, said yesterday that it may take “months” for the bill to pass the Assembly. The Uri Party’s bill failed to pass the Assembly last Monday. The bill was voted down because 18 legislators cast blank votes.Most of the 18 votes came from Uri Party defectors, according to the Assembly.Former Health Minister Kim Geun-tae, who once called it “unethical” not to reform the pension system, did not vote, saying that his health was not good following a hunger strike.Scholars urged the Assembly to make a swift move. Kim Sang-ho, a professor at Kwandong University, said there is a 30 trillion won ($32 billion) deficit every year coming from the current low-premium, high-pension system. “If the National Assembly fails to recognize this huge problem, we may only get into big trouble,” Kim said. Kim Jin-soo, a Yonsei University professor, said, “The Assembly should first try to make a compromise to reform the system.”


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com/ 04/09/2007

 


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Roh Nominates New Culture, Maritime Affairs Ministers

President Roh Moo-hyun on Thursday (April 19) replaced four cabinet members, nominating Kim Jong-min, president of the Korea Tourism Organization, as his new minister of Culture and Tourism, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said. The 58-year-old Kim, if approved by the National Assembly at its confirmation hearing, will succeed Kim Myung-gon. The president also appointed Kang Moo-hyun, former vice minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, as chief of the ministry, Cheong Wa Dae said. Kang succeeds Kim Sung-jin. The president replaced Government Legislation Minister Kim Sun-wook and Patriots and Veterans Affairs Minister Park Yu-chul with their vice ministers. Nam Ki-myoung was named new minister of Government Legislation, while Kim Jung-bok was promoted to minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. "New Culture Minister-designate Kim has displayed outstanding performance while serving as vice culture minister, chief organizer of the World Ceramic Exposition 2001, chief of the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization and president of the Korea Tourism Organization," said Park Nam-choon, senior presidential secretary for personnel affairs. In particular, Kim lifted the operating profit ratio of the Korea Tourism Organization by 780 percent last year, he added. Regarding the new maritime affairs minister, the secretary said, "Kang had served at key posts of the maritime affairs ministry over the past three decades, and thus accumulated wide-ranging experience in overall ministry affairs. "On the basis of his abundant experience, Kang is expected to assist Yeosu's bid for the 2012 World Expo and spearhead the nation's bid to build a Northeast logistics hub along the south coast," said Park.


From http://www.korea.net 04/19/2007

 


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Tourism Head Named New Culture Minister

Kim Jong-min, president of the Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO), was appointed as the country's new culture and tourism minister on Thursday (April 19). Kim, a 58-year-old bureaucrat, also worked as a secretary for administrative and civil affairs at the presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, and served as vice culture minister in 1996. Born in Yeongdong, Chungcheongnam-do (North Chungcheong Province), he graduated from such elite schools as Gyeonggi High School and Seoul National University. He received a master's degree in government policy from the University of Minnesota in 1980.


From http://www.korea.net 04/19/2007

 


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4 New Cabinet Ministers Named

President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday replaced four cabinet members, nominating Kim Jong-min, president of the Korea Tourism Organization, as his new minister of culture and tourism, said Park Nam-choon, senior presidential secretary for personnel affairs. The 58-year-old Kim will succeed Kim Myung-gon, following confirmation by the National Assembly. The president also named Kang Moo-hyun, former vice minister of maritime affairs and fisheries, as chief of that ministry, Park said. Kang is a replacement for Kim Sung-jin. The president replaced Government Legislation Minister Kim Sun-wook and Patriots and Veterans Affairs Minister Park Yu-chul with their vice ministers. Nam Ki-myoung was named the new minister of government legislation, while Kim Jung-bok was promoted to minister of patriots and veterans affairs. “The new Culture Minister-designate Kim has displayed outstanding performance while serving as vice culture minister, chief organizer of the World Ceramic Exposition 2001, chief of the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization and president of the Korea Tourism Organization,” Park said. In particular, Kim was credited with raising the operating profit ratio of the Korea Tourism Organization by 780 percent last year, he added. Kim has also worked as a secretary for administrative and civil affairs at the Blue House. Regarding the new maritime affairs minister, Park said, “Kang has served at key posts in the maritime affairs ministry over the past three decades, and accumulated wide-ranging experience in ministry affairs. “On the basis of his experience, Kang is expected to assist Yeosu’s bid for the 2012 World Expo and spearhead the nation’s bid to build a Northeast Asia logistics hub,” said Park. A native of Wonju, Gangwon province, the 56-year-old Kang began working for the ministry in 1975 shortly after graduating from Yonsei University in Seoul. From October 2004 to August 2006, he worked as vice maritime minister.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com 04/20/2007

 


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Roh Named His Spokesman, Presidential Secretaries

President Roh Moo-hyun on Friday (April 20) has appointed former presidential protocol secretary Chun Ho-sun as his new spokesman, presidential Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Yoon Seung-yong said. Yoon, who doubles as senior presidential secretary for public information and Cheong Wa Dae spokesman, said he will be relieved of his spokesman's post to concentrate on his duty as the senior information secretary. "Cheong Wa Dae has decided to divide my dual roles. As the senior presidential secretary for public information, I'll deepen responsibility for my own original duties, such as the integration of broadcasting and telecommunications. The new spokesman is expected to carry out the daily media briefing more faithfully than I have," he said. Chun, a key member of the president's inner circle, served as Roh's secretary in 1991 when Roh was a lawmaker. Since Roh's election in 2003, Chun has held several key secretarial posts at Cheong Wa Dae. Meanwhile, Cheong Wa Dae appointed executive officer Kwon Hae-sang as Secretary to the President for Civil Petition and Institutional Innovation, executive officer Park Sung-soo for Secretary to the President for Legal Affairs and Bae Ki-chan for Secretary to the President for Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative, a newly established post.


From www.koreanet.net 04/20/2007

 


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Illegal Funds Probe Hampered

In a speech given to a college class, former Prosecutor General Song Kwang-soo said the Blue House had complained about an investigation by the prosecutor’s office into President Roh Moo-hyun’s aides and illegal presidential election campaign funds, and threatened to dissolve the investigation team. A Blue House spokesman, Yoon Seung-yong, said Song’s claims were unfounded and he called on him to name the individual whom he claimed pressured the investigation. The former head of prosecutions, who served between April 2003 and April 2005, was giving a special lecture at the graduate school of Soongsil University in Seoul. “While investigating the illegal political funds donated by Nara Merchant Bank, the prosecution requested an arrest warrant for the president’s close aide, Ahn Hee-jung, three times, and was rejected every time. And [the Blue House] expressed deep disappointment that we persisted and requested the warrant three times,” said Song. “I vowed to protect [the prosecution’s] independence from the president,” he said. “But about half the pledge failed.” At the time, President Roh said he would end his political career if his election campaign had received more than one-tenth of the amount of illegal political funds as the Grand National Party. “Prosecutors did try to find as much illegal money in Roh’s camp as possible, and found about two- to three-tenths of the amount of money [that the Grand National Party had],” said Song. Then the president’s aides said, “Prosecutors do not know their limits,” claimed Song. “The aides argued that the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office’s central investigation team should be dissolved. In a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Song said, “the lecture was somewhat misunderstood... It was natural for [the Blue House] to dislike an investigation.” In 2004, Ahn Hee-jung was convicted of receiving illegal donations, including 390 million from the now-defunct Nara Merchant Bank. He served a year in jail. The bank had been seeking government officials’ help in averting bankruptcy.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com 04/21/2007

 


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MONGOLIA: New Governor Appointed

According to the related provisions of the law of Mongolia on administrative and territorial units and their management, the Mongolian Premier M.Enkhbold has dismissed the Governor of Omnogobi aimag, M.Yadmaa from his post at his request. The Premier has appointed Sumaagin Erdenebat as the Aimag Governor on the basis a proposal by the aimag Khural (Assembly) of Citizens Representatives and the provision 26.3 of the above law. S.Erdenebat was born in 1972. He used to work in the aimag s court and division for implementing the court decisions and in the aimag Governor s Office. Since 2005, he has been working as the Chairman of the aimag Khural (Assembly) of Citizens Representatives. B. Bolortuya


From http://www.montsame.mn 04/17/2007

 


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INDONESIA: Govt to Provide Rp 700 Billion Quake Assistance for West Sumatra

The central government will allocate Rp 700 billion (US$76 million) to assist in the earthquake recovery efforts currently underway in West Sumatra. West Sumatra Governor Gamawan Fauzi said a schedule for the disbursement of the funds would be discussed at the House of Representatives in Jakarta. The funds are covered by the 2007 state budget for natural disasters. He said the province suffered losses of more than Rp 1.6 trillion following the March 6 earthquake. From 11 mayoralties and regencies hit by the earthquake, only Agam regency is still at emergency status. The remaining regions have officially entered the recovery phase. "The central government has agreed to provide Rp 700 billion in assistance. The government has a Rp 2 trillion budget for natural disasters, but since the fund is also being used to assist other disaster-hit areas, landslide victims in Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, West Sumatra, will receive Rp 700 billion for the first phase," he said. Gamawan said he would also request the shifting of special budgets allocated for non-physical purposes to aid the province's quake-hit mayoralties and regencies.

These requests will be made to the National Education Ministry, the Health Ministry and the State Ministry for Resettlement. He said the funds shift should raise enough money to restore schools, medical services, roads and markets affected by the disaster. He said the Rp 700 billion channeled by the central government would be used to restore educational facilities and housing for quake victims. The owners of some 4,000 badly-damaged houses will receive Rp 15 million in cash assistance. "The assistance will be directly distributed to each mayoralty and regency. The local administration will be responsible for dealing with the recovery work," Gamawan said. He said the owners of damaged houses in Tanahdatar and Solok regencies would receive funds from the Social Service Ministry's budget. He said third-party donations had amounted to Rp 4 billion, excluding funds raised through cooperation with cell phone operators. "The cash assistance was considered to be outside emergency-phase aid, which is mostly logistic supplies and a total of 700 trucks that have been directly distributed to disaster sites," Gamawan said.

He said management of the disaster involves a five-stage process that will be completed in the next two years. The process covers emergency, recovery, reconstruction, mitigation and alert phases. During the mitigation phase, local administrations will be instructed to prevent residents from building houses in quake-prone areas, while the alert phase will involve training in schools and offices for dealing with disasters. "I've sent letters to all mayors and regents in West Sumatra to create a local ordinance on mitigation and disaster alerts," he said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 04/07/2007


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Govt to Build Disaster Relief Depots

The government plans to set up a nationwide network of depots for emergency relief supplies and form a new national agency tasked with managing natural disasters in the country. The "disaster logistics depots" will be established in each provincial capital, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie said. They will be stockpiled with enough food and medicine supplies to handle the occurrence of a natural disaster in each region. The depots will also be supplied with equipment and transportation vehicles to ensure the quick and effective distribution of supplies to disaster victims during emergency relief efforts. "This is part of our effort to improve disaster management in the country, by `regionalizing' it," Aburizal told reporters after a meeting Monday with Vice President Jusuf Kalla and National Coordination Agency chief Syamsul Maarif. "The plan for the logistics depots is to overcome logistics and transportation problems in relief situations. These are areas which have hampered the quick mitigation of disasters in the past," Aburizal said.

The government expects the establishment of logistics depots to make future relief efforts more efficient and avoid the high costs associated with "sending out Hercules planes from Jakarta just to ship supplies of instant noodles," Aburizal said. Managed as a network, the depots could support each other, with those in the vicinity of a disaster-affected region serving as the nearest back-up facility. However, he declined to mention how much the establishment of the network of logistics depots would cost, or when operations would commence. The government has allocated Rp 2 trillion (US$219 million) for disaster mitigation purposes in this year's state budget, with several disaster-affected regions already proposing an additional Rp 2.7 trillion in funds. The government also plans to set up a nationwide early warning system throughout the country by 2008. A string of disasters have hit the country in recent years. The Coordinating Ministry Office has cited floods as the most frequently occurring disaster, while earthquakes cause the most human casualties and fires cause the greatest material losses.

Aburizal said the depots will be managed locally in each region, but will remain under the auspices of the central government -- in this case, the new National Disaster Management Agency that will be formed. "We are still working out who will manage the facilities. It may either be the local administration, or the local military," he said. Aburizal also said the depots would be separate from the rice stockpile depots managed by the National Logistics Agency, although they may work in cooperation. Aburizal said the government expects the new National Disaster Management Agency to be formed within 6 months, as required by a new law on disaster management that the House of Representatives passed in March. However, the government is still discussing how it will replace the existing National Coordination Board (Bakornas) and National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 04/10/2007


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Govt Sets Aside Rp 2.5t for Mud Projects

The government will set aside at least Rp 2.5 trillion (about US$275 million) from the national budget to reroute infrastructure facilities that have been damaged by the mud volcano disaster in Sidoarjo, East Java, a senior official said here Wednesday. Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said the government, under a presidential decree issued April 8, would cover all the costs of the relocation of the mud-affected infrastructure. Some Rp 800 billion would be spent on rerouting an expressway, Rp 300 billion on the rerouting of main roads, Rp 250 billion on the rerouting of a gas pipeline, Rp 450 billion on the rerouting of a rail line and Rp 700 billion on land acquisition, said Purnomo, who is also a member of the supervisory board of the newly established National Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency. Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto, who chairs the supervisory board, said that the amounts involved could change in line with the real cost of the rerouting work. However, he said that he had proposed to the finance minister that at least 50 percent of the money be paid out in advance to finance land acquisition for the rerouting of the infrastructure facilities.

"We are hoping to start building the facilities by the end of this year," Djoko said after a ceremony to officially inaugurate the new agency, which was set up to replace the national mudflow mitigation team. Djoko said that the new agency would focus on reinforcing the containment embankments to prevent the further spread of the mud. According to the presidential decree establishing the new agency, Lapindo Brantas Inc., the operator of the gas field, which has been widely blamed for causing the disaster, will only be liable for compensating the residents of Porong whose lands and homes had been inundated by the mud up until March 22, when the latest figures on the damage caused by the disaster were released. According to the decree, the government will be responsible for covering the cost of damage and dislocation arising after March 22. Based on the latest figures, Lapindo will have to pay compensation to more than 13,000 families in Porong that have been displaced for almost a year by the mud.

Previous figures provided by the team in December 2006 said that 6,000 families in four villages would be eligible to receive compensation. The new decree also states that Lapindo will be responsible for paying for the efforts to stem the mudflow and for the construction of a spillway to the Porong river. Djoko said that the cost of constructing the spillway would amount to Rp 500 billion. Mud has been spewing out of the ground since May 29 last year, inundating homes, roads, factories and rice fields. The government has estimated that the cost of relocating key infrastructure facilities from inundated areas and compensating those affected by the mudflow disaster will amount to more than Rp 7 trillion.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com 04/12/2007


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Government Needs Priorities in Fight Against Graft

Indonesia is still fighting a battle against corruption with some people seeing it as a losing cause and others believing the government is on the right track. The Jakarta Post's Matheos Viktor Messakh talked recently to Teten Masduki of the Indonesian Corruption Watch on the progress in the war against corruption. Question: Many officials are on trial for their involvement in graft. Is this a good sign or just a political gimmick? Answer: These attempts should be viewed as achieving limited progress in what is a difficult situation. It is difficult because the war against graft is not supported by political institutions and law enforcement agencies. Discrimination in the war against graft is unavoidable because of reasons such as political reasoning and accessibility to evidence. However, the war against graft in Indonesia lacks solid guidelines to follow. An increasing number of graft cases are being brought to courts, but there are no guidelines to follow on what kind of cases should be tried first. There should be such guidelines in place, otherwise the system will not be efficient.

Why do we need such guidelines? Legal approach is an expensive approach and it's impossible to handle all graft cases at once. The government should prioritize cases that have a significant impact on society in terms of determent in order to encourage fundamental changes in the country. For example, cases in which high-ranking officials, incumbent ministers, the executives of state-owned enterprises and law enforcement officials are implicated should be tried first. Our system of law enforcement is currently quite powerless because almost all of the connected apparatuses are corrupt. Therefore, cases involving judges, prosecutors and police officers should also be prioritized. If law enforcement officials were free of corruption, other people may be frightened to engage in corruption because there would be no guarantee they would get away with it if caught. Therefore, in order to stamp out corruption in this country we need to establish greater deterrents for such people. Aside from this, the government also needs to prioritize economy-related sectors and sectors that have a wide social impact such as in the areas of education and health.

While we may turn a blind eye to corruption in other sectors, we should not ignore corruption in these sectors. The country is facing economic hardship largely because such sectors are not working to their full capacity. Therefore, we must prioritize eradicating graft in the taxation, banking and financial sectors and in state-owned enterprises? The health and education sectors are also important because they influence the quality of our human resources. It seems we are facing a contradiction between the necessity to eliminate corruption and the need to maintain power in order to eliminate corruption. Where should we start? Initially we placed our hopes on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono because he was elected directly by the people and therefore would be more accountable to the people rather than to political parties. In reality, instead of weighing up people's needs, he made decisions based on political considerations. If he wants to make changes, don't you think his political career will be like that of former president Abdurrahman Wahid? I don't think so. It is more difficult to impeach a president now. It is only possible if the law has been broken. To fight corruption without discrimination is not breaking the law. On the contrary, it would bring prosperity to the people. Some say that anti-graft activists criticize the government without offering any real solutions. Is that true?

Non governmental organizations (NGOs) do not just criticize the government but also offer solutions. They have, for example, helped the government with draft bills on corruption in the past. In the New Order era NGOs only criticized the government but they now play a greater part in policy reform. However, lawmakers usually decide to spend money on overseas study tours rather than utilizing the suggestions and draft bills of NGOs. They are unwilling to heed such advice, not because the quality of the draft bills is poor, but because they do not want to be dictated to. There are many ways to eradicate corruption. Besides law enforcement, policy reform and widening the public's participation in the decision-making process are strategic moves in the fight against graft. In 1997 several state-owned banks collapsed because 11 tycoons failed to repay their debts. But taking a look at the present policies in the financial and banking sectors, there have been no major policy changes. Even BRI, which has support from small and medium entrepreneurs, sees most of its credit flowing to big conglomerates. How can we let this happen again? Does that mean that we can expect more policy changes from lawmakers? Not only lawmakers but also the government. For example, if business licensing now involves hundreds of desks, why don't we cut the number down? We need to shut down every opportunity for graft to occur.

Generally speaking, to eradicate corruption would require closing the windows of opportunity, increasing the risks involved and lessening relevant benefits. In order to close the windows of opportunity, the government needs to pay more attention to economic policies. For example, in the banking sector if big conglomerates have caused trouble in the past, the government should limit their maneuvers. For me, the president and his ministers can do this via policy reform. Civil service reform should start at the bureaucratic level. For example, why should driving licenses need to be renewed every five years? Why not make them valid for life? The President could change the policy on driving license renewal to eradicate this five-year cycle of corruption. Regencies such as Jembrana in Bali and Solok in West Sumatra have proved that by trimming down bureaucratic processes, there are less opportunities for graft. We cannot rely only on the current laws and law enforcement apparatus to eradicate corruption here. The President should also focus on bureaucratic, policy and civil service reforms. How about widening the public's participation? There are two important draft laws currently being deliberated -- the bill on free access to information and the bill on the Ombudsman -- that may enhance public participation. Unfortunately, the government and the House have given no priority to these drafts.

Everywhere in the world, if people are given free access to public documents, the number of corruption cases decreases. The public can hold social audits if state institutions such as the Development Finance Controller, Supreme Audit Agency and DPR do not function well. As tax payers, the public has the right to question state budget allocations to agencies such as these. But don't we have a draft on state secrecy now? Such a law should not exist. It should only be a part of the law on free access to information. All activities that are financed by public funds should not be secret, with the exception of state security and bank secrecy. Such information should be easily accessible to the public, like in the U.S. There are many inconsistencies in the war against graft. On one hand the government wants to eliminate graft, but on the other it still protects corrupt high-ranking officers and does not place priority on strategic regulations to eliminate graft. Many policies on the banking sector protect big businesses rather than small and medium businesses. Do you think it will be difficult to eliminate corruption because it is so common? This excuse has been used by the government due to its inability to eliminate graft. Many countries that have succeeded in eradicating graft had conditions very similar to ours. Take Hong Kong for example. The country's legal system was bankrupt because most of the law enforcement apparatus were involved in corruption. But they were able to solve the problem because they did the right thing. In a period of 10 years they managed to eliminate graft because they prioritized cleaning up their law enforcement apparatus.

But how do we create an apparatus free of corruption? By offering good salaries? I don't believe in such a theory. If there is a chance, there will be corruption. If corruption is caused because of financial problems, why are there so many corrupt tycoons? The root of bureaucratic corruption may be because of small salaries, but the cause of high scale corruption is certainly not due to small salaries. People engage in corrupt practices to secure their positions and their businesses. There is a kind of cycle of corruption involving seizing power in order to be corrupt and being corrupt in order to maintain power. And in theory, such corrupt practices must be conducted on a large scale to gain political protection by paying off politicians and portraying a good image to the public. Only those who cannot afford to pay ever go to jail.


http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 04/16/2007


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MALAYSIA: Government Offices to Open from 7.30am to 5.30pm

All government offices will open half-an-hour earlier and close 30 minutes later from June. However, civil servants will not be required to work longer hours. Instead, they will clock in for work at three different times – from 7.30am till 4.30pm, from 8am till 5pm, and from 8.30am till 5.30pm. In effect, the offices will be open from 7.30am to 5.30pm. The timetable is the same for those working in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, except that they will observe Friday and Saturday as the days off. Public Service Department corporate communications unit chief Hasniah Rashid said the decision to implement the system nationwide was taken after it was found that staggered working hours had contributed to higher productivity among civil servants. “Civil servants found that they were able to make better use of their time. We also found that longer opening hours for our offices benefited our clients and helped improve the public delivery system,” she said.

Currently, government offices in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya open from 7.30am to 5.30pm with a lunch break between 1pm and 2pm. On Fridays, the lunch break is between 12.15pm and 2.45pm. Staggered working hours from 7.30am to 6.30pm were introduced 10 years ago in departments such as the National Registration and the Immigration Departments, to provide longer hours of service to the public. About a year later, the working hours were revised to 5.30pm and implemented in government offices in Kuala Lumpur. Cuepacs welcomed the plan but said the Government should consider problems faced by civil servants. “For instance, staff whose houses are far from their offices, who have transportation problem or who have to rush their children to school or the babysitter in the morning should not be forced to work at 7.30am. They should be allowed to choose working hours suitable for them. Otherwise, it will be a torture for them,” Cuepacs president Omar Osman said. He also expressed regret that Cuepacs was not briefed so that it could explain the matter to its 850,000 members.

MTUC president Syed Shahir Syed Mohd also said the welfare of civil servants should be taken into consideration. “The staff should be comfortable with their working hours. If they face problems coming to work on time, the counter service will be affected. We should not compromise the quality of service,” he said. Fomca secretary-general Mohd Shani Abdullah said the Government should create public awareness of the new working hours. It should also consider opening counters during lunch hour, he said.

From http://thestar.com.my 04/04/2007


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Part-time Judges to Be Appointed Soon

A move to appoint part-time judges from various sectors of the legal profession is under way with the initial step of engaging more probationary judges called judicial commissioners (JCs). Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said the plan would be modelled after the British system where legally qualified people such as lawyers would be paid to be judges on a flexible basis. He said the move would go into full swing as soon as the Constitution and relevant laws were amended. “In the meantime, 16 more JC positions will be filled very soon because at the moment, the Constitution allows us to appoint JCs,” Ahmad Fairuz said during the elevation ceremony of eight JCs to High Court judges yesterday. Article 122B of the Federal Constitution empowers the King, on the Prime Minister’s advice upon consultation with the Chief Justice, to appoint a JC for a particular period. Ahmad Fairuz said the 16 new JCs were needed to help clear the backlog of cases. There are 73 positions in the High Courts, with 47 High Court judges, 10 serving JCs and 16 yet to be engaged.

Yesterday, the eight JCs who were elevated were Datuk Halim Aman, David Wong Dak Wah, Datuk Rohana Yusuf, Datuk Aziah Ali, Datuk Nurchaya Arshad, Datuk Zulkifli Bakar, Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yasin and Datuk Mohd Azman Husin. Under the British system, the selected lawyers would be required to sit as judges for a minimum period and the length of service would be a key determinant of their competence and suitability for a permanent judicial career. Ahmad Fairuz also advised the new judges to carry out their duties honestly. He prayed that they would be spared from “the ill-doings of slanderers.” “Slanderers are worse than murderers. They are filled with falseness while we judges carry out justice based on fairness,” he said. When asked about the case of Lina Joy, a Malay woman who converted from Islam to Christianity and is seeking to restate her religious status in her identity card, Ahmad Fairuz said the judgment would be released soon.

From http://thestar.com.my/ 04/12/2007


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Kelantan Red-tape Nightmare

Federal department directors posted to Kelantan are in a spot as they have two governments with separate policies to report to, causing unnecessary stress on the public delivery system. The post of director at Federal agencies or departments in Kelantan, such as welfare, social services, forestry and department of environment, are appointed by Kuala Lumpur, while the rank and file are state positions. The directors have to report to both the Federal and state governments and it has become a recurring problem to find solutions since the governments are administered by different political parties, state Umno Information head Datuk Md Alwi Che Ahmad said. “It can work if both the Federal and state governments can work together but in most cases they do not, causing the directors much headache as they have to appease both sides,” Md Alwi said. He was commenting on a statement by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid that Kelantan had issued a directive to forestry department officials here, asking them not to cooperate with the Federal government over massive land clearing in Lojing Highlands.

“The ultimate victims are the people as government departments cannot move effectively when they are restricted by two different systems.” Md Alwi said he was sympathetic to the plight of several directors here who had to report to both the Federal and state administrations especially on public issues such as Lojing. He said if the directors did not have a clear direction, the public delivery system would be hindered and ultimately, the people will be the ones paying the price. This is why Kelantan Umno is advising people here to choose “one government, one system,” which will make the delivery system more efficient and benefit the people, Md Alwi said. On the issue of Lojing, Md Alwi urged people who had doubts to go and see for themselves, the extent of deforestation that had taken place there. “Make your own conclusions,” he said. In a related development, Kota Baru Umno division acting head Datuk Mohd Fatmi Che Salleh has urged the state to take the lead in remedying the damage to the highlands instead of blaming others over the issue.

From http://thestar.com.my 04/17/2007


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PKR to Name Ljok Candidate Today

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) treasurer Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is most likely to be chosen to contest in the Ijok by-election, its political bureau head Tian Chua said. He said that the political bureau had briefed president Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. “We expect to make a formal announcement today,” he said. The April 28 by-election was called following the death of incumbent state assemblyman Datuk K. Sivalingam in Chennai, India on April 4. Khalid was formerly chief executive of plantation giant Guthrie Group Bhd and group chief executive of the Government-linked company Permodalan Nasional Bhd. There had been reports that Khalid and businessman Datuk K.S. Nallakaruppan, both close friends of former deputy prime minister and party advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, had been shortlisted for the seat. Party officials said PKR had wanted to announce the candidate on Sunday but deferred the announcement following demands for an Indian candidate to contest in Ijok. Nallakaruppan said he would accept and support whichever candidate the party fielded for the seat.

“Whatever the party leadership decides, we have to follow. My followers will listen to me and back whatever decision the party makes,” said Nallakaruppan, the party’s Kepong division chairman, yesterday. While Nallakaruppan admitted that some Indian leaders in the party had been pressing for him to contest, he pointed out that “others (the Malays) will also ask for the same thing (for a Malay candidate).” “We have to consider the party and let the leadership decide.” He believed once PKR announced its candidate, the issue would be resolved and all members would give their support. PKR vice-president Azmin Ali said the party took into account the “political scenario” and the “political development” of Barisan Nasional with regards to the Ijok seat. “ We are a multi-racial party. Our choice of candidate will not be based on racial consideration. We base our decision on the ‘win-ability’ factor, the credibility of the candidate and the acceptance of the candidate (by the people),” he said.

He said he respected the views and suggestions from all, adding that PKR would always defend and protect the interests of the Indians and all communities, regardless of the ethnicity of the candidate. He pointed out that in the last general election, PKR had fielded Indian candidates in 14 Malay majority seats and the Malays in the party had accepted that.

From http://thestar.com.my 04/17/2007


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PHILIPPINES: Arroyo Appoints Fil-Am as Head of Gov’t Printing Office

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has named Filipino-American investment advisor Enrique Agana as the new head of the National Printing Office, nearly two months after the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission recommended the dismissal of Felipe Evardone over allegations of graft. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye on Tuesday announced the appointment of Agana as acting director IV of the NPO, the agency mandated to print ballots and other election paraphernalia. He replaces Marietta de Guzman who was appointed officer in charge following Evardone’s filing of a leave of absence on March 1. Evardone is the elder brother of Eastern Samar Gov. and TEAM Unity media director Ben Evardone. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Agana’s appointment was signed by the President on March 8. Agana’s résumé described him as a “registered investment advisor, licensed real estate broker, certified internal auditor, certified fraud examiner, well-versed in high-level sales and marketing activities, international marketing agent and Filipino-American community leader.”

The résumé said he organized the “Elect GMA in the OFW community” in the 2004 elections, and was previously appointed by Ms Arroyo as private sector representative in the Global Filipino Networking Convention of Filipinos overseas. It said he formed the East Asia Financial Corp. based in San Diego, California, which generated $14.3 million in sales in international finance and travel. It said the company was closed when the 2004 presidential campaign started. Agana earned an accounting degree from the University of the Philippines where he also studied law for three years.

From http://archive.inquirer.net 04/04/2007


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Report Gov’t Vehicles in Use During Holiday

The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday warned all public officials against using government-issued vehicles for out-of-town trips, vacations and other nonofficial business beginning Thursday up to Easter Sunday. “Cars bearing red [government] plates should not be seen around whether in Metro Manila or in the provinces,” said Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni, who heads Task Force Red Plate. The task force has fielded personnel who will conduct covert monitoring of government vehicles on highways and other roadways during the Lenten break. The Office of the Ombudsman estimates that the government loses P9 million weekly in fuel costs and other expenditures due to the unauthorized use of government vehicles nationwide. The public may report the illegal use of red-plated vehicles through the Task Force Red Plate hotline nos. 426-7750, 926-9765 and 926-9032 local 411.

From http://archive.inquirer.net/ 04/04/2007


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Congress Should Have Cut Number of Congressmen and Senators

Congressional leaders increased the pork barrel from P6.2 billion to P11.4 billion in the 2007 budget. According to Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., the bicameral conference committee that reconciled the House and the Senate versions of the 2007 budget bill, restored the pork to its original allocations -- from P40 million to P70 million for each congressman and from P120 million to P200 million for each senator. On the other hand, the allocation for the retirement and terminal benefits of government workers was slashed by P3.6 billion from P18.7 billion to P15.1 billion. (Inquirer, 3/24/07) Instead of reducing the retirement and terminal benefits of government employees, we should lower the number of lawmakers. At present there are 236 congressmen (212 district representatives and 24 party-list representatives) and 24 senators. Why not reduce the number of congressmen to 76 (representing Metro Manila and 75 provinces) and the number of senators to 17 (representing 15 regular regions and two autonomous regions)? This is possible by amending Sec. 2 and Sec. 5 Art. VI of the 1987 Constitution. According to Rep. Satur Ocampo of the Bayan Muna party-list, when a congressman takes the stand to deliver a privilege speech, all the others stand up and just chat around. Nobody listens to the privilege speeches.

From http://archive.inquirer.net 04/17/2007


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SINGAPORE: Supreme Court Judge Appointed as Second Judge of Appeal

Singapore now has two Judges of Appeal of the Court of Appeal, with the appointment of Supreme Court Judge V K Rajah which takes effect on Wednesday. Justice Rajah was among the first batch of lawyers in Singapore to be appointed Senior Counsel in 1997. He joined the Supreme Court Bench as a Judicial Commissioner on 2 January 2004. Justice Rajah was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court in November 2004. Since he joined the Bench, he had presided over both civil and criminal cases in the High Court as a trial judge. Justice Rajah was one of the specialist judges designated to hear arbitration matters. He also presided over Magistrate's Appeals. He also chairs the Ministry of Law Committee to develop the Singapore legal services sector. Justice Rajah is also the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Legal Education and a member of the Advisory Board for the Singapore Management University's School of Law. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Singapore Academy of Law and chairs its Professional Affairs Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and International Promotion of Singapore Law Committee. Mr Rajah graduated from NUS in 1982 and obtained his Masters of Law (First Class) from the University of Cambridge in 1986.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/11/2007


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Leslie Chew Appointed as Subordinate Courts District Judge

A new district judge has been appointed to the Subordinate Courts. He is Mr Leslie Chew Kwee Hoe who was a senior counsel with the private sector. Mr Chew specialised in the area of commercial litigation. Some of his more notable cases include the Barings collapse as well as an international commercial dispute valued over US$200 million. Mr Chew has also been a visiting professor and resource speaker for leading law schools in the Philippines. His previous appointments include deputy chairman of the Income Tax Board of Review. Mr Chew will be sworn in into office on 16 April.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 04/12/2007


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THAILAND: Cabinet Reshuffle Imminent

A cabinet reshuffle is imminent and Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont is expected to discuss the matter at today's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister's Office Minister Dhipavadee Meksawan said. Gen Surayud had previously asked his ministers to produce reports on how they could improve their work efficiency, in particular how to prioritise their work, she said, adding the prime minister may ask to see their progress. According to Khunying Dhipawadee, improving efficiency has been discussed in small working groups in the cabinet. The move comes as pressure for a reshuffle mounts. Pressure groups including the Campaign for Popular Democracy (CPD) have stepped up calls for an overhaul of the Surayud administration which they say is needed to avert political confrontation. The latest opinion poll shows a majority of the public is in favour of a shake-up. According to the Suan Dusit Poll, about 57% of the respondents said it was time for a cabinet reshuffle to boost the government's efficiency. Of this number, about 40% suggest a minor reshuffle to fix the problems while about 23% want a major one.

There were 5,173 respondents in the poll held from April 11-17 in 28 provinces. CPD secretary-general Suriyasai Katasila said a major cabinet reshuffle was the only means for the interim government and the Council for National Security (CNS) to survive the current political crisis. ''A small reshuffle won't solve the problems and will be seen only as a time-buying tactic before the general election,'' said Mr Suriyasai. He urged Gen Surayud and CNS chairman Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin to work out decisive solutions while they still have the chance. Mr Suriyasai said the country's political situation will heat up after the Songkran holidays with four pressure groups likely to get involved in mass confrontations. The four groups are the supporters of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, his opponents, people who are impartial but are still giving the interim government and the CNS a chance, and people opposed to both the Thaksin regime and the coup. Mr Suriyasai said the important group was the middle class who had been hurt by the Thaksin government's economic policies and had been optimistic about the interim government.

"However, the sluggish economy over the past six months had had a direct impact on them, causing them to feel unease and lose confidence in the government," said Mr Suriyasai."The middle class may not join the old force to topple the interim government but they may no longer protect the government and in a worse case, may form a new force to pressure it," he said. The old power clique, including PTV executives, is mobilising people in the provinces to prepare to move when the Constitution Tribunal hands down a ruling on the dissolution of political parties, the Thai Rak Thai party in particular, at the end of next month. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which spearheaded a campaign to oust Mr Thaksin, is also ready to return to the streets as it has no confidence in the country's political future. Besides a major cabinet reshuffle to ease the tense situation, Mr Suriyasai urged the CNS to stop distancing itself from the problems. The failure to curb violence in the deep South reflects disunity between the CNS and the interim government, he said.

"From now on, pressure will be directed at the CNS rather than at the government. If the government fails, the CNS cannot deny responsibility,"said Mr Suriyasai. Democrat party spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon said a cabinet shake-up was not enough to turn the situation around. He said the prime minister should adjust his working style and flex his muscles to spur cabinet ministers to work. Deputy Prime Minister and Industry Minister Kosit Panpiemras said a reshuffle involving economic ministers would be unnecessary. He added that existing economic policies were clear, requiring nothing other than effective implementation.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com 04/18/2007


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Thailand to Host Global Corruption School

A three-day global congress on transnational financial crimes kicked off on Tuesday in Bangkok, where Interpol hopes to win financial support for the world's first anti-corruption academy, scheduled to open in 2009. "Nobody will dispute that corruption and financial crimes are closely interrelated," said Ronald Noble, Interpol secretary general, in his opening speech to the 4th Global Financial Crime Congress, co-hosted in Bangkok by Interpol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The congress, which has drawn more than 200 experts from law enforcement agencies, multinational organisations and the private sector, will provide an opportunity to boost international cooperation against financial crimes in the six areas covered by Interpol operations, including terrorism, drug-trafficking, human trafficking, felony investigations, high-tech crimes and corruption. Corruption was only added to Interpol's crime list last year, when Austria, then holding the presidency of the European Union, agreed to provide a site for the world's first international anti-corruption academy.

"Interpol can play a crucial role in education, training and capacity building and also on the operational level, both in assisting investigators and in helping countries recover assets that have been stolen by corrupt individuals," said Noble, of Interpol's future role in the corruption-fighting academy. Students will be instructed in proper investigation methods of political corruption cases and in tracking money that has been socked away abroad by corrupt officials, he added. Although Interpol's 168 members have unanimously supported the new academy, and the new direction for the crime-fighting organisation, it remains to be seen which governments will be willing to make contributions to the 15 million euros needed to finance the school's operational expenses during the first three years, Noble told a press conference. The Interpol secretary general will use the three-day congress in Bangkok to seek contributions to the anti-corruption academy, he said.

"The test is whether or not they are going to give the money," Noble said of Asian government's commitment to the new anti-corruption drive. The Asian region has a long history of corrupt politicians earning illicit billions during their years in power, and cleverly transferring their illicit gains to overseas bank accounts that have proven untouchable or untraceable. "One of the best ways to fight corruption is to follow the money to where it ends up and to recover the assets that have been corruptly removed from a country, a government or a people," said Noble.

From http://www.bangkokpost.com/ 04/18/2007


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BANGLADESH: Govt Prepares to Exile Khaleda by Sunday

Bangladesh's military-backed government was Thursday completing negotiations with Saudi authorities for the exile of outgoing premier Khaleda Zia, sources and reports said, reports AFP. The former prime minister could spend the rest of her life in exile after the interim authorities decided to expel her by Sunday as part of a major campaign to clean up the country's dysfunctional and notoriously corrupt political system.Her arch rival, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, is also likely to remain abroad after she was charged with murder in absentia and the government said it would bar her from returning from holiday in the United States.Reports said Bangladesh's military-backed government had held talks to secure visas for Zia and her family to live in Saudi Arabia."The authorities had a lengthy important meeting with the Saudi embassy in Dhaka on Wednesday where most of the things including visas for Khaleda Zia and her family were finalised," a government source told the Daily Star newspaper.Remaining formalities would be completed on Thursday, said the source, adding that Zia's stay in Saudi Arabia was expected to be "prolonged."Zia is expected to leave for the kingdom in return for leniency for her two sons, who face corruption and extortion allegations as part of the interim government's crackdown. The two women are blamed by many for the political turmoil that ended in January with the imposition of emergency rule and the cancellation of elections scheduled for later that month.

"The government gave the ultimatum to Khaleda Zia to leave by Sunday and they are preparing her visa and passport details," one of Zia's aides told AFP."Khaleda Zia will not oppose the will of the government and if it tells her to leave Thursday or Friday she will be forced to go," the aide added.Zia was expected to meet her influential eldest son Tareque Rahman at Dhaka's central jail later Thursday. Corruption charges against him were frozen on Tuesday as part in an apparent deal to secure Zia's departure.Media reports said Zia, who held the premiership twice and is the widow of the assassinated former president Ziaur Rahman, would leave with her younger son Arafat Rahman and his two children.Tareque Rahman is expected to join the family in Saudi Arabia at a later date.Tareque Rahman, a senior joint secretary of Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had been groomed for the leadership until his arrest earlier this year as part of the government's fight against graft.Zia and Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, are each members of political dynasties that have dominated the political landscape since Bangladesh won independence in 1971.Sheikh Hasina is the daughter of Bangladesh's independence leader and first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.The two women have held power alternately since 1991 when democracy was reinstated.Their leadership, however, has been blamed by many for the country's recent political instability, which saw violent mass protests, blockades and running battles between police and party activists. The government has pledged to hold elections by the end of 2008 after it has completed far-reaching reforms aimed at putting democracy back on track.


From http://www.bangladesh-web.com/ 04/20/2007


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Punjab Gets 11 More Chief Parliamentary Secretaries

Chandigarh, April 16 : The Punjab government Monday appointed 11 new chief parliamentary secretaries, taking their total number to 14. They were sworn in by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here. The total strength of the state cabinet is 18, including the chief minister, which is the maximum number of ministers that the Punjab government can have. Eight of the new chief parliamentary secretaries are from the Shiromani Akali Dal and three from alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Ironically, Badal used to criticise the previous Congress government in the state for putting a burden on the state exchequer by appointing parliamentary secretaries. His government though has gone much ahead of the Congress in terms of the number of appointments made. The strength of the Akali Dal-BJP alliance in the 117-member assembly is 68. Nearly half of them - 32 legislators - are either ministers or parliamentary secretaries. The newly appointed CPS are Harish Rai Dhanda, Nand Lal Garhdiwala, Des Raj Dhugga, Seetal Singh, Sher Singh Joga, Jagdeep Singh Nakai, Bikramjit Singh Khalsa, Avinash Chander (all Akali Dal), Arunesh Kumar Shakir, Sukhpal Singh Nannu and Raj Khurana. Under the law relating to the size of ministries, the number of ministers cannot exceed 15 percent of the legislature's strength. In the case of Punjab, the allowed strength of ministers is only 18. Badal's government has all the ministers in the cabinet rank. Four of them - Badal, his son-in-law Adesh Pratap Singh, nephew Manpreet Badal and son Sukhbir Badal's brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia - are from the chief minister's family.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/16/2007


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Seven IAS, 11 IPS Officers Transferred in Bihar

Patna, Apr 18: In a major reshuffle, the Bihar government today transferred seven senior IAS officers and 11 IPS officers to tone up the civil and police administration in the state. According to official sources, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Labour and Employment, Ashok Kumar Chauhan has been made Commissioner of Saran division, while Commissioner of Tirhut division C Lalsota has been sent to Darbhanga in the same capacity. Sudhir Kumar, Commissioner of Darbhanga division, has been sent to Tirhut division in the same capacity while Additional member, Board of Revenue, Amita Paul has been made Director General (Prosecution). Commissioner of Saran division K P Ramaiah has been made Executive Director of State Health Society. C K Anil, who was waiting for posting, has been made registrar co-operative. Vyasji, who was waiting for posting, has been made Secretary, Labour Employment and Training. In a reshuffle in police administration, Police Superintendent of Madhepura Anil Kishore Yadav has been sent to Katihar in the same capacity, while Police Superintendent in CID O N Bhasker has been made police superintendent of Madhepura. An officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Gopal Prasad has been promoted to the rank of Police Superintendent and sent to Naugachhia in that capacity. Ashok Kumar Singh, SP (Vigilance) has been made commandant of BMP-16.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04//18/2007


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President Kalam Appoints Judges for Bombay, Guwahati and Delhi High Courts

New Delhi, Apr 20 : President A P J Abdul Kalam today appointed the judges of the Bombay High Court, the Gauhati High Court and the Delhi High Court. Justice Vasanti Anil Naik, Justice Jagmohansingh Hakamsingh Bhatia, Justice Ravindra Chandrakant Chavan and Justice Roshan Shamim Dalvi have appointed, as the judges of the Bombay High Court. Justice Jasti Chelameswar, a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has been appointed as the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court. Justice Shiv Narayan Dhingra, Justice Sunder Lal Bhayana, Justice Jatinder Mohan Malik, Justice Reva Khetrapal, Justice Sri Niwas Aggarwal and Justice Pravesh Kumar Bhasin will be Judges of the Delhi High Court.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/20/2007


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Bhandari to Be Punjab BJP Unit Chief

New Delhi, Apr 21 : Rajinder Bhandari has been appointed as the Bharatiya Janata Party's Punjab unit chief. Bhandari is presently the general secretary of party's Punjab unit. He succeeds MP Avinash Rai Khanna, who has completed his term. There was unanimity over Bhandari's candidacy for the post as under his leadership BJP's performance was remarkable in the recent Assembly elections in the State, sources in the party said. BJP had won 19 out 23 seats it had contested in Punjab Assembly elections. On March 2, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Prakash Singh Badal was sworn in as Punjab's new Chief Minister for a record fourth time after the SAD-BJP alliance won 71 out of 117 seats in the Punjab State Assembly.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/21/2007


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7,000 Rural Courts to Be Set Up:Law Minister

Chandigarh, April 21: The government is planning to set up 7,000 rural courts across India to take justice to the doorstep of the rural people, central law and justice minister H.R. Bhardwaj said Saturday. Inaugurating a seminar on "ADR: arbitration, conciliation and mediation" here, Bhardwaj said that providing speedy and free justice to rural poor was the biggest challenge for the country's judicial system. "A bill in this regard will be presented in the next session of parliament," the law minister said here. He said that the government wanted to re-orient the legal talent by providing them with international legal systems. Bhardwaj said that the Lok Adalat system was showing good results but an alternative dispute resolution system to be managed by specially trained young lawyers with expertise in mediation and conciliation to manage these centres is required. He hoped that the Punjab and Haryana High Court would set up an ADR centre soon. Supreme Court judge H.S. Bedi said that a large number of cases were pending before various courts in the country and given the strength of judges available, it would take 200 years to dispose them. Justice Ashok Bhan of the Supreme Court said that alternative legal systems like ADR could reduce the rush of cases before regular courts as petty cases could be disposed of by these. He said that high court judges could sit for additional hours after court timings to dispose of cases. He cited the example of Gujarat where 66,000 cases were disposed in three months by judges who had put in extra working hours.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/21/2007


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INDIA: 20 Civil Service Officers Transferred in Punjab

Chandigarh, Apr 11: The Punjab government today transferred 20 civil service officers, including eight IAS officers. According to an official release here, Gurdev Singh Sidhu has been shifted to the rural development and panchayats department as director while Iqbal Singh Sidhu will be the Special Secretary, public grievances and pensions. Anurag Verma, managing director of PSIDC will hold additional charge of Director, Local government. R k Gupta is the new director for technical education and industrial training while Raj Kumar Chaudhri has been posted as executive director, Punjab Scheduled Caste Land Development and Finance Corporation. Ms Manisha Trighatia has been posted as ACA with the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) while Sukhvinder Pal Singh will be the new ADC, Jalandhar. Ms Shruti Singh has been appointed as SDM, Chamkaur Sahib. In addition the government also shifted 12 Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officers. Through another order, Mr D S Guru, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister will hold additional charge of the Civil Aviation department in the absence of Mr Vishwajit Khanna. Mr R L Mehta, Special Secretary, Planning will also look after the working of the Punjab State Election Commission in the absence of Mr Ashok Singla. Both Mr Khanna and Mr Singla are away to Uttar Pradesh as Election Observers for the assembly polls.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/11/2007


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PAKISTAN:Prime Minister Accepts PIA Chairman's Resignation

ISLAMABAD:Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has accepted the resignation of Tariq Kirmani, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) chairman. According to an official handout issued on Saturday, Kirmani has been asked to continue serving until his replacement is in place. Official sources said that Shaukat Tarin, who has served as head of Union Bank, and Lt Gen (r) Hamid Nawaz Khan,a former defence secretary, are being considered for the post. staff report


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/01/2007


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Musharraf Will Be Re-elected Before Polls,Says Rashid

ISLAMABAD: Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Wednesday that President Pervez Musharraf would be re-elected this year before the next general elections. “Presidential elections will be held this year before the general elections,” the minister told reporters after inaugurating a train, Nishtar Express, which will run between Rawalpindi and Karachi. He ruled out the possibility of withdrawal of the presidential reference against the non-functional chief justice of Pakistan (CJP). “Only those with vested interests are saying that the reference would be withdrawn. The government will accept the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on this matter,” he said. He said opposition parties were trying to politicise the CJP issue and that he would not comment on a statement by Senator Dr Khalid Ranjha because the matter was still in court. Rashid said the government’s present setup would not be changed. “Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is not going anywhere and the present setup will not be changed before the general elections,” he said. He rejected the reports that some cabinet members would resign or would be sacked. “They are all my colleagues. I don’t want to go deeper into the issue,” he said.

Speaking at the train’s opening ceremony earlier, Rashid said Pakistan Railways (PR) was preparing a feasibility report on the construction of a railway station near the New Islamabad International Airport. He said his ministry was trying to develop a rail link between Pakistan and Iran via Quetta and Zahidan, which in turn could link the country with Europe. A Russian delegation, headed by its prime minister, would visit Pakistan on Friday and would talk about the possibility of replacing the country’s old railway lines with new ones, he said. “I have told PR to prepare all documents regarding the replacement of old railway lines because the matter will be discussed with the Russian delegation,” he said. He said the government would renew the pay packages of PR employees before the general elections, stressing the need for a Railways Foundation for the welfare of PR employees. He said he had asked the prime minister and the president to improve the standards of PR freight services. He said PR covered only four percent of the country’s freight at present. “PR will be counted among the best departments when it grabs 25 percent of the freight,” he said. He said the government had decided to close down those railway stations where passengers were not keen on train travel. The Nishtar Express would stop at Lahore, Multan, Rohri and Haiderabad en route from Rawalpindi to Karachi. The train will also have a mobile library and a dinning coach.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/05/2007


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IRAQ: Justice Minister Resigns

Hashim al-Shibli has resigned as justice minister, reportedly after a series of disputes with both the government and Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National List, the London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on April 1. Al-Shibli, who is affiliated with the National Democratic Party, was nominated to his post by the National List. Al-Shibli told the daily that his positions "are different and distinct from those of the Iraqi National List," adding: "I have been in disagreement with them since I took my post as justice minister. The [list] wanted to dictate certain positions to me." The National List has denied the claims. Regarding the government, al-Shibli said he has a good relationship with Prime Minister al-Maliki but "I also had objections to the government's performance in the political, security, and economic fields, and also in the service sectors. I held different views regarding the efforts to get a national-reconciliation process under way." He also mentioned "other reasons" related to the need to improve the ministry's performance. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh claimed that al-Shibli resigned when he learned he was to be replaced under the coming cabinet reshuffle. Al-Dabbagh said the ministry under al-Shibli failed to end violations of prisoners' rights in Iraqi prisons. KR


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/02/2007


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Iraqi Official Proposes Federal System to End Violence

Ali Allawi, a top aide to Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, said on April 9 that a federal system of governance is the only way for Iraq to escape the current cycle of violence, international media reported on April 10. He described the Iraqi government as being "paralyzed by power-sharing formulas," where the "machinery of the government itself is too corrupt to manage the country." Allawi proposed a federal system with regional governing authorities being granted "wide powers," while federal institutions would act as "adjudicators between the regions." "Security must be decentralized until such time as confidence between the communities is reestablished," he said. Only then can U.S. troops withdraw and be replaced by an international force to help stabilize the new federal system. SS


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/11/2007


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IRAN: Iranian Diplomat Held in Iraq Released

Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi announced on April 3 that Iranian diplomat Jalal Sharafi has been released from custody, international media reported the same day. Sharafi, who worked as the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, was seized in the capital on February 4 by armed men wearing Iraqi uniforms. Abawi gave no further details on the release of Sharafi, who has reportedly returned to Tehran. An unidentified senior Iraqi official said Sharafi was held by Iraqi intelligence, AP reported. Iranian officials have suggested a U.S. role in the diplomat's detention, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on April 4. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said on April 3 that Sharafi was freed through the joint efforts of Iranian and Iraqi authorities, IRNA reported. KR/VS


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/04/2007


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KYGRYZSTAN: Opposition Establishes New Faction in Parliament

Kyrgyz parliament speaker Marat Sultanov announced on April 3 the formation of a new opposition faction in parliament, according to the 24.kg website. The new Ata-Meken Socialist Party faction, led by Omurbek Tekebaev, incorporates a number of opposition deputies who withdrew from several other existing factions and groups in the parliament. Those deputies include Tayirbek Sarpashev, Erkinbek Alymbekov, Bolotbek Sherniyazov, Janysh Kudaibergenov, Melis Eshimkanov, and Karganbek Samakov, AKIpress reported. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/04/2007


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KAZAKHSTAN: New Deputy Defense Minister Appointed

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev issued a decree on April 4 appointing Azamat Oynarov as a new deputy defense minister for economy and finance, Interfax reported. The 37-year-old Oynarov previously served as deputy finance minister and deputy chairman of the State Agency on Regulating Natural Monopolies and Protecting Competition. He replaces Kozy-Korpesh Dzhanburchin, who was appointed in February to the position of deputy secretary of the National Security Council. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/05/2007


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Kazakhstan to Establish a State Commission on Economy Modernization

Kazakhstan is going to establish a State Commission on Economy Modernization, reported yesterday on the briefing after the meeting with the President on Annual Message realization RK President Press-Secretary Erlan Baizhanov. "Today (on 12th of April, 2007) the President informed that the decree on establishment of a State Commission on Economy Modernization headed by the Prime-Minister will be signed", - informed Baizhanov. "Our economy is in the new period when concrete breakthrough projects should be realized, and we are talking about not only that state companies and holdings should do it. We are talking about joint action of private sector and state enterprises", - underlined "Samruk" State Holding director Sauat Mynbayev. "State holdings plan to realize joint projects in energy, infrastructure to make together with private sector those breakthrough projects", - he added. This information may not be reproduced without reference to Kazakhstan Today


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 04/13/2007


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TAJIKISTAN: Ruling Party Wins Parliamentary By-Elections

Members of Tajikistan's ruling People's Democratic Party have won in three April 1 parliamentary by-elections, according to preliminary results, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on April 2. In Hamdoni district, Safarali Gulov won with 96 percent of the vote, with his opponent, Abdulqodir Hasanpura of the Islamic Renaissance Party, garnering just 2 percent of the vote, Regnum reported. In the remaining two by-elections, in Dushanbe and Kulov, People's Democratic Party members ran unopposed. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/03/2007


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TURKEY: PM to Announce Presidential Candidate Next Week

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he would announce his party's presidential candidate next week as the secular nation nervously waits to see if the former Islamist will run himself. "I will announce it (the candidate) on the day when my party holds its parliamentary group meeting," Erdogan told reporters, adding that this would be either next Tuesday or Wednesday. But he did not say whether he would be the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) candidate, a prospect that has struck at the heart of this Muslim country's secular identity, with 500,000 people rallying in Ankara over the weekend to urge the former Islamist to back off. Although Erdogan has disowned his Islamist past and now describes himself as a "conservative democrat," opponents still suspect him of seeking a secret Islamist agenda. The ten-day period to register presidential candidates ends at midnight next Wednesday. No one has registered so far. Erdogan was speaking after the AKP's executive board gave him full authority at a day-long meeting to decide on their presidential candidate.

"I should underline straight away that no candidate names were discussed," Edibe Sozen, the AKP deputy chairwoman told reporters here after the eight-hour meeting. "The AKP executive board has given the chairman full authority to finalize the process and consultations with civic bodies will continue until the last day of registration" of presidential candidates on April 25, she added. The AKP candidate is virtually certain to win the race thanks to the party's comfortable majority in parliament, which elects the president. An opposition leader who discussed the presidential elections with Erdogan Tuesday said he believed Erdogan would not run. "I got the impression that he would not be a candidate," Mehmet Agar, head of the small center-right True Path Party, told the Sabah newspaper. Opponents say that with Erdogan in the presidential palace, the AKP, which already dominates parliament and local administrations, will seize the last secular bastion of the state and advance an Islamist agenda.Along with ceremonial duties, the president has the final word on appointing senior government officials and a right to reject bills enacted by parliament.

Outgoing President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a hardline secularist whose seven-year term expires on May 16, has often put the brakes on the AKP. He has sent back to parliament laws he considered breaches of the secular constitution and blocked the appointment of officials seen as Islamist government cronies. The AKP, offshoot of a now-banned Islamist party, has disowned its roots, pledged commitment to secularism and carried out a series of democracy reforms to boost Turkey's bid to join the European Union. But it has come under fire from those who say it is still pursuing Islamist ambitions. Erdogan, a practicing Muslim who was once convicted for religious sedition, is strongly opposed to a long-standing ban on the Islamic headscarf in government offices and universities. But he has failed to abolish it, wary of the secular establishment that sees the veil as a symbol of political Islam. His government has also made unsuccessful attempts to criminalise adultery, restrict places that serve alcohol and ease access to universities for graduates of religious schools.


From http://www.bakutoday.net/ 04/19/2007


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TURKMENISTAN: President Chairs People's Council

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was unanimously elected chairman of the Halk Maslahaty (People's Council) in Mary on March 30, Turkmenistan's Altyn Asyr television reported. The position had been vacant since the death of President Saparmurat Niyazov on December 21, 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," December 21, 2006). In an address to the council, Berdymukhammedov pledged to provide rural areas with Internet and telephone services. The council also passed a number of changes to the constitution that increase the power of the president, Deutsche Welle reported on April 1. DK


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/02/2007


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UZBEKISTAN: New Chief of State Insurance Inspectorate Appointed

New chief of State Insurance Inspectorate was presented to the staff of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan on 9 April. Olim Ikramov has been appointed to the post of the Chief of State Insurance Inspectorate under the Finance Ministry of Uzbekistan. Prior to appointment Mr Ikramov had been working as the Director of Uzbekinvest Hayot, a life subsidiary of Uzbekinvest national export-import insurance company.


From http://insurance.uzreport.com/ 04/13/2007


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AUSTRALIA: Cutting the Red Tape on Record-Keeping

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Hon, Joe Hockey MP, today welcomed the commencement of the new streamlined system for recording staff wages and hours working. “Importantly these requirements are designed to ensure that workers receive their correct pay and entitlements,” Minister Hockey said. The Australian Government has listened to employees and employers on the new record-keeping requirements and has simplified the system to make it easier for companies to comply. “The new record keeping requirements maintain the protection but remove the unnecessary burden on both employees and employers,” Minister Hockey said. “This is just another example of how the workplace relations system is designed to protect workers. The new regulations will provide consistency for business with a single set of regulations applied across Australia, instead of the current situation of a diverse set of state regulations. “Most bosses are doing the right thing and won’t have to change much of what they are doing. But for those that aren’t, they will be caught and will have to pay the penalty for it. “It's the ones who don't keep records and aren't paying staff correctly that these new regulations are targeting. Further easing the burden for both employees and employers is the introduction of a new regulation under the guidelines that a pay slip may be issued in electronic form as well as hard copy. “If any business is in doubt of their record-keeping obligations, they should contact the Office of Workplace Services immediately,” Minister Hockey said.


From http://mediacentre.dewr.gov.au/ 03/27/2007


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Australian Government Extends Skilled Migration Industry Outreach Officer Programme

The Australian Government has extended its Skilled Migration Industry Outreach Officer programme by 18 months and assigned officers to 25 industries around Australia. The programme provides assistance and information to employers about temporary and permanent skilled migration. Due to a strong economy and unemployment at a 30 year low, some Australian industries are experiencing a temporary shortage of skilled workers. Where employers have demonstrated that they are unable to fill vacancies with local workers, Australia’s skilled migration program is an alternate source of potential employees. It is important that employers understand the immigration process and their obligations under the programme. The extension of the industry outreach officer initiative is one of the key strategies being used to target the Skill Stream of the Migration Program. Industry Outreach Officers will be based in industry groups covering a wide range of industries including engineering, information technology and mining as well as state and territory Chambers of Commerce. The network comprises of 16 industry outreach officers located in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Tasmania, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin. The industry outreach program complements the regional outreach officer network, which assists regional employers in each state and territory.


From http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/ 04/16/2007


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Research Quality Framework Panel Chairs Announced

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, today announced the Assessment Panel Chairs for the Research Quality Framework (RQF) – the Australian Government’s innovative model for assessing and funding research. The Assessment Panel Chairs are senior researchers of international standing who will guide the work of the panels in their judgements on the quality and impact of research. These decisions will be based on sound, transparent and accountable processes. Panel Chairs will also provide policy and strategic advice prior to the assessment period. “We are fortunate to have such prominent people willing to provide their time and expertise, not only in the area of assessment, but also in developing guidance to deal with the variety of discipline issues,” Minister Bishop said. “The work of the RQF will be vital in seeking to recognise and reward the highest quality Australian university research which delivers real benefits to the whole community.” The Minister announced the Australian Government’s decision to implement the RQF in November last year in a move that will restructure the current quantitative-based research funding scheme to a process of expert review which relies on assessors of international standing and representatives of the end-users of that research.


From http://www.dest.gov.au/ 04/17/2007


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FIJI: Study to Determine Public Rental Board and Housing Authority Merger

A study will be undertaken to consider the merger of the Housing Authority and the Public Rental Board (PRB) into a single entity. Cabinet approved the appointment of a three-member taskforce to undertake the study, based on a submission by the Minister for Women, Social Welfare and Housing, Adi Laufitu Malani. Adi Laufitu said that in 1989, the rental functions of the Housing Authority, was separated from its core operations and Public Rental Board was created to form a separate entity under the Housing (Amendment) Decree No 12 of 1989.” She said that under the Public Enterprise Act of 1996, Housing Authority and PRB were declared Commercial Statutory Authorities and are now required to provide returns to Government. “As part of Public Sector Reform, the merger of the two entities is aimed at improving their overall performance and their overall service delivery at all levels. “A consolidated policy on National Housing will enable the plight of the squatters and low income earners to be better addressed. “Under one entity, functions and services would be rationalized, thereby reducing operating costs. “A better coordination of planning and development will eliminate any duplication of functions. In addition the new entity can now service plots for HART, PRB Flats and residential homes, embracing the concept of social housing.

“One entity would be practically better in terms of accountability, reporting and monitoring of Government’s interests.” Adi Laufitu said the study will focus on review of the relevant legislations and reports and make recommendations for appropriate changes, ensuring that the revised Housing Act is in harmony with other related legislations in particular the Public Enterprise Act – 1996. “The study will also focus on the review of the structure of both entities, benchmark with similar entities overseas and recommend a new organizational structure and physical location that will allow for better coordination and cost rationalization; review of current HA and PRB policies and recommend changes where appropriate that are aligned to the new structure and vision; review of operational efficiency and recommend strategies to improve performance; and review of funding sources and recommend on how the new entity can ensure sustainability in the long term.” “The study will further examine and identify major issues and constraints relating to accessibility of public utilities (electricity, sewer, water etc) which impacts on service delivery and performance for those in the business of housing development.” The study will be submitted for Cabinet’s consideration upon completion.


From http://www.fiji.gov.fj/ 04/10/2007


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NEW ZEALAND: ERMA New Zealand Alters Composition of 1080 Reassessment Committee

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand) is to confine its 1080 decision-making committee to four Authority members. The Authority is hearing submissions next month on an application from the Department of Conservation and the Animal Health Board to reassess the risks, costs and benefits of the use of 1080 for animal pest control. The 1080 committee was originally to have included two outside experts – Dr Richard Sadleir, ecologist and expert on vertebrate pest management, and Mr James Doherty, a highly respected kaumatua of Ngāi Tuhoe and an acknowledged expert on tikanga Maori. Dr Sadleir and Mr Doherty will now join a panel of experts sitting outside the decision-making process. The Chair of the Authority, Neil Walter, says the decision to have Dr Sadleir and Mr Doherty sit outside the committee has been arrived at by mutual agreement. "The Authority has received complaints about the inclusion on the 1080 panel of people who have been associated with the use of 1080 in the past or have expressed a view on its use. This undoubtedly reflects the high degree of controversy surrounding the issue and the strength of feeling in the debate.

"The Authority retains full confidence in the integrity and impartiality of both Dr Sadleir and Mr Doherty. However, because any perception of bias by some of those making submissions might be considered to adversely affect the credibility of the process and the decision, the Authority has decided to confine the decision-making to Authority members only. It would also be unfair to expose the two experts to continued attacks on their integrity." Mr Walter says he is disappointed that it has become necessary to change the composition of the committee. "The arrangement whereby outside experts sit on decision-making committees has worked well in the past. New Zealand has a limited pool of specialists on whom it can draw for this kind of work and in many cases there will inevitably be some past or present linkage to the substance or product under consideration. The work records of both Dr Sadleir and Mr Doherty satisfied the Authority not just that they had the requisite expertise, but that they would approach the decision in a fair and balanced way and without bias." Mr Walter says the decision to withdraw Dr Sadleir and Mr Doherty from the committee was made after consultation with both men and with their full agreement. "They readily agreed that it would be in the best interests of all concerned, and in the best interests of the process, to make this change." Mr Walter confirmed the Authority will have full access to the expertise of Dr Sadleir and Mr Doherty in their capacity as appointed experts in the two particularly important areas of vertebrate pest ecology and Maori concerns and interests. "I hope that all interested parties will now feel able to focus their activities on ensuring that the 1080 panel is provided with the best possible information on 1080." The hearings will be held in a number of locations around the country between 14 and 25 May.


From http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/ 04/02/2007


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National State of the Environment Reporting Programme Established

A core set of environmental indicators have been confirmed. They will form the basis of the Ministry for the Environment’s national state of the environment reporting programme. Waste, fresh water quality and allocation, and air quality are among some of the indicators that will be used to tell us about New Zealand’s environment, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, stratospheric ozone, land cover and land use, and indigenous biodiversity. These indicators enable information to be compared across New Zealand and will be used in the future to show trends or changes in our environment. “The indicators establish the foundations for an ongoing national state of the environment programme. They help us build on current reporting about vital aspects of our environment such as air and water quality,” said Ministry Chief Executive Hugh Logan. This month’s OECD Report on New Zealand’s environment recommends expanding the availability of quantitative indicators and time series data related to environmental quality. The Ministry's state of the environment reporting programme shows that work is already well underway to ensure this goal is met says Mr Logan. The confirmed set of indicators will form the basis of a national state of the environment report due to be released by the Ministry at the end of this year. The report called Environment New Zealand 2007 will provide information about our environment and adds to existing topic-specific reports produced yearly by the Ministry. The indicators and Environment New Zealand 2007 complement regional and local state of environment reporting by local government. While councils have information about their local environment, Environment New Zealand 2007 will provide a national overview.


From http://www.mfe.govt.nz/ 04/20/2007


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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Government Workers Deployed to Tsunami Stricken Areas

The National Government has deployed a total of 87 public servants to assist provincial and overseas volunteers to coordinate emergency relief efforts in the Tsunami stricken areas of Western and Choiseul provinces. The National Disaster Council said public servants specializing in various fields from at least 14 Ministries are currently on the ground in the affected areas. The Disaster Management body continues to identify trauma as a growing issue affecting displaced victims of the tsunami. “Trauma counseling is one area we are not sure is being well addressed,” NDC said in its latest situation report.


From http://www.pmc.gov.sb/ 04/11/2007


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Google Announces Developer Day in Ten Cities Around the World

In recent months, many of us on Google's developer teams have spent a lot of time pondering how we can bring our teams and the developer community closer together. We wanted to share our knowledge as well as learn from all of you who are out there expanding the boundaries of web development. Our conclusion was simple: get everyone in one room. But in our expanding and ever-more global community, there's no one single place or time zone that could hold us all. So we're pleased today to invite you to join us on May 31st, 2007 for a Google Developer Day that will take place in ten locations around the world: Mountain View, California Sao Paulo, BrazilLondon, United Kingdom Paris, FranceMadrid, SpainHamburg, GermanyMoscow, RussiaTokyo, JapanSydney, AustraliaBeijing, China


From http://blogs.zdnet.com/ 04/11/2007


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ASEAN Business Awards Launched

SINGAPORE : A new award has been launched for businesses in Southeast Asia. The inaugural ASEAN Business Awards will be given out at the ASEAN Business & Investment Summit in November. Organised by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, the awards seek to recognise the most outstanding and successful companies in Southeast Asia which contribute to the region's economic growth and prosperity. Fang Ai Lian, Chairman, Ernst & Young, Strategic Partner of ASEAN Business Awards, said, "We are mindful that ASEAN comprises 10 countries which are in different stages of economic development, and therefore it's important that we set the criteria which will enable all countries to participate, and for some countries their companies are going to be smaller. "But the awards are in four categories: it's about growth; it's about employment; it's about innovation; and it's about corporate social responsibility. So the biggest the best companies may not win all the awards. In fact, some of the smaller companies, because they are nimble and in order to succeed, they have some of the best practices which should be admired." Four winners will be named this year. The organisers hope the awards will become a showcase for promising ASEAN SMEs with the potential to be global players. To qualify for the awards, the nominees must be ASEAN-incorporated enterprises with at least 40 percent ASEAN equity. They must operate in two or more ASEAN countries and have been in operation for at least five years. Finally, they must have annual revenue of at least US$20 million or S$30 million. Alternatively, they must have fixed assets of US$5 million or S$7.5 million or a minimum of 150 employees. (by Loh Kim Chin)

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/16/2007


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Sixth Annual Knowledge Economy Forum: Adopt or Innovate?

CAMBRIDGE, April 17, 2007 – The acquisition of technology and know-how from around the world offers greater potential for sustained economic growth in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) in the short to medium term than innovation. While countries in ECA are striving to emulate Western European and Asian approaches as they face the challenges of competing in an increasingly integrated world, they cannot afford to ignore what’s happening further east. China and India have vast, increasingly well-educated populations whose talents are being tapped by local and international firms flourishing in what are relentlessly competitive business environments, which have developed largely thanks to these economies’ ability to acquire cutting edge technology and eventually innovate indigenously. Ongoing research by the World Bank suggests that governments in ECA must do their part in supporting the catch-up process by putting in place an incentive-compatible regulatory framework conducive to technology acquisition by the private sector and the creation of networks that can channel knowledge across countries.

The Sixth Annual Knowledge Economy Forum (KEF VI) on “Technology Acquisition and Knowledge Networks” takes place in Cambridge, England on April 17-19, 2007. Based on examples of international best practice, the forum will discuss critical elements to enhance absorption of technology and knowledge by firms and explore the policy recommendations that support such processes in ECA. Cambridge’s experience as one of the world’s leading hubs for enterprise innovation will provide important insights on the role of universities, private entrepreneurs, and government in facilitating technology and knowledge transfer to industry. Over the past 30 years, the city has grown from a town with 20 high-tech companies employing about 100 people, to a world class high-tech hub, which is now among the wealthiest sub regions in the United Kingdom. In 2006, Cambridge had about 1,500 high-tech companies employing 40,000 people. Seventy companies were quoted on the stock market last year compared to a single one in 1990.

The “Cambridge phenomenon” shows that an enabling environment, i.e., close networks between industry and academia that are working with the private sector, is essential to build absorptive capacity to generate innovative processes and economic growth. Most countries from Central Europe to Central Asia, however, share a legacy of state planning, which has a poor record in supporting absorptive capacity in the private sector or in building bridges between academia and the private sector. Governments in ECA need therefore to allocate increased resources to encourage private sector investments and research, and enable enterprises to reorganize, absorb new technologies, expand their product lines, increase exports, and grow. These public investments must be ‘smart’ and leverage their impact through incentive-compatible mechanisms, such as matching grants and co-funding seed capital.

The sixth edition of the Knowledge Economy Forum emphasizes that investment climate and structural reforms are required for outlays on technology absorption and innovation to bear fruit. The Forum also highlights the high correlation of investments in human capital and labor productivity with growth. National education systems need to be reformed to support the development of relevant qualifications in order to respond to demands from knowledge-intensive firms in a changing working environment. Forum participants will discuss paradigm shifts in education to move from old bureaucratic systems to modern enabling education. Other elements considered in this year’s Forum include issues of intellectual property rights regimes and their impact on spin-off formation; as well as standards and quality systems, transportation, logistics and supply chain management and their impact on export competitiveness.

Improving the absorptive capability of firms—their ability to tap into the world technology pool—is an important mechanism for increasing productivity growth and accelerating industrial development. Trade flows, foreign direct investment (FDI), mobility, training, brain circulation, networking, and other mechanisms for transferring skills are conduits of knowledge absorption, but adoption also requires a good investment climate, education and not infrequently some R&D on the part of the absorbing firm. The Forum will address the interplay of many of these elements and highlight those that have been most successful in the Cambridge context. Over 120 participants from 17 countries will evaluate their applicability for knowledge generators and users across Europe and Central Asia.For further information about the Knowledge Economy Forum, including the agenda and background papers, please visit: http://www.worldbank.org/eca/ke

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/17/2007


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CHINA: To Monitor Ethnic Relations

A mechanism monitoring relations among ethnic groups in China will be built to deal with emergencies resulting from ethnic issues, according to a plan made public Thursday. The monitoring mechanism aims to "clamp down on ethnic separatism so as to safeguard ethnic unity, social stability and national security," according to the country's ethnic minorities affairs 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), which was approved by the State Council, or the cabinet, earlier this year, and was made public at Thursday's regular news conference. A sound social environment should be built to ensure the harmonious development of all ethnic groups, Dainzhub Ongboin, vice director of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, told the news briefing, adding the Plan represents a major step in the central government's efforts to develop the country's ethnic minorities. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the crackdown on the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, especially in the western region of the country. Police in China's far west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region crushed a terrorist training camp in January, in which 18 terrorists were killed and 17 others captured. The training camp was run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group that the United Nations in 2002 labeled a terrorist organization. Leading terrorists in the camp were trained by Taliban and Al-Qaeda representatives and later stole into Xinjiang.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/29/2007


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Top Advisor Urges Large Firms to Improve Innovative Capability

China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin has urged large corporations to improve their innovative capability so as to achieve sound and rapid economic growth. "Innovative capability is the driving force of a company's restructuring and transformation of economic growth pattern," Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said during a visit to north China's Shanxi Province from March 24 to 28. He also called on large companies and corporations in Shanxi to develop a recycling economy and urged industrial restructuring, energy conservation, and environmental protection.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/29/2007


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Vice Premier Calls for More Technological Innovation in Agriculture

Chinese vice premier Hui Liangyu called Friday for more technological innovations in the agricultural sector to ensure adequate food supplies and sharpen China's competitive edge in the global market. Hui stressed the importance of technology in resolving issues related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers. The vice premier said the country needs to accelerate the building of a national mechanism to promote innovation. He called on colleges and research institutes to play an active role in spreading advanced technologies and encouraged technologists to go to the countryside and serve needy farmers. He said the government would finance public technology institutes and human resources training to build a globally competitive expert team. Hui made the remarks when meeting with a group of pacemaker technologists from across the nation who received awards from the central government.

Despite serious natural disasters, China last year reaped a rich grain harvest with total output reaching 497 billion kilograms, 13 billion kilograms up on the previous year. However, observers warned that the country is not producing enough grain for its huge population. The Study Times, a periodical affiliated to the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, predicted that China could face a 4.8 million ton grain shortage in 2010, almost nine percent of the country's grain consumption. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao repeatedly stressed the "great importance" of agriculture at the annual NPC session, saying that agriculture is the foundation of the Chinese economy and directly concerns people's lives and social stability. The premier said dwindling arable land, smaller sown areas of winter wheat, a warm winter and prolonged drought had negatively impacted the country's agricultural production.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/30/2007


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China Brings in Qualified Investors to Manage Pension Funds

China plans to hand over to professional investors a massive swathe of funds destined to finance Chinese pensions. Every month, 24,000 Chinese enterprises and their employees pay money into a corporate annuity fund, one of the pillars of the country's fledgling insurance system for retirees. The corporate annuity fund, which covers 9.64 million people, had 91 billion yuan in assets at the end of 2006, but only 15.8 billion yuan was being handled by professional investors -- endowment insurance companies, commercial banks and other qualified investors. By the end of this year, after a further 75 billion yuan (9.62 billion U.S. dollars) has been transferred, the whole fund will be in the hands of qualified investors. The time is ripe for handing over the remaining 75 billion yuan to qualified investors because the prospects of the capital market are good, stricter supervision is in readiness and investment risks are under control, said Zuo Xiaolei, chief economist with Galaxy Securities.

The corporate annuity fund must be managed in a cautious, low risk manner, she added. The move seeks to ratchet up investment returns while injecting money into China's capital market to fuel the country's economic development. With regulations limiting stock market investments to 20 percent of the fund's total assets, it is estimated that 15 billion yuan can be invested in the stock market this year. Fifteen billion yuan is not a huge sum but still significant for the stock market, said Wang Deying, vice president of Bosera Funds, one of China's first fund management companies established in 1998. China's Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) approved 37 companies as qualified managers and investors of corporate annuity funds in 2005. The funds turned over to qualified investors in October last year yielded a robust return of 9.6 percent over a period of three months, according to the latest figures from the MLSS. Increasing the number of qualified investors this year will give companies more options, said Liu Yongfu, deputy minister of labor and social security, adding that more and more enterprises, especially medium to small sized ones, will contribute to this type of fund.

To secure the fund against losses and make it profitable, China will strengthen supervision of these investors, urging them to open management work to public scrutiny, said Liu. The investors are required to file quarterly and annual reports with the MLSS specifying how the funds have been utilized. The transfer has been under way since the beginning of the year. In south China's Guangdong province, Shenzhen Occupational Pension Fund Management Center started in January to transfer its two billion yuan to Ping An Endowment Insurance Co. and China Merchants Bank. Shanghai is planning to set up an endowment insurance company with registered capital of 500 million yuan to manage a corporate annuity fund worth 15 billion yuan on behalf of 7,000 enterprises.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/03/2007


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New Tax Return System Receives "Satisfactory" Declarations

A total of 255,000 Beijingers had filed personal income tax returns to local taxation authorities before the national deadline on Monday, officials said on Tuesday. The number, slightly more than the forecast figure of 250,000, is "generally satisfactory," said a senior official with the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau. However, financial experts suggested on Thursday that the tax department has received barely 15 percent of the number of returns it is expecting. This is the first year the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) is requiring high-income earners -- those whose annual incomes are more than 120,000 yuan -- to file personal income statements. The national tax department says as of March 26 it had received only 1.18 million tax declarations. The director of SAT's press office Niu Xinwen said the number of expected income tax returns is a secret but a professor of finance at the People's University says there are likely six to seven million people who earned more than 120,000 yuan last year in China.

The Beijing Local Taxation Bureau says there are 350,000 people in the capital alone who earn more than 120,000 yuan a year. Those who did not file returns in time may do so after the deadline, but have to explain the delay to taxation authorities. They are liable to a fine of no more than 2,000 yuan, or a fine between 2,000 and 10,000 yuan if the error is considered of a serious nature. Among the 255,000 people who reported, 98 percent filed returns via the Internet with others preferring to work by mail or by going in person to taxation offices, according to the official with the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau. China's new tax return system will ensure that those who earn the most pay the most and will help narrow the gap between the rich and poor, observers said.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/03/2007


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Net to Prosecute IPR Pirates Widened

China's top court has stepped up the fight against intellectual piracy by lowering the threshold to prosecute people manufacture or sell counterfeit intellectual property products. A new judicial interpretation issued by the Supreme People's Court on Thursday states that anyone who manufactures 500 or more counterfeit copies (discs) of computer software, music, movies, TV series and other audio-video products can be prosecuted and faces a prison term of up to three years. Despite repeated police raids, hawkers of pirated discs re-emerge on Chinese streets as soon as the anti-piracy campaign begins to ebb. The piracy issue has been a sore point in China-US trade relations and the latest judicial change seems to be aimed at addressing overseas complaints that the country is too lenient with IPR violators. According to judicial sources, courts around China settled 17,769 IPR protection cases in 2006. But most of these cases were handled by civil courts. There were only 2,277 criminal prosecutions, with 3,508 people convicted.

The new rules, jointly prepared by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, also widen the definition of a "serious IPR offender" -- anyone who produces more than 2,500 counterfeit copies can now be thrown into jail for up to seven years. The rules are effective immediately, the top court said. They replace the 2004 rules whose net only extended to infringers who produced 1,000 pirated discs and which defined "serious offenders" as those who produced over 5,000 copies. Critics expect a new surge of IPR cases in Chinese courts now that the new rules have come into effect. They constitute a stern warning to pirates that the government will not go soft on IPR infringement. Sources with the Supreme People's Court said they made the change in order to deal with "new problems" in the crackdown on piracy. "The courts will extend the protection of intellectual property rights and play to the full their role in punishing infringers and preventing crimes," a court spokesman said. To fight rampant piracy, China lowered the counterfeit product threshold in 2004.

Official statistics show that IPR cases that came to court in China rose 28 percent in 2005, the first year of the new rules. That year, a total of 3,567 cases concerning the manufacture of fake products and illegal sales of pirated products went to criminal courts. Courts have also been instructed to raise fines for convicted counterfeiters. "Fines can range from one to 15 times the illegal gains, or from 50 to 200 percent of the business turnover," according to the new judicial interpretation. This will be welcome news to those who complain that monetary punishments for piracy violators are too low and that "the cost of IPR crime" remains low. In January, the top court issued a notice ordering stricter penalties for IPR violators, saying "all illegal gains and manufacturing tools of IPR violators should be confiscated and their pirated products destroyed." The new rules also tighten the rules on the granting of probation. In another measure to cast the anti-piracy net wider, the top court has instructed IPR criminal courts to accept litigation cases filed by individual piracy victims, in addition to those filed by procurators.

The judicial change came as the state announced big seizures of pirated products and said it plans to improve the transparency of IPR trials by allowing foreigners to sit in. Envoys of foreign governments and representatives of international organizations will be allowed to attend IPR trials if they wish, said Jiang Zengwei of the State Office of Intellectual Property Protection on Wednesday. This will be the first time overseas representatives have been allowed to attend public IPR trials, an official from the top court told Xinhua. Major trials will be publicized in the media. Meanwhile, in the largest single crackdown on CD and DVD piracy in China's history, more than 1.81 million pirated CDs and DVDs were seized in a production factory in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province on March 17, the government announced on Tuesday.

Thirty production machines in 11 warehouses were confiscated and 13 people arrested in the case. But a circular from the police authority said the fight against piracy was still very arduous, and should be a priority for public security departments nationwide. The government has launched a "spring campaign" against illegal and pirated publications that will last until May. People providing information about piracy crimes that lead to convictions can be rewarded by the police.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/06/2007


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New Moves to Improve Food Safety

A range of new measures are to be introduced by the municipal health bureau to improve the Shenzhen City's food safety. They include checks on pesticide residues through to new canteens for industrial workers and increased checks on premises. Shenzhen's municipal health bureau will begin checking restaurants with areas ranging from 150 to 300 square meters and canteens accommodating 300-800 diners later this month. Restaurants and canteens passing the inspection will be given different rankings according to quality and service. The health bureau will finalize a pesticide training program for large restaurants and canteens later in the year. The training includes basic knowledge of pesticides and measures to control pesticide residues. In addition, kitchenware sterilization rate must reach 87 percent and 98 percent of restaurant workers must possess health permits. According to the plan, the health authority will also close unlicensed eateries around industrial parks and open more canteens on the city's industrial parks.

The city has 857 industrial parks, housing 23,871 enterprises. Half of them had canteens by the end of last year, offering places for 3.08 million diners, accounting for 70 percent of their workforce. This year more canteens will be built, to cater for 80 percent. The health authorities will tighten inspections on school canteens and close unlicensed eateries within 200 meters of schools. In addition, the bureau will set up 16 quality supervision points in farm markets, supermarkets, restaurants and canteens to test vegetables, frozen and fried foods, cooked foods, meat and fish products, and eggs.


From http://www.china.org.cn 04/12/2007


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JAPAN: Govt, Ruling Parties Agree on Public Servant Reforms

The government and the ruling parties on Wednesday agreed on a broad policy on reforming the public servant system. On the proposed human resources centers that would be given sole control of reemployment assistance for national public servants, the government decided to prohibit employees at the centers brokering reemployment of officials of ministries and agencies for which they used work. Taking Liberal Democratic Party members' concerns into account, the government and ruling coalition parties also agreed to include a clause in the relevant bill stipulating that a review be carried out a certain period after the resources banks are established, to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the new system. The basic policy was agreed on late Wednesday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa and Toranosuke Katayama, secretary general of the LDP caucus in the House of Councillors during the government and ruling parties' working-level meeting on reforming the public servant system.

The policy is expected to be formally agreed on Friday at a meeting between the government and the ruling parties. A bill to revise the National Civil Service Law, which would be in line with the agreed basic policy, is expected to be endorsed at a Cabinet meeting on April 24. Under the basic policy, the bill revising the National Civil Service Law to be submitted to the current Diet session focuses on restricting reemployment of public servants and introducing a merit-based personnel-management system. In addition, a panel of experts on the public servant system would be established at the Cabinet Office under the prime minister to study both the introduction of specialized positions for public servants and the raising of their retirement age. The government also plans to submit another set of bills to overhaul the national public servant system during next year's ordinary Diet session.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 04/13/2007


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Unified Elections 2007:Only 2 Municipalities Using E-voting

Voters in Rokunohe, Aomori Prefecture, had some bizarre candidates to choose from after the April 8 prefectural assembly election. On the touch panel before them were names of celebrities of the Edo Period (1603-1867), including shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu and scholar Yoshida Shoin with their (hypothetical) party affiliations. The mock balloting was a trial for the town assembly election scheduled for Sunday. The town of 11,000 is one of the only two places to use electronic voting in the unified local elections this April. The other is Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture, for the city assembly election on Sunday. Rokunohe has used the system in two mayoral polls and given test runs at festivals and senior citizens' gatherings. "It's easier than the post office ATM," said an elderly resident. Electronic voting also reduces staff numbers and the time to count ballots. So why are only two of the 1,100 elections in the two rounds of unified polls this year using electronic voting? The main reason is that the system has been plagued with problems, some leading to complete disaster.

The 2003 city assembly election in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, for example, was thrown into confusion because of double voting and operational errors. The Supreme Court ruled the election invalid in 2005. Since 2002, when Niimi, Okayama Prefecture, adopted electronic balloting, 10 municipalities have carried out 13 polls. Nine of the elections experienced troubles of varying degrees. But Rokunohe Mayor Yutaka Yoshida has confidence in the system. The past two elections have been problem-free and it took only 10 minutes to count all the votes. "If the staff understand the system and are well prepared, electronic voting is never difficult," Yoshida says. The town allocated personal computers to all employees in 2001 and has done most of the administrative work electronically. What prompted Rokunohe to go electronic in elections was a bitter experience in a town assembly poll eight years ago. A mere 23 votes separated the last successful candidate and the runner-up. Invalid votes totaled 69; names were not recognizable in 27 of the ballots. Clearer handwriting could have made a difference. But about 26 percent of Rokunohe residents are 65 or older, and many of them have difficulty writing clearly. Similar to other rural areas, candidates in Rokunohe often have the same surname. Town officials say balloting with touch-screen panels leaves no such ambiguities. Based on their experiences in the past two polls, Shiroishi city officials also say the system ensures "accurate results." Internal affairs ministry papers show 451 local governments considered introducing electronic voting in 2002. The number fell to 80 after the Supreme Court ruling in 2005. The central government has just set up a program to certify electronic voting systems. But Yoshida says it should have done much more."If the state makes an all-out effort nationwide, costs to install the system will be lower," he says. "But it entrusts everything to municipalities."


From http://www.asahi.com 04/18/2007


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Govt Panel Talks on Taxation Reform Not Concrete

The government's Tax Commission, an advisory panel to the prime minister, is preparing to reform the taxation system after autumn, but currently is only studying and analyzing the current situation, and has not yet begun discussing concrete measures. The commission has held five meetings since Yutaka Kosai became chairman, focusing on the analysis and confirmation of basic data, including future population estimates and previous cases of taxation system reforms. The commission also dispatched a team of research and analysis experts, established in March, to three European countries--France, Germany and the Netherlands. The team will visit Singapore and other Asian countries this month. Since the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy has to map out a so-called large-boned policy--which will serve as basic guidelines for economic and fiscal management--in the run-up to the summit of industrial countries in early June, the council has asked the commission to report its basic taxation reform policies by April. As such, Kosai plans to spell out his opinion at a commission meeting next week, saying he can report on studies carried out on foreign countries, but that the commission has not yet discussed future policies, which indicates he will not discuss concrete steps.

Under the present circumstances it is highly unlikely details of the big-boned policies will be revealed. As the government and ruling coalition parties have decided to shelf discussions on taxation reforms, including the consumption tax, until after the House of Councillors election in July, the council's focus on studies and analyses is consistent with their approach. Since consumption tax has proved a political problem in the past, Yuji Tsushima, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Research Council on the Tax System, made a good point when he said consumption tax should not become an issue in the upper house election. However, regarding the schedule for drastic reforms, including a consumption tax rate increase, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling coalition parties said they would present the overall picture during next year's reforms. If so, there is only a three-month period for actual discussions--from late August to mid-December. Considering the importance of a consumption tax increase and the lengthy time-frame for discussing past raises, the government may have to make a quick policy decision. The government and ruling coalition parties must soon spell out current fiscal needs; tax items for reforming; and the direction such reforms will take, or most people may consider the consumption tax hike as coming out of the blue--a scenario that may lead to reform opposition.

There are three scenarios in which the consumption tax is expected to be discussed. The first is that the rate of consumption tax is raised by 5 percent to 10 percent, which will bring in 12.5 trillion yen in tax revenues and raise concerns over the impact of the hike on the economy. Some government officials believe the government must keep the actual tax increases below 10 trillion yen, along with tax cuts. If so, what tax items will benefit from tax cuts? Corporate and income taxes will be cut, but because it takes time to decide tax items and change tax brackets, it will be difficult for the government to complete the work this year. The second scenario is that the consumption tax rate is raised by 2 percent or 3 percent. It is practical to seek a small tax rate hike to secure tax revenues for the purpose of covering an increase of about 2.5 trillion yen in basic pension funds in fiscal 2009. However, consumption tax has never been introduced or raised in isolation, and is always increased along with income tax cuts. So, it will take time to handle the problem.

The last scenario is to not raise the tax rate at all. In addition to the natural increase in tax revenues, which are higher than the forecast figures, major banks, which struggled to dispose of bad loans, are expected to pay corporate taxes again after March 2008. As such, a consumption tax increase can be shelved, depending on the political situation. This case does not need much time to discuss implementation measures, but it departs slightly from Abe's policy speech in which he said he would spell out his direction for tax reforms this fiscal year. Unless a consumption tax rate hike is shelved, there will not be much time for discussions if they begin after autumn. The tax reforms for fiscal 2008 also include discussions on how to deal with a special measure that gives a 10 percent reduced tax rate to capital gains. From a viewpoint of narrowing the gap between rich and poor, there are voices calling to raise anew rich people's inheritance tax. Some are concerned about the gap in local tax revenues among municipalities. As such, many issues in connection with the taxation system have to be addressed for next fiscal year's tax reforms. While it makes sense for the ruling coalition parties to refrain from talking about the consumption tax as a strategy for the upper house election, the government and Tax Commission should discuss measures and issues for tax reforms before the election.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 04/21/2007


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Reform or Punishment: How Young Is Too Young to Send Kids to Reformatories?

A bill to revise the Juvenile Law, featuring stricter provisions to deal with minors under 14, is expected to be passed during the current Diet session following its approval by the House of Representatives on Thursday. The provisions lower the minimum age of minors who can be sent to reformatories and give police powers to investigate them. At a meeting of the Judicial Affairs Committee of the lower house on March 28, an opposition party lawmaker pressed Justice Minister Jinen Nagase for an answer, asking if a 5-year-old could be sent to a reformatory, as the government proposed a plan to abolish any age limit for sending minors to reformatories. Nagase responded he could not definitively rule out such a possibility. This in turn sparked discussions on the minimum age for sending minors to reformatories. Under the current law, minors under 14 who have violated laws are sent to children's self-reliance support centers or placed on parole in the care of their families with visits by parole officers. However, self-reliance support centers focus on protecting and educating juvenile delinquents by letting them live in the facilities in a homelike atmosphere, and help their rehabilitation through study and farming. Reformatories, however, focus on imbuing children with discipline by allowing them to live together and helping them correct themselves through job training.

In light of heinous crimes committed by minors under 14, including the 2003 abduction and murder of a boy in Nagasaki, the government proposed a plan to abolish age limits for sending children to reformatories on the grounds that they need corrective measures at such facilities. On April 13, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan submitted a proposal to revise the government plan to set the minimum age at about 14, arguing that since welfare and educational support was necessary for younger children, rehabilitation at self-reliance support centers should be improved first. The ruling coalition, meanwhile, passed a proposal submitted Wednesday to revise the government plan to set the minimum age at about 12. The revision also sparked discussions on whether primary school students should also be sent to reformatories. Since both the ruling and opposition parties explained the word "about" as a range of one year, the passed revision bill could send sixth-year and some fifth-year primary students to reformatories. However, because the Justice Ministry will only send to reformatories minors under 14 who have committed heinous crimes, such as murder, and have been tried at family court, it is believed there will be only several such cases a year. The number of minors under 14 who have been questioned and put into custody by police peaked at 67,906 in 1981. The number dropped to below 30,000 in 1990 and has recently lingered around 20,000.

The number of murders committed by such minors was about two a year between 1990 and 2000, but it jumped to 10 in 2001. Since then, it has fluctuated between three and six. Under the current law, police do not have the authority to search houses of juvenile offenders or to confiscate material as evidence, leading to complaints about police failures to shed light on juvenile crimes. As such, the revision bill includes a provision allowing police to search and confiscate--provided they have a warrant. Even after the implementation of the revised law, minors who have broken laws still cannot be held criminally accountable and arrested. But a Justice Ministry official said the revised law would enable police to gather evidence to contribute to investigations. "As a result, courts will be able to hand down appropriate penalties," he said.

Different cases, different needs While victims of juvenile offenders hope for the law's revision, experts point out the need to balance punishment with appropriate welfare provision for children. Yoshimitsu Tamoto, 56, whose second son, then 14, was killed by nine middle school students in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, in 1992, said he still does not know the full story of the murder. "I hope police access will be strengthened to bring all the facts to light," he said. Ruriko Take, a representative of the association of victims of juvenile crimes and whose oldest son was beaten to death by 16-year-olds, said she supports the law revision. "This will give law enforcement officers more options when dealing with juvenile offenders," she said. However, regarding the issue of drawing a line to determine the minimum age for sending minors to reformatories, Take said punishment should be meted out in accordance with the severity and nature of the crime. "I hoped the issue would be discussed from such a viewpoint," she said. Lawyer Yuri Kawamura, who has defended minors in many cases, said sending minors to reformatories would not help them rehabilitate into society. "Twelve is too young," she said. Kawamura became the guardian of a female second-year middle school student who pushed a boy off a building in Taka-danobaba, Tokyo, in 2004, when she was 13 years old. "After receiving reeducation at a homely children's self-reliance support center, the girl has returned to society to lead a normal life. She might not be able to do so at a strict reformatory," she said. Regarding the investigation of juvenile offenders, former Tohoku University Prof. Toyoji Saito, an expert on criminal law, said younger juveniles could be manipulated by adults.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 04/21/2007


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SOUTH KOREA: Lawmakers Ready New Pension Reform Measure

After the legislature struck down two bills on pension reform, the Roh Moo-hyun administration said yesterday that it will restart efforts to rescue the state-run retirement annuity fund from projected bankruptcy. The Uri Party also said it will introduce a new reform bill to the National Assembly. On Monday, lawmakers voted down two bills on pension reform. One was jointly submitted by the administration and the Uri Party, with the Grand National and Democratic Labor parties presenting the other. Both bills were intended to save the pension fund from bankruptcy; the Ministry of Health and Welfare has forecast that the shrinking fund will dry up by 2047. Yesterday morning, the cabinet’s budget and welfare ministers released a statement saying, “We must revise the pension program so that the next generation will not come under excessive financial burden.” “I will do my best to reopen the discussion on pension reform at the National Assembly as soon as possible,” Health and Welfare Minister Rhyu Si-min said at a press conference in the afternoon. The administration and Uri Party’s bill called for increasing the premium payment while decreasing annuities to pension policy holders. Of the 270 lawmakers who voted, 123 supported the bill.The Uri Party said yesterday that it will submit a new bill. “Instead of paying more and receiving less, we are drafting a bill for the same [premiums, with pensioners] receiving less,” Uri’s Representative Kang Gi-jung said. In principle, the new bill is practically identical to the Grand National and Democratic Labor parties’ bill, which was struck down Monday by a vote of 139 to 131. After counting the votes, Rhyu yesterday accepted responsibility for the results. Most lawmakers who recently severed ties with the Uri Party had abstained, and Rhyu said, “this demonstrates my failing.” A former Uri lawmaker who abstained said Rhyu’s personality was a factor in the vote. “Because of Rhyu’s [past] actions and remarks, some hate him,” the lawmaker said. “Former Uri members largely abstained because it doesn’t appear to help us to back Rhyu and Roh Moo-hyun at this point.”


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com/ 04/04/2007


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Roh Pledges Aggressive State Investments in English Education

President Roh Moo-hyun said Friday (April 6) that the Korean government will systematically build a nationwide infrastructure for English-language education, stressing that the English proficiency of the Korean people is indispensable to the nation's survival in the future. "English is a must in order to catch up with the globalization stream. The biggest competitive edge of Finland and other rapidly growing advanced countries is English-speaking people," the president said. "Korean students spend over 10 trillion won ($10.5 billion) annually on private English study lectures and programs, but they are still considered weak in English. The government will gradually expand investments in social infrastructure for English education." Roh made the remarks during his congratulatory speech on the opening of an all-day English education television channel by state-funded EBS-TV on Friday (April 6). The president said the nation's first English-only ground wave television channel, EBS English, was designed to revamp the nation's foreign language education method and remedy regional and class disparities in English education. "By 2009, an English experience center will be built at about 1,300 elementary schools nationwide at an expense of 240 billion won. In addition, all domestic middle schools will have at least one native English-speaking teacher by 2010," Roh said.

He said the basic concept of a large-scale English education town on Jeju Island, which will be designed to accommodate about 9,000 students at a time, will be established in the first half of the year. "The construction of the Jeju English town will largely substitute for overseas English study trips by Korean students." The Education Ministry said in a press release that EBS English will broadcast a wide range of English education programs for 18 hours, between six in the morning and midnight. "In the initial stage, the nation's first English-only ground wave television is available to subscribers of the SkyLife digital broadcasting service, starting on Friday (April 6). But it is simultaneously offered on the Web site of EBS English, www.ebse.co.kr, and will soon be available to ordinary TV viewers through cable TV services," the ministry said. It also noted that Korean midfielder Park Ji-sung of Manchester United has agreed to work as a public relations ambassador for EBS English. "Programs on EBS English will be designed to accommodate demands for English study from all levels of students, as well as teachers and ordinary citizens." The opening ceremony for EBS English was also attended by first lady Kwon Yang-sook, Education Minister Kim Shin-il and hundreds of other guests.


From http://www.korea.net 04/06/2007


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NORTH KOREA: Change at Top a Sign of Reform

North Korea has appointed a new premier, which analysts said suggests that it wants to open up and bring in economic reform. A brief mention at the end of a state news agency report on a meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly on Wednesday said Pak Pong-ju had been replaced by the Land and Transport Minister, Kim Yong-il. No reason was given. Once seen as a rising star to lead the country's nascent economic reforms, analysts said Mr Pak might have fallen foul of the military, and some cited speculation that he was sacked for corruption. Others said he might simply have been removed for failing to do the job of reforming the destitute economy. Analysts focused on the transport expertise of his successor as suggesting a change of focus. Some said he could be given the task of pushing ahead with train links with the South. That would meet a long-held aim of Seoul to link to the Trans-Siberian railway system via the North. "This strongly reflects their desire to focus more on economic development than aid," said Kim Young-yoon, at the Korea Institute for National Unification. This point was stressed by the leader Kim Jong-il making a rare public appearance at an assembly session on boosting the moribund economy, Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of North Korean studies at Korea University said. "Kim Jong-il being present at the assembly itself proves that the country is emphasising this change in order. "It reflects the will of the ruler and the ruling party to speed up or emphasise more on economic growth," he said. The new premier's appointment comes amid haggling over an international agreement that gives Pyongyang a deadline of tomorrow to start closing the Yongbyon nuclear plant in return for massive energy aid. The state has serious energy shortages, and satellite photos show the North in near darkness at night.


From http://www.smh.com.au 04/13/2007


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INDONESIA: Aceh Opens New Office to Attract Investors

The Nangroe Aceh Darussalam provincial government has stepped up its efforts to strengthen the region's fragile economy by launching an "Investor Outreach Office" (IOO) on Monday to attract foreign investors. "We are now officially open for business and are opening our doors to investment for the benefit and welfare of the people of Aceh," Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar said during the ceremony to mark to launching of the IOO. Nazar said that until recently Aceh had been focusing on rehabilitating the region following the long period of civil unrest, and the 2004 tsunami disaster. However, the province was now aiming for more sustainable economic development through cooperation with both local and overseas firms. The IOO's main functions would be to generate investment, to provide a one-stop information service, business matchmaking assistance, assistance with regulatory requirements and aftercare service to investors, and to play a policy-advocacy role.

Apart from the provincial government, the creation of the IOO also involved other agencies, including the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), Aceh Investment Coordinating Board (BKPMD) and the World Bank's private sector development arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). In its operations, the IOO would collaborate closely with the BKPMD, Aceh Chamber of Commerce and other institutions, both domestic and foreign, with information on the IOO available online at www.investinaceh.org. IFC business enabling operations officer Greg Elms said that the IFC had already started to put Aceh on the investor interest map. "Aceh's IOO is truly the first of its kind anywhere in Indonesia. The secret of this model is the marriage of a government mandate to increase investment, together with sales, marketing and customer-service expertise from the private sector," he explained. He added that the IFC's cumulative investment in Indonesia had reached US$2.3 billion for 84 projects over 35 years.

New commitments were currently averaging $250 million per year. During its launching ceremony, the IOO signed seven memorandums of understanding on cooperation and promotion programs with the British Chamber of Commerce, Germany's EKONID, the European Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Netherlands' INA, Malaysia's MCJ and Norway's NIA. The IOO also signed an agreement with Australia's THP Group, which promised to secure 2 Australian investments involving a total of US$3 million. As part of its promotional program, the IOO together with other relevant institutions will host the Aceh Merchants Seminar in May and June, and the first-ever Aceh Investment Summit later this year. Following the tsunami disaster, there have been large inflows of foreign funds in the form of aid to rehabilitate infrastructure and other assets. An IFC study found that about 78 percent of the losses were suffered by the private sector. In April 2005, the BRR was established as the authority responsible for carrying out the rehabilitation work, and is expected to complete its mandate in April 2009.

The BRR is responsible for managing a total of between Rp 60 trillion and Rp 80 trillion in rehabilitation funds, with about Rp 21 trillion provided by the national budget, and the rest by mostly overseas donors. For this year, total BRR spending is expected to amount to about Rp 23.5 trillion. Concerns have been voiced that the province has become too dependent on massive inflows of foreign aid, and that a sudden halt to this could severely impact on its weak economy. Speaking to The Jakarta Post earlier, BRR deputy for economics and business Said Faisal Baabud said that the BRR would focus in 2007 on strengthening the social economy through increased investment in projects that would increase the value of Acehese products in various sectors, particularly the agricultural and fisheries sectors. This would involve collaboration with local and foreign investors so that the province could lessen its dependence on other provinces and on foreign aid. "Aceh's experience in interacting with the international community is one of its strongest assets, which will help a great deal in the endeavor," he said.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 04/17/2007


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PHILIPPINES: DA to Expand Biotechnology Network

The Department of Agriculture plans to rely more on biotechnology to raise the income of farmers, particularly in the 10 poorest provinces in the country. Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Josyline Javelosa said in a statement that the plan was to maximize the benefits of agricultural innovations. “The agricultural sector has become conscious of its potent role in national development and aware that the unity of producers, academe, scientific community, private sector and government would bring to fruition our collective desire to promote biotechnology,” said Javelosa during the 1st Biotechnology Information and Organization Network (BIONet) National Congress held last Monday at the University of the Philippines. According to Javelosa, biotechnology has become a significant factor in increasing farmers’ incomes through wider propagation of new crop varieties, which are developed through genetic engineering, tissue culture and cross-breeding. These new crop varieties are expected to translate into higher yields and better-tasting and nutritious food, thus assuring higher income for producers.

She added that thousands of hectares had already become BIOCommerce hubs, and many more farmlands would eventually turn to biotechnology to produce crops, fruits and other agricultural commodities that have higher demand in both the domestic and foreign markets. “With the high demand in both the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries for natural ingredients like papain from papaya, the nation would soon be a key player in the multibillion-dollar global market,” she added. She also lauded the effort of BIONet members to expand their existing networks and promote the idea of cultivating agricultural biotechnology products in many farmlands in the country. Javelosa said that along with the scientific work is the task of convincing, arguing and encouraging more producers to accept the legitimacy, viability and necessity of biotechnology products. She added that BIONet had already convinced a number of local government units to organize themselves as part of the network.

To date, the biotechnology revolution has found havens in Negros Oriental, Laguna, Southern Luzon, Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Caraga region, Mindoro, Bulacan, the two Lanao provinces, Davao and Nueva Vizcaya. “With the commitment of the scientific community to promote biotechnology products and the pledge of companies to market natural ingredients and processed biotechnology products, it is not far-fetched to project that in a generation or two, the Philippines would have a distinct advantage and higher market share in the global market,” she declared.


From http://archive.inquirer.net 04/04/2007


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SINGAPORE: Special Police Training for Community Leaders

A stint at the Home Team Academy is on the cards for some community leaders, starting this month. The Singapore Police Force will train them in mediation and conflict management so that they can help resolve incidents relating to race and religion. This is part of the move to build a resilient community that can "bounce back quickly in the aftermath of an incident," said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng at the annual Police Workplan Seminar yesterday. The Community Engagement Executive Development Programme will "minimise the likelihood of inter-communal conflicts arising from crises", he said. Another benefit of training the community leaders is that it will enable them to mediate in minor disputes and misunderstanding so as to "free up police resources, which would help the police to deal with urgent and critical tasks", said Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, who also officiated the event.

She added: "In the early stages of any crisis, such as a flu pandemic, terrorist incident, or natural disaster, authorities like the police will naturally be heavily engaged." Mr Wong also revealed that the police would embark on two other drives. They will work closely with mayors and councillors in the five Community Development Councils, alerting them to places that could be used for criminal activities, for example, dimly lit and unfenced areas. The police will also tap into the expertise of their NSmen. Citing past examples, Mr Wong said some had conducted law training for police trainees even after completing their reservist cycle. He added: "Other than deploying Police NSmen for law enforcement and protection duties, we will explore how we can tap on them in building community resilience.

Especially when many of them play leadership roles in the community and commercial sectors." A closer working relationship with the public has already yielded positive results. Last year, about 40 per cent of public arrests for major crimes such as murder, rape and vehicle theft were made with help from the public. On the whole, crime rate fell by 10 per cent last year compared to 2005.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/13/2007


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New Areas Unveiled as Part of National Plan to Make S'pore More Energy Efficient

Your house is among the next in line to become more energy efficient. The National Environment Agency is formulating a list of areas to apply the national energy efficiency plan. The details were released at a forum on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Environment. Singapore's national energy efficiency plan is still in its infancy, but the idea is to help reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that cause global warming. The objective of the plan is to improve energy efficiency in homes and in industries. Other areas mentioned include transport, buildings and energy generation, and pharmaceuticals. For industry, the NEA is exploring how to encourage companies to adopt methods to capture as much energy during the generation process as possible through tri- and co-generation production. Talking about the national energy efficiency plan, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Water Resources, said: "We hope it will be ready soon.

There is no target date at the moment. But what the NEA is doing, as the lead agency for formulating a plan for energy conservation and efficiency, is that it is looking at different sectors. We recognise there's no one-size-fits-all and different sectors of the economy will have different challenges and circumstances that have to be met." The master plan, which has been in the pipeline over the last few years, encompasses previous Government efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, like NEA's various energy saving programmes throughout different departments and agencies. But the master plan was only one of the issues raised at the Corporate Social Responsibility and the Environment forum. Companies in Indonesia were highlighted for using slash and burn methods as well as the burning of peat to clear land.

To help the Indonesians hammer out a plan to tackle the fires, NEA staff were sent to Jambi province, one of the fire-prone provinces. Even so, the haze is likely to return this year. Speakers at the forum laid out solutions to tackle the haze, by using satellite imagery to identify burning hotspots and to help the enforcement of a no-burn policy.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 04/17/2007


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THAILAND: Banks Adopting Risk Management Tools

Thai banks are adapting quickly to new regulations related to risk management and are catching up with financial markets in places like Singapore and Malaysia, according to Jeffrey Hoo, regional compliance and security field director for Symantec, which recently released its latest IT Risk Management report.


From http://archives.mybangkokpost.com 04/04/2007


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BANGLADESH: Training Programme for ISP, Telecoms Engineers

In a bid to provide training facilities for the engineers working in the ISP (internet service provider) and telecommunication sectors in IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6), ISP Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) organised a five-day training programme that ended in Dhaka on Thursday. Commissioner of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Md Abdus Salam presided over the opening ceremony of the programme, which was participated by around 50 engineers from home and abroad, says a press release. MA Salam, president of the ISPAB, and Ashish Shah of South Asia UTStar Com, which was the platinum sponsor of the programme, were present among others.


From http://www.thedailystar.net/ 04/17/2007


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INDIA: Step Up Surveillance to Prevent Bird Flu Outbreak

New Delhi, Apr 11: India has stepped up surveillance activities and border states alerted to take precautionary measures in view of the incidents of bird flu outbreak in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said today. Dr Ramadoss told reporters here that the Ministries of Enviornment,Agriculture and Health are working in tandem to check any outbreak of the infectious disease in the country. Surveillance has been strengthened and besides checking poultry for any infections, people admitted to hospitals with pneumonia are also being tested for bird flu, he said. Pointing out that no case of bird flu among humans have been reported from any neighbouring countries, Dr Ramadoss said that only advice regarding import of birds have been issued but no travel advisory to humans till now was required. He said once the bird flu outbreak in Myanmar and Thailand came to light, and after it was reported in Pakistan, the border districts in North East, and border along Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan have been put on alert. The concerned state governments have been aksed to take specific action.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/11/2007


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Free Computer Training for Chhattisgarh Teachers

Raipur, April 20 : Thousands of primary school teachers in Chhattisgarh will become computer savvy with the government and Intel Corp signing a pact to provide computer training to them. "We want teachers to be computer savvy and updated on all the latest in IT so that they can pass on the knowledge to the 3.4 million students in primary schools," Education Minister Medharam Sahu told IANS. The state has 31,086 primary schools, including 9,263 located in backward areas dominated by tribal population, "The government has signed a MoU with Intel to impart free training to primary school teachers," Sahu said. "Computer trained teachers will bring a revolution in the state." Intel will train teachers under its 'World Ahead Programme'. The teachers will also attend workshops and seminars. Sahu said: "For a poverty-hit state like Chhattisgarh where school dropout rates are always of major concern, computer-trained teachers will help inspire the students to attend classes regularly."


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/20/2007


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Green Delhi: Earth Charter Launched in City Schools

New Delhi, Apr 20: 'Catch them young' is what the Delhi Government is doing as it launched today the 'Earth Charter' for Eco-clubs in city schools, to sensitise children on environmental issues and inculcate in them a love for nature. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, while launching the Charter as part of Earth Day celebrations, exhorted school children to take care of Mother Earth and reminded them about the dangers of global warming. She said the Charter is a people's treaty, that provides a new framework for addressing the issues of environmental protection, human rights, equitable human development and peace. Calling upon the youth to inculcate the habit of conservation of natural resources, she hoped the inclusion of the Earth Charter in educational system will add an important dimension towards sustainability. She also announced that one million saplings will be planted by 2010 in Delhi and called upon city schools to become nature's park. The Earth Charter is an integrated ethical framework to guide towards globalisation and sustainable living. It disseminates values and principles for a sustainable future. The preparation of the first draft of the Earth Charter began during the Rio-Earth summit in 1992. Earth Charter Commission was formed in 1997 to oversee the project. Thousands of individuals and organisations from different regions, apart from many world leaders, experts and representatives from grassroot communities have given the shape to the charter. Development Alternatives has been designated as India Affiliate by the Earth Charter Commission.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/20/2007


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India' First Automated Multi-level Car Park Inaugurated in Kolkata

Kolkata, Apr 20: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee inaugurated the country's first automated multi-level car parking system here today. Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said the new system, set up by the Simplex group, would accommodate 280 cars on Build-own-operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis for a period of 20 years at New Market. Senior vice-president (Finance and Accounts) K Mishra said the company would bring four prototype models from the Korean firm. ''Once the technology transfer is over, we will start manufacturing the entire system in Kolkata. '' Yesterday, Simplex signed a technology transfer agreement with EWW, a Dutch company, for a fully automated car parking system. It will sign another agreement with the Korean company for the technology transfer of the semi-automated parking system. The company was working with the Delhi Municipality Corp as a consultant for development of 11 car-parking zones. Simplex will develop another three zones itself.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/20/2007


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Edusat Scheme for Schools in Tribal Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal, April 21 : The Madhya Pradesh government is planning to launch the Edusat scheme to improve quality of instruction and capacity building in schools in the state's tribal districts. The state tribal welfare department plans to introduce the central government scheme in 50 schools of 19 tribal districts in establishing teaching aid and 50 satellite interactive terminals (SIT) in the state on a budget of Rs. 16 million, officials said. Edusat is the first Indian satellite designed and developed exclusively for serving the educational sector. Established by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), it provides virtual classroom through satellite linkage. "Edusat would be utilised by tribal welfare, higher education and state education centre jointly," Edusat co-ordinator Pratibha Rajgopalan said here Friday. The SIT terminals, Rajgopalan said, would facilitate transmission of audio visual from both the ends and students would be able to get quality education by subject specialists. Also, training could be imparted to the teachers through this advance system. "It would help to spread quality education to schools in rural areas and reduce the dearth of good teachers," School Education Minister Narottam Mishra said Friday.

"However, the objective is not only to make up for the dearth of good teachers but also to develop excellence, capacity building and an academic atmosphere throughout the state," he added. Necessary equipment to establish SIT would be brought from Bangalore and Rs.20,000 for each terminal has been allocated to the district collectors," said J.J. Prabhakar, the deputy commissioner of education training, tribal development department. Besides, from July, the state government plans to reach out to the students in rural areas through the Information Technology Enabled Learning Laboratory (ITELL), which will make use of Edusat. "The ITELL scheme costing Rs.50 million has been approved by the state planning board and a provision of Rs.10 million is being made in the state budget for the 2007-08 fiscal," said an official source. The scheme envisages providing an Internet and a dish TV connection in selected high and higher secondary schools in rural areas. These would be connected to the Edusat facility at the Madhya Pradesh Bhoj (Open) University. A complete set-up at each school, costing Rs.600,000 each, will entail a big room, five computers, a dish TV and also a generator to meet power requirements, the source added.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/21/2007


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Regulatory Mechanism for Protection of Wetlands Soon

New Delhi, Apr 21: The government is preparing a regulatory framework for wetlands which have in recent decades sufferred massive degradation.The need for a legal framework to protect and conserve the wetlands was being felt for a long time. So far, nine meetings to discuss the regulatory frameworks have been held in the Ministry of Environment and Forests to prepare a draft notification, which was now being given final shape.The regulatory mechanisms would work at the Central, state and local level, the Ministry said.The government has identified 94 wetlands for conservation, as recommended by the National Committee on Wetlands.Wetlands are the transitional zones between aquatic and dry terrestrial ecosystems. India has a wide variety of wetlands like marshes, open water bodies, mangroves, swamps and and salt marshes etc.Wetlands are essential for environmental balance. They help to retain water during dry season, thus helping in maintaining the water table. During floods, they act to reduce flood levels and to trap suspended solids and nutrients to the lakes. The wetalnds have suferred alarming decline because of the rapidly expanding human population, large scale changes in land use and land cover and implementation of development projects. An scheme on conservation and management of wetlands was initiated in 1987.A Research sub-committee on wetlands has also been constituted to identify more wetlands of national importance and to supplement management action plan for intensive conservation.Guidelines for the preparation of comprehensive management action plans for identified wetlands have been formulated for the use of user agencies.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/21/2007


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AFGHANISTAN: Forums Aim to Set Priorities for Development

The Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce announced it will organize two U.S. forums to prioritize and emphasize Afghanistan's developmental needs, the Bakhtar News Agency reported on April 1. The first forum, "Reassessing Priorities for U.S. Funding in Afghanistan," is scheduled for April 14 in Washington and will be attended by key U.S. policymakers, members of the Bush administration, and business-community representatives. The second forum will focus on "security and economic development" and will be held in May. Atiq Panjshiri, president and CEO of the chamber, indicated recently that the forums are needed because much of the U.S. funding for Afghanistan is being spent on "security issues, while development comes second in the list of priorities." CJ


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/02/2007


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Afghan National Police to Receive New Training

German authorities will provide new training to members of the Afghan National Police in northern Afghanistan, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on April 1. Police officers will be shown how to handle citizen complaints and will learn techniques to use while searching houses and vehicles, as well as other policing methods. One German police expert, speaking at a news conference in Mazar-e Sharif on April 1, indicated that about 30 German police trainers will be involved. German officials trained approximately 1,500 Afghan police personnel last year in northern Afghanistan, Pajhwak reported. CJ


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/03/2007


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IRAN: Interior Ministry Plans Electoral Reforms

Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Purmohammadi told reporters in Tehran on April 18 that the ministry is drafting amendments to the country's electoral laws that will be presented to the cabinet and then parliament for ratification, ISNA reported. Two of the issues the ministry's proposed amendments will try and regulate, he said, are the timing of resignation of officials who wish to run for elected offices and the present use of election posters, which some in Iran have said is excessive and disorderly. At present, officials must resign six months before the formal registration date for candidates, but Purmohammadi said the ministry has proposed to shorten this period. The current resignation deadline creates a lengthy "electoral" atmosphere that the minister says is bad for the country. He said amendments will also seek to regulate the proliferation of election posters, which often become rubbish on the street within days. "Elections need publicity and presentation," not just posters, he said, although he added that posters will not be banned. VS


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/20/2007


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KAZAKHSTAN: WTO Accession Discussed in the Government

Meeting on Kazakhstan World Trade Organization (WTO) accession passed in the government yesterday, reported RK Prime-Minister press-service. According to the press-service, "in particular, questions of systematic character tightened with external trade legislation and law enforcement practice in Kazakhstan adjustment to WTO norms were discussed". On the meeting results Prime-Minister Karim Massimov ordered to all branch ministries and departments examine all questionable positions during Kazakhstan WTO accession process. This information may not be reproduced without reference to Kazakhstan Today


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 04/11/2007


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Administrative Reform Concept Will Be Presented to the President in 2008

Administrative reform concept will be presented to the President in 2008, informed vice Prime-Minister, Economy and Budgetary Planning Minister Aslan Musin taking a floor today on the governmental hour, reports KZ-today correspondent. "We have to deliver the final draft for the President signature in the beginning of 2008", - said Musin. Vice Prime-Minister underlined that by now the detailed discussion of the concept with all interested parties takes place to reach "common understanding" of forthcoming reform. Before signature state management system, according to his words, will be corrected, separate elements of forthcoming administrative reform will be implemented for which purpose 3 pilot ministries are already defined. This information may not be reproduced without reference to Kazakhstan Today


From http://eng.gazeta.kz/ 04/16/2007


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UZBEKISTAN: Draft Customs Code to Be Discussed at Roundtable

A roundtable in Tashkent will discuss draft Customs Code in new edition at Dedeman Silk Road Tashkent on 19 April. The roundtable will be attended by representatives of the Uzbek government, businesses and scientists. The organizers of the event are State Customs Committee of Uzbekistan and UNDP Project "Improvement of customs administration system in Uzbekistan". The roundtable aimed at continuation of dialogue among state bodies, responsible for development of new code, and private businesses, attraction of businesses and other interested sides in consideration and discussion of new Customs Code, as well as develop opinions and recommendations to improvement of the bill.


From http://business.uzreport.com/ 04/17/2007


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AUSTRALIA: Grants to Help Young Innovators

Young Australians with innovative ideas to improve the competitiveness of our rural industries are invited to apply for grants of up to $10,000 to help develop them. Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said a national awards programme – the Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry – provided grants for scientific research and work to develop better on-farm technology and practices. “The awards are open to people aged 18 to 35 who have ideas for projects that will deliver long-term benefits to our agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food and natural resource management industries,” Mr McGauran said. “This year, there are 18 awards on offer – 10 that are industry-based, as well as one from each State and Territory. “The awards not only help kick-start the careers of talented young Australians, but deliver long-term benefits to our farmers and rural communities." Previous Science and Innovation Award projects include research into: using everyday cattleyard equipment to remotely track and monitor individual cattle performance, for more efficient stock management; testing aerial photography as an alternative way to estimate timber volume in commercial forest plantations; developing a measuring technique for selective harvesting of premium mud crabs; investigating a monitoring system to identify the individual eating patterns of feedlot cattle to identify ‘shy feeders’. The awards are sponsored by the Government and rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) including Australian Pork Ltd, Cotton RDC, Fisheries RDC, Forest & Wood Products RDC, Grains RDC, Grape & Wine RDC, Land & Water Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, the Rural Industries RDC and Sugar RDC. The Bureau of Rural Sciences, part of the Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, coordinates the awards.


From http://www.maff.gov.au/ 03/29/2007


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New Food Logo to Benefit Tasmanian Growers

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, has today told Tasmanian horticulturalists of the great benefits the proposed ‘Australian Grown’ logo will provide to Australian farmers. Mr McGauran, who was in Forth, Tasmania, to meet with local industry groups, said the new logo was a major breakthrough for both farmers and consumers. “Tasmanian vegetable growers, such as carrot, pea and broccoli producers, have much to gain from clearer food labelling,” Mr McGauran said. “Consumers are keen to support Australian farmers and will find it easier to do so if, at a glance, they can quickly establish which packaged food product on the supermarket shelf has been grown in Australia. “Currently, consumers often cannot clearly tell from labels whether the product they are buying really is grown in Australia, as existing labelling laws include the packaging itself as part of the product. “Under the proposed new rules, the logo and the words ‘Australian Grown’ could be used on products where all of the ingredients are grown in Australia and virtually all of the cost of production is incurred in Australia.” The proposal has been submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for final approval, with a decision expected by the middle of the year. Meanwhile, Mr McGauran reassured Tasmanian apple growers that the proposed inspection procedures for imported New Zealand apples would be the most rigorous anywhere in the world. “What’s proposed for New Zealand amounts to an unprecedented level of Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service offshore inspection,” he said. “New Zealand would have to prove to us that its proposed inspection system was of the most stringent order before trade would start”


From http://www.maff.gov.au/ 04/02/2007


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Media Reform–Moving into the Digital Age

The commencement of media ownership laws today marks an historic day for Australia’s media industry the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan said today. “Consumers will be the big winners from the reforms. For twenty years Australia has had a set of media control rules which amount to a major restriction on how media markets and companies operate. Now, with the lifting of those restrictions, existing companies will be able to invest, and new players will be free to enter the media marketplace,” Senator Coonan said. “However, the Government is mindful of the need to protect diversity in media, and for the sector to operate competitively, and in the national interest. Accordingly, numerous safeguards are built into these reforms. “A ‘5/4’ floor will be placed under the number of mergers that could take place and this will be policed by ACMA. This means six voices for Sydney and Melbourne, five for other capitals and four for regional markets. And no more than two of the three regulated platforms (that is, commercial radio, commercial television and Associated Newspapers) can be controlled by the same person or organisation in any one licence area. “Localism and diversity will also be maintained, particularly in respect of rural and regional Australia. Just last week, ACMA imposed a licence condition requiring regional radio broadcasters to maintain their staffing levels and studio numbers in licence areas following a trigger event. This condition will ensure that regional radio stations will continue to have a presence in their local communities following any changes in ownership.” Senator Coonan said the ACCC would play a critical role in assessing competition issues associated with mergers, including in regional areas where media markets operate on lower revenue and higher costs.

“Importantly this new regulatory framework also recognises the significance of new digital media. The old regulatory framework based around radio, television and newspapers had become outdated and ineffective.” “The media reform package also underpins Australia’s conversion to digital broadcasting. Last year, I launched an action plan for Australia’s conversion to digital television. “A key step in this plan is the establishment of Digital Australia, a dedicated switchover body within my Department to coordinate and oversee Australia’s transition to digital television. It will be located in Sydney and its establishment is well underway. “Today I am also announcing membership of the Industry Advisory Group which is being established to work with Digital Australia. “I have received nominations from industry for this group and membership details are attached. I also intend to appoint an appropriate person or organisation to the group to represent the interests of consumers,” Senator Coonan said. The Industry Advisory Group will meet regularly to consider matters referred to it by Digital Australia, or issues which its members may identify as requiring consideration. The group is expected to provide advice on issues of concern to industry and strategies for meeting the switchover timetable, including ways to coordinate information campaigns for consumers. “As part of the media reform proposals, I also announced in 2006 that two currently unassigned channels of television broadcasting spectrum would be allocated to provide new digital services for Australian consumers,” Senator Coonan said. “The allocation of the channels will be conducted ACMA later this year, and I hope that new services will be available by 2008.


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 04/04/2007


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A Bushfire Management Strategy for the 21st Century

State based land management agencies need to adopt a new land management approach if we are to avoid increasing numbers of ‘mega fires’ over coming bushfire seasons. Speaking at Timber Towns Victoria Annual General Meeting in Melbourne today, Federal Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz, said that the ‘lock-up and forget’ land management approach of the 1980s and 1990s had been shown to be a complete failure. “We need to abandon the now discredited ‘lock up and forget’ approach of the 1980s and 1990s, which has only resulted in an increasing frequency of mega-fires,” the Minister said. “In addition to the devastating social and economic damage caused by recent mega fires, such as the 2002/03 and 2006/07 Victorian mega fires, this strategy has had the perverse environmental outcome of destroying forests and their ecosystems, rather than conserving them as their proponents claimed they would. “For example, as a result of these mega fires some of the magnificent Alpine Ash forests of the Victorian Alps have been destroyed forever, and three endangered Victorian species – the Spotted Tree Frog, the Long-footed Potoroo and the Pygmy Possum have all been pushed closer to extinction by this summer’s fires.” The Minister highlighted the fact that prescribed burning has fallen and/or not reached targets over recent years as evidence of the fact that the ‘lock-up and forget’ mentality was still dominant. “In NSW, prescribed burning in National Parks has fallen by one third over the past four years, while in Victoria last year only a little over a third of the prescribed burning target was reached. “Rural communities don’t want excuses, they want to know that State Governments and their various departments and agencies have taken all humanly available action to try and prevent mega fires taking place.”


From http://www.mffc.gov.au/ 04/13/2007


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Telecommunications Safeguards: Pointing You in the Right Direction

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, today launched the regional telecommunications campaign: Your telecommunications safeguards: pointing you in the right direction. "Telecommunication services are essential for all individuals and businesses so it is important that they understand their rights and how to exercise them," Senator Helen Coonan said. The campaign will consist of targeted television and radio advertisements, alerting people living in rural and regional Australia to the publication and distribution of a guide which provides details of how the Australian Government protects everyone’s right to essential telecommunications services. "More than 3 million residents across regional Australia will receive the guide over the following months. The guide explains what to do if you have a problem and also the safeguards for consumers which include: A guarantee that all Australians are entitled to reasonable access to basic fixed phone services and to payphones. fixed timeframes for fixing phones and meeting appointment times. If these are not met, you may be entitled to compensation. faster phone connections for consumers certain medical conditions. untimed local calls in most circumstances and capped local call prices for fixed phones. A dedicated Ombudsman to handle complaints about telecommunications. "The Australian Government is committed to consumer safeguards which deliver basic, vital telecommunications services to Australians, regardless of where they live," Senator Helen Coonan said. "We are also committed to investing in infrastructure so that all Australians have access to world class telecommunications services at a price point they can afford. "The Government, through the $1.1 billion Connect Australia package and the $162.5 million Australian Broadband Guarantee will improve existing infrastructure to enhance all telecommunication services to regional, rural and remote Australia. "This investment will deliver more affordable and available broadband services, improved access to mobile phone services, the connection of schools, hospitals and universities to high speed networks, and the extension of vital telecommunications services to remote Indigenous communities."


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 04/15/2007


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$12.3 Million for First Solar City in Central Australia

The Australian Government will provide more than $12 million in funding to support the first SolarCity in central Australia, the Minister for Environment Malcolm Turnbull, and the Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane, announced today. International tourists and residents flying into Alice Springs will soon see two solar dishes at the Airport where solar energy concentrator dishes will be installed in up to four locations to harness sunlight for energy needs. “I congratulate the Alice Springs community for embracing the Solar Cities concept. The Alice Springs Solar City project joins Adelaide, Townsville and Blacktown as the first four Australian Solar Cities,” Mr Turnbull said. “Together these Solar Cities will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 76,000 tonnes each year. These Solar Cities will install over 3,200 solar photovoltaic panels on private and public housing and other buildings, conduct almost 7,000 energy efficiency consultations and assist more than 250,000 residents and businesses to learn how to reduce their energy use and save money.” Mr Turnbull said the Alice Springs Solar City will install solar photovoltaic panels on 230 homes and businesses, 1000 solar hot water systems, roll-out 400 smart meters and provide solar installations to generate heat and power for the Alice Springs Airport, the Araluen Arts Precinct, the Town Pool and the Ilparpa Sewerage Treatment facility. “Alice Springs has the ingredients for a successful Solar City - the highest concentration of sun in Australia, an international tourist hub with a rich natural and cultural heritage, and a committed and enthusiastic consortium willing to put the project into action,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Alice Springs is a town that has embraced solar energy technology; half of its households already use solar hot water systems, and this support is expected to deliver annual savings of around 10,500kWh in electricity demand and 12,000 tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions.” Mr Macfarlane said the Alice Springs – Australia’s Solar Centre Consortium, will receive $12.3 million in Australian Government funding to help change the way individuals, communities, businesses and governments think about and use energy. The consortium, consisting of the Alice Springs Town Council, Northern Territory Government, Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation, the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, Arid Lands Environment Centre, Tangentyere Council and the Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce will contribute an additional $17 million to the project. Mr Macfarlane said the Alice Springs Solar City project will boost many local industries, not only through the supply of products to consumers, but through energy efficiency and smart metering. “Solar Cities is an innovative way to bring together solar technologies, energy efficiency, smart metering and better electricity pricing to create more energy sustainable communities," Mr Macfarlane said. "The level of interest shown in Solar Cities highlights that business and the broader community are keen to examine all options to determine the best energy mix for the future." The Alice Springs Solar City will receive funding through the Australian Government’s $75 million Solar Cities initiative and the Renewable Remote Power Generation Programme. The Australian Government’s $328.5 million Renewable Remote Power Generation Programme aims to increase the uptake of renewable energy technologies in remote areas of Australia that presently rely on fossil fuel for electricity generation. Both programmes are part of the Australian Government’s climate change strategy that has committed more than $2 billion to develop clean, low emission technologies; build an effective global response to the issue; increase understanding of climate change science; and help communities adapt to the impact of climate change.


From http://www.environment.gov.au/ 04/16/2007


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Australian Government's Job Seeker Account - Getting People off Welfare and into Work

The Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone, today welcomed the recommendations of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report into the administration of the Australian Government’s Job Seeker Account. “The report, released today, confirms as sound the overall approach taken by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) in administering the Job Seeker Account,” Minister Stone said. “The Report also recognises the considerable priority that DEWR gives to monitoring usage of the Job Seeker Account, the structured approach it has to risk management and to providing guidance to Job Network Members in the use of Job Seeker Account. “The Job Seeker Account continues to be an integral part of Job Network’s record success in helping job seekers into sustainable work.” The Job Seeker Account is a quarantined pool of funds that can be used by Job Network members to help job seekers gain employment. It focuses on getting the most disadvantaged job seekers into work. Job Network Members are reimbursed by DEWR for goods and services purchased for individual job seekers to help them secure or maintain employment. In the 12 months to end February 2007, a total of over 650,900 job placements were recorded. Moreover, more than 182,800 long-term jobs were achieved for disadvantaged job seekers and those unemployed more than three months.

“The Job Seeker Account is a vital tool for Job Network members, with 73% of job seekers assisted by the Job Seeker Account in the twelve months to December 2006 being placed into sustainable jobs,” Minister Stone said. The flexibility of the Job Seeker Account gives Job Network Members the ability to individually tailor assistance to job seekers – such as assistance with transport, wage subsidies, training or equipment – to successfully assist the job seeker into work. With the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 4.5 % in March - its equal lowest level since May 1976 – it is clear the Australian Government’s employment policies are getting people off welfare and into work. “While the Job Network meets with world’s best practice in employment services, we are always willing to examine new ways to improve what is already an extremely efficient and effective system,” Minister Stone said.


From http://mediacentre.dewr.gov.au/ 04/17/2007


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Landcare Projects Leading the Way in Northern Rivers

An innovative recycling system that saves 11,000 litres of water a day for a northern NSW dairy farm shows the huge benefits of landcare projects, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sussan Ley says. Ms Ley participating in the tenth annual Pollie Pedal to raise funds for breast cancer research took the opportunity today to inspect projects around Grafton funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and Natural Heritage Trust Envirofund. “Landcare projects like these in the Northern Rivers region are helping Australian farms be more productive, more profitable and more sustainable by improving the condition of soil, water and vegetation,” she said. One programme at the Weatherstone family’s Orana Park dairy involves an effluent management system that contains and recycles all effluent and nutrients generated by the farm. The waste is spread over 12 hectares of fodder crops, cutting the farm’s water use by 11,000 litres a day, improving soil health and minimising the use of chemicals. Ms Ley also visited Pauline and Vincent Wallace’s property Boonooloo – part of an Envirofund supported project in the district that has helped stabilise riverbanks, protect vegetation and plant thousands of native trees, shrubs and grasses. Ms Ley paid tribute to the 130,000 landcarers in 4,000 groups around Australia who are improving their environments. “It’s the members of these groups who are doing the hard yakka – they are out there weeding and planting and making a difference on the ground,” she said. “The Landcare movement is not only changing the Australian landscape, but may also be a vital factor in helping our agriculture industries and our environment survive climatic changes.” Both projects near Grafton were developed through the local Waterlands Landcare Group. Envirofund has committed around $7 million to more than 500 projects in the Northern Rivers region since 2002. Howard Government support for Landcare nationally will top $700 million by mid-2008.


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


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New Project to Save Two Billion Litres of Wa Water Annually

The Australian Government will contribute more than $6 million to a $48 million innovative urban development design in Western Australia to save up to two billion litres of water each year. Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull today announced the Brookdale Water Cycle project in Western Australia would receive $6.19 million from the Australian Government Water Fund. “Many urban communities are feeling the effects of low rainfall and are looking for ways to be more sustainable and self-sufficient,” Mr Turnbull said. “This project is an excellent example of water sensitive urban design that will contribute to improved water management and reduce reliance on drinking water supplies.” “I am very pleased to announce this funding for Western Australia. It brings total investment for Western Australia under the Water Smart Australia component of the Australian Government Water Fund to more than $37 million, for projects valued at more than $113 million.” Australian Government funding, to be matched by the Western Australian Government, will assist the Armadale Redevelopment Authority put in place stormwater capture, filtering and groundwater recharge, extraction and monitoring components of the development. Water will be extracted from the groundwater for non-potable residential and community uses through the establishment of community bores. “The water cycle will be closely monitored to ensure it is efficient and sustainable,” Mr Turnbull said. “The use of groundwater for purposes other than drinking will substitute up to 2 billion litres per year of drinking water from Perth’s water supply, and the project will also replenish the groundwater which forms part of Perth’s drinking water system.” Today’s announcement follows the Australian Government’s commitment to contribute $15.75 million to the Beenyup Reverse Osmosis Groundwater Replenishment Project and almost $15 million to accelerate water planning in four priority water systems – the Pilbara, Gnangara Mound, south west Western Australia and the Collie Catchment. This announcement means the Australian Government has committed more than $50 million under the Australian Government Water Fund to projects in Western Australia valued at almost $143 million. In addition to more than $37 million under the Water Smart Australia Programme, $12.5 million has been committed by the Australian Government under the Community Water Grants Programme and $165,000 under the Raising National Water Standards Programme.


From http://www.environment.gov.au/ 04/18/2007


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NEW ZEALAND: Stronger Fire and Rescue Services for NZ

A new way to manage fire risk and strengthen rescue services in New Zealand is outlined in a public discussion document released today by Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker. “Under the proposals there will be a new national fire and rescue service, based on delivery of services by local brigades with strong central support,” Rick Barker said. “The new national fire and rescue service would have a pivotal leadership role. Around eighty-six management systems are currently in place for fire services and the proposed new structure will ensure resources are allocated more efficiency. “A key strength of our fire service is that it is highly responsive to community needs. The proposed ‘local delivery-central support’ structure builds on this strength by ensuring local communities remain engaged in their own protection. “The proposed structure provides a great opportunity for fire and rescue services to work with local Civil Defence and Emergency Management groups to both improve readiness and help recover from emergencies. “Rural fire authorities would continue to look after some important aspects of fire risk management but could opt to transfer responsibilities to the new service. The Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Defence Force would continue to manage fire risk in conservation and defence areas. Forest owners current arrangements are largely unaffected, as they wished.

“A new funding system is also proposed to ensure the national service is supported from a fair and sustainable base. “At the moment our fire and rescue services are funded through fire-insured property. This fails to reflect the mandate of today’s fire services, which includes attendance at floods, hazardous substance incidents and car crashes. “Under the proposals contributions would come from an expanded base of insured property and from a larger pool of motor vehicles. “The proposals represent a new way forward that will meet New Zealand’s needs for the next 30 years and beyond,” said Rick Barker. Main benefits of the proposal would be: A stronger national organisation to lead regional planning and coordinate fire services, developing minimum national standards for all providers A wide mandate for rescue and legal protection for fire and rescue workers Standardised brigade system and support for all volunteers Flow on benefits to civil defence emergency management More equitable funding system


From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 04/17/2007


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Launch of Licence Card Next Step in Building Sector Reform

Building and Construction Minister Clayton Cosgrove today released the Licence Card that will be issued to Licensed Building Practitioners from November this year, an important next step in the reform of the building and construction sector. "Builders are practical, down-to-earth people, and after all of the months of consultation with the industry about how the licensing regime will work, the release of the Licence Card is another tangible step showing that licensing is actually on the way," Mr Cosgrove said. Addressing the Registered Master Builders Federation Annual Conference in New Plymouth, Mr Cosgrove told delegates that the voluntary phase for licensing for designers, site leads and carpenters will start from November this year, with other trades to follow, and licensing becoming compulsory after that. "Licensing will lift skills and professionalism, and enhance accountability in the industry, and raise consumer protection, while at the same time, protect every Kiwi's do-it-yourself (DIY) right to have a go. As a first step, it is intended to help ensure that people doing core work in the building sector are competent. That is our bottom line," Mr Cosgrove said.

"In the longer term, it will raise skill levels across the sector. It will promote, recognise and support professional skills. Over time, we will see increased emphasis on education and training, along with better career pathways. I envisage that in years to come, once the licensing system is up and running, eventually new entrants to licensing may be required to have completed apprenticeships or trade training." "Licence holders will quickly gain a marketing advantage in terms of enhanced credibility with customers, clients or employers. It would be a brave person indeed who would undervalue the credibility and professional standing that will come with being a licensed builder." Mr Cosgrove also reminded builders of the government's position on do-it-yourself builders. "Let me make our position crystal clear; we have absolutely no intention of undermining the Kiwi DIY tradition of having a go. I have given the public a commitment that DIY will be protected, and I will honour that commitment." Mr Cosgrove said the licensing regime is part of the Government's suite of reforms to transform the building sector. Other reforms include the top-to-bottom review of the Building Code, accreditation and registration of Building Consent Authorities, the revamp of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service, the introduction of a financial assistance pilot for eligible owners of leaky homes, a voluntary product certification scheme, energy efficiency proposals for homes and workplaces, and investigating a home warranty insurance scheme.


From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 04/19/2007


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APEC Economies to Reduce Aviation Greenhouse Emissions

Chair of the APEC Transport Ministers meeting and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Mark Vaile announced today that the 21 APEC economies, which represent more than a third of the world's population, have agreed to work cooperatively on practical measures to reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Vaile said, in summing up the outcomes of the conference, that he was delighted that the APEC economies have taken this important step in combating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change.” The commitment today from the APEC economies, is a major step forward in adopting a global approach to climate change and Australia will do all it can to help support practical and realistic initiatives that meet the environmental challenges of the future.” Yesterday Australia announced a range of measures to reduce aviation greenhouse emissions including improving fuel efficiency through more flexible flight tracks, improving aircraft air traffic control sequencing to reduce fuel burn/emissions, more efficient runway use and continuous descent approaches which minimise speed changes. "These measures will reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of thousands of tonnes," Mr. Vaile said.

BIOFUELS
The 21 APEC economies also agreed to continue to actively work at increasing the take up of biofuels as a means of dealing with emissions in their land transport industries and agreed on further work to progress this initiative.

TRANSPORT SECURITY
On transport security, the APEC Ministers agreed on a range of specific commitments to strengthen transport security across the Asia-Pacific region. Ministers noted the particular challenges for commerce and passengers of the new restrictions on liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGS) in airline passengers' carry-on baggage. The meeting agreed that economies would work together to harmonise security arrangements, including the LAGS measures, to balance effective security with efficient commerce and trade.

ROAD SAFETY
There was unanimous agreement to the development of proactive road safety strategies in all APEC member economies. Ministers agreed to set targets for casualty reductions and to report regularly to APEC on progress. The meeting noted that APEC low and middle income economies bear a large portion of the world-wide 1.2 million road deaths each year. Ministers agreed on the common features of the strategies - ensuring that they are comprehensive and effective.

TRADE LIBERALISATION
Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to trade liberalisation with a strong focus on facilitation, recognising the importance of transport to free trade. The meeting also reaffirmed that transport is essential to efficient trade and regional integration. The Transportation Ministers meeting - held in Adelaide 28-30 March - was attended by 250 Ministers and delegates from all 21 APEC member economies. The meeting was characterised by active and open discussion and a strong spirit of cooperation reflected in a shared approach to the major transport issues common to many economies. The meeting agreed to a detailed Ministerial statement which sets out a plan of action against the three themes of the meeting - transport's role in trade liberalisation and facilitation, transport safety, and transport security. (By Adelaide)


From http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ 03/30/2007


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ITU Forum Tackles Challenge of Low-Cost Telecom Access

Geneva, 2 April 2007 — Telecommunication/ICT Industry and Government experts are meeting in New Delhi 3-5 April at a Regional Forum on promoting low-cost telecommunication/ICT access in the Asian and Pacific region. The Forum is being co-organized by ITU and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), an ITU Sector Member, under the aegis and support of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, India. The Chairman of the Forum, Mr D. S. Mathur, Secretary, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of India, which is hosting the meeting, will deliver the inaugural address along with a keynote speech by Mr Nirpendra Misra, Chairman of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). It is expected that around 200 participants from across the Asia-Pacific region will participate in the Forum. "This is an excellent opportunity to pull together our collective minds and resources to address the critical issues of low-cost connectivity in order to make the benefits of telecommunication and ICT available to everyone. We are grateful to the Government of India for hosting this important meeting and to COAI as co-organizer" said Mr Sami Al-Basheer, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

Participants will consider innovative solutions for expanding access to telecommunication services, including low-cost handsets, shared infrastructure, wireless broadband and mobile communications for rural connectivity. The meeting will examine how countries can more effectively support the migration from legacy telecommunication networks to next-generation broadband networks to expand connectivity, including in rural and remote areas. It is intended to drive growth and innovation in emerging applications for businesses and consumers, as well as for services, such as e-learning, e-health and e-government. The Forum will explore how telecommunications can best be leveraged to improve disaster prevention and mitigation and will also examine health concerns related to electromagnetic radiation emanating from mobile phones and other devices."We are very pleased to co-organize this event with ITU," said Mr T. V. Ramachandran, Chairman of the Regional Working Group and Director-General, Cellular Operators Association of India. "We believe the private sector can play a major role in helping connect the unconnected, in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders, by applying innovative solutions and business models. The powerful combination of wireless connectivity and next-generation networks holds enormous promise for the future." Mr Mathur remarked that the role of ICT cannot be over-emphasized. He praised ITU for taking various initiatives towards bridging the digital divide, and added that telecommunications is the "nervous system" of an integrated ICT-based economy while computing is its "brain". He said that India is committed to supporting the rapid growth of telecommunications and ICT as these are the new engines for sustained economic growth.

From http://www.itu.int/ 04/02/2007


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Asia Pacific Region Plans for Next-Generation Networks

Geneva, 12 April 2007 — ITU and the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) jointly organized a workshop in Bangkok, Thailand to plan for the implementation and development of Next-Generation Networks (NGN) in the region. Over 180 experts from 24 countries representing APT and ITU Members, international organizations and the private sector joined the forum, which was inaugurated by Mr Kraisorn Pornsutee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Royal Government of Thailand. NGN is a catch phrase for the network infrastructure that will enable advanced new services offered by mobile and fixed network operators in the future, while continuing to support all existing services. This next-generation architecture will help leverage new technologies to dramatically reduce the cost of market entry, increase flexibility and accommodate seamlessly in a single multiservice network both voice and data.

Future direction for NGN
The ITU/APT Workshop on NGN Planning made some key recommendations:Regulators and policy makers to provide clear and consistent enabling environments for NGN and be involved in the NGN planning, implementation and educational process;Develop standardized planning tools to assist developing countries to migrate from traditional telecommunication networks to NGN ; Regulators to ensure that service providers meet agreed quality of service standards equivalent to traditional circuit switched voice networks ;NGN Requirements to include security levels that meet the needs of end users and provide confidence in the use of applications and services in NGN-compliant networks ;Establish NGN standards to make emergency and location-based services available seamlessly and reliably across the entire network ;Raise greater awareness on the various issues related to NGN planning . Mr Malcolm Johnson, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said, "NGN has the potential to accelerate the deployment of telecommunication networks and services in developing countries." As cost and revenue are the drivers of this development, the capital cost of deploying NGN technology, both in the core of the network, and the operating costs are significantly lower than circuit switched technologies. "This will enable rapid expansion of network capabilities," Mr Johnson added. "NGN will also enable a range of multimedia services to be provided more easily and with less cost, and so increase potential revenues. It offers the opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog several generations of technology." He also stressed the importance of "bridging the standardization gap" by planning for NGN at regional levels.

Executive Director of APT, Mr Amarendra Narayan said, "We need to urgently address the needs of the Asia-Pacific region for cost effective options of Broadband access while finalizing the international standardization framework for NGN. This is particularly important for developing countries and rural and remote areas. APT and ITU can play a key role in ascertaining Asia Pacific regional needs". He added that a range of APT programmes are already heavily involved in NGN standardization as well as policy and regulatory issues. This includes the work being undertaken by the Asia Pacific Telecommunity Standardization Programme (ASTAP) and associated policy and regulatory forums. Ms Kim Eun-Ju, Head of the ITU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, said, "This is the first step towards meeting the main objectives of the Asia-Pacific Regional Initiative on NGN Planning, which was adopted at the World Telecommunication Development Conference in Doha in 2006. It aims to assist developing countries in our region to migrate smoothly from existing networks to NGN." She urged participating State and Sector Members to be more pro-active in implementing next-generation networks by building partnerships to satisfy the paradigm shifts in the NGN era. The Workshop served as a platform for discussion and exchange of views on practical guidelines on NGN planning, exploration of ways to deploy cost-effective NGN technologies and to find solutions for NGN implementation in rural and remote areas. (by ITU and APT)

From http://www.itu.int/ 04/12/2007


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International Community to Step Up Action on Water and Sanitation Agenda

WASHINGTON, APRIL 14, 2007 – New commitments were today expressed by donors, international development institutions and developing countries to tackle the water and sanitation crisis that affects the world’s poor. Over a billion people in developing countries lack access to a reliable water supply and half the population of developing countries are without proper sanitation.This global response took shape during a special event held during the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings co-hosted by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The meeting brought together developed and developing country government representatives along with civil society leaders and development agencies to galvanize common action on access to clean water and sanitation.

A number of donors present committed to increase and improve support to countries to expand water and sanitation services, including:
? Supporting those governments which already have plans in place and have committed to invest their own resources;
? Helping countries without water and sanitation plans to prepare them;
? Renewing commitment to the African Development Bank’s Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative. This provides a unique opportunity to harmonize, increase and improve donor support behind national plans;
? Giving special treatment to those countries that, despite their needs, do not receive sufficient attention from donors. As a first step this will include, reporting shortfalls in their funding and agreeing who will do what.
? Focusing on sanitation services and hygiene education. Both are cost-efficient and effective live savers.

From http://www.zdnetasia.com/ 03/21/2007


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Extreme Poverty in the World Reduced by 21 Percent Between 1990 and 2004

“The percentage of those who live on less than two dollars a day also has diminished, although it is estimated that in 2004 2.6 billion people, almost half of the population in the developing world, still are living below that threshold.These are some of the conclusions of the World Development Indicators 2007 report made public by the World Bank. The study credits the progress in poverty reduction to the ‘respectable’ average annual growth in GDP per capita that has reached an average rate of 3.9 percent since 2000. …” [El Mundo (Spain) and EFE/Factiva] Xinhua adds that the report, “… which provides a detailed picture of the world through data, finds strong performers in all regions, with notably fast growth in GDP per capita among many states of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But it also finds that the countries with the highest rates of under-5 mortality a decade ago have, on average, made the slowest reduction in mortality. … Despite the remarkable progress in the poverty reduction, the World Bank has warned that many challenges ahead before reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). …”

The Daily Telegraph writes that the report “… showed that the main reason for the drop in poverty was rising living standards in the booming east Asian economies such as China. Meanwhile, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa rose to 298 million - a record high. …” [The Daily Telegraph (UK)/Factiva] The Guardian adds that “… The report found that in the past decade growth has not always guaranteed a reduction in poverty, with poor people failing to reap the fruits of economic expansion due to a lack of job opportunities, limited education or bad health. ‘Growth is essential to reducing poverty,’ said the Bank's chief economist, Francois Bourguignon. ‘The World Development Indicators go beyond growth and poverty rates to ask how income is distributed, whether health care and education are improving, and to assess the business climate. These factors all affect the quality of people's lives.’”

From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/16/2007


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Melting Himalayan Glaciers Pose Security Risk –UNEP

SINGAPORE, April 17 (Reuters) - Global warming will cause the Himalayan glaciers to melt, leading to mass migration and possibly conflicts over valuable resources such as agricultural land and fresh water, the U.N. Environment Programme chief said. Achim Steiner, speaking ahead of the U.N. Security Council's first-ever debate on climate change, said that global warming should be considered a security issue as shortages of water and fertile land in the next 10 to 20 years may lead to conflicts. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers is expected to displace millions of people from low-lying land as sea levels rise, and will disrupt river flows and irrigation of agricultural land. "When people start moving, it puts people into competition with one another," Steiner told Reuters in a phone interview from Nairobi. "Where will these people go? Where will they run to where other communities want them?" The Himalayan glaciers, which feed rivers in India and China, are among the fastest-melting in the world. Scientists have said the Himalayan glaciers could shrink to 100,000 square km (38,610 square miles) by the 2030s, from 500,000 square km (193,100 square miles) now, if the current pace of global warming continues. Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern warned last year that the melting of Himalayan glaciers could cause serious flooding in Bangladesh, sparking a mass migration into India.

RICH-POOR DIVIDE
Steiner, who will be in Singapore on Thursday for the Champions of the Earth awards that are presented each year to seven environmental leaders, cited Africa as an example of how climate change could threaten peace and security. He said fights over agricultural land have led to some of the conflicts in Sudan, and that climate change could lead to an even bigger flood of illegal immigrants from Africa into Europe. He also warned that global warming, largely caused by industrialised countries, would hit developing countries hardest, stoking tensions between rich and poor nations. As a result, the OECD nations need to help developing countries in Asia and elsewhere adopt environmentally friendly technology, and provide subsidies to help countries invest in wind and solar farms. "The OECD nations should have a vested interest in supporting countries in Asia in the future of energy management," he said. The U.N. climate panel earlier this month issued its strongest warning yet about the impact of global warming. The report, based on the findings of 2,500 scientists, said that more than one billion people may face a shortage of fresh water by 2050, and that millions will be threatened by floods as sea levels rise by the 2080s. While the U.N. meeting on Tuesday is a sign that governments are paying more attention to environmental concerns, an international deal on how to tackle climate change will depend in part on the outcome of world trade talks because they will decide the concessions that countries want to take, Steiner said. "They define to a great extent the climate of compromise and the willingness to negotiate," he said. ( by Koh Gui Qing)

From http://www.alertnet.org/ 04/17/2007


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ADB, Microsoft Forge Partnership to Promote ICT in Asia and the Pacific

BEIJING, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Asian Development Bank and Microsoft Corp. have forged a partnership to enable countries in the Asia Pacific region to benefit from new opportunities created by Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), which ADB views as a critical component in ensuring sustainable economic growth in the region. "In the Asia and Pacific region, concerns are mounting over the growing 'digital divide,' the difference between those developing member countries of the ADB that have the capacity and resources to access ICT and those that do not," said ADB Vice President C. Lawrence Greenwood, Jr. Numerous studies from the World Summit on Information Societies and the multi-stakeholder Global Alliance for ICT for Development (GAID) have shown that economic performance hinges much on ICT, as it provides developing nations with a wide range of opportunities to meet vital development goals, including poverty reduction, bridging the digital divide and developing content for e-services.

"Information and Communications Technologies play an important role in fighting poverty and fostering development in the Asia Pacific region," said Mr. Greenwood. "ADB is pleased to partner with Microsoft to bridge the digital divide and help deliver on this promise." Through the partnership, ADB and Microsoft will jointly undertake projects, studies and capacity building initiatives in five strategic areas of common interest, including innovation, ICT and governance, ICT and education, enabling jobs and opportunity, and regional integration and trade. "We share the tremendous optimism evident in this region, and look forward to working with the Asian Development Bank to ensure that every citizen in the region has the chance to realize their full potential" said Gerri Elliot, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft Corp. Based on ADB’s policy paper Toward E-development in Asia and the Pacific: A Strategic Approach for ICT, three strategic thrusts were proposed, including the creation of an enabling environment by fostering the development of innovative sector policies, the strengthening of public institutions and promoting the development of ICT facilities and related infrastructure networks, building human resources, and developing ICT applications and information contents. Since 1971, ADB assistance in the telecommunications and ICT sectors has reached $1.8 billion, or 1.5% of ADB’s total assistance for the period. The telecommunications sector accounted for 86% of that amount from the 1970s to the mid-1990s, while ICT applications received 14% since 2000.

From http://www.adb.org/ 04/19/2007


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CHINA: E-channels for Tourists to Go on Trial in HK

Hong Kong Acting Director of Immigration Peh Yun-lu said on Saturday that an automated passenger-clearance system for tourists who frequently visit Hong Kong will be put on trial in the second half of this year. Speaking on a radio talk show Saturday morning, Peh said tourists who wish to use the system should register with the Immigration Department, providing their travel document data and personal particulars. The department will also store their fingerprints and photos. When the tourists enter or leave Hong Kong, they can insert their travel documents into a newly designed e-channel machine which will verify their information. Under the trial scheme, the new e-channel machines will be installed in some busy check points, such as Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau that border Shenzhen city in south China's Guangdong province. If the initial response is positive, the department may consider expanding the scheme. On the identity-card-replacement scheme, Peh said the scheme will come to an end on Saturday. About 500,000 eligible people still have not replaced their old ID cards, he said, adding some of them are senior citizens and residents who have emigrated to other countries.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/31/2007


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Forex Watchdog Warns Online Fund Fraud

China's forex watchdog has alerted investors to the growing number of online scams involving foreign funds. Illegal funds purporting to offer investments in foreign assets and guaranteeing high returns have succeeded in tricking some investors, said the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) on Monday. The illegal funds used pyramid selling techniques, said SAFE. The pyramids would quickly collapse once money stopped flowing in, spelling disaster for investors, SAFE warned. The administration asked investors to be alert to the risks. China Central Television (CCTV) reported last month that an illegal fund named Switzerland Mutual Fund had promised internet investors a hefty 300 percent yield within 450 days. Claiming to have been founded in 1948, the fund has raised over 100 million yuan on the mainland since it entered the market last year. But, according to CCTV, the fund has never been approved by the China Securities Regulatory Commission. Currently, Chinese individuals who want to invest abroad can only buy investment products provided by banks and fund management companies under a Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor (QDII) scheme.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 03/28/2007


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China Launches 6th On-line Public Memorial for Martyrs

China launched its sixth on-line public memorial for national martyrs here Sunday four days ahead of China's traditional day to honor ancestors, Qingming Festival. The on-line memorial allows Chinese to show their respect for China's national martyrs through the website, www.china5000.org.cn, from April 1 to 6. Visitors to the website could make comments and tributes, said the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL), one of the website's initiators. The website had received 135 million visits from Internet users in the past five years, sources with the CCYL said. Qingming Festival or Tomb-Sweeping Day is the time for Chinese people to honor their ancestors and it falls on April 5 this year.

Traditionally, tens of millions of Chinese visit the tombs of their forbears and students gather to honor martyrs around Qingming Day. In recent years, the government has advised people to avoid lighting funerary money at grave sites and to pay their respects via the Internet as more on-line funerary sites have opened. The on-line memorial, jointly initiated by the CCYL and the office on building an advanced culture and ideology of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, is co-organized by more than 1,000 websites including xinhuanet.com, people.com.cn and sina.com.cn.

From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/01/2007


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China is Top Global Performer in E-ticketing: IATA chief

China is one of the world's top users of electronic plane tickets, but the rest of Asia Pacific is on the same uptake level as Africa, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) chief said Wednesday. "China is the top performer on e-ticketing. At 95 percent, it is well ahead of the global average of 78 percent," IATA director-general Giovanni Bisignani said. "The rest of the Asia Pacific is a disappointment. At 68 percent, it is (on) the same level as Africa. This is largely because of a slow uptake in Japan, the region's biggest market, and a slow start in Malaysia," he said at an industry event here. Bisignani said Asia needs to use technology, including "biometric" passports, to ease movement because by 2010, airports in the region will have to handle 250 million more passengers that it currently deals with. "Building infrastructure is a costly part of the solution. We need effective systems to get passengers through the system, and technology can help," he said.


From http://news.yahoo.com/ 04/04/2007


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E-traders Team Up in Fraud Fight

E-commerce giants eBay Inc and Taobao.com are working on a joint plan to crack down on user-account fraud in what would be the first cooperation between the two rivals.The cyber sites have reached an agreement in principal to remove improper listings and warn offenders to refrain from such practices, eBay said in a statement. "Trading in e-commerce user accounts disrupts the online trading order and could facilitate fraud," said Liu Yan, a spokeswoman for eBay Inc's China division. The auction sites' user accounts have become a commodity offered for sale to netizens who want to avoid registration procedures. Without a proper paper trail, authorities have a hard time tracking down the sellers of shoddy goods. Liu said eBay has noticed "a considerable number" of online postings regarding sales of its accounts. EBay has been losing ground in China since it took over market leader Eachnet.com and merged it into its global trading system in 2003. It held a 29 percent share in the fourth quarter last year, compared with Taobao's 60 percent, according to Analysys International consultants.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/05/2007


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World's Biggest ID Database Complete

In a modest 200-square meters enclosure, the National Citizen Identity Information Center (NCIIC) in Beijing hosts the world's biggest ID database, with over 1.3 billion entries. "By collecting the identity information of China's 1.3 billion population in five years, through an investment amounting to tens of millions yuan, we have succeeded in collating the world's biggest ID database in full compliance with international standards," said Lu Subing, vice director of NCIIC. In recent times, China has been at significant risk from fraudulent ID cards, which allow swindlers to make illicit gains from social security, banking and telecommunication industries. Police figures have placed at 90 percent the amount of premeditated crimes involving false ID cards, a bane which has cost hundreds of millions of yuan in economic losses annually. Back in 2001, the Ministry of Public Security conducted a feasibility study of an ID database scheme, jointly carried out across 30 departments and units tackling civil affairs, social security, industry and commerce.

At the end of May 2003, NCIIC's four departments reported in, having completed initial work on software research and development, equipment distribution and hardware purchase as well as having begun trial operation. By the end of 2003, the database had garnered information on 210 million people across 42 cities. The pride in Lu's voice was audible as he revealed that "by the end of last year, the identity information of nearly 1.3 billion people was stored in the database, thus marking the completion of the whole system. Since then, the database has been on the front-lines of identity theft and economic crime prevention." According to Lu, NCIIC has helped to investigate over 1,100 individuals from all walks of life including banking, communication, auto industry, financial inspection, e-commerce, personal investigation and logistics. Explaining the services available to the public, Lu explained that "sending the name and ID number of the person you wish to inquire about in a message to 5110 (for China Mobile users) or 9951 (for China Unicom users), you will receive an answer as to whether your information was a match or not. If the result matched the database, you may ask for a further photo comparison.”"

Many examples on the center's website testify to satisfied users of the initiative. One customer cancelled the purchase of a house, worth 500,000 yuan, after he used the center to discover his client had provided him with false ID. "In the past, I always worried some clients might steal my cars by leaving a false ID number. I feel much safe now I can confirm their information at the center," wrote the manager of a car leasing company. According to Lu, the coverage provided by the inquiry service covers 0.97 billion mobile phones, telecom and Internet clients and its services range beyond text messages to the Internet, MMS, WAP and IVR. However, due to privacy and security concerns, a user cannot obtain a name using just an ID number or vice versa. The next step is already being worked on by NCIIC and the Bank of Communication who are teaming up to create an anti-fraud ID information system, aiming to reduce credit card application scams.

NCIIC's influence has also extended to telecom, education and social security sectors, aiming to provide comprehensive anti-fraud services. "Under the coordination of the State Council Information Office, we will gradually expand our service and share more data with other departments," said Lu.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/11/2007


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China Begins Crackdown on Internet Porn

The Chinese government is launching a new crackdown on online pornography which it says has "perverted China's young minds," a state news agency said Friday. The Ministry of Public Security says the six-month campaign will target cyber strip shows and sexually explicit images, stories and audio and video clips, according to the Xinhua News Agency. "The boom of pornographic content on the Internet has contaminated cyberspace and perverted China's young minds," Zhang Xinfeng, a deputy public security minister, was quoted as saying Thursday. The campaign also will target illegal online lotteries and contraband trade, fraud and "content that spreads rumors and is of a slanderous nature," Zhang said at a news conference.

In China's biggest online porn case to date, a Web site operator, Chen Hui, was sentenced in November to life in prison. The government said Chen's Web site had more than 9 million pornographic images and more than 600,000 registered users. China has the world's second-biggest population of Internet users after the United States, with 137 million people online. The communist government encourages Internet use for education and business but tries to block access to material considered obscene or subversive. "The inflow of pornographic materials from abroad and lax domestic control are to blame for the existing problems in China's cyberspace," Zhang said. According to Xinhua, the Beijing Reformatory for Juvenile Delinquents said 33.5 percent of its detainees were influenced by violent online games or erotic Web sites when they committed crimes such as robbery and rape.

From http://news.yahoo.com/ 04/13/2007


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China's Online Game Industry on A Roll

Revenue from China's online gaming industry reached 8 billion yuan (about 1.04 billion U.S. dollars) in 2006 and could quadruple by 2010 as Internet access becomes more widespread. Online gaming revenue in China will grow 30 percent annually to reach 30 billion yuan (3.9 billion U.S. dollars) by 2010, said Wu Shulin, the deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication, on Friday. The rapid growth in online gaming has created opportunities for telecom, internet, computer, software and consumer electronics firms, which earned 33 billion yuan (4.3 billion U.S. dollars) from online gaming in 2006, according to the official, who attended the 2007 China International Audio-Video and Electronic Publishing Expo in Shanghai on Friday. Statistics from the China National Network Information Center showed that the number of computers hooked up to the worldwide web had reached 59.4 million by January 2007 and there were 137 million Internet surfers.

Young people between the ages of 18 and 30 account for the majority of the estimated 31 million people playing games online in China, according to U.S.-based information technology market research house International Data Corporation (IDC). Internet cafes across the country are often packed with people playing online games till the early hours. Previously, American and Japanese games dominated the market, but China-made online games held 65 percent of the domestic market in 2006 and had export revenues of 20 million U.S. dollars last year. "Navigation World," a game produced by Suzhou Snail Network Game Technology Co., has been successfully exported to Europe and the United States, the first time a Chinese company has entered the "kingdom of games". Following "Legend of Knights Online", the first online game developed by Beijing-based Kingsoft Company in 2003, Chinese game makers have developed over 40 online games. The Information Industry Ministry has included online gaming in the 2006-2010 plan for software and information service development and will support the healthy development of the industry, according to Wu.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/13/2007


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Chinese Police Crack Down on Internet Crimes

China's Ministry of Public Security Friday gave details of 10 major criminal cases involving the internet, pornography, gambling and fraud. Zhang Xuhui from Xuchang City, in central China's Henan Province, set up a "blue" website with more than 120 pornographic movies in October 2006. More than 5,600 netizens visited the website shortly after it was opened. Zhang was arrested by local police in October 2006, and sentenced to one year in prison with a year reprieve by the local court. Zhang Yuancheng from Jingzhou City in central China's Hubei Province opened two pornographic websites in 2006, offering cyber strip shows. When local police shut down the websites and arrested Zhang, the two websites had more than 4,000 members and 400 performers. The daily profit of each website exceeded 10,000 yuan (about 1,300 U.S. dollars). Zhang Yuancheng was sentenced to four years in prison by the local court.

A man named Wang in Yichang City of Hubei Province had a no-clothes chat with a woman on the internet during which he took photos of his naked companion, and afterwards sent her the photos in order to extort money from her. Local police arrested Wang on Sept. 21 last year. The case, the first of its kind in the province, is still under investigation. Police in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, captured 12 members of a prostitution gang in January 2007 and confiscated five computers. The gang was using the web to provide prostitution services. A criminal surnamed Li opened a pornographic website in north China's Tianjin Municipality to distribute pornographic materials. When police shut down the website and arrested Li in May 2006, the website had more than 260,000 members. Li was sentenced to four years in prison by a local court.

Police in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, arrested four suspects accused of sending a large number of pornographic emails, and confiscated more than 400 computers used by the suspects. The case is undergoing further investigation. In January 2007, Beijing police swooped on a gang that used the internet to organize prostitution activities on a wide scale. A total of 151 people including organizers, prostitutes and their clients were arrested, and 42 mobile phones and 195 computers confiscated. Police in Yangzhou City, in east China's Jiangsu Province, cracked a web gambling case in October 2006, arresting 37 suspects. The suspects ran the on-line gambling site for nearly two years, with more than 4 billion yuan involved. Two other cases involving web fraud and theft were cracked in Mudanjiang City, in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, and Xuzhou City, in east China's Jiangsu Province. Several hundred people were cheated in the two cases.


From http://www.chinaview.cn 04/13/2007


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Security Concerns Abound About Online Banking

Online banking is often equated with instant, convenient and personalized service. At least, that is the impression adverts try to create. For many members of the public, it seems it is a double-edged sword as a survey recently showed 89.7 percent of respondents concerned about financial security when using online banking. According to Zhu Ying, deputy director for Shanghai's Bureau of Public Security, 925 cases involving online banking fraud were registered in 2006, involving around 13.65 million yuan (about US$1.707 million). A joint survey by China Youth Daily and www.qq.com polled 6,212 people, with 89.7 percent showing severe security concerns about online banking. Huang Donghui, a senior IT engineer in Beijing told China.org.cn, "My major is Internet Technology. From this, I think the process is too risky since hackers can very easily get hold of your number and password. I'd much rather just use a bank." Lu Yang, a student from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, seemed to disagree in part, citing the public nature of the Internet.

"Online banking is still my second choice. As long as a bank provides reliable Internet services, I would consider using it. But I am still concerned about security." However, 61.2 percent of those polled said their fears would not stop them using the Internet. The scope of online banking in China has been growing rapidly of late with China Construction Bank reporting 43 million online customers in 2006, involving 30 trillion yuan (US$3.75 trillion) in funds. Financial experts have highlighted the cost-effectiveness of online banking, since it costs far less in human resources than the physical presence of a bank clerk. For customers, the rapidity of online banking explains why 42.7 percent of people chose online banking since over 70 percent complained of the waiting periods seen in banks. According to an investigation from People's Daily, most customers wait 85 minutes on average before being served in Beijing branches of the big four state-owned banks, namely the China Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China, the Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

The shortest registered time was 56 minutes and some poor souls had to wait 167 minutes. "I usually cannot afford to wait such a long time," Internet editor Chen Weisong in Beijing told China.org.cn. "Compared with such a long wait, I choose the online service. I think its security is OK and I have used it for several years. Banks often provide professional service systems to help minimize related crimes. Security is an issue but it doesn't really worry me." Addressing the responsibility that banks bear in ensuring financial security, during the Parliament session in March this year, Deputy Zhao Pengcheng, president of the ICBC branch bank in Anhui said that if the customer had not committed any fault, then any losses due to technical problems should be fully compensated by the bank itself. In the survey, participants asked the government to ensure that, in case of accidents, the banks should firstly have to prove whether they are at fault or not. 2006 stats emanating from the China Financial Certification Authority showed that due to security fears, around 61 percent of bank customers deserted the online service.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/14/2007


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China to Help Clean up the Internet

China is calling on its officials to help make the Internet more civilized and less decadent, state media reported Monday, the latest push in a campaign to sanitize behavior on and off the Web. At a meeting of top Communist Party leaders chaired by President Hu Jintao, officials were told to build "an Internet culture with Chinese characteristics," and to "curb the spread of decadent and backward ideological and cultural material online," the official Xinhua News Agency said. The report didn't quote Hu directly or specify the types of offensive material that would be targeted. Hu has made improving moral education a signature theme of his administration, an effort that appears to be intensifying ahead of a once-in-every-five-years party meeting scheduled for later this year. Hu and others in the leadership will seek a renewed mandate during the meeting. In January, the government ordered prime time television programming this year to be "ethically inspiring" and Internet regulators were told to promote a "healthy online culture" to protect the government's stability.

The Chinese government promotes Internet use for education and business, but tries to block the public from seeing material online that is deemed subversive or pornographic. Nudity, profanity, illegal gambling and pirated music, books and film have proliferated on Chinese servers despite the controls. Xinhua said Communist Party committees, government officials at all levels and cultural institutions would all be expected to step up management of the Internet and make it more civilized. China's online population grew by 23.4% last year to 137 million people, about 10% of its 1.3 billion population. The figure puts China on track to surpass the U.S. in the next two years as the nation with the most Internet users, the government has said.


From http://www.usatoday.com 04/24/2007


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JAPAN: Political Gender Equality Takes a Turn

Political activities aimed at introducing more women into the nation's political arena are gathering pace in the wake of the official launch of campaigning for the quadrennial nationwide local elections. This year, many citizens' groups are increasingly questioning not only the number of female candidates, but also the views of such candidates, indicating the nation's gender equality movement may have reached a turning point. "Although half the people in our society are women, there are very few women participating in politics," said a participant speaking through a public address system as part of the 2007 Women and Politics Campaign held earlier this month on a busy street near Shibuya Station in Tokyo. Campaigners from the group argue that both sexes must participate equally in legislative assemblies, citing statistics showing that women occupy less than 10 percent of seats in local assemblies, and 40 percent of local assemblies have no female member. The campaign for gender equality in the political world, organized by local assembly members and various citizens groups, is being held for the third time since starting in 1999. Held every four years in conjunction with the unified local elections, it aims to help as many women win seats in legislative assemblies as possible, with the ultimate goal of raising the percentage of female assembly members to 50 percent.

During the street event, the group for the first time called for the election of "women who will implement policies on gender equality." "On the premise that raising the number of female assembly members is our basic goal, we want people who are supportive of gender equality," said Setsuko Nishitake, a member of the campaign group. Midori Teramachi, a member of another nonpartisan group based in Gifu Prefecture, which supports female election candidates by providing lectures on election tactics and holding street events, also stresses the importance of the candidates' political stance. "We don't support someone just because they're female. Even if there's an increase in the number of female assembly members, there won't be a change in the current political situation, or our lives, if they're people who prioritize the logic of political parties or other organizations," she said. Such remarks reflect the wide diversity of female politicians, some of whom are not necessarily committed to policies related to gender equality. The activists believe that female politicians who fall into line with ideas on fixed gender roles, or who disagree with the idea of gender equality, have gradually been gaining ground over the past few years.

Commentator Keiko Higuchi said: "Increasing the number [of female politicians] used to be the priority goal for women, because they have long been a minority in the political arena. But as the number of female assembly members has increased, women have discovered there are people with many different views and ideologies. The goal of raising the number of female politicians has reached a turning point." "I hope people will give some thought to the meaning behind dispatching women to the political stage during this year's unified local elections, and cast their votes after carefully assessing the candidates' views," Higuchi said. According to a government survey, in November 2006, the percentage of female politicians in the House of Representatives stood at 9.4, and 14.2 in the House of Councillors. In December 2005, the figure stood at 7.2 percent in prefectural assemblies; 11 percent in municipal and ward assemblies in urbanized areas; and 6.4 percent in municipal assemblies in rural areas . The government aims to raise the percentage of women in leading positions--including assembly members--to 30 percent by 2020, according to its basic plan for gender equality.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 03/28/2007


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Think Tanks Offer Japan Plenty of Personnel with Policymaking Potential

The 21st Century Public Policy Institute (21PPI) is a think tank established by Keidanren in 1997. As it enters its 10th year this month, a revamp is in progress to beef up its activities. Over the past decade, the institute has worked on a wide range of topics ranging from structural reforms of the Japanese economy to international relations. When it was founded, the bad-loan woes of the banking sector and Japan's options for averting a financial crisis were the main topics of discussion. In recent years, it has organized symposiums and other events to promote the privatization of the state-run postal services. Effective April 1, Kenji Miyahara, chairman of Sumitomo Corp. and a Keidanren vice chairman, became the new president of 21PPI. Under his leadership, the institute plans to build a new research system that will allow it to work with researchers from both Japanese and foreign universities as well as think tanks. For the time being, it is working on six new research projects that include tax and fiscal reforms, administrative reforms, the labor market and technological innovations. In the past, it was often said that Kasumigaseki -- the district that serves as home to the central government bureaucracy -- was Japan's most powerful think tank. But government bureaucrats aren't up to providing what the Japanese economy needs today -- a revamping of the nation's socioeconomic machinery.

21PPI will try to gather the wisdom of various sectors of the market to ensure private-sector voices are heard. These activities will also help foster human resources capable of filling government positions as political appointees. Nippon Keidanren plans to maximize the results of the research conducted by 21PPI. Today's government must contend with a mountain of challenges, including globalization and the aging of society. To beef up its policy-proposing functions, it is important that Keidanren utilize the wide range of policy research networks available at home and abroad. In western countries, think tanks play an important role in policymaking decisions. In many cases, lawmakers push for legislation based on the ideas they propose. These institutions constitute a sort of revolving door in the political world, one from which many researchers are appointed government jobs. Today, the Japanese political scene is changing rapidly, and policies -- rather than special interests, family and local community ties -- are beginning to hold the key to political victory. Proof of this was seen recently in the national elections, where voters paid keen attention to the parties' "manifestos." Also, individuals from the private sectors are beginning to play increasingly important roles in policymaking, as illustrated by the inclusion of business leaders in the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. These developments indicate that think tanks can play even greater roles in this country. To accelerate reforms, Keidanren plans to support the activities of 21PPI while strengthening its own policy-formulating functions.


From http://search.japantimes.co.jp 04/02/2007


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Government to Map Out Crisis Data System

The central government will start building an advanced map information system this fiscal year by compiling a database of information drawn from maps owned by the central and municipal governments, with an eye to building a system by fiscal 2010, to be used for disaster prevention and welfare services. With the exception of maps that include personal information, the government plans to make the on-line system free to access, with several maps accessible at the same time. The system is also expected to stimulate businesses that use maps. As the accuracy of maps vary because of scale and usage, even maps of the same area have differences when one map is compared with another. Furthermore, digitalized maps are often stored in different formats. As such, there is no system enabling users to piece together a number of maps easily or search for several maps at the same time. However, when floods strike an area, if a map showing the location of a submerged district and another outlining the whereabouts of elderly people in the same district can be put together, authorities will be able to come up with effective disaster prevention and rescue measures. If road conditions, including whether they are well maintained or uneven, and traffic congestion are accessible at the same time, wheelchair users can plan the best route for journeys in advance. The central government plans to unify the standard methods for producing maps as well as data storage formats this fiscal year and start making an "electronic white map" containing basic data of coastlines and roads. The central and municipal governments will unify their map production formats so that information-sharing and multiple maps are accessible.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 04/03/2007


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MONGOLIA: Standards of Skills Approved

The National Standardization and Measurement Council has approved the first national standards, which are much significant to develop human resource of the information technology sector and bring skills of specialists up to the international level. The standards Skills of IT engineers: common IT knowledge and Skills of IT engineers: IT basic engineering have been worked out by the National Information Technology Park. The standards of skills are an important to determine the level of required knowledge and skills of specialists, create an evaluation on skills, and improve their qualifications. Possibilities have also been created to let vocational educational organizations renovate their training contents and curriculums relaying on these standards, which are used for a united test that is organized by the Examination Council of IT Specialists of Asian countries. B. Bolortuya

From http://www.montsame.mn/ 04/20/2007


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INDONESIA: More Telephone Services for Remote Areas, Minister Says

The government is forging ahead with its policy of developing telephone and information technology services in all rural areas in Indonesia by 2015, despite many regions still lacking basic infrastructure such as electricity and water services. State Minister for the Development of Disadvantaged Regions Saifullah Yusuf said the program was part of the government's mission to provide low-income consumers with better access to telecommunication services. "In addition to improving quality of life, wider access can have a significant positive impact on health, productivity, education and entrepreneurship," Saifullah said during a round table discussion at Yarsi University to celebrate its 40th anniversary on Monday. "There will be a positive effect if the program meets the specific needs of the poor population. In theory, three percent of telecommunications development will contribute to one percent of economic growth. At the same time, with telecommunications infrastructure, people will have more choices in building their lives," said Saifullah.

The policy is based on an international program known as Universal Service Obligation (USO) concerning the provision of telecommunication networks by operators so that the telecommunication needs of remote communities can be fulfilled. In response to the minister's comments, Marsudi Wahyu Kisworo, a telecommunications expert form the University of Indonesia, warned that inappropriate technology has the potential to exacerbate existing social and economic problems due to the diversity of the nation's population and their needs. "Information and telecommunications are not everything when we talk about Indonesia. The important thing is we must meet the basic needs of the people, which are different in every region," said Kisworo. He also said that the USO program, which initially aimed to be non-commercial, would eventually become commercial as the government would offer tenders to get new service providers for the program.

When the program commenced in 2004, its funding came from the state budget, but under a 2005 regulation, every telecommunications service provider is obliged to hand over 0.75 percent of their gross income for the development of the program. Under a 1999 telecommunications law, every telecommunications network operator and service operator is obliged to contribute to the universal service. Until now, the government has received Rp 80 billion (approximately US$8.7 million) of an expected Rp 500 billion. "The main problem is the continuity of operations and maintenance of infrastructure because programs are put under the supervision of local leaders. But we hope service providers will take full responsibility of infrastructure to ensure the continuity of the service," said PT Indosat Regulatory Group Head Dayu P. Rengganis. About 43,000 out of 73,000 villages in Indonesia currently have no access to telecommunication services.


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 04/10/2007


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RI Prepares Laws to Battle Cybercrime

The government and the House of Representatives are deliberating a cyberlaw bill and revising a number of related laws in an effort to win the battle against cybercrime. Information and Communications Minister Sofyan Djalil admitted Indonesia still lacked the legal infrastructure necessary to protect Indonesians from cybercrime. "The government is working hard with the House to speed up the deliberation of the bill on information and electronic transactions to help minimize computer-related offenses in all sectors. "For the time being, the bill will be the first cyberlaw to mandate preventive and repressive measures for handling cybercrime. With the law, the government will issue relevant regulations on crimes committed in cyberspace," he told a seminar on cybercrime Thursday. Sofyan said the government was deeply concerned over the increasing prevalence of cybercrime and the extensive negative impact it has on the country.

He was pessimistic, however, of the likelihood of the formation of comprehensive cybercrime legislation that would be in line with current political conditions inside the legislative body. Sofyan said many cybercrimes -- ranging from pornography, child and women trafficking, illegal drug trading and defamation to hacking, fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing -- are not covered by the current laws. Organized by the Golkar Party, the seminar was opened by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is also the political party's chairman. "The Indonesian cyberlaw must refer to, and be in harmony with, international conventions and similar (laws) in other countries to allow a joint war on cybercrime," Kalla said. Theo Sambuaga, chairman of the foreign affairs, defense and information commission at the House, said Indonesia was in dire need of a specialized cyberlaw, and that it should ratify international conventions and enhance its ties with foreign governments to battle borderless cybercrime.

Theo said the government and the House should also immediately revise laws on intellectual and property rights, state secrets and patent rights, as well as the Criminal Code and the free-flow of information bill, to provide a legal basis for law enforcers to impose harsh penalties on computer-related offenders. He called on the government and the House to ratify the UN Convention on Combating Criminal Misuse of Information Technology, the 2001 Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrimes and the EU Council's Decision on Attacks on Information Systems as the first step to back up the information and electronic transaction bill. This would create an unprecedented legal basis to enhance cooperation with foreign governments in the battle against cybercrime. Meanwhile, the National Police and Bank Indonesia said they were central stakeholders in the matter and required a cyberlaw to help eliminate major cybercrimes. Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarto Danuri, National Police chief detective, said that beside increasing levels of cybercrime at home, they have received reports of 20 computer-related fraud cases from other countries, but could settle only a single hacking case because of the absence of a cyberlaw.

Bank Indonesia's senior deputy governor, Miranda S. Goeltom, said the central bank was unable to detect banking fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing because of increases in the electronic transfer of funds. "With the integration of international economic development into the global financial market, Indonesia needs a law on fund transfers to regulate the crowded traffic of capital to protect its national interests," she said. "We have frequently received complaints in international fiscal and monetary meetings over the absence of a strict regulation on funds transfers."


From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 04/13/2007


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MALAYSIA: Internet Centre Among the Best

The Desa Balik Pulau Internet Centre was among four organisations in Penang named as winners of the Chief Minister’s K-ICT Award. The other winners were Pentamaster In-formation Technology Bhd (e-Business), Pe-nang Port Commission (e-Service) and Motorola Technology Sdn Bhd (Knowledge Worker Development). Representatives of the organisations received their awards from the Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon at City Bayview Hotel in Penang on Wednesday. They received RM10,000 and a trophy each. The award, organised by the state government under the Penang K-ICT Council, is one of the programmes to highlight the critical role that ICT will play as a driver to the Penang's economic growth. The council also launched its logo that night. Dr Koh said K-ICT plan was aimed at transforming the is-land into an ‘Intelli-gent Land (i-Land)’ by 2010. “For the next five years, we will em- phasise bridging the knowledge and digital divides by promoting local content development and reliable, fast and affordable broadband network infrastructures and ICT products,” he said.

From http://thestar.com.my 03/31/2007


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RM5m to Speed up Services

The Education Services Commission will be able to offer faster and more efficient services to the public with the setting up of three IT systems. The e-mobile system, file search system and support staff information system costing the Government RM5mil will expedite processes such as interviews, retrieving past records and new job applications. Under the e-mobile system, the Personal Digital Assistant will be used as the medium to update information. The systems were launched by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok in conjunction with the commission’s 33rd anniversary here yesterday. “The IT systems are meant to save time and cost, and to satisfy the public’s expectation of Government services such as efficient counter services, friendly customer service and usage of effective information technology,” he said. Speaking to reporters later, Dompok said no names had been shortlisted to fill the post of commission chairman, made vacant by the death of Tan Sri Abdul Rafie Mahat on March 8 this year. The Prime Minister and the Conference of Rulers, he said, would decide on the candidate. On application for teacher training, he said the Government received more than 100,000 online applications and 80 sacks full of postal applications. It was a challenge to fill up the vacancies within six months, he said.

From http://thestar.com.my 04/18/2007


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PHILIPPINES: DEPED to Train Senior Officials on IT

While students are taking their summer vacation, the Department of Education (DEPED) might start training its senior officials on information and communications technology (ICT). In a statement, DEPED Secretary Jesli Lapus said all department heads in the central DEPED office will be undergoing ICT training to prepare them for handling policy creation related to ICT. The DEPED plans to conduct a seminar-workshop on ICT governance, which would be aimed at addressing specifying decision rights and accountability frameworks on ICT development. The DEPED had worked with the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) for the supplementary materials that will be used for the training. The topics that will be discussed include governance decisions on ICT principles; enterprise architecture or the organizing logic for business processes; ICT infrastructure; specific ICT applications needed by the department; and ICT investment and prioritization. "This seminar will also provide inputs for the effective planning and implementation of current and future ICT programs of the department," Lapus added. Lapus supports the creation of an ICT-capable student population and has declared that one of his priorities is to put more computers in schools.


From http://archive.inquirer.net/ 04/11/2007


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SINGAPORE: Launch First Global Convention on Technology for Disabled with Thailand

Singapore and Thailand will launch the first International Convention for Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology (i-Create). The three-day exhibition and conference is the first joint effort by both countries to promote technology for people with disabilities and the elderly in Southeast Asia. It will showcase the latest state-of-the-art equipment in the field of Assistive and Rehabilitative Technology. 10 workshops will also be held by well-known experts on the technology. i-Create will be held at the National Library from April 24-26. Guests of honour include Singapore's Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Thailand's Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 04/11/2007


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SME Development Survey 2007 to Focus on Cost, Competition

The 5th SME Development Survey was launched on Friday. This year's survey will focus on the key issues of cost and competition. The annual nation-wide poll, which started in 2003, is conducted by DP Information Group with the support from SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore. Questionaires will be sent out to 10,000 SMEs. They will be asked for their feedback on issues such as the impact of rising rental and manpower costs, the GST increase and the corporate tax cut. The survey will also touch on the difficulties faced by SMEs in recruiting talent and the adoption of new technologies to sharpen their competitive edge. DP Info said this year's focus areas differ from previous surveys which largely concentrated on internal challenges for SMEs such as gaining access to financing. Chen Yew Nah, Managing Director, DP Information Group, said: "The economy has improved. Many segments of the SMEs have also have benefited from it, hence it's not surprising that their concerns get a bit more external – concerns such as competition, both domestically and internationally." The 2007 SME Development Survey will be conducted over a 3-month period. The results of the survey will be announced in September.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/13/2007


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New Online Portal to Help Govt Pensioners Manage Healthcare Bills

Tracking pensions payments and healthcare bills is now more convenient for government pensioners. From Monday, they can access information on monthly bills at restructured hospitals and medical reimbursements, through a new online portal pac.gov.sg. They can also update personal details online, as well as receive free email alerts on pensions-related information. The portal will benefit over 30,000 Singapore government pensioners. Also from Monday, pensioners have been included under the civil service medical billing system (MBS@Gov), making it easier for them to claim reimbursements for visits to private clinics. All they need is to show their Public Service card at participating clinics, and pay for their portion of the bill upfront. This means they no longer have to submit receipts to the Pensions Branch, and wait for the reimbursements to be credited into their account in the next month.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 04/16/2007


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S'pore Economy Expected to Grow Yearly at Around 5% over Next 5 Years: PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said Singapore's economy is expected to grow annually at around 5 per cent or maybe more over the next five years. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, he said the growth forecast for this year is 4.5% to 6.5%. Mr Lee also saw the next three to four years as good growth years. On balance, he said, unless there is a disaster, Singapore will be doing OK. Mr Lee added that, like other nations, Singapore's economy could be affected by adverse global economic conditions such as a possible recession in the United States, worldwide currency instability, a major terrorist attack in the region or a falling out between the US and China.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com 04/17/2007


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S'pore to Focus on More International Collaborations to Fight Cyber Threats

Singapore will focus on more international collaborations to improve its ability to combat cyber threats. This was revealed by Vivian Balakrishnan, Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts. He was speaking at an annual Infocomm Security Seminar in Singapore on Tuesday. Dr Balakrishnan also said the government is looking at a new 5-year Infocomm Security Masterplan that is expected to be launched next year. With more people going online, it has become increasingly urgent to make cyberspace more secure. Dr Balakrishnan said: "We cannot afford to be complacent, especially with new and dangerous threats that continue to evolve and grow, and grow at such an alarming rate." But to fight various kinds of cyber threats, the government believes it needs to join hands with other countries. "Moving forward, we hope to engage our international counterparts even more actively so that we can improve our collective abilities to combat cyber threats," said Dr Balakrishnan.

"And I'm glad to announce that Singapore has been chosen to host the Meridian 2008 Conference, an international community for governments to discuss the protection of critical infocomm infrastructures," he added. Singapore has been actively collaborating with international teams. Just last year, Singapore signed an agreement with the French government to share information and assessments on cyber threats. More such international agreements may be in the offing. The new masterplan also aims to ensure a more secure environment for new innovative services that ride on Singapore's national infocomm infrastructure. That initiative, called iN2015, was launched last year and aims to transform Singapore into an intelligent nation by 2015.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/17/2007


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3D Digital Navigation Maps for Cars by 2009

Getting lost will soon be a thing of the past for drivers, with a software that looks set to take them closer to the future. They will no longer need to ask for directions when they are behind the wheel, thanks to the introduction of 3D digital maps. Tele Atlas is the company responsible for the software. It has hooked up with BMW to install the 3D software in its next generation cars in Singapore and Malaysia in two years' time. And it is not just drivers who will be able to use the software. The company is also aiming to install it in hand-held devices like the Blackberry, the Mio, as well as Nokia mobile phones. Tele Atlas has yet to disclose the cost of using the 3D digital maps.


From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/16/2007


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VIET NAM: 3,000 Businesses to Attend Brand Awards

The "Viet Nam Excellent Brand 2006" awards for the country’s most successful enterprises will be held on April 7. Co-organised by the Viet Nam Economic Times and Viet Nam Trade Promotion Agency, the annual event is designed to help domestic firms raise their profiles and promote their products and services. This year’s event has attracted some 3,000 enterprises - 98 of which have already received recognition for excellence this year. Among those are: Refrigeration and Electrical Engineering Corporation (REE), Viet Nam Post and Communication Group (VNPT), Viet Nam Diary Products Corporation (Vinamilk) and the Bank for Foreign Trade of Viet Nam (Vietcombank). Nguyen Van Thong, deputy director of Credit Information Centre (CIC), said: "‘Excellent enterprises’ this year were successful in their financial activities and are well known in the market, according to the State Bank of Viet Nam’s (SBV) data." Organisers said the awards are based on evaluations by customers and the Trade Promotion Department. Firms are evaluated on their leadership, financial results, staff and business innovation.

Other criteria include ratings based on their financial and securities index, which is supplied by the CIC and SBV. For the first time, provincial enterprises are in the running for awards - demonstrating how the event has grown, said organisers. "The criteria used to determine excellence are based on the enterprise’s business performance and its success in building its brand," said Nguyen Si Dung, deputy chairman of the National Assembly Office. Among last year’s winners were Trung Nguyen Coffee, Sai Gon Jewellery Company and Vinamilk.


http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 03/30/2007


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Hung Yen Becomes E-friendly

The northern province of Hung Yen officially launched its Business and Investment Information Portal yesterday, said Director of the Provincial Department of Planning and Investment Doan Anh Quan. The project is part of the province’s plan to modernise public services for local businesses, the director said, adding that the portal would simplify business and tax code registration. Quan said the province is taking steps to improve information transparency and reduce business costs. The portal can be reached at www.hungyen.gov.vn/doanhnghiep and www.hungyen.gov.vn/business. Enterprises can now register their businesses online, which should help to cut at least 30 per cent off the time it used to take to register, he said. There are nearly 1,700 enterprises in Hung Yen, and that number is expected to rise to 3,000 by 2010, said Quan. According to a recent study by the Central Institute for Economic Management and the German Technical Co-operation, 41 per cent of enterprises said it took too long and was too costly to start up their businesses.

The study also found that most official procedures were conducted manually. Furthermore, the absence of a shared business database has made it difficult for local authorities to exchange information, Quan said. "Through the portal, investors can quickly obtain information on business and investment registration and appraisal in the province," said Provincial People’s Committee Chairman Nguyen Van Cuong. "This will create a convenient, cost saving one-stop-shop model. It will also form an on-line forum to enable exchanges between authorities and enterprises and allow real-time solutions," said Cuong. Investment registration and appraisal will shortly be possible online, said Quan, adding that a B2B Platform would be developed, enabling enterprises to advertise products and carry out business transactions. From the portal, users can easily access national programmes, such as the National Business Information Network, he said. Hung Yen was the leading Red River Delta province in terms of transparency and access to information last year, according to the USAID-funded Viet Nam Competitiveness Initiative.


From http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn 04/05/2007


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INDIA: World Bank Calls for Improving Environment Norms

“The World Bank on Wednesday suggested improvement of regulatory framework to increase compliance of environmental guidelines by corporate, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and units in the unorganized sector. India needs to ‘explore innovative regulatory approaches to overcome the lack of credible sanctions,’ the Bank's report on Strengthening institutions for sustainable growth: Country environment analysis for India said. The average compliance ratio of industries monitored with respect to environmental standards was 50 percent, World Bank's Lead Environmental Economist and Team Leader of the report, Kseniya Lvovsky said while addressing a press conference. The World Bank report was released by secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests Prodipto Ghosh at a workshop held earlier in the day [in New Delhi]. …” [The Press Trust of India and Asia Pulse (Australia)/Factiva] The Financial Express reports that “… The SMEs, which have an enormous impact on the environment, most often cannot afford clean technology and pollution controls, [the report] pointed out. Rachid Benmessaoud, Operations Advisor for India, World Bank said that there is an increasing demand for a better environment with the boom in the economy and increased growth levels.” [The Financial Express (India)/Factiva]

The Hindu writes that “… The report says that owing to high population density, India's rapidly growing economy would put unprecedented pressure on its environment and natural resources such as land, water, air, soil and forests. These pressures are projected to become the highest in the world by 2020. … The report highlights the urgent need to develop specialized environmental programs for SMEs that take account of their constraints and help improve their environmental performance without adversely affecting their business. …” [The Hindu (India)/Factiva] Reuters notes that “… Industries like electronics and information technology - one of India's flagship growth sectors - textiles, pharmaceuticals, and basic chemicals, belong to the ‘red category’ of major polluting processes, the report said. These sectors are significantly polluting water and air and causing more hazardous waste. Increased investment in the construction, mining and iron and steel sectors is leading to a mushrooming of brick-making units, iron plants and steel mills, many of which use highly polluting processes, it said. …” [Reuters/Factiva] Indo-Asian News Service adds that “… Coal, the report says, will remain the dominant fuel to cater to India's energy needs for its growing population, despite attempts to develop an alternative energy source. It goes on to say that the demand for coal will in fact increase three-fold in the next 20 years. …” [Indo-Asian News Service (India)/Factiva]


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/11/2007


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Punjab Government to Make State a Cotton Hub

Bathinda, April 14 : The Punjab government has ambitious plans to turn the state into a cotton hub with state-of-the-art technology for commercial designing, manufacturing and finishing of cotton goods. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced here Saturday that Punjab would convert into the cotton capital of India "within a definite timeframe". The Malwa belt of the state - comprising districts like Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepore and others - are known for their cotton production. The cotton output of this belt has been good in the last 2-3 years. "We are not only trying to tie-up with major players in the cotton industry but are also planning to send progressive cotton growers and industrialists to China, Australia, United States, Britain, Europe and other countries. They will look into the upgradation of technology for quality cotton production and also explore market potential for cotton products," Badal told cotton growers and industrialists here. He urged agriculture scientists to find new techniques to increase cotton production.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/14/2007


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IT Parks Will Be Set Up in 4 Regions of UT: Shahjahan

Puducherry, Apr 17: The Puducherry administration is taking steps to set up IT parks in all the four regions of the Union Territory, Minister for IT M O H F Shajahan told the assembly today. Replying to a question, Mr Shajahan said 44 acres of education department land acquired at Kalapet near here and five acres in Mahe region were diverted for establishing IT parks and a suitable site was being searched in Karaikal region. For Yanam, the government would consider if there was feasibility. Congress member M Kandasamy said one IT park should be set up either at Bahour or Villianur, following which Chief Minister N Rangasamy intervened and said that the land for setting up IT parks was being demanded on the East Coast Road and the administration would consider the setting up of one IT park on the Cuddalore road. Replying to another question, the Chief Minister ruled out provision of temple lands to those settled there free of cost. Only with a mission the land was donated to the temples and their desire to conduct special poojas or provision of annadanams, he said adding the government would transfer the property to those settled on the lands on payment of a reasonable rate.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/17/2007


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Punjab Govt to Establish Punjab Institute of Sports

Chandigarh, Apr 18: Keeping in mind the present state government's manifesto, the Punjab Government has decided to establish Punjab Institute of Sports on the pattern of National Institute of Sports, which would serve as Centre of Excellence to mould the state players into world beaters. The ambitious proposal was discussed in detail at a meeting which was chaired by Sports Minister Gulzar Singh Ranike at Punjab Bhawan here today. Among those present at the meeting were Principal Secretary Sports and Youth Services R P S Pawar, Joint Director Sports Chanchal Randhawa, Assistant Director Sports S L Lotey, Joint Secretary Punjab State Sports Council Kehar Singh and District Sports Officers. The ideal location to establish the proposed Punjab Institute of Sports is State Sports School/College and Burlton Park in Jalandhar where all modern sports infrastructure could be easily raised for residential training and state of art medical centre. Giving details of the meeting, Mr Pawar said that the Minister was keen that the various projects of the Punjab Sports Department should be taken up on priority basis and the work should start with immediate effect under proper supervision. It was decided that the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award for 2005 and 2006, the highest state sports recognition, should be presented to the outstanding persons after receiving applications from eligible persons at the earliest. The process will take a couple of months to finalise the names of the eligible sportspersons Mr Pawar said that the Sports Department has already conferred the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award up to 2004. The Department will also disburse cash awards to the winners of Doha Asian Games 2006 and National Games at a function to be organised soon.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/18/2007


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Education Receive Top Priority in J and K, Minister

Srinagar, Apr 21: The education sector, which was badly hit during the 17-year-long militancy, will receive special attention of the Congress led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking after inaugurating newly-constructed rooms at the government High School, Rajpura, state Health and Education Minister Mangat Ram said that the education sector is being strengthened by constructing additional accommodation and creating other requisite infrastructure. ''In the first phase a number of schools at all levels have been upgraded to next higher status as per demand of the people,'' he said, adding that now they were working on the 2nd phase in which it has been decided to provide accommodations and other allied infrastructure so that educational institutions function properly as per the modern need. He said for this purpose, funds have been kept for education sector of district plan to execute construction of additional buildings. Mr Sharma asked students to give special attention towards imparting modern and scientific education to the children and prepare them to compete in the fast emerging era of science and technology. He advised the students not to indulge in bad habits and concentrate on their studies to excel in the academic field and become good citizens of tomorrow.


From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/21/2007


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State Govt Takes Up Various Package for Reang Tribes

Agartala, Apr 21: The Tripura Government has initiated a number of packages for the socio-economic development of Reang tribals of the state. A high-level meeting, presided by Tribal Welfare Minister Jitendra Chowdhury, yesterday decided that this year the state government would help the 350 'Adim jati' Reang families for their socio-economic development. Besides, the state government also decided to extend various helps to the students of the Reang, including special coaching camp for six months to those studying between classes one to eight mainly in rural areas, official sources said.

From http://www.newkerala.com/ 04/21/2007


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PAKISTAN: Government Committed to Welfare of Lawyers

ISLAMABAD, Apr 2 (APP): Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights, Wasi Zafar Monday said the government will continue working for welfare of the lawyers community. “Like in the past, the government will continue steps for their welfare in future as well,” the minister said, talking to Chaudhry Zulfiqar Sidhu, Secretary General Muslim League Lawyers Wing, Multan. Sidhu called on the Minister along with Jalil Ahmed Wayens and Chaudhry Muhammad Siddique Bhatti advocates. Wasi Zafar assured the visiting delegation that the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council will be acceptable to the government and it will ensure implementation of the Council decision. He said lack of confidence by the lawyers in the supreme judiciary, is contrary to their profession and stature. He called upon the lawyers wing to stand united and convey the government’s stance to the Bar Associations.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/02/2007


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Musharraf Laid Groundwork for Islamabad's New Airport

ISLAMABAD: President Gen Pervez Musharraf Saturday laid the foundation stone for the new Islamabad International Airport at Fateh Jang. Speaking at this occasion, Musharrraf said that new airport would bring prosperity and progress in the region. The airport will be constructed in two phases of two years each at an estimated cost of Rs 35 billion.


From http://www.pakistanlink.com/ 04/07/2007


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AZERBAIJAN: Opposition Party Publishes New Newspaper

The opposition Musavat party held on April 2 an inaugural meeting in Baku marking the publishing of a new daily newspaper, day.az reported. The new editor of the "Parallel" newspaper, Tadiq Abbas, announced that the staff is largely composed of Musavat party activists and officials and explained that the launch of the paper stems from dissatisfaction from the "independent line" followed by the party's main "Yeni Musavat" newspaper and its editor, Rauf Arifoglu. RG


From http://www.rferl.org/ 04/04/2007


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UZBEKISTAN: 3.4m People Use Services of Mobile Companies

Number of mobile users in Uzbekistan reached 3.4 million users as of 1 April 2007, a session of Cabinet Ministers' complex on information-communication technologies said. The session, which summed up results of January-March 2007, the number of internet users made up 1.745 million people in the reporting period. It was said that industries of the complex produced services and products for 172.14 billion soums in the first quarter 2007 or up 50.2% year-on-year.


From http://business.uzreport.com/ 04/17/2007


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AUSTRALIA: 500,000 Customers Access Family Assistance via Medicare Service

Human Services Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, has welcomed the 500,000th customer accessing Family Assistance services, which are now available in all 238 Medicare Australia offices nationwide. Family Assistance services, which have traditionally been provided by Centrelink, provide customers with the opportunity to process claims for the Maternity Payment, Maternity Immunisation Allowance, Child Care Benefits and Family Tax Benefits. Enabling Family Assistance to be accessed via Medicare Australia is intended to make life easier for those who find it more convenient to visit a Medicare shopfront than a Centrelink office. “People appreciate the convenience and friendly service available at Medicare offices. That great service has now been enjoyed by half a million people needing Family Assistance services who have been able to get them at their local Medicare office," Senator Ellison said. “It is one of the many ways in which this government is making it quicker and easier for Australians to do business with us.” "The Australian Government is leading the way in providing faster, easier services to families and individuals, and using Medicare offices for Family Assistance is just one of them," Senator Ellison said. "From mid-2007 people will be able to lodge claims and receive benefits straight into their bank account via an EFTPOS system at their doctor’s surgery. Electronic Medicare claiming will deliver greater convenience to Australians, and will give Medicare office staff more time to help the public with more complex inquiries. “Medicare offices are diversifying the services they offer and are now providing a much wider range of face-to-face services than ever before,” Senator Ellison said.

From http://www.humanservices.gov.au/ 03/27/2007


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New Online Consultation Site for Small Business

A new website to improve consultation with small business - www.consultation.business.gov.au - was launched today at the National Small Business Forum in Canberra. The site allows businesses to be consulted about new or existing regulations. The aim is to reduce the burden of red tape through early consultation. "www.consultation.business.gov.au will allow small business to be consulted early on about proposed regulations. If there's a problem with a regulation, or there's a better way to do it, I want to know about it straight away," Fran Bailey, Minister for Small Business and Tourism, said today. "I would encourage small businesses and their industry associations to log on to www.consultation.business.gov.au. The more consultation and feedback we receive, the better the end product will be." This site is part of the Howard Government's strong commitment to listening to small business and acting on their concerns. "The Howard Government has listened to the concerns of small business on unfair dismissals and delivered an exemption. We listened to concerns about unfettered union access to the worksite and we protected small business. It’s a disgrace the Opposition cannot say the same," Fran Bailey said. "Any political party aspiring to government must listen to small business and act on those concerns. If a political party fails the consultation test, they do so at their own peril. With 1.88 million small businesses providing employment to 3 million Australians, the sector must be listened to and their concerns acted on. If any political party won't do it, it's sayonara to government." Fran Bailey said the new site was part of the Government's E-business strategy, with the $29 million VANguard program set to kick off pilot projects shortly following strong support from small business. "VANguard will save small business time and money. It's as simple as that. As Small Business Minister, I am focussed on this aim. In contrast, the Opposition wants to de-rail VANguard and its aims by abolishing the program - very short-sighted in my books," Fran Bailey concluded.


From http://minister.industry.gov.au/ 03/30/2007


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Australian Government Committed to 21st Century Rail

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, today announced a further $27.6 million for new wireless digital technology for the national rail network as part of his determination to bring rail into the 21st Century. Mr Vaile said the additional funding for new technology based on 3G 850 wireless mobile phone platform brings the Australian Government's commitment to ARTC to deliver its national freight train communications project to $69.6 million. "This will allow us to provide a modern train communications system that will significantly enhance rail freight efficiency to reduce the future burden on our roads," Mr Vaile said. "This single system – due for completion mid 2009 – will replace outdated state-based operations on the interstate and Hunter Valley rail networks, which use a variety of communications systems and services. For freight trains, this means the replacement of seven communication systems on the ARTC's interstate rail network and interoperability with other existing systems", he said. Mr Vaile said the project is a further example of the Coalition Government's commitment to rebuilding Australia's rail infrastructure which is important to economic growth. "The Australian Government is spending over $2.4 billion on rail infrastructure projects on the AusLink National Network over a five year period to June 2009, which represents the largest single investment in rail freight in Australian history," Mr Vaile said. "As a direct result of a record investment programme, modern technology is being installed into our rail systems including new automated remote train control and signalling systems, replacing old 19th century manual systems. "For example, new train control systems will enable all signalling and train control for the interstate rail network from Campbelltown to Melbourne to be centralised at Junee, maximising efficiency and providing for improved safety for the rail network. "Improvements to technology are being complemented by much needed upgrading of the AusLink rail network including recent funding commitments to the Wodonga Rail Bypass and Tasmanian Rail System," Mr Vaile said.

From http://www.ministers.dotars.gov.au/ 04/02/2007


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More than 125,000 Australians Walk Away from the Unions

Australians are turning their backs on the trade union movement. ABS statistics out today show that the proportion of private sector employees who are trade union members has declined from 16.8 per cent in August 2005 to a record low of 15.2 per cent in August 2006*. Overall union membership in Australia decreased from 1,911,900 in August 2005 to 1,786,000 in August 2006 – a fall of 125,900 members. “These ABS figures show that the union bosses’ real motive for the anti-government campaign is to drum up membership at a time when their grip on power is waning,’’ Minister Hockey said. “Perhaps they should spend more time worrying about representing their members’ interests rather than taxing them to pay for misleading television advertisements.” “There is little doubt that the naked political ambition displayed by Bill Shorten, Greg Combet, Doug Cameron and a range of others is due to falling membership.” “It’s not surprising they want to control the Labor Party when their own membership base is shrinking.”

The latest figures continue the long-term trend of steadily declining union membership in this country. Union density in Australia has fallen every reported period since 1976, when it stood at 51 per cent. Only around one in five workers are now trade union members. Only 15.2 per cent of private sector employees choose to join. “This substantial drop in membership is particularly significant given it occurred in the middle of an unprecedented $30 million-plus scare campaign directed at the Australian Government’s workplace relations reforms,” Minister Hockey said. “These figures also explain why some unions are employing underhand campaign tactics.” “In recent months, Unions NSW’s John Robertson has been caught campaigning at a state high school while the NSW Nurses Federation spent more than $1.2 million campaigning against federal laws that do not affect its members.” “It is important to remember that the Australian Government’s workplace relation reforms enshrine freedom of association. They also preserve the right of employees to call on a union rep or bargaining agent if they choose.” “Despite this, Australian workers are walking away from the union movement.”


From http://mediacentre.dewr.gov.au/ 04/03/2007


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Clever Networks - Smart Broadband Solutions for Rural and Regional Australia

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator the Hon Helen Coonan, today announced that sixteen projects have been successful under the first round of funding for the $113 million Clever Networks program. “Along with the Government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee, Clever Networks continues the rollout of broadband access to all Australians wherever they live,” Senator Coonan said. “And a number of these projects are only possible as a result of previous Australian Government funding that has promoted the development and adoption of advanced tele-health and online-education services”. Senator Coonan said the following projects funded under the Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund (CCIF) provide a great example of what might be achieved under the Clever Networks Program. Charles Darwin University’s CCIF project - enabled a 17 km broadband fibre optic backbone between the University and a series of research and educational institutions, in the Desert Knowledge Precinct, to help improve educational services in the region and in the Northern Territory. The Loddon Connect CCIF project - provided 33 Victorian communities with access to a business grade DSL service providing clinical and administrative benefits to health service providers. The District Council of the Yorke Peninsula CCIF project - provided enhanced community access to data, voice and video capabilities within a 10 km wireless local loop around the towns of Maitland, Minlaton, Yorketown and Warooka in South Australia.

“The 16 successful Clever Networks projects will use the latest in broadband technology to improve service delivery in the areas of health, education, government and emergency services for communities throughout rural and regional Australia,” Senator Coonan said. “As a result of the coordinated approach promoted by the Australian Government, $49 million from the Australian Government’s Clever Networks program has been boosted to a total of $145 million over the next three years, delivering broadband to communities across Australia far and wide”. Included in the range of successful applications are projects that will provide: improved technology in public hospitals and health care facilities a llowing doctors and health care providers to share patient records and x-rays across secure networks—delivering better patient services for communities in regional and remote Australia remote diagnostic services to local communities and rural homesteads; improved care and services to clients of health and disability services with encouraged flexible learning for therapists; improved communications to better deliver local business and community-wide benefits in regional centres; supporting integrated emergency services management to improve coordination of police, fire and emergency services; and enhanced broadband connections to many regional and remote schools, including those in Indigenous communities. “I will be announcing the successful projects individually over coming weeks,” Senator Coonan said. “Clever Networks is part of the Australian Government’s broadband services that will ensure all Australians can benefit from fast broadband regardless of where they live.”


From http://www.minister.dcita.gov.au/ 04/17/2007


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Labor Broadband Blowout

A LABOR government is likely to face a huge cost blowout if it goes ahead with plans to partner the private sector in a broadband fibre network delivering a 12Mbps internet service to 98 per cent of Australians, networking companies and analysts say. Network infrastructure specialist Pipe Networks has released a conservative estimate of the cost of building the net that values the work required for access components at upwards of $15-$16 billion - nearly double Labor's current estimate of $9 billion. Pipe Networks chief executive Bevan Slattery said he would be very surprised if the network could be constructed for $9 billion. "I think nine billion dollars would be very optimistic," Mr Slattery said. Opposition communications spokesman Stephen Conroy announced that the Labor's proposal late last month. Under the proposal, Labor said it would invest $4.7 billion in a public-private partnership to build a fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network, if it won the coming federal election. Labor's proposal was based on cost estimates carried by Telstra and released in August 2005. At the time, Telstra said it would need a $4.7 billion capital injection from government to lift broadband speeds to 12Mbps for about 94 per cent of the population. Shara Evans, chief executive of telecommunications industry research group Market Clarity, said Telstra's cost estimates lacked detail required to build "any sort of realistic network cost model".

"There is insufficient detail to determine how these budgetary figures were calculated or what is included and excluded," she said. A spokesman for Senator Conroy defended the Labor plan late yesterday. He said that Telstra was the only company that had done due diligence required to estimate the cost of the network. "The only (company) that has done the modelling for a national network is Telstra and if the other guys have done the modelling we'll look at that but they haven't," the spokesman said. At least three FTTN proposals have been put into public arena for consideration in the last 18 months. All of them seek to remove broadband speed bottlenecks in Telstra's copper network by running lengths of fibre from the carrier's exchanges to cabinets or nodes closer to homes and businesses. Telstra was the first to announce plans for an FTTN, unveiling a $4.2 billion proposal to build on FTTN in November 2005. It shelved the plans after the federal Government refused to relax regulations to ensure it could recoup what the carrier considered an adequate return on its investment. Fearing Telstra was trying to reinstate a monopoly on its network of telephone exchanges, a consortium led by Optus, known as the G9 announced its own proposal to build an FTTN under a funding model that would allow it to be run a separate infrastructure company. Mr Slattery said that a basic "back of the serviette" costing of the network would reveal the problem with the costing model adopted by Telstra.

He said Pipe Networks initial estimates indicated that a carrier would require a minimum of about 350,000 fibre nodes to cover the land mass required to reach 98 per cent of homes and businesses, at a cost of at least around $50,000 each - or around $17.5 billion dollars. Mr Slattery said that Labor's proposal was an indication that debate over FTTN had become irrational. "As an industry I think we've probably failed to articulate the issues that surround FTTN," he said. Market Clarity also questioned whether Labor's proposal had included the cost of providing backhaul - the high-speed links connecting broadband services in regional and rural areas back to the cities. "If we look at a proposal that's on the table to devote $9 billion to building an access network, that money isn't sufficient because none of that money is addressing the problem of backhaul," a spokesman for Market Clarity said. Ms Evans said that at best Labor's proposal was likely to based on a scenario in which Telstra calculated the cost of bringing its own backhaul to the partnership. She said it wasn't clear how an alternative provider would be able to fulfil Labor's proposal.

"My best professional judgment is that Telstra would not have included extra backhaul costs because they would have included their own backhaul. If someone else were to build a similar network not using Telstra's backhaul the cost would be quite high," Ms Evans said. Telstra owns nearly 80 per cent of all the major long-haul fibre and microwave points of presence across Australia, Market Clarity said. Senator Conroy's spokesman said it was "ridiculous" to suggest that Senator Conroy had not considered the cost of providing backhaul. He said that there was nothing preventing alternative providers piggy-backing Telstra's backhaul network to provide the access service. Market Clarity said that the scenario was likely to lead to a high price for broadband services in rural areas under Labor's plan. "If you're build only a new access network and you're not doing anything to enhance on provide competitive pricing in the backhaul then you end up with an expensive service," Ms Evans said. "A service that existing access providers are saying uniformly is very expensive in the areas where there's no competition in backhaul."

From http://australianit.news.com.au/ 04/17/2007


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Latest Performance Figures Show Continued Success of Job Network

Job Network is continuing to provide excellent results for job seekers as shown in the latest performance figures, Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone, said today. The latest release of the Job Network Performance Profile shows record performance levels being achieved by Job Network members across Australia. “In the 12 months to end February 2007, over 1.051 million new vacancies were lodged on the national database – an increase of three per cent of the 1.016 million vacancies lodged in the corresponding period last year. This represents a new annual record,” Minister Stone said. “In the same time, a total of over 650 900 job placements were recorded which is in line with the places recorded to end February 2006. “As well, over 182 800 long-term jobs were achieved for disadvantaged job seekers and those unemployed more than three months,” Minister Stone said. Minister Stone said the success of Job Network in assisting those who are most disadvantaged in the labour market is shown in the large number of placements recorded for all job seekers. Over 16 200 long term jobs were recorded for sole parent job seekers receiving Parenting Payments – an increase of 29 per cent on the 12 600 recorded in the previous 12 month period and a new annual record. over 13, 600 long term jobs were achieved for Indigenous job seekers – an increase of seven per cent on the 12 700 achieved in the previous 12 month period and a new annual record. As well, 24 300 long term jobs were achieved for Mature Age job seekers – an increase in the previous 12 month period. “Job Network is performing well right across Australia. It is helping more Australians find real jobs in good time. It is also providing targeted personalised assistance to those needing a hand to find a full-time or part-time job,” Minister Stone said.

From http://mediacentre.dewr.gov.au/ 04/17/2007


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NEW ZEALAND: OECD Report Confirms NZ Is on Path to Sustainability

An independent international report indicates that New Zealand is on the way to become a sustainable nation, says Environment Minister David Benson-Pope. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Environmental Performance Review for New Zealand was released today. The Review finds that the Government's efforts to limit pollution, to protect nature and biodiversity, and to make economic development more environmentally sustainable have resulted in clear improvements. “The launch of this review is timely and provides additional impetus to this government’s aspiration to be the first country to be fully sustainable," said Mr Benson-Pope. “The OECD says more work needs to be done and I am pleased to say that work to fulfil many of the Review's 38 recommendations is already underway, and where we are unlikely to fulfil the OECD recommendations, alternative actions are in place." The environmental strengths identified by the OECD include New Zealand’s management of water resources and the value placed on its protected areas and conservation lands. Over 32 per cent of New Zealand’s land area and 7.5 per cent of territorial sea is protected – more than twice the OECD average.

"I am also pleased that the Review has identified our partnership approach to environmental management, linking local and central government, industry, business and communities, as being key to our significant achievements. "Key initiatives like the Clean Streams Accord, the Business Partnerships for Sustainability programme and the Household Sustainability Campaign are based on a co-ordinated, partnership approach to improving our overall sustainability. "The Review is very encouraging but Government acknowledges that much more needs to be done before we can lay claim to being the first country to be sustainable across the four pillars of environment, economy, society and nationhood. "In particular we are already focussing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving recycling and cutting waste, and strengthening environmental monitoring and the national reporting of key environmental indicators, such as the state of the environment report to be released later this year."

From http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ 04/05/2007


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Views Sought on Telecom Operational Separation - Minister of Communications Media Statement

Communications Minister David Cunliffe has released the government's consultation document on the operational separation of Telecom New Zealand. "The operational separation of Telecom is one of a number of reforms this Labour-led government is implementing following last year's Stocktake review and the passage of the enabling legislation," Mr Cunliffe said. "The reforms are expected to deliver a more effective telecommunications sector with increased competition and efficient investment in infrastructure and services for the long-term benefit of end-users. "For too long, we have languished near the bottom of the OECD tables for broadband and telecommunications sector performance, and it became clear that without significant change to the competitive environment, our poor performance was destined to continue." Part 2A of the act sets out the legislative process for the minister to approve binding and enforceable operational separation undertakings (which form part of a "separation plan") made by Telecom. The process provides for the minister to issue a detailed determination of further requirements, over and above those already set out in the act, with which Telecom's operational separation plan must comply. "Since the passing of the legislation last December, the government has been doing the detailed work on how best to separate Telecom New Zealand into at least three separate business units," Mr Cunliffe said. "I welcome public and industry views on whether the draft proposals strike the right balance given New Zealand's unique circumstances. Those views will help guide me as I decide on the requirements that will be built into my determination. "Following the issuing of the final determination, Telecom will have 20 working days to prepare a draft separation plan. Industry stakeholders and the public will be invited to provide their views and comments on the draft separation plan." Consultation on the initial model for separation will be conducted over the next three weeks, with submissions to be provided to the Ministry of Economic Development no later than 5:00pm on Friday 27 April 2007.

From http://www.med.govt.nz/ 04/05/2007


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Broadband Wireless Spectrum Auction Process Starts

Broadband wireless access (BWA) services will be boosted by the new allocation of 2.3 GHz spectrum, Communications Minister David Cunliffe says. "Management rights bands in the 2.3 GHz spectrum band will be allocated as soon as practicable, enabling emerging wireless broadband technologies such as WiMAX," the minister said. "BWA technology for this band is only just starting to become available. It is critical that we create the right conditions for its future deployment by giving a range of players the opportunity and the certainty they need to make a long-term investment." Details of the proposed auction are now available for comment prior to final government decisions being taken on the auction arrangements. The overall process of increasing spectrum availability for BWA services was announced in December 2006 with the publication of a series of Cabinet decisions. "This announcement gives more details on the specific auction arrangements and timing for the 2.3 GHz band. "While some of the spectrum rights to be allocated may not commence until 2010, the early auction will allow purchasers to plan their implementation with certainty. "We need advanced broadband services and wireless technologies are a part of the overall mix that can help us achieve this. This allocation of spectrum is an important step in allowing industry to plan and build the necessary infrastructure." The minister encouraged people with an interest in the area or companies that might provide such services to read the Auction Proposal and to submit comments.

From http://www.rsm.govt.nz/ 04/10/2007


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Housing Costs Drive Inflation

The Consumers Price Index (CPI) increased 0.5 percent in the March 2007 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. Housing and household utilities prices made the most significant upward contribution to the CPI this quarter. Housing and household utilities prices were up 1.1 percent in the March 2007 quarter, mainly due to price increases for actual rentals for housing (up 1.0 percent), and purchase of new housing (up 1.3 percent). Food prices increased 1.1 percent in the March 2007 quarter, with the main contributions coming from increases in poultry prices (up 15.2 percent), and grocery foods (up 1.0 percent). Of the remaining nine groups five recorded increases: miscellaneous goods and services (up 1.2 percent), education (up 3.4 percent), alcoholic beverages and tobacco (up 1.0 percent), health (up 1.1 percent) and communication (up 0.1 percent). Four groups recorded price falls: recreation and culture (down 0.7 percent), household contents and services (down 1.0 percent), transport (down 0.2 percent) and clothing and footwear (down 0.5 percent). Over the 12 months to the March 2007 quarter, the CPI increased 2.5 percent, following a rise of 2.6 percent for the year to the December 2006 quarter.

From http://www.stats.govt.nz/ 04/18/2007


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Ten Years After the Financial Crisis, East Asian Economies Are Going Strong

Tokyo, April 5, 2007 — A decade after the financial crisis which devastated East Asia in mid-1997, the region is much wealthier, has fewer poor people and a larger global role than ever before, says the World Bank's latest East Asia & Pacific Update - a six-monthly report on the region's economic and social health. But with this success, comes a new wave of challenges for countries trying to avoid the 'middle-income trap'. The report finds that growth in Emerging East Asia1reached 8.1 percent in 2006 - the strongest in the past 10 years and it is likely to slow only modestly to 7.3 percent in 2007 (see table). Per capita incomes in the former crisis-affected economies2have significantly exceeded their pre-crisis levels and are growing steadily nearly everywhere. In China and low-income transition economies like Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR, incomes have grown at 'exceptional rates', the report says. "The region has grappled with and overcome the crisis to return to solid growth," says the report's principal author and lead economist for the World Bank's East Asia and Pacific region, Milan Brahmbhatt. "The past 10 years have seen the emergence of China as a major global economic power, a doubling in the value of regional output levels, a halving in poverty rates, a jump in global and regional integration and accumulation of over $2 trillion in foreign reserves."

But the report warns new challenges are arising which could slow or even derail growth if not handled properly. "The idea of a 'middle income trap,'" says Brahmbhatt "is that the strategies that allow countries to grow from low income to middle income are not enough to get them to high income. Historically, few countries have mastered the complex technical, social and political challenges that arise." By 2010, more than nine in 10 East Asians will be living in a middle income economy. To move out of the middle-income trap, a key challenge is maintaining high growth in a sustainable way. In China, this means new strategies to tackle severe environmental problems and other stresses and imbalances that have emerged during the last 20 years of very rapid growth. Elsewhere in East Asia, the challenges are different. In several economies which have been growing at 2 per cent less than before the crisis, investment has been relatively weak and firms have been facing big competitive pressures in world markets, not least from China's booming economy. In these economies, a strong focus on strengthening the investment climate and improving labor force skills is key, allowing firms to find new competitive advantages.

Another challenge is to combine growth with equity. Before the crisis, half the people of East Asia lived on less than $2 a day while today poverty is down to 29 percent of the population. But income inequality is rising in many East Asian economies - in some cases, sharply. "High inequality can hamper growth as poor people without access to credit may be unable to exploit investment opportunities," says Brahmbhatt. "It can also be a source of political and social unrest that stymies investment and growth." A third challenge is the need to manage vulnerability and prevent new crises. Since 1997, countries have built up large foreign exchange reserves as a buffer against further crises but this could have the unwanted side effects - overheating economies and asset price bubbles, the report says. Further, while countries have been strengthening their financial and banking sectors since the crisis, many economies need to pick up the pace of this effort. The report says countries in East Asia need to push ahead with their reform programs, especially in improving the governance and investment climate; developing more diversified capital markets including credit access for the poor; liberalizing services trade; boosting education systems to address skilled labor shortages; and emphasizing prudent macroeconomic policies.

"Ten years after confronting the reforms needed to rebound from the financial crisis, East Asia must now confront a new wave of reforms, some of which will be at least as challenging as those enacted in the months after July, 1997," says Brahmbhatt. In a special focus section, titled "Sustainable Development in East Asia's Urban Fringe" the report analyzes the staggering projections for urbanization in the region. By 2025, the urban population is expected to jump by 65 percent or 500 million people, placing huge strains on already inadequate road, electricity, water and sanitation systems. The report also looks at the smaller economies of the region, including those of the Pacific Islands, PNG and Timor-Leste. Growth has picked up in a number of these economies over the last few years, in part due to higher commodity prices. But political instability and social tensions continue to undermine the outlook in some countries.


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/05/2007


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Reform of IMF and Stalled Doha Talks Top G7 Agenda

“Reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the need to kick-start stalled trade talks headed the agenda of [Fri]day's gathering in Washington of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries, ahead of the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank this weekend. … IMF reform is likely to remain the main issue for discussion both at the G7 and at the meeting [Saturday] of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the IMF's governing body. The IMFC is expected to announce an agreement on the IMF's surveillance role - a shift away from its traditional focus on countries with balance of payments problems towards monitoring the spillover effects that financial problems in one country can have on others. In an interview with the FT, John Lipsky, First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, said the IMF had made progress in persuading skeptical countries that a rewrite of the Fund's surveillance mandate would not be a Trojan horse for pressure on China or Japan over exchange rates or general interference in domestic policies, and that it would ensure that surveillance was applied equally to powerful and weak countries. …”

Kyodo News reports that “G7 financial leaders displayed their confidence in the health of the global economy during their meeting Friday in Washington, declaring the economy is experiencing ‘its strongest expansion in more than 30 years’ while saying little about the weakness of the yen. Although the G7 financial leaders acknowledged some risks remain, the wording [about] the global economy in their statement is stronger than that adopted in their previous gathering in Essen, Germany, in February. US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who chaired the one-day meeting, told a news conference that ‘We have a global economy that is strong in terms of growth. Inflation around the world is relatively contained. Liquidity is high.’ The upbeat tone apparently indicates the G7 financial chiefs are confident that the world economy has overcome the recent global stock falls from late February to early March. …” AFP writes that “The world's seven richest nations said Friday a World Trade Organization deal to tear down global trade barriers was ‘imperative,’ following a measure of progress achieved by leading players at talks in India. … ‘We are committed to resisting protectionist sentiment. Substantially lowering tariffs and other barriers is essential to spur new growth in global trade and reduce poverty,’ the G7 ministers said after their latest talks. ‘We welcome recent steps to intensify engagement, recognizing that substantive movement towards a comprehensive final outcome requires all parties to make additional efforts.’ Paulson urged fellow finance ministers ‘to encourage their trade ministers to achieve an ambitious (Doha) deal because of the round's potential to stimulate growth and economic development.’ …”

AP notes that “… In advance of the weekend meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, finance ministers from the world's seven leading industrial countries - the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada - projected confidence that the various troubles such as soaring trade deficits, jittery financial markets and a slumping housing market in the United States would not be enough to derail strong growth in the world's economy. The G7 finance ministers pledged to make structural reforms in their own economies to reduce the yawning trade gaps and called on China to do more to introduce flexibility into its currency system, which US manufacturers believe is necessary to curb China's huge trade surpluses. …” The BBC writes that “… The G7 ministers remained divided on a number of subjects - including currency volatility, protectionism and regulation of the trillion-dollar hedge fund industry. Germany has been calling for tighter regulations to control hedge funds, claiming that should one major hedge fund collapse it could have severe consequences for global finances. Over the past year, international concern has grown over the level of risk investors are exposed to by the lightly-regulated investment schemes, which as both high-return and high-risk are popular with wealthy investors. However, both the US and IMF have resisted calls for tighter regulation of the sector, claiming that market forces are sufficient means to control it.”


From http://web.worldbank.org/ 04/14/2007


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Options on Regional Bond Settlement Discussed at ADB Conference

SINGAPORE - Officials from central banks, regulatory agencies, global clearing houses and investment banks met in Singapore today to explore whether Asia needs a regional bond clearing and settlement system to reduce foreign exchange risks to investors and make them less vulnerable to market fluctuations. At a conference organized by ADB, experts from government and private sector discussed whether a regional settlement system would help strengthen market infrastructure for bond trading in Asia. The participants at the conference discussed current developments, challenges and risks and ways to improve the region's bond clearing and settlement infrastructure. The impressive growth and high returns offered by local currency denominated Asian bonds in recent years has caught the attention of both global and regional investors. “Asian debt as an asset class is maturing. The growing number of first time issuers underscores the shift away from excessive dependence on bank financing,” said Foong Hock Meng, President & Director of PIMCO Asia Pte Ltd.

As Asian investors, both institutions and individuals, buy more foreign currency and regional bonds, both private sector and governments are looking to reduce financial vulnerabilities and improve efficiency of regional bond markets. “The buildup of a cost-effective and secure settlement system can significantly improve investors' confidence, and this in turn can contribute to the development of domestic and regional bond markets in the region,” said Mr. Jong-Wha Lee, Head of ADB’s Office of Regional Economic Integration. Under the ASEAN+3 Asian Bond Markets Initiative, ADB was requested to examine the linkage between cash and securities settlement and also look into the option of setting up a regional settlement system. While local settlement arrangement systems for various instruments, regional and global custodians can handle current transaction volumes, as regional markets mature and investors do more cross-border transactions, the importance of a regional settlement system will assume significance. Investment banks and global custodians have also lent their support to efforts to improve the regional settlement and clearing system as it could help improve trading of foreign currency bonds in the Asian time zone and improve the depth of the market.

“A full range of securities finance possibilities is necessary for the trading activity that generates liquidity. Securities finance requires collateral to alleviate risks, so a regional solution that could provide centralized collateral management services will help to enhance liquidity in the region’s bond market,” said Diana Chan, Managing Director of Global Transaction Services at CITI in London. A regional system could also be a conduit to international markets for issuers and investors in the less-developed parts of the region. “In a world of index funds, ETFs, CDOs, and complex cross border transactions, the creation of robust clearing and settlement platforms becomes a critical success factor,” said Hon Cheung, Regional Director of the Official Institutions Group for State Street Global Advisors in Asia. The inputs gathered from the conference will be used by ADB, regional government officials and central banks to help formulate policies to strengthen market infrastructure for more vibrant Asian bond markets.


From http://www.adb.org/ 04/16/2007


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Securitization Can Help Regional Development, Says ADB Report

HONG KONG, CHINA - Securitization of assets in emerging East Asian bond markets have gathered pace after the 1997/98 financial crisis and has the potential to be used as a tool to fund the region’s massive infrastructure needs, provide support to microfinance and human resource development, a report issued by ADB says. Despite its growth, Asia’s use of securitization is far more modest than in Europe and North America. Yet structured finance holds considerable potential for regional development. For securitization to take hold in the region, governments and regulators need to develop transparent legal and taxation framework, clear accounting principles and promote common standards across the region, the April edition of Asia Bond Monitor (ABM) says. “It is also crucial for the governments and the financial industry to support standardization of credit assessment and documentation across the region,” says Jong-Wha Lee, Head of ADB’s Office of Regional Economic Integration (OREI). The ADB has taken several initiatives to support the development of securitization in Asia and the Pacific, including legal and technical in asset-backed securitization in the PRC, securitization of diversified payments rights in Kazakhstan and the Asian Currency Note Program. ABM says governments should explore new initiatives to use securitization to support refunding through microfinance, providing credit and structuring long-term bank loans to students and for human resource development and to diversify financing infrastructure investment.

Securitization of assets gained some momentum in Asia after the 1997/98 financial crisis, particularly in debt workouts in South Korea and in some instances as an instrument to recycle non-performing loans. The result was a wave of new asset management companies (AMCs), publicly capitalized companies charged with acquiring and restructuring impaired assets. In developed East Asia, commercial and residential mortgage-backed securities dominate in Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, Japan and Singapore, while asset backed securities dominate in Korea. The introduction of Basel I norms triggered more sophistication and regulation across the region, providing investors with some protection and confidence in increasing their appetite for securitization. Basel II hopes to create common standards for compliance and supervision, but its impact on small and medium enterprises is yet to be known. ABM also highlights that emerging Asian bond markets expanded robustly in the second half of 2006, lifting the full year growth of 32.4 percent, well above the rates for 2004 and 2005. ABM examines local currency bond market developments in Emerging East Asia, defined as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries, plus the People’s Republic of China (PRC); Hong Kong, China; and Republic of Korea. Government bond markets in the region grew 30 percent in 2006 on the back of strong issuance from government agencies and several local governments. Corporate bonds outstanding surged 36 percent in 2006, largely due to increased issuance in the PRC and the trend of quasi-government companies to issue under corporate market regulations. Asia’s debt markets will continue to attract global investors searching for yields, but increased market volatility may raise cost of financing, giving policymakers an incentive to take measures to deepen financial markets, ABM says.


From http://www.adb.org/ 04/18/2007


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CHINA: Try to Slow Economy Again with Bank Reserve Hike

China's central bank on Thursday ordered major commercial banks to set aside more money in reserves in an effort to slow its economy, the third such cooling measure of 2007. The People's Bank of China said in a statement the action was designed to enhance bank liquidity management and prevent excessively fast credit growth. It said the required deposit reserve ratio for most commercial lenders would rise on April 16 by 0.5 percentage point to 10.5 percent. The required deposit ratio was raised a similar 0.5 percentage point in January and February this year and three times in 2006. Last month, the benchmark one-year lending rate was raised by 0.27 percentage points. China's booming economy, the world's fourth largest, expanded by 10.7 percent in 2006 and is likely to grow by 10 percent in 2007, the central bank said last week. The central bank is fighting a rising tide of liquidity stemming from export earnings as well as outstanding sterilisation paper that is reaching maturity.

Sterilisation is a technical term for central bank operations aimed at curbing liquidity rising as a result of an influx of foreign funds in a tightly controlled exchange rate regime such as China's. It issued 966 billion yuan (125 billion dollars) worth of sterilisation paper in March alone, for a total of approximately 1.82 trillion yuan so far this year, according to Stone and McCarthy Research Associates. That marks a new record and is equivalent to half of last year's estimated 3.65 trillion yuan worth of central bank paper sold into the market. A trader with one large state-owned commercial bank in Shanghai said that reserve requirement adjustments will become an increasingly common occurrence. "We're getting used to this by now," he said, noting that over 900 billion yuan in maturing sterilisation paper alone is due to hit the market in the current quarter.


From http://news.yahoo.com/ 04/05/2007


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Tax Policy Issued for Wholly-owned Banks Transformed from Foreign Bank Branches

China's Ministry of Finance and State Administration of Taxation has jointly issued a circular on taxation for wholly-owned foreign banks that are transformed from foreign bank branches. The circular involves business tax, value-added tax, enterprise income tax, stamp tax, and tax on real estate transfer. According to the Regulations on Foreign-funded Banks promulgated in November 2006, eligible foreign banks are allowed to incorporate as wholly-owned banks in China, and foreign bank branches are permitted to be transformed into wholly-owned foreign banks. In the process of transformation, the circular says, the transfer of property rights and equities from a former bank branch to the transformed wholly-owned bank are exempted from business and value-added taxes. A transformed wholly-owned foreign bank should continue to enjoy tax holidays the former bank branch was being enjoyed. If the tax holidays expired before the transformation, the new wholly-owned foreign bank should not to enjoy them, according to the circular.


From http://www.china.org.cn/ 04/07/2007


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Long-awaited News for Bank Customers

The pledge by eight Chinese banks in Shanghai to reduce queuing time for its customers this week is welcome news. The Shanghai Municipal Finance Industry Office recently brought together 16 Chinese banks to find ways to handle growing complaints from customers about long queues. According to a recent study of 100 local bank outlets, the average customer queues for 52 minutes. And seven of the 16 banks reported an average waiting time of over 30 minutes. Not enough counters for individual services and poor management are among the major problems at the banks, the study found. An "ultimatum" issued by Shanghai's finance industry office last Friday called on local banks to take measures to improve the situation, or face punishment. On Saturday, eight Chinese banks announced plans to rectify the situation, including revamping outlets, optimizing business processes, adding more staff and automatic banking equipment.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China said it would extend its business hours, set up a non-stop service in all its outlets during lunch hours and provide some evening services. China Construction Bank said it would add more bank tellers as well as 350 automatic banking machines. In the last few years, banks have paid more attention to high-end customers the profit center of their business while ignoring the massive number of low-end customers. As a result, banking in Shanghai has become an unpleasant experience for many customers. This is certainly damaging to a city that aspires to become a financial center. While profitability is important to banks, winning the respect of customers big or small is crucial to the long-term survival and growth of banks. In this sense, the Chinese banks are taking the right step this week. Foreign banks, which have big plans in China, should also bear this in mind. They should not just keep their eyes on lucrative high-end customers while shirking their responsibility to the rest of their clients.


From http://www.china.org.cn 04/17/2007


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Pressure on Central Bank to Up Rates

Increasing inflation risks have fuelled market expectation of a new interest rate hike to prevent the national economy from overheating. Economists believe that higher consumer price index (CPI) inflation, in addition to concerns on rapid loan expansion, will push the central bank to further tighten monetary policies. "If the actual CPI inflation exceeds 3 percent, we believe it could be a stress test on the People's Bank of China's comfort zone for inflation," Liang Hong, chief China economist with Goldman Sachs, said. Economic data for the first quarter has yet to be released, but observers at home and abroad have already revised upwards their forecasts for GDP growth. "Continued inflationary pressures have increased the risks of another sooner-than-expected interest rate hike and/or reserve requirement ratio hike," Liang said. China's CPI, the main inflation gauge, grew by 2.7 percent year on year in February, 50 basis points more than in previous months. But the country's strong growth momentum indicates that inflationary risks are on the upside. The economy grew 10.7 percent to 20.9 trillion yuan (US$2.7 trillion) last year, the fastest rate since 1995.

In spite of a spate of tightening measures to keep the pace of expansion in check, the economy still registered another strong start this year: in the first two months, almost all major economic data rebounded significantly. Industrial production, urban fixed-asset investment and industrial profits increased by 18.5 percent, 23.4 percent and 43.8 percent, respectively. Underpinning such strong growth in real sectors were fast bank lending growth and increased money supply driven by a surge in foreign exchange reserves. "An interest rate hike is now just a matter of time," Stephen Green, a senior economist with Standard Chartered, said, citing concerns about asset price inflation. The People's Bank of China, the central bank, raised interest rates on March 18. Yet, the country's real interest rates as measured by deposit rates minus the inflation rate have now become negative. And that is believed to be an underlying driving force in the boom of domestic equity markets that continue to reach new highs nowadays.

While agreeing that inflation will be high, not all economists think the central bank will have another interest rate hike. "We expect CPI inflation to rise to 2.5 percent in 2007 from 1.5 percent in 2006, as a result of recent surges in food prices," Sun Mingchun, an economist with Lehman Brothers, said. But Sun expects that the CPI will decline in the second half of this year and thus there will be no further rate hikes in 2007.


From http://www.china.org.cn 04/17/2007


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Banks Cash in on the Mainland

The mainland is and will continue to be a key profit driver for listed banks at home and abroad, as robust economic growth boosts domestic banks' results and foreign lenders compete for market share, according to a KPMG report. But mainland banks and their newly arrived foreign counterparts will become rivals as well as cooperative partners, said KPMG, one of the largest professional services firms in the world. "There is strong competition between mainland banks and newly arrived foreign banks, but mainland banks will have the advantage in terms of customers because they have already won their trust over the decades," said Walkman Lee, a partner at KPMG's financial services division in Hong Kong. "People are more likely to entrust their money to someone they know rather than someone they don't," Lee added. But they are also ideal working partners, as foreign lenders bring advanced banking management know-how and mainland banks offer vast networks throughout the country, said Babak Nikzad, another partner at KPMG's financial services division in Hong Kong.

Foreign banks "provide great incentives for Chinese banks, as Chinese banks are still lagging behind their overseas peers in areas like financial products", said Nikzad. But he said that "Chinese banks shouldn't be worried at all because they have built up a massive network in the country, their footprint is very hard for newcomers to beat". KPMG also released the 2006 financial results for Hong Kong-listed banks, with all 18 lenders posting another year of good results. Four of the five Hong Kong-listed mainland banks saw double-digit leaps in profit last year, with increases in both net interest and non-interest earnings. Listed banks continued to expand their balance sheets by over 17 percent, and their loan books by 6 percent, on the previous year. The strongest growth was achieved in loans for use outside Hong Kong and in unsecured personal credit including credit cards, KPMG said in its report. More listed banks see the mainland as their key development destination, according to KPMG.

"They have adopted dual strategies on the mainland to grow both organically and also through equity investments in a mainland commercial bank," the report said. "In order to benefit from full liberalization of the mainland market, seven listed banks have either applied for or obtained approval to incorporate locally on the mainland." HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of East Asia were the first three Hong Kong-listed banks to get the nod from the banking authorities.

From http://www.china.org.cn 04/20/2007


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Foreign Banks Go Local Today

Four foreign banks will provide retail yuan services to people across China from today. HSBC, Citigroup, Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of East Asia passed the regulator's audit last Thursday and now have unlimited access to the country's US$2-trillion domestic household savings. The banks, however, have said they mainly intend to promote wealth management services and target China's wealthier customers. Domestic lenders, trying to fend off competition in the retail market, are also stepping up their efforts to court higher-end customers with services such as private banking. The regulator said Chinese institutions should provide personalized products and services, and added that the banking sector in Shanghai is benefiting from a great climate of innovation and development, attributed partly to anticipated competition from the foreign banks. The four overseas institutions have more than 100 outlets across China. They said over the weekend that their Shanghai branches would offer full yuan services from today while others are expected to do so shortly. "It's an important milestone in our bank's development and a significant beginning for us to provide full banking service to large numbers of domestic residents," said Yu Xueqiang, head of Bank of East Asia's China business.

In addition to wealth management, the four banks can now provide a wide range of services, including mortgage loans. They could also expand their funding sources for corporate banking business by gaining access to personal savings and inter-bank borrowing. The four banks, however, have fewer branches than their established domestic rivals. As such, they plan to highlight their wealth management services and target high-end customers by requiring high minimums. Standard Chartered said it would roll out various renminbi products for customers under two retail brands -- Priority Banking and Excel Banking. HSBC will concentrate on its Premier Wealth Management service for its retail banking business and charge 300 yuan (US$38.8) a month to handle accounts with less than 500,000 yuan (US$64,717.4). Last week, Citigroup became the first foreign bank in China to offer a yuan-denominated investment-linked insurance product. The bank, the largest in the US, is providing the service with the United MetLife Insurance Company. Domestic banks are foraying into the super high-end sector. Bank of China, the nation's second largest lender, launched a private banking service for millionaires in Beijing and Shanghai last month. China Banking Regulatory Commission's Shanghai bureau said some domestic institutions need to move faster to enhance their services.


From http://www.china.org.cn 04/23/2007


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Bank of East Asia Opens in Shenyang

Bank of East Asia (BEA) set up a branch in this northeastern city yesterday in an effort to extend its mainland network. "The Shenyang branch is in an excellent position to extend its coverage and services to customers throughout northeastern China," said David KP Li, chairman and chief executive officer of BEA. BEA, the largest independent local bank in Hong Kong, began its mainland business in 1992. Today its network includes 13 branches and 14 sub-branches on the Chinese mainland. It set up its locally incorporated Bank of East Asia (China) in Shanghai on April 2. "In recent years we've seen rapid growth in our mainland business. So we will reinforce our mainland network and provide more services for customers," said Chan Kay-cheung, deputy chief executive officer of BEA. Chan said the bank's mainland operation had seen double-digit growth in annual profit over the past few years, outperforming other areas in its global network. "We plan to expand our mainland offices to 30 in three to five years," said Chan.

More and more international investors are setting up businesses in the country's northeastern region, especially from Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. Another two foreign banks plan to open branches in Shenyang by the end of this year HSBC and Singapore's United Overseas Bank Ltd. Tang Sing Yu, general manager of the new branch, was cautiously optimistic about the mainland market. "The amount deposited in accounts is usually not that big on the mainland, but this will change," said Tang. BEA, along with other foreign lenders HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank, were approved by the China Banking Regulatory Commission to conduct renminbi retail business on the mainland from yesterday.


From http://www.china.org.cn 04/24/2007


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JAPAN: Deputy Bank Manager Stole 70 Mil. Yen over 10 Years

A deputy manager at the Kanuma branch of Ashikaga Bank in Tochigi Prefecture embezzled more than 70 million yen over the past 10 years, it was learned Thursday. The deputy branch manager, who is in her 40s, revealed the embezzlement. The bank intends to file criminal complaints against her on suspicion of fraud. The fraud was discovered when a customer tried to withdraw money from a fixed deposit account late last month, only to find the balance too low. An internal investigation found that the deputy branch manager had embezzled money from a dozen customers' saving accounts, beginning about 10 years ago. The Utsunomiya-based bank went bust in November 2003, has temporarily been nationalized, and is now being rehabilitated. Bank officials are currently looking into the woman's motives and methods, as well as how she used the money.


From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 04/13/2007


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SOUTH KOREA: Fiscal Spending Misses Target in Early 2007

Korea's budget spending fell short of its goal in the first two months of the year, but expenditures for job creation and infrastructure exceeded targets, the budget ministry said Wednesday (March 28). The government spent a combined 28 trillion won ($29.9 billion) for major state projects during January and February, or 81.9 percent of its initial plan, according to the Ministry of Planning and Budget. The government plans to front-load its budget in the first half to create more jobs and boost consumer spending. According to the government forecast, the economy is expected to grow at a rate of 4.5 percent this year, down from a 5 percent advance last year, due to sluggish consumer spending and cooling exports. According to the report, the government created a total of 101,000 jobs in the social service sector in January and February, more than half of the 201,000 jobs that the government planned to create this year. For social infrastructure, the government spent a higher-than-expected 5 trillion won during the period. From its budget earmarked for this year, the government spent 17.7 trillion won, while it spent another 3 trillion won from government funds. State-owned companies also spent 7.2 trillion won for government projects, the report showed


From http://www.korea.net/ 03/28/2007


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Korea’s Financial Holding Firms Post Strong Earnings in 2006

Korea’s four financial holding companies recorded bumper profits in 2006 on strong banking, credit card and insurance operations, the financial watchdog said Thursday (April 19). The consolidated net profits of industry leader Shinhan Financial Group, No. 2 Woori Finance Holdings and Korea Investment Holdings totaled 3.99 trillion won ($4.29 billion) last year, up 14.9 percent from a year earlier, the Financial Supervisory Service said. No. 3 Hana Financial Group, which was established in December 2005, chalked up 1.03 trillion won in earnings last year. The net profit of Korea Investment Holdings covered only the April-December period since it closes its books in March. According to the regulator, Shinhan Financial Group’s consolidated net profit amounted to 1.83 trillion won, with Woori Finance Holdings’ bottom line reaching 2.03 trillion won. The consolidated assets of the four companies totaled 515.3 trillion won as of the end of last year, up 20.7 percent from a year earlier. Shinhan Financial Group’s assets rose 10.4 percent on-year to 177.7 trillion won, while those of Woori Finance Holdings jumped 28.8 percent to 212.0 trillion won. Hana Financial Group’s assets rose 21.1 percent on-year to 116.1 trillion won, with Korea Investment holdings seeing its assets soar 70.9 percent to 9.4 trillion won, the watchdog said.


From http://www.korea.net/ 04/19/2007


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Political Fraudsters Hit Local Government Finances

By-elections are a massive headache for some financially challenged local governments, such as Bonghwa County in North Gyeongsang province. With its population of 35,000, the small county’s existing financial difficulties grew worse recently, due to the 75 million won ($803,000) it has to pay for a by-election on April 25. The cost takes up 6.5 percent of the county government’s annual total revenues. Kim Hee-moon was elected Bonghwa county head in the May 31 local elections last year. Kim, however, was found to have offered a 50-million-won bribe to a Grand National Party official in a bid to win the party nomination. Kim won the election, but he was indicted on a bribery charge and his election was declared invalid. Bonghwa is just one of 56 constituencies scheduled to hold elections on April 25. Up for grabs are three National Assembly seats, six city or county governorships, nine seats in metropolitan or provincial councils and 38 seats in municipal and district councils; most vacancies are due to electoral fraud. The elections are estimated to cost a total 20 billion won. According to local governments, it may cost Daejeon city 1.8 billion won and Seosan 1 billion won to elect a mayor in South Cheongcheong province. Under current election laws, the national treasury pays the cost of by-elections for National Assembly seats. However, local governments must shoulder the costs of by-elections for local governments and councils . A Bonghwa county government official who declined to be named said the county first resisted paying, but had to concede, as the payment is prescribed by law. “With the same amount of money,” the official complained, “we could have built a bridge or welfare facilities for residents.” Yook Dong-il, a professor of local government administration at Chungnam National University, said, “It costs [money] to run a democracy, and the cost is bound to snowball in a vicious circle when the voters make the wrong choices.” Voter turnout for by-elections has been low in recent years, at less than 30 percent. Last July turnout on average was 24.8 percent. Park Myung-jae, the home minister, said he is considering action on the issue. “Where a winner of an election loses his or her post because of electoral fraud, maybe the government can have that person pay the cost of repeat elections,” Park said.


From http://joongangdaily.joins.com/ 04/10/2007


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National Debt Reaches New High

This year’s interest on the national debt will be around 13 trillion won ($14 billion), five times as much as the national budget for unification and foreign policy, according to a government estimate released yesterday. The Finance Ministry and Planning Ministry said the total national debt has now reached nearly 300 trillion won, a record high, as the combined value of outstanding treasuries has increased by 9 trillion won and other government debts have also expanded since the end of last year. At the end of last year, the total national debt stood at 283 trillion won. The ministries predicted the national debt will reach 301.1 trillion won by the end of this year, costing around 13 trillion won in annual interest. Planning Minister Jang Byung-wan said in a report to the National Assembly on Tuesday that the debt expanded due to bond issues to make up for the unpaid public loans that the government has provided to troubled companies since the financial crisis, and bond issues to finance stabilizing the Korean won against foreign currencies.“Now the national debt is equal to 33 percent of the gross domestic product. We will manage the debt so that its ratio to the GDP does not rise further from the current level,” he said.The government had said the ratio in Korea is much lowe